Thursday, July 05, 2007

Of Arks and Chair-like Box Thingies

Hey folks! So I’m probably going to be going to posting every two weeks, but I figured I should try to get a post in this week because I’m going to be away all next week, and I seriously doubt I’ll have time to write a blog post.

A quick note on Hunchback before we start. I read a review of it a few days after opening, and I must say that it is probably the single worst review of all time. Not because it said negative things about the show . . . on the contrary, it was very positive, but . . . the show was directed by Dustin Ceithammer, costumed by Debbie Rao, and starring Heather Sembeida (that spelling might be slightly off . . . I don't have my program handy). The review, however, talked about (I am not making this up) the wonderful acting and singing of Heather Sambaed, the great costumes by Debbie Rio, and, best of all, the wonderful direction provided by (really, I promise I'm not making this up) Dustin Catheter. So let's have a big round of applause for Mr. Catheter and his team. 'Cause they really would've done a good job, no doubt, had they actually existed.

My respect for The Sun is pretty much gone now.

Okay. Now that we have that out of the way . . . since I'd like your opinions on it, and since AJ asked me post it anyway, I'd like to take this opportunity to show you all the monologue I wrote for Noah Auditions. Since that took place far prior to this post, I feel like I need to start with it before we get into more current things. And so, without further ado:

A Rant on Biblical Names by Mark Harbison
Look, I’m not saying anything against Christianity, I just think naming kids after Biblical heroes is taking it too far. Yeah, we want to emulate them, but I think their biggest weakness was naming their kids. Takes Job’s buddies: Bildad, Zophar, Elihaz, and Elihu. No doubt their parents were sitting there, contemplating what to name their children, and somebody sneezed, and they said, “Hey, yeah! That’s great!” I think Saul’s son Jonathon was probably drinking some wine or something, and in the middle of a big gulp his wife took him by surprise by asking, “Hey, Jonny, what should we name our son?” Jonathon probably didn’t even know they were having a son, and so naturally he tried to ask what was going on. But since there was still wine going into his mouth, and probably coming out his nose, it just came out as something unintelligible, and bam, his wife named their son Mehpibosheth. His friend David probably heard about that, and when his wife Maacah wanted to name her son, he didn’t know what to say. But he was using Absalamisil for his athlete’s foot, so he named the kid Absalom. Or, hey, take Noah. Great guy, but I don’t know about his naming skills. I guess he was hungry or something, and he thought his wife was asking what he wanted for dinner when he named Ham. So you’ve gotta admit, all things considered, naming our son Wayne isn’t THAT bad.

And there you have it. It was originally about twice as long, but I had to cut it down in order to make it fit the time requirement (one minute). But I was rather happy with it, and Mom, Dad, Uncle Ted, and Bev all really liked it.

As, apparently, did Burning Foxes. (Burning Foxes is the production company that’s working with Lifehouse to produce Noah . . . Dustin, Nathan, Tim, and Randy.) Tim happens to be Bev’s son, and he was talking to her about completely unrelated issues and I came up (I guess), and he apparently told her that they had all been “blown away” by my audition and were all very impressed that I’d written in myself. As I said, though, they were unable to find a place for me in the show because Dustin had very specific people in mind (as Amy Grace mentioned, most of the cast is made up of his friends that he called and asked to be in it).

However, apparently it DID get me something in their eyes, because last Thursday morning I got a mysterious phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. I was in a different room than my phone at the time, so I didn’t get it, but they left a message. Upon checking the message, it turned out to be Nathan. He asked me if I wanted to be “part of the Burning Foxes team producing Noah at Lifehouse.” I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, but I was (of course) interested, so I called him back.

It turns out that one thing Burning Foxes is trying to do is make Lifehouse more professional (something that Wayne has been campaigning for as long as I’ve been there). Nathan said that one thing most professional theaters have that Lifehouse doesn’t is Stage Managers, and so they were looking to start getting Stage Managers for Lifehouse shows. He also said that “Stage Manager” doesn’t mean someone who sits backstage and does all the dirty, thankless work (which is essentially what stage managers were when Lifehouse DID have them), but more of an assistant to the director. Their job is basically to know everything so that when confusion arises, there’s someone there to clear things up if the director is not around or is busy with other things. Essentially, the impression I got was that it’s essentially a gopher and a trouble-shooter. (“Gopher” as in when they need something done that’s not really in anyone’s job description, I do it . . . e.g., go for coffee, go for such and such prop, etc. Not the animal.)

Anyway, as I’m sure that you’ve guessed by now, Nathan offered me the position of Stage Manager for Noah. He told me, “You’re going to think this is a load of bologna, but it’s probably the hardest job on the production staff. But we think you can handle it, and we’d love it if you were part of the team.”

Obviously I wouldn’t have said all of that if I didn’t say yes, so I am officially the Stage Manager for Noah and the Ark. This means that not only do I get to be involved in the show I’ve wanted to be involved in for five years after all, but I get to see the side of producing shows I’ve never seen before.

Orientation was last Thursday, so that was my first experience . . . on that night, my job was basically to be production assistant; to get their paperwork (medical release forms, code of conduct forms, etc.), get their conflicts, get their contact information, and so on. It was kind of overwhelming at first, because I had basically no idea what I was doing and they had to give me a 20-minute crash course on the job, but once I kind of got into the swing of things it was all good.

Orientation followed pretty much your typical format: introducing everyone, going over Lifehouse’s history and mission and such, and then reading through the script, with the addition of a worship time before we read through the script. Which was really really cool.

As, for that matter, was the script. The show (as advertised) follows in the tradition of Esther, being a primarily comedic retelling of the biblical story (unlike Esther, however, it is not a “Dazzling Musical Comedy,” but rather a “Musical Good Time”), and it is HILARIOUS. However, it’s also extremely poignant and powerful (especially at the end). After the read-through, I thought to myself, “If this is executed well, this has the potential to be right up there with Esther, Pilgrim’s Progress, and Hunchback . . .”

On Sunday night, celebrating Dad’s birthday was cut short by a call from Tim asking if I could be at Carl’s Jr. for a production meeting at 5:30. (Speaking of which, Happy Birthday, Dad! I hope you don’t think I’m just skipping over your birthday celebration . . . but there’s really nothing to tell . . .) It was my first-ever production meeting, so it was pretty exciting. They went over everything from the pose for the publicity photo to the color of the chairs. I offered my input a few times, but mostly I just sat there and soaked it all in, watching some of the most creative people I know just pounding out ideas of how to make the show work.

The entire set consists of eight chairs, three ladders (two six-foot, one eight-foot), two planks, and eight trunks that sit on the edges of the stage and never move. And the remarkable thing is, every location that is needed for the show can be easily built out of those pieces. The entire ark is built out of the ladders, planks, and chairs, and it somehow still looks awesome (Dustin had models and was building stuff for us). A really large, really impressive looking altar is made entirely from chairs. It’s probably just about the coolest set ever.

And the ironic thing is that, even with only those pieces, the set goes over the budget set aside for it. Aside from the budget being ridiculously low (low enough that I, who have no experience in this stuff whatsoever, noticed that it was really low), they also have to buy all three ladders (which aren’t cheap) and build all eight chairs, ‘cause . . . they aren’t really chairs. I believe Randy termed them “Vaguely chair-like square objects,” or some such thing. So, if nothing else, you should all come see the show just to see the chairs.

On Tuesday, we had the first rehearsal (in case you haven’t guessed, Noah is pretty much the only things that’s been going on since I last posted). The first five rehearsals are slated to be music rehearsals (although I’ll be missing the next two, since I’ll be in La Mirada . . . read on). Normally, music rehearsals are long and boring, but for a number of reasons I really enjoyed this one. For one thing, we had a worship time at the beginning of rehearsal again, which is really cool. When I was talking about it with Dustin, he said, “Yeah, I really like it, too. It reminds me why we’re doing this . . . and without it, I’d just get caught up in work-mode, and become a perfectionist.” It’s just a really cool way to start rehearsal, and it kind of helps me relax from whatever stress I’ve had from the day and just focus on God for a few minutes . . . which also clears my mind to focus on Noah once we start rehearsing.

In addition to that, it was also cool because I wasn’t just learning harmonies that will never actually be enacted on stage (which is usually what happens at music rehearsals). For one thing, since there’s only eight people in the cast, the harmonies WILL happen onstage, because it’ll be glaringly obvious if people aren’t doing them. It’s also a cast of really responsible, strong singers, who are all eager to sing harmonies anyway. For another thing, I wasn’t actually LEARNING these harmonies (which I’m rather bad at), I was just writing down what notes I could about them (such as who was singing the high, middle, and low parts, who was making the funky sound effects, who came in when for the round, etc.). I think that they’ll be helpful, too, if confusion or forgetfulness ever sets in . . . so I felt pretty good about it. And it was kinda fun.

And it helps, too, that I really like the songs and the harmonies. I’m typically rather indifferent towards them, but these are really, really cool . . . I think, anyway. I suppose AJ might have a different opinion if he comes to see it. But we’ll see.

On July 4th, we had a second production meeting (we’ll ending up having three . . . hopefully not more). At THIS meeting (taking place at Del Taco), we went through the script line-by-line, going over most of the blocking, set changes, props, lighting effects, and sound effects . . . and other such things. We were hoping to go through the whole script in two hours, we ended up getting through act one in four. But, as with the first one, I really enjoyed it . . . seeing how everything comes together, seeing the show from the side of the production staff . . . and just watching Dustin work. My respect for him grows every time I see him. Anyway, at the meeting I did pretty much what I did during rehearsal: I wrote down everything I could, as quickly and legibly as I could (had to kind of find a happy medium). But again I had great fun . . . and I’m now convinced, based on the one rehearsal and the production meetings (now that I have a general idea of the talent level of the cast and a more complete idea of what’s going on), that this could definitely be the best show Lifehouse has ever done. So everyone needs to come see it.

And that’s pretty much all that’s been going on. As I said at the beginning, there’s definitely not going to be a post next week, because I’ll be at Biola University, at Emmaus Forum. Emmaus Forum, for anyone who doesn’t know (which I think is everyone except AJ), is a summer camp/retreat-thingy that Torrey Academy does . . . so we live on campus for a week, and attend lectures and discussions and stuff . . . it’s essentially what we do during the school year (other than the on-campus thing . . . and the in person thing, for me), except that we have different texts and topics, and it’s more concentrated. I’ve been looking forward to it all year. So . . . that’s where I’ll be next week. When I get home, I’ll no doubt sleep for a few days, and then post about it.

In two weeks, then.

Stephen: I’ll have to check those sites out sometime, when I have time to get obsessed with something else. Wow, that’s amazing . . . 780 on math is, like, unearthly to me . . . darn you crazy smart people. I fully intended to go back this week and try to figure out the pants thing, but I forgot . . . maybe tomorrow. I’m happy you guys liked the quote. I see . . . well, yeah, I guess pursuing another girl when you’re engaged WOULD cause problems. I’m not really sure which job strategy to take . . . I’ll get back to you guys on that. Congrats on first comment!

Rae1 (and 2, since they’re the same): As I said, I’m not really sure which strategy to take . . . but I’ll take both into careful consideration. Thanks for the advice, guys!

Amy Grace: Yeah, I know, when I saw the cast-list, I thought it looked almost like a Lifehouse All-Star team . . . all the old stars coming back . . . incidentally, it’s Erin Allen now. But everyone keeps calling her Erin Mahoney and correcting each other . . . it’s funny . . . and *gasp*! What show are you thinking of doing??

AJ: I’m happy you’re so excited about all this stuff. I added those as much for my convenience as anything, as I can now get to them without going through other blogs. If you had a choice between the cast there is, and substituting me for one of those people, I really rather doubt you’d pick me . . . and I’d hit you over the head if you did (but thanks). Still haven’t heard from anywhere. Good luck seeing Pirates. I’m . . . not really sure when Hunchback closes . . . but yeah, you should see it. You have you precious numbering system to thank for this. I’ll look forward to the notation. Go Stephen. It’d be step-cousin . . . John would be our step-cousin-in-law. Actually, you had 15 once.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Two Weeks Later

Well, here we are, just two weeks later, and here I am posting again! Go figure. And not a whole lot has happened in that time, so you might actually get a marginally short post this time!! I guess we’ll just have to see.

First order of business, I’m gonna pull an AJ here and talk about the changes I’ve made to the Death Star. If you’ll direct your attention to the far right side of the screen, you may notice that it looks a lot more organized now, and there’s a few more links. I added categories for organization purposes, so that it would look nicer than everything being thrown randomly together. Under the Blog section, I added Mike’s (AJ’s roommate) and the Team America site. I also added Mere Orthodoxy, which is the TA tutor blog. I haven’t been reading it on a regular basis for very long, but most of the posts are fairly interesting. I’d encourage you to check it out sometime. I also added David’s xanga and a number of entertaining sites. Legendary Frog is flash videos, mostly parodies, and Giant in the Playground and Real Life are two webcomic sites that I recommend.

Speaking of Real Life, I was pretty bored towards the end of the week before last and that weekend, and so since Stephen suggested that I check it out, I decided I’d see what it was all about. I got sucked in rapidly, and unfortunately had nothing to do all weekend, and so I wasted the entire weekend catching up. I ended up reading about seven and a half year’s worth of comics in four or five days. Obviously, I greatly enjoyed it, so my thanks to Stephen for introducing me to it, and my recommendation to everyone else if you get really bored.

Anyway, let’s get going with actual events. First off, not this last Thursday but the Thursday before I auditioned for Noah and the Ark at Lifehouse (which, incidentally, I am told is actually spelled “LifeHouse,” but I really don’t care). In addition to the usual song, we also had to give a minute-long comedic monologue. After hours of agonizing and unfruitful web searches, Mom suggested that I simply write my own, which I did. It got rave reviews from my family, so I figured I’d give it. The audition itself went pretty well . . . I was really nervous, so my voice was shaking on the song, which typically doesn’t sound very good. The monologue went very well, though, I thought.

The results were supposed to be posted online on Friday. Two days before this, however, I got a phone call from Wayne himself, telling me that I didn’t get in. He apologized profusely and told me how great I was, and then hung up. I was rather impressed that he’d actually called me personally. But since the results are STILL not posted, I’m thinking that perhaps he called everyone, and that it wasn’t really anything worth being impressed over. But either way, I didn’t get into Noah. Alas. But I didn’t really expect to, ‘cause it’s only eight people . . .

So that’s the deal with Noah: there IS no deal with Noah.

In other news, I’ve recently been job searching. I’ve realized that I 1) have no income and 2) have nothing to do this summer (especially without Noah), and there’s an easy way to fix both of those problems in one fell swoop. So far I’ve put in applications at Target, Barnes and Noble, and Gamestop. Tomorrow I’m going to see if I can get an application at The Frugal Frigate, which is a local children’s bookstore. Last Thursday, I had an interview at Target, and as a result, I’ve pretty much given up hope of getting a job there. I thought most of the questions were stupid (and Taylor and my mother both agreed with me), especially for someone like me who has never had a job, but I had difficulty answering them. Funny how when you actually NEED to remember something, your mind goes completely blank . . . but anyway, yeah. That interview didn’t go so well. But I’m supposed to find out in two weeks if they want to interview me again (which would be a sign that I’m fairly close to getting a job) or if they’re not interested.

And the vast majority of the time I spent at the interview was sitting and waiting for them to call my name. There were a LOT of other people getting interviewed, and not too many people interviewing, so it was going fairly slowly. But the guy sitting next to me (whose name was Anthony) was very friendly, so we were talking most of the time, so it wasn’t excessively boring or anything. The girl sitting across from us was friendly, too, so she joined in occasionally.

But yeah, that’s the epic story of my job search thus far. Neither of the other places have contacted me yet. So we’ll just have to wait and see . . .

This weekend was a pretty exciting one. On Friday, I finally went to see Pirates 3. I don’t know how many of you, if any of you, have seen it, so I won’t give anything away. But I really enjoyed it. It was a lot better than I expected, and definitely better than Dead Man’s Chest. And I really really liked the ending, which I really really didn’t expect to. As always, I was extremely impressed by Johnny Depp’s acting, and everyone else (other than Keira Knightly and Orlando Bloom, of course) was good, too. Keira Knightly was slightly better than the other two movies, I thought, but she was still not very good.

The plot was slightly hard to follow, I must admit . . . because you have pretty much every character in the movie making deals with everyone else in the movie, and then betraying them at the last minute. But if you are willing to actually pay attention to what’s going on, I’d highly recommend it. It was a lot of fun.

It also improved on the second movie in that it didn’t suffer from what I (with help from The Ninja) have named “Gore Verbinski Syndrome.” In his review of Dead Man’s Chest, The Ninja said that the movie could’ve used “a lot more gore, and a lot less verbinski, which I think is Russian for ‘bad dialogue.’” Spiderman 3 suffered from this, because it was an action movie that had about ten minutes of action in two hours. But Pirates 3 clipped along nicely, with action at every turn, which is nice for an action movie.

So, in short, while it wasn’t a GREAT movie, it was a lot of fun and I’d highly recommend it.

On Saturday night, I went to opening night of The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Lifehouse. Now, when I saw this show before, I really didn’t like it that much, because I was young enough to not really care about important and depressing stuff, and just wanted something funny. But watching it again, I must say that it has to be right up there with Esther and Pilgrim’s Progress as the best in the Lifehouse library. The script is awesome.

This particular run of the show was fantastic in its own right, as well. I liked the hunchback and Captain Pheobus better last time (if it means anything to anyone, the hunchback last time was Jason Livesay, and Pheobus was my step-cousin Tim), but other than that, everything was fabulous. The choreography was good enough that I actually noticed it was good, and all the mains were really good. Even the two that I liked better last time were still good. I actually thought that the hunchback himself was the worst of the leads, but it’s actually the smallest part of the leads, so it worked out nicely.

After the show, the Pocahontas cast hosted a dessert for the Hunchback cast, which I attended since I was part of the Pocahontas cast. It was fun, ‘cause it was kind of a reunion with most of the cast . . . We really didn’t mingle with the Hunchback cast much, we just hung around with each other. And . . . I don’t know if this will be as funny reading it as it was hearing it, but I’ll say it anyway. I have to post this quote SOMEWHERE, and this just seems like the best place:

“‘Jason’ and ‘rules’ just don’t go in the same sentence. Wait . . . I just put them in the same sentence!! Oh CRAP!!!!!”

So I dunno. But I thought it was really funny.

On Sunday, I spent most of the day at Seth’s, where WE spent most of the day playing one of the most fun video games I’ve ever played. I doubt any of you (except maybe Stephen) will have heard of it, but it was called Alien Homonid. Nintendo Power rated it one of the most difficult Gamecube games ever made, and I’m inclined to agree . . . but the miraculous thing about it is that it’s incredibly fun, but not at all frustrating. I suppose perhaps it might’ve been if I’d been playing it by myself, but we didn’t get frustrated at all. We spent most of the time playing co-op mode, too, so it was probably considerably easier than it would’ve been with just one person (as evidenced by the fact that on Sunday, we got about two-thirds through the game, and Seth hasn’t advanced at all in the two days since).

The only other event of significance at this point is that yesterday I finally got my hands on The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and have been playing it constantly since (although obviously I took a break to write this . . . aren’t I committed?).

So . . . that’s pretty much it for this time! Enjoy your lives!!

AJ: Yes, well, my GE is going to be replaced by Torrey, which I’m sure will be a highlight of my college career. I WOULD like to know how you notated playing inside the piano. “Awakening” is a Switchfoot song from Oh! Gravity., my favorite on the album. Well, take the script of Sincerely Yours up with Didi, not me. A “scrivener,” if I recall correctly, is a law copyist.

Stephen: You and Rachel broke it off?? Why? What happened?? Well, yes, Bartleby was good for “what the crap” discussions, but I just . . . I just thought it was boring. You know, with you, people don’t even have to ask what your SAT score was to know that it was awesome (although, incidentally, what was it?). Alol at your lessons from Poe. Do you know any pants samurais? Good job equaling AJ.

Victoria: You read my blog!! Yay!! (For anyone who didn’t figure it out, she was one of my classmates.) I hope you continue to do so! And hey, how could I NOT be a Sith Lord, considering how heartless I was towards everyone? :-P Thank you!

Amy Grace: Thank you! And while it’s true that only 14 people auditioned, I think they were looking for VERY specific people . . .

“Jamie Ford:” Um . . . do I know you? I don’t recognize the name . . .

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Another Post!!!

I guess it’s pretty ironic that I make a post about how I’m going to start posting again, and then post nothing for a month and a half . . . but in any case, the silence is ending now, and hopefully it won’t happen again. Knowing my track record, it probably will, but we can all dream. In fact, we all do, even if we don’t want to and don’t remember.

But anyway, I guess it’s time to get started. Unfortunately, most of the things I mentioned in the last post are fairly distant memories, so I might have to kind of breeze through them . . . but I will cover them, nevertheless, because far be it from me to break a promise that I’m sure tantalized so many people.

Music To My Ears. Well, way back on April 20th, some pretty crazy things happened. We went down to Orange County for the day because I was visiting Biola to meet with an admissions counselor and to tour the campus and because AJ’s long-awaited Senior Recital was that night.

First thing’s first, Biola. We got there, and had to wait a few moments before Jason Mundy called us into his cubicle. (Where, incidentally, he had a Mac.) (Yes, sadly, that was the first thing I noticed.) Mr. Mundy, besides looking painfully but inexplicably familiar, gave us a quick run-down on admissions and such, and talked to us about the film program and the Torrey Honors Institute (THI). He said that trying to do both (as is my desire) is a pretty tall order, since they’re both demanding problems. More recent studies have shown that, while I’m sure it WILL be difficult, THI covers pretty much all of the GE requirements for Biola, so if I get into both, then I won’t have to worry about too many GE classes. Wee-ha.

After meeting with him, we had to rush to catch up with the campus tour, which had started a few minutes before we got out of our appointment. Megan Burk, our tour guide, was having everyone introduce themselves and give a favorite Disney character . . . I said Jaffar, which got me a weird look from Ms. Burk, and a fist pump from a guy across the circle. Dad said Gepetto, because he was trying to think of someone nobody would’ve said yet. Mom said Sleepy, because she just didn’t care. After this wildly fun icebreaker exercise, we went off on the campus tour. There’s not really a WHOLE lot to tell about it . . . Mom was REALLY annoyed Ms. Burk. I think she has a natural bias against college-age blonde females. Not all of them annoy her (Jessica, for example, would be a notable exception), but the majority of them seem to be simply intolerable.

After the tour, we walked around Biola a bit ourselves, and then went to dinner somewhere, I’m sure. I think we went to Chili’s, but I really don’t remember. And after that, we moved on to the main event . . .

We arrived at the Little Theater at about 7:30, and AJ’s recital was to start at 8:00. The Vander Flippets were there, and shortly after Mike and Doug showed up. AJ was running around like a madman (and his hair certainly didn’t help dispel that image), and the excitement was rising. At something like 7:45, the doors to the theater opened and people began to flood in. It filled up quite nicely, with lots of both familiar and unfamiliar faces. Uncle Ted came. Eleanor was there, Rae was there (with quite impressive boots), Rae’s fiancé was there, Stephen was there, Jessica was there (she proposed to me), and lots of other people were also there. I could continue the list, but I see no real reason to . . .

Anyway, eventually the recital actually started. I could probably give a run-down on every piece, but I don’t remember them well enough to truly do that well, and I feel that my lack of musical knowledge might make it an exercise in futility anyway. But they were all very good, and some of them were really interesting . . . Uncle Ted remarked afterwards that he’d be curious to know how AJ notated (is that the right word?) playing inside a piano.

And I probably could go on, but since I’m sure everyone who reads this was there, I don’t really think I need to . . .

There I Sat. Hopefully that will be the lamest of the event titles in this post, but no promises.

Saturday morning, May 5th, way too early to even conceive of getting up. Especially for a Saturday. My alarm goes off. Woe is me. But I must get up, for today I take one of the most important tests I shall ever take. Today, I take the SAT.

I get out of bed and go through the motions of my normal morning routine, trying to wake up. Mom graciously gets up and makes me breakfast. I drink coffee, that helps. I get in the car and play “Awakening” on the CD player, hoping that it will have a positive effect on me. Eventually I get to Redlands East Valley High School. I follow the large mass of people moving back into the area where we were supposed to be. I get there to see that there’s a really crazy amount of people there. I’m extremely nervous.

I randomly mill around for a while. Andrea comes and joins me in randomly milling. I’m clearly more nervous than she is. She attempts to calm me down. We sign in and whatever, and go to our separate testing rooms. The teacher-person (proctor?) in mine is eating breakfast. All of the students are sitting nervously, and I guess he wishes to put us at ease, so he says, “Hey, all you guys eat breakfast?” There is a collective nod. “Well, I hope your breakfasts were better than this crap,” he says, throwing his trash into the Carl’s Jr. bag and throwing that into the trash can.

Eventually everyone gets in and situated, and the test begins. Section one is the essay. This was the section that I really wasn’t terribly worried about, since I have to write an essay every two weeks for Torrey. So I was able to remain calm mostly through this, which thankfully set a tone for the rest of the test.

So all in all, it’s a pretty annoying morning. But eventually it ends, and we go our merry ways. And then, weeks later, I am awakened by a strange pounding on my door. I roll over to look at the door, and Uncle Ted’s head appears. “Your SAT scores are back!” says he. I jump out of bed, throw on my glasses, and run downstairs.

Reading: 730
Math: 630
Writing: 740
Essay: 11/12 (thank you, Mr. Selby!)
Overall: 2100

So I was extremely happy with that. Also because a 1360 on Reading and Math means that I qualify for the highest possible merit scholarship at Biola, which is a pretty big deal since Biola is insanely expensive.

”I belong to you, Margeruite Brighton, body and soul, and I am truly and sincerely yours.” That there is the closing line of Sincerely Yours, my first (and to this point, last) show at Heartland. I really only mention it ‘cause I said I would, ‘cause I really don’t know what to say about it . . . it ran through April, and it was fun. I got to play an antagonist for the first time, which is of course really cool, and I got to pretend I was playing a piano . . . and I made some new acquaintances, and so all in all it was a good experience. Unfortunately, Kristen stole my script, so I don’t have it anymore . . . but ah well. Life goes on. And this post will now do the same.

Most American writers should have a scarlet “W” fastened to their breast. The name of this year’s Torrey Academy academic term was Foundations of American Thought, and when you’re dealing with that, naturally you’re going to have to read some influential American literature. We read Hawthorne, Irving, Melville, Twain, and Poe. Well, we also read a few more, but those were the most notable in my eyes. Poetry-wise, we read Longfellow and Poe, and some others that I really didn’t care about. I’ll deal with Irving and Melville first.

You’ve probably heard Washington Irving’s name in association with either The Legend of Sleepy Hollow or Rip Van Winkle. I’ve read both, although we only read Rip Van Winkle for school. My basic feelings towards him: “What the CRAP was the point of that???” His protagonists don’t really seem to learn anything or change throughout the course of the story, and all of the cool elements are ridiculously underdeveloped. Of Melville’s, we only read Bartleby the Scrivener. The only thing I’m really happy about in regards to that was learning the word “Scrivener,” ‘cause it’s lots of fun to say. And that should tell you how much I liked his work.

Of Twain’s we read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Something Or Other That Involved Bluejays. Now, to be perfectly honest, I’m a fan of Twain’s. I loved Tom Sawyer, and the Bluejay story was fun (if stupid). But Huck Finn was, if I may be blunt, boring as heck. Most of my classmates enjoyed it, but I just found it boring and repetitive. Granted, it had Twain’s flair of wacky fun, but rather than the wacky fun being in the foreground and the serious issues as undertones, the serious issues were in the foreground, and the wacky fun was an afterthought. So I wasn’t a huge fan of this book.

And then there’s Hawthorne. Ahh, Hawthorne. We read The Scarlet Letter and Young Goodman Brown. Young Goodman Brown is a creepy story about selling one’s soul to the devil (sort of), that I really couldn’t make heads or tails of. The Scarlet Letter is (in my opinion) a critique of Christianity in general and Puritan society specifically. I believe that there are two real points that Hawthorne is trying to make in this book: 1) hypocrisy is BAD. 2) repentance is futile, so just do what you want. So he starts out good, telling you not to be a hypocrite, but then he ends up telling you that you shouldn’t be a hypocrite ‘cause it isn’t worth trying to hide the sins that you’re perfectly justified in doing anyway. Or perhaps not “perfectly justified,” but at least unable to escape from. Now, while I obviously disagree with this, that alone is not enough to condemn the book as “bad,” because he’s allowed to publish his own opinions. However, I thought that while it was an interesting picture of hypocrisy and Puritan society, the book as a whole was boringly written. It had an interesting story and context, but the writing itself was boring. Kind of reminds me of what AJ said about Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code, I suppose.

And then there’s Poe. Ahh, Poe. Poe was a breath of fresh, mountain air amongst the smog of downtown LA. Sure, he’s creepy, disturbing, and kinda messed-up, but hey, he’s actually a GOOD writer. His stories are interesting, and the actual way they’re written is interesting, too. Of Poe’s, unfortunately, we only read The Fall of the House of Usher and some poetry. My personal favorite of his poems (and of all the poems we read) was The Conqueror Worm, if you care. We determined as a class that the purposes for Poe’s writer The Fall of the House of Usher were: 1) to make money, 2) to be creepy, and 3) to caution his readers against the dangers of burying family members alive. I wrote an analysis of The Conqueror Worm as an assignment, and if you’re interested in reading that, you can let me know and I’ll give it to you to read. But I don’t want to bore you by making you read it if you don’t want to.

And then there’s Longfellow. Longfellow was the other poet that I really liked. His poems, while fraught with death (but really, whose WEREN’T?), were more musical than most others, and (I thought) more beautiful. I can’t really pick a favorite, but I was an especially big fan of The Grave and The Arrow and the Song.

So, all this to say: read more Poe and Longfellow, and read more British literature. All hail Lewis and Williams.

The Age that Doesn’t Jive. So I was talking to Sarah about turning 17, and she told me that being 17 doesn’t jive with me. Apparently 15 and 18 do, and 16 is okay, but not 17. Unfortunately, however, I couldn’t skip being 17, so I’m stuck with it until next April.

There wasn’t really a big to-do about it this year like there was last year (if that can be called a big to-do), ‘cause different people had different things going, so a birthday party was pretty much out of the question unless I only wanted like two people there. I DID go to see Spider-Man with Seth, Sarah, and Rachel a few weeks later, but that’s it. But AJ was in town because Jeff got married on the 28th, so he and I and Mom and Dad and Uncle Ted and Bev went out to Red Robin for dinner on the 29th, and then came back and I opened presents. Which consisted of four CDs (U2, Weird Al, Switchfoot, and Billy Joel), some add-ons to my movie software, two books (Outbound Flight and Till We Have Faces), Season Two of The Office on DVD, and probably something else that was tremendously important to me which I promptly forgot about. Additionally, Seth got me a gift card to Barnes and Noble, and Sarah is going to get me Start of Darkness (essentially a comic book . . . but it’s complicated) whenever it finally comes out.

I see fields . . . and dinosaurs . . . and pink butterflies . . . After Sincerely Yours ended, Pocahontas promptly started. I played the incredibly important role of Sgt. Jacobs, whose untimely demise on page 5 of the script leads to John Smith’s hostile take over of the English settlement. I also made a video of life backstage (and occasionally onstage) to show at the cast party, which I did.

When AJ and Eleanor graduated, since I couldn’t go to Eleanor’s graduation or party because of the show, I dedicated my performance to them. I even wore Eleanor’s graduation button under my costume that day. And that’s that . . .

I don’t really know what else to say about it, but it’s over now. I’ll be auditioning for Noah tomorrow (Thursday), and that’ll be that. I probably won’t get in, though, ‘cause it’s an 8-person cast, so . . . yeah. That’s that. And I really don’t know why I keep repeating that phrase. But ah well.

The cast party was on Sunday, and it was fun . . . Eric has a big karaoke machine that everyone was playing with . . . I never got up the nerve to go and sing myself, but it was fun listening to everyone else. I also got to play fooseball, so that was fun. Wyatt said, “Hey, can I whup you at fooseball?” And then I beat him 10-3 . . . hee hee . . .

So that’s pretty much Pocahontas.

And really, that’s pretty much my life these days. I’ve also gotten recently into Heroes, and I watched the whole first season online . . . I discovered that it’s possible to burn your finger on the turn signal if it sits out in the sun too long . . .

Oh, and I didn’t even mention that I got Firefly over Netflix, and watched all the episodes, and . . . Sarah’s right. It’s the best thing that ever happened to television. So, naturally, it got cancelled mid first-season . . .

But anyway, I’ll bid thee adieu now. I hope that I’ll be able to win back some of my loyal readers, and that I’ll be posting more consistently in the future . . . but I guess we’ll see.

Stephen 1 and 2: I’ve heard good things about Babylon 5 . . . I’ll have to try it out sometime. And that comic was awesome

AJ 1 and 2: Dude, even I make typos sometimes. Forgive me for not proofreading all of these posts. And no, I never found the Matrix/Stargate wallpaper . . . but I did find a good Daniel Jackson one. It has since been replaced by a Firefly one, though. As far as the art of cinema goes . . . I must admit that I wasn’t really considering it as I wrote that post. However, I would say that it is essentially the same as theater. It combines all (or almost all) other forms of art within itself.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

An Apology to My Fans

Dear Friends, Family, and Fair-Weather Fans,

I sincerely apologize for my lack of consistent blogging over the past months. Now that I really think about it, I suppose that over the past year I haven't been consistent at all. For the majority of that, I can't really remember my excuses. As it stands now, however, I have simply put too much on my plate the last five months, and this has led me to cast a number of things aside in life. Blogging was one of those. I'm not going to lie and say that I have had NO free time in the past five months, indeed I have had a fair deal. However, a number of things took priority over blogging, as either I enjoyed them more or deemed them more important. A good example of this would be Stargate.

However! I ask you, my dear readers, to take heart. My blog is far from dead. It may be lying on the ground, cut in a thousand places and drowning in a sea of its own blood, while its attacker looms above it still, brandishing his sword for yet another thrust, but it is not yet dead! It will rise again, to smite the attacker by retreating to a safe distance and pulling out a gun! I know not how long it will take for this to happen, but if I had to ballpark it, I'd say things will calm down on approximately May 13th.

And when they do, you can be sure that a post will arrive containing thrilling accounts of exciting events such as C.S.A AJ's Senior Recital (and, for those of you who may be confused, that stands for "Chief Sound Architect," not "Casting Society of America"), my visit to Biola with attendance in sight, my experience with the SAT, the run of Sincerely Yours, my birthday, and perhaps even an account of why I hate Nathaniel Hawthorne.

It is fairly likely that my xanga will be updated soon, as a post has been bouncing around in my head for a few weeks. However, I am waiting until I finish a certain book to write it, as I will probably cite the book in the post, and wish to have a full understanding of the author's position and intent to assure myself and my readers that he does, in fact, mean what I imagine him to mean.

And so I must bid the adieu for now, fine members of the blogging community. If you have yet to read the post below this one, I encourage you to do so as you wait for the new post to come out.

So fear not. I am very much alive, and the Evil Empire has yet to be thwarted.

— Darth Harbison

Sunday, April 01, 2007

All Hail Rae

I hereby bow to the awesome power that is Rae.

“My goodness,” you must be saying. “It’s been TWO MONTHS since there’s been a new post on the Death Star. Every two weeks my foot. Did Mark suddenly paralyze himself from the waist up, or what? What’s going on here?”

These questions and more are surely running through your heads. While I can’t answer all of them, allow me to put to rest one very important issue: No. I have not been paralyzed. At least, not literally. I suppose one could contend that my life has been so busy recently that I’ve been metaphorically paralyzed, for I have not had the time to write one of these extremely time-consuming posts for a while. Heck, I haven’t even updated my xanga in ages.

So, no doubt, with that explanation, your mind is simply bursting with interest in the answer of this question: “What was making you so busy?” Of course, I COULD say, “I’m not going to tell you,” and just end the post right here. But three paragraphs is hardly a blog post from me. Three paragraphs are to my blog entries as a microscopic spec is to Jupiter.

Anyway, so I suppose I shall have to answer the question.

Well, there have been a few primary things keeping my metaphorical hands tied behind my symbolic back:

The Wizard of Oz Yeah, that darn show I auditioned for back in December. I don’t think it had even opened when last I posted. But now it has closed. Which means that the entire run of it, plus probably the last two or three weeks of rehearsal, have been taking up my life since my last post.

Back in the week before Tech Week and Tech week, I was quite frustrated with this show, and would’ve probably dropped if it hadn’t been so close to opening. Back in the old days (by which I basically mean, before I was involved), Lifehouse cast members would call Tech Week by the name, “Hell Week.” I had always chuckled at this, since certainly no tech week could ever be THAT bad.

Yeah, I’m not laughing anymore. Wizard Tech Week was HORRIBLE. It wasn’t really anyone’s fault in particular, it was just . . . insanely frustrating. Jen and Wiley (the directors) weren’t really on the same page as Matt and Lauren (the choreographers), and no one was really sure what was going on with the tech. I realize that tech is a very difficult thing to do, and I don’t want to diminish the awesome work that Daniel, Kyle, and Randy did, but they came in with it really late. So . . . yes. That was frustrating

It didn’t help, either, that Matt was extremely disorganized. He himself agrees with me on this point, and he apologized to me for being so disorganized. He also has trouble communicating what he wants to happen. The choreography was good, but he couldn’t tell us what it was, so it didn’t look so good. It also didn’t help, of course, that the re-choreographed Twister (the most choreography-intensive number in the show, probably) on Thursday of tech week . . . meaning three days before opening.

*throws confetti half-heartedly* Yay.

It also didn’t help that I had very few friends in the show. I use the term “friend” loosely here, just to mean people with whom I hang out with backstage where there’s a mutual enjoyment of the company. There was Rachel, obviously, and Jason. Taylor dropped a few weeks into rehearsal, and . . . yep. Pretty much those two. There were a couple of people who generally went along with them (Tyler and sometimes Kris with Rachel, Wiley and sometimes JulieAnn with Jason), but they were pretty much it.

By the end of the run, I was no longer horribly lonely (it’s hard to take the time to be lonely when Jason and Wiley are making you laugh incessantly), but I wasn’t too sad to see it end. Especially since everyone except . . . two, maybe three people that I would miss are in Pocahontas anyway.

Speaking of which . . .

Pocahontas. Yep. I’m stupid, huh? Wizard just ended, and already here we go with Pocahontas. Woo-hoo. But in Pocahontas, I at least get to die on stage hallucinating about fields. Probably about pink butterflies, too. But yeah. Lots of backstage time for me in this show, too.

Of course, it probably won’t be as bad as Wizard, because now I can deal with not having a whole lot of friends backstage, and I’ll still have Wiley, Jason, and JulieAnn back there, plus David, Emily, Rachel, and Kelsey seemed willing to allow me into their little group. Which is nice of them.

So yep . . . rehearsals start tomorrow (orientation was a week or so ago), although I won’t be there for a week because . . .

Sincerely Yours. My gosh, I’m REALLY stupid. Even as Wizard was still running, I was in rehearsals for Sincerely Yours. It opens on Thursday, though, so things should hopefully be calming down.

This show is also going to be a blast, so it’s cool. It’s the first really MAIN part I’ve had in two years (not counting the understudying for Hollywell and Young Scrooge), and it’s a blast. The part is a lot of fun, the show is a lot of fun, and I really like all the people in the cast. So y’all should come down and see it if you get a chance . . . we could use the audience. It’s not at Lifehouse, it’s at Heartland Players, a teensy little theater in Yucaipa that no one knows about. So you should come and give us an audience.

You also shouldn’t come on April 20th, partially because I won’t be doing the show that night, and partially because you should all be at Chief Sound Architect AJ’s senior recital anyway.

Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. So, like, remember in my last post how I was talking about my obsession with The Office? Much as I still love that show, and own way more episodes over iTunes than any sane person would, it’s been bumped back to #2 on my list of “The Greatest TV Shows of All Time.” Stargate SG-1 officially takes the cake now, and my obsession with the show has gotten completely out of control.

Sarah is responsible. It’s all her fault. She gave me the first season way back last summer. Dad and I watched the first six or seven episodes while we were in Palm Springs, and then once we came back I stagnated for a while. Then, in December, I got sick and it lasted for a full week.

I was lying in bed, done with school, and feeling miserable. “I want to watch something,” thought I. “But I don’t want to go downstairs and get a movie.” My eye swept across my room. It lit upon the two box sets of Stargate SG-1 seasons 1 and 2.

By Friday, I’d gone from the middle of the third DVD (of five) of Season 1 to the middle of the fourth DVD (of five) in Season 2. So I basically watched an entire season in a week.

The rest, as they say, is history. I’m currently in season 8 of SG-1, and I’m also going through season 1 of the spin-off, Stargate Atlantis, the events of which are parallel (chronologically) to season 8 of SG-1. I’ve been trying to cut back recently, since I’m unable to obtain seasons 9 and 2 for a while, and I’ve finally gotten myself down to one episode a day.

But yes. For quite some time, watching Stargate was pretty much all I did in my free time. I’ve known that it was out of hand for a while, but I really realized just how ridiculous it was when I was watching a Youtube video (a montage of scenes from various episodes set to music and all that). It lasted about five minutes, and I could identify about 95% of the scenes.

I also spent something like three hours one day searching for a Daniel Jackson wallpaper for my computer . . . In the end I made my own, then switched when I actually found a half-decent one.

And for those of you not convinced that it’s a great show . . . how can any show that involves a guy knocking a criminal out by throwing an avocado at him NOT be a great show?

I’m FAT. This insanely clever pun refers to both the fact that I greatly enjoy eating and to the fact that my school year is titled, “Foundations of American Thought.” We Foundations students are often referred to in Torrey Academy circles as “FAT Juniors.” We rather like it.

We’ve been reading all kinds of cool books . . . obviously there’s good ol’ Locke and Hobbes and them, which I’m sure I mentioned back when we read them at the beginning. More recently we’ve read some short stories (yay Poe! Boo Melville . . .), some poetry, some Ralph Waldo Emerson, and also some of AJ’s single favorite author of all time, Henry David Thoreau. If you want to know about Thoreau, ask AJ about him, and then don’t believe a word he says.

Watch out world, here we come. March 16th, 2007. What a day. I got up earlier than I would’ve liked, and immediately started freaking out. We got in the car, and I continued freaking out, and the intensity grew. We got to the building, went inside, and it grew still more. We were sent out to wait in the line, and it reached a climax.

A blonde-haired lady got into the car. “There will be no talking during the test,” she said. “I’ll give you directions, so you’ll always know right where you’re going. So just re— or, well, TRY to relax.”

Roughly half an hour later, I emerged from the building clutching a piece of paper that had some very precious words on it: “Interim Driver License.” I have since received my regular license in the mail.

To top it all off, this day ALSO happened to be Sarah’s 18th birthday. Seth and I went over to her house (I drove myself) and hung out for the afternoon. We watched Flushed Away, which should not be confused with Spirited Away. If you go in expecting to see Spirited Away, you’re going to receive quite a rude shock.

Anyway, I absolutely loved it. One of the best animated movies I’ve seen in a long time. I highly recommend it to anyone out there except maybe Eleanor, because it makes fun of the French.

After the movie, we watched some of the first episode of Firefly, the TV show that the movie Serenity was based off of. There’s only 14 episodes, and it was (inexplicably, according to Sarah) cancelled after 12. I’ve only seen the first half of the first episode, but I’m excited to see more of it . . . which I’m sure I will one day.

After that Sarah opened her presents. I gave her a shirt, Seth gave her Final Fantasy XII, and she got a number of things from her parents (most notably to me a cell phone). Then we ate pizza and some AMAZING pie, and then I had to go to Lifehouse. Alas.

And actually, I think that that’s pretty much it. There, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Only four pages without comments . . . so yes. Be happy.

I promise that I will try to update more consistently in the future . . .

So for now, adieu, one and all. May you all have a blessed life.

And to close as Wiley would: make good decisions, everybody!!

AJ: Ah, curses. I knew I forgot something. “Overcoming difficulty and failure and succeeding at last against all odds” was due to my miraculous success in finally, FINALLY, figuring out how to properly shoulder roll in fencing. I’m still not very good at it, but I can at least do it without hurting myself most of the time now.

Amy Grace: I did indeed used to watch Alias, yes . . . great show, that. Although it would’ve been nice if they let dead people stay dead every once in a while . . .

Rae and Eleanor: My goodness . . . I never realized that my blog is such an arena for fierce competition. As for convincing certain other male members of my family to read P&P . . . well, Eleanor handily took care of the dancing problem, so maybe there’s hope after all. AJ, read Pride and Prejudice.

Rae: Well, yes, I’d assume that any actual human with any idea what they’re doing could soundly trounce me in boxing. But I’ll take what I can get. And I’m sure one day you’ll find a way to gain video game pride . . . just learn to use Jigglypuff in Super Smash Bros, and you can soundly trounce anyone. That’s my gaming advice . . . although I’d imagine Stephen is rather a better source than me.

speaking of Stephen: I apologize, I haven’t had time to read your Spiritual Gifts series yet . . . I fully intend to read it soon, though. And Other People, read it! . . . although probably everyone who reads this already has . . .

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Typical Two Weeks in Redlands

Pride. Prejudice. Captivating dialogue. Six-foot spears. Hardcore battling. Overcoming years of difficulty and failure and succeeding at last against all odds. One incredibly screwed-up roadtrip. One phone playing “Rockin’ Robin” from the ceiling of Dunder-Mifflin, Scranton. One Electric Monk sincerely believing that a desert valley is pink.

It’s been an exciting pair of weeks here in Redlands, California. Well, okay, perhaps “exciting” is a strong word. But things have happened here in the last two weeks, and it’s my job to relate those things to you, no matter how boring, pointless, and completely devoid of an interest factor those things are. Too bad I don’t get paid for it.

Thursday, January 11th. Life, generally speaking, is good. Then, I’m hit by a stunning revelation: “It’s Thursday. January 11th.” Why is this significant? Because Friday, January 12th, is the day of Lit. Club. This time, we are discussing Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

Which is 375 pages long.

Which I hadn’t started yet.

Accompanying the stunning revelation came the thought of a single word: “Crap.” This was followed by another word. A beautiful word. A word that has been the salvation of many, a word that is so sacred that it is never spoken except in times of great need. What is this word? “Sparknotes.”

I was thus faced with a moral quandary: should I go for the Sparknotes, or try to get through the entire book in less than 24 hours? The former, obviously, would be greatly preferable in terms of time spent. But on the other hand, reading the Sparknotes would also obviously give me less insight into the nuances of the characters and Austen herself as the narrator, which would no doubt have adverse effects on my ability to participate intelligently in the discussion.

In the end, it was something seemingly completely unrelated that decided it: I’m a Torrey Academy student. How does this apply, you ask?

Torrey Academy Student Requirement #29: “All Torrey students know that reading Cliffsnotes is for amateurs — we WRITE the Cliffsnotes.”

Obviously I could’ve justified it by saying that I’d be using Sparknotes and not Cliffsnotes, but I chose in this situation to obey the spirit as well as the letter of the law.

So I opened the book and began to read.

Unfortunately, this story has a somewhat anti-climactic and non-inspirational ending, because I failed to finish the book by 7:00 PM on Friday. I did, however, get to page 325, which was farther than I was expecting to go. In the end, then, I was forced to turn to Sparknotes to get the last fifty pages of plot, although obviously it was fairly easy to predict.

The discussion itself was cool as always. Not really a whole lot I can say, I don’t think, unless I really want to spend a lot of time on this part of the post, which to be honest I really don’t. I will note, however, that every girl present enjoyed the book, and surprisingly most guys as well (myself included). There was only one person that I remember who expressed a distinctly negative reaction, saying that there was “not enough action . . . dancing doesn’t count.”

Saturday was a pretty typical non-Lifehouse Saturday, other than the addition of football to the mix.

On Sunday I went back to Seth’s after church and hung out for most of the day. We spent the majority of the afternoon messing around with my lightsaber (nothing damaging, of course) and playing Seth’s Wii.

This was my first experience with the new(-ish) Nintendo Wii, and I must say, I’m greatly impressed. The games I played were Wii Sports and (briefly) Twilight Princess. Twilight Princess I didn’t really do much . . . I just rode around on Epona flailing about randomly with my sword, pretty much. Wii Sports, however, I did much. The game was quite simplistic (it was more an introduction to motion control than an actual game), but it was a blast.

The first thing I did was bowling, where I was soundly trounced by Seth, and then Tennis, where I came really close to beating him but failed, then Baseball, which ended in a 0-0 tie, then Golf, where we (we alternated holes) ended up at roughly +15 after three holes (in my defense, Seth played one hole and went +7, I went +8 in two), and then finally boxing by myself. I triumphed greatly at Boxing because it was painfully easy. It required basically no skill whatsoever. I just jabbed nonstop, alternating hands, and basically totally smacked down every opponent I faced. And that was pretty much that.

The next big, exciting thing that happened was on Monday night, when Josh walked into rehearsal carrying a six-foot spear. Unfortunately, Nikko gets to use it and not just your average Winkie, but it’s still freakin’ cool.

We didn’t get to see it in action until Tuesday, when we actually choreographed the fights. Which are fun, even though I get a bastard sword and not a spear. And even that I lose several seconds into the fight. But it’s all good.

Other interesting events that have happened, in no particular order:
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
Another book by one of my three favorite authors, who I haven’t read in a while. I got this book for Christmas, and started it this week. My impression thus far is that it isn’t as good as the Hitchhiker’s series, for the most part, but it’s still pretty good.

The Office
I had a random craving a while ago for this NBC comedy based on the award-winning British comedy of the same name. Remembering that you could buy TV show episodes on iTunes, I bought the episode “The Coup”. I greatly enjoyed it, and decided maybe I’d buy one more, just for fun. After that, I became completely obsessed, and have now bought eleven episodes. A big part of this came out of a sub-obsession with the Jim/Pam story, so I bought a number of episodes purely because I knew that they factored into that (specifically, “Casino Night” and “Gay Witch Hunt”). So basically, I’m completely in love with this show now, and I’d like to publicly express my condolences to Karen (not that she actually exists or anything like that). I like you, and it’s too bad about Jim.

Little Miss Sunshine
This is a comedy that came out a while ago starring Greg Kinnear and (more importantly for me) Steve Carell. Due to my fledgling Office obsession, I’m a big fan of Steve Carell at the moment. Anyway, we watched this on Friday night because Uncle Ted and Bev had heard good things about it and gotten a copy of it from somewhere (I can’t remember where specifically). My reaction to this movie in one word: bizarre. If it wanted to be, it could be one of the most depressing movies I’ve ever seen. But it wasn’t, because it was a comedy. And it was HILARIOUS. Not the sort of movie I’d want to watch again and again (although I WOULD watch it again if I were watching it with someone who hadn’t seen it), but it was a very good movie. All the acting was great, the writing was great, and I . . . can’t think of a third thing to compliment. There weren’t a whole lot of special effects or anything like that, so I can’t go that direction . . . but anyway, it really was a very good movie. If you have the opportunity to watch it, I’d recommend it . . . but watch it with other people, not by yourself. And also, be prepared for quite a bit of foul language . . .

— The New Moses
If you haven’t seen it yet, check out So_Thoughtful to see a brand-new post, the first in a long time. It’s about Val Kilmer playing Moses in The Ten Commandments: The Musical.

And that’s pretty much my life for the past two weeks. And now you’re all caught up. I might go to posting every two weeks instead of every week (theoretically, anyway), I haven’t decided yet. But be sure, there will be a new post in a few weeks.

And until then . . . adieu. Drive safely.

Comments (some skipped):
Stephen1: One of my friends wanted to get the Mace Windu one . . . don’t think he ever did, though. And from the sound of it, I have about the same level of desire to get a facebook as a myspace . . . which is roughly zero.

Amy Grace1: Why thank you!
AJ1: *deep breath* Thanks. Yes, he’s dead. Most things could be better. Thanks again. Well, it’s the truth. Because when you button it, it secures the collar. Me, too. Undoubtedly, but “a wever” is much more fun. I had to look it up. Would “Congratulations” be better? Yes, good job.

AJ2: Thanks again again.

Stephen5: I love how you can tie Tolkein and MacDonald into a conversation about video games. Although . . . I guess D&D isn’t really a video game, right?

Rae: Well, it would be kind of unfair to give you the award since you didn’t comment, wouldn’t it? I’m sorry that my masculinity in Wizard wasn’t terribly clearly defined for you. I’ll try to remedy that in the future. Yay! Another person who’s seen UHF! Hurrah! And that’s not true . . . there’s some uncool girls trying to be cool girls out there, too. And then there’s the girls who just ARE cool . . .

Amy Grace4: Well, then, good for you. Paul’s a pretty good guy to emulate.

Pointless Award that No One Cares About, #3: My goodness, there were so many great comments on the last entry, it’s really difficult to pick a winner. In the end, though, one person stands out. Stephen left 5 comments, but as he won it last time, I can’t give it to him again already. Rae, despite being my top commenter for so long, didn’t get hers in until #11, and only left one. Although she looks poised to be making a comeback, possibly in the next entry. AJ only left two comments, and was the third person to get two comments in. Which leaves, as the winner of the third postly Pointless Commenter Award, Amy Grace! (As a prize, her blog has been linked in the sidebar.)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Reports of My Demise were Greatly Exaggerated

Okay, so obviously it’s been over two months since I’ve updated, and probably you’re all thinking, “Has the Death Star finally been destroyed? Has the Luke Skywalker of an actual life fired the proton torpedoes of face-to-face communication into the exhaust port of indirect virtual correspondence? Has the Rebel Alliance of Mark’s extroverted tendencies finally gotten the best of him and become the New Republic, or at least the Alliance of Free Planets?” Or maybe you’ve just been asking yourself, “Has Mark’s Star Wars obsession finally gotten out of control to the point where he’s ceaselessly using metaphors from it to describe the current state of his existence?”

The answer to those questions is sometimes, “yes,” and sometimes, “no.” Which of course is completely unhelpful and reveals absolutely no information.

Obviously, the Death Star hasn’t been destroyed . . . for one thing, if you tried to look at the site, it was still here. There was nothing new on it, of course, but it was here. And now you can see that there IS something new . . . this post. So the Death Star has not been destroyed.

As for the other questions . . . Not really. I still don’t have a life, I’m pleased to report. The answer to the last question, however, was clearly “yes.”

Anyway, the reason I haven’t updated in so long is because, despite nothing changing on the “getting a life” front, I’ve been crazily busy lately. School has been insane, and Scrooge was insane for quite a while, and then even fencing was a little crazy at times. Basically meaning that certain things had to fall by the wayside for a while, and this blog was one of them. I’m sure that you’ve all been disappointed beyond all possible measure that it’s been so long, and for that I apologize. I hate to cause suffering.

But in any case, things are (hopefully) slowing down at the moment, so we’ll be able to get back on track, at least for the time being.

I’m not even really going to try too hard to get everything that’s happened in my life during the past two months . . . although I suppose I should give an overview, at least . . .

In case you didn’t know, Marley is dead. And since this comment has caused some confusion in the past, this is referring to Jacob, not Bob. Although I believe it’s equally true for both of them, I can’t honestly say that Bob’s death had much of an impact on my life.

Jacob’s did because there’s a song about it in Scrooge, in the form of a barbershop quartet. Since there’s a shortage of talented basses in the cast (and by “shortage” I mean “complete absence”), Rebecca (our music director) decided to make me the bass of said quartet.

Since I include myself in the untalented mass of basses, she also threw in John to help me out. In the end, he didn’t turn out to be terribly helpful . . . No offense to him, I like the man a lot, but he doesn’t know the part at all. *sigh* Oh, well.

In the end, though, I think it came off pretty well for all this . . . AJ might disagree with me on this, I’m not sure . . . but I’ll let Mr. University Singers speak for himself and enlighten us all with his opinion. But I know that I was happy with it, and I think Wayne and Rebecca were quite happy with it, as well.

Speaking of singing, I was also tossed into the Carolers as a bass . . . actually, no, I was originally cast as a Caroler, but originally Vince was also supposed to be one, so we would have an actual strong bass there. But, of course, Vince dropped, so that left me. I convinced Rebecca to add John (not Nowak . . . the other one . . .) to help me out, and I think that that’s worked out pretty well, all things considered. I mean, we’re not the greatest bass section ever, but we could be a lot worse (and would be, if it was just me).

But enough about acapella singing, although I could go on and talk about all the joyous drama that it’s caused . . . but I’m sure you all get enough drama without me adding to it.

Let’s see, what else . . . oh yes. On Monday of Tech Week, I was walking towards the office (to retrieve my coat, I believe) when Adam stopped me. “Hey Mark,” he said, “Could you do me a favor?”

“Sure,” I replied, expecting his next words to be something along the lines of, “Could you grab me a water while you’re in the lobby?”

“Want to play Fred and Young Scrooge the nights I’m not here?”

For those of you who may one day be in Adam’s situation, do people like me a favor . . . DON’T start a question like that matter-of-factly. It’s not nice. Making us do a double-take and say, “Wait, what??” is just plain cruel.

In any case . . . yeah. I became Adam’s understudy that night, and have successfully played Fred Hollywell and Young Ebenezer Scrooge twice. Hooray! *confetti*

So yes . . . Scrooge has been eating up my weekends recently.

“Get your lazy butt on the dance floor!” (Credit to Megan for that quote.) December 9th, 2006: It is Saturday. Two shows have been completed. At one of them, I performed in the roles of Young Scrooge and Fred Hollywell. It was the first time that I had ever done such things, and I was greatly stressed out. Lots of running around, lots of raising my hands above my head and screaming silently, lots of desperately hoping to get on stage, in costume, on time. (The height of irony . . . a quote from Taylor: “Mark! RELAX!!”)

There was also a female backstage who was not a member of the cast. This is, of course, frowned upon by the authorities, and of course I would NEVER abide by any breaking of any rule set out by any of the powers that be at Lifehouse, but in perfect honesty no one really cares. So there was this female, and she was wearing a very pretty dress, and curling her hair (which for some reason took her the entire show).

Her name was Andrea. Her reason for being there? The other reason that December 9th, 2006 was special: the Kimberly Juniors’ Christmas Dance.

Miss Andrea had found herself previously without an escort to said dance, and she had to go. She also had to have a male escort. In lieu of a more suitable partner, I was chosen to accompany her.

Upon the completion of the show, I went backstage and tried to change quickly into my suit (it was, regrettably but not unexpectedly, a semi-formal dance). I say “tried” because it sounds better than “miserably failed.” The dance had started at 9:00, and obviously the show wasn’t over yet at that point, so we were rushing over after the show (carpooling with Taylor and Daniel, who were also going). I had my suit and everything with me, but I also had to take my makeup off, hang my costume up, and get that STUPID button that’s under the tie buttoned . . . the one that you can’t button until the tie is already on, but which the tie being on makes it nearly impossible to successfully button.

I then discovered, much to my dismay, that I’d forgotten my comb. Obviously, since I’d just performed in a show in which I wore a hat, my hair was a complete mess. I didn’t have a terrible problem with this (I rarely do), but I figured that probably Andrea would prefer to show up with a guy who looked like he’d made SOME effort to look nice. In the end, I was able to borrow a hairbrush from Austin the Elder, so it turned out okay (I think).

As I quickly scurried out of the dressing room (several minutes after I had hoped to), I got several comments from the other guys on my appearance (most of them positive but confused). I reached the lobby, where everyone was standing around waiting for me. We quickly took pictures, then ran out to the car and drove to the place. I can’t remember what it was called . . . it was near Smiley Library, but that’s about all I figured out.

When we got inside, we had to go down this thing that was called (I think) the Receiving Line, where Andrea had to present me, her escort, to all the powers that be in KJ’s (yes, I’ve used the phrase “powers that be” twice now). Then we were allowed to go into the actual room where the dance was being held.

And so, here it is. My first impression of the first dance I was ever present at (and the last, to this point): “Dang . . . it’s freakin’ LOUD in here.” And when I say loud, I mean LOUD. Like, instant headache loud. I suppose all dances are like that, and I should’ve known this, but . . . yeesh.

We stood awkwardly in the doorway for a few minutes (and were waved at by a number of people), then went and sat down at the nearest table. We sat there for a while, then figured we should stand around awkwardly some more, so we went out on the dance floor and stood around awkwardly, and then went and sat back down.

We tried to have meaningful conversation, I think, but we failed because of the aforementioned ridiculous volume level. Daniel said he was very tempted to go and mess with the soundboard a little bit, but he refrained (much to my disappointment).

It was around this time, I believe, when Megan came over, grabbed the back of my coat, and roughly heaved me out of my chair. She then went over to Andrea and told her to get up, and then said what I have immortalized as the heading of this section.

And so we did. And we remained on the dance floor for the next hour and a half or so, and really, what’s there to tell? Depending on how you define “dancing,” we either did very little or quite a bit . . . several people came over and joined us at times (usually Megan and/or John, who, I’m discovering, has a name that’s way too common), and at other times we were just there ourselves.

After that we went and sat back down with Taylor and Daniel for a while, then got up again to dance the last song.

The most exciting thing that happened was towards the end of the night, when Taylor actually managed to drag Daniel out onto the dance floor for one song . . . but then, since almost none of you know Daniel, that won’t mean anything to you.

After the dance, Andrea (well, her father, technically speaking) took me home, and that was that.

If ever a wever a wiz there was . . . On Thursday, December 14th, auditions were held for The Wizard of Oz, and I chose to participate. After waiting a year between Lifehouse shows before (Cinderella-Scrooge), I shall now wait only a single show (Shadowlands) before I once again grace the stage at 1135 N. Church Street.

Anyway, this audition actually went well, as far as auditions go . . . wasn’t a miserable audition like my Scrooge audition was, or my Oliver audition . . . I sang “If I Were A Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof . . .

And then on Tuesday I learned that I’d made it in . . . as did Rachel and Taylor. Sarah also auditioned, but for mysterious reasons (meaning, reasons I don’t feel like explaining) she’s not in it.

So yeah . . . fun times there.

Roadtrip!! On December 21st, as I was putting the ornaments on our Christmas tree and drinking eggnog (non-alcoholic eggnog), we heard a car door slam shut on the street outside. We heard a muffled thumping, as though some large animal had jumped out of a truck.

We heard another car door slam. We all looked at each other, knowing what was coming. Jersey was placed in confinement in the office. I took another sip of eggnog, put another ornament on the tree.

Then the front door opened, and in walked the closers of the two car doors and the large animal: Uncle Ted, Bev, and Achilles. They moved out here from Indiana, and are currently living with us while they try to get back on their feet financially.

So for the rest of the night, we were sitting around talking with them and petting Achilles (who made a great first impression by destroying my glass of eggnog with his tail). And that, as they say, is that.

Bring us the dang figgy pudding already! On December 24th, it was Christmas Eve. The day wasn’t terribly exciting . . . we had church as usual, then watched football as usual.

That night, we followed through with our typical Christmas Eve tradition of a buffet of hors d’oeuvres (pronounced “horsey dor vers”) while watching some Christmas movie or other (despite complaints that several “House” episodes would be better).

This year, AJ and I spent a while searching to try to find the movies we watched every year when we were little, which consisted of a bunch of recorded TV specials. We watched “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and “Eureeka’s Castle Christmas.”

They were all, of course, pretty lame, but they all had their charms, and of course they brought back countless memories. I don’t think Mom and Dad enjoyed them very much, but AJ and I did.

Just before that, we’d celebrated AJ’s birthday and given him his presents, of which there were only two (one from me and one from Mom and Dad, because his big present is money for the roadtrip).

After we’d finished watching everything, Uncle Ted and Bev came back (they’d been off at a party with Bev’s children), and we hung around and talked for a while. Uncle Ted also showed us the not-really-famous “Ping Pong Ball Routine,” in which he makes three ping pong balls disappear (wow!) and then reappear. He also showed us that if you stick a ping pong ball in fire, it’ll flare up and then *poof*, be gone forever. And ALSO that they’re filled (essentially) with Vicks’ Vapor Rub.

All in all, an interesting night.

The gateway to . . . adulthood? Christmas Day. 2:29 AM. Welcome to the adult world, brother. AJ turns 21.

Later, everyone gets up and we have the traditional present-opening time . . . this was the year of the CD. AJ got 9, I got 6 (and I bought another one with giftcards). Four U2, one Weird Al, one Switchfoot, and I bought Coldplay.

My two biggest presents, however, were not CDs. The first one, which I was somewhat expecting, was a black fedora, which joins my trench coat (and the scarf that Moe made me) in my “uncool-guy-trying-to-be-cool” look.

The second one I didn’t expect to get in a million years, because I’d wanted it terribly for a long time and Mom was always telling me what a horrible waste of money it was (and I won’t deny that it is, much as I love it). I am now, however, the proud owner of a Master Replicas Force FX Episode V Darth Vader Lightsaber. Hoo-ah.

The main part of the day didn’t start until early evening, however: AJ’s official 21st birthday party. The details of this party were captured on video, and I can never hope to do it justice with words.

AJ will soon be in possession of a DVD of this video, as will I, so at some point you all should watch it. But suffice it to say that it was a fun night, filled with Uncle Ted’s crazy antics and lots of alcohol for everyone but me.

It’s over!! On December 31st, 2006, Scrooge ended. Despite a LOT of frustration during rehearsals, it was a good run and I enjoyed it a lot. As always, there are parts that I’ll miss (mostly people) and parts that I REALLY won’t miss. And . . . what else is there to say?

Happy New Year! It’s 2007! Yay!

Wizard rehearsals also started on Thursday . . . as you can tell, I’ve somewhat run out of gas in terms of writing this and just want to get it up. So we’ll leave off there with that.

Get ready for a 2007 filled with (hopefully) more consistent blogging here at the Death Star, which is, by the way, fully operational once again.

Mrs. Perry: Did I say “old?” My bad, I meant to say “young and beautiful” . . . what the heck was I thinking? And yes, Sarah definitely did look amazingly beautiful. My apologies if my description seemed less than outstanding.

Stephen: You’ve seen UHF?? Awesome!! I wasn’t expecting that anyone I knew would’ve seen it . . .

AJ: I feel like the majority of responses to your comment would be outdated now . . .

Amy: Amy! Hello!! Thank you! I always wanted to be a Gravedigger, too . . . I was really happy when Rebecca upgraded me. Kelly was one because there was a show or two when we had a serious lack of Tenor, so she learned the part and sang it for us.

As for the completely pointless award that no one cares about . . . it’s a toughie. I’m inclined to give it to Mrs. Perry or Amy just because they are Mrs. Perry and Amy, who are not regular commentees here. But on the other hand, Stephen commented about UHF, which gives him major points. And then there’s AJ’s 11-part comment . . . in the end, though, AJ disqualified himself by claiming that he won before I even started thinking about it, and Stephen outclasses Mrs. Perry and Amy by being in contention AND being a consistent supporter of my work here at the Death Star.

Congratulations to Stephen, winner of the second Best Commenter Award!