Ben Crowder Blog

Monthly: 2008–07

Apple telephonic goodness

I got my iPhone today. It’s not perfect, but it blows my old phone out of the water. I am a happy camper. :) More later once I spend more time with it, but of the apps I’ve tried out so far, I rather like Twitterrific, BoxOffice, Enigmo, Labyrinth LE, and Pandora/Shazam/midomi. I also tried Super Monkey Ball and it seems pretty darn cool, but I haven’t yet figured out the correlation between how I move the phone and how my character moves. (It’s not random, but it sure as heck doesn’t make sense to me yet.)

The only significant downside I’m seeing with the phone right now is the battery life. Not sure what to do about that… Anyway, I’m sure that’ll get better, somehow. And in the meantime I’m laboriously transferring my contact list over to Address Book so I can sync it with the phone. (I could do it automatically, yes, but by doing it manually I get to do some spring cleaning as well, getting rid of contacts I really don’t need anymore. It feels good to chloroform the inner packrat.)

Twitter in plain English

From Evan Williams’ blog I came across Twitter in Plain English by Common Craft. It’s only two and a half minutes and gives a great explanation of what Twitter is:

As you can see from the comments on that page, Twitter’s not just about what you ate for breakfast. (And thank heavens, because yes, that would be excruciatingly boring after a day or two. Unless you’re one heck of a food writer. And can do it in 140 characters.)

No, Twitter’s a way to create communities and share ideas. I’ve been on for two months now and it’s got me hooked. It’s proven to be a really good way to stay abreast of what’s going on and what’s interesting. For me, it’s an easy way to share things I don’t want to write a full blog post on. (I’m also using Google Reader’s “Note in Reader” bookmarklet extensively for the same sort of thing — sharing interesting stuff I come across. I use del.icio.us as well, but more for things I want to come back to later and don’t want to forget about.)

And you know, because you only have 140 characters per message, it doesn’t take up much of your time, either in reading or in posting. Seriously, coming up with a tweet takes less than a minute, sometimes a mere matter of seconds. Blog posts are way more work. :) (Yeah, I realize the irony here.)

Anyway, if you’re not on Twitter yet, give it a whirl for a few weeks and see if you like it. There’s a lot of downtime but that doesn’t seem to matter, strangely enough. (I think that may be because the messages are so short, but I’m not sure.) My Twitter username is bencrowder.

Also: be sure to check out Common Craft’s other videos on Web 2.0 stuff in plain English. Good stuff.

Reflections of Christ

There’s a really cool photography exhibit I heard about today called Reflections of Christ (thanks to Nic for the heads-up). It chronicles the life of the Savior through a series of photographs set to music, and wow, it’s neat — not least because photography is a rare medium for portraying Christ. Paintings, definitely. Film, fairly often. But photography? Hardly ever. Every time I look at the photos, my brain tries to tell me they’re paintings. And when I realize that they’re not, it’s like a jolt of reality goes through my system. Yes, Christ was real. The New Testament stories really happened. And with these photos we get another glimpse at the life of our Lord. Kudos to the people who put this together — it’s good.

The girl effect

Just discovered The Girl Effect via NorthTemple (which seems to be down at the moment, otherwise I’d link to it):

The Girl Effect, n. The powerful social and economic change brought about when girls have the opportunity to participate in their society.

Cool. It’s basically microfinancing, focused specifically on adolescent girls because, to quote their site, “girls are the most likely agents of change.” A nice focus on an ordinarily invisible segment of society in the developing world.

Make sure you check out the video, by the way. Simple yet effective:

I deradioed a girl

I don’t often join Facebook groups anymore (let alone invite people to them), but my friend Jon’s group I Deradioed a Girl: Get Katy Perry Off the Air is an exception. The song promotes infidelity and a lack of accountability, not to mention its flirtations with homosexuality. And it’s on public radio.

One of the quotes from the Facebook page pretty much sums it up for me: “The face of sin today often wears the mask of tolerance.” (President Thomas S. Monson) Sometimes things don’t matter, and we get ourselves worked up over nothing. But sometimes they do matter. Sometimes their effects and influence stretch far into the future, diving deep into thousands if not millions of lives. Sometimes you have to stand up for what you know is right.

Whether or not people join the group and call the radio stations remains to be seen, but at the very least we need to be aware of the evils knocking at our door. And no, I don’t think this is crying wolf. :)

Walking literary labyrinths

It’s been a while since I blogged about what I’ve been reading, so it’s time for an update.

From that list, Brothers Karamazov has sort of fallen by the wayside, and I need to pick it up again. (Especially because I’m right at the beginning of the Grand Inquisitor bit. And I’ve heard that part is good. :)) I really liked The Kite Runner and found that it moved me more than I was expecting it to. It’s…excruciatingly good. And The Arm of the Starfish was great — and didn’t have the stiff dialogue problems I remembered A Wrinkle in Time having. (But it’s been forever since I’ve read Wrinkle, so I need to go back and try it again.)

I’m reading and enjoying Aaron Lansky’s Outwitting History, Chris Bigelow’s Conversations with Mormon Authors, Nancy Malone’s Walking a Literary Labyrinth, Emma Thompson’s screenplay and diaries for Sense & Sensibility, and some biographies of Leonardo Da Vinci. And I’m about to start my first Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea. (I don’t quite know how I made it through 25 years without reading any of him. Funny how that happens.)

Shifting into the fantasy realm, ten minutes ago I finished the second book in Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus trilogy (The Golem’s Eye) and I really liked it, along with the first. Amazing writing, and (for me) just the right kind of magic. Can’t wait to read the third one, Ptolemy’s Gate. On my reading list: Diana Wynne Jones’ The Pinhoe Egg, Angie Sage’s Magyk (first book in the Septimus Heap series), Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Robin McKinley’s Beauty, and Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief. And The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

Since signing up on Goodreads, I haven’t really used it much. I also signed up on Shelfari last week but haven’t touched it since. I love the idea of each site, and while far more people I know are on Goodreads, and while Shelfari looks way better than Goodreads, I still rarely log in. I do use LibraryThing regularly, but only to update the catalog of my books, and occasionally to check out reviews and get recommendations.

The hardest thing is making time to read. Or rather finding the balance between time spent reading and time spent writing and designing and doing my own creative work. Both have to happen, but things generally get more weighted on the production side and not so much on the regeneration side. Sad. Especially with that 80-book goal of mine. ;) I do try to read at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and that helps. But what I really want to do is just make an hour or two sacrosanct each day and set apart solely for reading. Inviolable time, that’s what I need. But I don’t know if I can do it. In the meantime, I’ve got forty minutes left before the next item on my calendar, so I’m totally going to start The Old Man and the Sea. Even though I’ve got a million other things clamoring for my attention. So there! Every so often you just have to stop and take some time to recharge your batteries. And there’s no use feeling guilty about it. (I don’t, in case you were wondering. :)) It’s amazing how good I feel after a couple hours of reading.

And mmm, I love posts about books. :)

Intravenous immorality

I’ve previewed a few popular television shows over the last handful of months and I’ve noticed something troublesome: they’re not as clean as they used to be. It’s not just that, though; the culture of what’s accepted in society and on TV (and what’s not) has radically altered over the past couple of decades.

Take sex, for example. It’s on TV to a degree and certainly in movies far more than that. Now, actual depiction of sex is overt and obviously dangerous; the less visible and more insidious danger is the Babylon worldview that latches on and burrows its way into our souls, into our spiritual bloodstreams. It’s okay to have sex with whoever you want, says that philosophy. Everyone’s doing it. Now, I don’t think this means that when we watch movies with this kind of perspective, we’ll go out and start mating willy-nilly. Luckily most of us have more inhibitions than that. But I’ll be darned if we don’t end up feeling like there’s nothing really wrong with extramarital sex, like it’s just something people do. It loses its sin value and becomes as commonplace as breathing or eating.

As followers of Jesus Christ, however, we don’t have the “luxury” of thinking that way. We’re not carnal animals. We can be, if we forget who we are, but we’ve got a greater destiny than that. We worship God — not Aphrodite. And God has commanded us to be chaste, to save sex for marriage and marriage alone — marriage between a man and a woman. Pretty much the complete opposite of what the world thinks.

It’s not just sex, of course, though that’s perhaps the most obviously anti-gospel philosophy. Take action-adventure movies as well. Lots of people die, and most of those deaths are casual; nobody cares unless it’s one of the main characters. I’ve found that when I come out from watching an action-adventure movie, deaths roll off me like water off a duck’s back. And that bothers me. Death should mean something to me. Sure, we believe in a life after death, but the casual-death philosophy of these movies has nothing to do with a post-mortal belief but rather has everything to do with a cheapening of the value of a life. The message I get from these movies is that a life is only worth something if it belongs to somebody important. That’s messed up.

Does this mean that we have to rear back and abstain 100% from anything with a worldly perspective? I don’t know the answer to that. Ideally, yes, complete avoidance would be best. In reality, though, I don’t think you really can avoid it completely, since it’s everywhere. Utterly pervasive. Which is why we have to constantly inject ourselves with the antidote: the gospel. We have to remind ourselves of the standards and bounds the Lord has set so that we don’t get brainwashed into joining the Parade of the Natural Man. It’s easy to let go and get sucked into the march along the broad and wide path that leads to spiritual death. It’s not so easy to hold tight to the iron rod. But we can’t let go.

I think this is why we read our scriptures every day. This is why we go to church every week. This is why we pray daily. This is why we go to the temple regularly. I mean, we do those things for other reasons, too, but we do them on a regular basis because we keep forgetting.

It’s like there are shadows everywhere, climbing the walls around us, seeping in through the floorboards, wafting in with the breeze. They’re relentless, always trying to get close, and they’ll never give up — not in this life, at least. We have to keep bathing ourselves in light to keep the darkness at bay. A one-time fire isn’t going to cut it, because tomorrow they’ll be back, in greater numbers. We keep the fire lit day-in and day-out because that’s the only way to stay safe.

Luckily, it’s easier to read our scriptures than it would be to keep a literal fire going every day of our lives. Or is it?

One last thought. The world doesn’t take kindly to people who disagree with it. You don’t like what the world has to offer? Sorry, that’s not PC — you need to be a little more tolerant. Open your mind and stop living a sheltered life.

Blech. At the cost of what? Our souls? We can’t judge other people — that’s not our prerogative — but we can judge ourselves. We know when we’re toeing the line. It’s way too risky to flirt with Babylon. If we really believe in Christ and his gospel, we have to stand up for what we believe in. We can still be kind and allow other people to believe what they want to believe, but we can’t sway with every worldly wind that comes around. We have to stand strong.

Baby New Year’s midlife checkup

Since it’s just over halfway through the year, I figured I’d check in on my New Year’s resolutions for 2008 and see how I’m doing:

  1. I’ve read 19 books so far this year. Yeah, Houston, I’m in trouble. Considering how things are going I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it to 80, so I’m going to revise the goal to 50. (I guess I could always read thirty Berenstain Bears books, but that feels like cheating. ;))

  2. The only C.S. Lewis book I’ve read that I hadn’t already read is Letters to Malcolm.

  3. Nada on Jane Austen. But it’s not too late, since luckily she didn’t write that much. (Wait, what am I saying?!? I wish she’d written forty more books. Oh well. I wonder if she’s still writing… Do they publish books in the next life?)

  4. I’ve decided to ditch Out of Time for now and focus on new novels instead. We’ll see if NaNoWriMo happens this year. (I have another project that takes precedence. More on that in a few weeks.)

  5. I’ve already written five short plays this year so far, had two performed with two others in production, and directed two (not my own), so we’re good. Finally, a resolution I’ve managed to keep! Oh, wait, one full-length play. Um, haven’t done that yet. Uncheck. Drat.

  6. No screenplay yet.

  7. No songs yet, either.

  8. And not a single Riverglen Press title yet either. Why am I even bothering to look at these resolutions? It’s just depressing. :P

  9. I did redesign Top of the Mountains and am still satisfied with the look, which is good. I ended up nixing BenjaminCrowder.com. (I haven’t yet reached equilibrium with any of my sites other than Top of the Mountains, though. There’ll be a new site in the next little bit which will reincarnate the original BenjaminCrowder.com but with a new name. And I haven’t figured out all the other details, but nobody cares about those but me, so I’ll just do it when I do it and leave it at that. :))

  10. No 3D film yet.

  11. The daily drawing thing only lasted a week or so. It wasn’t as feasible (given my schedule and other projects) as I thought.

  12. On and off on the one-day reply thing. Right now I’m just trying to keep my inbox below 25 emails so it all fits on one screen, because I know that as soon as something slips to the next page, it’s off the radar and I completely forget about it.

  13. Um…still working on it, I guess?

When I think about all the time I waste and how I could be so much more productive, I want to stop sleeping. But I’ve already learned that that’s a bad idea. :)

Breaking a leg

We had full company runthrough for the show tonight. (The show is Long Ago & Far Away, the New Play Project one I mentioned a few weeks ago.) While of course there were things that still need work, it went quite well, all things considered. And we open next week. Goodness! The opening of the show always comes so quickly.

Oh, during the runthrough this evening, a guy from KBYUFM (the BYU radio station) interviewed me down in the green room. We talked about how I got involved with New Play Project, what it’s like, etc. The three-minute segment (he interviewed some of the other NPP people) will air sometime on Tuesday — I’ll post details once I know them. Hopefully I don’t sound stupid. :P (I do have to say that it was interesting being on the other side of the interview. But that has to do with a new project which I’m not going to reveal quite yet; you’ll have to wait a couple more weeks to hear about it. :))

Theatre’s so much fun. It’s a crazy amount of work, but it’s worth it. Especially when the show is well-received. If you’re in the area and want to come see it, Long Ago & Far Away (which is a set of seven short plays, including one I wrote and one I directed) runs on these dates:

  • Friday, July 25 @ 7:30pm
  • Saturday, July 26 @ 2:30pm
  • Saturday, July 26 @ 7:30pm
  • Monday, July 28 @ 7:30pm
  • Friday, August 1 @ 7:30pm
  • Saturday, August 2 @ 2:30pm
  • Saturday, August 2 @ 7:30pm
  • Monday, August 4 @ 7:30pm

Tickets cost $5 and you can buy them in person at the box office (the theater’s at 105 E. 100 N. in Provo), or you can purchase them online from the New Play Project website (which I’m in the middle of redesigning, by the way).