Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Haunted Rose Bushes

In Oscar Wildes' The Canterville Ghost, the spirit of Sir Simon haunted his old castle and refused to let a stained puddle of blood get cleaned up by anyone for centuries. I feel like we, too, have a not so gruesome but similar situation at our condo. Our condominium HOA is mostly ruled by geriatrics. The former owner who lived in our condo was also a geriatric who had no taste. She was a widow that loved ugly wall paper and rose bushes. I am a sick freak and I hate rose bushes. I had a "scarred” youth of mowing tons of old fogies' yards and getting poked and scraped by rose bushes and other harmful shrubberies. Apparently fogies and thorny bushes go together.

When we first moved into our condo, I was excited to make some renovations starting with removing those annoying rose bushes. I spent a whole week end pulling them out, some with gloved hands which didn’t protect me and some with my truck and a chain. That was  a painful ordeal and I eventually got the bleeding to stop. Not long after this event took place we heard rumors that the former owner of our condo died. My wife said, “Now we can totally change things and not feel guilty.”

The following summer I discovered that all of those lethal ugly rose bushes grew back! Once again I furiously pulled and now dug deep into the ground to make sure that there is no trace of roots left behind, which I'm sure I had done the first time. The following summer they grew back again, and so on for every following year. I am dumbfounded by this. When I deliberately try to plant something in the yard it either dies or takes forever to grow.

Do you think my flower beds and condo are haunted by the former owner? Of course, that would explain the eerie sounds of Lawrence Welk coming from our basement.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Auditioning for Hale Center Theatre

Recently, Hale Center Theatre held auditions for the musical “Guys and Dolls.” I performed in this production when I was in high school. After I was cut from the high school basketball tryouts because of politics, I focused all of my attention in the performing arts. As a teenager I was a drama geek in all respects. I am not ashamed to admit it because I had a lot of fun because of it.

After high school, I did a few productions for various community theatres such as Riverton Arts Council, Draper Arts Council, and Draper Historic Theatre. Every one of those experiences were very interesting. The best way to describe my service to them would be just like the movie Waiting for Guffman. (Hopefully you are not offended by the “foul language” in it.)

Over a decade later, I decided to take one for the team and audition for Hale Center Theatre in Orem just so I can share my experience with you, my beloved followers. I had season tickets to Hale a few years ago and my overall impression of it after one season was that their performing quality was equivalent to what I endured watching community theatre...except that Hale has a budget to work with (thank you, Governor Huntsman) and they can afford better props, costumes and other spectacles that a community theatre with a starving budget the size of a ham sandwich does not have. I had to call and schedule an appointment to audition with their theatre receptionist which was foreign to me.

April 15, 2013 (Audition day) After being tipped off by a former Hale Center Theatre performer on what to bring to my audition I brought the following.

1.       An 8” x 10” glamour head shot of myself

My 8" x 10" glamour head shot
2.       A performance resume listing all past productions
3.       A prepared musical number of 16 bars of a piece similar to the musical but not from the musical
4.       Audition application

The difference between this and a community theatre production is that Hale actually pays the performers, which gives them some incentive to actually show up and put forth effort. According to the audition application you were paid either by being single cast (you perform every day) where you get paid $30 a show or double cast (you perform every other day) where you get paid $20 a show. You also apparently get paid 200-300 dollars for rehearsals so if you are commuting across the valley this severance would almost cover the cost of gas to get there.  Since you are being paid for the show they also want to know every obligation you have between applying and closing night. They had a calendar attached to every application and you had to mark all the days and times you would be unavailable. They encourage you to show up 15 minutes prior to your audition time to fill out the application and calendar. 

The actual audition: this was the best part. After I had filled out the audition application, the audition usher stapled my resume and glamor head shot to the back of the application and immediately whisked me in early to the room to audition in front of the production staff (apparently they were insanely ahead of schedule). Have you ever seen the Orem Hale Center Theatre building?  It’s ghetto! It looks like it’s ready to fall in on itself. To audition you had to enter through the back door leading to the basement. The actual room where we all auditioned was--get this--a walk-in costume closet! I kid you not! They led me in through a plywood closet door and there in the room, huddled snuggly around a card table, was the director and five of his production staff. Next to them was a nice little lady on a cheap looking Kawasaki keyboard who was supposed to accompany you in your musical number.  I gave my sheet music to the pianist. My piece was a the first 16 measures to “Seize the Day” from Newsies. Everyone said nothing, they just stared at me. I introduced myself and that I was a first time auditioner for Hale (which is probably what killed my chances) and I announced my piece. I performed my song with gusto and they said nothing. I asked is that it? The director said, "Yes, thank you. You can leave now." I heard someone comment as I left, “He has a high range.” The application specifically said to not contact them after the audition and that they will contact you if they need you. I was never called back and frankly, I’m glad. That would be a lot of work for the whole summer.

What is your opinion about Hale Center Theatre in Orem? Do you think its ghetto?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Laden

There have been a lot of rumors about what actually happened on May 2, 2011, the day Osama Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan. I am one of the biggest skeptics over that report mostly because of the stories that were leaking out that sounded so bogus (like how he used a wife as a shield in a serious bloody gun fight with the navy seals.) Once I heard that a former Navy SEAL who was actually in that mission wrote a book on what happened that day, I was anxious to read it. 

Because this whole ordeal is so confidential, it's difficult to wade through the rumors of Bin Laden’s declining health since 1998, being in possession of his body, and dumping it in the Arabian Sea. An autopsy (if one was even done), was not done well before they dumped the body. Any pictures of the body are not being released to the public. We know for a fact that the seals did invade the compound in Pakistan, another fact is they killed all the men living there and drug one off that they claimed was Bin Laden.  Because there is no solid proof that they actually shot Bin Laden and because everyone involved in the mission prefers to not identify themselves, anybody can say anything they want about it. That is why I am viewing this book as just another story from a bad writer.

No Easy Day, by Mark Owen is a Navy SEAL's firsthand account at being present when his team besieged Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan and killed this famous terrorist. The author leaves a note at the beginning of the book claiming that he has changed the names of all of the people involved in this mission to protect them. He claimed he even masked his own identity in this story. He said that he went to see a military attorney to make sure that his book wouldn't comprise any special artillery, tactics and ongoing missions that would reveal any information to the unseen enemy. Owen’s personal account of the mission contradicts the above-mentioned rumors by saying that Bin Laden did not put up a fight, he was unarmed and he stuck his head out of his bedroom and one of the SEALs shot him in the head.

This book was an easy read. I blew through its 300 pages in short time. You can tell the author is not a professional writer. The protagonist is an Alaskan redneck that was raised with a gun, and to his parents' chagrin has always dreamed of joining the military. His rise in training and military politics in becoming a special team in the navy SEALs gets repetitive and boring in some spots. His character seemed almost the typical male-Hollywood-action-cardboard-cut-out hero that most men have when writing.

If you’re big into books about military this might be for you. He even listed some charities at the end of the book that you can donate to the poor starving retired navy SEALs…of which he is one.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Thanksgiving Point Half Marathon results:

Thanksgiving Point Half Marathon complications:
  1. Unknown illness: I have been fighting a sore throat and overall lack of physical energy for the last week and a half
  2. Unknown terrain: there were multiple steep hills as well as thick and deep mud (groundskeeper forgot to turn off the sprinkler)
  3. Hydration: this is my biggest trial in long-distance running because if I don’t hydrate myself enough my joints will ache, if I hydrate too much then I have to pee too soon
  4. Cramps: I got severe cramps in my legs and back

The race started bright and early at 7 in the morning. Luckily this was the first weekend in long time when the weather was pleasant. To treat complication number one I gorged myself on all sorts of protein, vitamin C, and energy drinks to help muster whatever fuel I had left in me.
We started the race with a moment of silence for the Boston Marathon bombing victims, I was surprised to not see heightened security equivalent to TSA before I entered the starting line. I guess they trust us… or they don’t think a half marathon is popular enough for security of that caliber.
The starting gunshot went off and we all had to walk until we had crossed the narrow blue mat under the starting line.
I started off with a great pace at about 8.5 minutes a mile, which I kept up for the first 10.3 miles of the 13.1 mile race. Then, complications 2, 3, and 4 hit me. I went down to a sluggish 10.45 minutes a mile. I walked about 3 of the miles. I got some laughs when I searched the golf course for a bathroom to relieve a sloshy bladder. I don’t know if you have ever had Gatorade before but the stuff immediately goes right through me. Because of the complications I had in training week 6, I made sure to hydrate myself at every station.
The overall race was beautiful. I got to see the sun come up, and the course took us through the entire Thanksgiving Point Park and attractions (that’s a great marketing scheme). My own personal criticisms about the course are that I hate multiple suddenly steep hills, and it had too many switchbacks.
My own personal goals for this race were:
  1. Don’t stop running
  2. Don’t be the last one to cross the finish line
  3. Don’t be so slow that they have already turned off the clock and shut down the spectacle at the finish line
  4. No matter what happens, finish the race
Because of complications I was not able to make the first goal, but I luckily made the rest. Out of 911 recorded runners, I came in at 556. They stopped the clock with the 836th runner just a few seconds short of 4 hours.

Included with my hefty race admission fee were two free all-day passes to everything Thanksgiving Point has to offer. We took my daughter to see the barn animals at the petting zoo, and then we went to enjoy the beauty of the Tulip Festival. A little after 12 o’clock at about an hour after the race had ended I heard cheering from one person as another runner came in to complete his race at the finish line as if it had still been there.
People have asked me if I will run any more races. We shall see after I have recovered from this one. At this point in time I don’t think I am ready for a full marathon. Like on the biggest loser I can walk and eventually complete a marathon 24 hours later but what’s the point in that? I love running but I hate being stuck to a strict running/training schedule. I will sit on this for a while and research more about training for long distance running before I attempt another half marathon. I still finished, and the cheers from the crowd as you cross the finish line is an indescribable feeling. I guess the glorious feeling of accomplishment outweighs the pain and exhaustion in the journey.