Thursday, March 31, 2011

Racing the sun

I've always had a hard time getting up early in the morning, but when I do I never regret it.  There are so many little rewards in beating the sun out of bed, and it's the little things that matter most.  It's not money, or possessions, or recognition, or even having control over one's life that make living so joyful--it's spending time with the people you care about; the smell of spring on the cool air; a sunrise over the mountains, and being awake to see it.  If life and society were to crumble in such a way that I would lose everything else, there would still be the sunrise.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A night at the opera

Anyone who's gone through my iPod might tell you of my obsession with Final Fantasy.  Of all my favorite video games, this series takes top honor--not merely for the gameplay, but for the music, story lines, and other artistic elements of the games themselves.  The Final Fantasy series truly is, in every respect, a thing of beauty.

One of the greatest moments of the series is the opera from Final Fantasy VI.  And it is just as the name implies:

There's an opera in the middle of the freaking game.

Of all the music Nobuo Uematsu composed for these games, this little segment of Final Fantasy VI could very well be the most triumphant.  At the very least, it was among the most memorable.

But in the game, you don't really get to watch the whole thing play out.  See, during the performance, an evil octopus drops onto the stage and you have to fight him.  That leads to other things, and it kind of interrupts the show a bit.

You should have seen the way I geeked out today when I found the following video.  Someone took the opera scene from the game, removed the interruptions and added more animation to complete the play (in English, no less), and applied the full orchestral version of the music!  I about died, but in a good way.

To put it simply, what we have here is a masterpiece.  Even if you're not into the games, I highly doubt you'll be disappointed with this powerful-yet-geeky music experience:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lego Mario, Mega Man, and Link

A couple weeks ago, my brother acquired the 25th anniversary edition of Super Mario All Stars: a collection of a few classic titles from the Mario series, along with a CD of music and sound effects from the games and a book documenting the history of the world's favorite plumber.  The cover of the book looked something like this:


Yeah. . . .  When I saw it I couldn't help but create a version in Lego. 

Not that I was the first to come up with the idea, or anything.  There's a bunch of Lego video game sprites running around the Internet already.  But this was one of those big light bulb moments for me, because lately I've wanted to try something different from what I normally do with Lego.  And this hit me just right!

A slightly lesser known interest of mine is video games.  I don't really play them much at all anymore, but I love the characters, the art, the music, the stories--pretty much everything about them.  On top of that, many of my childhood memories involve video games in a major way.  I grew up with these characters and have a history with them.

So I decided that video game sprites would be my "new thing" with Lego, and soon began to work on more.  This one of Mega Man is my favorite so far:


I've really enjoyed the change from three-dimensional scene building to two-dimensional pixel art.  Even though I'm following pictures as a guide, there are challenges to this style that I've never really encountered before, and I love the way the finished product looks.  From a distance, it's even easy for me to forget the pictures are made with Lego.

In addition to that, I now have a use for many colors that have normally gone neglected in my collection: for example, the light blue for Mega Man.  Link, from the original Legend of Zelda, gave me an opportunity to make use of my lime green and burnt orange:

Link was the most difficult of these builds for me, because I didn't have very many pieces in the right colors.  In fact, I had to double the dimensions of the picture because I didn't have any burnt orange in a size smaller than 2x2.  Even after that, I had to do a lot of stretching, and ended up using all but two or three of my burnt orange pieces.  I wouldn't have finished if it weren't for a surprise visit my mom made to a Lego store on a trip some time ago (and no, I didn't put her up to it!). 

So those are the first of my Lego video game sprites.  Expect more in the near future; there are a lot of characters I want to try.  I make no promises, but if you'd like to see a favorite character of yours, feel free to let me know!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What Christ can do

On top of the piano in his classroom, my Institute teacher keeps two arrangements of plants. 

On one end sits a sad display of bent twigs, stripped of everything but a few desperately clinging leaves.

On the other end sits a bouquet of remarkable beauty.  The flowers steal the attention away from its miserable partner, and even the vase shines under the classroom lights.

Who stands between them?

Not even the most dried-out, worn, hopeless twig is beyond the healing power of the Savior.

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.  --Romans 8:18

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mission Memory: Bluebonnets in the spring

Yesterday was a big day for me, because at last the calendar said "spring."  I've been waiting for this ever since I got off my mission in August; for while I loved the warm weather that was left before the winter set in, I have pined for a complete spring and summer in Utah.  Yesterday's milestone meant I had survived my first winter home, and that very soon I could start enjoying my favorite warm-weather activities again.

In Texas, whenever I was asked what I missed about Utah, I would often talk about those activities.  I still remember the uncontainable excitement I felt upon returning home and seeing a mountain again for my first time.   But I miss the beauty of Texas at this time of year, as well.  We may have our mountains here, but Texas has bluebonnets, and a whole field of them was the most breathtaking sight of the season.  And so, in celebration of spring: bluebonnets!

I loves my bluebonnets!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The way we do California

I'm pretty sure we were the first ones to come up with going to California for Spring Break, but now everyone's doing it.  Here are some highlights from our trip:

Los Angeles.  We actually managed to get there without experiencing a traffic jam.

An image of doom at the La Brea Tar Pits.

An Imperial Mammoth.  Most paleontologists now believe it had feathers.

It wouldn't be a vacation without a wall of wolf skulls!

Before our resident dinosaur expert pushes me in, note that I was joking about the feathers.

At the Natural History Museum, I took more pictures of this thing than of old skeletons.

Yep.  Much cooler than a dinosaur.

To our resident dino expert: I was joking again.  Put the teeth away.

I'm too tired to put a witty caption on all the rest of these pictures, so you're mostly on your own for Orange County.

He's got a friend in me.

We had a really cool waitress at one place who created ketchup art for no extra charge.  That's talent.

Most epic way to finish our epic adventure in Orange County.  I'll actually talk more about this epic place later, but for now, enjoy the epic photos of epicness.

And best of all, the only real problem our old car had on the trip was a dangling blinker.  But we took care of that the most effective way there is: the redneck way.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Past Blast: The voice of Paleo

From Based on a True Story, Wednesday, July 25, 2007:

And the voice of Paleo came unto me, and spake--for thus it was expedient for the fulfillment of the coming of the Bill of Qwest, lest the conversation enter into that second hangup--yea, and he spake unto me, saying, "Hello?"

And I answered by the same token.

But behold, the voice of Paleo spake unto me a second time, declaring glad tidings of joyfully acquired numbers. Yea, it was not a loud voice, nor a thundering voice, but did shake the frame of all who heard it.

Some of you were around for the Grand Visit of August 2008.  Tomorrow: Grand Visit 2011!  It's payback time.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

On spiritual experiences and record keeping

"Revelation and spiritual experiences are sacred.  They should be kept private and discussed only in appropriate situations. . . .  Resist the temptation to talk freely about these experiences."  --Preach My Gospel, p. 99

"I have learned that strong, impressive spiritual experiences do not come to us very frequently.  And when they do, they are generally for our own edification, instruction, or correction.  Unless we are called by proper authority to do so, they do not position us to counsel or to correct others.

"I have come to believe also that it is not wise to continually talk of unusual spiritual experiences.  They are to be guarded with care and shared only when the Spirit itself prompts you to use them to the blessing of others."  --Boyd K. Packer (Ensign, Jan. 1983, 53)

I've been enjoying reading through posts on my old blog.  It's highly entertaining to go back and explore the memories from before my mission--some already forgotten outside the written record--and see what kind of person I was, who I surrounded myself with, and how I lived my life.  It truly is a treasure chest of cherished experiences, and I'm glad I wrote as much as I did.

But I also find things that give me reason to be glad I've made the blog private: for example, deeply personal stories and "preaching."  The principle taught in the above quotes was something I really didn't understand too well back then, and I made public a lot of things that I probably shouldn't have.  Not that they weren't good things or that no one benefited anywhere along the line; simply, the habit of over-sharing would have harmed me more than anyone else, because I neither had the authority nor was prompted to share most things.  And I can't help but wonder what I might have missed out on by speaking so openly of my spiritual experiences. 

I learned more as I prepared for and eventually served my mission.  Especially in the teaching situations that were a part of everyday life as a missionary, I had to learn how to be in tune well enough with the Spirit to know what kinds of stories I should share with the people I taught.  Everyone responded uniquely to different things, and sometimes it did become appropriate to share a more personal experience here and there.  Since then, that's the approach I've tried to take with all my sharing--especially on this blog.  Every so often I will feel right about sharing such experiences here--for instance, my thoughts on General Conference back in October--but it's toned down a lot from what my blogging used to be.  And I've received blessings associated with that.

But you know, now that the old blog is private, I couldn't be more pleased that I recorded all those experiences somewhere.  When I read those old posts, I not only feel entertained: I feel uplifted, because I am reminded of the many ways the Lord has made Himself manifest throughout my life.  That motivates me to improve myself, and I hope that someday my children will read those stories and also find strength in them.

And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.  --2 Nephi 25:26

For me, that's the number one reason to keep a journal.  Yet to be honest, I haven't done so well at that lately.  I do faithfully keep a study journal, where I record spiritual promptings during my studies, church meetings, and Institute classes.  That's been a great spiritual record on its own.  But what's missing are the experiences that would be found in a regular journal--the applications of spiritual principles.  The old blog supplied that quite well, but because of everything I've learned--not just about personal sharing, but about blogging in general--profound spiritual experiences and day-to-day narrative typically just won't be found here.  I view this blog as a place for me to discuss ideas more than anything; blogging is no longer my choice method for record keeping.

But blogging is really what got me big into record keeping in the first place.  Back then I was motivated by having an audience, and it was a good start.  Not only that, it was easier to sit down and type something online than it was to write things out in a book that probably no one would really discover until I had kids old enough to read.  The audience kept me accountable--they kept me writing, because theirs would be a more immediate discovery of my record.  Because of that, now I actually have a good collection of writings: experiences I've had, lessons I've learned, pretty much what a valuable record should be.

In my record keeping these days, I am only accountable to God and my posterity.  That can make it a little more tricky to actually get around to writing in my journal sometimes, because there's no immediate readership.  But I'm motivated a little more whenever I read those old blog posts and find something uplifting, because I realize how important it is to constantly leave reminders of God's hand for myself when I come back to read again.

And that's about all I've got to say about that.  Not really sure where I wanted to go with it, so there's not gonna be some ending point to tie everything together.  I started wanting to make one point, but it developed into something I hadn't planned to write about and I think more than anything, this was a call to repentance for myself--something to motivate me to build up a habit of regular journal writing again.  But I'm curious to hear others' thoughts on their own record keeping--mostly ideas that have helped you keep it going, but feel free to speak your minds.  I'm sure we've all tried something different.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Consider the Lilies

Consider the lilies of the field,
How they grow, how they grow.
Consider the birds in the sky,
How they fly, how they fly.

He clothes the lilies of the field.
He feeds the birds in the sky.
And He will feed those who trust Him,
And guide them with His eye.

Consider the sheep of His fold,
How they follow where He leads.
Though the path may wind across the mountains,
He knows the meadows where they feed.

He clothes the lilies of the field.
He feeds the birds in the sky,
And He will feed those who trust Him,
And guide them with His eye.

Consider the sweet, tender children
Who must suffer on this earth.
The pains of all of them He carried
From the day of His birth.

He clothes the lilies of the field,
He feeds the lambs in His fold,
And He will heal those who trust Him,
And make their hearts as gold.

He clothes the lilies of the field,
He feeds the lambs in His fold,
And He will heal those who trust Him,
And make their hearts as gold.

Music and text by Roger Hoffman.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Waiting Game

During a recent update spree of my other site, Galleria di Cunningham, I took some time to appreciate my old pictures and writing.  It's interesting how you can go so long after creating something that when you see it again, it feels like someone else made it.  That's how I felt going through the old stuff; I was thinking, I did this?

My creative writing is what especially surprised me, because it's been so long since I've gotten to sit down and do it that I wouldn't even know where to start these days.  That's something I would like to change, but at least for the next little while I doubt y'all will be seeing anything new from me in that category.  So, I'm posting an old poem today because when I went back to read it I really liked it.  It's another one of those that feels like someone else wrote it, but it really speaks to me now and fleshes out what's been on my mind the past few days.

The Waiting Game
Nathan Cunningham

For a man who doesn’t drink,
You sure know how to start your day
With a headache that won’t go away.
It’s not right that you’d be used to it,
But I suppose that’s something best
Left to reason and no test.

But consider yesterday
When you retired prematurely,
Or so you thought it was too early–
For as you waited after nightfall,
Chance escaped without your knowing,
Though your vigil kept on going.

Return to when the candles,
The many candles melted time
Before their last gray ghosts would climb
And convince you that your wait was done,
That all your dreams had been in vain
And that you’d never dream again.

Think back to then, to what you did,
When finally your heart was broken,
And it would cling to just one token
Left long before this night had started.
You remember kneeling, don’t you?
I dare say it was all you knew.

Pray, my boy! And pray you must,
For only then will deity bless.
Pray for comfort and success
So that one is sure for you, at least.
It’s not a crime to try such tricks,
Or else that law would long be fixed!

It’s quite a challenge, I suspect
To fall asleep expecting for
Hope to just knock at your door.
Rest easy; it will come in time.
But you would rather keep the sorrow,
Thinking life will change tomorrow.

That’s your biggest problem, lad;
Your waiting game is just a game!
And when you fall you rush to blame
Any party you can think of,
Believing that would make things right,
While you, yourself, are out of sight.

But you know, this waiting thing,
It’s not a game. You’re wasting time!
You should know it’s no small crime
To wait and idle all at once.
Someday they’ll say, “Look at this lad!
“He could have had more than he had.”

Do you feel it’s been worthwhile
To let neglect lock every door
Your fortune opened once before?
And yet you play this waiting game!
I know not why they call it “play”
Or “game” when waiting does betray.

It’s not the life that you deserve,
So get up now, I do implore,
And put both feet upon the floor
Before they waste away without
Knowing what they could have done
To change the world, or anyone!

So let your headache pass with time,
And work, and growth, ambition full,
For then you’ll see to wait is dull,
And life is better when you’re up.
It translates to accomplishment,
And that, my friend, is time well spent.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Push On

Push On
Surreal and the Sound Providers

It's been a long journey, a long road, filled with potholes
and obstacles, I've fallen so many times, it forge character tho' and growth in my rhymes, Now when I fall,
I'm older, get up smile, brush the dirt of my shoulders, I used to do things the hard way, today, I pray, and listen to what God say,
The path for my life is laid out for me, you could rest in peace right be carrying the torch hommie', to all the people that got love for me,
I push on, and try to write our stories,
These are the days for constant building, construct futures for all of our children,
make cash, make it last, you know how fast them days will pass, in a flash
The sands in the hour glass slip through your fingers cause you never got a grasp,

get a grip, get it straight or else you'll let it slip and you'll never elevate, right now, theres no time to waste, put your best foot forward and try to keep pace,
push on

All my people, you got got got to push on
(on, an on, an on)

I built my foundation on a rock, so when the winds of change come, I won't fall off
you see my outstretched hand, success means nothing to me, unless I share it with my fam'
To my peeps abroad and state side, lets make strides, make papes and change lives,
create fly, tracks that change the tide, so maybe some day true art will survive, I in head,
pioneer a brand new path way, introduce you to God, in these last days, everybody's attitude is so cumbersome
run their whole life, never know what they're running from, So stop for a second and take a look, and listen to the wisdom that is written in the book.

Get a Grip, get it straight, or else you'll let it slip and you'll never elevate, right now, theres no time to waste, put your best foot forward and try to keep pace,
push on

All my people, you got got got to push on
(on, an on, an on)

Through a smoke screen, and hopes for cream have you floatin' down a stream full of broken dreams,
they call it main but it's really just a scheme, to get you all locked where no one can hear you scream, Mos Def said it best it's a better build cell block, where they putcha' to death if you don't sell hot records, but you see we changin' that too, big business hiphop we aim at you,
if they putting out garbage, don't buy it, remember one stone took down the giant, have faith like David and Goliath, avoid the bias, and keep yo' mom pious

Get a Grip, get it straight, or else you'll let it slip and you'll never elevate, right now, theres no time to waste, put your best foot forward and try to keep pace,
push on

All my people, you got got got to push on
My man Nak, you got-got-got to push on,
The Sp's, you got-got-got to push on,
(on, an, on, and on, an on)
(on, an on)
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