Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Summer of Star Wars

I wanted to add my voice commemorating the release of Star Wars, one of the single biggest events to have an impact in my life. I also wanted to delay this posting past the 5-25-77 milestone because in 1977 I was just approaching 10 years old, and there was quite a bit of discussion as to whether I would be allowed to see the movie. You see, this movie was rated ‘PG’ and I hadn’t ever been witness to the horrors of anything outside the ‘G’ rating.

I wasn’t taken to see the movie until after most of my friends had seen it a few times. In fact, I don’t believe I saw the film until late in July or early August, but my memory on this is hazy. I also don’t remember how I came to be aware of Star Wars, I just know that at some point I became obsessed. I read everything I could get my hands on about it. I distinctly remember picking up the Readers Digest that had Star Wars on the cover and reading everything it had to say about it with great relish. I knew the whole story before I ever saw it. It seemed that hardly a day went by that there wasn’t some sort of avid discussion somewhere in the neighborhood about hyperspace and light sabers. This was in the time before SPOILERS and we didn’t care.  I remember telling my parents that there was only a little blood in one scene where a walrus guy gets his arm cut off, but they don’t show the arm getting cut off, just laying on the floor. I’m not sure how this was supposed to help my argument. I’m sure my parents knew as much about the film as I did*, but they never gave me much reason to believe I was going to get to see the movie.

When the day finally came we went to the only place that it was playing locally, the Center Theater downtown. I couldn’t believe the size of the screen and how many people would fit in the audience. When we first see Princess Leia’s ship pass from overhead followed by Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer that just kept stretching on and on and on I was in total heaven. I had been a space nut ever since the NASA Apollo missions I watched as a wee tyke, and now it felt like I was really out there.

So many of my memories of the movie are still so vivid. I remember being really scared of Darth Vader as he strode about the wreckage of the opening battle and being afraid for Princess Leia as the floating interrogation droid floated into her cell. C3PO and R2-D2 falling away from the rebel ship in the escape pod is etched into my mind and the trading card of their pod falling towards Tatooine was always one of my favorites. The Millennium Falcon was the coolest spaceship I’d ever seen, easily supplanting the Space 1999 Eagle in my mind, but the TIE fighters were the ones that I really wanted to fly myself.

I’m sure it was the impressionable age at which I saw the film that cemented it as the high point of cinema for me as it did for many kids. It doesn’t really hold up to close inspection, as a magnificent film, but it is, still, probably the movie I’ve seen more than any other. The feeling that, just maybe, something could spirit me away from my dreary existence in a moment and catapult me into my destiny like Luke was a staple of my fantasies for so long. I spent hours explaining what was going on to a robotic figment of my imagination when I was trying to figure things out, although it was a cool robot like R2-D2, and most certainly not C3PO.

For some reason the subsequent movies** never really did much for me. I don’t know if it was because they couldn’t live up to the first-time experience of Star Wars, or if by the time the sequels rolled around I was so steeped in science fiction ala Battlestar Galactica, or Buck Rogers that my universe was getting crowded. I only just added Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi to my collection this year.*** They have some nice parts, but they just can’t match what I imagine was that particular Saturday afternoon in mid-to-late summer 1977.
* well, maybe not as much, but a reasonable amount.
** until Rogue One, but that’s another story
*** again, another story

The Songs hit Home

Sheryl Crow’s has been one of my favorite artists quite for some time. Much of her music really moves me and the lyrics are often spot on with feelings I have. She hits that connection I don’t often get  where I feel an artist is accurately expressing things I’ve experienced. The Red Hot Chili Peppers do it with “Soul to Squeeze”. Garbage does it with “Medication” on the 2.0 album. But Sheryl Crow knocks it down more often than any other single artist.

Unsurprisingly, songs that strike me are mostly explorations on feelings and usually have somewhat of a melancholy tone. A couple of Saturdays ago while going to finish firing the last kiln in Bountiful I was set for a moody song and iTunes obliged me as dawn was breaking over the mountains by serving up Sheryl Crow’s “Good is Good”. This is an odd one for me in that so many of the lines really score:

When your friends are gone
You thought were so worth keeping
You feel you don’t belong
And you don’t know why

and

She put your books out on the sidewalk
Now they’re blowing ’round
They won’t help you when you’re down

The one issue I’ve had with this particular song ever since the first time I heard it is with the part of the chorus that goes:

And everytime you hear the rolling thunder
You turn around before the lightening strikes

And the fact that lightning proceeds the thunder kind of grates on me, and I feel that it’s kind of the heart of the song. I’ve spent a long time thinking about it and I believe that I’m just being too literal. Maybe you turn away from the storm as it starts and avoid closer lightning. Maybe it’s just a song and I shouldn’t pick at nits. But that morning driving along the freeway, for the first time, the unordered sequence didn’t seem to matter and I just soaked up the rest of the chorus.

And does it ever make you stop and wonder
If all your good times pass you by

The video for Good is Good

The Tale of the Ugly Pot

ugly_sm

Once upon a time somebody didn’t listen to the instructions on how to make a pinch pot. They further didn’t listen to the suggestions on what needed to be done to make it eligible to be worthy of being graded, much less fired. This pot ended up on the reject shelf and abandoned by it’s student creator. It failed on so many levels it was kept around for a couple semesters as an anonymous example of what not to do. One day I thought it would be funny to scratch my name into the bottom of this weighty clay monstrosity. Eventually one semester I was helping with a new class of students learning beginning hand-built pottery. As it happened this more-than-humble-pot was being used as an example and Diane, the instructor, said, “I don’t even know who made this pot,” and glanced at the bottom. She immediately looked at me with a stern look, and exclaimed, “You did not make this pot!”

This got a good laugh from the class.

After a few more semesters went by John, Diane’s husband and the wheel throwing instructor at the time, became concerned that people might see this pot on the shelves and not realize that it was a warning and not an ideal, so the pot was decorated with a marker to warn people that this was not to be emulated.

Now this was in the long, long ago, and more than a decade has gone by. The pot is no longer used as an example of what not to do, but simply stayed on a little corner of a shelf with the visible warning. Today, as the last of the remaining ware was being disposed of, Diane brought this pot to me and said that she thought I should have it.

I wonder how long it will clutter my studio before it meets an apt ending.

Smooth Sailing Just Over the Horizon

Today was my last firing of the last kiln load at the Stoker School, the ceramics studio at the Bountiful extension of the University of Utah. It was mostly my work with some of Chuck’s large pieces. His last work, too. I’ve been there more than 20 years, learning and helping teach beginning students along the way. I’ve written about it before, and I’ll probably mention it a few more times. It had a real, and significant, effect on my life.

Before sunrise, with pink clouds and a stiff East wind, I drove the automatic path I’ve worn into I-15. I was mentally cataloging all the ‘havetas’ that are coming sown the pipeline. Summer has, for a couple decades, given me an extra evening as I don’t often help with classes in the summer. I started thinking about the things I might be able to get done with an extra night a week with no responsibilities at the studio. No more, ever. I started to think of adult life as being a juggler. You start off by keeping two objects in the air at once. Then three, and maybe a fourth. Then someone tosses you an egg, or maybe a live mouse. You begin to sweat it a bit. The stress goes up, but just when you are getting the hang of it, or maybe successfully tossing the egg of to an audience member someone throws you a running chainsaw.

I’m always looking at the horizon. The place where I can see the opportunity to hand off the mouse and maybe catch a ball on one foot things will get easy. After Christmas, once we get the party behind us, when class finishes, then! But the holidays go by and when you’re finishing washing the dishes after the reunion and are ready to breathe that sigh of relief, something else appears at the skyline approaching with purpose.

Adult life is just taking these new things and thinking, well, it’s a plate spinning on a stick, but if I put it on my chin I can probably still keep these balls floating on, and it will be a good show. There really isn’t any end to it, or even much respite. But seriously, if we think about it, there are probably a few spinning plates that if you go goggle-eyed, shake your head, and mug for the audience, nobody would think ill of you. You might even get a laugh.

Of course, you don’t get to defer choosing everything that comes your way. Sometimes you have to take the chainsaw, sometimes you even have to drop the egg to do it. But I believe you should always try to do it in a way that gets a laugh from the audience .

Vacation Arrival

Greetings from Arizona. I’m trying something new, so this should be a short one. Debbie, Kayla, and I thought we would take a week and come down to Phoenix to attend her brothers wedding, and make a vacation of it sitting by the pool relaxing and not doing much for the rest of the week in one of our resort vacation places.  We’ve talked about taking relaxing vacations before, but we always end up cramming so much in that there isn’t usually much relaxing going on.

I had the brilliant idea that I should take along my wireless keyboard and try to do some writing on the iPad (that I’m using now) as I’m without an actual laptop at this time. It was a good idea for a test, but it never made it into my bag. So far writing isn’t too bad hunt-and-peck style, but it is slow. I’ve got a new idea burning through my mind and I’d like to have some time to start in on it when I don’t have the usual distractions and duties that seem to so easily pull me away from accomplishing anything.  I may have to bust out Monday and see what I can find locally, but I’m afraid I’ll end up with a chromebook.*

The trip down was nice, we took the scenic route down through Kanab, and stopped in at the Glen Canyon Dam visitors center.** We had some good Mexican food for lunch in Paige and pushed on through to Phoenix. In all it was about an 11 hour trip. It’s the first road test of the new vehicle, and I was pretty pleased, but I’m obsessing a bit much over the predicted milage and mpg calculations on the dash. *** Upon arrival, and after checking in at the hotel we had to meet up with my brother-in-law and make some wedding assistance arrangements. We finally got back to the condo around 10:00 tired and hungry having had no time for dinner. It was way too late for me to eat and still be able to sleep, and deciding I wanted sleep more than anything I finally got to bed.

There is a bird in Phoenix that sounds like a cross between a rooster and a howler monkey . Actually, there seems to be a lot of them. Either that or they vacation in the same place I do. In any case they woke me up early. I stubbornly kept going back to sleep until rather late in the morning, but was still pretty punked when it came time to leave for the wedding and I’d not managed to get anything to eat, either.

The wedding was nice, as far as this introvert could see, and people seemed to be having a good time. I survived  enough for the time of sustenance to arrive and had a good dinner. Shortly after eating I got up to go outside to get away from the noise and see what my wife was up to. On the way, a man I hadn’t met who was either with the bride’s party, or with the reception hall, stopped me to ask if I was ok. He said he’d noticed me kind of withdrawn earlier with my head hanging down. In truth, I was probably just surreptitiously checking my phone, but I was kind of out of it, and I think I give off that vibe when I’m in a crowd.

I was really struck by his  kindness and concern. When I notice similar circumstances I find it very hard to make that kind of inquiry, mostly, I think, it’s more of a fear of prying in on someone’s personal space than anything else, but I don’t think I really should be afraid of that. I didn’t particularly want to be bothered, but I stopped and tried to let him know it had just been a long couple of days. Given my insular nature, I’m not sure if I can really change, but I’d like to give it a try.

*which wouldn’t be bad, I want one, I just don’t need one, really.

** Sparking the inevitable “Those Dam <something related to the reservoir>” jokes

*** 24 mpg-ish at 65mph. 21 at 83mph

Movie Mosts

In an effort to put off any real writing creativity, I give you a social media movie survey. In some cases 2nd favorites got listed to avoid duplicates that fit better in other categories.

Most Hated Movie: Barton Fink
Movie I Think Is Overrated: Avatar
Movie I Think Is Underrated: 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Movie I Love: Mad Max: Fury Road
Movie I Secretly Love: None, I’ll openly profess my love
Favorite Action Movie: Aliens
Favorite Christmas Movie: Die Hard
Favorite Drama Movie: Stranger Than Fiction
Favorite Western Movie: El Dorado
Favorite Horror Movie: The Changeling
Favorite Comedy Movie: Monty Pythons Life of Brian
Favorite Disney Movie: Rogue One (it counts as Disney, right?)
Favorite Science Fiction Movie: Blade Runner
Favorite Animated Movie: Lilo and Stitch
Favorite Superhero Movie: Captain America: Winter Soldier
Favorite Musical: Paint Your Wagon
Favorite Bad Movie: Mad Dog Time
Childhood Favorite: Star Wars
Favorite Franchise: The Marvel Universe movies
Best Trilogy: The Matrix (yes, I’m one of them…)
Guilty Pleasure: Streets of Fire
Favorite Movie This Year So Far:  Moana
Movie I Have Recently Seen: Lady in Gold
What I Thought of It: Very nice, but disheartening in its current cultural relevance.
Favorite Movie of All Time: Casablanca, I know it seems cliché to say, but it is my favorite movie.

Spring, when a man’s heart turns to his shop…

shop

It’s warming up outside and I’ve ventured into my studio for a couple times recently. This weekend I may even turn the water back on. I doubt it will freeze hard enough to have to worry about the pipes. At least not enough to worry hard. I’ve had ideas festering all winter long about what I need to do. I’ve been cursing myself since I ‘moved in’ that I didn’t epoxy the floor before I got started. I think I can move everything out of the back third and at least do the floor on the ceramics end before production starts this spring. That’s the goal at least. But there’s other things, too. My sink is too big and wastes a lot of space. I’m going to sell it on KSL and downgrade to something more reasonable. I’m probably going to get rid of the table my drill press is on and put three or four tools in that place that mostly live on shelves. There’s too many ideas.

Part of the excessive ideas problem is I’ve been spending a lot of time binge watching Adam Savage videos on YouTube. This particular one was motivating/damaging me towards a bigger restructuring of the studio space.

I like the idea of not sorting through drawers for tools, and building something like this would probably let me get rid of a couple of tool boxes, including a big standing one so there would be a net gain in space. Except, maybe, for the fact that it would inspire me to collect more tools to fill it up.

I’m also downgrading my sink from the huge stainless monstrosity that seems to have the primary function of collecting dead wasps and spiders to a ringer washer that came with the house. I admit that part of the force behind the change is to see if I can make the ringer work.

The real crux of this movement came when I realized I probably had one work table too many. I have the big welded steel wedging table I made with a top of 300 pounds of canvas covered plaster that would probably do me as a main table, but that leaves me with the task of getting rid of the lighter work table. And that work table was given to me by one of my mentors, John Shaw. And so I’m emotionally attached to the table. I know I’m attached. I know he was throwing it out when he gave it to me as a struggling student living in a crappy little apartment. I know I had to cut down two of the legs an inch to get it into the room in my apartment, and that it still sits on the cut off stumps to keep it nearly level. It was hard enough to get rid of the old, tattered canvas that used to top it. The one where John wrote, “Erik owns me now” in black sharpie marker and told me to take it home.

I’m really not very sentimental, so I don’t know why I’m that attached. Maybe it’s because our old studio in Bountiful is months away from getting torn down. Maybe it’s because I know that I’m not very good at keeping up relationships and without the studio as an excuse I might very well be able to count the times I see John again on my fingers. That really bothers me, and so far I really don’t have any answers.

A Windmill in Every Pot at which to Tilt

I have to confess, I do occasionally laugh at some of the ‘tiny hands’ Trump jokes, but it is simply the same body shaming method that so often is derided here on social media and in other circles. If you’re against ridiculing people for such things you ought to be against making/sharing those jokes despite the fact that you dislike the policies or practices of the Donald. The real reason this joke persists, though, is that he finds them offensive enough to have tried to counter perceived insults in the past, empowering his ridiculer’s with ammunition to continue.
Now, I also have small hands, but I see it as a benefit for a lot of the things I do. I can more easily create smaller pieces of pottery and manipulate more delicate tools. I always find gloves in my size. Because I am aware of this (actual) fact I can laugh at things that I find difficult because of their size. I’ll never play the guitar or piano easily, I just can’t reach because of my insignificant digits. My feelings about my tiny hands empowers nobody but me.
The insecurities of our newly minted president will be a valid issue throughout his term. I believe he doesn’t have what it takes in several areas to be an effective or even adequate leader. I also believe that the issues he has with his insecurity are already proving to be a rather large handicap. I am a firm believer in equality for all people. That includes pompous celebrities as well as the every man. I believe that we should “do unto others” and I believe that acting civil can give you the higher ground, or at least not drop you down to a baser level. The people that used epithets like “Obummer” instead of our previous president’s name immediately dropped any argument they made from getting my serious consideration. I think a similar level of discourse towards Trump has the same effect on me.
I do not believe that the manner in which Donald Trump presents himself and his public behaviour has earned him any respect from me. His name is one of many on my list of people who show themselves as undeserving of admiration. Until he does something worthy of my respect I will not be supporting those actions which I see as being detrimental to us as citizens, or to the well being of our country, and to the security of mankind in the world. I do have respect for the office of The President of the United States, but that doesn’t automatically flow to the person holding the office, and until such time as the occupant of that office makes positive change I will stand with those who demand change.

And Boom Goes the Pickup

truck_wreck

I had a bit of an accident this evening, and despite the relatively mild consequences, I can’t slow my brain down enough to stay in bed yet.

I left work five minutes early to get a jump on the evening. I’m usually in at least ten minutes early, but try to not be visible cutting out before the whistle blows. Only I had things to do tonight, and while I wasn’t looking forward to the evening, I figured I needed to make some time to grab a bite first. I got to the intersection at 21st South and 13th East fairly quickly. Traffic wasn’t too bad and the snow was just dusting down. I pulled into the intersection to turn West onto 21st South and waited for the inevitable turning of the light to red to finally allow me to proceed. Traffic, you know. The light went yellow and I took my foot off the brake pedal. I watched the oncoming car slow and stop and I hit the gas to get through the light that had turned red, only out from the occultation of the car I watched come to a halt shot a little silver meteor of a car. In a brief second I thought, “I hope they’re not planning on turning into my lane”, thinking that it was going to turn right onto the two lane street I was aiming for. Only it didn’t turn at all, but plowed directly into the front passenger side wheel, grinding clear across the grill of my truck and ending up coming to rest lamely in front of me. It was one of those slow moment things where I had time to think of so many things.

“Where did she come from?”
“What did she think she was doing?”
“Why didn’t I stop at Taco Bell?”

I sat there for a minute trying to remember where I had my last save point. I got out only to discover that there was a car rammed into the back of my pickup.

wreck2

The girl in the car that hit me from behind was pretty shaken, as was the one that came through the red light. The red-light-runner had a baby in the car. My heart sank. I got out my phone but my hands were shaking so bad I had a lot of trouble dialing the police. An unmarked police SUV pulled into the intersection and an off duty officer from Park City got out to check on everyone and said he’d called the Salt Lake Dispatch. After talking for a minute to the driver behind I walked around to the front. A guy who had been waiting to cross the street was making sure everyone was ok. He came and gave me his phone number, saying he wasn’t watching the lights, he was just focused on the crosswalk fixing to change, but would tell what he could. I picked up the large chunk of my front bumper that had my license plate still attached from the ground and tossed it in the bed of my truck. Another woman gave me her name and phone number. I paced back and forth in the snow a bit, painfully aware that we were impeding traffic across almost every lane.

I was glad nobody was hurt. I was amazed that no airbags had deployed. But my heart began to sink, because I’m a pessimist. I figured that it was probably going to work out that I was going to get the ticket for failing to yield. Ironically I had priced out new and used trucks earlier in the day and came to the conclusion that I couldn’t afford one, although I wasn’t sure if my ol’ beast would make it through the winter. Coincidentally, I had found the night before when clearing my desk, that I hadn’t put my new insurance card in my truck and had taken it out before I went to bed. Debbie had said I could just wait until morning, but I thought I would forget.

Time dragged on. Cars fought for position, attempting to merge or turn around the wreck against traffic to get on their way, beeping at each other, or maybe us. The temperature dropped. A fire engine showed up and purposefully blocked the intersection allowing fewer yahoo’s to skirt by on the wrong side of the wrecks. I had to sign a primitive digital tablet to the effect that I was ok to keep walking around in the frigid snowy drizzle and not be taken to a hospital. The firemen rode off to their next adventure as the police pulled up. I handed over my info and gave my side of the story. The officer seemed to not buy my (and the third party in the accident’s) story that the light was really red. I gave them the witnesses phone numbers. Another officer had the girl behind pull her car back and into the car wash parking lot. The tow truck drivers began to appear. I grabbed a couple items out of my vehicle. The officer that took my license brought it back and said that the woman who had given me her number was the woman who had stopped at the light. She said as she stopped (while the light was still yellow) the woman who hit me honked at her from behind, wheeled out from behind her and screeched into the intersection as it went red. The officer said he was giving the impatient woman the ticket due to her corroboration.

I was relieved that it wasn’t going to be my fault. And relieved that her and her husband who had shown up and given me several withering looks were not around. The officer dismissed me and I began to walk down the hill. I figured I’d have Debbie come get me, but I’d walk a bit so she didn’t have to get in the snarl of traffic. I dialed her up, and to my surprise she was just across the street from me coming to my rescue.

I’m in one of those places where I know there’s nothing I can do right now. I’m not worried, I have friends and family that are always right there to take care of me. They’re all the best. I’m not sure I let them know that enough, but I try. I’ll work something out with the car. I have to talk to the insurance first and look at the options, but I’m fairly sure the truck is totaled. It’s been in zombie mode for 4 or 5 years anyway. Avenues always seem to open up for me. I just saw the other day that with our last house payment we should be eligible to get the mortgage insurance dropped. That’s at least a third of a car payment there. Funny how my silver linings always seem to be a couple yards short of a first down, but it’s better than nothing.

The Reflective Season is Upon Me

bird - 1

Yesterday at work I took my usual afternoon break outside, ostensibly to stretch my legs and get away from my computer, but additionally to hit the pokestop across the street. It was surprisingly pleasant for the time of year and I lingered a little longer than I have been since the weather turned. I crossed the street and headed back to my office and found a small dead bird lying on the pavement. I was struck by its beauty and it made me a little sad that what appeared to be a healthy creature had probably succumbed to the cold. Naturally, I felt I ought to take a picture of it. A bicyclist was coming my way and I felt a little obnoxious as I stood in his path protecting the small body at my feet. I’m sure he didn’t see the bird and wondered why I was just standing there in his way. After he passed I crouched down and took the photo, but I couldn’t bring myself to just let the bird lie in the road. I picked it up gently and it was still very limp and must have only recently died. I wanted to take it back and bury it in the back of our parking lot where there are a lot of bushes, and flowers in the spring, but the ground is frozen and I didn’t have any means to accomplish anything appropriate. It struck me as many things do anymore as unfair, or at least needlessly unfortunate, but I know that’s the way of nature. I laid the body down on a clean patch of snow just away from the road, and went back to the office.

The rest of the afternoon I couldn’t really shake the memory of holding the little bird. I thought of when Stan the cat died in the driveway a few years ago and how Debbie and I held him one last time before burying him. I also thought of the death of Carrie Fisher and the pain of losing someone around Christmas. My Dad’s brother had died just after Christmas not many years ago, the same Christmas as a close member of my wife’s Mount Pleasant family. I make a joke that Debbie likes to watch the sad Christmas movies, generally referring to them as “Everybody Dies at Christmas”. To me they seem cloyingly heart-wringing in a melodramatic way that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but I try to be understanding of other peoples entertainment choices. Heaven knows I have my own cinematic guilty pleasures.

But this is a hard season for me, although when I stop and think about it, that isn’t unusual for any season anymore. Maybe that comes with age. When the memories you have  come back unbidden with every little neural nudge it’s hard not to be a little melancholy with memories, good and bad, that pile up over the years. Maybe with certain personalities like mine more than others. I guess the important part is not to dwell on the losses as much as the connections made in the times we have together. Now there’s a Hallmark sentiment if there ever was one. But melancholy as I may be, I do think I remember things fondly that happened, rather than dwell on the fact that they had an end.

And that little bird that came into my life as it left its own and sparked hours of contemplation on the nature of existence and our part in relating to those around us. None of us can see the extent of our influence, I only hope that I can see enough of myself to recognize when the things I do are not being beneficial, and hopefully change that.