Sunday, May 19, 2013

She's Going On A Mission: Not The Best News For Everybody

As of yet I haven't talked too much about my personal life on my blog. Now that I have ten blog posts up, I thought I might share a little more about me. I would say that the biggest and most defining aspect of my life has to do with my belief of and membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or Mormon Church. My family is LDS, and it is something that has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Growing up as a member of the church, I had the opportunity to research and find for myself if the teachings of the LDS Church was something that I personally believed in. After reading scriptures, studying it out in my mind, and a lot of personal prayer, I came to know for myself that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true. I was able to see how the teachings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ not only blessed my life, but the life of all of the members of my family and friends who followed its teachings.

At 19, I had the opportunity to serve as a full time missionary for the LDS Church in the southern United States. I had so many life changing experiences during this two year period, and met many people who have forever changed my life. As with most RM's (or Returned Missionaries) do, I came home with a desire to move forward with my life - to receive an education and progress towards a career, and most importantly, to date and eventually find someone to begin a family with. There are a lot of things in mormon culture that members of the church like to poke fun at, and the plight of returned missionary young men in their 20's seeking to get married is one them. Movies such as The RM and The Singles Ward are an exaggerated but mostly accurate view on what life can be like for young single adults in the LDS Church.

I have been extremely lucky to have some great friends - friends that I have known for years, who I went to high school with, was able to stay in touch with over our missions, and have shared countless experiences with. I have roomed with them for the past few years as we have attended college together. A lot has changed since the high school days, but things have stayed the same more than any of us would like to admit. While a few of our group have managed to graduate from the singles ward (a congregation for single, college aged members of the LDS church), most of us are still wading through the treacherous battle ground that is dating.

Dating in the LDS community is drastically different than what most other people may experience when dating in college. Dating is seen as a way to have fun, make new friends, and hopefully one day find someone with whom you can start a family of your own. One of the core beliefs that we have in the LDS Church is that our families can continue after this life, and that we can enjoy the same family relationships we have here on earth forever. That being said, the pursuit of finding a spouse is not only a matter of fulfilling the natural human desire to be with somebody you love, but also of a way to fulfill one of our main purposes in mortality.

As 20-something year old college guys, a lot of the energy expended by my roommates and I revolve around girls - meeting girls, getting girls numbers, taking girls out....really anything to do with girls. Yet, we are all still single. I don't mean to toot my own horn, but for the most part my group of friends consist of intelligent, athletic, funny, not-unattractive guys that are all headed toward a successful future. We are all active in the church, and do our best to live our lives the best way we can. In short, we are everything a good LDS girl should be looking for...right?

Well, having traversed the post mission dating world for the past two and a half years, we have had plenty of experience dating all sorts of girls and having all sorts of experiences. All of us have either graduated from college or are close to it, and realize that the opportunities for social interaction with the opposite sex is about to quickly diminish in quantity as we go into the workforce. We are getting to the point where we can see that it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to find someone to settle down with. This year has had its ups and downs like most years do, but a few of us were actually gaining some traction with this whole dating thing. In fact a few of us were dating girls that we really could see something happening with. And that is when it happened....

During the 2012 October General Conference (a worldwide meeting wherein church members receive guidance and counsel from leaders), it was announced that the missionary age requirements for young women had been changed from 21 to 19. This tremendous announcement meant that girls could serve missions at a younger age, and allow for many more to enter into missionary service. The number of missionaries sky rocketed, and missionary work has begun to increase around the world. However, there is one side effect to this announcement that has gone largely overlooked, though it has impacted the demographic of LDS RM's like a nuclear bomb. For me and two of my roommates, that meant that the girls that we were dating (and hopeful of the possibility for things to move in a positive direction) would soon be telling us that they were breaking up with us to serve a mission.

Now I don't want to get into a discussion of whether or not girls should date someone rather than go on a mission if the opportunity to do so presented itself. However, I would like to point out that many an RM is standing single and alone, not because they want to be single, or because they are apathetic about dating, but because circumstance was unkind to them with adverse timing. So many like to portray the "lame RM" as a bunch of guys sitting around a big screen tv on friday night watching ESPN or playing X-Box, and I won't deny that this may have occurred in my apartment a time or two. But for every apartment like that, there are dozens with guys who have honestly just had rotten luck when it comes to dating, especially with girls going on missions. In an effort to bring this to light in a humorous way, my roommates took inspiration from our situations to write a song about it. It has recently been made into a music video entitled "She's Going On A Mission". I provided a link below. Yours truly even makes an appearance (I am the one perusing and getting that ridiculously over-exaggerating back rub). I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Tribute To Seinfeld: The Greatest Sitcom of All Time!

Today is the 15th anniversary of the airing of the series finale of Seinfeld. After for running for 9 consecutive seasons, this critically acclaimed sitcom sadly came to an end. Often referred to as the greatest sitcom of all time, Seinfeld has become an icon in American pop culture. Over the years it has become my favorite television show, beating everything else I watch by a landslide. While there have been great comedies that have come and gone since Seinfeld (The Office, 30 Rock, Parks and Rec, and Arrested Development to name some of my favorites), none of them come close to achieving what Seinfeld did.

The character ensemble of Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer was the perfect combo of acting talent and comedic humor, mixing their often outrageous but believable characters into situations we can all relate to. When it comes down to it, I think that is what made me fall in love with Seinfeld - the fact that I could in some way relate to nearly every episode, and without exception there are always a handful of events that happen in my day that instantly make me think of an episode. I mean, who hasn't had the experience of hunting down your car in a parking garage, trying to find your friends in a movie theater as the show is starting, or waiting forever for a table in a restaurant while it seems everybody is seated ahead of you?

The supporting characters are just as memorable and likable (or hate-able) as the main characters, with great moments by Newman, Uncle Leo, Frank and Estelle Costanza, and the Soup Nazi to name a few. There are so many great moments in Seinfeld it is almost impossible to mention all of them, but in commemoration of my favorite sitcom, I thought I would list five of my favorites and the memorable moments they contain.

5) The Foundation (Season 8, Ep 1) - This episode takes place after Susan dies. After Jerry uses material from Star Trek II to comfort Susan's parents, they decide to start a charitable foundation in her name, of which George will sit on the board of directors. Peterman leaves for Burman, leaving Elaine in charge of the catalog, and the urban sombrero is born. Kramer takes karate lessons (neglecting to mention that he is in a children's class).

4) The Boyfriend (Season 3, Ep 17/18) - Jerry meets his long time idol Keith Hernandez and begins to have a "relationship" with him. This gets complicated when Keith has an interest in Elaine. George tries to stretch out his unemployment benefits by claiming to be interviewing with the fictional Vandelay Industries, and Kramer and Newman try to reconcile their perceived wronging by Keith at a baseball game.

3) The Library (Season 3, Ep 5) - A Library cop by the name of Bookman tracks down Jerry for an overdue library book he checked out when he was in high school. Kramer falls in love with the librarian, and George thinks he has found his high gym teacher, who he got fired. Meanwhile, Elaine is paranoid that her boss is planning to fire her.

2) The Strike (Season 9, Ep 10) - Kramer goes back to work after being of strike for 12 years, Elaine tries to hunt down a man she gave a fake number to, George makes up a charity so that he can give away fake donations to it as a Christmas gift, and Jerry dates a "two-face". If for no other reason, this episode makes the list because of the introduction of Festivus!

1) The Marine Biologist (Season 3, Ep 14) - Jerry runs into an old classmate from college and tells her that George is a  Marine  Biologist. Kramer goes hits golf balls into the ocean, and Elaine entertains a Russian author with a bad temper. This episode may possibly contain my all time favorite moment from Seinfeld - George's famous retelling of saving a beached whale.

This list doesn't even scratch the surface of my favorite Seinfeld moments, but these are some of the first that came to mind, and in memory of this historic day, I just wanted to publicly thank Seinfeld and everybody who was involved in its production for all the laughs and good memories. Whenever I throw out a Seinfeld reference most of the time nobody has any idea what I am talking about, but most of my friends at this point just assume it is from Seinfeld. However, it just makes it that much more enjoyable when I come across a fellow Seinfeld lover who gets the reference and appreciates it for what it is. May folks never forget the original and greatest of all sitcoms, the show about nothing!

Take a minute to share your own favorite Seinfeld moment(s)!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Upcoming Movies: Star Trek Into Darkness

Every year summer time usually guarantees at least one thing - that there will be a few big budget blockbusters coming to the big screen. Two weeks ago it was Iron Man 3, last week had The Great Gatsby, and this week's movie of choice is Star Trek Into Darkness. Premiering on May 16 (May 15th for IMAX), this latest by director JJ Abrams (Lost, Star Trek) has had a jumble of mixed reviews.

Most that criticize the film seem to have the most beef with the fact that it is unlike the original series. Not being very familiar with the original Star Trek series, this doesn't hold the same weight for me as it might for real Trekkies. According to some, this film tries to compensate the originality and imagination of the original series with inter-character spats, superficial special effects and action sequences, and adolescent-esque relationship drama. On the other hand, there have also been several reviews stating that while the film may not be quite as imaginative as some of Abram's other works, it was nevertheless face paced and enjoyable.

Having considered Abram's previous interpretation of Star Trek in this film's predecessor well done, I am pretty excited to see what he does with this film. I am not acquainted with the original story line particularly well, so I won't be bothered too much if it deviates (a crime that some may and surely will consider punishable by death). The returning cast was likable and charismatic in the first film so I would expect the same in the new one, and I am very excited to see Benedict Cumberbatch portraying the film's villain. If you are familiar with his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in the BBC television series Sherlock (on a side note he will also be the voice for Smaug and the Necromancer in the upcoming Hobbit films), you will know he is a fantastic actor, and the short clips he appears in for the films trailer are unnerving to say the least.

Stay tuned later in the week for a quick review on what I thought of the film, but until then, let me know your thoughts (and if you are a die-hard fan, your fears) on what the film will offer and enjoy the trailer!

For more info, visit the official site

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mistborn: A True Original Fantasy Novel

The fantasy genre is one of my favorites to read. Starting with Lord of The Rings and moving on down, I like to get my hands on as many different types of fantasy books as I can. However, the problem I have found is that it is getting more and more difficult to find what I consider to be a true original fantasy. So many of the books today are a cheap spin-off of Tolkien - complete with elves, dwarves, orcs, wizards, magic, and a super-powerful-impossible-to-destroy villain who always happens to be defeated. After reading four of five of them, you can almost predict the rest of the plot after the first chapter of each new book. Is anyone else is as sick of these as I am?

I grabbed up Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson on the recommendation of a friend, and couldn't be happier that I did. It was everything that so much of today's fantasy isn't: original. The book introduces a female protagonist at the outset of the story, a peasant by the name of Vin. The story then follows her and her subsequent involvement in a coup to overthrow the all powerful deity-dictator. While my review won't go through the entire story in detail (I hate spoilers when I read reviews - I just want to know if the book will be worth my time), I hope to hit on a few elements of what makes this books so great.

One of the first things that is great about the book is the setting. The story takes place in a bleak world where ash falls like rain from the sky. The population is heavily divided into a rich aristocracy and peasant class with not much middle ground. A detailed geography and complex political, cultural, and even religious systems make the backdrop for the story deep and believable.

The new fantasy creatures and races are unique. Some of these include the shape-shifting kandra who assume the form of any given person by consuming their remains, massive violent koloss, and Steel Inquisitors (a kind of super-powerful Gestapo). The main characters are unique and memorable, and most are developed enough to keep you interested as you read further and further into the story. And as you continue through the series, you see just how different the antagonist is from most stories.

The most unique and memorable element of the story are the magic systems that Sanderson creates. The first is the more heavily used in the story, the system of Allomancy. Essentially Allomancy is art of which certain individuals are able to ingest specific metals and use their properties to enhance or give them abilities. The other, Feruchemy, is the art by which individuals can store certain properties within a metal object to reserve for a time of need. Both of these magic systems are well developed with believable rules and limitations (and there is even a third form, but for the sake of spoiling the story, I won't discuss it here).

Sanderson has done a real work of art here with his Mistborn Trilogy. Since releasing this series, Sanderson has written other fantasy works including Warbreaker, The Way of Kings, and completing Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series. If you are looking for a break from the typical Middle Earth fantasy knock off, I would strongly recommend picking up a copy. I can't promise that you will love the story the way I did, but I can promise an original, well written quick pace fantasy novel that should leave you wanting more.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

How Great Is The Great Gatsby?

This week's big premiere in theaters was The Great Gatsby. Based on the classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, this is the first adaptation of the American literary classic since 2000. Directed by Baz Luhrmann and featuring an all star cast starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, this film has received mixed reviews by moviegoers and critics alike. is my rundown of the film.

As far as the quality of the film goes, it was very well made. The performances, especially of Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, were commendable and convincing. Even Tobey Maguire, who I have a hard time taking seriously (especially after his performance in Spider Man 3 which was reminiscent of moody, prepubescent girl), didn't annoy me quite as much as he usually does in his films.

The music will be liked by some and hated by others. The movie, which takes place in the 1920's in New York City, was a strange mix of jazz music of the era and a sort of rap/hip-hop of today's billboards. As someone who likes a movie to be streamlined and have a consistent feel that sucks you into the story, I felt that the jumping back and forth of the music was distracting and not keeping with the feel of the rest of the movie.

For those who like a movie with a definitive plot (easily identified protagonist, antagonist, straight forward plot, etc), this movie might be a little hard to wrap your head around. If you haven't read the novel, then you will probably struggle to have a very good idea of where the story is going. The characters are complex, and it is not obvious who the "good guy" and "bad guy" are throughout the film. Some may find that the ending of the film leaves you feeling the story was unresolved.

Overall, I would say that most people are probably going to have a difficult time appreciating this film. The quality of the acting and the film overall was good, but the content may not necessarily resonate with watchers of the film. If you do choose to see the movie, I would recommend going with an open mind and to do away with any expectations you may have...that way you might be able to appreciate the film for what it is.

Friday, May 10, 2013

If You Really Went To Battle School...

Let's be honest. All of us at one point or another have thought about how sweet it would be to go to Battle School. Living in space, getting put in armies, and have mock space battles in null gravity appeals to anybody with half an imagination. Not to mention knowing that you are one of the select few who qualified as the best and brightest on whom humanity had pinned their last hopes. But have you ever seriously paused to consider what it would really be like if any of us ordinary folks actually spent a few days there? I don't claim to be an artist (in fact if there is one area of my life where I have no talent, it would be art),but I hope that you appreciate the sentiment anyways.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

You Are Who You Pretend To Be: Why Unicorn City is one of the funniest movies you have never seen!

One of my favorite things to do is to find a great movie that nobody has heard of before. Being able to find an obscure movie that hasn't been over-hyped or talked about too much is the perfect way to end a long day in my book. I don't know if I have come across enough of these types of films to make this regular topic on my blog, but I will keep it up as long as I can, and in the mean time I will be searching Netflix like mad.

One gem that I stumbled upon a few months ago was a flick called Unicorn City. I remember seeing a couple of brief previews several months before, but chances are that you haven't heard of this movie. I think the fact that I only lived a few hours away from where the movie was made may be the only reason I even knew what it was, which is surprising considering the number of awards this film received. Directed by Bryan Lefler (involved in movies such as Napoleon Dynamite and Baptists at Our Barbeque) and a relatively unknown cast, Unicorn City is a family friendly comedy that has a very "Napoleon Dynamite" feel to it (don't judge if you hated that movie, I think the story line in Unicorn City is quite a bit more funnier).

The story follows Voss, an unemployed gamer who lives with his brother. Under the threat of working at this brother's taco shack, he finds an opportunity to work in the gaming industry, providing he can demonstrate some leadership ability. After finally getting fed up with his role playing "guild leader", he decides to create a utopia for gamers, and Unicorn City is born in an attempt to prove his leadership qualities.

To be straight forward, I think this movie great. It is a one of those movies that gets more funny each time you watch it. If you were like me, you hated Napoleon Dynamite the first time you watched it, but found it more and more enjoyable with subsequent viewings. I would definitely suggest watching this movie with a bunch of friends that have a great sense of humor at about 1:00  in the morning when you see it for the first time. The story does get a little slow during the middle of the film, but there are enough funny moments to keep you entertained throughout. If you know anybody who is into RPG's or LARPing (or are into these things yourself...we won't judge), this movie will have no problem keeping you laughing till you hurt.