Sunday, October 23, 2016

What Now? I.O.U.

Hey there folks. I've been writing a lot. I have blog drafts piled upon blog drafts. I even have some long blogs I've recently written that I never shared on facebook, or reverted to draft only a couple hours after publishing. I've had a lot of hefty thoughts and emotions lately. But I start writing them and it all goes in too many directions. I no longer have any centralization. At least writing-wise. In real life? 
UPDATE: Just literally as I finished writing this paragraph, my landlord texted me asking if I'll be living in this apartment next semester. Currently, I have no idea.
I graduate in December. This will wrap up my 10th semester of college (my 9th at USU). I'll be graduating with a degree in Stage Management. In all honesty, I don't know how stage mgt became my emphasis of study.

I started off as an acting major in junior college at The College of Southern Idaho back in fall 2009. I was always told I was talented at it from the college's directors, but somewhere during that time, I just decided not to believe them.
I returned to school in fall 2012 after serving an LDS mission, this time at USU. I was undeclared for 2 semesters. I was a JCOM major for fall semester 2013. I finished the semester seeking out a different major. I liked journalism, but thought there would be some other majors I'd like better.
I narrowed it down to a top 10 and was super close to joining USU's Theatre Education department. I talked with department head Matt Omasta for an hour and he said he was getting a "stage manager vibe" from me. I honestly didn't know what that was or what that meant, but after a chat with department head Bruce Duerden, I signed up immediately.
Spring semester 2014, I got a job writing one or two stories a week for the school paper, The Utah Statesman. I was offered the position. My writing has had a cult following ever since. A former Statesman editor had even suggested I write for the rest of my life. Despite all my personal-writing and journalism prospects, I was still a stage mgt major.
This hit me like a ton of bricks fall 2014. I was an assistant stage manager for "Ah, Wilderness!" I felt like a freaking mess. It was obvious to me that I didn't even know what stage mgt was or what a stage manager even did, but that I chose this major practically out of sheer curiosity.
I've done much more stage management work throughout the past 2 years. I've cut down on my Statesman writing almost permanently (however, lots of people read my psychological blog rants). I'll be stage managing one more show before I graduate. After that? Who the heck knows.

My post-college plan right now is to find some hard, time-consuming work that pays well. I'd be living somewhere cheap, preferably. I plan on doing work like this until I'm out of student loan debt, which is a few thousand dollars. +/- this summer, I'd be financially comfortable enough to look for a real-world career. With a Bachelor's Degree and fiscal stability, things look a lot brighter. Only problem is: I will have a degree in a major I never cared much for.

Now don't get me wrong, I know that no matter what path I choose in my career bed of roses, there's gonna be plenty of thorns. But in front of stage management, I've had a more recognized talent for writing and a more recognized love for all things music. Regarding passions, skills, and opportunities, here's a GREAT 5-minute Mike Rowe video (screw the haters, by the way).
For those who didn't click the link, here are some main takeaways:
--Just because you're passionate about something doesn't mean you won't suck at it.
--Your happiness on the job has very little to do with the work itself.
--Never follow your passion, but always bring it with you.

Despite putting a damper on things when it comes to following your dreams, this video sheds some new light on my future. I have a freaking random grab-bag of experience on my belt. And when I find that career that fits into my random grab-bag, you bet I'm gonna use it to my advantage.

In the meanwhile, I feel like I owe you something. Yes, you! Reading this blog because you love me or feel bad for me or both! I owe you.
I've had a couple low points in my life. I remember being diagnosed with general anxiety disorder back in November 2010. I was on my mission at the time, in North Vancouver. I started seeing a counselor at the time who I utterly loathed. I still knda do. But digging through my old missionary journal, I found this quote, directed to me:
"You will help out lots of people when you figure this thing out."
-Michelle Hooper (personal LDS Family Services counselor, Nov 2010)

I had forgotten about this quote until recently. Maybe she meant "lots of people" as in, like, 10 people I know. But maybe she meant football stadiums full of people. Heck if I know. But I've recently felt that-- years later, mind you-- the "when you figure this out" part has finally come to pass. Whether it's through my writing, my music, or my work, I need to use my abilities to help people.
Now, am I a perfect person? No. In fact, I realize that anxiety or no-anxiety, I will all always have some kinda problem(s) in my life that needs fixing. And that's a GOOD thing! Consistently working on an issue at-hand shows a desire to self-improvement! In my most anxious stages, I've definitely recognized my problems, but I also amplified them and placed them beyond my own mental reach of achieving. I say, Here are some problems I have now:
--I don't have a job lined up after I graduate
--I have 2 tests and a paper due next week
--I have to cancel the production meeting I myself arranged just 2 days ago
--I have a facebook page for my music that I rarely post on
--There are billions of women in the universe and I supposedly should marry one
--Isn't this great!

Let me tell you, I haven't always thought of life like this. I've come a long way. There were times in North Vancouver where I considered ways I could get myself sent into an ambulance. I wanted to prove there was something wrong with me, and I wanted to take a hospitalized break from the world. I made great progress for a few years, but fall semester 2014 crept around and I had began both fantasizing and planning ways to run away unnoticed. I had felt totally unloved and unaccomplished for a couple months. I know some of you might have experienced some lower times, but this is just my story.
Now? Like I said, I'm not perfect. But I feel like I truly defeated my anxiety when I realized that I can never be perfect, upon also realizing... I can never be a failure. Same goes for you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


I'm always writing notes to myself on my phone. A recent one simply reads: KNOW THINGS

That seems rather demanding, but I can explain. Of course you can't just make yourself know stuff you've never heard before out of thin air. I'm not gonna magically know how to fix your car by telling myself to just KNOW THINGS. This isn't only lying to myself, but lying to you. However, my life is full of situations where people ask a question I know the answer to... but I don't answer it! Because even though I do know it, I convince myself that I don't. Why would I do that?
Is there a fear that comes with knowing things?

"The answer is a resounding YES!" 
-Elaine S. Dalton

Okay, so Elaine wasn't referring to this topic when she said that, but the answer to my question requires he awkward sense of enthusiasm. Also, I'll spare you all my poor English and replace "knowing things" with the correct term "knowledge." 
 I guess the real danger isn't attaining actual knowledge, but thinking you know more than you really do. There's nothing more annoying than a know-it-all attitude. And there are few things more embarrassing than being corrected in public. Here's a quote I've always lived by:

"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."
-Abraham Lincoln

Now that's why we call him Honest Abe! There's always that one person making commentary on dating, religion, politics, sports, etc, who annoys us with their overt incompetence dressed up in the sheep's clothing of knowledge. I don't wanna be that guy. Actually, anybody who has read my music reviews probably thinks I am that guy. Well, when it comes to crap that doesn't matter-- 90's rap albums, NBA conspiracy theories-- maybe I am. But I have a history of short-changing myself regarding important matters, defecting my self-esteem.
It's a sad world when you don't realize how much you really know. Not that you need to show off your knowledge to everybody. Or on the opposite side, you shouldn't purposely hide your candles of knowledge under a bushel. But I've grown to understand that neither pretending to know everything and pretending to know nothing will get me anywhere in life. Another phrase I've lived by:

"I know that I know nothing."

Somewhat of a humbling statement. Even in music, I tend to lean towards the artists who take from a similar void. (Ex: James Blake "I Only Know (What I Know Now)," Paul Simon "I Know What I Know.") All these statements are true, by the way. What's self-depressive is when you actually believe that you know absolutely nothing, and suddenly every/any task becomes too difficult for your subjectively tiny brain. I have grown to understand: I can't digest all the information given to me just to poop it all out in the end.
I know what you're thinking: Greatest analogy ever. But I'm going somewhere with this. In order for me to know things, I was missing an important step: LEARN THINGS

Along with the not trusting your own set of skills or advice, comes with not trusting your ability to learn. I sometimes feel like I haven't learned anything in years. I believe I was taught lots of stuff, but never actually got up the gumption to learn it any of it. Learning takes time, effort, and my least favorite thing: Commitment! Of course, to say I never learned anything this is a dramatization. But I could have learned more. Luckily, there's always a chance for us to learn more.

The above is a strangely motivating picture from the office door of USU acting department head Leslie Brott. Anyone who's met her can agree that she knows a thing about growth... and discomfort.
Anyways, I've always squinted my eyes into the astronomic distance to see my future self as an adult with a Bachelor's degree. That "astronomic distance" is now about 10 ft away and I'm tiptoeing towards it like I'm scared of it now. I imagine my graduation experience will be like a pirate digging beneath the "X" only to find that his desired treasure chest just has a paper diploma in it. However, if you want some kind of evidence-- to yourself or to the world-- that you know things? Having a B.A. kinda helps!
In December, I will receive my Bachelor's degree from USU in Stage Management. This is hilarious! I sometimes feel like I have 0 knowledge of stage management! And yet my most recognized declaration of intelligence says I am professionally knowledgeable in stage management! Holy crap! In order for me to step into some sort of professional world, I need to answer this question for myself, now more than ever: What do I really know?
The time has come for me to admit that I know more than nothing. In fact, I now have to prove that I know more than nothing. Overall, I have to prove I know a lot more than nothing! This is new ground for me! How am I supposed to prove this? How am I supposed to learn more?  DO THINGS

"I don't like work-- no man does-- but I like what is in the work-- the chance to find yourself."
-Joseph Conrad

It's funny that Hamlet's big quote is "To be or not to be." Because, rather ironically, anyone who's read the play knows his character's big issue was hesitation to do things. Am I the equivalent to what I do? Am I the equivalent to what I know? I better be. 
See, it's possible that the final show I stage manage with USU could be the last show I ever manage at all. Whether or not I stick with this particular work after graduation, I see myself making lots of failures in my future. Heck, I've already made plenty! But I mean big failures. I predict financial faux pas and doubts as I jump from career to career. But hey, for all I know, I could be wrong. Whether I succeed or fail, the stakes are higher. And I'm kinda excited. No matter what it is I decide on doing, I ought to be who I know I am.
Maybe I don't KNOW enough. Maybe I don't let myself LEARN enough. Maybe I don't DO enough. But all of the above are connected with each other. And as my college days close out, I'm determined to work on all of the above. I'm about to be an adult with a college degree. So yeah, I'd like to say I know things. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Cache Valley's Small Towns, Ranked

Some of the best perks of living in Logan aren't in Logan at all.
Cache Valley is home of the best-- and the dumbest-- small towns imaginable. We've got places with canyon access and we've got places with terrible water quality. I'm not sure how many towns are exactly in Cache Valley... but here's 20 of them. And they're ranked!

Nibley is like this crappy swamp-like area crammed along Highway 165. In July 2014, residents had to use water from bordering towns because City of Nibley's water quality was too poor to drink or make use of. Yeah, screw this place.

20 Riverside
I've never stepped out of the car in Riverside, but it's got nice houses. Kinda like LA.

19 College Ward
I never knew this place existed until one summer two of my friends moved there. I'm convinced the street they lived on was the only street in town.

18 Dewyville + Garland
I don't think I've been to these places, but they have cool names.

17 Benson
Benson Dam is kinda pretty, although my experience is peppered with bad memories of an old job I had where I'd  hang out with a developmentally-disabled individual who liked to fish there. I'd just sit on a rock and watch him catch carp while he cranked up 2000's techno for 2 hours.

16 Hyde Park
You look at the side of the hill in Hyde Park and you'll see giant houses stacked on top of each other. You can actually drive to the biggest, highest house. It looks like a ski resort from afar, but I've mistakenly been in their driveway. It has a South African flag! And oh yeah, I got a driving ticket in Hyde Park before. So screw this place.

15 Tremonton
I've been here multiple times before I moved here. It's a useful rest stop beside I-84. But most importantly; It has a Denny's! You can eat there at 3:00am! Which I I've done.

14 Smithfield
The Zipf family lives here. They're pretty cool. They get ducks, owls and skunks. And the access to Smithfeild canyon is an understated green area I highly recommend.

13 Lewiston
Lewiston has a movie theatre that shows 1 movie at a time. It also has a gas station with a super ghetto bathroom. I found this town on a random car ride with Keith Jackman. That random.

12 Richmond
If you want to get a deliciously greasy heart attack, I highly recommend Big J's Burgers. They serve burgers, Mexican food and pizza at a wholesale price. And oh yeah, I seriously had a job interview to be a drama teacher at their high school when I was a freshman in college! What were they thinking?

11 Clarkston
Oddball LDS historic figure Martin Harris is buried in Clarkston. The town holds an outdoor Martin Harris Pageant every summer by their cemetery, including questionable acting and small town theatrical technique. (sigh) Gotta love this place!

10 Wellsville
Wellsville has a mountain range named after it. It also has this neat-o tabernacle building on Main Street. And the American Heritage Center hosts Baby Animal Days every year. Bonus!

9 Newton
Roommate Tyson at Newton Dam
I don't think anybody actually "lives" in Newton, but Newton Dam is borderline gorgeous. It's where I learned how to play the world's greatest sport: Watermelon Polo.

8 River Heights
River Heights has the world's coolest playground! And I have relatives buried in its cemetery.

7 North Logan
North Logan should be ranked lower. It has a terrible Wal-Mart which clogs surrounding traffic like Big J's Burgers does to your arteries. However, it also has Green Canyon! Possibly my favorite local trailhead. Just look out for bears (not a joke).

6 Paradise
Paradise has a spacious, green landscape that's great for building environmentally with giant houses that are arguably bad for the environment. But yeah, I'd live there. And it has cool abandoned buildings that are impossible to break into. Don't ask me how I know that...

5 Millville
The park in Millville
I was giving my ol' 1984 Honda Accord a winter test drive one December night when all the sudden I was surrounded by Christmas lights. I didn't see any buildings, just some quaint Christmas decorations along the telephone polls. I was apparently in Millville. Also, it's got this park placed right next to somebody's horse field. You can go and pet them, if they like you. Horses don't like me for some reason. Also, it's got a canyon entrance, notably for 4-wheelers. Also, there's a USU/government-ran wildlife center where they nurse wolves and coyotes. They'll tell you to drive off the property if you get too close. Don't ask me how I know that...

4 Mendon
Cache Valley below/behind us
Mendon Days is cutest darn summer festival you will ever see. This town also has the only access I know to enter the steep Wellsville Mountains. Great hikes there! I have a funny story about my car breaking down there. And my buddy Rob has a funny story about running into an unattended robot operation there... No, really.

3 Avon
Floating bondfire at Porcupine Dam
Avon is officially the middle of nowhere. It's home of Porcupine Reservoir, where I was introduced to cliff jumping and floating bonfires. Both epic, by the way. It's also an entrance to this sketchy dirt road that swerves through some mountain/tundra terrain which leads you to Weber County. Apparently you can hunt moose and elk around there.

2 Hyrum
Hyrum! Home of Hyrum Reservoir! A great place to hang-glide, eat pizza, or take a pee break! This is also where I've seen a hokey fireworks show every 4th of July. Main Street has some great Christmas decorations and some dude who lives there used to have a bison in his yard. Bison are always cool. This is where USU holds Big Band Swing dances, which are fun, 50% of the time.

1 Providence
Providence is as close as Cache Valley gets to Mayberry. It's where my gramma Kay Empey grew up as a child. I've found her old street corner, which probably looks just as quaint as it did back then. In preparation for my first half marathon, I eventually ran every street in Providence. On Saturday mornings, elderly folks would wave at me from their front porches. There's a nice canyon entrance that marks the halfway point of my 10-mile route. Perhaps Providence is my #1 due to my personal, biased, intimate connection with all its streets.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Running: Is This The End?

Here's something that occupies much of my life but I've never blogged about: Running.
Yeah, I run. Pretty consistently. And I love it.

The Humble Beginnings
I first ran cross country as a freshmen at Linden High School back in California. I grew up playing soccer and always started on defense. But I didn't make the high school team.

On all accounts, it was a smart move by the coach. I spent my previous summer drinking tons of Snapple and watching tons of Family Matters reruns. My favorite hobby was requesting songs on the local radio stations. My main exercise was jumping on the trampoline with my sister. It was a great summer! But physically lazy. And by the time I went to soccer practices, my body was shaped like... something different. I've always been skinny. And I was skinny then. Only then, my body was shaped like a pear and I had little spaghetti arms. After realizing I just wasn't that athletic, I tried making a team nobody gave a crap about: Cross country. How did try-outs go? They didn't have enough people, so they just added me on! It was great!

I wasn't very fast. I always finished at the tail-end of JV races. Due to lack of team participants, I once ran a Varsity race! I finished dead last. But I'll never forget running that race. The Amador High School mascot (some guy in a buffalo costume) was blocking my path when he thought all the runners had passed him, so I pushed him out of the way. Turd.

Jerome XC
My sophomore high school fall season was spent playing soccer for Jerome High School in Idaho. I started JV defense and even got some Varsity playing time toward at the season's end. I just assumed I'd be  playing Varsity when I came back my junior year. I made some good friends on cross country team, so I was going to both soccer and XC practices for about a week. My soccer coach found out about it and made me practice with JV. He said I could either stick with soccer and play Varsity, ot I could do both sports and play JV soccer. That was the last soccer practice I ever attended.
So I took a risk and chose the sport I was historically bad at. I ran some JV, ran a little Varsity. It was worth it to me because I was getting better. The top 7 runners make Varsity, and I finished 6th for the team at the District meet. There was hope for me!
My senior year began all too familiar to my senior year. I always finished with the 7th or 8th best time for the team. I once won a JV race! I won a race! But it was JV. And I was a senior. I took my cookie and walked away. I remember getting my PR at a Jerome race later, which was temporarily exciting. Everybody else got theirs too. And I found myself back on JV. I had to run a JV race on the Twin Falls golf course in the canyon. I felt like I hadn't been running to my potential. I had something to run for. So this time, I did something I had never done before: I competed.
The race had a couple hundred runners and I got 6th place. I beat my PR. I moved up to Varsity with the 6th best time for the team! Next race? I crushed that PR and entered the 17:00 range! I stayed up with our best runners for the rest of the season, which included my best run at the state championship meet! I got 3rd for the team and top 50 in the race! Since I was on such an ascent, I decided to run track that spring. On our first meet, I ran the 1600m in under 11 minutes and I even made the paper. I was improving! But I quit the team entirely to focus on the school musical and the Advanced Speech team. Respectively, some people called me a quitter. But I kept running...

JHS XC, State Academic Champions!

Hero-to-Zero (to hero again)
I spent that summer at Redfish Lake, where I learned the painful joy of mountain running. I'd usually just run 4 miles or so, but I knew I could do more. When I started attending CSI (junior college in Twin Falls), I decided to run the Perrine Bridge 10k. And I won! The run felt great and even though there was limited competition, it was a notable achievement.

Won the 10k with a 39:43

Everything after that race sucked. I ran less and I ran poor. I then served a 2-year LDS mission where I only ran 5 times within those 2 years. Slowly, I became a consistent runner after my mission. I knew it would be a good way to beat out my stress/anxiety/whatever. It was spring semester 2013 at USU where I started making it my reality. I would park my car in the snow and run 4 miles at the indoor track at USU. And it didn't suck. I spent my summer experimenting running in the neighborhood. You ever been to Logan? People live on the side of mountains. So I'd check it out up there, on foot. My fall semester had some lengthy, spirited runs. By 2014, I decided I'd try my very first half marathon.

My 2013 running selfies were relentless

The Magic Era
My half marry training during spring semester 2014 is a glorified period of my life. I would just run for miles everyday. Like, in the friggin snow. Against the wind. And I felt perfectly fine. 0 pain. I could legitimately run 10 miles whenever I wanted and it would just feel like a normal day. This is what people on the actual USU XC team were doing. Mind you, I was just making up a training plan off the top of my head. 3 weeks before my race, reality hit my body like a train. My knee started giving out on me. I ran with a knee brace for the next 3 weeks. Did short jogs. My doctor said my training plan was a bad idea. When the race day came, I was nervous. I knew I could be a contender. What could make my knee better all the sudden? Adrenaline. Last-minute adrenaline.
I ran the Striders Ogden Half Marathon. It was in the Hunstville/Eden area in Ogden canyon. I figured it would be a small outing. This race was so much huger than I imagined! They were sending multiple bus-loads of people to the starting line! They left no empty spaced, either. I remember sitting over the bus wheel (arg!) crammed next to some old guy who couldn't tell that I really didn't want to talk to him. So there are hundreds of people there... and I ran perfectly fine. I finished 17th place! I ran 81:04! The top 20 got medals! I got 2nd place in my age group! Everybody else who beat me was older than me! Which could only mean-- to me, at the time-- those people will be me some day! Only a couple years and I myself could win a half marathon! It only makes sense, right?
Wrong. In fact, my running habit since then deserves its own running metaphor. Since that race, it's all been very slow... and all downhill.

Not too shabby!

All Downhill From Here
A half marathon is 13.1 miles. I was in 12th place for the first 11 miles. I was getting consistently passed at the end of that race. My run as a whole that day was great, but I definitely didn't finish strong. I was dying those last 2 miles. And I've died on many runs since then. I had many cases of shin splints that summer, and running suddenly was no longer fun. I ran the Redfish Memorial Day half marathon in 2015, Finished top 10, but there weren't a lot of other runners (top 3 got medals). And I felt like crap the whole time. I pushed through that summer with some difficult mountain runs, but my stage management major took over my life when I got back to school. I still had the perseverance, but not the time. I'd run 8 miles on Monday afternoon, run 8 miles Saturday afternoon, and call it good. I wasn't training smart enough to do a half marathon this year, so I settled for a 10k this year. I got 4th (top 3 got medals) and even though my performance was just fine, I felt like crap.
The $90 specialty shoes I bought in March have plenty of arch support, but the outside has been deteriorating all summer. I took all of July off from running since nothing felt right. I've had a couple okay runs this month, but nothing over 5 miles. And I still take walk-breaks more than usual. It hasn't been pretty. To cap it all off, I sprained my ankle tonight in a pickup game of basketball.
Oh the humanity! The moment it happened, I knew it was bad. I took my shoe off a couple hours ago and my ankle has inflated to the size of a grapefruit. And growing. I'll have to rest for at least two weeks. With this injury, plus how mediocre/bad my runs have been this month, I can't help but wonder: Is this the end?
I love distance running. It eases my stress. It's where I've come up with my best, clearest thoughts. It gets me feeling confident, strong and dedicated. But lately, I feel like I've been clinging on to something old. I have a show to stage manage next semester. Could this be the end of my running days? My "good" running days? Is there really such a big physical difference between being 23 and 25? I'm taking a hyperfit class next semester, but will that do the trick? Do I need to start at square one next year? Or quit all together? Is this the end?

 It's gotten bigger since I took this photo. At the time, I downloaded this photo to a desktop so I could upload it to my blog. Now? I cannot even  walk to that desktop due to the pain.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Everything Reminds Me Of Everything

Hey Man, Slow Down! Idiot, Slow Down!

Half of my readers recognize the statue pictured above from Temple Square in Salt Lake City. The other half will recognize the whole picture from the leaflet of Radiohead's OK Computer. Well, it's both. I've recently learned that Thom Yorke wrote a few songs in SLC and came to this statue for a place to refocus. This album was released in 1997. It was musically adventurous and the production was the sound of the future. But hey, I didn't hear it all the way through until I was, like, 18, 19. I bought this album in November of 2009. And today, it is extremely difficult for me to listen to it. 
Now as I said before, the music here is great and it still sounds like it came from outer space. Lyrically, this is straight-up depressing. Anxious. Bleak. Dismal. All too real for those who have suffered from mental illness. When I bought this album, I was unaware of my own mental downward spiral. And my immediate love for this album didn't help. 
I remember talking to a counselor in 2010/2011-ish who told me that General Anxiety Disorder was like playing a broken record in your mind. There are tons of negative phrases you repeat to yourself often. Now, it's not like I was haunted by Radiohead lyrics while I was on my LDS mission, but I've always since thought Thom's lyrical approach on this album was him releasing some of his broken-record-anxiety thoughts. "Fitter Happier" in a nutshell. Any time I try to visit this album, I kinda get taken back to my anxious 19-year-old self. I consider it a classic record and I enjoy playing individual tracks occasionally, but I haven't listened to this whole album in nearly 2 years. 
However, OK Computer seems like the pivotal album that reminds me of bad times. But I still think that "jet airline to Jesus Christ's thoughts" picture is awesome. And there are plenty of albums that remind me of GOOD times!

I've Been Wanting To Make This Graph!

I wrote this blog post in May where I claim I was finally learning to live in the moment again. Some of you must be thinking: "Scott, have you had struggles with living in the moment?" Actually, my adult life has been a psycho-emotional experience I can never fully grasp with words. So now-- ladies and gentlemen-- I present to you: The Scott Hall Adult Life Mental Health Line Graph! 

Exciting, isn't it! People can look at this and be like, "I met Scott when he felt super happy about himself! Nice!" Or perhaps, "I met Scott when he was going through a rough time! Oh shoot..." 
Mind you, the scoring system is all based on my own current opinion. I don't really score my mental health with some kinda government-funded testing on a regular basis. Although that low score for "Late 2010" can be backed up by some old paperwork from LDS Family Services. 
I spent a lot of time in the mid-low sections of this graph trying to relive past emotions. I've learned that such a mindset is doomed to fail. So I've been increasingly living in the present, trying not to think too much about my past or my future. And it works! I started feeling familiar and new feelings of happiness, relaxation and creativity! Then something happened to my present: I moved to Jerome, ID. I haven't lived in Jerome since I was a teenager.  

Summer 2016: Everything Reminds Me Of Everything!

This summer has been the ultimate test for me to live in the moment. I kicked it off with that blog post I cited earlier, feeling confident and positive. So I go back home... and everything I do reminds me of something I did a long time ago. 
-I ride my bike by my old high school, I feel like I'm in high school. 
-I listen to "Paranoid Android," I go back to my early anxiety days. 
-I listen to Sufjan Stevens, I suddenly go back to my best summer ever. 
-I listen to music from 2013, I feel like it's 2013. 
-I eat some dinner my mom made, I recall the first time I ever ate it. REALLY, ANYTHING.
Trying to collect the many eras of Scott this summer is worthy of its own roller coaster line graph. I present to you: The Scott Hall Summer 2016 Mental Health Line Graph!

Everything I wrote on there is true. The bad days at work, the owl, the headaches, the pizza, whatever! I really hope people don't worry about me when they see this. See, all those little things like the decline from "pizza" to "headache?" That's all temporary. True, but temporary. The numbers here throughout the summer stay relatively high. But yeah, lately... everything reminds me of everything! And it's as cool as it is annoying!
This whole graph-filled blog might just be my outlet trying to explain the high points and frustrations of my summer. It also might have just been a way for me to show off my Radiohead critique. Either way, I go back to Logan in one week. My days have been, mentally, perfectly fine. The whole overload of nostalgic feelings? I've decided it's kinda funny. And also considering my situation-- living with my parents again and all-- it's kinda normal. Beyond this point, there's no reason to overthink my mind-boggling (but overall, pretty good) summer. I have bigger fish to fry. 
As long as we're living in the moment, we're gold. 
Moral of the story. 
Time for some "Exit Music (For A Blogpost)." 
Cue corny movie credits music. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Value of a Memory

Every summer, both the good and the bad, I go through a "mid-summer crisis." I get this irked feeling inside like I'm not doing my summer the right way. Where are the good times? Where are the long summer nights? Where are the memories?
I've had a few forces against me this summer. I had a lot of good friends in Logan, but I left them all to save some money by living at home with my parents in Jerome. Compared to the classic college town Logan, there aren't too many people my age around here. Also, I was starting to get migraines consistently towards the end April. Unfortunately, this hasn't stopped for the last 2 months. I guess I'd be pretty justified to complain about my 2016 summer nights spent in my parents' basement with a proverbial anvil pushing against my forehead. But I digress. My mentality this summer has one thing that has both been killing me and keeping me alive: Memories.
As I mentioned earlier, memories of summers past leave me wanting more and bury me in a mid-summer crisis. But I've also developed a more positive perspective. I look back and smile with the corniest sense of nostalgia as I remember my favorite songs and favorite friends from those summers. I have hope that this summer will be perfectly fine, whether or not I make new memories. And even if I tried to create my very own "night to remember," moments like that cannot be forced. They kinda just happen.
The best summers of my life (so far), I just so happened to be closely surrounded by some of the nicest, most influential people possible. I've learned to be grateful for all those, what I've learned from them, and the experiences we shared. Here are some examples.

2008 Jerome, ID
I was really shy during my first summer in Jerome (2007), but I did meet some great people during that time. I kinda did the math and decided to increase my time spent with them in 2008. This particular summer, I had high school buddies hang out with. I was also in a local play, The Laramie Project, where I built some new friendships (as most plays do). I fell in love with late nights. I remember listening to tons of Beck and R.E.M, and watching Phineas and Ferb after part-time shifts at Ridley's.

2009 Stanley, ID
My first summer at Redfish was so good, I worked there 2 more times! I was 18, freshly graduated and this was my first summer away from home. I romanticize this summer a bit much, but I admit the first 3 weeks were rough for me. I shared a cabin with an underage drunkard and a compulsive liar (I never knew they were real!), yet eventually learned to love the heck out of them. I would've stayed in my shell that summer if it wasn't for the hard-working Clegg family, the ever-positivist Jodi Crozier and the cabin of super nice girls who lived next door. I also made great friendships with my alcohol-drenched and marijuana-stench co-workers, who shared my taste in music. I remember discovering new heights in the Sawtooth Mountains and constant listens to Illinois and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

2011 Langley, BC
By all means, I could leave this one out. I was on anti-anxiety meds (respectively) the entire time. But I was blessed with great companions and a bunch of outgoing missionaries who lived nearby. Our district was always tight-knit. We were all super different, but always somehow got along; making memorable P-Days and keeping track of each others' work. I guess it also helped that the only LDS temple in British Columbia was in my church parking lot. No musical memories will be shared for this summer, for they were later dubbed "irreverent" for mission standards... 

2013 Logan, UT
Ah, yes, my first summer in Logan! I probably wouldn't have had a lot of my best memories if it wasn't for always being welcome at the Rob Owens/Andrew Sieggen apartment. Many other friendships spurred from that friend-base. I remember pulling through with terrible jobs at call centers and factories. I had many listens to the new Daft Punk and Vampire Weekend albums. I had no idea I was living what I would later refer to as "the good old days." Things were so much better than I had believed at the time.

Which brings me back to this summer. Sometimes I get caught up in the science of making a memory. Sometimes I've thought all these summers were kinda based around me having friends who were more social/outgoing than me. I guess at the end of the day, it's all about attitude, optimism, living in the moment... to be grateful in any circumstance. This summer, I won't let my health or my change of scenery bring me down.
With the choices you make, you are either building something to look forward to or something to look back on. The risk, the cost of making a memory is based on your own willingness to act; to do! The remaining value is priceless.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

2016 Music Mid-Year Report: "meh."

It's been hard to follow the music scene this year. It's been a year of "meh." Whatever my vote is for Album Of The Year, it will come in the second half of this year. At least I hope so. Because yeah, I've heard some good and great albums so far. But nothing beyond that. I'm still waiting for the big one.
If anything is interesting in the music world this year, it's where the best music is coming from. In February, two of the most entrepreneurial artists from last decade (Animal Collective + Kanye West) released albums in the same week!
...And they were both "meh."
When the underground experimental icons Animal Collective become irrelevant and the beat-making machine Kanye West becomes lazy, we know something's awry in the music world. But let's judge what the music scene's like by looking at some of my favorite albums of 2016 so far.

The Old Guys Strike Back
Radiohead A Moon Shaped Pool 
Age of average band member: 46.8. I didn't think I'd be a fan of a new Radiohead album. Everything's felt like an electronica-flavored downhill slope after In Rainbows. Yet Johnny Greenwood's recently taken to composing symphonic movie soundtracks, which shows on every track on this album. The production from Nigel Godrich sounds as up-to-date as ever. Thom Yorke is an old fart now and can no longer vocalize paranoia like he used to. Here, he instead plays a sentimentally existential narrator. The album may seem boring to some, but I hear aging music prophets admitting that they've considered giving up (love? music? life itself? something). Backed by some of their most complex harmonies yet, it fills a missing space in their catalog.
Sturgill Simpson A Sailor's Guide to Earth 
Age: 38. A major-label country album? On a Scott list? Say it ain't so! I'll admit, this album is as corny as it is wise. An unlikely favorite. It's a concept album based on Sturgill's letters to his wife and son while he was serving for the U.S. Navy, based in Japan. The strings sound nostalgic and the horns sound raw throughout the album. He gives an album full of life lessons while making references to Kim Jong-il and Nintendo 64. The album's center-pieced by a Waylon Jennings-esque cover of Nirvana's "In Bloom," which flows remarkably, strangely natural with the album in both theme and composition. Then he wraps up the album with an old-man rant about the media where he violently sums up all the beautiful life lessons he's given us: "The bullshit's got to go!" 
David Bowie Blackstar 
Age: 69 (deceased). I had a hunch this album was gonna be good with its two lead singles "Blackstar" and "Lazarus." The album did not disappoint. Now when we listen to this, it's hard not to think about his death that closely followed its release. Almost every song on here talks about death. Dying between a Sunday night and a Monday morning, we now have the only logical (and prophetic) interpretation of the lyric "Where the f*** did Monday go?" And even without his death, you can't deny that Bowie worked his butt off on this album, which contains his most consistently exciting work in years. This might be my favorite album of the year so far.
And that's what's wrong with 2016. Upon first listen, I imagined this song making my top 10 list at the end of the year. But #1? We still have 6 months...

Hip-Hop, etc
Anderson .Paak Malibu
R&B songwriter Anderson .Paak showed up on last year's Dr. Dre album. If he didn't have a proper follow-up album, his name could be easily forgotten with time. But Paak delivers a different story track-after-track on Malibu. The music is R&B, but the beats are hip-hop. Frank Ocean hasn't released in album in 4 years, so this might be as close as we're gonna get.
Kendrick Lamar untitled unmastered.
It's no surprise that Kendrick Lamar is on this list. What's surprising is that this is what his music sounds like when he's not even trying! 34 minutes of demo tracks, and it's still the most quality jazz instrumentals and straight rapping I've heard all year. Without any glossy production work (or even song titles), Kendrick shows versatality in his songwriting with his least commercial release yet.
Chance The Rapper Coloring Book
I've always passed Chance The Rapper off as "meh." I've loved a couple tracks by him, but he hasn't kept me invested for an entire album until now. These songs are beautifully textured with gospel and jazz elements. The production is top-notch, especially on "No Problem" and "Angels." I guess that out of all 14 tracks, there are a couple duds. But the high moments are glorious; themed around family, memories and praise. Actually, this album might be my favorite album of the year so far.
And this is also a problem with 2016. The actually "rapping" on here is easily beat out by Kendrick, among others. But if anything, the aesthetic of this album is possibly this year's most colorful. Chance The Rapper could respectively be renamed Chance The Producer. I guess with so many "scene" rappers trying to make their own Dark Fantasy, it's nice to have a Coloring Book.

More Than "meh." 
--Beyonce's Lemonade is actually pretty memorable. I'm glad popular artists like her are getting more personal. But on the other hand, where's the commercial love for Benji? Everybody in America wants to know who "Becky with the good hair" is, but nobody asks about "the girls at Panera Bread." 
--James Blake's The Colour In Anything is way too long, but if you like James Blake, it's worth it just to hear his voice for 75 minutes.
--Car Seat Headrest's Teens Of Denial proves that they're more than just some middle-of-the-road indie rock band. The songs are musically epic and lyrically intriguing. It's growing on me.
--Parquet Courts' Human Performance is their best in 3 years. It's not scrappy minimalist punk by any means. I'd say the guitars sound "cold."
--Swans' The Glowing Man would fall under the "old guys" category, but I have so much to write about it, I can't help but be overly brief: It's scary.
--King Gizzard & The Lizard's Wizard Nanagon Infinity has the most random shtick any album's ever had: The beginning literally loops with the album's end. You can hit the CD repeat button a CD player and there will be no hiccup between listen 1 and listen 2. I mean, the album itself is pretty good. Some violent, weird, psych-rock/garage-rock. Not sure what it all means though...
--David Cobb gets various country artists on his Southern Family compilation concept album. All songs written and produced by Cobb, we hear artists like Jason Isbell, Jamey Johnson and Miranda Lambert present individual members of a southern family.
--Death Grips' Bottomless Pit sounds like a Death Grips album.