Man’s Search for Happiness

Man’s Search For Happiness (1964). 13 min., sound, color. USA: Brigham Young University Motion Picture Studio, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

They don’t make them like this anymore. I came across this when I was a Mormon missionary, circa 2000.  It was dubbed onto an old VHS I found in a ward meetinghouse library in Reynoldsburg, OH.  I’ve never been able to find it again, but I recently was reminded of this movie and thought to check for it on online, and found it in seconds.  Weird to realize that in 2000 there was no such thing as finding or streaming a video online; now you can find almost anything.

The church remade this movie in the 80s and I think they still distribute that version, but it fails to match the weirdness and mystery that you will see here.  I love the surrealist/proto-psychedelic moments. To a 21st century father, the scenes of the birth and the babies in the hospital feel almost dystopic, but I guess that’s just how they did things back in the 1950s and 1960s in America.  There’s many other priceless moments, such as the awkwardness and bad acting of the old moustached guy as he is welcomed into the afterlife by his various kindred dead.

Plus, as weird as it all is, I think it’s also true.  I sometimes have a desire to be both ironic and sincere at the same time.  At no time is that feeling more relevant than as I watch this film.

Concerning Ice Cream Trucks

If an ice cream truck rolls up a residential street on a quiet Saturday Afternoon and no children run out to buy ice cream, it does still make a sound. And that sound is by turns nostalgic, melancholy, excruciatingly slow, and ultimately quite creepy. And now it’s stuck in my head.

Leave our kids alone, we’ve got all the ice cream we need around here.

RE: Rolling Blackouts

I realize in retrospect that my last post, although it made perfect sense to me, may have been slightly confusing without some context.

It was in fact a record review of sorts of the album Rolling Blackouts by Brighton, UK band The Go! Team.  However, I’m a little tired of/uninterested in writing traditional record reviews (see A Change in Focus), so instead I opted for a sort of extreme-reader-response criticism/fan fiction type of record review. I hope to do more such non-traditional record reviews in the future because they are a lot more fun for me than regular record reviews.  Besides, you can find good regular reviews all over the place, so why do I need to bother with them, too?

I also would like to state for the record that Rolling Blackouts isn’t anything like my favorite album of 2011 or anything; it’s just a record I had a quick desire to write about in this method.  I hope to add more “reviews” to the site, including those written about albums that actually are my most favorites, but we know I have a poor track record of providing steady content and publishing all the things I intend to publish. So, I still have to add this disclaimer about Rolling Blackouts in case I never getting around to posting about any other albums and in their absence it appears as if it is my ultimate all-time-favorite album because it’s the only one I’ve written and published about.

That is all.  Thank you for your time.  We now return to our regular Froz-T-Freez programming, still in progress.

Rolling Blackouts

A crew of high school cheerleaders find a vintage 1980s boombox underneath the bleachers, with a mixtape of old-school hip-hop auspiciously cued up in the deck. When one brave girl presses play, hoping it might be just what they need for their new routine, they are mystically transformed into The Go! Team, which is something like Charlie’s Angels and the A-Team put together, but even cooler; they vow to use their newfound powers to become great MCs and also save the school from lameness. To achieve their aims they join forces with the ‘60s pop-loving sophisticates of the rival school’s marching band, and together they conspire to hijack the big football game mid-play-mid-field with a guerrilla marching cheer block party. It was the best Homecoming ever, and also the best episode of Glee that I’ve never seen. Bethany “Best Coast” Consentino and Satomi “Deerhoof” Matsuzaki guest star.

The Go! Team – T.O.R.N.A.D.O. from memphis industries on Vimeo.

The Go! Team – Voice Yr Choice from memphis industries on Vimeo.

The Go! Team – Buy Nothing Day from memphis industries on Vimeo.

The Go! Team – Apollo Throwdown from memphis industries on Vimeo.

The Go! Team
Rolling Blackouts
Memphis Industries
Released: January 31, 2011

http://www.thegoteam.co.uk/

Mural on Outside South Wall of Java Cow Coffee, Park City, Utah

Banksy (British, 1973?- ). Untitled, 2010. Stenciled spray paint on stuccoed wall. Java Cow Coffee, Park City, Utah, USA.

A Change in Focus

A few weeks ago I had a realization: I haven’t been writing. To most people, this probably does not sound like a bad thing. But I’ve always felt like I have a talent for writing and a potential to do good things with it, and not following through on that is a kind of self-betrayal. This knowledge of my failure to write is always in the back of my mind, but my new realization/kick-in-the-pants came in part as I attended the BYU Symposium on Books for Young Readers and gained knowledge from the fabulous authors and illustrators that spoke there. Then, that Sunday in church the cognizance of my dereliction was again brought forward when my Primary co-teacher in our class of 10-11-year-old boys gave this lesson. The time had come to think seriously about writing again, and develop a plan.

As an undergraduate in college, I was somewhat sure that I would go forward to obtain an MFA and PhD in Creative Writing, and become a poet and college professor on some fine campus somewhere. Although I did well in creative writing in college, after graduating I failed to follow through on this goal. I didn’t make the networking connections I needed to make, and I didn’t say the right things politically that I needed to say, and I didn’t apply to enough schools, but far more essentially, I failed to follow through and continue writing poetry after graduation.

Later, while working as a substitute teacher in public education, I wrote myself halfway through a novel meant for middle grade readers, became frustrated and unsure of where I was going with it, and put it aside. I stopped writing again. In intervening years I’ve made a couple of abortive, guilt-ridden attempts to participate in NaNoWriMo that led only to stress and failure.

But I discovered blogging. I never was that great at it, from a standpoint of consistency, popularity, or monetization, but I did it occasionally. A couple of my blogs have come and gone before the establishment of this site, Josh’s Froz-T-Freez. One of my reasons for having this site is to provide myself a motivator to continue writing as well as a venue to share that writing. As it turns out, it only sort of works to these purposes. Although I don’t post regularly on this site (and although I do occasionally make these grand bogus claims that I am finally going to commence doing so), I still think about what I might post on here or hope to post on here a great deal. It takes up a significant piece of my mental life, even if it never converts to actual posts. My mind is filled with albums I feel I need to review, restaurants I want to visit or visit again and write about, mixtapes I want to put together, pictures to take, random ideas I would like to explore through essays, etc. All of this stuff, even if it’s only half-baked, half-finished, and never posted, still takes up a lot of time. It is also crippling in its failed ambition. Self-expectations that my site be filled with reviews that are thorough and comprehensive have prevented me from even posting so much as a list of my so-far-favorite albums of 2011. My idea of what would constitute a “written blog post” has become in my mind somewhat overblown and unwieldy to do on a regular basis, and because of that high expectation I rarely follow through.

As I considered my desires to write and my failures to do so, I began to question the amount of mental energy I devote to this oft-times derelict site, and to social media in general. If I truly think about my aspirations in writing they have little to do with the content of this site. I have the aforementioned half-finished novel that I set aside four or five years ago, ideas for other novels, and a desire to try writing picture books and maybe get back into writing poetry, which I haven’t done for years but used to love the most. I’d maybe like to try my hand at some well-crafted personal essays. These are far different projects than writing lots of reviews, regardless of whether I am reviewing drive-ins, middle grade children’s novels, or rock albums that I like. There are plenty of people out there writing book and album reviews, most of them better at it and/or more successful or persistent at it than me. My true aspirations are not necessarily to become a great record reviewer, but to write some things that no one else in the world would write.

Writing regularly requires dedication and planning, so I recognized that I needed to refocus and re-prioritize some areas in my life, and let some things go that are less important to me. So in my mind I tried on the idea of killing this site and pulling away from social media in general. I told my wife that I might do it, so as to instead make a plan to devote consistent time every day to this other writing I have been neglecting – the extended, laborious process of writing novels, stories and poems that must occur off the grid. Unlike writing on a blog, this writing has no easy payoff from hitting the “publish” button, sometimes receiving one or two comments from family or other nice people. Instead it is a commitment to work in total darkness and obscurity for months and years, only then to undertake the stressful endeavor of convincing someone to read and hopefully buy and publish your manuscript. Scary.

But the day after I had this discussion and declared I might unplug, I went bonkers on Twitter. I wrote mini-drafts of record reviews. I made threats that I would blow up the Internet if I could not figure out a way to publish my every idle thought easily, stylishly, instantaneously, and simultaneously to all the various social media networks in current or future usage. I thought of all the other intended items I had yet to post on this site. I did not dig out my old novel. I did not write a poem. And furthermore I didn’t feel that badly about it.

My conclusion from this experience of the past week or so is that I’m definitely not ready to give up on social media, and particularly on this site. I’m just finally ready to simplify it and streamline it in my own mind, so that I can share the things I would like to share easily without a lot of pressure or expectations for myself, writing-wise. I will devote most of my writing energies to those other types of writings, and leave this as a casual sharing of interests when I have time.

For example, it turns out I don’t need to feel bad that I never wrote that exhaustive and now hopelessly untimely review of the Springville Art Museum’s Spring Salon that I had intended to write; I can simply throw up a picture from the show every now again with a quick shout-out to the artist, and that will probably be more fun and interesting for everyone anyway. I don’t need to write an exhaustive review of every restaurant I like – I can just throw up a picture or two and write a simple paragraph or sentence highlighting the place. “If you’re interested you go try it yourself.” Basically what I am saying is that the Froz-T-Freez is going into more of a curation mode. There may still be longer written pieces from time to time, but this will now morph into a place for me to quickly highlight and share things I like and that I think other people might benefit from.

A Visit from the Goon Squad

I don’t care to speculate on whether this book deserves its Pulitzer or not because I’m far too out of the loop on adult literary fiction right now. What I’ll say is that it has the goods and I’ve enjoyed it more than any book I’ve read in a while.*

Some reasons I like this book:

  1. I’m a music geek, and this book has plenty to offer there.  From the imagining of the nascent late-70s Bay Area punk scene to one character’s catalog of the 12 best Rock & Roll Pauses, there’s a lot of fictional music goodness.
  2. I love how each chapter can stand on its own as a short story (many of them were first published in magazines as short stories) but read together they gain so much resonance and context. Each one left me wanting more. There were tantalizing glimpses and hints of other stories that we didn’t get, and that sense of all these people’s lives progressing and weaving in and out of each others’ lives provided a great richness and realness to the whole fictional world.
  3. For me it was fun to put the pieces together from the different stories, and to occasionally have to flip back to another spot in the book to double check a name or detail to figure out the connection. It was just the right amount of pleasant confusion for me. I would love to go back and read it again to find more nuances and connections. I guess I’m a literature geek too; after studying things like Joyce’s Ulysses, reading a book like this feels like an easy, playful romp of a read.
  4. There was a rich and diverse array highly fallible but interesting characters, with whom in many cases I identified. The way they all reacted to the passing of time/aging/unforseen changes was fascinating to observe, and I think that this exploration of the various ways that people deal with life change is one of the more powerful themes of the book.
  5. Yes there is a lot of talking about/mentioning of sex, which isn’t really what I look for out of a book, but on the other hand there was hardly anything in the way of sex “scenes,” which I actually found refreshing. It seems like many writers, (perhaps in some cases at the behest of editors?) feel they have to provide lurid or lasciviously detailed descriptions of sexual acts, and not just in adult but young adult fiction as well now. This book avoids that. The one actual sex scene that I remember from the book was definitely not pornographic in this sense, in that it did not seem alluring or lascivious in any way, it more served to show the selfishness and other follies of the characters, the pettiness and grotesqueness of the situation.
  6. The ending is very hopeful, but not all of my questions get answered. Kind of just like real life.
  7. The covers of both the hardcover and paperback editions look really good with my site’s style theme.

I could come up with more reasons I like it. It wouldn’t be hard. But I’ll stop my list here so we can get on with our lives.

[Note: this was written as a response to an acquaintance/co-worker’s comment on Goodreads asking why I had given 4 stars to this “horrid” book, to which she only gave 1 star.]

*I think I got burned out on reading a few months ago because I spent too much time reading “serious” middle-grade books that I wasn’t always that interested in, in an attempt to predict the Newbery winner. I forgot to read things just because I want to read them. This is the first book in a long time I had no other motive to read than that I simply wanted to read it.

A Visit from the Goon Squad
Written by Jennifer Egan
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Released June 8, 2010
http://jenniferegan.com/