A Typical Breakfast in Our Nearly-vegan Wonderland

IMG_20151123_110112911 Here in Gashlaria, we’ve been almost entirely on a plant-based and whole foods diet for over three years now. We make exceptions when eating out or with family or friends (and, because frankly, now and then everyone needs a Saturday night bag of Cheetos), but at home we’re pretty strict, and in general, we’ve never felt healthier, and our food has never been tastier. For breakfast, this morning, we had savory waffles with cheeze sauce and an orange smoothie. This may not sound extraordinary until you consider all the ingredients this breakfast required (and didn’t require):

(Edit: as several people have asked, I’ve turned the following list into a recipe. I don’t normally use recipes, so each of these measurements are just estimates.)


  • 1 half cup steel cut oats
  • 1 half cup whole wheat
  • 1 half cup raw cashews
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tomato
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 half cup cilantro

(Instructions: blend dry ingredients until smooth. Dice wet ingredients, then add them to the mix. Add just enough water to make a lumpy batter. Cook in waffle iron with spray-on oil (we use coconut oil)).

Cheeze Sauce

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1/s block tofu
  • 1 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tomato
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tsp Sriracha sauce
  • 1 tbsp Grey Poupon
  • 1/4 tsp Liquid Smoke

(Instructions: blend all ingredients until smooth.)

Orange Smoothie

  • 1 orange
  • 1 banana
  • 1 pear
  • 1/8 pineapple
  • 10 whole dates
  • 1 tray of ice

(Instructions: blend all ingredients until smooth. We cup up lots of fruit at once and freeze them in bags. Then, when blending, we add water instead of ice.)

As my family will verify, this is very typical of the kind of breakfasts we eat almost every morning. With the possible exception of a small amount of coconut oil (one of the best oils and probably just enough to be good for the body), there was nothing destructive about this meal whatsoever. No refined starches or sugars, not much salt, no preservatives, no cholesterol, no MSG, no empty calories, and almost nothing packaged, processed, or preserved. Plus, we walk away filled with nutrients (including plenty of protein), and feeling great.

A few years ago I would have shunned this health nonsense. Then, one day, I realized I’d developed a pot belly and was not, in fact, impervious to weight gain as I’d supposed. Since then Teresa and I have decided to more fully live the Word of Wisdom, and it’s been an all-around-blessing.

Lest you think this crazy hippie lifestyle is impractical, here’s a couple of hints: (1) it took less than thirty minutes to prepare (helps having a Blendtec), and (2) we spend much less per month on groceries than the average American household. You’ll be amazed at how much good stuff you can get and how much money you can save when you stop buying animal products and junk food. And for anyone who thinks we’re missing out on the good stuff, as one who’s thoroughly ranged the spectrum, you don’t know what you’re missing.

“And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.”

I can verify that this is true. I’ve never had a faster one-mile sprint, I recently achieved my best time in a 10k, and I’ve never been able to do more push-ups. While family and friends will judge your chicken neck, believe me, you’ll look much better in a swimming suit.

The Devil Broke My Printer (And Other Interesting Events in My Life)


Some weeks back, I was under a crunch to print some CD’s for my musical, but our printer wasn’t behaving. I have a hacked Epson printer, you see, for which I set up a continuous ink system. It’s saved us hundreds of dollars. But every now and then, something goes wrong, and it’s the devil to fix (as you’ll see). In the process I got ink everywhere. When I finally wrapped up after an unsuccessful ordeal, I thought it would be fun to turn the paper on which I was collecting ink into an inkblot test and give myself a psychoanalysis. This produced the picture you see. And thus I learned why I was having so much trouble: Satan.

IMG_20151115_164357443-bOn a happier note, have you seen this? It’s also old news, but I’d just like to point out that my show is totally above( and more prominent than) Idina Menzenl’s show. Also, the headline and caption seems to be implying that not only was our show on some sort of tour, but it’s destined to fill the earth (see Daniel 2).

On an even happier note, last night my four-year-old Aspen drew the following picture for me. She explained that she had written the word “boy” to clarify the gender of the subject, for, as she also explained, “I’m not very good at drawing boys.”


Intolerance Will Not be Tolerated | Exploring the rhetoric of the same-sex marriage debate

“I’m gay. Is there something wrong with that?”

What would Intolerance-255x192you do if posed with this question? In order to put forth an adequate answer, we first need to understand the speaker’s meaning, which lends several possibilities:

  1. He feels (and has always felt) same-sex attraction.
    This is the safest option to assume in today’s political climate.
  2. He has developed a preference for the same sex.
    As it’s not popular to acknowledge that this case even exists, we should definitely avoid it.
  3. Whether or not possibility 1 or 2 is true, he has or intends to have romantic and/or sexual relations with someone of the same sex and believes that so-doing is an acceptable practice.
    I could be wrong here, but I imagine this is also a safe assumption if he’s forthright about being gay.
  4. Whether or not possibility 1 or 2 is true, he chooses not to have romantic and/or sexual relations with someone of the same sex and believes that so-doing is not an acceptable practice.
    This position is definitely not popular in our political climate and therefore not a safe assumption to make.

So guessing that he’s always felt same-sex attraction and already has or plans to act on it with a clear conscience, now we have to come up with our possible answers:

  1. No, of course there’s nothing wrong with that.
    If you don’t want to be seen as a bigot, this is the only correct answer. Only it leads to some complications. Are you approving of possibility #1 (that he was born with same-sex attraction) or possibility #3 (that he acts on his same-sex attraction)?  If you’re approving of possibility #3, are you only approving of same-sex relations within legal marriage or are you approving of any and all same-sex relations between consenting adults? To ask for clarification will be socially awkward, so you’re safest to approve of all of the above.
  2. Yes, I do believe there is something wrong with that.
    You are now a bigot.

So given that you’re not a bigot and chose answer #1, let’s explore what you just affirmed:

  1. You are a tolerant, empathetic, and open-minded human being. Good for you.
  2. You throw out the archaic notion that sexual relations belong only between a legally-wedded husband and wife. And if you’re going to be consistent, you’ll also need to throw out the following:
    1. Significant portions of the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Koran, and any other holy text, religion, or modern revelation that denounces fornication, homosexual activity, or designates sex as anything less than fully permissible between two or more consenting adults.
    2. The belief that children are entitled to a father and mother or that the ideal parenting relationship is between a father and a mother. Remember that you affirmed that there’s “nothing wrong with that,” so you’re not allowed to hold on to any ideals that could be even slightly compromised by this scenario.
    3. A belief that biologically fathering or mothering children, leaving a biological posterity, or propagating the human species is anything more than an option based on personal preference.
    4. A belief that the ideal balance for a good society is based on unions of men and women. If the percentage of same-sex couples rises from approximately 5% to 50%, there will still be nothing wrong with it, because sex and marriage are about the desires of consenting adults, not any obligations to society.

Whether wittingly or not, you’ve expressed your approval for legalized same-sex marriage. And now that the fundamental units of society, families (even more fundamentally: marriages) have no obligations to society as far as raising posterity, you nevertheless acknowledge that it is the role of government to support and incentive these unions. Don’t ask me why. Apparently it’s the role of the state to serve its people and not the other way around. If marriage is a healthy lifestyle, I guess that’s justification enough. It would stand to reason that the government should also give us tax breaks for exercise, healthy eating, and the quitting of smoking.

In short, you’re either a progressive moral relativist … or a bigot.

Feel like I’m telling you how to think? That’s the point.

Words and definitions are dangerous things. Words become thoughts. Thoughts become actions. Actions become habits. Habits define our characters. Characters define societies.

In 1939, essayist Kenneth Burke analyzed the book Mein Kampf to explore how Hitler was able to convert so many millions to a narrow ideology. He writes:

“As a whole, and at all times, the efficiency of the truly national leader consists primarily in preventing the division of the attention of a people, and always in concentrating it on a single enemy. … It is part of the genius of a great leader to make adversaries of different fields appear as always belonging to one category only, because to weak and unstable characters the knowledge that there are various enemies will lead only too easily to incipient doubts as to their own cause. As soon as the wavering masses find themselves confronted with too many enemies, objectivity at once steps in, and the question is raised whether actually all the others are wrong and their own nation or their own movement alone is right. Also with this comes the first paralysis of their own strength. Therefore, a number of essentially different enemies must always be regarded as one in such a way that in the opinion of the mass of one’s own adherents the war is being waged against the enemy alone. This strengthens the belief in one’s own cause and increases one’s bitterness against the attacker” (The Rhetoric of Hitler’s Battle,  Burke, 97).

The idea that you’re either for same-sex marriage (whether in terms of legality, spirituality, or societal prudence) or you’re a bigot follows suit with this “us versus them” mentality. It reduces a complex playing field into a one-dimensional spectrum. Consider all the players who have been yanked off the field:

  • The person who empathizes with those who experience same-sex attraction but believes that the greatest happiness is universally predicated upon keeping God’s commandments. Bigot.
  • The person who struggles with same-sex attraction and resents the way society pressures him to break his covenants. Victim of bigots.
  • The person who believes that government-sponsored marriage may have been a fine institution in the past, but now that society has redefined its values, it would be best for government to stop meddling with private relationships altogether. Bigot.
  • The person who believes that sexual promiscuity of any kind is harmful to individuals, families, and societies, and invites people involved with same-sex relations to reconsider. Bigot.

The irony is that this new way of thinking (or stifling of thinking) has become a religion in itself. Among its core faith-based doctrines (bearing some similarities to Calvinism) are:

  1. Everyone with same-sex attraction was predestinated unto this end.
  2. One cannot and must not alter or dismiss his sexual orientation.
  3. One’s highest fulfilment in life will come from being true to one’s desires and not by fulfilling any obligation to society or God.
  4. Anyone who disagrees  is a bigot.

(As a brief digression, here’s a conundrum for the new religion: what if a man already married with children realizes he has same-sex attraction? Is the moral thing to (A) yield to his inner-truth or (B) continue to be a father and husband for his family? If the answer is A, then what feels good is the highest basis of morality … not the best foundation for a good society in my opinion. If the answer is B, and moral responsibility to others can indeed trump the merits of following one’s sexuality,  then doesn’t that undermine the founding principles of the philosophy? Wouldn’t it follow that for the good of children, family, and posterity, one’s sexual orientation should never be the top consideration?)

I apologize if I’m coming across as harsh or as an anti-anti-bigot … bigot. This war of words is so chalked up with irony that it’s easy to inadvertently switch sides and become the very monster you’re trying to slay. With nearly every sentence I write, a voice in the back of my mind asks, “How will they turn this against me?” My intent is not to play the same game I’m condemning but to illustrate how stifled we all are in today’s political climate. No matter how I write this essay, it will generate controversy. Probably lots of controversy. No matter what stance I take, I will make enemies.

The problem is, as almighty society deems the one correct answer and assigns everything else to the camp of dissidents, people are being bullied into either accepting strict ideologies that in no way reflect their true diversity of thought, or, to avoid contention, they state no opinion at all, which, in effect, is often the same as agreeing with their adversaries. Either way, in this new age of crowd-induced censorship, we’re losing our ability to speak, and thus we’re also losing our ability to think.

Words are dangerous things.

My hope is that we will all show a little more empathy for our ideological rivals and be slower to label and criticize. In espousing the virtues of tolerance, I hope we’ll practice what we preach and stop putting others in boxes. I absolutely believe in right and wrong, but I don’t believe it boils down to a one-dimensional spectrum of us versus them. True liberals give everyone the benefit of the doubt and not just their favorite poster children. True liberals celebrate a diversity of thought and don’t have to shove their agendas on others. True liberals tolerate bigots.

Something to think about before you choose to be enraged over the church’s new policy

salt-lake-mormon-temple71If you haven’t read the news, here it is (stated as controversially as possible).

As I learned from firsthand experience on my mission, the church has, for a long time, held policies regarding proselyting to and baptizing certain groups of people, such as Muslims and Jews, not because any group of people is less worthy but to avoid causing cultural damage that could hamper the overall progress of the church in a given area. In the case of Muslims, it’s a matter of safety. We had to get high approval and make doubly sure no one intended to commit blood atonement against the would-be convert. Similarly, with Jews, it’s my understanding that out of respect to their culture and wishes, we generally avoid proselyting to them. There are many other cases, such as when a child’s parents are unconsenting, that the church simply cannot and should not meddle with families and cultures, even when an individual (albeit usually a minor) desires membership.

Of course the church has its own internal agenda to maintain, but I don’t think it takes much stretch of the imagination to see how the church could similarly want to avoid contention and even honor the gay community by establishing a policy against pitting their children against their parents.

Edit: I’m not implying here that the church is making some sort of good-will offering, as I’m well aware of the section that requires baptismal candidates coming from these families to disavow the practice of same-sex marriage (though certainly not to disavow the parents themselves, a crucial distinction that’s too commonly muddied in this conversation).

The key is in point 2 of the same section, which states another prerequisite for baptism: “The child is of legal age and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage.” Because the child has to be of legal age (not a child at all) and living independently from the situation in question, the policy is respecting the autonomy of the parents while their child is beneath their guardianship. The religious choice of an adult then becomes an entirely different matter and requires consistency in both belief and action, no matter the familial pressures or consequences. Consider Matthew 10:37: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me …” I can’t see how a child could be expected to live up to this doctrine. But for an adult, anything short of it is at odds with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In my opinion, this has nothing to do with the blessings of the Gospel, which are still available to one and all (as administered in a proper time and place), and everything to do with avoiding the needless hazards of meddling with the minors of a culture that is very much at odds with church doctrine. While not of the world, the church still has to function in the world, and I don’t think it’s reasonable to conclude that our simple (and prejudiced) preconceptions of fair and not fair are sufficient for determining the best policy for a massive organization. Especially if you believe that those at the heads of the organization have a certain knack for foresight, shall we say? Try to look at the bigger picture before jumping to conclusions.

Dream Log


I dreamed I had taken a job to pose in front of the Abercrombie & Fitch store as their iconic half-naked man. Then I saw someone I knew, and, feeling ashamed, I left to reconsider my life.


I dreamed I was soaring through the sky in a flying car. On my tail was Arnold Schwarzenegger in his own flying car. We were racing, and I was winning. It was heaven.

The State of Gashlaria

Time to catch up on my life, lest I contract Alzheimer’s disease sooner than later. First, here are some pictures from our latest family photo shoot by Angie Berrio Photography:

Percy is a terror, as always, having led Teresa to exclaim the choice words, “This is the baby that makes me not want to have any more babies.” Aspen is our little scientist, always wanting to learn how the world works, building things with her hands, and telling us interesting facts. She also loves a good poo poo joke. Ariah is ever our rambunctious blast of creativity and fun. The girls are loving their home schooling, field trips, gymnastics, ballet, and more, all for which Teresa is doing a bang up job.

Speaking of the family, yesterday I drafted our first bill of laws. Princes and princesses have one vote, the king has two, and the queen has three. It just makes sense.

For all completed chores, princes and princesses are rewarded with fifty cents. For all failed chores, they must pay us fifty cents. Of course, half of their allowance must go in to savings, ten percent into tithing. The king and queen accommodate all travel, food, and lodging expenses. However, if princes or princesses desire more than is provided, they must pay for such themselves. On principle, we’ll never buy them candy at grocery stores, because that’s what their spending money is for. Princes or princesses over the age of eight must purchase their own clothes. College, missions, etc. must be self-funded, for which we’re helping them build their savings now.

The King and Queen are required to complete at least one date per week, at which princes and princesses are strictly forbidden. A date must include each of the following: recreation, dining (outside of our usual dining area or with significant modifications), entertainment, and … special … time. If there are any babysitters out there, please contact us. The children are killing us. In a loving kind of way.

12105804_10102257761405019_8537661750046492582_nAs is old news for some, I took first place and the Audience Choice Award (3rd year in a row) at the Timpanogos Storytelling Haunting Contest. I told an original ghost story entitled “The Haunted Sewer.” There’s something strange about hearing your mother congratulate you for terrorizing people with stories of demonic apparitions dragging little boys to their silent deaths, but I’ll take it. The contestants as a whole were better than I’ve ever heard them, the competition stiffer. It’s fun to be a part of a game that ups its quality and prestige each year, forcing one to follow suit. That being said, having finally taken first place at one of these events, I’ve also realized (as one only can through experience) how empty winning is in itself. I’ve heard other competition winners say things such as, “Everyone did such a good job, I wish everyone could win.” My inner responses then were usually, “Easy for you to say …” Though my envious resolve was to achieve their lofty station for myself so I could then experience a similar state of glorifying humility. And now I can. For the record, winning is, in fact, dumb.

I know: easy for me to say. Prove me wrong.

Since our production of BUMS! ended at the Echo Theatre in Provo, we, in Gashlaria, haven’t quite known what to do with ourselves. Teresa’s made progress on her own musical (as of yet untitled) about ghosts in early-twentieth-century Appalachia. Though fearing that the pesky kids in our abode would eclipse her time and prevent this project from happening, I wrote a contract for her, which she signed completely at her own volition. Basically, if she doesn’t have a solid draft finished by March 1st 2016, she has to (1) lie tied up on wet grass while sprinklers douse her for a period of fifteen minutes, (2) dance on the corner of Center Street and University Avenue during rush hour for thirty minutes, and (3) consume three jars of sauerkraut within seventy-two consecutive hours. (I’ve been cheated before by not including the word consecutive. You know who you are.)

Don’t ask me why she signed this. I guess sometimes we all need exterior motivation. Real exterior motivation.

Though I really shouldn’t have, as I’ve I had more important projects to work on, I’ve begun outlining the sequel to Prisoner of the Molepeople, currently entitled Return to Molemania. It’s been fun to revisit the characters, the underground city, and to come up with even crazier shenanigans than before. I have to compete with myself, after all. Without throwing out any spoilers (especially considering that I have no idea when this project will even happen), let’s just say that I’ve discovered new findings in the belly of the earth that I can’t wait to write about.

On my more immediate list of projects, however, is my novel Gideon Versus the Gods of Cool. I’ve written about a fourth of it plus a detailed outline. The story will explore, in a fictional setting, some of the philosophical and quasi-magical adventures I had with friends in high school, compounded with an esoteric pantheon of deity you never realized controlled your world.

I also have tentative plans to write a musical about Vikings, but that’s all I have to say on the subject.

For Halloween, last night, I buried myself in my basement and programmed. I guess you could say my sense of awe and wonder at black lights and fake spider webs has gone the way of all the earth. Perhaps I’ve lost the true spirit of Halloween, and my formerly black heart has turned hopelessly warm and disgustingly fleshy. Though in my defence, (1) I went trick-or-treating with my kids the day before at a company event, (2) I myself went religiously trick-or-treating until I was twenty-four years old and my wife demanded my retirement, and (3) no one invited me to any parties. :-(

Forget that last point. I’ve realized, lately, that the difference between mere dreamers and those who actually achieve their dreams is nothing short of hard work and lots of it. For example, I was recently watching an interview with someone I idealize: Danny Elfman, and when he was asked how often he looks back with triumph at his accomplishments, Elfman stated that he almost never listens to his own music. He only looks forward, as there’s always another project on the horizon. So it is with winning, and so it is with Halloween. It’s all well and good to bask in the moment and play around, but when something ceases to be novel, one must move on. Last night, while I have no candy to show for it, I tackled a few more problems between me and that moment when the machines will finally do my bidding, making my presence in the workforce obsolete. Plus, I can always eat my kids’ candy.

The Year is 1929


Photo by Lucas Henry

Herbert Hoover, the president of the United States, has been in office for eight months. His firm belief in efficiency and the power of private industry steers the nation. Thanks to the eighteenth amendment, the possession of alcohol has been illegal for almost a decade, resulting in a new, divided culture of the law-abiding and the dissident. Thanks, in part, to the 19th amendment, granting universal women’s suffrage, the traditional roles between men and women have begun to blur.

The world is changing like never before. Within just a few years, the private ownership of automobiles has shifted from a privilege of the rich to a necessity of the working class. The American dream to go big or go home has taken the nation by storm, leaving those who can’t compete to fall by the wayside. Many of these “forgotten men” are those who are still suffering from “shell shock” from the World War. But in this big, big city, where everybody’s busy — a constant race against the clock — few have time to care for the weak. By day, in this age of sobriety, crowded streets, and assembly lines, the towers must constantly get taller as the world inevitably gets smaller.

But by night, when the bootleggers run the show, many rekindle the embers of trampled humanity through secret rebellion. While “flappers” sport scandalously short dresses and bobbed haircuts, the Charleston is the hot dance among the mom and pops. Swing music is an unstoppable sensation, inspiring its listeners to move in ways that are anything but predictable. As if in spite of the drab routines of Henry Ford, the dance floors are packed with spastic flailing of the limbs, crazy rolls from side to side, pointless leaps into the air, more energy than one can bear. Through the sweet hours of the dark, sacred night, responsibility gives way to the most fundamental American virtue: freedom.

That is, until the coppers show up. Then it’s either back to one’s proper dwelling place or to the slammer. Either way, the system will ensure that one resumes a proper role in society, because the governmental and corporate gods will not stand for those who defy them. Though the line between man and machine grows ever thinner, life must go on, come what may.

But in every crowd there’s a fellow or two who doesn’t know where he’s going. With his head leaning back, he thinks, “what do I lack?” as he’s pushed right along with the flowing. He thinks, “Maybe tomorrow I’ll figure it out, when life’s not so dreary and hot.” But when will he learn that the world’s gonna turn, whether he’s ready or not?

Every hero faces the same challenge: the quest to find and fulfill his calling in spite of the stifling circumstances around him. This is our challenge today.


My Dream Goes to the Gutter

These last few months have been a pleasure as I’ve watched my dream go to the gutters on the Echo Theatre stage in Provo, Utah. That was a figure of speech. There’s not actually any gutters on the set, though as you can see from these photos of our Saturday night show, the scenes I envisioned of dirty buildings, period costumes, dirty streets, smelly bums, and beautiful faces has now taken shape. (Photos by Lucas Henry)

Thanks to everyone who’s helped bring this production to life. So far it’s gotten a good review at Front Row Reviewers Utah. “The strengths of this show were the mostly believable New Yahk accents, the energy and movement and the fun story. The music, too, by Gashler, was fresh and fun. … You won’t be disappointed when you go see this production. Because this is a world premiere of a brand new show, I can’t stress enough my suggestion that you see this family-friendly fun show” (http://frontrowreviewersutah.com/?p=3061).

On Thursday, our opening night, we had a full house, and I’ve only heard praise from the audience. The show runs until Oct – 3 (you can purchase tickets and get all the details here). Mention my name to get $2.00 off up to two tickets per group.

Reflections on this Year’s Timpanogos Storytelling Festival

IMG_3588 IMG_3582IMG_3590The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival – definitely one of the best parts of the year. On Friday I told at the “Timp Tellers” contest, a new feature in which five storytellers from throughout the nation compete for a chance to tell a twenty minute story with Donald Davis. I didn’t win, though I feel good about my performance and consider myself blessed to have been numbered among such talented people. Every teller was magnificent. The experience also gave me a gauge for how to win next year. Apparently the winning story needs a solid “Aww” moment and not just “Haha!” moments. The latter come naturally to me. The former … well, this will take some soul searching.

I heard through the grapevine that there was a tie between two of the contestants, which the judges had to figure out how to resolve. It’s certainly possible that I could have been one of those contestants (this happened at the National Storytelling Network Slam last year). It’s also possible that I had the lowest score. This paragraph is buying me nothing.

The best part about the whole affair was the food. I got to eat both breakfast and lunch with the national tellers, and the pastries were out of this world. One has not lived until one has had a real Danish. I also got to use the “storytellers only” bathroom, which was an honor in itself.

Teresa served as an emcee for a number of the tellers. She commanded the stage with her smooth, sexy voice. She probably won’t appreciate the former sentence.

Saturday began with an adventure. With the help of a good friend, I took the perilous 30 foot journey over flimsy galvanized roofing and up a wobbly latter onto the old roof of the Echo Theatre. There we fixed the improperly hanging banner for BUMS! the Musical … for the third time. Note to the wise: if ever hanging up a 10 × 15′ sign, make sure to thread the rope through every single hole. The first time. Believe me, it’s worth it.

Speaking of BUMS! the Musical, the show is coming along great. We’ve got a great director and a great cast, and I’m happy at how it’s all coming together. We open in less than two weeks … fifteen years after my first, little high school performance of it. These last two paragraphs have nothing to do with this post … but I wanted to record them anyway.

After Saturday morning’s rehearsal for BUMS!, my family returned to the festival, where Aspen, Ariah, and myself performed for the Utah’s Biggest Liar showcase. Four-year-old Aspen stole the hearts of the audience out of sheer virtue of her littleness and cuteness, telling about the time her baby brother fell into a chocolate cake and turned into a cake monster. Ariah (the first place and audience choice winner for the youth division) did fantastic with her story about a cheetah in ballet class. And I also felt good about my telling of my epic encounter with the Lady of Utah Lake and my discovering of Brigham Young’s beard card.

I’m going to list my favorite performances at the festival. First, Carmen Agra Deedy never ceases to blow me away with her storytelling. Her energy, characters, voices, and comedic timing are top notch. I want to be just like her when I grow up.

The most moving performance for me was by Eth-Noh-Tec, a husband and wife Asian-American duo. As one who’s usually not a fan of husband and wife duos, I was pleasantly surprised. They didn’t step on each other’s lines or digress to tedious banter (as I’ve seen with other duos) but told and acted out a beautiful and polished epic. Indeed, their performance, entitled “Red Alter,” was more than a story. It spanned many generations and characters in the legacy of a Chinese family who immigrated to California. Eth-No-Tec poignantly portrayed the characters’ dreams, struggles, prosperity, and long-suffering against European-American prejudice. The story reminded me of the book A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle (one of my favorite books) in the way it connected multiple generations into a single narrative. At the end of the performance, the wife revealed how the characters of the story were her ancestors. These brilliant storytellers illustrated, in perhaps the most human way possible, an important chapter of American history that often goes unacknowledged.

Bill Harley was a hoot, as always. For anyone who may have lost track of his childhood amid the soul-sucking duties of adulthood, I know the perfect cure: listen to Bill Harley.

The funniest performance goes to Donald Davis, hands down. He had everyone roaring as he told about his childhood confusion over the omnipresence and deplorable memory of the shopping mall Santa Clauses.

The spunkiest performance goes to Pippa White. That woman’s got style! Her plethora of dialects and characters, compounded by her unstoppable wit result in pure, unadulterated fun. (No one’s paying me to write this.)

I could go on, but I don’t particularly feel like writing all evening. Suffice it to say the festival is wonderful, and everyone needs to come. I believe that storytelling is such a profound art form because it is the pure transmission of intelligence from one brain to another. It doesn’t require a soundtrack, a set, special effects, or a budget. And because it’s such a cognitive activity, a brilliant listener is just as important as a brilliant teller. This is why storytelling isn’t as popular as, say, film. Film doesn’t usually require as much focussed attention from its viewers, making it easier on audiences. But for those who are interested in taking a mental journey, I believe there’s nothing quite as powerful as a good story.

One more thing: I was not trying to look like the Dread Pirate Roberts. Wearing all black when I perform has been a habit of mine for years for the reason that it better hides me as a puppeteer when performing behind  a black cloth. I’ve done it so much that it’s become my signature dress. The short mustache is for my role as the 1920’s American businessman, Mister Engerman, in BUMS! That being said, for my bio in the program, I wrote, “Stephen Gashler looks remarkably like Westley from the Princess Bride.” I did this in hopes that by beating others to the punch, they would spare me the tedium of comments such as, “Has anyone ever told you that you look like …” Boy was I wrong. To answer one and all, the answer is yes. However, while I’ve tried to be diplomatic, it’s time to set the record straight. I don’t, in fact, look like Cary Elwes. Cary Elwes looks like me.

P.S. Sorry the pictures are lousy. Teresa was obedient and turned off the flash. Someday I’ll convert her to the benefits of complete disregard for social propriety.

Teresa’s Bob Ross Party

downloadYesterday Teresa and I through a Bob Ross party (her belated birthday party). As no one else whom I know has actually done, we followed along to Bob Ross’s instruction in an episode of “The Joy of Painting.” A group of eight of us made our own landscape oil paintings. I have two oberservations:

(1) Oil painting is not as easy as Bob Ross makes it look, especially if you don’t have top-of-the-line painting supplies to work with. If you’re going to do it, buy the expensive brushes that won’t bunch up on you. (2) You can’t have too much white paint. Mine turned out more like an acrylic painting, because we didn’t have enough white paint to cover my paper, so the paint didn’t blend the way I wanted. I also couldn’t add the highlights I wanted. (3) There really is joy in painting. I could totally get into this.


My Painting


Teresa’s Painting


Made by the group out of the leftover paints