Archive for the ‘A Quarter Century’ Category

photo 1(1)Welcome to a new year here at Wood’s Stock! As always, January brings with it some changes to the site, most notably the updates to the archive now that last year’s long-term project is over.

First the bad news.

Normally I would use this space to announce my new ongoing project for the year but after A Quarter Century, My Life Online and Treat Yo Self I’m sorry to report that I will not be launching a new venture…yet.

I was considering a few different ideas but I didn’t feel 100% about any of them. And with my new gig as a contributor to the EW Community and my work with the Utah Screenwriters Project only about halfway done I was worried about having the time to fully commit to a new project (there’s also the issue of my day job, which takes up a fair amount of time. Gotta pay dem bills.)

So I’m hopeful that before long we’ll get something up and going for 2015. But fear not, because there’s still going to be plenty of new content dropping here on Wood’s Stock, including new movie and television reviews, free Ukulele music, photo collections and other scattered nonsense.

Now for some shopkeeping items. If you look at the top of the Wood’s Stock homepage you’ll notice that the My Life Online tab is no more. I love that project and I hate to get rid of its visibility, but I needed to make space for the new Treat Yo Self tab, which provides a nice one-stop shop if you want to catch up on any of the posts you missed or read the whole adventure from my barbershop shave with Adam to my sugar body scrub with Liz.

And as always, under the Articles tab you can find links to the A Quarter Century and now the My Life Online project. And don’t forget to check out the latest One Wood Uke music (including a brand new cover of The Head and The Heart’s Fire/Fear) and if you haven’t yet, make sure to read the excerpt from Committing, which turned 1 year old last month.

Thanks for reading guys. I appreciate your support and feedback.

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Hello everyone and welcome to a new year of Wood’s Stock. The completion of My Life Online and the launch of Committing has made for some great changes here on the site, and I’m also excited to announce my new annual project for 2014.

First off, if you look at the top of your screen you’ll notice three new Wood’s Stock menu options. With My Life Online coming to an end last month, I’ve put together the entire collection of posts in one easy-to-access location. All 12 My Life Online chapters can be accessed there, with excerpts from each post and links to the full versions. Unfortunately, this required that the A Quarter Century menu be deleted, but that collection can still be found under the “Articles” menu.

I just want to say that I received the most amazing feedback throughout the course of the MLO project, including many hilarious personal experiences that readers shared with me from their own online dating histories. I may have quit, but good luck to everyone out there still giving online dating a shot.

(shameless plug) At the bottom of that collection there’s all the standard social media sharing options, should you feel so inclined (/shameless plug).

Next, I’ve done the same thing for all of my One Wood Uke posts, which can also be found in the top menu bar. I’ll be updating that page as I finish more projects (I’m working on something right now, and I plan on putting out a love song for Valentine’s Day) so the latest ukulele songs and videos will always be at the top of that page. Also, you can still get a free download of all of the songs on bandcamp, because why not?

Third, on the far right of the menu bar you can find the permanent information page for my book ‘Committing‘, which is available in both paperback and kindle versions. Also, that page includes the full excerpt of the book’s second chapter that I posted a few months back, so if you know someone who might be interested feel free to steer them that way (/shameless plug).

And finally, I’m excited to announce that my ongoing project for 2014 will be a series of posts titled Treat Yo Self. Each month, I will invite a friend along for a special experience (e.g. hot stone massage, acupuncture) and afterward I’ll interview them over lunch and  review the experience, including info on how to Treat Yo Self, should you feel so inclined.

Watch for the first installment of that series on Monday, in which me and Adam Blair will be heading to Ray’s Barbershop for a classic hot lather shave. *Note: I’ll be looking for people to treat throughout the year, so if there’s something you’ve always wanted to do shoot me a message.

And as always, thanks for reading.

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Hello Everyone,

I just wanted to let you know of a new page that has been created here at Wood’s Stock and is, at present, accessible at the top of your screen.

After I concluded my Quarter Century series on Sunday, I could practically here all of you saying to yourselves (through the tears) “Wow, what an accomplishment of dedication and personal introspection! The way that Benjamin Wood has chronicled this past year and his entire life simultaneously is nothing short of extraordinary. I only wish there was one convenient web location where I could review this triumphant endeavor from start to finish, tracing the overarching themes and finding new joy in the small details that I took for granted on first glance.”

Well my friends, I have heard your pleas and responded in kind. From henceforth, every post in the AQC series will be housed in an easy-to-access list by clicking on the “A Quarter Century” link just about this blog’s header photo. There you will find such reader favorites as “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before” and “My Long and Complicated Relationship With My Hair” as well as the posts that no one seemed to like at all, “School Days” and “Movin’ On Up.”

All joking aside, thank you all for your continued readership and particularly for following me over to my new home on WordPress. As always, your comments, feedback and Facebook shares are appreciated and (hopefully) you will continue to find the content here worth your time.

On that note, look for my reaction to the 2013 Oscar Nominations tomorrow (Thursday) as well as a new top-secret series that will replace AQC as my main time-waster for the next year. (I’ll give you a hint: It’s going to be embarrassing for me and I’d probably be wise to not write about it at all).

Best,

Benjamin

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I’ve said it before but under the circumstances it bears repeating: I hate birthdays.

I find the whole concept depressing and hardly worthy of celebration. Plus, the endless stream of well-wishing Facebook posts and other displays of affection only seem to make it worse, like pressing salt into an open sore (not to sound unappreciative, thank you all for caring).

Which is why, in a bit of poetic justice, I find it more than fitting that I’m spending my birthday this year at work, on a Sunday, fighting back a touch of the flu. Misery truly loves company.

One year ago today I turned 25. It is an unpleasant thought, rivaled only by the fact that today I turned the even-more-depressing 26. One more year and I’ll be 27, in my “late” 20s and from there life – as I understand it – is just a slippery slope to 30 and 40.

Before I know it I’ll be back here writing my “Half Century” posts in 2037.

Gross.

Time, as we know, is fleeting. By doing absolutely nothing at all I have landed on today, the 6th of January 2013. When I began this series, I remarked that the word “century” is like “million,” in that it is so large I can’t even comprehend it. I said then that it was this faceless thing that brought to mind black and white images of men laying rail lines and building large bridges.

I have now lived long enough to see slightly more than one-fourth of a century. In that time we’ve gone from flipping over cassette tapes to having thousands of songs in our pockets. We’ve seen the proliferation of the internet and the realization that anything and anyone can be found, from anywhere, with a few keywords and the click of a mouse.

I’ve also seen my generation become shrill, demanding that the entire world cater to their every whim and, as if that weren’t enough, do it for free.

I can not fathom – and in a way it scares me to try – what changes are in store in the next 25 years.

In writing this series, it has been easy to over-romanticize the past. People do it all the time in music, movies and bad YA fiction, but as much as I dislike forced sentimentality I would argue that, in some cases, the past is worthy of over-romanticism.

When you’re young, adulthood is an idea filled with visions of staying up as late as you wish, eating pizza and ice cream every day and doing fun, exciting things. You’re not sure what those things are, because you are not an adult and frankly, you don’t know what they do for fun, but you can only imagine how great it must be.

No one tells you the truth, that adulthood means facing a future of such oppressive weight that it stands on your chest, pinning you to the ground and making it difficult to breathe. It means a lifetime of bills and mortgage payments, scheduled vacation time and a perpetual state of exhaustion. It means diet and exercise and business-casual attire. It means forced conversation at dinner parties and watching your friends slowly, but surely, slip away.

At 26, my joints pop as I step out of bed in the morning and my reflection shows love handles that no amount of cardio will kill. Waking hours are consumed with work and transit and despite what the clock tells me it feels like I barely have time to fix a meal in the evening before curling up in bed to start the show over again.

At 26, I’m legally beholden to an employer for health insurance and, consequently, health care. I suppose that is all well and good, as long as I have an employer, and as long as it’s the one I want.

Is this adulthood? It certainly isn’t what I imagined and I only have a fraction of the responsibilities that time and age will eventually thrust upon me.

Again, I say, gross.

So here we are, embarking on yet another year. I’d like to think that big, exciting things await me in 2013 but real life changes at a snail’s pace and, if history is any indication, it’s more likely that I’ll just keep on keeping on.

I suppose that’s not so bad. Adventure takes so much effort and I’m already feeling tired.

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I began 2012 in a bar in Manhattan’s East Village, taking a sip (JUST a sip!) of Champagne, which if I do say so myself, is a pretty decent way to ring in the new. My friends and I had made the wise choice of staying as far away from Times Square as possible and instead spent the night comfortably seated indoors, enjoying the city.

When morning finally came, we wandered out to Coney Island for the annual Polar Bear Swim. It was an unseasonably warm winter, but even so we weren’t quite brave enough to go in deeper than our kneecaps so instead we watched the more adventurous masses and then ate our weight in Nathan’s hot dogs.

Not long after, I moved back to Salt Lake City, essentially turning my back on the dream of being a national magazine writer and New York big shot to chase the dream of being an ace local news reporter. That’s something they don’t tell you when you’re a kid. It’s OK to have dreams, but eventually you have to choose between them. You can’t be an astronaut AND a professional athlete (do kids these days even dream of being astronauts anymore?).

I did, however, succeed in getting my name published in Entertainment Weekly. So some dreams do come true, no matter how fleeting.

So there I was, back in SLC and finally living in an apartment by myself, something I had wanted to do for years. I am, by nature, a solitary person and even though my spending power means I live in an apartment with a Box Elder bug problem, it’s worth it to not have to wash anyone else’s dishes and be able to play the ukulele whenever I want.

This was the year that I really got into the Ukulele game. Technically, I started playing the Uke in the tail end of 2011 when I bought my soprano Lanikai, but for the first few months it was just something to dink around with while I watched TV in my apartment. Since January, I’ve expanded my Uke family and taken advantage of every open mic I can find.

I also embraced colored pants in 2012. This particular pair (pictures above) landed me on the radio for an interview about metrosexuality and earned me the nickname “Red Pants Guy” from some of my co-workers. An action figure, complete with miniature ukulele, is in development.

Speaking of work, 2012 was the year I got my first “big boy” job. This whole concept of adulthood is still a little difficult to swallow, but as I’ve chronicled in my Quarter Century posts, there’s no stopping the steady tick of time (scared face).

2012 was also the year I became a YouTuber. I’ve played around with video in the past, usually on the writing side, but equal parts boredom and narcissism have resulted in a handful of little clips, most notably my video about Duct Tape — 3,600 views and counting!

In 2012 I ran my 2nd Half-marathon, posting a personal best time and still managing to beat the older gentleman to my left who runs 10 miles every morning (sure, he’s 60, but I’ll still take the ‘win’).

And, after months of slowly accumulating vacation time (employment, once again, rears it’s ugly head. Not that I’m complaining, the idea of being paid vacation time sure beats part-time bakery work) I made my way up the Pacific Northwest to Portland for some much needed R&R and a hipster booster shot.

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Which brings me to the end of the year, and the video that started this post. In my annual tradition of seeing a concert on Dec. 30th, I was lucky enough to have Blind Pilot, one of my favorite bands, playing at Salt Lake City’s “Eve” celebration. It was freezing cold, bad enough that I broke a cardinal rule and left before the encore because I had lost feeling in my toes. On the plus side, the cold weather meant a smaller crowd and much closer proximity to the stage.

Now that I think about it, 2012 was a year of great concerts: The Civil Wars, Family of the Year, The Walkmen, Band of Horses, The Head and the Heart, Typhoon, Milo Greene, Jake Shimabakuro. I’m forgetting a few, I’m sure, but look them up, you’ll be glad you did.

Then, last night, I spent New Year’s Eve feasting on pig, jamming on the Uke and discretely (and shakily) filming friends and strangers at a party.

I should also mention that 2012 was the year I turned 25, a milestone I neither looked forward to nor am happy is passing. In one week I’ll be 26, my last year of “mid-20s” and, technically, closer to 30 than 20. Gross.

Happy New Year.

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*For suggested audio accompaniment to this post, click here.

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This post is admittedly a little late, and while I have skipped one or two holidays in this AQC series it seemed wrong to leap-frog Christmas.

The tricky thing about abridging 25 years-worth of XMas revelry is that “Christmas” is not just a single day but really encompasses the entire month of December.

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Take, for example, my 3rd grade production of The Nutcracker. It did not take place on December 25. But how, in a list of Christmas memories, could I not mention my starring role as The Mouse King? My performance was described by some as “brimming with emotional nuance” and “A tour-de-force of moral ambiguity.”

When I was finally slain after a pulse-pouding, edge-of-your-seat duel with the titular hero, I kid you not, the audience wept.

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Or take the traditional shopping mall Santa experience. I never actually believed in the man (when you’re the youngest of 5 children, the jig is pretty much up) but we would still, prior to Christmas morning, sit upon his lap and offer up our list of holiday wishes.

Christmas in the Wood home (like most holidays) was dictated by tradition. We would spend Christmas Eve at my grandmother’s with my mother’s side of the family, eating Oyster Stew and Spaghetti-O’s and reciting poetry. Christmas morning we would line up on the staircase, youngest to oldest, and head downstairs to open our gifts. We would begin with the stockings, which were placed around the room in assigned seating, much like the dinner table, and then proceed to the tree. After the gift massacre was completed, we would typically put on one of the movies the family had received as a communal gift then head to my Aunt Barbara’s for Christmas lunch with my father’s side.

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We always had two trees: one upstairs that was more elaborate with a Christmas village and model train beneath it. The other downstairs for the actual gift-opening purposes. It sounds so cliche to say it, but I loved the crap out of that model train. I would play with it for hours, running my toys along it in some imagined Jesse James adventure and watching it spin lap after lap under the twinkling lights.

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There were a few years when we were younger that the family decided to do an impromptu dramatization of the nativity as part of our Christmas Eve celebrations. I’m sure you can imagine the quality when a group of two dozen children, ages 5 to 18, fashion a costume out of whatever items they can find around the house for a character they were assigned just 10 minutes before.

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Plus, it always meant that two of us had to play Joseph and Mary, or husband and wife, which still rubs me the wrong way. It was Utah, after all, not Mississippi.

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In a similar vein, every so often our local church would put on a “Night in Bethlehem” event instead of a run-of-the-mill Christmas party. We would fashion makeshift costumes of Israeli shepherds, Magi wise men (fun fact, the singular is “Magus”) and Roman centurions and snack on pita bread and whatever “theme” food the group of middle-class Caucasian Mormons could think off.

Public displays of cultural ignorance were not as frowned upon back then.

Oddly enough, my family doesn’t seem to have many (or any, that I could find) pictures of our Christmas with my dad’s family, but in fairness that celebration didn’t have the same pomp and circumstance of “religious observance” and “theatrical production.” On Christmas Eve, once the Oyster stew was consumed, the poems recited, the dramatizations completed and the presents were opened, the adults would do whatever it is that adults do (read: be boring) while the cousins would crowd around my Uncle Chris and play Dark Tower, the greatest board game ever created.

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And of course, there was snow; feet of white powder in good years and a sheen of muddy sludge in bad years. When we were kids, that meant snowball fights and sledding off of the roof (again, in good years). As a slightly-older-kid, that meant shorter, angrier snowball fights and barefoot snow angels.

I grew up in an unincorporated area on the Wasatch Back, which literally means you couldn’t go anywhere without passing through a canyon or over a mountain. I remember some years making the slow, perilous climb up Trappers Loop on the way to my grandmothers house, or one of our adult years when an unending storm forced us all to stay at my parents house for another day, and another, and another still. Eventually my brother had to go back to work and I drew the short straw of driving him there to meet his wife. But for three days it was like a snow day in elementary school with the whole family waiting it out, carefree and drunk with holiday spirit.

It’s my favorite Christmas that I can remember.

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Normally I’m not one for heavy-handed sentimentality, but in my quest for an adequate photograph of the annual Wood Family Thanksgiving shenanigans I unwittingly came across a slew (a SLEW, I say!) of pictures from my newborn-toddler era.

I thought to myself, “Self, you should save some of these in case they fit into a future ACQ post.” To which my self replied “But Self, your 26th birthday is only a few weeks away. How many of these posts do you really have left?”

My Self found this realization both unsettling and terrifying, since I immediately began thinking of how little I had accomplished in the last year and how I would soon — yet again — be celebrating another “milestone” on the pathway to death. Seriously, who’s bright idea was it to celebrate birthdays?

So, faced with the cruel, never-ceasing demon we call time I figured a post dedicated to the earliest period in my life would be an appropriate segment for this little melancholy-project I’ve been working on all year. And Here. We. Go.

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As I’ve likely mentioned before, I am the youngest of 5 children. These pictures are handy in that a) it documents some quality time between me and each of my siblings and b) they look rediculous in them. But, you will remember, it was the late-80s, so you have to cut all of us some slack.

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I’ve been told — you’ll forgive me forgetting — that I loved being hoisted around in this carrier. We’ve always been a hiking family so in our many tomes of family photographs there’s a bevy of pictures of me being carried in Yellowstone, me being carried in Zion’s, me being carried in Moab and me being carried in other places I don’t immediately recognized. Logic tells me that at some point I outgrew the backpack — since no one offers to carry me any more — which really is an unfortunate thing.

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It’s odd looking through these because I honestly don’t see myself in these faces until I’m roughly age 3. I mean, common sense dictates that this child is me. The photograph is labeled clearly, my siblings are clearly too old for the time period and unless there’s some dark secret involving a 6th child that my family has somehow kept from me all this time, that’s me.

I wish someone had told me to avoid horizontal stripes. Between that and the camera I’ve got an extra 15 pounds in this picture.

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It occurs to me as I write how ironically pseudo-typical this blog post is. I always make fun of my friends and family who just post these long pointless photo-essays about how adorable their children are. I suppose this isn’t any different, except it’s moi, which makes it automatically awesome.

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Besides look at that cat: one hand on the wheel, seat back, cruisin for chicks. Kidz got style.

Also, I realize that Red Flyers are essentially cold plastic death, but I still feel they’re a crucial part of any child’s upbringing. Much like trampolines, and chicken pox (all these liberals and their so-called “vaccines.” A real american scratches and is proud of it).

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More awkward 80s children, this time with the addition of a few cousins. I love the girls’ hair, especially Leah’s.

I often say that I have no memory of my brother’s existence before I turned 12. It’s true, for the most part, but to his credit at least we have photographic proof that he did, on occasion, occupy the same space as me before he became a teenager and got weird. Besides, it could be worse. My only memories of my sister Katie before I turned 12 is her beating the crap out of me.

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There, at this point I can admit that kid looks like me. It is somewhat surreal, though, to realize I look more like the figure on the right than the left at this point. Then again, my dad is 60 year’s old and runs a sub-2 half marathon. Sure I snore, required braces and max out at about 5’10” and change, but I suppose the genetic lottery could’ve been worse.

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This photo is a Wood Family classic. There’s a corresponding shot of me taken a few minutes before, only having attempted to dress myself and do my own hair. Kid looks good. There really is no such thing as over-dressed.

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I tried to find a picture of me and my mother, but there really weren’t many during this time period. She was, as you can probably guess, the person behind the camera. My oldest sister Mandie on the other hand — with whom I share an age difference of 11 years — by all indications is just completely M.I.A. I can’t really blame her. Had I been a teenager when these photos were taken I too would probably have had more interesting things to do than make an awkward Kodak moment out of a family totem pole.

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We used to make boats out of zuchini and race them down the creek at my grandparent’s house. I look like I’m about to cry in this picture. I would imagine it’s because I’m totally jealous of Tony’s awesome sail boat. Genius!

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I’ll end on this one. There’s something triumphant about it. Such joy! Such revelry! If you grew up before iPhones then you know that nothing could ever beat finding a good stick!

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