Saturday, November 22, 2008


I haven't been all that affected by the recent financial crisis in the U.S., so I've had a hard time buying into all the hype about it in the news. I have friends that have been laid off. Even the workload at my job slowed down over the past couple months. But as long as I continue to work at a job I am blatantly over-qualified for, there will always be outbound phone calls for this big fish to make at the small pond that is BRG Research.

I have been oblivious to the hard times that most Americans are apparantly facing. Maybe I'm spoiled; maybe I just have been living within my means all along so the pinch isn't as tight.

Well, that all changed today, after I was asked to pay $1.19 for a Double Cheeseburger at McDonalds.

The McDonalds Double Cheeseburger has been not only the salient feature of the Dollar Menu, but also the de facto U.S. currency of this decade. Gas prices may fluctuate, but I can set my watch to the Double Cheeseburger being a dollar.

Some people's consumer confidence was shot when they actually found themselves questioning whether they really need a new $200 coffeemaker at Linens 'n Things instead of just impulsively buying it. (see Michael Kinsley's November 14th NY Times Op-Ed)

Such pointless purchases were never a temptation for me. This was my crisis of confidence: paying an extra 20 cents for a Double Cheeseburger.

Now, I should have ponied up and sprung for the sandwich. Surely I already have more stuff than I need, and it should be my patriotic duty to pay $1.19 for a McDonalds Double Cheeseburger and stimulate the economy. But I just couldn't bring myself to do it, out of principle.

It's like the time last year when I called 5 Buck Pizza only to be informed that all of their pizzas now started at $6.99. Upon hearing my obvious question: "Are you still gonna be called 5 Buck Pizza?" they had the nerve to tell me that they in fact would. I thanked them for their time and hung up the phone, and have never called them back since.

I recently read that McDonalds is one of the most recession-proof businesses in America. If they want to stay that way, they need the Dollar Menu now more than ever. Or better yet, remember in the late 90's when they had those 39 cent cheeseburger Wednesdays? If they still had that offer, McDonalds would be the 21st century soup kitchen.

By the way, as a side note, the McDonalds guilty of this heinous $1.19 charge is the Orem, UT, Center St. restaurant. I usually try to avoid this one, but they offer the $1 Breakfast Burritos all day, so I couldn't resist.

Incidentally, any McDonald's that charges 25 cents for water, such as the one on University Parkway in Orem, will never make it through a recession. Especially when cheapskates like me are practicing business-as-usual thrift.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A TV Set Within A TV Set (part II)

The Simpsons show us what the world would be like if our entire lives revolved around TV. When sleazy tabloid-style news show, Rock Bottom, misleads its viewers into believing that Homer sexually harrassed a babysitter in "Homer Badman" (season 6), even Homer believes the account, although his own memory of the event is contrary to the show. The cognitive dissonance Homer experiences in this episode leads him to side with TV over himself, and exclaim, "Oh, maybe TV is right...TV's always right!"

In this same scene, Bart and Lisa confess to their father that the TV is more of a parent to them than he is. "It's just hard not to listen to TV," says Bart, "It's spent so much more time with us than you have."

Ironically, the reason that TV spends so much more time with Bart and Lisa than Homer does, is because Homer spends so much time with TV. In "Lisa's First Word" (season 4), he brags, "It's not easy to juggle a pregnant wife and a troubled child, but somehow I managed to fit in eight hours of TV a day."

The Simpsons teaches us that TV is the nucleus of the nuclear family. Or was, anyway. In the 90's. Today, in a Tivo and Youtube world, maybe the central message of The Simpsons is losing its relevancy. When Marge reveals that Homer spends a portion of his work day "googling himself", it sounds foreign to the Homer we all know and love. When Marge looks up her house on google earth from the laptop on her kitchen table, it throws off the whole geography, not to mention the timing, of her daily life.

In The Simpsons of the 90s, the workplace was for slacking, the kitchen was for eating, and the living room was the escape from everything. All of that has changed in later seasons, however. We have all made the transition to the new millenium, but in doing so, we have all aged. To watch the Simpson family, frozen in time, embracing new technology can be awkward. But in watching this awkwardness we can see just how far we've come.

Maybe someday the television will become obsolete. And when it does, studying The Simpsons will remind us why.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A TV Set Within A TV Set (part one)

A couple months ago, a co-worker brought up an interesting point. We were talking about The Simpsons, as we frequently do, and he mentioned that if The Simpsons has an overarching theme over its 20 seasons, it is the influence of television on our culture. I was fascinated by this idea, so I kept thinking about it, and kept this theme in the back of my mind while watching the show ever since.

References to other TV shows on The Simpsons are both obvious and many. But a more subtle feature of the show is that they can easily show, through the medium of animation, what is being watched on their TV set. Watching TV on TV is to the 90's as reading screenshots of blogs on CNN is to today. It's bizarre at first, like using 2 mirrors to see the back of your head, but you get used to it after a while. Especially when you've watched The Simpsons for as long as I have.

Maybe it's my on-the-fence birthyear, that fine line between Gen-X and Millennials, that helps me relate to the show so much, even after critics say the show is losing its touch in its old age (more on that later). I was 9 years old when I started watching The Simpsons. Like every kid my age, I tried to live vicariously through Bart Simpson, who seemed to be the star of the show (at the time), although I was definitely more Milhouse-esque in real life.

During my teenage years, I never really related to any one character in the show, as adolescent characters are noticeably few, save the awkwardly-acned fast food worker or spraypaint-loving hooligans. During these very years, however, the show took a decided turn, focusing less on the juvenile antics of Bart and more on the jovial idiocy of Homer. It's like someone out there was preparing me for an adult life as an analog boy in a digital world.

As an adult, I am a disciple of Homer's humor, his schemes, and his accidental, if not genius, commentary on American culture. At the center of all this, and more importantly, getting back to my original point, is the role that the television played in this animated baby-boomer's life; not so much what he watched on the TV, but the TV set itself. As Marshall McLuhan said, "The Medium is the Message", and if this is the case, Homer could be McLuhan's poster oaf.

For Homer, Home is where the TV is ("Now let's go back to that... building...thingy...where our beds and [episode 1F04]). No matter what surreal 5 second trip the family takes while seating themselves on the couch, the intro to every episode is stabilized by the familiar glow of the credits on the family TV set.

(continued next week...)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

We Are Chance Lewis

On October 30th, 2008 A.D. at 8:00 p.m., my new band/solo project/franchise, Chance Lewis, will release its 4 song e.p. at Velour Live Music Gallery in Provo. The 4 songs on the e.p., titled "We Are Chance Lewis," are conveniently placed at the top of this page for your listening pleasure.

In the spirit of the schizophrenia and narcissism that this project satirizes, here is a short review of the disc, written by me, Chance Clift:

"We Are Chance Lewis"

It's not only onstage banter, it's the name of Chance Lewis' first EP, coming out September 2008 (alternate titles included "Thank You SO Much For Coming" and "Let's Play a Show Together SOON"). "We Are Chance Lewis" is a semi-self-titled collection of 4 new songs from a songwriter whose band is half named after himself; So naturally, it deals with the schizophrenia and narcissism associated with both the human genre and the musician species. And the fact that we've probably been taking ourselves too seriously. And by ourselves, I mean myself. We Are Chance Lewis.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What "Main St." Are YOU Talking About?

With the onset of tough economic times, we've all heard a lot about "Main Street" in the news recently. This is of course a euphemism for the antithesis of "Wall Street", but I don't think it's a very accurate one.

In the Main St./Wall St. analogy, Main Street is supposed to represent ordinary Americans, small businesses, and the focal point of small town life. The person who came up with this analogy obviously hasn't spent much time on a Main Street over the past decade.

All of the small town Main Streets I have seen have much more to do with the past than the present. They are like real-life 20th century museums, and are usually associated with words like "historic" or "preservation".

Most contain at least two of these things:

-An antique shop(pe)
-An out-of-business (or at least soon-to-be) old school movie theat(re), usually called something like The Roxy or The Avalon
-A used bookstore, or
-A cafe/coffee shop/diner

Most of these establishments cater to hipsters, intellectuals, and the elderly (not included on the list: Vintage clothing stores, which cater to all three). This is hardly a random sampling of "average" Americans.

Might I suggest a better buzz-analogy for Cable News pundits to use in describing their overly black-and-white telling of the economic crisis:

Wall Street vs. Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart is a much more accurate metaphor for average Americans, and it has little or nothing to do with Main Street. Wal-Mart stores are conveniently placed at, what sometimes appears to be, every other freeway exit. This is appropriate, since the freeway is probably the closest thing to a 21st century geographic equivalent of the classic Main Street.

Besides, what better symbol of gas-guzzling and buying-way-more-stuff-than-we-need (while crying poverty) than a big box store within earshot of a 5 lane interstate highway? THAT is the American Way.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I'm Now Part of The Solution

Like most college students, I get stuck in playlist autopilot from time to time. I often feel like my music collection resembles that of my married friends: you can tell the year they got married by the contents of their iTunes library.

To make matters worse, the few times that I have embraced new music in the past couple years has been through illegal downloading and burning CDs from friends. Well that all changed earlier this year, with a little help from my good friends Stafford and Pell.

Stafford and Pell have been known to fund my schooling over the past couple years. This ends up spilling over into them funding recordings of some of my songs as well. Anyway, thanks to their support, I have been able to once again become part of the solution, and pay for music, the old-fashioned way. Here are the top four albums I have purchased, with my own money, in 2008:

1) Against Me!, New Wave: Probably one of my favorite bands to emerge in the 2000's. This record manages to combine punk and pop in a perfect way that somehow manages to not be "pop-punk".

2) Weezer, Red Album: Classic Weezer. Rivers Cuomo is once again owning his insecurities like the badass nerd that he is. "I am the greatest man that ever lived," need I say more?

3) Beck, Modern Guilt: One of the more melodic Beck albums. 60's soul meets Danger Mouse beats. Good stuff.

4) Jack's Mannequin, The Glass Passenger: I just barely got this one, and like Everything in Transit, I expect this Jack's Mannequin record to grow on me. Which is a good sign, since I already like this one a lot. I think I just need to listen to it as the soundtrack to every possible day-to-day situation first to fully appreciate it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

People Watching, and Why I Love The New Facebook

I love people-watching. It is truly an art, I've learned, and so much of this art is based on context. People have interlocking back stories. Walls can't physically talk, but the flies on them can if you listen close enough.

I'm convinced that the new Facebook was made for people-watchers. Now, to dispel a common misconception, Facebook is not for stalkers. There is a fine line between people-watching and stalking. Myspace is for stalkers, and Facebook is for people watchers.

Facebook statuses are to wordsmiths what avatars are to everyone else. They are the new Main Street that we can all stroll down and interact with each other on. Sometimes it's a mere peripheral glance, sometimes its a double take, sometimes we pause our busy day, put down our bags, and have a conversation. That's what I like about the new Facebook: we have more control over how we will stroll the virtual Main Street.

The new Facebook also makes it much harder to hide what we really are. People have traditionally been all about making their online personas seem like a really distorted reflection of themselves, like an image from a carnival funhouse mirror. From photoshopped pics to Bios filled with such buzz-adjectives as "chill, random, spontaneous, and drama-free", online personal profiles are as narcissistic as they are dishonest.

The new Facebook, I think, shows us in a much more honest light. We see each other not as our doctored, scripted photos, but as the candid shots we were tagged in, showing up on the news feed. We can say what we want on our bio, but what we will see first is what others say about us. That may sound shallow, but let's be honest, it's a reflection of the real world.

I like the fact that the new Facebook gives us less liberty to litter our pages with applications. To return to the Main Street analogy, we all look pretty much the same as we stroll along and pass each other by. We are all wearing one outfit of clothes, maybe carrying a bag or two. We are not carrying every single piece of flair that we own to advertise our salient features.

I have seen people protest the new Facebook by the herds. Such protest is the new go-to Facebook status du jour. These people just don't understand the art and science of people watching.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Chalk one up for FM radio

I realize that sticking up for FM radio is like rooting for a favorite sports team that doesn't have any winning seasons in sight. In the midst of losses, you will ignore the negative and get stoked on the few wins they may have. That being said, I reunited with an old friend, FM radio, earlier this summer when I bought my '94 Subaru Legacy, a car equipped with a luxury I haven't enjoyed in a car for years: a working stereo.

People are quick to dismiss FM radio as an obsolete medium in an iPod world. As much as I love my iPod nano, I will still proudly vouch for the radio any day. I don't go as far as sociologist Robert Putnam, who compares listening to an iPod to "bowling alone". However, I believe that there is a subliminal enjoyment in the act of listening to music that thousands of total strangers are listening to at the same time. We don't consciously realize the static rush, but it's there.

I am also self-aware enough to admit that my music collection is not as comprehensive as I would like it to be. It should be noted that this self-awareness, though, is proportional to the size of one's music library (i.e. people with a sparse collection of top-40 singles who claim to listen to "everything"). Because of this, I appreciate the radio for occasionally exposing me to new music.

Granted, radio stations play a lot of the same stuff. But my radio dial is set to 3 stations: X96 for mostly mainstream rock, 90.9 KRCL for a more eclectic playlist of indie, jazz, folk, and reggae, and Orem High's own KOHS, which is actually a happy medium between the first two. Surfing between these 3 stations, I can get as much musical variety as even the most elite iPod playlist.

Using this new modern radio surfing technology, the radio presets, I can also keep the commercial time to a minimum (God forbid we listen to advertising that pays for the free radio we've enjoyed for years!). Besides, am I crazy, or is listening to radio commercials kind of entertaining, like some sort of cultural mass-people-watching? (I guess technically the more accurate term would be population listening) Ok, before you answer that I am in fact crazy, I should also mention that I'm a Communications major.

So me and my best friend, Jeremy, have this unspoken rivalry between FM Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio. Jeremy is from Vernal, Utah, and while he's not a small town redneck in principle, he is surrounded by what I like to call Red White & Blue Millionaires (Redneck, White-Trash, Blue Collar) thriving off of the booming oil town and living it up in their big tricked-out trucks.

Jeremy's truck at his previous job came with Sirius built-in and he has been raving about it ever since. I've pleaded my case to him about how FM radio is better, but we were both set in our ways.

So imagine my joy when, one morning this summer, I heard an exclusive sneak preview of the new Jack's Mannequin single on X96. Granted, I hadn't looked very hard online for it, but this was the first I was hearing the single, and on my very own FM radio!

Jeremy and I have been huge Jack's Mannequin fans ever since I stumbled upon a dozen copies of their debut album, Everything in Transit, which I would later sell for food money during my transient summer of '06. Because of the competitive nature of our friendship, I immediately called Jeremy to taunt/ask him if his precious Sirius was spinning the new Jack's Mannequin track, to which he replied that they were not.

It was a small win for FM radio, but at this point, it should take what it can get.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I Work the Corner of University & 1st North

Those who have known me over the past several years have usually known me to be intensely focused on one musical project at a time, tunnel-visioned to the rest of my world. These same people have often been the victims of my countless plugs and promotional efforts for said musical projects. Sure, I would occasionally dabble in, at the most, playing in a side project. But for the most part, I'd spend so much time practicing, recording, and performing with my main band that any additional musical projects were kept to a minimum.

That all changed, however, over the past couple months. I recently became a self-proclaimed local band whore.

By joining these ranks, I become part of a legacy of Provo musicians, a list of whom would stretch the length of the downtown gallery stroll route. Among these are some of my closest friends, many of whom I currently play in a band or two with.

It all started earlier this spring, when my buddy Donnie invited me to come play guitar for his newly formed group, Donnie Bonnelli & The Kites. I had some free time and wanted to expand my musical horizons, and it has turned out to be really fun. Like myself, the other Kites are all also involved in other bands.

Then, over the summer, I had offered my musical services to a good friend and gifted songwriter, Nate Pyfer, who's band, Code Hero, had recently lost some members. Nate has also dabbled in band whoring, as he spent most of this summer playing keyboards for Joshua James & The James Brothers on their U.S. tour. When he returned home to Utah last month, he got the ball rolling on re-forming Code Hero. I'll be playing keyboards with them at Velour next Wednesday.

But nothing quite captures the spirit of band whoring like my new project, Chance Lewis. Chance Lewis is a self-proclaimed solo project/franchise whose live band is a constantly revolving "who's who" of local musicians. I suppose one could say that in this band, I employ a slew of band whores for a string of one-night-stands, which I guess makes me a band pimp.

Incidentally, the songs you may have not-so-deliberately heard upon arrival to this blog are some of my new tunes I've recorded for this project. Oh yeah, and these tunes were funded on studio time I earned this summer working part-time as a sound guy at Muse Music, so the mostly-metaphorical title of this blog is also somewhat literal.

On top of all of this, Dan Leach and I are still doing the (very) occasional Abby Normal show. We were recently joking that the only people who should be allowed to ask us "When's the next A.N. show?" should be those who have actually attended one of our shows in the past 12 months, thus eliminating 90% of the people who ask us out of obligatory small talk.

But out of nowhere, we got asked to participate in a college football montage/music video using our song "Poor Us". Despite the subtle contradiction between the song's lyrics and the video's content, the video turned out well. You can check it out here.

P.S. Leach is coming out with some music right now that is gonna blow your minds. When looking for local band whores to contribute to his recordings, he didn't have to look far.

Monogamy may be the way to go in some areas of life, but the older I get, the more I love the freedom and variety allowed by dabbling in several musical projects at a time. Come to think of it, though, until I start making more money through my musical exploits, "whore" might have been a little too generous of a word choice.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Devil Whale Made Me Do It

First of all, let me give this disclaimer: this is not a record review. This is a statement of theory, a huge claim, a broad generalization: at some point in your life, you will have a Dark Side of The Moon/Wizard of Oz-esque experience with The Devil Whale's full length release, Like Paraders.

Mine happened just a few months ago. I was moving into a new apartment, and it was a drastic change from the previous places and situations that I've found myself in over the past couple years. While moving all my stuff into my new room, I popped on Like Paraders, which I had recently purchased at The Devil Whale's CD release show at Velour in Provo. The first words of the first song could have been taken straight out of my mouth then: "And if this house fails should we just rebuild by the shadetree on the hill where we can see...The grass is greener there and there's cleaner air and there's no trace of our careless history."

As the haunting lullaby continued, I unpacked my things. The album's second track, "Conscious, A Friend Who Lies," could have been a narration given by a passerby: "You decorate your house, you hope it makes a difference. The outside matters on the inside..."

I'm probably not even qualified to review this record anyway. Its sound draws on influence from a variety of genres, from alt-country to folk to straight up classic rock. As a person who doesn't consider myself to have as broad a music collection as I would like, I can honestly say that Like Paraders has inspired me to broaden my taste, like a gateway drug into a refreshing new world of sound. But this is a record that both music elitists and commoners alike will love.

I've since moved out of that apartment, and into a new one. I'm sure I will move into many more as I drift around this college town. And every time I do, Like Paraders will be the soundtrack to this bitter twentysomething's travels.

So whether you are a Coldplay-loving sweet-bro or a vintage-clothes-wearing music snob, or anything in between, we all experience certain commonalities in our lives. And Like Paraders, by The Devil Whale, will be right there to provide the soundtrack to those commonalities.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Forever 27

"Sometimes you just gotta spoil yourself...spoil yourself...spoil yourself"

-Ned Flanders

I spent most of my August 15th this year with my favorite person (in this hemisphere, at least): myself. I just moved into a new house in Orem, so I spent the day getting settled in, then ran some errands. Running errands and paying bills slowly turned into me showering myself with birthday presents, in a manner so thrifty that only I could call it extravagant.

I've reached an age where if I don't spoil myself, who else will? For me, buying nice things isn't so much spoiling myself as it is making up for 364 days of self-deprivation. And half the stuff I bought myself was from the Pawn Shop (yes, the same Pawn Shop where I reclaimed my stolen guitar). I treated myself to an acoustic guitar, and TV/DVD combo, all thanks to The Pawn Shop: robbing the poor who rob from the rich.

Since I moved to the suburban wasteland that is Orem, this was the first time I got to experience the serene feeling Dan Leach told me about when you hang out in downtown Provo after not living near there. Me walking down Center St. on my birthday, without a care in the world, could have doubled as the music video for my new song, Pyscho-So-Manual. I hit up the used bookstore, checked my P.O. Box (those free magazines from FYE finally came!) and broke in the new pair of Vans I just bought from my semi-annual trip to the mall (I spent just enough time there to not have a panic attack).

After that I ran into my friends Al, Kelsey, and Erin, at Sammy's Cafe, which I've decided is Provo's closest equivalent to Monk's, the coffee shop on Seinfeld. Then I went to go play music with Donnie Bonnelli & The Kites, and we went hot-tubbing afterwards. My birthday brother, Neil, and I went and did a late-night Denny's run. I experienced all of the elements of a perfect day. Best Birthday Ever.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Blasts from our pasts

Recently two things have re-entered my life, not really so much deliberately as purely out of convenience and circumstance. And in a world full of calculated nostalgia where irony has become an art, there's something refreshing about running into an old fashion because...well, just because. These two things are seemingly unsimilar, but are the thread that held the fabric of our 90's pre-internet, latchkey-kid lives together. I, of course, am speaking of Hot Pockets and Minesweeper.

Growing up in a town that (pre-Wal-Mart) didn't have any fast food joints within its borders, Hot Pockets were really the next best thing. Kids with two working parents generally fall into two categories: 1) The super-independent kids who learn how to cook at a young age, and 2) Kids who say, "Screw that, I'm gonna make a Hot Pocket". Me and my sister were the latter. My youngest brother was neither, since he was part of the entitled generation who grew up with Wal-Mart and the internet, and believed it was the God-given right of any small town teen to have constant access to fast food.

Before it was an overused Jim Gaffigan punchline, the Hot Pocket was a staple in my diet. It has since then come and gone many times, being replaced along the way with things like actual fast food, and actual cooking, only to come crawling back (into my mouth). I couldn't say exactly why I suddenly started buying them again, as of my latest trip to the grocery store, but I hope they're here to stay. If history tells me anything, though, they're probably not.

The funny thing about minesweeper is, I really didn't play it much as a kid. But what better symbol is there for the uselessness of the pre-internet computer in the eyes of a child? Speaking of outdated technology, and two-dimensional things, and entitled teens, I work at a market-research/phone-survey call center in Provo, which has driven me back to minesweeper as a lesser of two evils, the other being insanity.

For most of my days after the internet was banned in our call center (like the mirroring Provo City library computer lab across the street, 9 out of 10 computers featured an underpriveleged teen checking their myspace) I was a staunch solitaire player. It was nice and mindless, and I could zone out and let hours pass without thinking about it. The monotomy of my job, however, brought out my once dormant competitive spirit, and as minesweeper is much more based on speed than solitaire, I recently converted.

I soon discovered that not only was I competing against my only personal fastest minesweeper times, but also against the top scores on each individual computer in the whole call center. With just under 100 computers in the building, I knew my mission: to see how many computers could bear my name, in the "fastest times" section of each computer's minesweeper program.

I also found out that if you play enough minesweeper, the game's interface is literally tattooed into your brain, and when you lay in bed at night clearing your thoughts before going to sleep, you will see fictional minesweeper games stored into your subconscious. This is not unlike the time my cousins had an early big-screen TV in the 90's and played so much Tetris on it that even when you were watching TV you could faintly see Tetris in the background, as it was permanently tattooed on the screen.

I don't know how much more I can take at this job, but this much I know: that I must leave my legacy behind. And in a job where we rely on people answering landline phones to take surveys to further the cause of capitalism, are we not all sweeping for mines in a hit or miss world?

Monday, June 23, 2008

My Prodigal Stuff

This is the full story of how I got a bunch of musical gear stolen from me, only to later recover most of it. A lot of my friends only know the first half of the story, so I felt it necessary to tie the saga together in all its irony in the form of a blog.


This is a blog I wrote on myspace on September 2, 2007, just a day after the said thievery:

So, I got some stuff stolen yesterday from my van, musical stuff, about $800 worth of it to be exact.Among this was my electric guitar, an Ibanez Talman:

and a case of 4 pedals (Boss Chromatic Tuner, Boss Blues Driver Distortion, Boss DD3 Digital Delay, and DOD Chorus) w/ miscellaneous cables:

If by chance you see them, call the police. No wait, actually, don't. Their lazy asses took like 3 hours to get to the crime scene to file a police report as they were too busy observing slow moving, peaceful traffic at the BYU game. Just call me and Dan Leach, we'll execute some vigilante justice ourselves.

Actually, it's not likely that I'll see my stuff again. So I guess what I'm really fishing for is a small donation so I can repurchase my gear (Hint: my paypal address is

Hey, it could be a lot worse, they could've taken my left arm, rendering me useless to play guitar;

Or they could've stolen a song that I wrote, by far a more priceless possession than any musical instrument.

So, to the thief of my stuff, I know your intentions must've been good. You must have no doubt have been jaded by the oversaturation of mediocre music in our world today via the internet, and so I am assured that your theft of my stuff was purely an act of civil disobedience, and not an attempt to further your own financial interests. If my assumption is correct, then I hail your nobility and simply lament the fact that I was the unlucky target of your anonymous protest.


So after posting this, I was bombarded with a flood of support from friends. I got about $100 in donations, which I used to buy 2 of the 4 pedals I had lost. A good friend and musician, Joe Gibbs, who was as attached to my stolen guitar as I was, took pity on me and loaned me one of his Fender Telecasters. I would later buy this guitar from him, and he was very patient in awaiting my last of several payments.

As stated earlier, I was rather complacent in any attempt to track down my stuff, although I did check at a local shop, AAA Pawn Shop, for my guitar, but to no avail.

So I basically let the rhythms of the universe run their natural course, going on with my life, playing music, forgetting about the whole ordeal, and assuming that the thief of my stuff would get what he had coming to him via karma. That was, until one January afternoon, when I got a phone call from one Joe Gibbs.

"I'm at the pawn shop, and I'm looking at your guitar right now," he said.

"Are you sure?!" I asked.

"Yes. It's yours" he replied.

"I'll be right over"

Well, "right over," ended up being the same AAA Pawn Shop in Provo (who inaccurately told me that they DIDN'T have my guitar back in September), and in 5 minutes, I was there, looking at
not only my long lost Ibanez Talman but also 2 of my 4 pedals and all of my miscellanous cables.

Now, since I had failed to fill out a police report back in September when my gear was stolen, I had to walk across the street to the police station and fill one out then. One report-filling-out later, Officer Moore accompanied me back across the street to AAA Pawn to retrieve my stuff. I had to pay $80 to get it all back, which is how much the thief got for it all, but considering I never planned on seeing it again, $80 was a steal (no pun intended, seriously).

After describing the salient features of my guitar and pedal board to Officer Moore, I was reunited with my stuff. As I hefted my Ibanez Talman once again, Officer Moore remarked that he knew that I was in fact the rightful owner of the guitar by the sentimental attachment I seemed to have with the instrument.

At this point, it was up to me if I wanted to take legal action against the lowlife who stole my stuff. Despite all of my friends' advice to the contrary, my apathetic/charitable side kicked in (still haven't figured out which) and I decided that it wasn't worth the time, money, and effort to go after this windburnt meth-head, especially since I got most of my stuff back anyway.

So there you have it. In hindsight, I probably should have done more for my case after my stuff got stolen. But this whole experience has only reaffirmed my belief that if you set your expectations low, you'll never be disappointed.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Like A Hadouken to the Soul

A new Weezer record came out this month, and as such, it is a time for nerds everywhere to take a step back and re-evaluate our nerdness. Not nerdiness, which is a measure of the adjective nerdy, but nerdness, or the state of being a nerd. I personally love The Red Album, but that is not what this blog is about.

At this time of introspection, I reflected on one of my biggest pet peeves. I am of course referring to people who believe that there are irrevocably two kinds of people in the world: people with "book smarts" and people with "street smarts", with absolutely no grey area blurring the two.

To me, the mere existence of these people refutes their claim, as those who live in such a black and white world generally lack "smarts" of both variety.

I, of course, am a "book smarts" guy to these people, and to this day I'm still not really sure what that means. I think it means that I do things like use calculus when lining up my pool shot, not unlike Donald Duck's friend as seen in this educational Disney video that my brainy ass remembers from elementary school:

This video illustrates how most street smart people (i.e. Donald) view book smart people (Donald's boring, not-animated friend). They are socially awkward, get things right the first time (thus missing out on life-shaping misadventures) and are a total buzzkill, bringing "charts and graphs" into billiards, which should apparently have nothing to do with math.

Street smarts, by default, I assume to include any kind of smarts that can't be learned from a book. I mostly interpret this to mean the ability to pull off some sort of scam or swindle. Some of the most stereotypically street smart people in pop culture are also notorious cheaters: Bart Simpson, Bugs Bunny, Bill Clinton, you get the idea.

Now in a world where you are either one or the other, brainy or street savvy, we are taught that we need never venture toward the middle ground, and that to try and possess both traits is futile. This leads me to believe that the concept of "street smarts" was invented by and is propagated by ignorant people to justify not reading books. Street smart people are always trying to discourage book smart people from doing street smart things, because then street smart people will, (1) be forced to learn (presumably from books), and/or, 2) become obsolete.

To refer back to The Simpsons, Lisa probably possesses more "street smarts" than Bart, but "braininess" (and conscience) prevent her from executing schemes that she is probably way more qualified to pull off than her brother. Bart's street smarts come from his "nothing to lose" attitude, and in his case the "nothing" in question is intelligence.

Now, I surely don't deny the existence of "book smarts" and "street smarts", however vague their meaning. I have known people at every end of the spectrum. The real tragedy, though, is when these people believe that if they are one, they cannot be the other.

Some people I know contain neither street smarts nor book smarts. This is even more tragic, because upon realizing at an early age that they aren't book smart, they assume themselves to be street smart, and often go their entire lives under this false assumption (most police officers fall into this category).

And finally, I have known some amazing people who possess both "street smarts" and "book smarts". They think with their mind and their heart. These people prove that there can and should be a grey area between these two kinds of people. Which leads me to my final point: Tina Fey, will you marry me?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Pump It Up

"Pump it up, when you don't really need it
Pump it up, until you can feel it"

-Elvis Costello

Well, it's summertime again, and you know what that means: everybody's freaking out about gas prices again! Plus, it's an election year, so times all that hype by, like 4, and you have enough talking heads making talking points on the subject to create a nauseating montage.

In talking about an issue like gas prices, I'm always fascinated how people are always so quick to talk about these big, outlandish schemes they have little to no control over to lower fuel prices, while ignoring the little things that we could each do every day to ween ourselves off of our addiction to oil. Simply driving our cars less is literally the only thing we could do right this second to both save money and decrease the demand for oil, but it seems to be the last thing on anyone's mind.

Domestic drilling and alternative fuel sources are great ideas, but they are logistically complex solutions that no one can seem to agree on and will take a long time to execute. In a perfect world, yes, we would all drive Hybrids. But realistically, about 27 baby steps stand between that and the gas guzzling van I just ditched. Plus these are all only temporary solutions to a greater problem, like the guy you know who hasn't showered for days so lathers himself in cologne: it doesn't work.

Now, admittedly, I don't know a lot about politics, or the economy, or the environment, all important factors in determining the price of gas. I'm probably not even qualified to be writing a blog about this. I do, however, know a little bit about day-to-day life, and the tedious minutiae that goes along with it.

Speaking of which, I got a fortune cookie the other day that told me this: "He who waits to do everything all at once, does nothing."

Me riding my bike a quarter mile to work every day isn't going to solve the world's oil crisis, but it's going to solve my oil crisis. And besides, to me life isn't about quick fixes. It's about everybody doing a bunch of little things that seem insignificant at first, but add up, and, in the end, create this great collective piece of art that we can all look back on later and be proud of having been a part in.

And when you think of all of the things we waste our money on now, gas to me still seems relatively cheap, if you live in a central location, like I do. I have friends who pay $8 to see new releases in the movie theater every single weekend, who shudder to drive 5 miles from Orem to Provo (at an average of 20 mpg, even at a record high $4 a gallon that's still only $2 for a round trip). I'll gladly take the trip and wait for the Redbox.

All of this having been said, I'm almost to the point where I'm ready for gas prices to REALLY skyrocket. And at this point, I almost wish they would. Let it ride, that's what I say. I know that I'd be more prepared than most people.

With more people forced to use public transportation, we'd for sure have more local bus routes, and I'll bet they'd run more efficiently than the one 811 route that you can catch maybe once an hour in Provo if you're lucky. All of my friends who got suckered into buying cheap houses in Eagle Mountain would be totally screwed, and I'd be relatively unphased in my cheap old downtown Provo housing.

A little walking never hurt anybody. I have friends who spend over $100 a year on gym memberships but drive to get there. That's 25 gallons of gas. That's about 500 miles. Meanwhile how many opportunities do this miss out on to get free exercise by walking somewhere?

You always hear everyone complaining how we live in such a cold, impersonal world, and how "text messaging is killing us all!" That may or may not be true, but if everyone walked to where they were going, or rode the bus, it would be a lot easier for us to get to know our neighbors. Maybe becoming a first world country with a third world culture is just what we need. Or maybe we just need to start living our lives entirely online. That'll teach those damned oil companies...

Friday, June 6, 2008

IT'S A....BOX!

On April 1st, 2008, Chance Clift, son of Michael and Grace Clift, welcomed a healthy baby (sized) Post Office Box into his world.

The box weighed in at...well, pretty small, barely big enough to fit a couple magazines and pieces of junk mail in. I just basically got sick of changing my address every time I move, which is pretty often. So it's totally worth the couple bucks a month to maintain.

Plus, when people ask for my address now, I get to sound like some kind of badass and rattle this canned line off:

Chance Clift
P.O. Box 403
Provo, UT 84603

With an address like this I sound like I'm either a celebrity or a guy who runs an infomercial. Or a homeless guy that still expects to get mail.

I have been disappointed a couple times already, though, when I've given this address, only to hear the follow-up question: "What is your physical address?"

I don't know how to answer this!

Where do you live? I live by the pool at university villa! Why would I know my exact address if I don't get mail there?

Where do you physically exist? Right here! I'm standing in front of you as you ask me the question!

Where do you get mail? I just told you!

Plus, there's always something to be said about the classic feeling of physically going to the post office, which far outweighs the small inconvenience of taking 10 minutes from your hectic day. It's a pleasant bike ride. But what could I say about that topic that Vonnegut hasn't already said.

So there you have it, my new address. So keep that mail coming. Wedding announcements. Birth announcements (hopefully YOU have more than a box!). My birthday is August 15th (hint, hint). Ah who am I kidding, I'll see you all on facebook.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

My month as a homeless guy

First of all, I should clarify the title of this, lest you get the impression that I was that guy living in my van for 30 days, which is what most people thought when I told them about this. For the entire month of April, there was a lapse between moving out of my previous residence and moving into my new apartment. Incidentally, the two places are about 2 blocks away from each other, so I successfully executed the longest, most expensive 200 yard move in modern history.

So on March 31st, I packed all of my stuff into my 1990 Chevy Van, Hector, who, according to my calculations, had at least another month left in him. Granted, my calculations consisted of basically always hoping Hector will get me to point B before dying, and in this case, point B was May 1st. My basic game plan was to rely on the hospitality of several friends, crashing on the couch of each on a sort of rotation-like fashion. My hope was that by being the first courteous, somewhat invisible couch crasher in the history of the sport, I could defy the stereotype of the guy on the couch, a precedent set by the character of that name in Half Baked.

So that's what I did. The weird thing is, even when I had my own place, I've crashed on friends' couches for the night many times for whatever reason, but in the month of April, there was one main difference in my stay: the morning shower. Merely sleeping on a friend's floor because of a late party and going home the next morning is only half the battle.

And this bring me to my point, if I even had one: Homelessness isn't so much about not having a home; it's about not having a bathroom.

Anyway, I went on with my normal life for the most part. I went to work, hit up a local show at night, ran errands, I even went to a friend's wedding. I ate all my meals off of dollar menus, which really isn't any different than any other month for me. It was like being on tour, except without playing shows, or leaving your town.

At the end of the month, I went on a little road trip with my friend, Jason. The purposes for this road trip were twofold: 1) to crash on the couches of friends who lived out of town so as to give my Provo friends a break (Jason is also an avid couch crasher) and 2) to play some small all-ages shows (Jason also happens to be a drummer).

After our little road trip to Idaho, Logan, and Vernal, Utah, we returned to Provo. Oh yeah, and somewhere on this trip half the exhaust system of my van apparently fell off, which I guess is a big deal. I've never professed to know a lot about cars anyway, but in hindsight, that probably explains why my van is now, like, twice as loud as it was before. I had showered in many showers, big and small, with water pressures high and low, and I was ready for a bathroom to call my own. On May 1st, 2008, I moved into apartment 31 at University Villa apartments in Provo, Utah, and nothing short of my April experience could have produced the emotion I felt that day to be in this low budget student housing: gratitude.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Provo: It Was Like That When I Got Here

This is something I wrote last year, just thought I'd repost it here for your reading enjoyment. This is the town I live in:

What an interesting town it is that I live in: A dumping ground for Mormon families all over the nation and world who wanted to straighten out their misled kids by throwing them onto a veritable G-rated breeding ground with a bunch of other kids who are in the exact same situation. Yeah that's a GREAT plan, or one with disaster written all over it, I forget which.

So Provo (and when I say Provo, I mean Provo/Orem as a college town, not the cities themselves with their native residents) is a melting pot of sorts (albeit with what appears to be the same ingredients). It is a town with more than a few Texas-flag-adorned apartment windows, a town with enough regional American dialects that it's a wonder we can all understand each other, even a town with one aggregate craving for In-And-Out Burger big enough to almost make us all collectively drive to Vegas this very second.

Along with this narrow individualism and home-state-pride, however, comes a mentality of blamelessness. Example: how many times have you heard someone complain about "those gosh dang utah drivers"? The ironic thing is, most of the time those very drivers that are being complained about probably just traded in their Washington plates for Utah ones last week. My point is that for anyone currently living here to criticize all things Utah is to criticize themselves, for we all are "THOSE people".

If we are all outsiders looking in, are we not staring at nothing? Let us instead embrace our fate, that we're not in Kansas anymore (figuratively, unless you moved here from Kansas, then literally), that we are in fact residents of the places we are now living. This way, if something sucks here, we're all to blame. This way, you need not go TOO far out of your way to mention the disclaimer on your myspace profile that while it SAYS you live in Provo, you're always a (insert home state here) girl at heart. This way, when you go to California this summer to sell Pest Control or return to your hometown to rekindle the dwindling flame with that old high school sweetheart, you will know that if all else fails, there's always a place for you in the social orphanage for twenty somethings that is Provo.

My very 1st bolg!!1!

Well, not really, but I feel that with how behind the curve I am, it was about time I started my very own blog. Besides, I feel like I kinda outgrew myspace blogging, and let's face it, facebook "notes" just aren't the same. So with that said, this is my new medium for rants, stories, and pop culture minutiae.