Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Goodbye Redheads! We'll Miss You... Not!

A week or so ago, a friend of mine posted on her blog that her son said that redheads were going extinct. She’s a redhead and was very saddened by this news. I told her in a comment, that I was thrilled by the prospect that there will come a day when no child will suffer like we did. I think that I kind of ticked her off a bit, because she asked for an explanation… and here it is…

I’m a redhead.

I’m a red head with everything that goes with it… Freckles, pasty white skin, sensitivity to sunlight, very high IQ… yep, the whole nine yards. But, it would seem, unlike others of my kind, I hold no allegiance to my accursed hue… or even to its very existence.
The Oxford Hair Foundation (I had no idea that there is such a place) figures that since only about 4% of the world’s population exhibits the trait given by a recessive “Red Head” gene (MC1R), that red hair will be gone or very rare by the year 2100.

-Happy Dance-

I, like many Redheads, didn’t go to school as a child… I endured it. Kids are mean; all redheads have their tormenters, mine was named Mark (I shouldn't tell you his last name because he’s a total waste of skin and would track me down…) Tolbert. Yep, not a day went by from Kindergarten through to High School where Mark wasn’t calling me something, laughing at my hair color and freckles, or stuffing me into garbage cans, girls bathrooms, lockers, or -insert small container here-
And he wasn’t the only one; I didn’t have a name in elementary school… I had a color. “Hey Red!” that was what most people called me. I was red, except in summer.
Many redheads will go this beautiful strawberry blond color in summer… not me. I “bleach” into a bright florescent orange that lasts from late June until the end of August. I can’t tell you how many times people come up to me to inform me of my hair color. “Hey you’ve got orange hair!”
“Really!?! You don’t say.”

Wow, I’m sounding really bitter here.

I can’t tell you how badly I would love to shake off this pasty hue of mine and… tan. I, and most redheads, fear the sun. I’ve been trained to hide from the sun by a sense of self-preservation. As a child, I spent summer after summer in a state of constant sunburn. I hate the feeling of sunscreen, and it only partly works for me, so I wear long sleeves and hats with wide brims in summer just so I won’t die of sunburn and skin cancer. I’d love to be able to wear baseball caps, I have some great ones, but the tops of my ears burn. If (when) I die of skin cancer, it will originate on the tops of my ears.
Sitting at this moment, typing on my keyboard, I can look down at the freckled tops of my hands with the almost translucent skin beneath, and think that it is most likely the traits I gained from the redhead gene that will someday lead to my death, and people wonder why the eventual extinction of red hair fills me joy and gladness. And I can’t tell you how happy I am that all 4 of my children don’t have red hair.

I’m sorry, I was going to try to make this a funny -ish entry… but the more I type, the more the truth seems to come to the surface. And the truth, for me, about having red hair is this… everyone, deep down, hates red hair, except old women who seem to think that it’s beautiful; it’s probably because they are loosing their eyesight and bright colors stand out.

Just for your amusement, here are some facts I found about red hair.

Harvard dermatologist Madhu Rathak calls redheads “Three-time losers” because their red pigment is an inadequate filter of sunlight, thus their skin is more susceptible to sunburn, skin cancer, and wrinkling with age.
There are two kinds of redhead, according to Mary Spillane, managing director of British image consultants “Colour Me Beautiful.” There’s the “Autumn” type with hazel eyes, and the “Celtic” type with translucent skin, light eyes, and carrot tops… the so called “Leprechaun redness” with which so many people have trouble.
Redheads have always been though untrustworthy. As a 17th century Frenchman observed, “Judas, it is said, was red haired.”
Superstitions: Having red hair is unlucky; it’s lucky to rub a redhead’s head; bee’s sting redheads more often. The Egyptians regarded redheads as being so unlucky that they had a ceremony in which they burned redheaded maidens alive to wipe out the tint, according to author Claudie De Lys.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Is Barack the Second Coming?




Look, I don’t want to be sacrilegious or anything, especially this close to Christmas, but…
I was walking though a book store last night… because that’s what I do, and I came across the “Obama is God” section, which was filled to capacity with books that spell out the specific god-like qualities that Obama currently has, and all that he will one day possess, i.e. he can’t currently walk on water, but I hear that he’s working on that.

I wonder… when he fails to live up to all the hype, what will happen? Because, I hate to break it to you folks… he may be a child of God… but he isn’t the second coming.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gypsy on the Bus

The other morning, I was sitting on the bus, and there was a woman singing. She had her iPod going, and was singing along… not well… she was very falsetto and out of tune, but I somehow was able to make out the song… through the laughter of the other passengers around me.
When I got to work I realized that despite the fact that I love Fleetwood Mac, especially those songs sung by Stevie Nicks, I had not heard this song for many, many moons.
So here it is… enjoy.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bone Marrow Drive



I just found out that there is going to be a Bone Marrow drive on Saturday at RioTinto Stadium. All of the info can be found at http://soccerunitesutah.com/
It appears that Marcia Williams, who is the wife of Andy Williams, who plays for Real Salt Lake, has Leukemia. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know how this cancer has touched my life and the lives of my family.
I joined the Marrow Donor registry… a long time ago, and was lucky enough to be matched with a 5-year-old little boy (for whom my son, Christian, was named). I gave Bone Marrow on my birthday in 1993.
If you are not on the Marrow Donor registry… here is a great opportunity to get on it.

Thanks

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Knights of Mayhem

These guys joust at the Utah Renaissance Faire every year... looks like their coming back for more this May. You should go... it's lot's o' fun.

Plus... my younger sister and her family won't be there, because they thinks it's dorky... so no one will be there to make fun of you.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Will the real geek please stand up?




















Like I said in my last post, I’m participating in a “Cult TV” Fandom Panel for a class up at the U of U. (ENGL 2070).
I’m really excited to do this, but also nervous that we’re about to be fed to the wolves. I don’t think that will happen because the instructor is a Browncoat, but you never know.
So yesterday, we were forwarded a couple of pages of questions from the class to contemplate, so I thought that I would address some of the questions here.




What makes Serenity/Firefly fans different from other popular TV fans?
We’re freaking awesome! That’s what makes us different… Duh! No, really, I became aware of the awesomeness of the Browncoats when I drove down to Vegas for the Serenity prescreening. I was expecting a group of typical comic book geeks but what I found were intelligent folk from every nationality and age group you could name. Their commonality? They like shows that don’t suck.

Would you discuss the show only within the fan community or also with people who didn’t have a prior interest?
I would discuss this show in a car or in a bar, in a house or with a mouse, I would talk it here or there, I would talk it anywhere…

Do you force other people to watch Firefly to recruit more Browncoats?
We don’t use the Force… that’s a totally different show… dummy!

What drew you to your fandom?
My little sister… Damn you, Mei Mei!

Fans—are they crazy?
Fan… is just short for Fanatic. Yes… crazy is a good word.

Could fandom resurrect the Firefly series, or any canceled show?
Sadly… no. I think that the Browncoats did do a bit of the impossible by getting the BDM (Big Damn Movie), but I’m afraid that Firefly has seen it’s day in the sun.

What is it about TV that makes you involve yourself in fandom?
It’s not just Television. It’s GOOD television. Television is just another form of story telling, just like reading a book, or listening to the radio, or going to the theater. If the show has a bad story, or (in Firefly’s case) is to intelligent for the brain dead American public, that show is going to go away because the medium is driven by viewership. You become a fan when you find a story that moves you in a positive way. It’s simply that.

Why do you think it is worthwhile to spend so much time talking about your TV show?
Why do you find it worthwhile to discuss books? Come on… just two different forms of entertainment.

Why do fans always dress up for conventions?
This… just so happens to be the question I’ve been mulling over for the last few weeks.
And my conclusion is this… we don’t ALWAYS dress up for conventions. Many do, but not all. And as for those who do choose to dress up… so what!
Ask yourself this… are you a fan of a sports team? And if so, have you ever gone to a sporting event wearing a replica jersey? Painted your face? Donned a Cheese Head or foam finger? What makes that cool or acceptable?
Wearing… say… a Starfleet uniform to Comicon is no different from wearing a sports team jersey to a game. The only difference is the stigma that society has placed upon them.
Wearing a team jersey, painting your face the team colors, chanting, and yelling “Charge” when the sounder sounds… as dorky as all that is… is acceptable to the majority in society, while wearing a Starfleet uniform, walking around a convention center, meeting some of the actors, artists, & writers of your favorite shows, books, & comics, and such… is somehow… outside of societies accepted norms. Who made up these rules?
Probably the Jocks…

Why do TV companies quit airing shows even when they have millions of devoted fans?
Ratings, ratings, ratings.

How does your fandom mix with the rest of your life? Is it the driving factor? Is it like a side hobby?
This is a good one. Firefly affects all parts of my habits, language, what I buy, what we name the goldfish. The nice thing about being a browncoat is that you can fly under the radar. Not a lot of people know about the show, so it’s easy to wear a BlueSun shirt or some such and most people think that it’s just some corporate tee shirt… really only another browncoat will understand the message.

Do you find yourself becoming a “die-hard” fan of only one type of genre or is it possible to be a fan (on the level of “fandom”) of different types of television shows?
I love SciFi… I love To Kill a Mockingbird… I love Bogart films… I’m currently watching a lot of Scrubs and MASH reruns. I’m a person… I have many interests.

What is it, do you suppose, that causes Joss Whedon to attract fandom groups? Buffy, Dr Horrible, Firefly, Angel all have huge fan bases that aren’t necessarily the same people. What is it about Joss that causes this?
The guy’s freakin’ awesome! I don’t know. I like Buffy, Firefly, Dr. Horrible… but I think that Angel needed to be staked long before he ever got his own show. It has to do more with the character than it does the writer.

How much time per week do you spend participating in fandom activities?
3.14 seconds per week… hey that’s the same as PI… I wonder if that means anything.

So there you go…
I’ll let you know how it went.




Monday, December 01, 2008

Diversions



The last few weeks I’ve been doing a lot of “wondering” about things; mostly about where I am professionally. I’ve gone about as far as I can in my profession. Really all I can do at this point is try to expand my knowledge base, which may translate to a couple of more bucks in my pocket… maybe. But since I just got passed over for learning a new CAD program… I’ve been kinda down on myself as of late.
It’s probably just because I’m on the eve of turning 40 and I can’t afford to go back to school for a Master’s degree.

Anyway…

I do have distractions, however. Thursday morning I’m heading up to the U to take part in a panel of Browncoats (fans of Firefly/Serenity) for an English class built around Pop Culture as literature. It should be fun and serve as a welcome diversion from life for a while.

If you happen to be in that class… Watch out! The Geeks are coming! You will be assimilated… resistance is futile…
Oh… that’s the wrong show… Gorram it!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Freakin' Thanksgiving


Well the silly season is upon us and I’m just not feeling very festive this year.

So instead of writing some sappy thing about counting our blessings and stating all of the things to be thankful for… I’m just going to say this…

Happy Thanksgiving… sure hope we can all afford to do it again next year.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Stage Makeup


I’m in so much trouble…
A few years ago… more than I care to admit, I helped a friend of mine out with a couple of rooms he had at the old “Haunted Old Mill.” It was so much fun, and because of that experience, I found my wife… but that’s a totally different subject.
Anyway, while working at this haunted house, I taught myself quite a bit about stage and FX makeup. Since then, I’ve tried to keep myself up on technique and so forth, but lately (the last 10 years) I’ve been only using my “vast knowledge” to make my kids into dead pirates and fairy princesses on Halloween and to do realistic first aid drills for the Boy Scouts.
So… getting back to the story, my Stake is putting on a musical, “A Time to Choose,” next March and they were asking for technical people to help out with the production. I figured that I could be of some help so I called up the director and offered to do the stage makeup. Then, I pulled out my old makeup kit and found that most of my brushes were either crusty old, or falling apart, and that most of my cream makeup was more like chalk makeup.
So, I did some looking and bought a theatrical cream kit from Ben Nye, and then grabbed some books from the library as a refresher…
I am in so much trouble!
When I was in my 20’s everything came so easy, now… not so much. Shading isn’t working like it should. Color selection doesn’t seem natural anymore. I can’t control the brushes like I used to…
I really think that I’m just being to hard on myself, and I do have until March to try to get my skills back… plus… I have no idea what this play is about. I don’t know the characters and I don’t know what kind of makeup I’ll be needed to do… so I’m trying to learn it all.

See where volunteering gets you…

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Disneyland Pictures


I've updated my flickr page with some of our Disneyland pictures.

I'll add more later.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

An Open Letter to Mr. Particular


Dear Mr. Particular,
Thank you so much for allowing us to crash your lovely home for our family Halloween party. The kids had a great time, and it was kind of fun to watch you follow behind them with your broom and dustpan. I really do apologize if they had any accidents with their punch. You really do have a lovely home, and I do hope it stays that way after your child is born. But…
Despite your claim that once your first child is born, your home will stay as immaculate as it is now, I just don’t think that you’re thinking straight. You say that you and your wife are “very particular people” and I do believe this to be the case… but I knew you as a small child, and Spaghettios against the wall, or on your head, was not a rare occurrence with you. You have become a clean freak… you were not born one. And while your child will start out very clean, they will become mobile, and then the term disaster will begin to take on an entirely new meaning.
Please don’t be dismayed or surprised when you come home from a hard day’s work to find an oddly pink stain in the middle of your light tan carpet, from a sippy cup that didn’t, quite do it’s job. At first you’ll fume, and rage, you’ll probably get the spot remover from under the sink and work to remove the stain… only to find out that red juice doesn’t always come out of carpet completely. After a year of this, you won’t even bother with the stain remover because you won’t want to make a clean spot in an otherwise dirty carpet.
There will come a day when you flop, exhausted into your leather sofa to watch golf on ESPN only to find that you just sat in a big blob of syrup from a half eaten French toast stick. And after pealing yourself from that sticky situation, you’ll find that the surround sound speakers you love rattle due to the Matchbox cars that have been shoved into the sound holes.
Don’t get me wrong, I would never wish these things upon you; I am simply relaying the knowledge I have gained from 14 years of being a Dad. For I would never wish jelly covered disks in a brand new DVD player on anyone… but they do happen. If I had a nickel for every Matchbox car I’ve fished out of a piece of electronics… I’d be a very rich man.
Children have a way of turning new things into old things, putting dings in walls they rarely pass by, and despite all of your plans… they are just generally messy. Now, you may have the exception to the rule… there is always the chance that your child may fold all of their cloths before putting them in their drawers. They may play with a toy, and then put it away before getting another out. They might even sit at the table and wipe their mouth with a napkin before asking to be excused… and then again… they may be normal. And you have to ask yourself… do you want to spend the rest of your life following behind them with a broom… or do you want to enjoy them?
I know you don’t take advice from me… But please don’t take offence when I do a little dance and sing a few courses of “I told you so” when the day comes that I can do so.

Best wishes,
Murph

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Call of the Mother Country


Lately I’ve had an aching in my chest to go to England, Wales, and Ireland. In order to explain why this is the case I have to tell you where it all started.
A few years ago, I started organizing my genealogy. I started with everything I had at home in various books, and then moved on to what I could find in FamilySearch.org. Along the way I came into contact with a distant cousin I have living in London. Knowing that I have family there started the spark of longing I have for the small islands, that were, and as it turns out, still are the homes for generations of Porters, Hicks, Cottams, Leeks, Packs and any other names that I have found, or will find within myself.

I’m reading a book called: The Red-Haired Girl from the Bog By, Patricia Monaghan. In it she writes something that summed up my longing.

“How could I ever know myself if I did not know where I was from – not just the scenes of my personal memories, but the places where my ancestors had walked, where my body understood the way time unfolded its seasons on the land, where people still spoke a language whose rhythms echoed in my own? Where history had been made by people with my family names? Where the unrecorded history of ordinary loves and losses had been lived by people with features like mine?”

I long to walk the streets of Malmesbury. See the countryside of county Fermanagh and the streets of Dublin. To visit the Parish church in Cardiff where generations of Porters are now buried. Find the graves in Manchester where my Great Great Grandfather laid several of his infant children before boarding a steamer bound for New York. I want to experience these places and hundreds more like them. I want to shake the hands of my cousins, look into their eyes and reunite our two branches of the family.
For some reason the mother country is calling to me, and I so want to heed that call.

Do I sound crazy?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Bring on the Hate Mail


There has been something on my mind for the last few months and it has to do with my cousin, (who… incidentally… lives in California) and her marriage to a lovely young lady, a marriage for which I am very happy for them both. Yes, gentle reader; I did say HER marriage to a young LADY, and that I am HAPPY.
Now most of you who have read my blog before know that I am LDS (a Mormon) and …somewhat… of a conservative Christian. But, my cousin’s marriage hasn’t bothered me at all… going against all stereotypes of what the Christian right is supposed to think about the topic of gay marriage. Guess you can’t trust stereotypes of any kind… hu.
This bothered me for some reason, it shouldn’t have, but it did. And I thought that… well, maybe I wasn’t living my religion. Or maybe… I needed to go confess something to my bishop, I’m not sure what, but something. I mean, as a (somewhat) conservative Christian, I should be condemning the marriage… right?
Well, I found out why I’m not bugged about her marriage, and why I shouldn’t be bugged… and of all places, I found it in a graphic novel called “V for Vendetta.”
(Are we no commanded to seek out truth in all things? Got ya!)
There’s a scene, toward the front of the book, that has V standing on a roof, just under a statue of Lady Justice, and he’s talking with her. He’s telling her how much he loves her, but then accuses her of infidelity to him. How she’s given her love to another (the new fascist government) and that because of her infidelity, she has turned her back on justice. The last thing he tells her, before blowing her up, is that there can only be true justice where there is also freedom. If you’ve never read the comic, do, because it’s brilliant.
Now what does that have to do with the topic of gay marriage? Well, I don’t really know, except that it got my brain going in the right direction. And here’s what I realized.
Long ago, marriage was a purely religious affair. The church (who ever the church was) was able to say who were able to get married, and who could break the bonds of same. At some point, marriage was taken over by the civil authority. It was no longer purely controlled by the church, but by the state. Marriage was no longer just a holy bond but a legal contract. At the moment that happened it should have become available to all consenting adults, regardless of orientation. It states, very clearly, in out founding documents that all people are created equal and that we are all equally able to partake in all the rights afforded to us as citizens of the state (and when I say state, I mean all government to which we are subject). When the state took over the institution of marriage, it was then no longer a purely religious ceremony afforded to only certain people in certain circumstances, but it became a civil right that should have been extended to all.
The Christian right argues that allowing gay’s to marry will weaken the marriage bonds between men and women, will weaken the family… so on and so forth. I say that they are ridicules and wrong… dead wrong. The fact that gay people can now legally marry in California, in no way changes the way I feel about my wife. We are not any less married than we were before. In fact I believe that the opposite is true.
I believe, that when we deny basic human rights to people we deem undeserving, ineligible or weird, we weaken that right, thus weakening the right of marriage. When we deny a right to some, we deny it to all. If we deny the right of marriage to the gay community, we weaken the institution and should just get rid of the right and say that there should be no more marriage. This country was founded on the concept of equality (some would argue that fact with me… but that’s an argument for another time.)
I say that we should celebrate our differences and praise California for the courage that they had to extend the right of marriage to all consenting adults and in doing so strengthened the right and bonds of marriage.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I'm Going to Die!


At Silver Moccasin last summer, I found myself sitting alone with one of my assistant scoutmasters, during one of our few quiet times on the course. He’s a pretty fit guy, who runs in marathons, and who is in his 50’s. I’m 39 and feel like I’m in my 60’s.
So anyway, he was telling me that I needed to start running and then enter a 10k. He guaranteed me that it would change my life. Well I didn’t do anything about it up until about a month ago.
The company I work for has lunch brought in every Friday. And it’s a good time to sit and chew the fat, as it were. Well one of the guys said that he had always thought that putting a team together for the Wasatch Back Relay would be fun. Well my boss agreed and so we have put a team together. For those who don’t know, it’s a running race, from Logan to Park City, some 180 (about) miles. 12 runners per team, run 3 legs of the relay. I’ll be running a 5k and two 10k’s in 24 hours.
I’ve started training, and do pretty well on the treadmill, but once I get on the road, it’s a disaster.
But I’ve only been training for a month, so I’m sure I’ll improve, and I have until June. Suddenly next summer doesn’t seem so far away.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Talk Like a Pirate Day!


Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day everybody!

Eye hope ye all find yer booty in fair weather and that the scallywags what come to board ye are not skurvey dogs!

I’ve made a decision. Ya know how Thanksgiving is kind of like the day that Christmas begins? Well I’ve decided that TLaPD is not the official start of Halloween. Yep, tomorrow, the Halloween decorations come out. Goth, vamp and other halloweeny type music will play in my home at all hours and we all will get into a proper Halloween spirit.
Join with me in this new tradition.

Best of the day to ye swab!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Vampires Among Us


It’s a funny thing. The political season has just officially started and I’ve been reading a non-fiction book about vampires.
The book is titled Piercing the Darkness and it’s by a clinical psychologist turned reporter named Katherine Ramsland. She started this book because of the disappearance of another reporter and because of her fascination with vampires, a fascination that many of us have. So many of us, these days, love vampires… and with the advent of the Twilight books, many more of the straight laced among us are identifying with vamps as well.
I’ve always wondered why so many of us, myself included, are so in love with this creature of the night, this evil, maniacal, manipulator in the dark. A creature that… while he or she is telling you that they love you… while they’re giving you the best sex that you could ever imagine in your kinkiest fantasies… they are, literally, draining your life’s blood… killing you slowly… while you are begging for more.
Some of you may be saying… No, that’s not true. I don’t love vampires, I don’t read vamp fiction, I hate horror movies, and people who dress up as vampires or wear black all the time are just creepy weird.
Can I quote from Ramsland’s Book?

“As a culture, we participate in collective bad faith. We shun or denounce kids who dress as vampires even as we covertly encourage large-scale social vampirism. We often protect, and often institutionalize, the very thing that we claim to decry, and while we say that vampirism is evil, we support corporations and politicians that plunder us. Take whatever you need, is the unspoken philosophy, value people only insofar as they are useful. Protect yourself and survive, no mater what it takes. Others are merely numbers.
“Middle class success literally depends on vamping off others, but we conceal this secret behind a fa├žade of order, respectability, and family values. We strip the environment, cut corners on health to promote profit, and harbor internal prejudices that dehumanize whole groups. We strive for domination, tolerate political scams, and remain indifferent to the strip mining of our well-being by those who have the power to impoverish us. We secretly cherish those in power and submit to their domination.
“Participants in the more overt vampire culture articulate what we wish to keep silent. They are a sharp-edged figure to our diffuse background; we see them more clearly than we see ourselves, so we label them and shove them into the category of “deviant” to try to separate them from the herd like wounded cattle. They are Other, not part of us. But like it or not, we’re their context. As long as we sanction forms of vampirism in our business practices, politics, and institutions, but pretend through our ideals that we don’t, we will have a youth culture willing to act out the vampire role, fueled by the turmoil of our own contradictions.”
Ramsland, Katherine. Piercing the Darkness: Undercover with Vampires in America Today. New York: HarperPrism, 1998, Page 249

And so, ask yourself this… while you’re watching the presidential debates… which of the two vamps are you going to have as your sire? Who has me most enthralled? And then, vote for the other guy. I’m not going to tell you who that is, because I’m voting none of the above. In my opinion, both candidates will bleed us dry and make us come back, begging for more.
You know what I’m going to do… I’m wearing my fangs as often as I can between now and the elections, just to remind people of who it is we have to choose from. Both of those guys will tell you anything you want to hear in order to make you their thrall. They will offer you the world all while they’re sucking you dry, and when they’re through with you, they’ll toss you aside like the hollow shadow that you are.
I was going to throw the endorsement of this blog site behind a candidate from the Vampire, Witch, & Pagan Party who goes by the name of Jonathan the Impaler. But after reading a bit about him on his blog and other sources… I’ve decided that he’s just a joke, and I can’t endorse a joke.
So none of the above has my vote… who’s with me?

Now, I need a new book to read. Something light and airy would be good.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Roots

For the last year I have been on a quest to find my ancestry, but not to find the normal stuff. That sounds weird… let me explain.
I have always wanted to be an archaeologist… ever since I was a little kid.
Have you ever sat with an object in your hand… an old object, like a piece of Native-American pottery, or with something that belonged to your great, great grandfather, and imagined them using it, or making it. I do all the time, I always have.
I have my great grandfather’s hymn book, and quite often I’ll just find myself sitting, holding it… imagining him using it… wondering who embossed his name on it for him. Was it a gift? Did he buy it himself? These are answers I’m always looking for.
So anyway, a couple of years ago, I set out on a quest to find the Father of my Great Great Grandfather. You see, his mom (my G.G.G. grandmother, Emma Porter) was a single mother, who later married a man named Bennett. So I set out to find his bio-dad. Along this journey I found many things, one of those is a 6th cousin, Louise, who lives in England. We never realized that there would be a whole branch of the family who would have stayed over there. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know her through email. I also found, my G.G. Grandfather’s emigration paperwork in the Utah State Historical Society’s archives, which gave me the idea to find the ship that brought the Porter’s to America.
Well… I found it.
In the Family History Library in Salt Lake.
I found the passenger list.
They got here on the Steam Ship Nevada out of Liverpool, England docking in New York on June 1st, 1886. I found out from that passenger list that my Great Grandfather’s parents called him “Willie” and that he was 4 years old when they moved from Manchester to settle in Ogden, in the Utah Territory. They traveled in steerage, and carried 3 pieces of luggage.
The library is a very quiet place, with lots of people peacefully studying records, but when I found them, I so wanted to whoop and holler… fortunately, I didn’t.

I still have some mysteries to solve, but I’m looking forward to solving them.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Stop! George… Just Stop Already!

In 1977, I was a skinny little geek of the 3rd grader when this new movie called Star Wars came out. Suddenly, everyone at Vista Elementary School were wearing these tee shirts that had a picture of a guy in this bathrobe kind of shirt holding a sward of light straight up over his head, or had some kind of black death mask fading into some kind of big gray ball. I had no idea what these shirts were all about, and had no idea who this “Dark Vader” was that everyone was talking about, but I was bound to find out.
I was the last one in Miss Hall’s 3rd grade class to go see it. One day, and I don’t really remember why, my Dad packed up my younger sister and me, and off we went to see Star Wars. We drove to the old Center Theater in Salt Lake; because that was the only place you could see it in those days.
In the dark of the theater, with the Star Destroyer going over my head, the only thing I could think, feel or say was… Wow! This is the greatest movie ever!

I’ve grown up a lot since then, I’ve read and analyzed more works of fiction than I care to admit, and I’ve come to one conclusion that just seems to piss off everyone that I’ve ever told. That conclusion? Ok, if you really want to know…

George Lucas created a brilliant world in which to tell his story, and then he told a sucky story, full of sucky characters, who were played (mostly in episodes 1-3) by sucky actors.

Before you crucify me, and burn my body on the geek alter… please allow me to explain.
George Lucas was a brilliant writer and director. THX-1138, although I hated it the first time I saw it as a teenager, I have since become far more Dytopian savvy and have watched it again and all I can say is that THX-1138 is… brilliant. The same can be said for American Graffiti with its documentary style (way overdone these days) and continuous “doo-ap” soundtrack was absolutely delightful.
Then came Star Wars, which amounts to nothing more than a story of Swords and Sorcery… with rivets, not necessarily bad… but… I have to honest here, I liked the original 1977 Star Wars, Episode 4, (the one in which Han does, in fact, shoot first) with it’s never before seen special affects and sound. Things in the story made a bit of sense as well, even if there were sounds and aerodynamics in space. It’s the only one of the series that is even marginally watchable, followed very closely by Empire Strikes Back and then Return of the Jedi, even with those damnable killer teddy bears. As for Episodes 1 thru 3… well… all I can say is that if you were to dry them out and then grind them into a fine powder… you could, successfully, fertilize your garden.
Now… he’s come out with this new Clone Wars animated… thing. …Sigh… Even J. K. Rowling knew when to stop… about 9 books to late… but still.
George Lucas used to be a talented director, but he stopped using that talent, and has lost it. Now he’s just a shameless recycler of the same old song and dance. And I pity him.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog


If you liked the Musical Buffy Episode, you'll love Dr. Horrible
It's... kind of PG-13 so don't watch it with your kids 'til you've seen it first.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Preparedness Principles

Preparedness Principles: The Complete Personal Preparedness Resource Guide
By Barbara Salsbury (and Sandi Simmons)
Horizon Publishing
Large Format Paperback
364 pages (incl. Appendix and Index), $26.99

Many years ago, when I lived in Taylorsville, I joined a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), which required me to go to several weeks of training in order to learn simple first aid, triage, search and rescue, disaster preparation, and team organization during an emergency. After passing the 3-hour mock disaster drill (and getting myself “trapped” inside a “collapsing” structure of some kind in the process) I was graduated with a certificate, a green vest, and a helmet. I couldn’t wait for THE earthquake; you know, the big one, the one that’s going to teach us all to live in the bottom of an ancient lakebed by swallowing up all of our homes. So I slept with my CERT gear within reaching distance, and I had 30 gallons of water and a couple of cases of Top Ramen in the basement… I was set. Bring on the disaster!
Here’s the thing… I’ve moved to the west bench, I have no idea where my CERT gear is, I’m no longer a part of the Taylorsville team and I know that there is no Team organized up here. Plus, after reading Barbara Salsbury’s book, I realize that I am in no condition for any kind of disaster.
Preparedness Principles is an easy to understand manual that doesn’t just tell you to be prepared for a disaster, it doesn’t try to scare you with a bunch of dooms-day scenarios, and it doesn’t just hand you a list of what you’re going to need with no regard to your personal needs or preferences… as other preparedness books seem to do. The author lays out her ideas and principles in very plain, very practical language. At no point does she say to go out and buy 1.3 tons of flour because bread is the staff of life, instead the opposite is true, she basically says, if you have flour and water you don’t have bread… you have paste. (Those aren’t her words, but I liked the way they sounded) To have bread, you do need flour and water, but you also need eggs, milk, some kind of leavening, so on and so forth, then she tells you how to go about getting these items, lets you know how to store them and how long they’re going to stay usable.
I think that her main message in the food storage sections of this book is that just because you’re in a state of emergency, it doesn’t mean that you need to eat like it. Yes, preparing your food might be a bit of a challenge. You might be using your dining room table for a makeshift growing room for your indoor, winter vegetable garden. Yes, your oven and stovetop might not be working because the gas is shut off, or because of some downed power lines, but with a little bit of inventiveness, and preparation, you should be able to get through it just fine. She even includes some recipes to help you out.
The book works for almost any situation (I didn’t find anything on what to do in the case of alien abduction, or Monkey Revolution) and gives ideas for any budget, in fact, the first section has to do with getting yourself financially prepared for hard times, which is something I usually don’t associate with earthquakes or floods, but is still a really good starting point.
I did find that the information did overlap just the slightest bit from section to section, but sometimes we need things repeated to really get it.
This is a very valuable book to have, but not to keep on your bookshelf. This book needs to opened and read often, and the ideas need to be learned and used as much as possible so that when the big one does strike, you’ll be prepared.

This review was supposed to end with an author’s interview, but as of posting time… now… I haven’t heard back from Ms. Salsbury. I’m sure that it has nothing to do with the fact that I asked extensive questions about preparing for a Zombie Apocalypse… Hey! It could happen… or that I asked whether the family pet could be a practical source of fresh protein and a highly mobile extension of your family's food storage pantry.
I’m sure those questions have nothing to do with the fact that she won’t return my emails… really.
Update August 5, 2008
Yeah! We finally figured out what was wrong. Barbara Salsbury doesn't hate me with a white hot hate! As it turns out, I goofed up and she never got my email... I'm an English Major... need I say more. So... Here's my interview with the author.
Murph: Ms. Salsbury, it is a pleasure to be able to talk to you about your wonderful book.
Barbara Salsbury: Yes, it really is a wonderful book, and I am well known for my unbiased opinions. Hopefully it will help a lot of people.
Murph: You seem to be very knowledgeable in the area of Emergency Preparedness, how did you get started teaching these principles?
Barbara Salsbury: It's called survival with out any budget and becoming the visual aids for all kinds of disasters - such as losing our business and existing without a payday or government welfare for almost two years. I began by giving workshops, doing lots of research, continuing to survive our own disasters, giving more workshops - and then started writing it down. I've only been able to get it into twelve books so far, with another one coming.
Murph: Food storage to me, and probably to a lot of people, means that you have a couple of garbage cans full of wheat, oat bran, and pinto beans. I was very happy to find out that food storage really means that you store what you normally eat. Where did that concept come from?
Barbara Salsbury: Which concept... the old wives tale about just wheat, etc.?. I think it is one of "they says" that got diverted into several recipe books. I am a firm believer that personal preparedness is a lot more than wheat!
Murph: So what you're saying is that, I might get a little tired of eating Ramen Noodles... everyday... for a year. What if I supplement the noodles with... say... YooHoo Chocolate Drink?
Barbara Salsbury: Oh not just a chocolate drink. You must have a well rounded diet to stay healthy, such as fruit and protein! Surely you have discovered chocolate covered raisins and double dipped chocolate peanuts ... and really good solid milk chocolate.
Murph: What's the shelf life of Goobers? Hummm... I didn't find a section on what to do during a Zombie Apocalypse. You've seen Night of the Living Dead right? I mean. it could happen.
Barbara Salsbury: I'm sorry to be the one to set you straight on this one. It's not the Zombies that one needs to worry about. I have been noticing they have been fleeing in droves every night at 12:10 AM. It is the WOLF SPIDERS! We are being invaded by gazillions of wolf spiders. They have eaten the wheat under the beds and can move extremely fast when one tries to catch or squish them (EEwwwww)
Murph: Sorry, I've been having a little bit of fun with you, but seriously... it could happen!
Barbara Salsbury: Fun!!? I don't think wolf spiders are fun!
Murph: Wolf spiders? I was talking about zombies... Um... Okay, moving right along. I realize you don't write fiction, but who are your favorite authors?
Barbara Salsbury : Having three books published in the last year or so, about all I have read is research. Sorry, I am not a great reader of the literature masters, even the current ones.
Murph: Have you heard of the book World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks? You should look into it.
Barbara Salsbury: Sorry. I'm thinking of writing The Real War Is With the Bugs and Spiders and then start selling bug squashers on a web site.
Murph: Okay... No more Zombie... or bug... talk. I promise.
Barbara Salsbury: It's OK
Murph: They... who ever "They" are... have been talking about "The Big One" for a long time. do you seriously think that a monster earth quake is in the works for the Wasatch Front? Or are the news folk just trying to scare everyone?
Barbara Salsbury: Having lived through A BIG ONE (7.2 Loma Priets, CA) I think an earthquake could very well be in the future of a lot of people. It is scary, but there are a lot of scary things out there - in addition to "just" and earthquake. And I haven't met the "They" organization yet... But "they" are influential.
Murph: You do say several times, that you should plan for a food supply for your pets... don't you think that things could get desperate enough that... say... Fluffy becomes a part of your food supply?
Barbara Salsbury: Only if Fluffy is YOURS and a Zombie! (Another EEEwwwwwwww!)
Murph: Sorry... I would never eat a cat... I'm alergic. Moving right along... Are you really sure that putting a Bay leaf in the flour doesn't work? I've had a several bay leafs in my flour bucket and there is no sign of weevil. I totally believe in it.
Barbara Salsbury: Yes, I'm really sure. You are one of the lucky ones whose weevil have learned to hide when the lid comes off. They are well fed and turn the color of the wheat. NO, Bay leaf will not keep bugs out of food. In the book I describe how often weevil need to be fed and how to make house pets out of them, you know like dust bunnies :] sorry couldn't resist.
Murph: Okay, my turn... EEEEeeewwwww!
I tell my kids to eat their beans all the time, because to me they are the perfect food. But despite my best efforts they just won't eat them... any advice?
Barbara Salsbury: Beans have to be prepared properly. First you soak them, cook them and then double dip them in milk chocolate and, for kids, roll them in sprinkles made from soy.
Murph: Do you think that their really is a world rice shortage, or is it really just NPR crisis talk?
Barbara Salsbury: In my opinion there may be a shortage of rice in various countries for various reasons, but when the press release was issued here in the USA there was/is rice available. The rice crop in Northern California is about ready to harvest. Remember the press release could have been another "they say."
Murph: Are you a Joss Whedon fan?
Barbara Salsbury: Again sorry. I'll have to go to Google as soon as I finish this.
Murph: Thank you for sitting down to... write... with me, and congratulations on writing a very valuable book.
Barbara Salsbury: It truly has been fun "writing" with you. I continually try to teach people that preparedness can be fun... SEE?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Breaking Dawn

Last night was the Breaking Dawn party at the Barnes & Noble... My wife and daughter went and had a great time.
I went so that I could look at the sheep.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Can't Judge a Book by it's Cloned Cover!


My wife an I were walking through Barnes and Noble tonight because I really needed something good to read, and my wife wanted to reserve a copy of that new Twilight book. Breaking Wind… I think that’s what it’s called… Ugh! How anyone can read that… drivel.
Sigh
Anyway, while walking through the store, I came across a table full of “Chicklit” Vamp books and found this one…

And so I said to myself, “Self,” remember I always talk to myself in the third person, “Self, the cover of this book is a blatant Buffy clone.”

See for yourself.


Plagiarism!

They have no shame.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cruel to be Kind

Ok, so while I was walking into work this morning I passed an American Idol wrist band… flapping, all torn and tattered in the weeds along the side of the road. Looking at it I could almost see it’s young owner, tearing it from his or her wrist… possibly in tears… all dreams of being the next big thing to hit Utah… but… alas… it was not to be…
Look, I love to sing. In church, where people are to nice to tell me to shut up, and I sing in my home… usually locked up in my office… where no one but me can hear. Look, in my mind, I sound really good… in real life… not so much.
I would hope that my wife and family love me enough to not allow me to go try out for American Idol… if I were younger, and… well, stupid enough to go do that.

Here’s a song that says it all…

Monday, July 28, 2008

Unplug and Drop-out



Before my one fan starts thinking that all I do on this site is review books, I figured that I’d get a standard post up and going.
Dropping out. Yep, I have dropped out. A few months ago I decided to turn off the radio, stop reading the paper (except for the Arts page… I mean, lets not go overboard) and stopped watching anything news related on the television. Yep, I have unplugged.
And you know what… I’m a much happier person.
Now you might be saying to yourself that I am now one of the masses of the uninformed. And to you I say… Yep!
Look, I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh… until he became unbelievably boarish. Then I turned to Glen Beck. He was funny up until a year ago, and then he became a fear monger… and that was no longer good listening.
“If America doesn’t wake up…” he’d say over and over again.
“I’m awake, Glen!” I’d yell back at my radio, “Now what can I do!?!” The short answer is… nothing. I can write to my congressman, and to the president. I can make phone calls, I can scream at the top of my lungs into space… and Nothing is going to change. So, if there is “nothing” I can do about the hole this country is dropping into, then “nothing” is what I want to know about.
So, here’s what I can do.
I can look after my family, and make the changes that I need to help us survive. I take the bus to work now. Not to save the world, but because I can’t afford to put $4/gallon gas in my car. Stuff like that.
When I go to vote this November, I won’t be voting to the D or the R. I don’t know who I’m gonna vote for… maybe the commie. Oh, wait, that won’t work… the commies are the D and the R.
Sigh

So, maybe if enough people drop out and unplug, as I have, maybe Washington will realize that we’re just ignoring them and just maybe, they’ll go away.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Room for Two


Room for Two
By Abel Keogh
Published by Cedar Fort, Inc.
Trade Paperback
215 pages, $14.99

When I received Room for Two in the mail and took one look at the cover, a single word flew through my head… “ChickLit!” Then I read the synopsis on the back cover and said to myself, “Self,” I always talk to myself in the third person, it helps to separate the various voices competing for dominance inside my head, “Self,” I said, “This book is prime material for the Lifetime network, or maybe Oxygen. You, my friend, are going to hate this book.”
So, while I was trying to finish up the last book I was reading, my dear wife asked if she could read it. I believe that my response to her was, “you might as well, ‘cause I’m not going to like it.” She LOVED it by the way.

Does the phrase; “Can’t judge a book by its cover” mean anything to you, because Room for Two taught me a very valuable lesson indeed. Let me tell you why…

I first picked up this book at about 11:00 one night thinking that I would get started and get a feeling for how the author wrote before giving it a really good effort on the bus the next morning. I figured that I would get a couple of pages read before I fell asleep, and that would be a good start. Well… thirty something pages later I was still reading and wanting to do more, but had to get some sleep or I would be useless at work the next day.

Before I go on, I must confess something… I am a crybaby. Oh yes, gentle reader, many of my books have soft, salty tear stains in among their pages. While driving with my dear wife, I have hidden tears behind my sunglasses when touching songs come on the radio, it’s something that I have come to live with… before I'm required to turn in my "Man Card" let’s move on. And so there I was on the bus the next morning reading away, tears stinging my eyes as I read. Stealthily, I wiped them away, closed the book, placed it in my book bag, (read: Man Purse) and dug out my MP3 player to pipe some Tribal Celt music (The Wicked Tinkers) into my head… Unfortunately, the sound of Bag -Pipes usually causes me to swell with Celtic pride, which is almost always followed by… yes my friends… tears. There is no winning.

Seriously, I’ve been making light of this book… but that’s my way. This is a very good read. Mr. Keogh is a fantastic writer who has the ability to pull you into his story, so much so, that you can almost see and feel his raw emotion. It is, almost, a tactile experience beginning with the smell of the spent gunpowder in his apartment to the feel of a loved ones hand in the end. The story becomes that real to the reader because it was very real to the author.

Room for Two chronicles the author’s experiences from the suicide of his pregnant wife, through his grieving, his anger, and his growth as he tries to forgive his late wife for her actions, and himself for not being able to prevent her from doing them. As the story progresses, Mr. Keogh tells his readers about his misadventures in trying to remember how to date and we are able to struggle with him as he tries to find room enough in his heart for a new love of his life. The story is sad in many places, funny in others, and spiritually enlightening throughout.
It is truly a must read.

As with all my book reviews so far, (all three of them) I was able to pose a few questions to the author about his book.

Murph: Mr. Keogh, it is truly an honor.
_
Abel Keogh: My pleasure. I appreciate you taking the time to interview me.

Murph: Can we start by settling a question that has plagued me from the day I picked up your book? How do you pronounce your last name?

Abel Keogh: It’s pronounced Key-o. The “gh” is silent.

M: As I said in my review, the emotion in your book is just raw; I’m almost warn out from it. What was the catalyst for you to get this story onto paper?

AK: Dealing with the emotional roller coaster that came with writing Room for Two was probably the most unpleasant part of the entire process. It wasn’t fun to relive a lot of those moments though it was a relief to finally have everything out on paper.

The main catalyst for writing Room for Two was an utter lack of compelling memoirs about losing a spouse. The books I tried to read in the months after my late wife’s death were poorly written and very preachy. I wanted to write something with broad appeal – something that everyone could enjoy even if they hadn’t lost a spouse.

M: What did your wife, Julianna, think of you writing this book?

AK: Julianna was very supportive of the writing process and gave me the time I needed to complete the book. She didn’t care whether or not it was published. What she really wanted was “our story” written down so our children would know how we met and that they have a half-sister in heaven.

M: Do you and Julianna still run? And have you ever joined her in running a marathon?

AK: Yes, we still run. We don’t run together as much as we’d like because having three young kids makes that difficult. When the weather’s good, however, you can find us running together, pushing our kids running strollers, on Saturday mornings.
We ran a marathon together about five months after we were married. Actually, together is a pretty loose term. She bolted ahead as soon as the race started. I didn’t see her again until the finish line. She’s run several since them. I’m more content to run shorter races like 5ks or 10ks.


M: Did you ever find out what Krista’s final message, “no matter what I do, the consequences are the same,” meant?

AK: No, I never did learn what she was trying to say. I attribute it to her insanity.

M: I know from your book that you read random sampling’s of Krista’s journals, did you ever read her last few entries in order to find a reason for her suicide?

AK: Krista’s journal writing became very erratic in the months leading up to her suicide. She stopped writing about six weeks before she died. What she did write leaves no clues as to her motives for taking her own life. However the writing doesn’t sound like Krista. Even though the entries are in her handwriting, when I read it, it seems like someone else wrote it.

M: Okay, off of the heavy stuff, and on to the standard question for a Mind of Murph interview… Are you a fan of Joss Whedon?

AK: It depends. I liked the early seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I could never get into Angel. I heard great things about Firefly but I’ve never seen any episodes.

M: If you could be any character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Firefly… who would it be and why?

AK: Probably Angel. Something about a vampire with a soul appeals to me. Maybe there’s a better character in Firefly. I’m thinking I really need to put that TV show in my Netflix queue.

M: You won’t be disappointed, my word of honor as a Boy Scout Drop-out. Okay… If I were raid your bookshelves right now, what books would I find?

AK: A little bit of everything. I read just about anything that has a good plot and interesting characters. Probably the best way is to check out the books on my GoodReads page at http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/844543.Abel_Keogh. I have several hundred books on my shelves and am doing my best to add them to my profile by the end of the year.
Recently, I’ve been buying and reading lots of detective fiction. It’s a genre I never read until I married Julianna but I’ve discovered that some of the genre’s authors like Michael Connelly and Robert Crais are some of the best writers working today.
-
M: Wow, I glad to see that you aren’t one of those Good Reads authors who have 2 books listed and 9000 “friends.” By the way, I went through your book lists and added a few to my “to read” list, thanks… Umm, This next question is from my wife… What ever happened to Jennifer? Did she ever find anyone?

AK: I’ve heard through the grapevine that she’s been happily married for about five years. I hope that’s true. I haven’t spoken to her since the relationship ended.

M: Who’s better… Captain Kirk or Captain Picard?

AK: Picard. For some reason I never liked Kirk. Even as a kid, watching reruns on Saturday afternoons, I was always hoping Kirk would get vaporized so Spock could take over.

M: Like I’ve said, I really like your writing style; do you have any other books in the works?

AK: I’m currently working on my first novel. I’ve discovered that fiction is harder to write than non-fiction. Still, I plan on having a publishable manuscript by the end of the summer.

M: Well thank you, Sir. Please keep in touch will you?

AK: Of course. Thank you for your time.
-
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A full list of Blog Tour reviews, of which I am the only man… Go figure… can be found on Abel Keogh’s web site: http://www.abelkeogh.com/blog/?p=513
Please leave a comment, I’d like to know what’s on your mind… Please?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Caught in the Headlights

Caught in the Headlights: 10 Lessons Learned the Hard Way
By, Barry K. Phillips (Forward by, Glenn Beck)
Published by Cedar Fort, Inc.
104 pages, $11.99

It’s a funny thing, if you watch for life lessons; sometimes they’ll hit you like a Mac Truck. Take last night for example, I was in a kind of a sullen, dissatisfied mood, and so, naturally, I sat down to write this review. I should never do that in such a state of mind, because I hammered this book. Man, I’ll tell ya, I set that thing on top of some Kingsford and then “flicked my bic.” Thankfully, I have a loving wife who is… well to use the words of Barry Phillips… “my wife is a saint.” She made me realize that I was not being fair to Mr. Phillips, and that I was just simply taking my frustrations out on him and his book. So, I burned my last review, and in it’s place I give you this one, which is much more fair.

Here’s the thing, I’m not sure how to handle this book because I don’t read anything that can be found in the self-help, business, or the political sections… (a nazi named Ann Coulter cured me of that last one.) So how does a degree in English Lit help me here? Well let’s start with what the book is about… Shall we?

In his book, Caught in the Headlights, Barry Phillips, presents 10 things that he wanted to accomplish in his life, just to find that what he thought he wanted wasn’t necessarily the same as what he got or what he really, truly wanted in the first place, and then he tells us what it was he learned along the way. Throughout the book he questions his qualifications to give such advice to his readers, sometimes in very humorous ways. For example, he lists among his bona fides that he loves “to cook, draw, and play drums.” He also likes “long walks on the beach, and the smell after a rain storm.” Did I mention that he says his wife is saint… but aren’t they all?

I really did like the humor in his writing. He tends to write like I do, with a lot of pauses and sidebars. But unlike my writing, he quickly comes back to his point. Which is refreshing; since he doesn’t give you time to forget what his original point was.

The book is very structured around his 10 points or pursuits, (ie. Happiness, Self-Esteem, Pride, so on and so forth), then using that point he tells a story form his big bag of life experiences, be it from business, church, home or getting stared at by Bill Gates. Next he presents the lessons that he learned using a standard 3-point conclusion. Standard, meaning that he doesn’t deviate from that set pattern. Finally, and I don’t quite get this one, he concludes with a poem… of his own make… which kind of repeats his three point lesson. I must admit, I only read the first poem, while I was on the bus. And I must have had a very perplexed look on my face, because the guy sitting next to me got up and actually left the bus. Ok, it may have been his stop, but still… I don’t get the whole thing with the poems. I’m sorry… Poems should be reserved for Shakespeare, Chaucer, and the guys who write toothpaste jingles… I’m just sayin’.

Wow, it sounds like I really didn’t like this book, and I really kind of did. Mr. Philips does make some very good points and I did walk away from this book with some lessons learned. For example, in his 10th chapter, titled “The Perfect Body,” he states,

As with most things in life, it really is about balance. We all need to eat healthy. But to say you will never eat chocolate again is not realistic for most of us. I mean, even if you live longer without chocolate, what would be the point? Life with no chocolate at all? Please. Ding Dongs are the nectar of life. At least I’d like them to be.

How true is that? I totally believe that.
I did try to put some balance in my life once, but I fell down.

Glenn Beck, a hero to the LDS population of the great state of Utah, wrote the forward to the book, which is quite appropriate since, like this book, Glenn’s radio show is funny in parts, preachy in parts, but enlightening in all ways.

I was able to sit down with the author, in a virtual sense, to ask him a few questions.

Murph: Mr. Phillips, It is a pleasure, may I call you Barry?

Barry Phillips: Sure... but only because it's my name. I mean, if it wasn't my name, what would be the point of calling me that? Besides, Mr. Phillips is my father.

Murph: Thank you, Um… I gotta know, right off the bat… what was with the poetry?

Barry Phillips: Yeah, I gathered you weren't a big fan of that part. To my defense, you only read one, and on the bus with some smelly guy watching you. I wrote them because they can make a point like nothing else at times. Besides, I actually like them.

M: I know that this is not a book of fiction, but I find that most writers are also readers, so… who do you read? If I were to raid your bookshelf today, who would I find sitting there?

BP: Car and Driver, cover to cover - but just for the articles. It depends on my mood otherwise. I like C.S. Lewis, but I also read a variety of things. On my shelf right now is Glenn Beck's latest book, a business book on marketing, Newt Gingrich's book on Change, lot's of church books, and scriptures. I liked the Harry Potter stuff, and I'm and Dale Brown fan. I'm also a fan of good, funny cartoons - the Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes and the like.

M: What made you want to write this book?

BP: The idea just hit me and it percolated until I just had to do it. I wrote the book because I noticed that a lot of people struggle with the same issues I did, but don't have much luck at resolving them. Not that I'm perfect at them by any stretch, but I've learned what works if I just follow the lessons learned.

M: Looks to me like you’ve done a lot with your life, but are you and Eagle Scout?

BP: A proud Tenderfoot, actually. But my wife and I did drag my oldest son across the finish line to get his Eagle, so that out to count for something.

M: I want to read a quote from your book, and get your reaction. Would that be all right?

BP: Do I have a choice? Why don't you ask me about one of the poems, since you read so many of them.

M: Ya, my wife said that as well, but I just can’t read poetry, maybe it’s because the one Poetry professor I had was from San Francisco… but anyway… Okay, this is from page 10, and you’re talking about people with whom you need to maintain relationships… with me so far? Ok, you state: “…and those internet geeks. Let’s face it, you may not want to hang out with them, but every now and then you really need to have them in your life.” So, I’m taking a stab in the dark here… I’m guessing that you wouldn’t be keen on sitting down to a nice game of D&D?

BP: The fact that I know what D&D stands for scares me just a little. But I have a confession or two. My wife is the Guild Master of a long standing guild in WOW (yes, I know what that acronym means too) and I work in an IT department. Not too far from my office is a guy with "IMANERD" on his license plates. So I know how to speak the geek. But it takes a special breed to hang with nerd herds on your own time. I actually like them, but I'm more of an honorary member.

M: You do realize that the Mind of Murph Blog Site is a Geek site… I mean… not a “let me help you with your Internet” kind of geek. I’m talking, never dated in high school, 10th level mage, in love with Princess Leia, sitting on the couch watching old reruns of Starblazers… THAT kind of geek… are you good with that?

BP: That's cool… do you think the guys that do help you with your Internet are different from that somehow?

M: Umm… Ya. Two different breeds, but both having a common ancestor… let’s move on, shall we? In your book, you refer to Bill Gates and Donald Trump as huge successes that you don’t want to be anything like… so… who do you look up to?

BP: People that are great at what they do, but are not jerks. Chip Foose for example. He's the best car designer on the planet and still a really great person from what I understand.

M: Are you a fan of Joss Whedon?

BP: Liked Buffy pretty well, and LOVED Firefly. Serenity is still one of my favorite moves.

M: Shiny! Dude, you rock! Um… So if you could be anyone in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer… who would you be?

BP: Someone that gets a stake through the heart. I'm not much of an actor, but I could play dead pretty well.

M: What’s the number one problem with the country today?

BP: Political Correctness. It stops everyone from saying what they really feel and prevents us from solving real problems.

M: If you were the King of the US for one day… what would you do to fix that problem?

BP: It would take more than one day, but I'd start with removing the concept of a professional politician. Of course, if I were king, there'd be very little need for politicians. I'd appoint logical, down to earth people with souls to run things.

M: Who shot first, Han Solo or Greedo?

BP: Han's the man.

M: You have a chapter in the book… Chapter 6, “Tolerance” where you literally lay it on the line. You express your opinions on the subject, seemingly without shame or remorse. It’s a very bold chapter… were you nervous at all? Did you ever think that that chapter was going to get you into trouble?

BP: Yes, I did. I've been very surprise that most people like that chapter the best. I really thought the publisher would make me change the chapter drastically, but they didn't change it at all, other than a few typos.

M: Well Sir, Thank you for your time, I’ll let you get back to cleaning out your horse stalls.

BP: I'll save you pile!

For a full list of stops on his virtual book tour, go to Barry's website.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ar Eireann Ni Neosainn Ce Hi

I have found the sheet music to one of my all time favorite traditional Irish airs. It’s called Ar Eireann Ni Neosainn Ce Hi. For those of you who don’t speak Irish, it means, For Ireland, I’d Not Tell Her Name.
The Music I have is in the key of G (I think) and since my Tin Whistle is in the key of D, I’m going to have to make some alterations to the way I play it, and I know that I’ll never be able to play this song as well as the High Kings, but it sure is a pretty song.

Oh, and please take note of the Non-instrument being played at the end of the song. It's a Walton Tin Whistle, by the way.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sorry, I Just Have to Vent

Every Sunday my family gets together at my parent’s house for Sunday dinner. It’s kind of a big todo, and we all look forward to it, ‘cause it’s kind of fun. I love hanging with my folks, they’re some of the best people I know.
Anyway, I’ve been teaching myself to play the Tin Whistle, and I’ve gotten to a point, after only a month, that I was feeling comfortable enough with it, that I wanted to show my parents what I’d accomplished. So I took it and my sheet music along with us to dinner. Now, I had been kind-of mentally preparing myself for… Stacie. Ya see, I’m the oldest of 6 children, and Stacie is about a year and a half my junior. Ever since we were kids, Stacie has been my judge, jury and in some cases, my executioner. I rarely, if ever, meet her standards. After all, she’s one of the beautiful people with her rotating cadre of friends, while I was (still am) a D&D geek with all that comes with that. I never dressed right for her, I never listened to the right music, or went to the right movies, on and on, ad nauseam…
My current fascination with my Celtic heritage, I’m quite sure, has her just reeling from the geek vibes emanating from my part of the Salt Lake Valley. So, I figured that she’d poke a crack at my playing, or the tunes, or the geekyness of such an instrument… I didn’t know, something like that, so I steeled myself, and waited for her and her family to leave, before playing for my folks.
They didn’t leave.
It was 8:30pm and was a half hour past the time when we usually leave to go home, and they were still there.
So at the prompting of my wife, I broke out my whistle and sheet music to play for my folks, and the first thing out of Stacie’s mouth… “Hey look, Mike has a Recorder,” in a tone of voice that was so condescending and so judgmental, that I automatically went on the defensive. I don’t even know why. The recorder is a wonderful instrument with a great resonating sound, but it isn’t a Tin Whistle. The fingering isn’t even close between the two. Comparing a Tin Whistle to a Recorder is like saying that harp is the same as a guitar, because they both have strings. So, I played a couple of tunes, which my Folks listened to and seemed to like, and Stacie... she, talked right through my playing. So I finished, and then we left.
It didn’t hit me until I went to bed how ticked off I am at her, I’m kind of glad that I didn’t get up last night at half past mid-night to write this blog, because it would have been unreadable and strewn with 4-letter words.

How Dare She!

I understand that SHE plays the piano AND the violin. And I do understand (I am college edu-macated, after all) that SHE plays REAL instruments. And those of us who play the Tin Whistle and the Recorder don’t (apparently.) That will be news to the guy who did all of the music for the movie Titanic, I guess that he can go find a day job now, because “Oops” the Tin Whistle isn’t a real instrument according to my sister!
You know what, I don’t care. Her knowledge and her pride in her heritage doesn’t amount to a fart in a hurricane and she couldn’t be happier in her arrogant ignorance. So be it.
Next Sunday at dinner, I’ll just smile and pretend that everything’s just hunky-dory, because nothing that I say or do is going to change her.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Another One Rides the Bus

Well, it has come to this, I am now riding the bus to work. There is a couple of reasons for this… No, there is really only one reason to ride the bus… I can’t afford to buy the freaking gas anymore! I don’t blame the oil companies, I don’t blame the Arabs, I don’t even blame the environmentalists for my Bus pass. Do you want to know who I blame? I blame the stupid SUV guy that I saw filling up at the Chevron, when the Holiday Oil across the street was 20 cents cheeper! That’s who I blame! You Moron!

So I’m on the bus, and it really isn’t that bad. It used to take me a half hour and a gallon of gas to get to work, and now it takes me 45 minutes and about 200 calories (because I have to walk about a half mile to work from the Trax station. I’ll tell you one thing though; I am getting a heck of a lot of reading done.

So… I’ll take the bus for a while. I’d bet, that if 15% of us did park our cars and started taking the bus to work, we would break the back of the oil companies. I’m not kidding. I thought that we would reach that number when Gas hit $4.00 per gallon, but I was wrong, we’re only a little over 1% of drivers. And so, to inspire you to park your cars and to break their filthy money grubbing backs… I give you… This…

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Farworld

Farworld, Book 1, Water Keep
By J. Scott Savage
Hardcover by Shadow Mountain Press
Expected release, September 2008

I don’t read LDS authors. No, that’s a lie; I do read LDS authors when their names are Orson, Scott, and Card. So when my Wife, a voracious reader of all things LDS, stumbled across the Six LDS Writers and a Frog blog site and saw that J. Scott Savage was offering a free advanced copy of his new book to anyone who had an active blog site and who would be willing to write a review of his book, I was… less than enthusiastic. But, I do have an active blog (after all, I visit it almost every day) and I just can’t pass up a free book. It’s a sickness I know but let’s move on.

In the world of YA fiction there are the good, the bad, and the… Harry Potter.
Did I say anything about his scar? No, I don’t think so… Geez! I just didn’t like it ok?

So when I picked up Farworld, and found that it started out as a nice little story about a poor little wheelchair bound orphan, Marcus, who lived in a boarding school and was being picked on by a bully named Chet, I thought, “Harry Potter clone… this is going to be a long, sucky read,” and I started to wonder if I should just send the book back to Mr. Savage with regrets that I would not be willing to bar-b-que his book on my blog site. But then something happened… the book… it got… Good. In fact, it got really good.

As with many fantasy type books the main character, Marcus, is a special kid, with a special destiny, who has to face many trials on his way to fulfilling that destiny. One of those trials is in the form of an unstoppable army of darkness being lead by “The Dark Circle.”

Voldemort can now be sent to the Bad Guy Retirement Home for Pansies, because he just can’t hold a candle to The Dark Circle, in fact, if he tried, he’d be consumed in an evil that not even he could understand, or would even want to. Think… Night of the Living Dead meets both the Devils and Demons sections of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual. Yes, my fellow geeks, The Dark Circle is that scary.

Along this journey, Kyja, a little farm girl with a mysterious resistance to magic and a tragic speech impediment that only affects her when she tries to pronounce Earth and Basketball, joins Marcus, as does Riph Raph, a pint size fairy dragon or Skyte with a heart (and an attitude) the size of an 18-wheeler.

Mr. Savage’s writing is very good for YA fiction, and he was able to avoid Steven King’s preverbal Road to Hell… he doesn’t use many adverbs, and for that I’d kiss him full on the mouth…
Well, not literally… I mean... not as such… I’m married, and… he’s a guy…

He’s also succeeded in creating a world that is very original and just magical enough to be believable. I did, however, find his characters just a little bit to cartoonish to be completely believed. This may due to the breakneck pace at which the book is set, and so the story’s timeline doesn’t allow for a believable growth cycle in the characters. I don’t know, but I am looking forward to the next book to find out. But cartoonish or not, I did find myself caring a great deal about these kids and, to me, that’s the primary key to a great book.

I was recently able to sit down with J. Scott Savage at one of my favorite places, Darrow’s Bar and Grill, Home of the 10 pound Haggis, for a little one on one chat about his new book.

Murph: Thanks for meeting with me today Mr. Savage, Sorry I’m late; there was some kind of freak duck incident on the freeway today, very frightening. Have you ordered?

J. Scott Savage: You really have to watch out for those quack drivers. Glad you could make it. I haven’t ordered yet. I asked the waiter what was good and he said something that sounded like “Champit tatties and bashed neeps.” I was actually a little afraid he was threatening me.

Murph: Ahh, you must have met Angus. You didn’t say anything about his kilt did you? May I call you Scott?

J. Scott Savage: It seems appropriate here at the home of the ten pound haggis

Murph: I just have to know, you aren’t related to that kid on “The Wonder Years” are you? I mean it’s a very unusual name. Where does it come from?

J. Scott Savage: Fred. Nope no relation. Although we are both handsome dark haired devils. Savage is Irish. Originally it was French, but the L’Savages got tired of pommes and moved to Ireland for potatoes. Not sure how they worked out since they left for the US sometime thereafter.

M: A French Irishman? Perish the thought.

Waitress: Good afternoon gentlemen, my name is Mairi, and I’ll be searving you today. Can I start you off with some fresh champit tatties?

M: Ah, no… thanks… I’ll have the Irish Meat Cobbler with a side of Haggis Nuggets.

Waitress: Okay… and for you sir?

JSS: Hmm, I think I’m going to try this football shaped thing with some of the bashed neeps. Also I’ll have some of that fish head soup. I kind of like food that looks back at you.

M: Scott, I feel that I do need to warn you that The Mind of Murph blog site is a Geek site. And when I say Geek, I’m not talking “I can fix your computer” geek, I’m talkin’ greasy hair, D&D playing, Star Trek loving, still living with Mom and reading Spiderman comics at the age of 40 kind of geek, so some of my questions may be a little… unusual. Are you good with that?

JSS: Well, when I was a senior in high school I nearly got arrested for leading a live D&D group on a midnight battle for a hidden golden banana. Does that count?

M: Shaa! LARP for a banana? I’d say that cements you firmly into the geek realm. And your wife knew this before she married you? Um, I guess I’d better get on with this interview then. So, what’s the capital of New Hampshire?

JSS: Is this a trick question? Because if you’d asked me about the old Hampshire I would have told you Winchester. But I was even aware there was a new Hampshire. Let’s try Carson City?

M: Sorry… but it had to be done. Now really, who are your influences? What authors really get your creative juices flowing?

JSS: You know it really depends on what I’m in the mood for. My bookshelf is so wide ranging. I love Poe and Lovecraft as far as older authors. I think that Peter Straub is almost poetic in his writing. I love how creative Dean Koontz is. I think that Steinbeck created incredibly believable characters. And despite your swipe at him, King is the master of capturing the every day man or woman. I love about ½ of Card’s books. From a fantasy side, I like Brooks, Donaldson. I’m a big Sci Fi fan with all the classics: Asimov, Heinlein, Herbert.

M: What swipe at King? I love King. Do you hear me! Sorry, must be my blood sugar.
And… I am sorry for this next question, well actually, I’m not sorry but my readers will really want to know… are you a fan of Joss Whedon?

JSS: This has got to be another trick question. How could I not be?

M: Who was your favorite character on Buffy?

JSS: Angel. Hands down. I’m working on an adult series (meaning not YA, as opposed to X rated) about a PI/Hit Man who goes to Hell and has a chance to be sent back to Earth if he can solve a little problem for the big man. For some reason whenever I picture the protagonist I see Angel. Although Buffy is pretty easy on the eyes.

M: Yep, my wife liked Angel too, but for completely different reasons. So, next question… Kirk or Picard?

JSS: I’m so glad you didn’t mention anyone after Picard. I might have had to end our interview. Personally, I think Picard is the best star ship captain of any movie or series.

Waitress: Now who had the Meat Cobbler?

M: That would be mine

Waitress: Be careful, the plate is very hot.

M: Ouch!
Su dogh yough mmmphf haff a mubbech lishmmm?

JSS: Ohh. That looks like it hurt. Were you asking for the pig’s brain relish?

M: Pig what? No, my fingers are really burned and sucking on ‘em really doesn’t help. I asked what’s the one thing you really want to do before you die? Do you have a bucket list?

JSS: You know, I was driving with my wife the other evening and it suddenly occurred to me that if someone had told me back when I was in high school that at the age of forty-five I’d be driving in a convertible with a gorgeous blond, listening to ZZ Top and I was only two months away from releasing my first book in a five book fantasy series (One that had a map in it no less!) I would have figured I’d died and gone to heaven. Is there really anything more to strive for? How about having dinner at Club 33 in Disneyland?

M: I’d prefer a brunet, but Club 33’s on my list too. So, what made you want to write a fantasy novel? Were you a D&D geek as a teen or something? Oh, I know… it was a 10-hour Lord of the Rings marathon, am I right?

JSS: This is just between you and me right? I have taught all my kids how to play D&D. The first thing I ever tried to program was a text adventure on an Atari 400 I think. I once interviewed Michael Okuda (google him if you don’t know the name) for a computer tabloid my wife and I published together. I have played every Ultima game ever made and I finally had to cancel my WofW account because I wasn’t getting enough writing done. Does that count for geekdom?

M: Turbo Geek, man, you’ve got nothing to prove to me. This cobbler is really good, you want a bite?

JSS: Heck yeah. It’s not ever day you see a cobbler that jiggles.

M: How about a Haggis Nugget?

JSS: Yeah. Think I’m going to pass on that. Reminds me a little too much of the lamb fries Chevy Chase ate in “Funny Farm.” But you enjoy them. Want to try some of this football shaped thing?

M: Wow, that is really tasty, the bashed neeps really brings out the flavor of the… whatever that is... So, now that you’re a fantasy novel author, are you going to become a crusader for geek rights? Come on, join the fight.

JSS: Do geeks have rights? Seems almost like a contradiction in terms.

M: Of course we have rights! We… well… no you’re right, we have no rights. Oh well… Um… If you could be any Battlestar Gallactica character, who would you be, and why?

JSS: Boomer. Liked the character and the name.

M: Um… you know that Boomer’s a chick now, right? And a cylon… oh… you mean the old Battlestar Gallactica, well… that makes more sense. Okay... shifting to the novel for just a second, after all, that is why you agreed to meet with me. How do you pronounce some of these words? Thrathkin S’Bae, Terra ne Staric, did I miss any? Also, how did you come up with words like these?

JSS: Thrath-kin just like it looks, but with an emphasis on the first syllable. The second half S’Bae is a little harder. The s is nearly silent . Pronounce it as if the S was at the end of the Thrathkin. Terra (like terraforming) Nay Star-ick. I don’t like to do a ton of unpronounceable names. It’s annoying for the reader and I always wonder if the word is pronounced Shay, why spell it zzaegh? I mean, can’t we assume the author translated into English anyway? But I wanted the Thrathkin S’Bae to really feel different. They have their own language, their own hierarchy. There’s a lot more to them than I get to show in the first book. The city just came to me. It was the name I thought of as soon as I imagined the city. There is more to the name, which we’ll learn about in book two. It does mean something.

M: From what sick, twisted part of your mind did the Dark Circle spring?

JSS: You know, you’re about the tenth person to mention how scary my dark creatures are. I really thought I was holding back. I’m going, wait till you see what’s in store. Again, I read a lot of dark fiction so that may shape my thinking.

M: I really enjoyed the water references in this book… without giving to much away to the future readers of your book… this might be a bit of a spoiler, but… when Marcus first arrives in Farworld, he’s laying half in and half out of a stream, is that symbolic of his marginal existence in Farworld? Or am I reading too much into it?

JSS: Great catch! Even more so than you might think. I really didn’t have a chance to address it in book one. But there is much more to the relationship between earth and Farworld. You’ll see more of that as the series progresses. But yes, I really like the visual of him halfway in the creek and halfway in Farworld, although the reader doesn’t know that at the time.

M: Gee thanks, my Dad will be so pleased that my Literature Degree came in use somewhere. Umm… I really thought that your idea of “finding the magic within you” was a great moral for your book. Where did it come from? Is that the message you want readers to carry away from your book?

JSS: Absolutely! It’s not like I write a book trying to get a certain message across, but as I wrote this book, finding your magic kept coming through. This is going to sound geeky—even to you—but I think magic is much more prevalent that we give it credit. I look at someone who can take a handful of colored pencils and turn it into a picture that takes my breath away, and to me that’s magic. I look at the roses that keep growing in front of my house, despite my non-existent gardening skills and that has to be magic. In a religious argument, tell me that someone commanding the sea to part or bringing down a rain of frogs or telling the water to be solid isn’t magic? We look for all these rationalizations, but a big part of me thinks that the world is full of magic. We just don’t always recognize it as that. Heck, I’m getting paid to tell stories. Is there anything more magical than that?

M: Do you have any advice for young folk out there who may be thinking about writing as a profession?

JSS: Hmm. This is a tough question. The other night my ten-year-old son and I were on a walk, and he told me he wanted to be either a basketball player or a computer programmer. We came into a discussion about being whatever you can dream of while also balancing that against the real world. I am a dreamer. I always have been. So, my message is, understand that it’s tough to make a living at writing, then go ahead and do it anyway. But for the moment, just enjoy writing. If you feel like everything you write has to be good enough for publication, you take away too much creativity. It’s like telling kids to color in the lines. Instead, write because you love it. If it becomes a profession, great. But if it doesn’t, don’t let that dampen your love of writing.

M: How large was your collection of rejection letters before you were first published?

JSS: You know. I’ve never been one to collect rejections. (Way to much of that in high school!) I only collect acceptances. But, yeah, I’ve had a few.

M: When can readers expect the next Farworld installment?

JSS: One a year for the next five years. And hopefully a few other things along the way.

M: Were you an Eagle Scout?

JSS: Yes

M: If you could have one Super Power, what would it be?

JSS: Flying would probably be the coolest. I hate planes, and I hate long drives, so that would rock. But I am fascinated by the concept of time. I’d like to be able to bend and twist time like Silly Putty. And I’d really like to see what time looks like after you smash it against the Sunday comics.

Waitress: Can I get you anything else?

M: I think we’re done

JSS: Wait, we can’t go without trying the Crannachan. Shall we share a bowl?

M: Oh ya, that would be tasty.

Waitress: Then who gets the check?

M: That would be for Mr. Savage…

JSS: Wait I thought--

M: Hey, you’re the big famous writer; I’m just some geek with a blog site.

JSS: Alright, but if I pick up the check you have to change that review so it says you liked Farworld. I mean I feel a little robbed after I paid for lunch and you called my book, “The worst tripe I’ve ever set eyes on.”

M: Ok, I’ll loose the tripe. Thanks for lunch! Call my people… we’ll do it again.

JSS: Ciao, baby.
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