Archive for the ‘Utah’ Category

I participated in my first Ukulele competition, although “competition” in this case is a very loose term.

Little Logan Utah (population 49,000) decided to hold the Utah Ukulele Festival last month. As it turns out, it’s one of several “Utah” ukulele festivals held in the state, and would much more accurately have been labeled the Cache County Ukulele Festival.

Still, it was charming and exactly what I expected it would be. And since we were camping in the area already (more on that later) we decided to stop by.

The festival was mostly centered around an open mic competition, split into two age divisions of 14 and younger or 15 and older. There were also a few vendors, with both high- and low-end ukuleles for sale.

The kids’ division was a hoot, including two separate renditions of Jason Mraz’ “I’m Yours” in which the performers struggled over the syllabic gymnastics of removing “God” and “Damn” from the lyrics.

I performed “June Hymn” by the Decemberists. In the end I think I got demerits for not performing an original song but that was fine because the winner really did steal the show, playing a great tune about saying goodbye to her boyfriend.

Liz filmed my song, which you can watch above. I tried to crop it as best I could but unfortunately my girlfriend is that type of person who films vertically. We’ve talked about it. That, and her opinion of Tom Cruise, are the two most challenging divisions in our relationship.

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The festival came at the end of our trip, which started with a campout in Logan Canyon and a hike up to the wind caves. This was the first time we’ve attempted a Family Camping Trip and I’d say it was, overall a success, although some members of our group were less inclined toward the finer points of outdoor adventuring.

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We also took advantage of the trip to make a detour up to Bear Lake, where we paddled around and got some lunch at La Beau’s. Liz isn’t from Utah, so I explained to her that we are a La Beau’s family and will never, under any circumstances, eat at the Quick N Tasty, which is neither Quick nor Tasty.

Also, because it cracks me up, here’s a picture of Truman creepily staring at us through the tent screen like Paranormal Activity rather than go play in the great outdoors.

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After a year working with the talented folk at the Salt Lake Film Society, and my friends in the Utah Screenwriters Project, my debut feature-length screenplay is finished.

This week the USP had our graduation ceremony, where a group of local actors read a scene from each of our scripts, giving us a first taste of what our work could actually look like off the page.

My screenplay is titled “Brother, Father, Sister, Mother” and it’s about an empty-nester named June whose life is thrown into uncharted territory after she stumbles into bed with the brother of her daughter’s new boyfriend.

You can watch the live reading in the video below (please do! AND TELL YOUR FRIENDS!) but fair warning it includes what the MPAA would describe as “Brief strong language and adult situations.” Technically the video is PG-13, but the script itself is an R-rated dramedy.

But wait, there’s MORE EXCITING NEWS! I was selected by the Film Society as one of two USP Honorees, which means a professional script consultation by Dave Trottier, author of The Screenwriters Bible. I’ll be sending him my script this week, at which point he’ll run it through a meat grinder and hand it’s bloody, mangled carcass back to me with some constructive criticism, it’ll be great.

After that I start the long, soul-crushing process of pitching the script to agents and producers, which, if my self-published novel is any indication, probably won’t end well. But who cares! I’m really happy with my script. Here’s hoping I get to see it – or something else I wrote – on the big screen some day, but if not just watching the actors at graduation was a treat by itself.

Check out the video, and if you know any indie producers looking for their next hit, send ’em my way.

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The Bronze

The Big Bang Theory’s Melissa Rauch stars as Hope Ann Greggory, an Olympic gymnast who captured the nation’s heart only to see her star fade into obscurity when her career is cut short by injury. The film picks up 12 years after Greggory’s third place finish at the games, with the former athlete having devolved into a petulant, crass and maladjusted woman-child who clings to the memory of her former glory.

Rauch, as the caustic and off-putting Greggory, is almost unrecognizable in the role, the complete opposite over her doe-eyed and chipper-voiced Bernadette on Big Bang. Most of The Bronze consists of overly-long, profanity-laden monologues delivered by Greggory at the expense of whatever foolish soul has stumbled across her path.

The movie contains glimpses of comedic brilliance — most notably an unforgettable sex scene that incorporates the pommel horse and other acrobatic acts — but The Bronze is ultimately a case of inconsistency, with maybe 30 minutes of good jokes stretched across two hours.

Grade: C+

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The Summer of Sangaile

Sangaile plays like a one-stop-shop for all of your Sundance Film Festival cliches. It’s a European coming-of-age tale full of lilting visuals, melancholy and female sexuality.

Centered on Sangaile, a quiet and brooding teen who cuts her arms and dreams of flying despite a crippling vertigo, the movie functions as a less-exploitative Blue is the Warmest Color. She meets the extroverted and comparatively agressive Auste, and their slow-burn relationship eventually turns sexual and pulls Sangaile out of her shell.

It’s quiet and introspective to a fault, laying the mood on thick while the drama, and stakes, are stretched thin.

Grade: B-

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The Overnight

Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling star as a married couple, recently relocated to Los Angeles and struggling to acclimate to their new community while navigating their own personal and marital issues. While playing with their son at a park, they meet Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), a bon vivant Californian who invites the pair over for dinner with him and his wife.

After the couples’ children are asleep, the adults relax into a booze-filled evening that ebbs and flows in increasingly awkward and revelatory ways as Scott and Schilling’s buttoned-up suburbanites slowly give in to the free-spirited je ne sai quois of their hosts.

It’s a unceasingly enjoyable film that plays into your assumptions, flips them around and hands them back to you in delightful ways. Every laugh is earned, not by pandering with loud, obvious jokes but by a series of spot-on deliveries by Scott, Schwartzman and Schilling.

Grade: B+

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I Am Michael

It’s a bit of perfect timing that I Am Michael premieres in Park City, Utah this month, just a few short weeks after TLC’s controversial “My Husband’s Not Gay,” which features four Mormon men living in Salt Lake City who live heterosexual lives despite being attracted to other men.

Franco stars as Michael Glatze, the poster child of reparative therapy and the Pray The Gay Away acolytes. Once a prominent LGBT rights activist and founder of Young Gay America Magazine, Glatze publicly denounced his own homosexuality before embracing religious conservativism and pursuing a life as an evangelical pastor and heterosexual.

It’s a subject ripe with narrative drama but I Am Michael, like its protagonist, seems uncomfortable in its own skin. It tip toes cautiously through the shopping list of Glatze’s life events with all the warmth and emotion of a Wikipedia page.

Zachary Quinto shines as Glatze’s longtime boyfriend, but Franco never seems convincing in any of his character various personality iterations. The result is a controversial topic rendered inert by too delicate a touch.

Grade: B-

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Most Likely To Succeed

Decrying the failures of the American public education system is practically a national past time, and every year brings several new voices to the chorus of cries that we must think of the poor, poor children.

The search for a silver bullet continues with Most Likely To Succeed, the latest documentary by “Mitt” and “New York Doll” director Greg Whiteley.

In MLTS, Whiteley does the obligatory ground work by interviewing half a dozen experts who raise red flags about the ed-pocolypse already at our door. From there, the film pivots quickly to a shiny charter school in San Diego where there are no bells and the teachers do crazy things like have their students arrange their desks in semi-circles. =

If I sound cynical it’s because I am (I’m an education reporter by day, full disclosure) and because it’s an argument we’ve all heard before, filled with buzzwords like “innovation,” “critical thinking,” and “engagement.”

Most Likely To Succeed adds very little to that conversation. Much like he did in “Mitt,” Whiteley seems more comfortable watching difficult questions from a safe distance rather them poking them with a stick, let alone getting his hands dirty. The film functions really well as an promotional ad for a charter school in California but offers little of use to schools looking to serve their students.

Grade: B-

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*Ratter – Slamdance

In the world of cybercrime there are programs called RATs, or remote administration tools, that allow you to seize control of another persons computer and access their files, camera and passwords.

In Ratter, Ashley Benson plays Emma, a woman who has fallen prey to a cyber stalker using a RAT to watch her every move. He peeks at her through her laptop, ogles her from her cell phone and searches for her through her video game console.

And everything he sees, the audience sees, because the movie is told entirely from his point of view, which is squarely fixed on Emma.

It’s an unnerving technique, reminiscent of the first Paranormal Activity film but with an added layer of unease because the viewer is an unwelcome and unknown presence. The films patiently builds to a boiling point, ending on a perfectly ambiguous and chilling note.

Grade: B+

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It’s been a particularly drab December here in Utah, where an atypical lack of snowfall has failed to make a winter wonderland of the otherwise lifeless inversion-bogged post-Autumn mountains of the Wasatch Front.

So I wanted to go somewhere pretty. Somewhere like the spa at the Grand America Hotel, Salt Lake City’s largest and only AAA rated 5-diamond hotel. This is the big daddy of Utah’s hotel industry. When U.S. presidents visit the Beehive State, this is where they stay.

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As far as the actual Treat Yo Self experience, I was intrigued by the Sugar Body Polish offered by the spa, which promised a “sweet treat to pamper deprived skin” through a blend of sugar exfoliate and moisturizing coconut and safflower oil, rich in Vitamins B-6and E.

I love vitamin B-6, it’s my favorite of the Bs! (Note: I don’t actually know the difference between B vitamins). I was sold, and I invited my friend Liz to come along.

I met Liz in February during the Legislative session. She’s a southerner who likes Mexican food. She’s my polar opposite. Literally. We have the Myers Briggs test results to prove it.

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She’s ok.

We checked in at the Grand Spa and were promptly shown to our locker rooms, which were located on separate floors and which included their own gender specific lounges. I can’t speak for the women’s lounge, but mine had two large plasma screens, a shoe polisher and complimentary tea, pretzels and granola.

I was shown to my locker by an attendant, where I found a very comfortable robe (pictured above) and a pair of Jesus sandals waiting for me. There was also a dry sauna and steam room and a row of showers, including the “experience” shower, a behemoth monstrosity advertized as having 17 separate shower heads (I counted 18).

FullSizeRender(14)After a few minutes in the lounge, I was picked up by my — masseuse? scrubber? — the person who would be performing my body scrub, who led me upstairs to my treatment room, which included its very own experience shower.

She gave me an option of scents to choose from, from which I selected a eucalyptus grapefruit blend. I was also a little congested from a cold so she added some essential oils to help me breathe better.

The scrub itself was very similar to a massage: I lied down on a bed covered by a sheet and she proceeded to pass her sugar-coated hands around my body. But instead of the pressured kneading of a massage, she moved in a back and forth motion similar to what I imagine my teeth feel when I brush them.

After the sugar was applied, she stepped out of the room while I went and rinsed off in the experience shower. I was really excited for this but the shower itself turned out to be mildly terrifying, a disorienting onslaught of scalding hot water coming from all directions with no escape.

I rinsed and toweled and laid back down. She returned to the room, applied some moisturizing oil and that was that. I met back up with Liz in the lobby and we picked up our to-go bottles of sugar scrub for an at-home sequel.

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Properly pampered, we skipped over to Simply Sushi to conduct our interview over some miso soup and tuna rolls.

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Wood’s Stock: Who are you and what do you do?

Elizabeth Converse: My name is Elizabeth and I work in politics.

WS: What did you think of the body scrub today?

EC: It was weird.

WS: How so?

EC: It was like a massage that was cut in half and instead you were scrubbed for the first half.

WS: Did you like it though?

EC: Yeah it was fun.

WS: Have you ever had a scrub before?

EC: No

WS: Walk me through it, what it was.

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EC: You get naked and you get on a table and instead of a massage they rub you down with exfoliates and things that smell good.

WS: What does it feel like?

EC: Tingly. I enjoyed it. A lot.

WS: I’ve had a massage, it’s very smooth. But this was scratchy.

EC: It didn’t feel scratchy to me. It didn’t hurt.

WS: I don’t mean that it hurt but it was scratchy, kind of sandy.

EC: Yeah

WS: Like someone with sandy hands was rubbing my body.

EC: Yeah. You and I define words differently. Scratchy to me has a negative connotation. It was awesome.

WS: So then what?

EC: You jump into this really weird shower with a million shower heads and light reflectors.

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WS: What did you think of that?

EC: I was completely overwhelmed.

WS: Right?

EC: I told her that after I got out. She laughed and said she always has to turn have the heads off, it’s over-stimulation.

WS: It was too much. She turned it on for me and she turned it on way too hot.

EC: With mine some of them were cold and some of them were hot and I couldn’t figure out how to adjust them so they were all warm. I just kept turning awkwardly and making sure all the sugar was off of me. And that’s another thing. Sugar gets places.

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WS: Sugar gets places?

EC: Yeah and I didn’t…

WS: Should we just leave it at that?

EC: Yeah let’s leave it at that.

WS: So after shower what then?

EC: You lay back down on a clean set of sheets. That’s another thing, it was weird laying in sheets with food in them. I haven’t done that in a long time.

WS: You mean the sugar?

EC: Yeah, it’s gross. No eating in bed.

WS: So how does it finish out?

EC: You lay down on the clean sheets. They rub you down with oil, like a mini massage and that was pleasant. I enjoyed both sides of that, really it was just the shower that was weird. She did my stomach, which was really nice and felt interesting.

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WS: When you say she did you stomach, you were laying there topless?

EC: No she covered me with a towel. She just rolled the sheet down and I had a towel.

WS: I’m just mad that I didn’t get my stomach.

EC: It was kind of awesome.

WS: I mean, it’s easy to scrub my stomach.

EC: It was really fun and super relaxing. It’s one of those body parts that people don’t often rub so it was quite pleasant.

WS: How does your skin feel?

EC: I don’t know yet. I kind of want to go home and get naked and test it out. Putting my clothes back on was weird. They were dirty and I was all clean and soft. The hair on my legs is super soft right now.

WS: You’re a sports fan yes?

EC: Yeah

WS: Who do you cheer for?

EC: NBA is Oklahoma City Thunder. I currently do not have an NFL team. I’m looking.

WS: You’re in the market?

EC: I’m in the market for an NFL team. I love Peyton but the Broncos are just a raging disappointment. And then of course college ball, Oklahoma State for life and most SEC teams when they’re not playing someone I care about.

WS: Are you more of a collegiate level fan or professional?

EC: Growing up in Oklahoma there weren’t professional teams so college ball is life.

WS: I don’t know a lot of women who are big sports fans. Where you grew up is it just sports everywhere, every day, everything?

EC: Yeah during the season its just part of life. The only season that I wasn’t invested in was baseball but down there baseball is still pretty huge. It just depends on where you live and what the major sport was in the town you grew up in and for us that was football.

WS: Is it weird to you if someone doesn’t’ like sports?

EC: Yes.

WS: Why? Let’s say, hypothetically of course, that right now you were speaking to someone who didn’t care about sports.

EC: Hypothetically.

WS: What would be your argument to why they’re wrong?

EC: I don’t necessarily think they’re wrong it’s just odd to me. That’s what you do in high school and college, it’s how you show collegiate pride. One thing I loved about my high school experience was that we had players in our drama department. There was no divide there. The directors worked hard to make sure everyone was well-rounded so you became friends with people. You wanted to support them in their careers.

WS: I’m a huge film fan and people are often dismissive of entertainment and I have a speech that I sometimes give as to why I think it’s important. So why is sports important. Why does it matter?

EC: It’s the alternative to modern warfare. I don’t know how to explain that. It allows for a healthy level of competition and aggression where other people might not have an outlet at that time. I think people and young adulthood is a very stressful time and sports and sports fandom allows people that outlet.

WS: What about people who argue that it heightens and fosters aggression?

EC: I think they’ve never seen a bunch of bored teenagers in a neighborhood with nothing else to do breaking stuff. You put those same teenagers who want to break stuff on a football field and they might get to go to college because of it.

WS: It’s bowl season. Are any of your teams still in the running?

EC: Oklahoma State. I don’t know what bowl they’re in.

WS: Would you recommend a body scrub to someone who has never had one?

EC: No.

WS: Why not?

EC: I think it’s something that can be done at home and I’d rather spend the entire time being massaged.

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WS: I can see that. I liked the variety of two experiences. Felt like I was getting a lot out of my trip to the spa. Are you on twitter?

EC: No.

WS: Anything you want to promote.

EC: No.

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Normally, that would be the end of this post. But seeing as how this was the final Treat Yo Self I thought I’d check in with some of our friends from adventures throughout the year.

I asked them a few questions and then invited them to turn the tables and interview me. Here’s what they had to say.

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Adam Blair, from Treat Yo Self: Barbershop Shave

Wood’s Stock: Have you repeated your Treat Yo Self activity? Or have you had any other Treat Yo Self experiences this year?

Adam Blair: Yes, I got a mani-pedi with some friends. And it so happens that I booked a straight razor shave yesterday at Ray’s.

WS: Now that it’s not so fresh, would you still recommend/not recommend your activity?

AB: Absolutely. Straight razor shaves make you feel real classy.

WS: Any questions for me?

AB: Would you rather have rackets for hands or flippers for feet?

WS: Flipper feet would only be useful in an aquatic scenario, but racket hands would interfere with more of my day-to-day activities. I choose flipper feet.

AB: How do you feel about ugly sweater parties?

WS: I support themed parties but I don’t believe in intentionally wearing ugly clothing.

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Cody Titmus, from Treat Yo Self: Chest Wax

Wood’s stock: Have you repeated your Treat Yo Self activity? Or have you had any other Treat Yo Self experiences this year?

Cody Titmus: I think I am going to limit myself to just the one waxing this year.

WS: Now that it’s not so fresh, would you still recommend/not recommend your activity to others?

CT: That’s a hard ‘No!’

WS: Any questions for me?

CT: Why? Whyyyyyyyyyyy?

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Neil Schiffman, from Treat Yo Self: Spray Tan

Wood’s Stock: Have you had any other Treat Yo Self  experiences this year?

Neil Schiffman: The only treating myself I’ve ever really ever done was a pedicure. That was heavenly.  No headaches, crazy soft feet, and crazy Asian ladies making fun of me added up to a delightful experience.

WS: Any questions for me?

NS: When you read Ayn Rand what was your initial reaction and how do you view her writings now?

WS: I still consider myself a Rand fan, much like I consider myself an Upton Sinclair fan. I don’t think either author’s work should be the sole foundation of society or an individual’s philosophy, but I enjoyed Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead and think there’s valuable nuggets in there, particularly about inter-personal relationships. I even gave Atlas Shrugged a shout-out in my novel Committing.

NS: With this Rolling Stone article blowing up in their face, what, in your opinion does this story do to the cause of raising rape awareness? Do people respond “told you rape like that doesn’t happen” or completely ignore any discrepancies and continue to see men as pigs?

WS: I think we’re seeing both reactions, and I worry about this controversy setting the conversation back several years. But many universities, including UVA, continue to be under investigation by the Department of Education for their handling of campus sexual assault and a lot of schools are moving forward with their reviews of campus policies even though the article has been (at least partly) discredited. TIME had an interesting article about the post-Rolling Stone landscape that suggested the conversation is still moving forward.

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Emily Milam, from Treat Yo Self: Hot Stone Massage

Wood’s Stock: Have you repeated your activity or treated yo self in other ways?

Emily Milam:  Probably once a day since February I have thought to myself “I need to get another hot stone message,” but sadly, I haven’t gone back for another. However, this year I went skydiving (which was definitely a treat for me) and I got a couple facials which were awesome.

WS: Any questions for me?

EM: If you had to pick 3 movies that were the only three movies you could watch for the rest of your life, what would they be?

WS: Casablanca, Jurassic Park, Silver Linings Playbook.

EM: Your escorts excluded, which Treat Yo Self was your favorite?

WS: The hot stone massage was the most enjoyable and probably the one that I’m most looking forward to doing again. But in the sense of discovering new and interesting things, I would say the sensory deprivation tank was the most memorable.

Float tank at Salt City Float Spa

EM: What is the most importation news item people should be aware of at this time?

WS: The American diet is a joke, setting us on a trajectory for widespread diabetes in the coming decades. While we were all enjoying our diet Coke, they stopped referring to Type 2 as “adult-onset” diabetes because people are getting it at younger and younger ages. Big sugar is the new big tobacco and common sense reform efforts, like listing added sugar on nutrition labels, are being blocked by very powerful and well-funded lobbying groups. Stop. Drinking. Soda. And watch ‘Fed Up.’

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Chelsey Gensel, from Treat Yo Self: European Facial

Wood’s Stock: Have you repeated your activity or treated yo self in other ways this year?

Chelsey Gensel:  I have not repeated my activity but only because new york is so damn expensive. I have thought about treating myself a few times after reading your blog posts, but I’ve always put it off because of timing or cost – maybe I’ll make a list of my own for 2015.

WS: Would you still recommend getting a facial?

CG: I would recommend trying it at least once, especially if you have problems with your skin. Find a treatment suited to that specifically.

WS: Any questions for me?

CG: Do you feel like you were “successful” with the project?

WS: I do. I like to say that “I fear the life un-lived” and this project really gave me the push I needed to open myself up to new experiences. Most of the things on this list were things I’ve been curious about for a while, but I never had the right motivation to pull the trigger.

CG: Is there any treat you wish you had or hadn’t done?

WS: I don’t regret any of the activities, even though some of them were horrible. Liz and I were supposed to end it with a hot air balloon ride over the Wasatch Front but the pilots cancelled at the last moment because of inclement weather. That was a bummer. I had also hoped to do acupuncture but everywhere I looked sold service packages instead of single visits, which was just too cost prohibitive.

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Tarot cards

We’re reaching the end of the Treat Yo Self project and as I’ve looked back over the year, trying to plan out the end, I wanted to make sure my activities didn’t become redundant in the final months.

Coming up with these adventures is not as easy as it might appear, and as I’ve said before Salt Lake City is not exactly a bottomless well.

But I was talking to someone the other day who told me about having their star chart read. It occurred to me that with the exception of yoga, I’ve had relatively little exposure to new-age, meditative and spiritualistic therapies.

So I looked for a place where I could have my fortune told, and I invited my friend Lia to come along.

I met Lia two years ago through a religious congregation that we were both attending at the time. I had recently moved back to Utah and she, myself and two other friends became a social unit, much like a mixed gender and less-boozy Utah-ized version of Sex and the City.

Lia’s a total Samantha. I don’t actually know what that means.

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She’s OK.

We checked in at Crone’s Hollow for our appointment and Lia went first while I perused the shop’s selection of crystal balls, incense, candles and birch bark.

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Her reading went well over her allotted 20 minutes, but then it was my turn to pass through the beaded doorway of a makeship velvet tent set up in the shop’s lounge area.

Crone’s Hollow employs a number of readers, with names like Starfyre and Lady Luna, who specialize in various methods of divination.

Our guy was a card reader named Rob.

Rob gave me the choice of the tarot deck, which he said is more emotional and esoteric, or the Lenormand deck, which is more literal and external. I’m a literal guy. I’m certainly not esoteric.

He asked me what I wanted to talk about and I gave him the usual response: work and relationships. Then he proceeded to lay out a square of nine cards (the “Nine Witnesses” he said), which represented my ambitions and aspirations (the top row) and what I have the most control over (the bottom) moving from the past (the left column) to the present (the center column) to the future (right column).

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But he also made sure to emphasize that no matter what the cards said I still possess free will. “The cards are not set in stone,” Rob said. “The future is plastic.”

We talked a lot about what I’m looking for in love and in life and Rob advised me to live in the present, be genuine and not worry about things I can’t control.

It was interesting and pleasant but I remain a skeptic. I’m not sure it takes a gift to tell someone to be assertive at the office and sincere in the bedroom.

Properly pampered, Lia and I headed over to Curry Fried Chicken to conduct our interview over some shwarma.

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Wood’s Stock: Who are you and what do you do?

Lia Bliss: My name is Lia Bliss. I work as a hairdresser and I work at a women’s gym and I am a mom.

WS: Was today your first tarot reading?

LB: It was absolutely not.

WS: Are you a frequent…reader?

LB: Readette?

WS: Readette.

LB: I have my own tarot deck so I’ve done my own. I’ve gone to the farmer’s market and had some done and I’ve had friends of mine who are fairly clairvoyant do them, but nothing as serious or professional as today was.

WS: So you’re a believer?

LB: Totally. I’m deep in.

WS: Walk me through today, what it was and what you did.

LB: Like when I woke up this morning?

WS: No just the tarot reading.

LB: We went to a wiccan/pagan kind of coffee shop supply center and there’s a little booth that You walk into.

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WS: That was a great booth.

LB: It was. It was dark and velvety and you feel all mystical. The guy, a bald man with a fantastic goatee, tells you about himself and there’s two different decks that he does. A tarot deck and another one.

WS: Which one did you pick?

LB: The other one.

WS: Lenormand?

LB: Yeah.

WS: Why did you pick that one?

LB: He could tell that it piqued my interest because I didn’t know anything about it. I knew about tarot and he used the same deck I use. So I did the other one.

WS: So at least that part of the experience was new to you.

LB: Totally new. And he did the 36 card spread, the whole thing. And it was interesting because the first three that he laid down he said “Oh, you’re moving soon” and “Oh, you have a soon, not engagement, but renewal of commitment.” Oh do I? Great news! But the way that the deck works, as it was explained to me, whatever is closest to the card representing you are the things you have the most effect on. The further away the less effect.

WS: He arranged mine in a 3 by 3 square. Is that not how he did yours?

LB: No he did all the cards of the full deck and laid them all out. And he told me it’s usually an hour and a half reading but he thought I needed it.

WS: Without telling us too many intimate details, what was your reading? What did he say?

LB: I don’t have necessarily a career to talk about so I wasn’t worried about that. He knew I was moving soon but knew it was just happening. We talked about how me and my boyfriend are very much in line with our timelines. We’re very synced up that way. But I also take on a lot of emotional burden and he was concerned about my physical health. Right next to my card was the representation of physical health in a negative way so he asked if I was OK. He said that I take on a lot of responsibility for the emotions of people around me.

WS: Do you?

LB: Absolutely. 100 percent. When you’re a parent and when you’re essentially a spouse that’s what you do. You take on responsibility for people’s emotions. You want them to be happy. You try to make a loving household. But he said there was a lot of negativity that it was stressing me out so bad it would start affecting my physical health.

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WS: Moving away from the tarot reading, you are a woman in society yes?

LB: Correct. I agree that I exist in this society and I am a woman.

WS: I’m a man in society and can’t really comprehend the female experience. What do you think is different about being a woman?

LB: With women there is no right. Regardless of what you do/are/say/believe, you are wrong. If you were to interview a group of women and ask if they see themselves as an accommodating person, the women who say “yes” would be considered a doormat or a pushover and the women who answer “no” would be seen as a bitch or overly aggressive.

WS: Like the idea of how a man is a boss but a woman is bossy.

LB: Yeah.

WS: Would you consider yourself a feminist?

LB: Yes but not in the bra-burning, I hate men, radical sense.

WS: In what sense, then, are you a feminist?

LB: I obviously think women have a place in society and they shouldn’t be kept at home. I didn’t really consider myself a feminist until I read an article about how women exist in public in a male-controlled space.

WS: Like male gaze?

LB: The article described how a woman can walk down the street and an older man will reach out to her and say “Sweetheart, you’re so beautiful, you should smile more.” It’s so degrading and so disrespectful because fuck you, I should be allowed to not smile whenever I want. Just because I’m a woman doesn’t’ mean I need to smile and be pleasant and attend to your, whatever. I’m allowed to have a personality and bad moods and things like that.

Do I get up in arms about the wage gap? No, it’s not my fight. Do I think the rape culture needs to change? Absolutely. I have five sisters. That should not be a thing. But I’m not a crazy person.

WS: What do people who haven’t thought about gender not realize about gender?

LB: I think there are times when women don’t realize what it’s like to be a woman. And that’s almost worse.

WS: Such as?

LB: When I became a mom I had the biggest internal personality shift, which I thought was supposed to happen. But then I had to have this huge intropersonal, introspective crisis basically where I said I can still be a good mother and raise my child nurturingly without necessarily liking to crochet or quilt. I can still like to twerk on the weekends and also sing lullabies to my baby.

WS: We men often see the pressure that women put on another women and it’s quite strong.

LB: I think men inadvertently compare women to each other because they think all women have the same base level. But people are complex emotional creatures and they’re all going to be different. But I don’t think men are necessarily tough on women, I think often it’s a woman versus woman situation and the men are just around because we need them to procreate.

WS: Are we men caught in the crossfire?

LB: Absolutely. We say that we want attention from men, and attention from men is nice, but it’s like how there’s girl hot versus guy hot. Mila Kunis is guy hot.

WS: Oh yeah.

LB: But Lady Gaga is girl hot.

WS: Gross.

LB: Right. Women like crazy painted acrylic nails and men do not give a shit.

WS: So to wrap up, would you recomend that someone do a tarot reading?

LB: Absolutely. It makes you feel better after.

WS: Anything you want to promote.

LB: Health?

WS: Are you on twitter.

LB: Yes @bestliabliss

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FullSizeRender(1)

My skin is not, and never has been, built for a tan. At best I freckle. At worst I burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.

That’s not to say I’ve never been tanning. When I was in high school (in Utah in the early 2000s) I had a friend who was a metrosexual before any of us knew what metrosexuals were. He would regularly go to Bahama Bronze on Harrison Boulevard after school and drag us with him. (Further proof that without productive and educational after-school activities, America’s children will fall into bad habits).

Tanning beds are the worst. Putting aside the fact that studies suggest they’re as cancerous as cigarettes, they’re sweaty, uncomfortable and more than a little bizarre. I’d hand over my money, cook in a glass oven for 20 minutes, and then have a weird pinkish hue and itchy dry skin for a few days before returning to my natural, Irish white.

But I confess that from time to time I long for the chiseled abs and flawless tanned skin of the men in the magazines. It’s hard out there for us guys. We’re so objectified by modern society.

FullSizeRender(4)

50 Shades/50 shades darker

So for October’s adventure, and just in time for my upcoming cruise to the Bahamas (Boo-Yah!), I decided to get a spray tan and invite along my friend Neil.

Neil and I met in a former life when we were both somewhat-begrudgingly working as missionaries in northeastern Brazil. We’re both highly-opinionated, vocally argumentative people, and most of our time together is spent arguing the merits of capitalism versus socialism and libertarianism vs progressivism.

FullSizeRender(2)He’s OK.

We checked in for our appointment at European Tan, where a nice young lady immediately went about describing how our lives would be changed by the VersaSpa Skin Care System, the “most technologically advanced spray bed” in the world.

She chatted with us about the three different levels of tan available to us, and assured us that it was impossible when using the VersaSpa Skin Care System to come out with an unnatural skin tone because the spray was made up of an aloe vera-based mixed with snake oil.

Once in the room, she gave us a demonstration of how we should stand, walking through the four positions that lead to optimum color.

IMG_3555The spray itself was surprisingly chilly, making a series of passes over your body similar to a car wash. After each set of sprays, a computerized voice would remind you to move to the next position and after all was sprayed and done a “dry cycle” started, passing a fan over your body.

Properly pampered. Neil and I headed next door to The Kathmandu to conduct our interview over some Lamb Vindaloo and Naan.

Wood Stock: Who are you and what do you do?

Neil Schiffman: My name is Niel Shiffman and I help set up retirement accounts, usually for teachers but for anybody.

WS: Have you ever had a spray tan before?

NS: Never.

WS: What did you think of the experience?

NS: I thought it was wonderful. If this could keep me from getting sun burned in the summer I’m so in. They have sold me forever. You stand there, you get sprayed down. There was no experience like Ross from Friends.

ross-tanWS: That’s exactly what was going through my mind.

NS: I had to look that up when you said we were doing this. I looked that up and thought “I do not want eight 2s.”

WS: Walk me through the experience, paint me a word picture.

FullSizeRenderNS: You come in, there’s a lovely young lady standing behind a salon desk in front of 8,000 bottles of different colored lotion that say things like “sexy,” and “irresistible” and “tremendous.” They ask you if you’ve ever tanned before, make sure you get the right tan for your skin tone. They ask you why you’re tanning, lucky Ben here is going on a cruise.

WS: That’s right.

NS: I will be staying in delightful Utah in October.

WS: And you’ll definitely need a tan for that.

NS: Yes, that will be tan-worthy. When it’s your turn they take you into a booth. They explain how you’re supposed to stand. Little Egyptian poses to make sure you get your underarms and the sides of your torso. You walk in and the booth says “stand in position 1” and you stand there, nervous as can be. Is this going to sting? Is this going to be cold? Is it going to be hot? What’s going to happen? Do I close my eyes? I had better close my eyes.

FullSizeRender(3)WS: Yeah I closed my eyes. I didn’t need tan eyes.

NS: You gotta stand with your hands away for the Egyptian pose so you don’t get the bottom of your hands. Oh that’s the one thing I forgot. There’s lotion if you don’t want a body part covered with spray tan to block the spray tan.

WS: Where did you put that?

IMG_3558NS: I chose my palms and bottoms of my fingers and the bottoms of my feet. And I went totally naked.

WS: Oh yeah. You have to.

NS: If they were going to spray me down (manually), I came prepared.

WS: Even if. Bring it on.

NS: I suppose that is always an option.

WS: Was there anything that surprised you?

NS: It was quicker than I expected. I think that I was not expecting the machine or whatever they call it to dry me off, which I thought was nice. It smells better than I expected.

WS: Yeah it kind of has a chocolate-y smell right?

NS: It’s a nice smell. Definitely chocolate. It’s sweet, not quite exotic but just, it’s pleasant.

WS: Obviously we won’t know exactly how it went until tomorrow. Are you worried at all about your tone?

NS: So far I feel darker. It could just be a little placebo effect going on but I feel darker.

IMG_3559WS: So you are a father, correct?

NS: I am a father of two.

WS: For how long now have you been a father?

NS: Two and a half years. I have a two and half year old and a 3-month old. Almost 3 months.

WS: Were you ready to be a dad? Were you prepared?

NS: I was prepared in more ways than I expected and less ways than I expected at the exact same time. It seems like a cop-out answer but like, changing a diaper? Rock and roll. I don’t care. Peed on, pooped on, puked on, that didn’t scare or bother me in the least.

WS: I have a really hard time with that.

NS: Crying babies, no big deal. I was dumb and thought I was smarter than the car seat so I waited until after the baby was born to install that sucker. I didn’t do it right for like 6 months so my baby was riding in the car for 6 months in a very precarious situation. You’d be driving down the road and the baby would just be tipped over because you went around a curve. That’s not going to work.

WS: What is something surprising about becoming a parent?

NS: The surprising thing for me is how much I enjoy it. I didn’t think it would be that cool and for the first couple of months I was proven right. It was not that cool. They just sit there. My wife breastfed, for the most part, so I didn’t get to participate in any feeding. They just hung out and were boring to me and I kept thinking when is this going to be cool? At about 6 months it was “Holy cow that baby smiles at me and laughs when I make a face.” That’s when it got really cool for me because before that I was totally not in.

WS: So it really is cool? That’s not just a communal lie to perpetuate the species?

NS: No, but it does take a while. For my wife she was all in when they put that newborn baby on her chest. I was just like “that is an ugly baby.”

WS: Brand newborns are a little crazy to look at.

NS: My kid’s face was good, he didn’t have a messed up face but he was the longest baby that they said they had ever delivered. He was 24 inches long.

WS: So, a nice prized trout?

NS: Oh yeah, he was rather large. So his head was kind of squished like the alien on Aliens. Big huge monster thing coming out the back. That was kind of gross but his face was good.

WS: Is it easier the second time around?

NS: Totally. Totally easier the second time around. You know what to expect at the hospital. You have everything ready to go. You got diaper changing down. One baby wipe takes care of the most massive poop with the expert hands of a second-time father. You are prepared to not sleep. You are prepared to anticipate what the kids wants and what they need.

WS: To what degree are you cognizant that these children will grow to be obnoxious teenagers?

NS: Totally, totally cognizant. He has started getting an opinion on what he wants and has started punching my arm to get my attention. That could be because I’m a bad dad. It’s not hard, he’s not doing it maliciously, just “hey dude, I want to play ball now. I want to watch a movie.” He’s definitely figuring out what he wants and he knows how to get it.

I was not expecting him to show preferences to movies already, which is nice because he mostly prefers Pixar. There’s not a bad Pixar out there.

WS: Yeah, there’s lukewarm Pixar but there’s not bad Pixar. But there are some bad cartoons out there.

NS: Yeah and maybe that’s part of the blessing of our modern life. We have access to Netflix and the movies so we don’t ever watch TV. He doesn’t know what’s out there except what I expose him to. So we only watch the movies, really, that I want to watch.

WS: What would be the one bit of advice you would give to an expectant father?

NS: There was a concern by a certain someone that perhaps God gets bored being God. Because you just do the same stinking thing every day for forever. Regardless of who that God is to you, that would get boring after a while.

The advice that I have for expectant fathers is that it doesn’t get old. I learned this on child 2 because child 1 it was like every day I’m watching him do something new. Now I’m watching kid 2 go through that same experience and my daughter is just starting to smile, it like makes me cry. It’s so dang cool to watch her learn how to smile, learn how to use her body. She’s starting to suck on her thumbs and stuff and holy cow, it’s so cool that I get to watch her doing that because I saw that two year’s ago with my first son.

Now, whether or not I want to do that again as a mortal man remains to be seen and that really will be my wife’s decision.

IMG_3557WS: Would you recommend a spray tan to someone?

NS: Yes. If it works.

WS: Right, with the asterisk that we’re not orange in the morning.

NS: If tomorrow, one of two things, I don’t look like a carrot and I’m a shade darker than I was today then this is the greatest invention ever made for skin beautification.

WS: Anything you need to promote?

NS: Fatherhood is cool.

WS: Are you on Twitter?

NS: I am. @chiqueman

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Milk Bath

Last month’s Treat Yo Self was, to put it mildly, unpleasant. It’s been an entire month and my torso still has not fully recovered (or regrown, which I do admit is impressive).

So for this month’s adventure I was adamant that the activity in question be on the relaxing side of the Treat Yo Self spectrum.

Since the beginning of this project I’ve had the idea for some form of bath on my list of ideas. When I lived in New York I remember people talking about the weird Turkish Bath Houses, and pop culture is rife with references to mud baths, but as you can imagine Utah isn’t exactly a hotbed of holistic diversity.

But in my search, I did happen upon the Beyond Spa in Layton, which offers a Coconut Milk Bath either as an add-on to a massage or as a standalone service and which is apparently excellent for your skin.

To be honest, my only frame of reference for a milk bath was that scene from Snow White and the Huntsman so I didn’t really know what to expect. But intrigued, I booked it.

Milk BAthFirst things first, a milk bath (at least at Beyond Spa) is not a bath tub full of milk. Instead it is a typical bath mixed with a coconut milk powder, which is added to the water with a reaction akin to dropping a bocce ball-sized Alka-Seltzer into a really large glass.

The tub itself was a little smaller than I would have liked, requiring me to either sit with my torso out of the water or go diamond legs to slide my shoulders down. I also expected it to be in a bathroom-esque location, with tile or something, but instead was just tucked into the corner of a two-bed massage suite.

photo(22)The friendly staff at Beyond Spa showed me to my room and set a timer for 30 minutes. They had also set up a pitcher of ice water, towels, and a small package of coconut M&Ms, which actually turned out to be the perfect snack to compliment  a coconut milk bath.

photo 1(3)For this month’s Treat Yo Self I invited along my brother Jake, who longtime Wood’s Stock readers may recognize from our occasional Two Wood Uke music videos.

Jake is 9 years older than me and, as I’ve written before, is often described as my elder, wiser, more successful and more charismatic duplicate. (“Your brother had so many friends in high school,” my mother said to me once, “You should be more like him.”). In a past life he was lead-singer in the band Dishwoody and the Burritos and after a short stint as an architect (or drafter, whatever) he pivoted into sales.

He’s the original model, as it were, and I’m the off-brand imitator with cheap parts from Kuwait.

He’s OK.

photo 3(2)Properly pampered, we made our way over to the Cantina Southwestern Grill to conduct our interview over tacos and a particularly robust amount of chips and salsa.

photo 4(2)Wood Stock: Who are you and what do you do?

Jake Wood: I am Jake Wood, I am 36, I sell professional beauty supplies and I have done that for 10 years now.

WS: Have you ever had a milk bath before?

JW: No

WS: What did you think?

JW: It was pretty relaxing and I don’t know if it was that I was exhausted before I got there but when I left I was about ready to get into a coma.

WS: Walk me through the experience. Paint me a word picture.

JW: I rinsed off reel quick in the shower, hopped in the bath, threw in some coconut..what was it, salts? Crystals?

WS: It was like a powder.

Milk Bath coconutJW: Yeah, like a powdered coconut crystal. Dumped that in there. It started fizzing like Pop Rocks and then I just sat there and soaked it in for half an hour and got my relax on.

WS: What was the actual bath like and was it different than what you expected?

JW: I don’t bathe much. I mean I shower but I don’t take baths, ever, so I’m not sure what my expectations were but it definitely exceeded them. It was far more relaxing than I would have thought. The water was nice and hot, I was kind of sweating if off like sitting in a hot tub.

WS: But without the chlorine.

JW: Yeah without the chlorine because instead of that chlorine coming off of the water it was coconut coming off the water and it smelled really good.

WS: Could you tell there was something in the water as far as milkiness or was it just water?

JW: I couldn’t really tell as far as consistency of the milk but I could tell they’d added something. It wasn’t creamy but you could tell they added something.

WS: It wasn’t soapy, but it was like a non-soapy soap.

JW: Yeah it was slick, likely slippery water. Does that make sense?

WS: How does your skin feel, can you tell?

JW: Oh yeah. I played sand volleyball for six hours before so I exfoliated the crap out of my skin and now I’m soft as a baby’s butt.

WS: So you are a music fan.

JW: I am.

WS: You were born in the late 70s so you’ve lived through several decades of music.

JW: That’s messed up.

WS: Walk me through your musical life. What was your favorite band when you were 15, 25 and 35.

JW: My first favorite band that I remember was Counting Crows. Their debut album was one of my first albums. I was probably a sophomore in high school when the first album came out. I had been exposed to some U2, some stuff that was on the radio. I really at the time liked a lot of early 80’s alternative like Oingo Boingo and Violent Femmes and Midnight Oil. I wasn’t big into radio bands but I did like REM and U2 but early REM and U2, they still had some respect back then.

WS: Yeah I still love Automatic for the People.

JW: And Out of Time was fantastic and Document and the eponymous album. Their early work was fantastic.

WS: Let’s flash forward to your mid-20s.

JW: Mid-20s was all about Jack Johnson. (My wife) Becca was just saying the other night, we used to just sit there and turn on some Jack Johnson and that was our jam and just…

WS: And just what Jake?

JW: None of your business. But that was our jam. I liked a little more Emo, I liked Jimmy Eat World and crap like that. I would say now I’m more into indie rock but I don’t think at that point I really was. I was just leaving the radio land but hadn’t completely left it so I was more in alternative world.

WS: And now your mid-30s?

JW: I don’t turn on the radio ever. We were driving last night with some couples and that song “All about that bass, bout that bass…”

WS: I hate that song.

JW: I had never heard it before 2 days ago and in a 20 minute car ride I heard it 7 times. I’m not kidding. He was bouncing stations a little bit so he’d bounce and it would be on but they kept listening to it because everyone in the car loved it. Then some song called, what is it, Fancy?

WS: Yeah, Iggy Azalea.

JW: He cracks a joke about something being Fancy and I didn’t know what he was talking about. I’d never heard that song in my life and apparently everyone  else has.

WS: Yeah, it’s out there.

JW: So I’m a little off the grid right now. Top 40 means nothing to me. I feel like the best music right now, no one knows about. I feel like in 20 years when people talk about music from right now, they’ll be talking about people that right now nobody even knows exists. I mean Jeff Tweedy, Jack White, the people who are influencing music right now, nobody listens to. And 20 years ago nobody listened to them either: the Velvet Underground, bands that really influenced music 20-30 years ago…

WS: They weren’t necessarily the ones that were on the TV shows.

JW: But they were the ones influencing the people writing music. No band says, “Man, I want to be like One Direction.”

WS: Musically no, but I’m sure there’s 12 year old kids right now that wish they were in One Direction.

JW: Yeah but it’s different. It’s different than saying “this artist pushed music.”

WS: Yeah, and no one is going to say “My music was inspired by Justin Bieber. He was  a real influence in my musical evolution.”

JW: People want to be the next Justin Bieber because he makes millions of dollars. But that’s what they aspire to be, the Millionaire.

WS: Not the musician.

JW: Yeah.

WS: It often seems to me that radio really sucks now more than it used to but I’m young and haven’t been around the block. Does it suck now or has it always sucked?

JW: It sucks more than it used to, I swear it does. One of the couples last night had never heard of the bands I grew up listening to. Those bands were on the radio but they deserved to be. It’s still music. What was on the radio when I was younger was REM, Depeche Mode, The Cure, Radiohead, but those bands all deserved to be on the radio and deserved to be bands.

WS: I think Radiohead is a good example because you hear a lot of bands today talk about how they grew up listening to Radiohead. They’re not going to be saying that about T. Swift.

JW: Nobody that matters musically. Maybe matters to the charts but nobody that matters musically is going  to say “Man, Taylor Swift, that’s what got me into music. I picked up a guitar because of her.”

WS: So the 70s, the 80s, the 90s, the millennium and now the millennium teens. Of the 5 decades that’s you’ve had some living awareness of, what’s the best decade of music?

JW: The best or the best to me? Like Arcade Fire. When Arcade Fire puts out an album it’s fantastic, but that doesn’t mean I want to listen to it. It’s not my favorite album, it never is. They have what, 4 albums now? They’re all fantastic. I don’t need to listen to them but if you’re just breaking down musical ability and skill and songwriting, they put out a fantastic album. They’re album should be the best album of the year every time they put out an album.

WS: And it was once.

JW: Yeah. But that doesn’t mean I want to listen to it. So when you say best are you asking me best or are you asking what entertained me the most.

WS: However you want to answer it.

JW: That’s hard. In the 90s I listened to 80s music. Right now I listen to music that comes out now. I feel like, as far as skill and songwriting and ability, the music that’s coming out now is fantastic.

WS: Assuming you’re able to find it.

JW: Yeah. The sub-genres are fantastic. Your alt-folk and your freak-folk and your beard-rock.

WS: I’ve got a friend who’s really into Baby Metal.

JW: I don’t know what that means.

WS: I don’t know exactly either. He tried to explain it to me and it was bizarre.

JW: Like babies playing metal?

WS: No like Japanese pop stars playing metal. It sounds so weird. Look it up.

JW: But that kind of makes my point in that there’s so many sub-genres that are mixing elements. Like, I hate country music, but I love country elements.

WS: Yeah, I love bluegrass, I love folk, I love Americana.

JW: Exactly. If somebody wants to pick up a banjo or mandolin and start twanging something, I love it. But I’d rather die than listening to country music radio music.

WS: I can handle Top 40 way easier than I can handle pop country.

JW: Which is funny because I remember one time having a conversation with a coworker and I cracked a joke how no country singer writers their own music — granted pop singers don’t either – but she says “Whatever, George Strait does, Garth Brooks does.” No they don’t. We opened the album and they didn’t write a single song. I don’t know why to me that diminished the value of the music if they can’t write it themselves.

WS: It absolutely does. I’m the movie guy and a lot of times people want to give the actor credit for what the writer wrote and it’s not the same thing. There’s good actors and there’s good writers and there’s a good blend. But some things are well-written and some things are well-acted. In music if you’re not writing your own music all you’re doing is karaoke to someone’s song.

JW: I respect a good voice, but I’d rather have some lyrics that are emotionally tied to the artist. It meant something at one point, that’s why it was written. I’ve been known to write a song here and there and…

WS: Should we get into that era?

JW: We could.

WS: Are we announcing a Dishwoody and the Burritoes reunion tour on this blog post?

JW: We are not. Not yet.

WS: It would be fun one day for you guys to get together and play a gig for the families.

JW: Oh it would be a riot. It would be an absolute riot.

WS: Back to the milk bath, would you recommend one to someone?

JW: Yeah. I’m sitting there soaking, milk-bathing, and I’m thinking Becca would kill for this, she’d love it. Just to be able to sit there and soak it up and enjoy that.

WS: With some Enya playing.

JW: The only thing I probably would’ve changed was substituting their music for mine. I would probably throw on some The National. Something moody.

WS: Not sitar music form the Mediterranean?

JW: Well I do love me a lute-like instrument, the sitar being one of my favorites.

WS: Anything you want to promote?

JW: I have to promote it now or forever hold my peace?

WS: Just if there’s anything you want to give a shout out to, or if you’ve got an album dropping.

JW: My personal album? Dishwoody’s Greatest Hits that is coming out any day now?

WS: You are not on Twitter correct?

JW: Nope.

WS: Well, I guess no one will ever find you.

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