Friday, May 29, 2009

MySpace To The Rescue

Recently, Matt and I were talking about Ben Folds (and his Five). Matt asked me which was my favorite BFF album. At the time I really couldn't answer. I sat there knowing that it is either Whatever and Ever Amen--the album that introduced me to BFF, the one I have the most sentimental attachment to, and the one that I have listened to the most--or The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner--which took me much longer to get into, but once I did I grew to absolutely love and be amazed by. Now, I can say that I know, and it is all thanks to MySpace's relatively new feature caled Front to Back (where they have artists/bands play an album in its entirety from front to back). As far as I know, they have only done one of these shows, and they brilliantly began it by inviting Ben Folds (who then called up Darren and Robert) to play Reinhold from front to back. I just watched it finally today (it happened back in September of last year, I knew about it then, and yet I still somehow forgot to watch it until now), and I can now officially say that Reinhold is my favorite (although after I listen to Whatever mind can often be a fickle thing). Watching them play that album is amazing. I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to make time this weekend to sit down for 53 minutes and 15 seconds to watch this amazing show.

MySpace deserves credit for doing something right finally and getting this band back together for even one show was the right thing to do. Plus, mixing in little interviews in between the songs really added a tremendous amount of feeling to what is going on onstage.

One last note, if you haven't listened to Darren Jessee's new band Hotel Lights, I really recommend them. Here is the video for one of the songs from their new album Firecracker People.
"Blue Always Finds Me"

"Lost" Spinoff Show

Read all about it here folks.

Harry Potter And The Muggle Struggle Part Three: Character

First let's examine Harry as a character and as the stories' "hero." In his analysis of the series, Karl Miller calls Harry "a real boy, fully capable of errors, resentments and vexations..." (30). Harry is not perfect. He makes mistakes and suffers for them. Often times, his mistakes cause others to suffer as well. He is brash and impudent at times, and (as will be discussed in greater detail later) he feels an apparent disregard for rules. Harry can be quite lazy at times (especially where school work is involved), and is quick to let his emotions get the best of him. At times, he shows traces of jealousy towards others (including his friends), impatience and mistrust with and for authority, and a sense of superiority in thinking he is always right or at least knows what is best. He is definitely not the typical hero of the fantasy genre. Harry is a normal boy with faults and weaknesses.
A great number of parents feel that Harry is a poor role-model because of these weaknesses. However, many modern literary critics disagree. They see Harry's weaknesses as the real strength behind his goodness. For all of Harry's faults, he still ends up doing what is right and that is what makes him a hero. In his book--The Wisdom of Harry Potter: What Our Favorite Hero Teaches Us About Moral Choices--Edmund M. Kern discusses how Harry is a different type of stoic hero. Kern describes the "old stoic" as unemotional, tediously puritanical, and blindly indifferent to enjoyment and grief (19). Harry doesn't really fit that description very well. However, Kern also mentions other qualities and themes of stoicism which do fit Harry: fatalism, endurance, perseverance, self-discipline, reason, solidarity, empathy, and sacrifice (19). All of these traits are manifest in Harry at different times, and show his quality as a character and role-model.
Besides those listed above, Harry demonstrates many other moral qualities that deserve some attention. One of the most noticeable is loyalty. An example of it is found in the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, when Harry stood facing his nemesis and remained loyal to Headmaster Dumbledore despite the dangerous consequences of doing so. His loyalty was so great that it summoned Dumbledore's pet phoenix to his aid. Afterward, Dumbledore thanked Harry for showing him loyalty for, as he explained, "Nothing but that could have called [the phoenix] to you" (Rowling, Chamber 332).
That sense of loyalty comes from the great love that Harry's has for his Headmaster. That love motivates him to do great things. It also motivates him to risk everything and endure emotional abuse, physical torment, pain, and possible death for those he holds most dear. In the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry risks his expulsion from his school and even his own life to stop Lord Voldemort from returning, because he doesn't want those whom he loves to get hurt (Rowling, Sorcerer's 270). Harry also shows his love for others in the way he treats them. He is kind to others, even when they are mocked and disliked. He accepts people for their inner goodness, and not for their social/political status or because there is something in it for him. He even shows love in the form of forgiveness to those whom he should have every right to hate. In the end of the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry learns finds the man that betrayed his parents and was responsible for their deaths. Instead of letting his father's best friend kill them--something that the adults present were all advocating--Harry decides to turn him into the authorities. He demonstrated morality and goodness when others wanted revenge (Rowling, Prisoner 375-376).

Previous: Part Two
Next: Part Four

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Midnight Train Down To Gerogia

I stumbled upon this amusing little video today, and I thought I'd share it for all of those who--like me-- never watch American Idol.

Gladys Knight, Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey, Jr. singing and dancing for charity.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Live And Intimate Episode 6: Ben Folds Likes The Whoosh Sound

I was going to sit here and cry over the break up of Ben Folds Five for a while, but I just don't feel like being down today. Instead, I will say that Ben Folds' solo music is quite enjoyable and Darren Jesse's Hotel Lights is an excellent band. While neither are as strong as BFF, I am glad for the proliferation of good musics.

Here is Ben Folds playing a Ben Folds Five song, "Kate," at some sort of MySpace gig. I crack up every time I see his foot go flying back to hit the keyboard. Enjoy.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Harry Potter And The Muggle Struggle Part Two: The Opposition

Here we go again! I wanted to briefly explain that I will be referencing the quotes and research I did for the paper along the way, with my Works Cited page at the end, because plagiarizing ain't my cup of tea. For any who may not be familiar with what that looks like, quotes are referenced in the parenthesis. One last note: I am not making corrections of any kind to the essay. What I turned in and was graded on is what you get.

Opposition to the series is obvious. On their website, the American Library Association stated that in 2002 the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom "received a total of 515 reports of challenges . . . . A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school about a book's content or appropriateness" ("Harry Potter Series..."). From 1999 to 2002, Harry Potter topped the list of most challenged books. In fact, the series has earned a spot among the most challenged books ever ("Harry Potter Series..."). That is significant considering how new the series is--the first book was published in 1998. To become one of the most challenged books ever in such a short time, clearly illustrates the depth of the opposition to Harry Potter. Formal written complaints aren't the only way these parents are protesting however.
Many other steps have been taken by these parents to protect their children from what they consider to be a very harmful influence. In Zeeland, Michigan, the superintendent of schools banned the reading aloud of Harry Potter books and required parental permission for library use ("Cencorship" 22). In his article for the Journal of Contemporary Religion, Michael Ostling reports "We learned of court challenges in Georgia; of Christian booksellers refusing to stock the series; of libraries pulling the books from their shelves; even--in early 2001--of a church-orchestrated book burning in rural Pennsylvania" (5). Such steps and acts demonstrate the deep resentment many Americans feel towards the series.
What is it about Harry Potter that angers and offends so many parents into actions like these? Many of them feel that the material is too dark for children of a young age to be exposed to and that it undermines family values. Many argue that Harry is a poor role model for children due to his obvious disregard for rules. The main complaint though, is regarding the theme of magic and witchcraft in the stories. Explaining the opposition's view, Ben Hubbard wrote "The books, the parents say, give their children the tools for casting spells and brewing potions and will eventually set them on a path toward satanic worship" (17). Perhaps by looking deeper at some of these complaints, we can better understand their validity.

Previous: Part One
Next: Part Three

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Harry Potter And The Muggle Struggle

Here is something new I've never done before: make some use of my schooling. I jest, I jest; school probably has its uses. Still, I have written tons of essays over the years that, with the exception of the persuasive essay I wrote my junior year of high school about going commando, just sit in a folder and do nothing. So, I have decided to post an essay that I wrote while attending UVSC (now UVU) in Orem, UT. It is the first essay I ever did that was longer than 3-4 pages--a whopping 12. The assignment was to write a persuasive essay and the topic I chose was whether or not Harry Potter should be banned from public schools and libraries (this was not an assigned topic--I had to convince the teacher to let me write on it). I will be breaking it up into segments, because that mother is long. For this first one I will just do the introductory paragraph (cause I already have this introductory paragraph that I have subjected you to and frankly I wouldn't feel right taking you any further... we have to work our way up to that), but following segments wil come in slightly you say...bulk?

Enjoy or ignore, depending on your choice of lifestyle.

"Harry Potter and the Muggle Struggle" - by me of course

Not too often is a controversial figure a child. Even less often is it a fictional child. Yet, that is the case with Harry Potter. Author J.K. Rowling created the character for her best-selling book series of the same title. The seven part series tells the story of a boy who learns he is a wizard, leaves his obnoxious aunt and uncle (with whom he has been living since he was a baby), and goes to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to be trained. During the series, he learns the truth of his parents' death, of their killer, and of his own future in the coming battle of good against evil. Due to the nature of its context, many conservative Christian parents strongly oppose the series claiming that it will have a detrimental effect on their children. Many have taken steps to prevent their children from reading the books. Although many parents feel that Harry Potter is a poor role-model and promotes witchcraft, the Harry Potter series should not be banned from public school and libraries because the books provide moral lessons for our children.

Next: Part Two

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gospel Talk: The Voice Of The Lord

I wanted to share a talk that has meant a great deal to me. Gerald Lund gave this excellent talk (entitled "The Voice of the Lord") at a BYU Devotional in December of 2007. I highly recommend either listening to it at LDS Voices or reading its transcript here. (As an interesting "tid-bittal" side note, Elder Lund is my sister's husband's father, which of course really means nothing, except...that President Hinkley went to my sister's wedding. What? You didn't see me in the wedding pictures? Oh. That's right. I was on my mission. Aaargh. (I'm glad you got married when you did, Ali, despite it meaning that I couldn't be there.)

Moving on... The talk seems to me like the skeleton for his book Hearing the Voice of the Lord, which my lovely wife highly recommends (I haven't read it, yet). What stuck out to me was when Elder Lund asks everyone in the audience to be as silent as possible and listen for a few seconds. He then asks how many could hear the soft humming/buzzing: a soft buzzing that was present in the room the entire time, but which no one had heard because there was too much noise. He then likens this to the way that we often are unable to hear the Spirit's whisper, because we surround ourselves with too much "noise." This caused me to spend a great deal of time thinking on the "noise" that keeps me from hearing the voice of the Lord in my own life.

The noise is ANYTHING that blocks out, impedes, or even interferes with my ability to hear, feel, and understand the Spirit. Obviously this includes sin, but what I realized was that my life is completely filled with more subtle noises as well: distractions (music, movies, TV, sports, computer games, my random projects to clean up my iTunes, etc.) and my own desires. To clarify, what I don't mean is that these things are literally too loud or raucous (although some of them arguably fall into that category) for the Spirit to be heard; I had stopped watching rated 'R' movies and listening to more "questionable" music for some time. What I mean is that my mind and heart are so focused on them that I can't hear the Spirit whispering as much as I would if I were more "silent" or focused on listening. They pull my attention away from focusing on the Spirit, because I care too deeply for them.

To be honest, this has nothing to do with whether or not these things are "good" or "bad." Watching movies, listening to the amount of music that I did, playing computer games, and wanting to write music did not make me feel guilty. In fact, I felt pretty dang good about where I was in life and the spiritual development that I had already been going through; I felt sincerely happy. Yet, I was struck by the notion that anything--good or bad--that blocks my ability to hear the Spirit is noise that interferes with my potential spiritual learning and progression. What I came to understand was that cutting out the noise would enable me to hear, feel, and understand the Spirit even more than I already did. Letting go of my desires would enable me to not just feel the Spirit every once in a while, but to, as the sacrament prayer promises, have the Spirit with me always, because I would be always remembering Christ.

What I needed to do was let go of all of my plans, dreams, desires, and distractions so that I could re-evaluate each in the context of what will and will not bring me closer to Christ. In a sense it was like emptying out a garage full of stuff so that I could weed out what is worth keeping from what is not. Then, I would bring back in those things of value and discard those things that are just taking up space. I actually sat there thinking of the desires (like someday travelling to Scotland, going to a World Cup in Europe, and even owning an old school pirate ship in which I can sail around the Caribeean and Mediterranean) I have and the multitudinous distractions (my current James Bond-a-thon, movies and TV in general, songwriting projects, story ideas, book series I want to get to, themed music shuffles and mixes, etc.) and coming to terms with the thought that I could let go of these things--never accomplish them--and be happy. It was both difficult and immensely freeing (some of my projects are things I started years ago and have always held on to, feeling like I HAD to finish them or I would never be complete. Letting them go felt like a massive weight of my own making was taken off of my shoulders).

I have been terribly imperfect at times in my efforts to keep only the things that help me focus on the Spirit, because I still like these things. Every once in a while, as I am rooting around in the "garage," I will stumble upon something that I could have sworn I'd thrown out already (if that reference is not clear, I mean that I will still find myself holding on to things that I thought I'd already given up). That is ok. I don't need to feel bad or guilty for not being perfect in this, yet; just making the attempt brings a constant flow of blessings. Even in moments of frustration, when I either feel like I could do better or wonder why I can't seem to figure out if something is worth keeping around or not, I feel a peace and happiness that I did not know was possible. I feel happy, because I am more focused on my Savior, and I know that my Father in heaven is pleased with my efforts, though they be imperfect.

Monday, May 11, 2009

New Thrice

This is the first taste that I have found of the new album. Pretty much you just hear a new song (tentatively titled "Shuffle" from what I could discover) playing in the background while the members of the band talk about what it is like playing a new song live for the first time. The song seemed to be a logical step from Vheissu and Alchemy but did have at least one subtle interesting departure for the band; the guitars seem to be experimenting with some discordant wails (noticed later on in the video). I'm very interested to hear what they come up with for this new album.

Untitled from Thrice on Vimeo.

Fun Pics

A couple of pictures that have made me laugh today. The first is a campaign flier that my cousin Jason made back in high school:

The second one really doesn't need any introduction:

Gradutation Glee

So this is pretty cool. Go to the UNLV slide show for the Review Journal's (a major newspaper here in Las Vegas) photo coverage of the graduation ceremonies. Check out picture 18 and read the caption. Ha!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Monday, May 04, 2009

I've Got Some Awesome Nieces And Nephews

My brother Cal and his wonderful wife Bethany have three boys named Spencer, Grant, and Dallin. Every once in a while she posts some hilarious stories and quotes from them. I thought I'd share her latest with you all.

Visit The Cory Clan blog peeps.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Movie Trailers: 2 Childhood Faves (that is short for "favorites")

Two trailers were recently released for films that I am very excited to see.

First up: The Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen
Sadly, I couldn't embed it on el bloggito, so you'll have to go watch it here.

Second: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. I gotta admit, the movie certainly has a different feel than the old cartoon that I used to watch, but it did have at least somewhat of the same vibe I got from the recent reincarnation of the comics.
G.I. JOE trailer in HD

Live And Intimate Episode 5: Looks Like Nate Ruess Is Not The One Who Does Not Get It

I love The Format. If you haven't heard them yet, please do yourself the favor of getting their album Dog Problems as quickly as you can. Then, listen to it. A lot. It starts out excellent, and it gets more enjoyable with every single listen.

Here are the two "driving force" members of The Format (singer Nate Ruess and guitarist Sam Means) performing an acoustic set for what is called "The DL Show" (I am not sure why though, yet).

First up: a song called "She Doesn't Get It"

Next, a song that was written for a film starring Jon Heder and Mila Kunis called Moving McAllister. I saw this film. I was not impressed. Here is the song "Swans"

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Gospel Talk: Weed Your Spirit, Grow Your Garden

As I said a little while back, I listen to the LDS Voices podcast every day, because I love the little spiritual boost that it gives me to start off my day. Recently I have had a few strike me more profoundly than the others, so I have decided to share a little bit (what struck me and/or why) with you guys. Usually things strike me profoundly when I have a personal application for it (strange I know <-- sarcasm), so please know that if I put something up here it is not because I'm trying to make a point to anyone about what I see that they need to work on. I put it up because I see the need for it in my own life.

This morning I listened to a talk--given by John Bytheway at BYU Education Week in 2008--called "Weed Your Spirit, Grow Your Testimony." Click here to listen to it (it's 51 minutes 24 seconds in length) if you so desire.

We talk a lot about gaining a testimony in the Church. Brother Bytheway points out that the scriptures don't talk about gaining a testimony; they talk about growing a testimony (he references both the parable of the sower and the seeds and Alma's chapters on planting the seed in fertile soil). A testimony--as much as we want to treat it as such--is not something that comes once and then BAM... you're saved. This ain't Glen Lerner's "One call, that's all" program. It takes work, watering, clearing of weeds, etc. to grow and cultivate into something that can blossom and bring forth fruit.

Another thought that impressed me is that if you want good things to grow in your garden, you have to put them there; they don't just magically show up after you clear the land. Similarly, if you want good things to grow in your heart, you have to put them there. The weeds of a garden and the weeds of life will show up on their own--you don't have to go looking for them--but expecting a strawberry patch to sprout up in your backyard (especially here in Vegas) without you having first looked for, found, and planted the seeds is silly beyond all measure.

A third thought that impressed me was that all we have to do to lose our testimony is nothing. The weeds will come and choke out our garden if we are not proactively working to grow what we have planted.

The next Gospel Talk will be about a talk that has really shaken some of the foundations of my life (and in the best possible way). Today's talk, by old Johnny B., is an extension of the thoughts from that other talk: What are we bringing into our gardens and how well are we recognizing the weeds from the good things we are planting?