Two Cool, Regular Things

  1. Earlier this week I put our Pride flag up after seeing a neighbor had theirs up. This morning the neighbor across the street from us put up their Pride flag. This is really nice because we live in a conservative county, and I appreciate people in our community having common opinions and principles as us. Happy Pride, everyone!
  2. We are starting a Summer Outdoor Movie Series. Reilly came up with a list of solid B or better movies (OR possible guilty pleasures) that all happen to come from the same eight-year period from the early 1980s to 1990. This is a nice chance to chat with friends and not have to think too hard during a movie.

Showtime starts at 9pm. We had a microburst earlier this afternoon. Let’s hope the rain plans around us.

Do I Know You? Come Celebrate with Me

Saturday is my 45th birthday. Right between 40 and 50. When the former United States President was in office, I used to tease friends turning 45, you know, because he was the 45th president, and anything associated with that number was bad luck or something. But now that he isn’t President, turning 45 ain’t so bad, right? (Wink, wink.)

Monday I went to a work picnic to send off a coworker moving far away. I saw people that I haven’t seen in over a year. Like, all of us were vaccinated, and we were able to share a space. An open space in a park. Under a pavilion. It was weird and glorious and a lot of fun. In fact yesterday I woke up with a slightly sore throat from talking more in those two hours than I have the entire time in isolation. Or at least it was from talking two hours straight, which I really don’t do.

This socializing probably also contributed to the excellent sleep I got Monday night. Because: introvert energy depletion. (See yesterday’s post.)

Saturday: more socializing! Whoa.

For Saturday, I ordered a cake. We might do games. But we may just end up hanging out. When people I care about are involved, it’s one of my very favorite things to do.

45: I’m ready for you.

Monday Morning Movie

Sunday night someone decided not to sleep through the night, and she woke up at pretty inconvenient times. The first time was not long I’d fallen asleep for the night, maybe 11:30pm. I heard her crying and went to her room and lay next to her until she calmed down. Then I returned to my bed and fell asleep. Then around 3:45am she started complaining again. This time I went to her room and told her how important it was to sleep, because she had school in the morning. I curled up at the end of her bed with a blanket she wasn’t using. I slept, sort of. She didn’t fall back asleep. So at 6:30 I got up and we started our day.

Z wanted to watch a movie. She wouldn’t need to be ready until two hours later, so I listed off some choices. She asked for Disney Pixar’s Coco. This movie calms her, and she needed to be as calm as possible with the little sleep she got. I couldn’t say no.

While the movie played in the living room, I brought Z some breakfast and her water bottle. I looked at work emails and made sure nothing was too pressing. Toward the end of the movie, I brought down some school clothes, and she changed clothes. I also brushed her hair.

It came to the part where Miguel has come back from the Land of the Dead and finds Mamá Coco at home, looking very depressed and not responding when he describes seeing her Papá. His family come after him; he sees the guitar on the floor and starts to play for Mamá Coco, “Remember Me.” Coco slightly moves her finger, and after a moment she joins Miguel in singing.

That part always makes me cry. For all the reasons.

We finished getting ready for school. As far as I know, Z had a pretty good day. Last night we tucked her in. Then we watched some tv before bed. When we lay down and closed our eyes, we did not open our eyes until our alarms went off. Which means Z slept through the night, too. She felt the effects of not getting enough sleep the night before. Poor thing.

But I love when she chooses that movie. Every time she asks for Coco I’ll put it on.

Teacher Appreciation Week

My husband has been a teacher for 11 years. He works really hard to give his students quality education. He got his master’s degree while teaching (and while I was pregnant). He’s created new courses and curricula. He is well-respected among his colleagues.

He teaches a range of related subjects: English, Creative Writing, Literature in Film. He accommodates students with a wide range of interests and motivation. His students like him. They appreciate his efforts to hold their attention and present memorable lessons that develop critical thinking and communication.

Respect from students would seem difficult to gain, especially among junior high youth, where the apathy emerges alongside the abrupt puberty. But Reilly has taught long enough to navigate these waters gracefully. Also: he was a teenager and remembers how he and classmates behaved at that age. He knows what he’s dealing with. He comes home with stories of the challenges and victories kids today face. Every day inspires to some extent.

Everyone: show some love to our teachers, past or present. Remember how they helped us grow, to become the people we are now.

Thanks, Google, for the reminder.

https://g.co/doodle/hjchhys

80s Basement Lecture Series

In November 2016 we bought a house. We moved in the next month. The idea of having the space to host events or parties crossed my mind. Our basement looked like hasn’t been updated since the 1980s, and this is where we set up the TV for movies and games. In February 2017 we started a quarterly lecture series, and we would hold each lecture in our 80s basement living room. We’d invite people over, we’d eat treats, and speakers would be our friends.

2017

18 February – Satire, by Reilly Ryan

Reilly started of our series with a fun discussion about satire. He provided a few written and video examples; he talked about his thesis, which discussed whether a show like Family Guy (compared to the Simpsons) was satire. (I actually blogged about this lecture here.)

20 May – Poison Control Center, by Amber Johnson

Amber is Reilly’s older sister. She talked about the Utah Poison Control Center, where she works. She provided pointers on keeping our homes safe and what to do in the event of a poisoning. Since this lecture she has been promoted to Director of the UPCC, which now also doubles at the Utah Coronavirus Hotline.

19 August – Horror, by Jonathan Smith

Jon knows a lot about horror movies. He spoke to us about horror films and the commentary they provide about family. We watched a few excerpts from classic scary movies and analyzed them.

11 November – Introduction to Fan Studies, by Melissa Beattie (Skype)

Melissa, a professor, talked to us about the ins and outs of being a fan. We talked about fanfic. She mentioned a lot of pop references and talked about fan events and culture such as Comic Con, as well as the history and basics of fan theory.

2018

17 February – Bali and Gamelan, by Gavin Ryan

Gavin is one of Reilly’s brothers. He presented a lecture about Bali music and culture, and he brought some Gamelan instruments for a performance.

26 May – Immunohistochemistry and Libraries, by May Ryan

I talked about the app that I maintain for work. I also talked about the importance of libraries.

25 August – Semiotics and Tarot, by Bridgette Tuckfield (Skype)

We learned about tarot cards! The history and meanings behind signs. A very cool discussion.

10 November – Nigerian Literature, by Kylie McQuarrie

Kylie presented the work of several African authors, and how important they are in context of war and oppression.

2019

23 February – COLD Podcast, by Dave Cawley

Our biggest crowd. Dave had released his true crime podcast just a couple of months before. We were lucky to have booked him before all the other speaking engagements came along. For us, he told the Susan Powell story and gave background on all the footage and other artifacts that enrich this story.

4 May – Fur Foxen concert and Q&A

My hairstylist happens to play cello and sing in a band. We invited them to give a really nice, chill concert and answer some questions about their process.

24 August – Highway Typefaces, by Marjorie Smith

Very fun lecture about the history of highway typefaces, which includes some surprising drama. Everyone probably now notices the details of freeway signs now.

23 November – Visual Effects, by Ryan Sonderegger

Ryan talked about some of the technical aspects of his work. We discussed some of his more well-known projects. Very fascinating.

2020

22 February – Cheese, by Joseph Peterson

We sampled so many cheeses! Some were awesome; some required an acquired taste. We paired cheeses with crackers and breads and fruits. It’s always fun to discuss food.

We didn’t miss a quarter for three years. All of these lectures were amazing. We learned about so many really interesting things. We gained a deeper understanding of social issues and other cultures. This was also a chance/excuse to get like-minded friends to gather in a safe space, a tiny blue dot in the middle of our obnoxiously red county. We aired our grievances and frustrations with the political climate. (We closed on our house just before the 2016 election.) We loved being able to hang out with such wonderful people.

Lectures went right up to the cusp of pre-pandemic and pandemic times. We haven’t even held a lecture since then. Not even online, though I’ve toyed with the idea. But we’ve all been dealing with isolation and anxiety and everything else that came with the pandemic. We’ve been depressed and cabin-fevered; wanting to break out into society and wanting to keep the blankets over our heads at the same time. These have been difficult times. But with vaccines becoming more accessible and as more people get vaccinated, we’ll be able to gather safely soon. Hopefully.

I miss those guys.

Compare and Contrast and Yummy Smooches

A friend of mine commented on an article about Fergie saying how French kissing her son is “so delicious.” The friend then described how her own infant son kisses her: wide-mouthed, tongue out as if trying to latch onto her lips. Babies do this all the time. It’s cute and fun and food for the soul; so I agree with my friend’s interpretation (and probably Fergie’s, too) that babies’ kisses are delicious. I also agree that calling it “French kissing” is weird, but right when I read the headline, I immediately thought open-mouthed kissing–because babies kiss with their mouths open–though I knew people would also associate it with sexual tongue kissing. To that I say, Fergie, please choose your words more carefully. Or at least acknowledge that to the baby, it’s merely kissing.

This whole thing reminded me of times my daughter latches onto my chin. And those times remind me of a certain scene in the comedy-horror-tongue-in-cheek movie “Drag Me to Hell.” If you know the movie, you know the scene. It’s hilarious, and when Zinger catches my chin this way, I pretend she’s attacking me the way the gypsy is attacking the young lady. But I’m having more fun than the lady here. Maybe.

image from http://pangolinblues.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/drag-me-to-hell/
image from http://pangolinblues.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/drag-me-to-hell/

Ways this image from the movie “Drag Me to Hell” is like how my child sometimes kisses me:

  • This kisser has a lot of hair
  • The kisser appears toothless
  • The kisser opens her mouth wide 
  • The kisser takes as much of the kissee’s chin in her mouth as possible
  • The kissee may be laughing and thoroughly enjoying the moment (it’s hard to tell)

Ways this image from the movie “Drag Me to Hell” is different from how my child kisses me:

  • My child has differently shaped ears
  • My child’s clothes do not get that grungy
  • My child is not an old scary gypsy woman
  • My child is always strapped into her car seat when we’re in the car
  • I am not a blonde caucasian

Chin!

On the Sound of Music Live!, Sort Of

I must confess that I only caught the last 15 minutes of last Thursday’s live broadcast. But let me tell you that I enjoyed reading various comments on Facebook about the production. Some people tore Carrie Underwood and the overall production apart, but others adamantly defended her and presented reasons why you shouldn’t expect a reproduction of the movie, but a unique experience that stands on its own, much like if you had gone to a playhouse on Broadway.

I mean, when I first heard that Carrie Underwood would be playing Maria, I thought, well, she doesn’t have any acting/theater experience, so it should be interesting, but I bet she’ll sound great. I mean, I really like Carrie Underwood. I love her discipline both with her voice training and exercise routine; I love that she went to college; I love how she can sing “How Great Thou Art” and make me cry. And I love that she ventured into Broadway, because why not see if you can transfer sheer stage presence from a live music concert to something more tempered like a live Broadway musical? For three hours?

Look at the casting. Cast someone purely Broadway as Maria, and you’ll attract the Broadway buffs, but the Broadway buffs would have gone to Broadway and paid for a show anyway. But with Carrie on LIVE television, you also attract the country buffs (and also a fair number of haters). And with Steven Moyer, you attract the vampire buffs. And with Audra McDonald, if there’s anything that’s right with the world, you attract everyone.

I’m so sad I missed her.

My first encounter with Audra was when I first watched the movie Wit. This was a movie adapted from a stage production, but mostly, it’s a movie staged as a play with a camera in front of it. Audra plays a compassionate nurse as a foil to both Emma Thompson’s and Christopher Lloyd’s stern academic dispositions. The first thing I thought when I saw her was, “She’s so perfect.” Then I looked her up on the mighty internet and found out about her theater experience and parts she’s played on television.

Then a few years ago, I found out she was coming to the Hale Center Theater in Orem to perform 110 in the Shade and that she’d give a master class to theater students at BYU. Why would she come to Utah? I mean, Utah’s increasingly becoming a cultural arts landscape, but then I found out she’d be marrying this guy:

I’ve actually never seen this movie. I guess I’m remiss in my research.

Audra McDonald’s practically almost a non-practicing Mormon. What a thrill!

Then one day in October around the government shutdown I was watching the Colbert Report, and Stephen Colbert announced that he’d be officiating a wedding originally planned to take place in Monticello, but the national landmark was closed. So he invited the couple and the wedding party to his studio, and since he’s an ordained minister, he united the eager couple on television. A couple of guests performed, including Audra McDonald. She appears in this video around 4:35:

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/429522/october-03-2013/the-2013-government-shutdown-wedding-of-the-century-pt–2?xrs=share_copy

Reilly watched this with me, and while he wasn’t as familiar with Audra as I was (as if we’re best friends or something), when he heard her sing “White Wedding,” he had an immense newfound respect for her.  Who wouldn’t?

Wit was also where my love for Emma Thompson increased. And this movie is where I discovered composer Arvo Pärt. If you don’t know either of these artists, you should. And if you don’t know about the movie, please fix that.

So you can imagine how different my 15-minute experience with the Sound of Music Live! was than watching the original movie with Julie Andrews. The acting wasn’t great, but I still liked the songs. The associations with Carrie and Audra and Wit and Arvo Pärt and all the accompanying awesome feelings made me experience this live television event differently than if I had expected a mere live remake of everyone’s movie normalform.

Because I Like Movies That Make Me Cry

yay this movie!

I asked Reilly when we saw this movie at the Broadway Theater in Salt Lake City, and he said it was sometime in July. I believe him because he has an unbelievable memory. Because not only did he say we saw this movie in July, he described all the circumstances of our seeing it. Something about how the Saturday before we went to a cousin’s wedding and laughed a lot at the reception but not because people were being deliberately funny. Except for one cousin who’s good at being funny and telling stories. And we ate such-and-such, and I wore an outfit with these sleeves and shoes, and we also saw the Dark Knight Rises the Friday before at a matinee and other details of which I have absolutely no recollection.

We saw the preview for Beasts of the Southern Wild before we saw Polisse and Intouchables. (By the way, those two movies are very different French films, and I highly recommend both of them.) If a preview makes me cry, I pretty much want to see the movie. I was excited for it, because I knew it would be sad and tragic and beautiful. I knew that I would believe the little girl in it. I knew that I would be holding my breath and wanting to scream at the screen. I knew that it would make me feel sticky and gross. I knew that I cheer for the strained relationships and the massively fallen characters. I mean, what else would you do if you were watching actual news footage of a hurricane’s destruction and seeing people removed and/or displaced from their homes? And seeing the apparently well-meaning government swoop in and insist on improving the lives of people who don’t want to leave their territory because they’ve only known one home, one community, one happiness?

While we watched the movie, I did all those things that I knew I would do. I’ll probably still do those things every time I watch it from now on.
May’s rating scale:

MAY!

May?

meh…

meh?

MESS.

Part of a Conversation on Martin Scorsese’s The Departed — SPOILER ALERT

The movie won four Academy Awards. It’s dark, but it’s funny in the right places. It’s vulgar, violent and bitter. It’s not for viewers who like blatantly happy endings. Or even subtly happy endings. If you like rats, though, this is for you.

The following is an online chat about the movie. It has been edited for clarity. Skip the rest of this post to avoid spoilers.

person 1: you watch de-potted?
person 2: yiss
person 1: whatchoo fink?
person 2: he shooted him!
  they all shooted!
person 1: he shooted weo in da heed!
  did mawk wahboag and awick bodween meek you waff?
person 2: yiss
person 1: they funny–but they say the f wodes and the c wodes a lot
person 2: wots of bad wodes!
I don’t know why these people chat in baby talk. They seem pretty darn cute, though. And insufferably awesome.

The Case for a Generation Gap

Several things happened in Senegal that could have happened anywhere else. The following situations could have happened on a road trip to Cleveland, weaving through aisles at the Macey’s grocery store, turning tricks on the corner of University Avenue and 1230 North, Family Home Evening after the lesson and before one of those weird acting games, Sunday School as a part of a way-off-hand comment, Squaw Peak, doing Squaw Peak things.

Or, maybe not. I was crammed with 20 other strangers who knew nothing about each other when we left America, and when we returned, maybe some of us ended up knowing more than we could have ever expected. Maybe some of us didn’t know enough. Regarding my age, I really like to keep people guessing. It’s fun, and I wonder how long I can keep it up. Much to their credit, none of my guy classmates asked for my age, and much to their credit, quite a few African men asked for my age.

But let’s see, here. In order to prove this could have happened anywhere, first I’ll describe what happened in Africa, then I will try to recreate the scenario in each of the settings I listed in the first paragraph.

How old ARE you?
Our very first week, in the hotel lobby waiting for something to do or somewhere to go, I sat by a girl and her roommate. She asked the question outright, and then I responded with something like, “Well, two weeks from Sunday I’ll be [this old].” And as quickly as her brain received that information from her very efficient synapses, she reacted with “HAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHA” then everyone else in the hotel lobby turned to look at us. The girl’s roommate calmly added, “See you could be [this age], and you could be 12.”

On a roadtrip to Cleveland, we start talking about drivers licenses and ask each other how old we were when we began driving. The driver swerves quickly to avoid hitting a deer, and I spill my Bugles everywhere, and I yell at the driver and start talking like a little kid, about how we all could have died. Then the driver asks how old I am, and then I tell him, and he starts laughing so hard we accidentally drive off a cliff and die.

At the Macey’s grocery store, I look at the shelf of vitamins and ask a friend what kind of vitamins I should get. She asks me my age, and I tell her. She then hands me a bottle of Centrum Silver. I chase her around through the aisles, giggling like a little kid and ignoring my arthritic shoulder. If only I had dentures to chuck at her.

On the corner of University and 1230 North, I’m wearing a very flattering outfit. I wave at passing cars with attractive young men in them. Some cars stop, and we talk briefly. Some guys ask my age, and no matter what I say, they let me into their cars.

At Family Home Evening, one of my roommates asks around the ages of everyone. Mine comes up and everyone automatically appoints me the mom. (This is sort of a true story, except one of my roommates calls me the mom of the apartment. She tries not to make it about age, but more about keeping her in line. That’s better, I guess?) I get up to leave and tell everyone that they’re all grounded.

During Sunday School, maybe we’re learning about Abraham and Sarah. Maybe not. Maybe it’s Methuselah or we’re just discussing how old everyone was in the Old Testament. I’d leave before they started snack time and after a rousing round of “Do As I’m Doing.”

The only thing I’ve done at Squaw Peak was watch a meteor shower.

Oh, I saw that in the theater.
This is what I said when someone was talking to me about the movie Meet Joe Black. Then, because Hocus Pocus showed on the television in Senegal, I commented that I also saw that in the theater.  What else did I see in the theater? Back to the Future. What could I have seen? Gremlins, E.T., Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Ghost Busters, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the Princess Bride.

On a roadtrip to Cleveland: “So, do you want to be Thelma or Louise?”

At the Macey’s grocery store: Whenever I’m shopping here, I like to pretend I’m at the Zabar’s and get in the cash only checkout and try to pay with a credit card and have Sara Ramirez get mad at me until Tom Hanks saves the day. Yes, I saw that in the theater.

At the corner of University Avenue and 1230 North: A car pulls up and asks me if I saw a certain movie in the theater. “No, I didn’t see it in the theater, but I could have. With my mom. But that would have been awkward.”

At Family Home Evening: “No, I have never seen High School Musical – any of them – and I plan to keep it that way.”

During Sunday School: “I saw Legacy about 957 times, and I only saw the Testaments once. The Church is true.”

The only thing I’ve done at Squaw Peak was watch a meteor shower.

When did you graduate?
So, my friend Natalie and I were sitting on a bus early one Wednesday morning on our way to Kedougou. (I just typed that into the Google search window, and my computer freaked out. Not a coincidence.) We were sitting in front of a married couple and behind a guy and girl sitting together and carefully watching the girl fall asleep on the guy’s shoulder and we and the married couple were whispering about them and laughing at them. The married man suggested we put a Book of Mormon between them to make sure they were a safe distance from each other. Maybe they heard us or the bus hit a bump in the road, because they suddenly woke up and she lifted her head from his shoulder. Then Natalie and I started talking about early-morning seminary, and I mentioned that I had Book of Mormon my freshman year. She said she did, too. Then she asked me what year I graduated, then I told her, and then she said, really, and I said yes. And she said, what, and I said, yeah, it’s true, so just imagine taking Book of Mormon eight or 12 years later than I did (since I wasn’t going to ask how old she is). So, that’s a fun way of doing that.

On a roadtrip to Cleveland: “Oh, I got my driver’s license my junior year of high school.” “Oh, yeah? When did you graduate?” Then the whole shock and hitting guardrails and laughing as we plunge into a ravine.

At the Macey’s grocery store: “I didn’t have to go shopping my freshman year since I lived at Deseret Towers, but my sophomore and junior years we often went to Smith’s at Freedom Blvd because we lived south of campus and Smith’s seemed the nicest place to go.” “Where’d you live your sophomore year?” “Regency.” “Oh? My sister lived there, too. When did you live there?” “1995-1996.” “Oh.”

At the corner of University Avenue and 1230 North: A car pulls up and someone asks when I graduated from high school. So I tell him, and he asks me if I’m the real cougar on campus. I smile and coyly shrug.

At Family Home evening maybe someone else is from Florida, a nearby town to Jacksonville. That person says they attended Institute in Jacksonville and asks when I was there and who I might know. I tell that person, then that person stops talking to me which is not uncommon these days. It’s pretty awesome, because most of the time I don’t want to talk to very many people to begin with.

During Sunday School, someone tells a mission story about when he was in the MTC just over three years ago. I can only shake my head and resist the urge to give the guy a pacifier.

The only thing I’ve done at Squaw Peak was watch a meteor shower.

There were other times, times I let slip that I have a younger brother and people would ask how old he is. Times when I told people that the guys at BYU are “too little” to date, meaning too young. Times when I really felt like an older sister to everyone there. Times when my roommate thought Ablaye was sooooo hot, like all the other girls did, and then she found out how old he is then seemed all discouraged and said that he was twice her age (they didn’t put the two Floridians together, per se, but it seemed they happen to put the oldest and youngest students together, in my self-centered mind), and I thought, he’s not twice my age, hee hee. Times when I told that story about when a professor tried to kiss me. A cautionary tale, I told the group at dinner. Only older folks tell cautionary tales.

So, let this be one to you.

Just live it up, you guys. I’m having a blast.