Saturday, June 27, 2009

Children of God

There's a girl that sits right next to me; I don't even know her name,
And there's the boy who takes the trash out, that's his only claim to fame,
And there's the girl who won the science fair with her homemade lightning rod
They, too, are Children of God,

And there's a boy who eats his lunch alone with a NASCAR magazine,
And there's a kid, who draws whole comic books that no one's ever seen,
And there's a girl who tried for three years, but never made the cheering squad,
They, too, are Children of God.

It doesn't matter who their friends are,
It doesn't matter what clothes they wear,
It doesn't matter how much their parents make
Or the way they wear their hair,
Every one of them has a person,
They keep bottled up inside,
Every one of them has a story,
They often feel they have to hide,

And the new car belongs to a kid, whose dad left his family to be free,
And the girl who laughs too loud at jokes has bruises you can't see,
And the kid who aces every test is afraid you'll see a fraud,
And they, too, are Children of God.

So remember when you see them, before you simply write them off,
Before you sneer when they annoy you, before you ridicule and scoff,
That every one of us lives deep behind our elegant façade,
And we all are Children of God.

It doesn't matter what color your skin is,
It doesn't matter who you choose to love,
It doesn't matter where you come from,
Or how you worship God above,
For every one of us is beautiful, and every one of us is flawed,
And we all are Children of God.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Give Grease A Chance

By Josh Curtis

There is a place in most societies where the truly undesirable are sent. Those who will not follow rules, who push boundaries, create pain for others, and are not stable enough mentally or emotionally to not be a danger to society are sent here. This place, while sometime prison-like, is no prison. It is high school. In Midnighters: Blue Moon the writer, Scott Westerfield, says, “High school wasn't a trial by fire or some ordeal that had to be survived. It was all a big joke. You just had to provide the laugh track.”

This “prison” (along with its laugh track) is illustrated musically and movingly by the production of “Grease: School Edition” currently at the SCERA Theater in Orem, performed by the SCERA’s advance performance troupe “Acting Up!” (By “School Edition” we mean that they have removed anything offensive to parents and teachers). Acting Up, full of actual real-life high schoolers, comes together from their own diverse background to put on a show about… (what else?) High School!

The show, which is a cross between West Side Story and High School Musical, begins on a stage brought to you by the Department of Transportation (though the set is two dimensional, that characters are not J). The turn-table of destiny reveals a high school reunion, of sorts, taking place (nobody appears to have aged, which means Botox must be closely connected to grease). The class of ’59 at Rydell High is reminiscing about their high school experience, and the memories that stand out (Like when Johnny kissed Lisa, when Harry missed the winning shot, or when Miss Lynch shot that kid…. Fun stuff like that…). So much has changed over the years, and yet much has remained that same (Miss Lynch, for example, went from looking like the Alice on the Brady Bunch, to wearing a small dog on her head). For many, there were two particular cliques that they recall as being especially noticeable, the “Pink Ladies” (you can guess their favorite color) and the “T Birds” (who cover every OTHER color in fashion).

And so we go back in time to relive these memories. It is the start of Senior Year and after an eventful summer, the leader of the T-Birds, Danny (think “Michael Jackson before his face was made of Legos… and when he was black), is telling his posse (which includes Howdy Doody, a Hobbit, Waldo, and that kid from “Temple of Doom”) about his summer romance. Unknown to him, that romance, Sandy (who makes Pollyanna look emo) has transferred to Rydell high as well and is telling her own version of events to the Pink Ladies. After hearing her story the leader of the Pink Ladies, Rizzo (think “Simon Cowell” only not-British, and female) decides to create some drama by putting the “love birds” together, in order to embarrass Danny and destroy the image Sandy has of him (Women! They’ll break your heart… and eat your lunch).

We then rotate along to a scene where Howdy Doody T-bird is learning a song on the guitar (For someone who looks so clean cut he sure says “F” a lot). For added accompaniment we are introduced to the local radio station WAXX (yes, there IS “wax in grease”) and a cocky DJ named Vince Fontaine and his “jingle Belles.” We then get a glimpse at what REALLY happens at girls slumber parties (girls dancing with each other and Japanese bathrobes? Oh my!) While the sociable pink lady, Marty (who only wears a dog on hear head sometimes) sings about her Marine pen-pal, Frenchie is busy piercing Sandy’s ear and narrowly missing an artery.

Meanwhile the T-Birds have congregated at a car graveyard where Herbie the Love Bug went to die. While they sing about this new “Grease Lightning” (looks more like Crisco Thunder to me) Rizzo enters just in time for Kenickie to have to flee from the cops for stealing hubcaps (wow, talk about a rebel). There is a brief meeting between Cheerleader Barbie and Danny in which he is challenged to do something productive by Sandy (because track is productive?) This is followed by an episode of Jerry Springer at the Burger Hop with confrontations all around, closely connected to the announcement about an upcoming dance contest hosted by Vince Fontaine and Johnny Casino. The mix-match of rebels, cheerleaders, nerds, and Eugene then sing about how they will always be together (especially since this is a flashback anyway). (Tune in NEXT week as Hannah Montana learns a valuable lesson about ‘friendship’).

Act II begins with the big dance contest, “Moonlight in the Tropics” (I’m glad they went with that over “Sunshine in the Arctic”). The Hand Jive (precursor to the Macarena) includes some very interesting moves, with Hobbit T-Bird sticking his head up a girl’s dress, and Bernardo… I mean Danny, winning the contest with his partner Cha Cha (don’t foreigners always win So You Think You Can Dance?). Meanwhile Sandy is crying at home eating (and flinging) ice cream (which, quite frankly, is a better prize than a silver shoe anyway).

We then rotate to The Burger Hop, to see Frenchie, sporting her new Cotton Candy look. She has a vision of her guardian angel … Zac Efron. (Meanwhile his back-up singers ask if you wanna, wanna Fanta). Though she is a beauty-school dropout, Zac… I mean Teen Angel, tells her to go back to high school (maybe she should start a musical?)

Danny and Sandy are finally on their first official “date” at the drive-in movie (good thing he rented that clown car) and Danny says the wrong things, frustrates Sandy, and gets stabbed by the movie screen (don’t you just hate it when that happens?). Rizzo, too, is having problems of her own as she laments that there are “worse things she could do” (like be in High School Musical 2). She decides to reconcile with Kenickie, while the new Preppy Danny is pinned down by Biker Chick Barbie (a.k.a. New Sandy) who says that she wants the ring (maybe she’s a BYU co-ed). The show then ends with a reprise of “We Go Together” as the cast itself does (including a surprise reveal of the nerd Eugene becoming the new Knight Rider).

So what, then, do we learn from Grease? High school IS cheesy. It is cliquish, dramatic and disjointed at times. It is full of peer pressure, conflict, prejudice, painful moments and tissues. Sometimes you are the A student at the top of your class, and other times you’re stuck in detention. And in that sense high school is all of us. Inside all of us is a cool kid, a nerd, a jock, a rebel, a loner, a “pink lady,” and a “t bird.” For, though the faces and places may change, the turning table of life keeps going around, and just like Sandy, Danny, and Rizzo, we must constantly ask ourselves who we really are. After all, nobody is born a “rebel” and there are no “nerds” in the delivery room. We are people. We grow. We learn. We laugh. We cry. And sometimes we do them all together. For we DO ultimately “go together.” Through thick and thin, through bad hairdos, rain on prom night, drive-in movies, school hallways, football games, and burger hops, we push forward until finally we can “graduate” to something bigger and better for all of us. And sometimes during that journey, it helps to provide a laugh track.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Was Here

Why does a boy carve his name on a tree?
Or the first-born inherit the throne?
What is a sculptor inspiring to be,
When he spends half his life carving stone?

Kings build their tombs for the ages,
Poets and fools both fill up their pages,
What are we hoping for? What do we fear?
Something that will say, "At least I was here."

I say we yearn to leave something that lasts,
To be known for what little we've done.
Men tell their children the tales of the past,
And each man gives his name to his son.

Something in song or in story,
Something in blood, or something of glory,
Something that won't fade away in a year,
Something to tell the world, "Yes, I was here."

Well I will not flicker and die like an ember,
Too many men flicker and die,
I will leave something behind to remember,
Somehow I must, I know I must try.

I have no son, at least none I can claim,
And no patience for carving in stone,
All that I have are my skill and my name,
And a chance to make both of them known.

This is my key to the portal,
This is my chance to make something immortal,
Something that won't fade away in a year,
Something to say, "I was here."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas Story

There's something strange about working thru the holidays, especially graveyard shifts, and especially at a drug rehab place. For the first time in years I spent Christmas Eve with no real family. This time I didn't even sleep thru it, but was awake at work, and yet it was one of the more memorable ones I've had.

Even before work it was great because Glade and I met Caitlin and went to "midnight mass" at the Episcopalian Church downtown (by "midnight mass" I mean 11:00 mass, since I had to work at midnight). It was a very simple service, but I really liked the beauty of the building, the choir, and the very inclusive atmosphere and feeling. They make a point there of saying, basically, regardless of your denomination or faith, there is still something you can take from, enjoy, and share during this "time of year."

So then I went to work, and I talked for a long while to my cooworker before he went home, after which I joined several of the clients in helping stuff stockings and prepare presents for the 70ish clients we currently have (then I ordered Big Daddy's pizza, which was still open and delivering as well, and I gave the guy a HUGE tip, and we enjoyed a later night watching a movie and feeling Christmasy). I then did filing for several hours while watching TBS play "A Christmas Story" over and over and over again (I love that movie). I wrapped up the morning by taking out my harmonica and figuring out Silent Night and The First Noel.

So then I proceeded to walk home around 8 a.m. No busses are running on Christmas day, so it's a decent little walk. However, as I did so I felt festive and pulled the harmonica out again and started playing. It was really cool to see cars roll down windows, stop, and some people from houses come out to figure out where the songs were coming from. One old lady near 1000 E. and 200 S. even sang Silent Night along to the music and thanked me. Meanwhile near the Chevron on 700 E. a guy gave me a dollar (again, WHY do people think I look homeless?!).

Seriously though it was one of the simplest and most enjoyable Christmas mornings. It reminded me of one of my Christmases in Russia, when we went caroling around to people, singing a mixture of Russian christmas songs as well as english ones. "What Child is This" is my favorite of all time, and we sang it a few hundred times at least. Even though most of the Russians had never heard it before, they loved the melody (and I made a rough translated version so they COULD understand it). Yes, there were those three wise men's gifts attached to the first "Christmas" but I think the true beauty of the "Christmas Story" is in its utter simplicity. A poor couple, forced to stay the night in a barn, giving birth to their first child in an animal stall. No balloons. No baby shower. No refreshment table, hot cider, Santa Clause, or mistletoe. And yet millions in the world believe that the simplest of births gave rise to the Savior of mankind. Even those who don't believe this, still feel his effect upon the world.

That's pretty awesome, to me. Whether you say Happy Hanukah, Good Kwanzaa, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or Jolly Festivus, the "season" has an effect on you, on your family, on your country, and on the world. And even though when people say "the reason for the season," and I want to say "Actually that's axial tilt," there IS something about "this time of year," that makes people more contemplative, more sharing, and more inclined to pull out a harmonica and play Christmas songs (plus Somewhere Over the Rainbow) as they walk the mile home after work.

Happy Holidays everyone. And on Earth, peace, good will toward men.

Friday, November 21, 2008

And Still We Sleep

We are dreaming of tomorrow, and tomorrow isn't coming;

We are fighting for a glory that we don't really want.

We're imagining a new day when the new day's here already.

We are running from the battle when it's one that must be fought.

And still we sleep.

We are crying in the darkness for a light to shine upon us,

Looking for a lamp when it's one we ourselves must light,

We are wishing on a falling star for miracles to happen,

We're preparing for a famine, but can't make it through one night.

And still we sleep.

We are listening for the calling but never really heeding,

Hoping for the future when the future's only plans.

Striving for the wisdom that we don't put into action,

Praying for a Savior when salvation's in our hands.

And still we sleep.

And still we pray.

And still we fear.

And still we sleep.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Reminder

It is the soldier, not the reporter, Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the soldier, not the poet, Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the soldier, not the organizer, Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.

It is the soldier, Who salutes the flag, Who serves beneath the flag,

And whose coffin is draped by the flag, Who allows the protestor to burn the flag.

- Father Dennis Edward O'Brian, USMC

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Aida Review


By Hedge T Hog

There is a saying that “Loving someone, is giving that someone the power to hurt you.” Meher Baba said, “Love cannot be forced on anyone, it can only be awakened through love itself.” Referring to love triangles Carol Burnett once said, “The only good love triangle is when you’re schizophrenic.” Truly when it comes to power, and especially the power of love, we often have only minimal control over whom we love, and even less on their capacity or willingness to reciprocate.

This power of love to hurt, to not be controlled, and to exist in triangles is especially evident in the award-winning musical “Aida,” written by Tim Rice and Elton John, currently being performed at the SCERA in Orem (You gotta love Broadway quality theater that allows you to eat Juju’s, and popcorn).

The setting for this triangle and history lesson is the land of Egypt (otherwise known as ‘the country inspired by the Luxor’). It opens at a BYU art exhibit (don’t worry, the inappropriate statues are covered) where many artifacts are on display (I even saw the 1st edition of Hooked on Hieroglyphics). We begin this E True Hollywood story about the Narrator from “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” by seeing her true identity; the Princess Amneris. She explains that “every story is a love story” (especially that old romance “The Shining”) and thrusts the audience back to the land of Egypt.

Enter the Ancient Egyptian Boy Band known as “The Soldiers.” These guys are the precursor to the Back-Nile Boys, Nile Sync, and that dance phenomena, “NileDance, (If you look closely you can even spot Aladdin). They explain that, “fortune favors the brave,” and introduce their brave captain, Radames (apparently named when his father swore at his birth). Radames takes charge of some captured slave girls and makes the ultimate indecent proposal to one; a sponge-bath. The slave girl, Aida (last name Turner) asks “what’s love got to do with it,” and gives the shirtless captain the cold shoulder.

Meanwhile back on the bridge Captain Kirk, also known as “Zoser” consults with his staff, and walks about with his magic “all seeing eye” wand (If planted at the right time of day, his staff will point Indiana Jones to the Ark of the Covenant). Zoser wants his son to be Pharaoh. He has seen “Arsenic and Old Lace” too many names and uses the poison to keep the current Pharaoh weak, and is the plot’s token “bad guy.” (So corrupt, deceitful, and murderous he’s destined for public office). Among the slaves a different drama enfolds. One slave, Mereb (who formerly hosted Reading Rainbow), recognizes the slave / princess Aida (Don’t worry folks; he doesn’t know her in the biblical sense).

The story then re-introduces the singing history exhibit Amneris in the sauna. She is first in beauty, first in wisdom, first in accessories, and certainly first in humility (Her real last name is Trump). She has the Pointer Sisters singing back-up and shows uses for old Rainbow Brite costumes on her followers as she prepares for her father’s banquet. During the banquet it is revealed that Radames and Amneris have been engaged for nine whole years (Yup, they’re definitely NOT Utahns). However his highness Arch-Angel Pharaoh (carrying his official Chicago Bulls Staff), pushes the wedding deadline to 7 days (now THAT is more Utahn).

However, “happily ever after” is not to be in the land of Egypt, and a love triangle begins when Radames encounters Aida post-banquet, and their own mutual attraction blossoms (meanwhile Radames shows off more cleavage than Dolly Parton). They wonder “how can I say these things to you,” not realizing it was probably the wine (just avoid the glass with Arsenic). Radames tries to counterbalance his feelings for Aida by rushing to Amneris’s bedchamber (yup, NOT Utahn) and instead has a pointed conversation with Aida after which he is chastised for needing a “map” of the female anatomy (maybe a little Utahn after all).

The story then shifts to the Nubian camp where the slave princess is welcomed to her people (all those white Nubians must be related to Michael Jackson). They laud her, dance and sing with her, and present her with a robe made in homemaking class. After the “Mysterious Dance of the Washer Women,” there is an “oops” moment as Mereb catches Aida and Radames having a “lip-to-lip” conversation (Don’t you just hate it when your slave interrupts you cheating on your princess fiancée with your Nubian slave girl?) Captain Radames must, as it seems, choose between the two women he loves (Too bad he’s not “Southern Utahn,” and he’d have a solution).
We then have a small seen from “Roots,” when Aida meets with her father. Meanwhile another “fatherly” meeting takes place between Radames and Zoser. Zoser reminds his son that “like father, like son,” a fact I’m sure the Presidents Bush would agree with. The soldier boy-band dances around with sticks sporting red moons (where are the blue diamonds or purple horseshoes?), and Radames responds by sending Aida a letter (Not a “Dear Jane” one). They meet, sing a different “Almost Paradise,” and are happy. However, each knows their place, and their love is not to be. Aida must make plans for her father to escape and must return to her own country, and Radames must marry Amneris (she’s rich, powerful, and hot…poor guy indeed).
As the wedding proceeds, however, the slave king’s escape is discovered, Radames is confronted by his father, everyone’s secrets are revealed, and things become more dramatic than an episode of E.R. Aida and Radames are arrested as traitors and the Princess Amneris (revealed as the Flying Nun) must defend them. In the end it is decreed that Radames and Aida will die as traitors, but they will be allowed to die together (I would have asked for the consolation prize). As we return to the BYU art exhibit however, we see the lovers in modern times “re-discovering” each other (“I’ve seen that smile…somewhere before).

The true story of Aida is one of love. The power that love can have, and the power it holds over those smitten with it. It also illustrates what powers love does not possess. The love Amneris has for Aida and Radames isn’t enough to save them. Their love for each other isn’t enough to create a life together. Zoser’s love of power isn’t enough to grant him his desire, and the Pharaoh’s love of wine can’t counter-act that arsenic. Still, however, love is powerful enough to shape their destinies. It is also the powerful force felt and wielded by kings, pharaohs, and captains, as well as slaves and peasants. It is the common denominator (like death and taxes) that makes humans what they are. Though we may not be able to control who it comes to or from, we can control our capacity to embrace it, to show it, and to share it. It is, ironically, the force that makes slaves and masters of us all. And I, for one, will bow down before it…as long as there are Jujus involved.