Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: A Retrospective

Since 2010 just ended, I thought it would be appropriate to write a summary about how I felt the year went and my goals for 2011. I will resume my year end countdown lists next week. And, in order to not be too redundant, I won't specifically talk too much about the best experiences I had this year since that will be featured in a top ten list next week. But, I will talk about many of them generally because they played such a big part in my year. Here are my thoughts on 2010...

I think this has been one of the most challenging years of my life, and largely I feel I failed the challenge. Right at the beginning of the year, my girlfriend broke up with me. This was an extremely difficult thing for me to get through. I don't deal with rejection well and for the first couple months of the year I was depressed, thinking about my now ex-girlfriend. In a lot of ways, it cast a shadow on all the events that occurred throughout the first few months of this year. But, there was some good that came out of it. I was happy that I was able to stay good friends with the girl who broke up with me. I don't hold any grudge against her at all. I realize that I wasn't the best boyfriend ever since it was all new to me. What made it all hard was the fact that I'm still not sure what it was that caused the breakup. But, it is in the past now, and is best not to dwell on.

Beyond that, I was able to finish my time at BYU strong with a 4.0 GPA for my final semester. I had some great experiences with my classes and great experiences with Kevin. He really came through for me and helped me get over my depression. We did a lot of things that last semester that we had always talked about the entire time we were in college. I was proud of myself for being able to graduate. It was a great event and even my grandparents were able to attend.

Over the summer I stayed in Utah looking for work. I feel bad because I wasn't able to find work, but I did have some great times with Kevin and some great visits back home to California. It was the last time Kevin and I would get to really spend a lot of time hanging out and I feel that we made the most of it. After the summer was over and I still didn't have a job, it was decided that I would go back home to California and look for work there. It was sad to leave Utah since I grew to love it and had lots of friends there. But, it was really great to come back home and spend time with family since I had largely been away from home for college and my mission for the past six years.

I still wasn't able to find a job when I was home but I did start working with my dad. My dad is a band leader, so I would go and help him pack up all his heavy equipment. Beyond that I was able to really further develop my love for writing. I was able to finish my first novel that I've been working on and have really developed a passion for it. I am hoping that some day that I can use that passion in a career.

So, in summary, this year was plagued by two major disappointments. They were, first my girlfriend breaking up with me and second my difficulty in finding a job post-graduation. But, there were lots of great things as well including graduating from BYU, finishing my first novel and getting to spend real quality time with my friend, Kevin, and with my family. So, it wasn't my favorite year thus far in my life, but there is still a lot to be grateful for and memorable experiences that I will cherish.

For 2011, I have three main goals. The first is to finally find a job. I need to learn more about how to be able to find a job and not be scared to do whatever is required. I have faith that I will find something. The second goal is to lose weight. I am very committed to starting a system of exercise and eating right. The third and final goal is to start a rigorous schedule of writing and reading. I really learned this past year that writing is my main passion, so, in order to develop it I need to write regularly. And, to become a better writer, I need to read more as well. So, I haven't decided completely what this new schedule will be, but it'll involve setting aside time every day for writing and reading.

So, I hope for a great 2011 where I can really accomplish my goals and work on my many weaknesses. I'm excited and hopeful!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Top Ten TV Series of 2010

Ok, I'll admit it, I like TV. I enjoy a lot of different shows in several different genres. So, I thought I would give my top ten shows of 2010 to catalog my year in TV watching. I feel that TV at its best can be creative, entertaining, and showcase genuine human emotions. Just like a good book or good music, TV done well can really be enlightening. And, of course there are other shows that are just good entertainment. With this list, I've decided to restrict it to the new episodes that aired in 2010. I really got into Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel this year, but since they are old shows that I watched on DVD, I'm not going to count them on this list. I loved watching several classic episodes of The Office, but thought their new episodes this year were not quite up to the same caliber, so that show isn't included. I hope that clears up the list!

(WARNING: There are spoilers throughout this list, so don't read my description of each show unless you're caught up or you never plan on watching it.)

10. Flashforward
This sci-fi show only lasted one season, but I thought it was really well done during that season, especially the second half that aired at the beginning of the year. There were many compelling mysteries and fascinating characters (including Simon played by Dominic Monaghan). The finale was especially good when we finally got to see the flashforward play out in real time where certain things people had seen from their future came true exactly, but many were different than they expected. There was a cool question running through the show if we can change our future or if it is set in stone. Unfortunately this great little show was canceled, but I won't forget what I consider an excellent season of TV.

9. Chuck
Chuck was a new show I discovered this year. After always being intrigued because it came on right before Heroes, I decided to finally rent the first season on netflix. What followed was an extremely entertaining spy comedy featuring a very likable and relatable lead character. This latest season is keeping the quality up to the same level as always with a great new character of Chuck's mom played by the original Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton). I really love the dynamic of this group and seeing to relationship of Chuck and Sarah develop. This show is just too much fun!

8. Community
Ok, this is a very recent addiction of mine. This is the epitome of fun TV. It is hilariously funny and the characters all play off of each other brilliantly. It is often absurd and ridiculous, but that is all part of the fun. I really have only watched the last few episodes of season 2, but I can already tell this show is going to have a place in my heart. It can often also be oddly heartwarming. In a recent episode, a character was celebrating his 21st birthday in a bar so he could have his first drink. After seeing all his other friends acting horribly under the influence of alcohol, he decides to forgo the drink and just take everybody home. A simple but important message that I was surprised to see on network TV. I can't wait to catch up on all the episodes I haven't seen yet!

7. Glee
This is my guilty pleasure show. Anyone who knows me would not predict that I would like this show. But, there is just something so contagious and fun about it. I love the musical numbers and the diversity of the cast. I love the quirky humor that is constant throughout every episode. Sue Sylvester is an absolute classic TV character and oftentimes there is a lesson to be learned. I'll admit that recently Glee has been straddling the line a little too much between appropriate and inappropriate. But, the majority of new episodes that aired this year were glee-ful fun for me.

6. Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains
Survivor is my absolute favorite reality show and this may be my favorite all time Survivor season. There was just so much to love about it. The battle between Russell and Rob. Parvati giving out not one by two hidden immunity idols during tribal council to protect her alliance. J.T. giving away his hidden immunity idol to the absolute last person you'd ever want to do that to- Russell. It was all awesome and ended fairly satisfying with a final three that all deserved to win. The current Survivor season has been a little disappointing, but Heroes Vs. Villians was a great example of why I love Survivor so much.

5. Modern Family
Absolutely the best comedy on television right now. Somehow this show is able to really accurately portray real family issues. It can be hilariously funny at one moment and then heartfelt and poignant the next. What places this show so high for me on the list is that I was able to get my family into this show. It is often hard for me to convince my family to watch a new show (they always say they already have too many shows to watch), but they took a chance on this and now I'd say it is our number 1 family show. There are so many memorable moments, so it is impossible to list them out here. But, every one of the three little families focused on in this show has their moments. Brilliant comedy.

4. The Walking Dead
This is a new show I discovered when there was some buzz about it around Halloween. I decided to give the pilot episode a chance even though I'm not a big horror or zombie fan. What followed was one of the most compelling and interesting hours of television I have ever watched. Beyond all the gory zombies, this show centers on a group of survivors who are trying to figure out how to get by in the worst of circumstances. There are satisfying twists, multi dimensional characters, and fantastic visuals. It feels as if you are watching a movie. I was able to get my dad and sister hooked on this and the first season (only six episodes!) was truly awesome. I can't wait for more next year.

3. Dexter
Season 4 of Dexter is one of the best seasons of TV ever. So, it was always going to be a challenge to have a successful season 5. I'll admit that season 5 did not reach the brilliance of season 4, but it still left me on the edge of my chair. I loved the character of Lumen and the complicated relationship she has with Dexter. Deborah also had a really great season, culminating in almost finding out about her brother's true nature. I felt the season was very satisfying and I can't wait for what they'll do in the next season!

2. Fringe
This is such an awesome show! I started watching in season 1, but didn't really get hooked. But, over the summer I decided to pick up the second season, and I was blown away. This is one of the best sci-fi shows ever made. The current third season is the best season so far. The alternate world storyline is so interesting and compelling. I love all three of the main characters and I love the versions of them in the alternate world and the little differences in the alternate world. There is a real heart to the show as well, and it is fascinating to see what unique cases they will deal with next. I am absolutely in love with this show and will be heart broken if it gets canceled.

1. Lost
There are no words to describe how perfect I think this show is. Lost will forever be my all-time favorite show. What really makes it so great, I think, are the characters. This is the best cast ever assembled. Getting a look into their characters through flashbacks was an incredible way of really connecting to them. Yes, there is a lot of incredible plot twists and great island mythology that is really fun to think and theorize about. But, in the end, it was all about the characters and how the show was a significant journey for them. The most important part of their lives was the time they spent together and so they move on to the next life together. It was a poignant and moving ending, and I was literally in tears throughout the whole finale. Absolutely perfect in every way.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Upcoming Year End Lists

I know it has been a little while since I've written in this blog and I apologize. But, I have made some progress in my new writing project, tentatively titled "The Chosen." I have a good direction for it now rather than just a vague premise, so that really helps as I write it. The only thing I'm not sure about is where I want to end the book. Originally I wanted the book to work as a stand alone novel with potential for a sequel if it did well. But, I have so many ideas, it is going to be hard to put them all in just one book. So, I think I'm just going to keep writing and see where it ends up naturally. It should be a fun process.

Other than that, there isn't much else to report. Over the next couple weeks, I'm going to start coming out with my year end lists. What I mean by that, is lists that showcase my top 10 (or top 5) of certain things from throughout the year. I like making lists ranking my favorites, and I feel it is a fun way to review the year. So, the four categories (and I may add more) are going to be: albums, TV, movies, and life experiences. It should be fun and will give you a look into the things I loved this year.

So, that is about it for now! I hope to start posting these lists soon, so look out for that. And, I hope that everybody can enjoy this holiday season, I'm really starting to get into the spirit of it!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New Writing Project

I don't know why, but I felt inspired to start writing another book. A flood of new ideas came to me and I just can't help but start to write it. So, I have added a third progress bar on the top right corner of this blog. I'm not sure yet how I'm going to divide my time between the three projects. My hope is that having so many different projects going on will help make sure that I'm not bored with any particular project. We'll see how this goes. It is possible that after a while I'll decide that I don't want to work on this particular novel right now, and I'll put it aside for a while. But, I believe if I'm excited about an idea, I should pursue it while I'm excited about it. But, I believe I will draw the line at three. Any more writing projects at the same time will probably be overkill.

I don't want to say too much about this new project at this time. Partly because I like keeping it a mystery, but also because it is still in its early stages so everything about it is subject to change. I am calling it "The Chosen" for now, but even that title might change. This new book is specifically being written with a Young Adult audience in mind (roughly those from age 13-17). I feel one of the biggest flaws of my Avaria books is that I wrote it only for myself. I didn't really think of what age group might like it or how I might be able to market it. So, since I'm getting more serious about wanting to be published, I've decided that I need to write a book for a specific type of audience.

All I can really say at the moment is that the book will follow a young man named Thomas. He finds out that he is being tested for something, but he has no idea what it is. So, he must survive these brutal tests as he tries to figure out who is responsible for giving him these tests and for what purpose he is being tested. The book will take place in modern day America. It will be mostly a mystery thriller, with perhaps some fantasy/science fiction elements. It should be fun. I know that description is vague and could probably describe several other stories, but I don't want to give too much away yet. I just want to say that I'm very excited about it, and perhaps I'll give more information about it on a later date.

Album Review: Moon Safari- Lover's End

I posted this review on but figured there may be some who don't go on that website and could still benefit from reading this review. Even though this is a progressive rock album, I recommend it to all people who love music. So, here is the review:

Every once and a while I get an album that completely captivates me. An album that I feel was made especially for me. An album that touches me deeply to my very soul. Lover's End by Moon Safari is that album. Since I received it, I have continued to play it constantly, and I am still playing it even now. Every thing about it is perfect to me. I haven't been this touched by music in a long time. Because of this reaction, it is hard for me to read some of the more negative reviews. I just find it hard to believe that people can't instantly hear the beauty of this album. In a way I feel sorry for them because they are missing out on something truly special.

Moon Safari is a band I have grown to love the past few years. I felt that there was something special on their debut album, "A Doorway To Summer," but that they still had a ways to go before perfecting their sound. The sound quality of that album was not great, and I felt the album missed a little bit of a bite. "Blomljud" was definitely a step in the right direction and was one of my favorite albums of that year. I did feel, however, that maybe "Blomljud" was just a little too long and could have benefited from some trimming.

But, in my opinion, with Lover's End, Moon Safari have perfected their sound. The sound quality is great and the album is the perfect length where every song is a highlight. Every moment of this album is beautiful. I tear up every time I listen to it because I can't believe the pure majestic beauty I am hearing. The instrumentation is wonderful. There is a wealth of great piano/keyboard melodies and solos. There is wonderful acoustic guitar moments and electric and slide guitar solos. The drums and bass provide a solid backbeat. But, what truly makes this music transcend is the impeccable vocal harmonies. In many ways, I feel that Moon Safari could be a fantastic a capella group because their singing is just perfect. The vocal arrangements are mind-blowing and leave me speechless. I have a soft-spot for these types of harmonies, so hearing them so perfectly executed brings the music to a whole new level for me.

Like I said before, every song is a highlight. The album begins with the wonderful "Lover's End Pt. 1" that really sets the stage nicely for the progressive feast that is about to come. "A Kid Called Panic" is one of the greatest prog songs of all time. It moves along seamlessly with a chorus that is to die for. After a fantastic instrumental powerhouse section, there is some beautiful piano playing with some of the best singing on the record. It is a glorious song. Then, we move to the pure beauty of "Southern Belle." It starts with an indescribably beautiful a capella section before the beautiful piano comes in and a beautiful melody is sung on top of it with more incredible harmonies.

"The World's Best Dreamers" is just more of the same beauty on display. Great vocal harmonies on top of a great symphonic prog instrumentation. The band has some fun with the brilliant "New York City Summergirl" which effectively evokes an American feel through some more great vocal arrangements and more of a pop prog arrangement. "Heartland" is pure symphonic prog at it's best with some great keyboard playing. "Crossing The Rubycon" is definitely a highlight of the album with some great acoustic guitars, more amazing harmonies, and some of the most majestic music I have ever heard. "Lover's End Pt. 2" is a great epilogue of sorts that wraps up the album with a great Beatles-esque vocal section.

My descriptions don't do it justice. This album is pure beauty. A fantastic blend of symphonic prog and impeccable vocal harmonies. This is a special band and they have created their first masterpiece. From start to finish I am captivated and have tears in my eyes. This is the music I was meant to listen to. I am so grateful to the band for this gift that they have given me. I will cherish this album for the rest of my life. I strongly recommend it to all music lovers.