Wednesday, July 16, 2014

We interrupt this broadcast for a very important message...

The Listen To Your Mother videos are up! YouTube is a place I thought I'd never appear, but suddenly there I am.

The title is "I Collect Bodies In My Basement". Find out why, where and how I do it. I added a few more bodies just last week!

The truth is I can't bring myself to watch it yet. I'm too nervous about it. So will you watch it for me first?  Tell me if it's safe to peek? Here's a link:


P.S. an earlier version of this essay I presented was recently published in an anthology on women and body image called, Why I Don't Hide My Freckles Any More. You can find it on Amazon and at Deseret Book.

Monday, July 14, 2014

45 Days in London: Day 21

Ham House, Cycling With Moliere

We took the train to Richmond this morning. A delightful village, suburb to London.  Once again, it felt great to get outside of the city. We took the loveliest walk along the Thames and through the countryside to Ham House (not sure where it gets its name, but definitely not from breakfast meats.)

It's the most perfectly-preserved 17th century (Stuart) house in all of Europe. It was built in 1610, added to around 1670, and has remained virtually unchanged ever since. I loved this one because it was a step down in opulence from most of the palaces we've visited. This gives the impression that you could actually live there. It's homey.

The garden, too was manageable. An herb garden, a vegetable garden, huge crops of wildflowers growing against aged brick walls. Totally my kind of place.

The most manicured area was a pristine checkerboard lavender garden.

We also spent some time just lounging on the lush lawns in back.

We had lunch in their cafe, The Orangery. Often disappointed by cafeteria food, we made the understandable mistake or picking up simple sandwiches, cheapest things on the menu. But their cafeteria offerings were positively gourmet: Carrot and Coriander soup, Garden Vegetable Quiche, Chicken Tarragon and Lemon Stew, etc. All for under 7 pounds, and beautifully presented. Next time, people, next time.

After a quick dinner in the flat, we walked to the Institut Francais' Cinema Lumiere and saw a beautiful French film, Cycling With Moliere. The story, in a nutshell: Two grumpy old men with big egos try to launch a play together, and lots of people get hurt in the process. But the French do everything so beautifully, I could only describe it as delicious.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

45 Days in London: Day 20

We ventured outside of London for church today. And got lost. Three different people at three different train stations all gave us different instructions on how to get there. The result? It took us exactly 2 hours and 40 minutes. Fail.

But. Look how great my two guys look at the [wrong] train station in their shirts and ties.

And. We were able to attend sacrament meeting. It was so important to us to be there and participate and feel the spirit.  It was poignant, in such stark contrast to what we saw and experienced last night.

This evening we had a long talk about Titus Andronicus. It was amazingly positive to have the students open up about the different ways they experienced the play, and what it meant for them spiritually, intellectually, and artistically. Ultimately, there were some really productive outcomes for all involved, including bonding, understanding different perspectives, and caring for one another.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

45 Days in London: Day 19

Two plays back-to-back (with a picnic in the park thrown in for good measure.) 

The two plays both dealt with a loss of hope and humanity, but in opposite ways.

We saw a matinee of 1984. I loved the refreshment counter as you enter the theater. Our seats were on the main floor, and were a promotional price of 19.84 pounds. Bargain! The adaptation includes a classroom discussion of the book 1984 as a framing story. There were layers of two things happening onstage in different time periods simultaneously. Depending on your level of engagement, this could be cool...or confusing.

The most exciting part was the way the set was transformed near the end. Best special effects ever, including lots of digital effects.

I found the production to be absolutely terrifying. What could be more chilling than the idea of losing your freedom to think, to speak, to choose? to have your very existence manipulated? and then to realize it has already happened, and easily could again.

We bought sandwiches and picnicked at the Victoria Embankment Gardens. Clearly a number of other people had the same idea. You could paint endless versions of Sunday in the Park or Luncheon on the Grass here.
In the evening we saw Titus Andronicus at the Globe. I'd been looking forward to seeing a Shakespeare play here, where his own theater once stood. The Globe is designed to recreate an authentic Elizabethan theater-goer's experience--it's an outdoor arena that looks much like the one at the Utah Shakespearean Festival. Only this has a standing-room-only section (for the peasants)...and it's right up against the stage like a mosh pit! The crowd has to move to make way for actors to enter the stage, bodies to be carried off, etc. At first I was very caught up in the whole theater experience...actors on 8-foot-tall carts, shouting as they're wheeled through the crowd, performers interacting with the audience, etc. It was all very exciting.

Then the blood and gore started happening. And it was taken to such a degree that people in the audience fainted...easily half a dozen of them. Others simply walked out. Brutal rapes, beheadings, hands cut off, throats slit. It was a literal bloodbath. This was one time I was grateful I left my glasses home so I didn't have to see it all in detail.

Just as alarming was the way the actors hammed it up to the audience, milking the humor. And the way the audience responded...laughing, cheering...while this horrific violence is taking place. To top it all off, the curtain call at the end was like a Bollywood dance number: celebratory revelry. It was very disturbing.

I kept thinking of the Spencer W Kimball quote: "First you hold the image, then it is action, then it is you." I wondered, how much of that kind of behavior can we as a society watch before we start acting it out, becoming that ourselves?

We had deep, meaningful conversations with the students afterward about art and impropriety, how far is too far, how different people experience the same production differently, how important it is not to become desensitized, and underscoring our desire to have and feel the Spirit.

As we left the theater and crossed the Millennium Bridge to return home, the dome of St. Paul's glowing in the night sky was a sweet reminder of the source of peace.

Friday, July 11, 2014

45 Days in London: Day 18

Kew Gardens, Top Hat

We took the train out to Kew Gardens first thing this morning. It's the Royal Botanic Garden along the lines of The Huntington Gardens and The Arboretum...only on a more massive scale. My favorite parts were the barefoot walk (you can actually take your shoes off and step along a variety of textures, from oozing mud to cobblestone to vines woven like baskets to pave the way), and the sky walk--a suspended pathway where you literally walk above the treetops. Mr Cool loved the balance course (a trail where you walk above ground on logs.) Here is a brief recap of our day in photos:

In the evening we went into the city and saw a screening of Top Hat, with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It was gorgeous! We were amazed at how well the story and the humor held up, from clear back tin 1935 to today. Fabulous! There was a critic from Variety who spoke to us before the screening, telling us some key things to watch for, like how seamlessly Fred's first solo begins. That definitely heightened the experience.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

45 Days in London: Day 17

Life happens.

Today real life finally caught up with us. We spent most of the day in the flat, changing sheets, paying bills, returning emails, preparing lessons, making travel arrangements. It turns out that even in the "Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea" there are also mundane things that take place. :)

In the evening we took the tube to Piccadilly Circus and saw the musical Jersey Boys. The sound mix wasn't very good, but the characters are interesting and the music is a lot of fun. I had no idea Frankie Valli was responsible for so many great hits of the 60s and 70s. Language warning.

Piccadilly Circus is a night life hot spot—felt a little like Times Square in New York. We had a great time just walking through the neighborhood, soaking up the energy.

We also stumbled onto London's Chinatown.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

45 Days in London: Day 16

Bletchley Park, Hard Day's Night

A peek at the English countryside from the train
We took a ride on the National Rail this morning, out through the countryside to Bletchley. As much as I love London, it felt great to get outside of the city into the countryside. I had heard a tiny bit about Bletchley previously, and became ultra fascinated after watching The Bletchley Circle television mini-series. Our math-genius friends, the Jenkins', assured us this tour was not to be missed, and they were right.

Welcome to Bletchley Park, brain central station.
Bletchley Park housed and employed a top-secret group of highly skilled, creative minds who worked behind closed doors, decoding the enemies' messages during World War II. FDR estimated that because of Bletchley's work, the war ended two years' earlier than it would have otherwise, saving (if you do the math) 20 million lives.

Don't let the industrial design of the entrance mislead you: Fascination awaits!
Bletchley Park was composed of a carefully-selected and diverse set of genius-level people in the areas of mathematics, encryption, decoding, translation, linguistics and more. Most of them were women. I love that these people fought the war using their minds, rather than guns and bombs.

The Bletchley Park Mansion

The museum is possibly the best we've ever seen in terms of restoration, authenticity, and hands-on displays. We wished we had allowed even more time to explore. But the good news? Because it's still in the restoration process, your paid admission buys you a one-year membership, so you can return whenever you like (assuming you have the time and the train fare).

For a completely different tone and topic, this evening we saw a restored print of the Beatles' Hard Day's Night. It was a beautiful restoration—the visuals and the sound were both amazing. And the Beatles are just SO good! The students' conversation afterward was pretty joyful.