Friday, August 31, 2012

Angst!

So you know how you get when you read Harry Potter, and it sucks you in and you just read and read until you've finished the series for the umpteenth time and then you almost want to start it over again RIGHT NOW because you got so wrapped up in it that it's hard to imagine reading anything else?

You know how sometimes you get a little starstruck and so you pick up those celebrity magazines, or read the red carpet fashion blogs, or write too many blog posts about actors you like because sometimes it's just a fun thing to think about?

And you know how when you used to be part of a performance group of some kind—in a play, a choir, a band, a team—and then you stop doing it, you sometimes really, really miss it? The excitement, the tension, the cohesion, all the hours of practicing together, the nerves before a performance, the beauty of making music and the sense of being part of something?


This book is making me feel all of that. And it's kind of ridiculous.

It's sort of like the experience I had when I was reading Dramarama, only magnified, because it's HARRY POTTER, and a movie, with real life actors who I have serious crushes on (Helena Bonham-Carter, Alan Rickman, Emma Watson, Maggie Smith). I've never really done acting, but I have been in plays (as a minor character/choir member in a madrigal a couple years ago, as George Washington in my fifth grade school play, in various silly skits at Girls' Camp and church activities and talent shows) and when I read Dramarama, I really wished that I could have the experience of being a teenager and going to theater camp. Because I really do love being in plays, but I was always much too shy to do it seriously, and I think something like theater camp could have helped with some of that.

I also really miss high school band, and I do not care how nerdy it is to say that. I was in band from sixth grade through twelfth, and I played the bass clarinet for five of those seven years. I loved the bass clarinet. I am dying to buy my own, and one day I will, even though they cost thousands of dollars and are not so much solo instruments. I'm kind of hoping to join a community band or orchestra at some point. And anyway, maybe to you this doesn't seem very connected to the HP book, but in my head it is. It all just makes me feel kind of angsty, like there's so much I wish I could be doing in my life but can't because I would've had to have gone totally different routes several years ago.

Aaaand it sounds like I'm having a mid-life crisis, I know. I kind of am. It's sad.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Condoleezza Rice: My Saltines and Sprite for the RNC

There's a reason everyone's talking about this speech from last night. I only heard about five minutes each of the speeches from Tim Pawlenty, Paul Ryan, and Mike Huckabee, but I watched/read Condoleezza Rice's speech, and it was the only part of the evening that I was able to stomach. Then I got online today, and I saw pretty much the same sentiment being expressed all over the place. Even though I can't understand how she takes these wonderful thoughts and applies them toward two candidates who don't seem to me to fit them at all, the fact is that the thoughts themselves are wonderful.
"You see, the essence of America, what really unites us, is not nationality or ethnicity or religion. It is an idea. And what an idea it is: that you can come from humble circumstances and you can do great things. That it does not matter where you came from, it matters where you are going."
What unites us is not religion. Because we are not all of the same religion. What unites us is not ethnicity, because we come from all over the world. American is not an ethnicity, because America is nothing more—or less—than a combination of people from everywhere. And that's exactly what I find beautiful about this country. This is what I would like to feel "patriotic" about. If America could be a place that welcomed the rest of the world instead of denigrating it, I would be prouder than anything to live here.  
"Your greatest ally in controlling your response to your circumstances has been a quality education. But today, today, when I can look at your zip code and I can tell whether you're going to get a good education, can I honestly say it does not matter where you came from, it matters where you are going? The crisis in K-12 education is a threat to the very fabric of who we are."  
Thank you, Condoleezza Rice, for being a Republican who acknowledges that everyone in this country is not starting on equal ground. That this concept is denied by so many is something I find truly baffling. And based on this statement, I assume that if she were in a policy-making position, she would not be one of the people cutting funding for education. (Although to be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of the sentences that came just after this one, which seemed to contain echoes of the old "everyone's just lazy and entitled"/"it's all the crappy teachers' fault" ideas, so I don't know. I'll take what I can.)
"On a personal notea little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham, the segregated city of the south where her parents cannot take her to a movie theater or to restaurants, but they have convinced that even if she cannot have a hamburger at Woolworth's, she can be the president of the United States if she wanted to beand she becomes the secretary of state.  
Yes. Yes, America has a way of making the impossible seem inevitable in retrospect, but we know it was never inevitable. It took leadership. And it took courage. And it took a belief in our values." 
It wasn't inevitable that America would become a place where Condoleezza Rice could be the secretary of state. A lot of Americans fought and sacrificed and died for decades so that could happen—and a lot of Americans fought just as hard to prevent it from happening. I hope I am never again on the side of history that fights to prevent some Americans from sharing the equal rights that all Americans are supposed to be able to claim. It didn't just take leadership for this change to happen; it took individual people listening to their own consciences and refusing to accept a society that oppressed their fellow human beings.

Yes, America has a way of making things seem inevitable in retrospect. A big part of that is deliberate. When we teach history, we don't teach a factual accounting of the events that happened in the past. We teach a specific backstory, presenting the facts that support our current view of things, avoiding facts that might undermine our story, and ignoring facts that aren't part of the angle we're interested in. History is not a series of events that follow each other naturally to a predetermined conclusion; it is determined by people's choices. Future history is being determined right now by our choices. And I think that if we want to be responsible citizens and human beings, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves. We have a responsibility to find things out for ourselves, and not just accept what people have told us—even people we trust. We have a responsibility to think about others, not just ourselves, and to realize that our own experience with life is not everyone's experience. We have a responsibility to include those other experiences in our approach toward making laws and electing officials, and not to behave as though ours is the only valid experience.

I am kind of a fan of Condoleezza Rice right now. I don't know as much about her as I should, but I liked her in Miss Representation, and I really appreciate this speech. I didn't agree with everything in it, and I am far from sharing her support of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. But compared to Tim Pawlenty, who was embarrassing in both his rude adolescent attempts at humor and his fawning over Mitt Romney—compared to Mike Huckabee, who was frankly disgusting in his hyperbolic slandering of Obama (apparently our president is a sociopath who "believes human life is disposable and expendable at any time in the womb or even beyond the womb", didn't you know?)—compared to Paul Ryan, who apparently was going for a "world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech"—it's like Condoleezza Rice is representing an entirely different party. Her speech was elegant, passionate, and relevant. She talked about policies instead of bashing people personally as though this were junior high instead of grownup politics. If I had to vote for one of last night's speakers, she's the only one I could possibly choose. 

Maybe she'll run in 2016...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Bookish Survey

I'm in a strange mood today, which I think has been partially brought on by the constant work of the last few weeks. I keep finding myself wishing I could giant journal (which I haven't done in... forever), or that I had lots of money so I could go buy a few of these books that are just so beautiful, or that DI were open on Sunday so I could go find wonderful old books for $3 and buy them. I want to look at travel photos on Pinterest, but we went over the monthly limit on the internet and photos load so slowly right now that it's not worth it. I'd compromise by watching Midnight in Paris and spending the afternoon looking at book blogs, but I really do have a lot of work to do. So I'm going to do this little book survey that I saw on The Broke and the Bookish, and then it's back to as much closed captioning as I can do before dinner.

1. The book I'm currently reading: The Dragonbone Chair, by Tad Williams; The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan; and, on audio CD, The Heretic's Wife, by Brenda Rickman Vantrease. I like the audiobook, I love/am depressed/enraged/inspired by the nonfiction, and am really enjoying the fantasy (though it took so long to hook me that I probably would have given it up if it weren't for the fact that the entire reason I'm reading it is that my youngest brother has been bugging me for at least two years now, possibly three).

2. The last book I finished: Women I Have Known and Been, by Carol Lynn Pearson.

3. The next book I want to read: I have several books lined up on my windowsill that are going to be part of my Year of Feminist Reading after I finish The Feminine Mystique, but I'm not sure yet what order I'll read them in. These are the most likely candidates:
Women and Authority, by Maxine Hanks
The Good Body, by Eve Ensler
The Way We Never Were, by Stephanie Coontz
The Book of the City of Ladies, by Christine De Pizan
Finding Beauty in a Broken World, by Terry Tempest Williams
4. The last book I bought: It's been a while, and I'm not entirely sure. I think it was the beautiful copy of Twelfth Night that was printed in 1916 (for $2 at DI).

5. The last book I was given: The last book I was lent was Women and Authority, and that was just Friday night when I met up with my friend Megan for a book exchange. I can't remember for certain, but I think the last book I was given must have been for my birthday this year, which would mean it's the pretty copy of Anne of Green Gables from my sister Talia.

What about you? Want to share what you're reading?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Brain Dump for No Reason!

I had to use an extra blanket last night, and I LOVED IT. Putting all the bedrooms in the basement in Utah houses = a really good plan.

I think it's weird that The Weather Channel App on my phone says the wind speed right now is "calm mph". 

I hate when the speed limit is 35 so people go 25... as though 35 is so slow that they can't even be bothered to accelerate up to it and might as well just coast.

The soundtrack to Moonrise Kingdom is one of the best I've ever heard. Looove. 

I have a vein in my lip that sometimes, randomly, is visible. Every time it shows up, I think I drew on myself with blue pen.

If I were to throw out all my clothes that I don't like, there'd be fewer than twenty things hanging in my closet right now... and ten of those would be cardigans or hoodies. I need pretty much an entirely new wardrobe. Need to get working on that.

This is a picture of me at about two years old, and I don't know why it's on my computer.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Women I Have Known and Been, by Carol Lynn Pearson—9/10

Either I'm just finally starting to like poetry, or Carol Lynn Pearson is particularly amazing. I'm tempted to say it's the latter, but either way, this book was beautiful. I thought these poems were especially lovely:

Support Group
You can fall here.
We are a quilt set to catch you
A quilt of women's hands
Threaded by pain made useful.

With generations of comfort-making
Behind us, we offer this gift
Warm as grandma's feather bed
Sweet as the Heavenly Mother's
Lullaby song.

You can fall here.
Women's hands are strong.


Cousin Helen
I know I am related
To the farthest twig
And the last little leaf
On the family tree
From which billions hang
Rooted in Eden.

But it's lovely to be
Clustered close
With just a few
With you and the other
Cousins and aunts and uncles
That sprouted here
Because back there at the 
Crook of the branch
Sarah married George.

It's good to share
Similar names and noses
And history.
It's good to have someone
Who has to care
Because our mothers
Would want us to,
An organic obligation
If you will
And then to find we're friends
No matter our genes.

Of all the billions
Like it or not
I'm here, near, yours
And grateful.


What You Do to Me
"Recent medical literature
indicates people are healthier
when they're in love."

My darling
At the thought of you
The lactic acid in my blood drops
Making me less tired.

At your touch, my love
My endorphins increase
Producing a natural sense of
Well-being.

As your arms go around me
The lymphocytes go wild
In my blood
Strengthening my white cells.

And, oh
With your lips on mine
My limbic system is charged
And activity is increased
In all parts of my body.

And so, my love
I am grateful for you
From the bottom of my liver
And lungs and pancreas
And every other part
Not to mention, my love
My heart.


Split
You felt safe
I know
In that little space
Laced with love.
Your coccoon
You called it
Warm
Warm.
I cried with you
When it split.

Oh, safe
Cannot compare with sky.
I like you so much better
As a butterfly.


On Purpose 
The little girl unfrowned and then
Sort of smiled when
After hearing the dictionary definition

She was told what adopted
Really meant was

Searched for
Prayed for
Worked for
Finally gratefully got
Unquestionably on purpose
And loved a lot.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sometimes I'm Not in the Mood...

When I'm on Pinterest, it often happens that I look through pins with bedroom decoration ideas or birthday party themes or games for kids and think about how cool they are, and how much I would like them for myself (or would have liked them as a kid), and then see the caption:

"___ ideas for boys!"

Sometimes I get tired of that.

We don't. have. to label everything. We shouldn't label everything. Labeling people is bad—surely everyone knows this by now? When you say that certain things are for boys and certain things are for girls, you're labeling people just as much as you're labeling objects. If you say boys love ___ and there's a boy who doesn't love that thing, then you're labeling that boy un-boyish. If you say girls love ___ and there's a girl who doesn't love that thing, you're labeling her un-girlish. There are no circumstances in which this is a helpful, positive thing to do. 

Essentially what I'm saying is that it'd just be nice if I could look at stuff I like without being told which gender it's supposed to be for. You know? Is that so much to ask, really?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

#TreeTuesday!

I have just discovered a glorious thing.

Haven't been to Google+ in a while, but my mom and aunt and a couple other people added me to their circles recently, so I decided it was time to at least stop in and check up on things. And there was a post with this wonderful, wonderful hashtag in my news feed (or whatever non-Facebooky thing it's called on G+).

Tree Tuesday. I can't believe someone thought of a thing that I would love so perfectly. And now I cannot resist showing you far too many of the pictures I found and stared at and saved to my computer so that I can stare at them again later.
















After looking at these, I thought I would share some of my own pictures of trees... And in doing this, I have realized that I take a ridiculous number of pictures of trees. Apparently even I didn't realize how perfect a thing #TreeTuesday is for me.




























Walking

For the last six weeks or so, walking has been one of my favorite things about being in Utah. I have to wait for evening because doing any kind of physical activity in the sun causes me to have intensely painful headaches, and that's frustrating, because sometimes I just really want to go during the day. But the evening is my favorite time of day anyway—because it feels like fall—so it all works out.

The other night it started getting dark while I was on my way home, and the sky became this amazing mixture of shades of blue. On the east side, the sky was already a dark greyish blue with clouds here and there that were almost black like the silhouettes of the mountains. In the west there was still light, but there weren't any sunset pinks or oranges or purples—just a beautiful lighter blue and some soft white clouds. And in the middle, just above my head, a jet was passing and the contrail was a bright white against an almost navy blue sky.

I wished I had my camera, but consoled myself by remembering that my phone couldn't have captured the subtlety of all those colors anyway. (I really need to find the box with the power cord for my real camera.)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Beauty and Belief

We went to the BYU Museum of Art today. It was Mike's idea; he's the one who always thinks of these things, and that is why I'm glad to have him around. We literally have one dollar in our bank account right now, so we'd been "looking forward" to a weekend of sitting at home before he thought of the museum. We actually tried to go to the Bean museum first, but it's closed for construction until school starts again this fall—which ended up being totally fine with me. There are two amazing exhibits at the MOA right now, and I can't imagine a better way to have spent our afternoon.

The main exhibit is called Beauty and Belief: Crossing Bridges with the Arts of Islamic Culture (and if you click that link, you can see an official summary of the exhibit including lots of photos and background information). Just inside the museum there's a small room with more of a kid-oriented mini exhibit—lots of things for kids to touch, spiroscope drawings, astrolabe rubbings, a corner full of children's books, and beautiful wooden puzzles that Mike and I put together.

his
mine
The puzzles were my favorite part of that section, followed closely by the tree of good wishes, where people wrote their wishes on leaves and flowers and stuck them to a paper tree on the wall. I was just struck by the beauty, simplicity, and sometimes pain of some of the wishes I read there:
"I wish to visit India."
"I wish I had a tree in my yard."
"I wish all my kids could attend BYU."
"I wish my daddy a happy birthday."
"Peace."
"Come now, and let us reason together."
"I wish I had more video games."
"I wish I could have a puppy!"
"I wish for the drought in Texas to end."
"Rain!!!"
"I wish my kids didn't need dinner every night."
"I wish for humane health care for everyone."
"I wish for my dad to be healthy and not in pain."
"I love my mom."
I added my own to the tree, and then we moved on to the main exhibit—which opened with an amazing, several-feet-long scroll all stretched out on a ramp that slopes upward toward the ceiling, where one section of the scroll was reproduced by a projector on the wall. The artifacts in this exhibit are really fascinating, and in some cases, as old as the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. There are beautiful scrolls, leatherbound books decorated with gold foliate, sculptures of mythical creatures, prayer rugs, gorgeous calligraphy, paintings, poetry, and all kinds of bowls and plates and cups that would have been used in mosques and in daily life.

One of the points this exhibit makes is that there's a common misconception about Islamic art, that it never includes representations of people or animals. This is only true for pieces that were made for sacred spaces like mosques; in fact, it seems that outside of those circumstances, they specifically covered much of their art with both kinds of figures. Even simple bowls and plates were often intricately carved or painted with birds, flowers, leaves, and other animals.
 
This is a take-home card with a photo of the pot from the exhibit.

Finial, one of a set of ninety-nine, each inscribed with a different one of the names of God. 
This one is "Originator"  like Creator.

  
The thing that I thought was really lovely about this exhibit was how it pointed out the love that Muslims have for showing patterns and connectivity in their art. The leaf engravings are so intricate that you can't tell where one branch ends and another begins; the geometric patterns are often circular, in patterns that have no beginning and no end, representing the infinite nature of God.

There's also a great focus on "the word". The Qur'an is, of course, intensely sacred to Muslims, because it is believed to be the literal word of God. No matter where they live, Muslims are taught to read the Qur'an in Arabic, the language of the Qur'an. And calligraphy is a favorite art form. Because this text is so important, calligraphy makes its way into all forms of artistic expression—it is carved into bowls and doors, painted on vases and plates, stitched into clothing, inscribed onto the faces of buildings like the Dome of the Rock, and even made into sculpture. I think that's such a beautiful idea, to surround yourself with the actual words of God in everything from your dishes to the walls of your home.

If you have the opportunity to go see this exhibit, I really think you should. It's beautiful, and (at BYU, anyway) it's free. After it leaves Utah, the exhibit goes to Indianapolis, Newark, and then Portland, so if you're in any of those areas, I would definitely recommend it. Some of the photos here are nice to look at, but they're really incomparable to seeing these objects in person. In fact, my very favorite part of the exhibit was the figure within the figure, which you see through a small square in the wall, and which can't really be captured in a photo. When you look through a slightly larger rectangle in the wall just next to the square, you see drawings of various animals and people suspended from the ceiling on cables—and when you look through the small square, you're at just the perfect angle so that all of those figures line up to form the larger figure of a horse. It's really fascinating to see, and just one more brilliant part of a truly beautiful exhibit.

There was another exhibit downstairs called Object of Devotion; it's a collection of alabaster carvings from medieval England, and it is also really fascinating. I don't think I would have loved it so much without the music, though, which was some kind of choral piece in Latin—not a Gregorian chant, but softer and more melodic, with both male and female voices (I asked the woman at the information desk afterward if she knew what it was, but she didn't, and just guessed Gregorian chant because of the time period). I kept getting chills as I walked through that room, with that music and the different medium, and the knowledge that many of those panels were over six hundred years old and had hung in medieval churches and been rescued by people who were risking their lives to defy the king... I happen to be listening to an audiobook right now about that exact period in history, and it was just all a very moving experience for me. If you're in northern Utah and you get to go check out the Islamic art exhibit, make sure you stop in downstairs and check this one out as well.