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.

Friday, November 14, 2008


It's Something in the Way I Smell October
By Josh Curtis

It's something in the way I smell the dying leaves of fall...
the leaves of fall... falling... that left the trees all bare.
It's something in the way I smell old wheat and stacks of grass
piled golden, less green... and leaves fill the ground.

Waking in dew filtered October mornings fills me with senses
that remind me of sad days when I'd lost all I wanted.
But when I smell the air of the season change to autumn,
I know one day, on some day, it all grows back green.

Burnt cedar smoldering above the tree line now lowers to where I sit.
Sitting on rod iron chairs rocking, watching the blue sky fade
Orange and red now found where once was blue and green
Dusk and moonlight stream through stripped tree-arms and I rock.

It's something in the way I smell October that tells me I know I'll survive.
Whatever may leave me alone, will only give way to new growth.
I have seen the last leaf fall to the ground. I have felt that final wind blow...
I have felt the stillness that fills the air when the leaves all lie on the ground.

Yet though alone here with me I feel October and the wind blows,
I know there is still life, and good, new wheat, closed buds, and April dawns,
The trees are not dead, the sky will brighten once more, and I know I will too.
The wood-stove smoke reminds me, it’s something in the way I smell October.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Twice On This Island

Paul Simon, the great musician and lyricist (you know, the member of Simon and Garfunkel that, well, isn’t Garfunkel) wrote, “I’ve built walls, a fortress mighty, that none may penetrate… I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain, it’s laughter and it’s love that I disdain.” Simon went on to echo in the chorus, “I am a rock. I am an island.” According to Webster’s online dictionary (don’t you just love the World Wide Web?) an “island” is, “Something isolated, having little or no direct contact or communication with others.” Islands, it seems, appear in our stories full of treasure, shipwrecks, strange creatures, animated cartoons, and even several plane-crashed strangers that can’t escape (even after 3 seasons). The fascination with islands may be, after all, that we, like Paul Simon, often feel “isolated” ourselves, and wonder if we are an island too.

On the topic of islands, as well as creating social commentary on love, forgiveness, apartheid, polytheism, and strange head-gear, is “Once On This Island,” a musical by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, currently being performed by the SCERA Youth Theater’s advanced group “Acting Up!” at the SCERA theater in Orem (Utah County resembling more a “bubble” than an “island). The musical journey begins on the magical, bright and colorful Island of Dr. Seuss, where piñatas go to die. Beginning with a rousing drum number (though I kept waiting for someone to yell “wipeout,) we realize that this musical is actually a “story within a story,” (Hmm… rather like an island? Maybe not).

The inner story, which could easily be an adaptation of both “The Little Mermaid,” and “Romeo and Juliet,” (with some elements of “Cool Runnings”), is actually told by Storytellers to a young and frightened girl during a storm (Now where were those storytellers during Hurricane Katrina?). They tell the young girl of an island, ruled over by four gods (Kinda sounds like Great Britain). These Gods respectively being The Queen of Hearts Erzulie (who really likes the color red), Asaka, the Mother of the Earth and Queen of Narnia, Papa Ge, the God of Death, and Papa Smurf, the God of Water (Who now calls himself Agwe). On this island, too, is a storm, and in the storm the Gods choose to save a young girl in a tree. The islanders and creatures all sing about this being “just one small girl” (but that’s what they said about Elizabeth Smart).

And so the small girl is found in her magical multi-handed tree by two poor peasant islanders, Mama Euralie and Tonton Julian. Apparently Mama and Tonton have watched too much “Lion King” and name the girl Timoune. This island, it seems, is home to two very different worlds – one rich, one poor, one upper-class, one peasant, one British, one Scottish (oh wait, that’s Britain again) one dressed mostly in white, and one in muted browns (Don’t be fooled by those in mostly white clothes, they’re still half “colored”). The worlds, then, are the worlds of the poor peasants and the Grande Hommes. Timoune, then, is born or “found” into this lower class, and she dreams about the other, wishing she could be “Part of your world.”

Timoune grows up, as girls generally do, and during her prayer “Waiting for Life,” the Gods return. They debate on different forms of entertainment with the girl (most of which involve a mango, which could be considered a weapon of mass consumption). The Queen of Hearts, however, desires to give Timoune love, wagering it to be stronger than any other element. This offends Papa Ge (who shall henceforth be referred to as “Evil Aladdin”), who wagers that death is stronger, more powerful, and more lasting (The Island of Death being nearby, apparently … and called Cuba). And so, the Gods’ plan is put into effect. Agwe brings about another storm (and “moons” everyone… get it? Never mind). Within this storm Agwe uses his most powerful weapon – giant blue streamers. These streamers of death manage to wreck the car of a young Grand Hommes, Daniel, who is found near-death by the young Timoune. An argument ensues among the peasants about Daniel’s fate (just your typical “right to die,” “pro-life,” and “equal opportunity” debate). Timoune convinces her father to let her care for the man, during which time he will journey to the Grande Hommes to take them word of Daniel. During his journey Timoune nurses Daniel back to health, and the two hold hands and sing “Almost Paradise.” Evil Aladdin, however, complicates things by coming to collect Daniel’s soul. Timoune bargains with him to “take her instead.” The deal is made, and Papa Ge ensures her that he will come to collect at some point (Papa Ge being the only member of the IRS on the island).

Meanwhile Tonton journeys to the other side of the island and learns the tale of the Grande Hommes, which is the “Sad Tale of the Beauxhommes” (apparently to speak French you need only add some random, silent, and pointless letters to any word. Or is it “wordé?”). This sad tale began with Daniel’s ancestor, Willy Wonka (I mean Armand). Armand, who was French, falls for a young native girl on the island, and has an illegitimate child (Thus beginning the first Jerry Springer episode of “Who’s Your Baby’s Daddy?”). Armand’s son then fights with him and drives him from the island. He does, however, leave a curse upon his son (Yeah, he is French after all).
Back in the Harlem side of the island, Tonton returns from the Grand Hommes’ hotel to return Daniel to his proper place (After all, they beat him up and bleached the front of his shirt!). Timoune proceeds to argue with her parents (Yeah, she must now be a teenager) and they reluctantly allow her to journey to Daniel’s side of the island to follow her heart and her “love.” The first half of the show ends with a rousing number, courtesy of Asaka the Queen of Narnia (who is channeling the spirit and voice of Queen Latifah). Asaka animates frogs, birds, and trees to assure Timoune that “Mama will provide” (One of those trees dances just like Michael Jackson, but has the face of Macaulay Culkin).

The second half of the show begins on the “rich” side of the island. This is especially apparent, as gossip and rumors are under full sway. Apparently “some say,” all sorts of things about how Timoune arrived on the Grande Hommes’s side of the island. Some say she was transported magically. Some say it had something to do with a car. Some say they saw Charlie Sheen in camouflage dancing in the background. Some say a lot of things. Timoune, however the means, does reunite with Daniel, and struggles to heal his bum leg.

Meanwhile the villagers continue to gossip about Daniel and “some girls.” Some girls you learn from, some you teach. Some you marry, some you love. And some go to Young Womens. Meanwhile the Grande Hommes prepare for a Grand Dance (you might even call it a Ball, but that would be too much fairy-tale crossover). Attending the ball are all of Daniel’s rich associates, his father, and I think I saw the King of Siam. Also in attendance, however, is Andrea Deveraux, who, Timoune learns, is Daniel’s fiancée. She learns this after dancing for the gathered crowd and proving that she does, indeed, love Daniel. However, Daniel knows his own place, and leaves Timoune for Andrea (but maybe Timoune could be his intern?).

With the perfect timing that only the God of Death can master, Papa Ge re-enters. He reminds Timoune of their deal, but offers to spare her in exchange for the original prize – Daniel’s life. Timoune, then, must choose between her own life and that of her love, even after he has rejected and scorned her. Entering Daniels’ “den” J Timoune, in the end, can not betray her heart, and she chooses not to kill Daniel, though wakes him to find her standing nearby with a knife (Some girls, after all, aren’t very sneaky when committing homicide). Timoune is banished from the Grande Hommes estate, and her final encounter with Daniel outside his gate is days later, following his marriage to Andrea, when he places a coin in her hand and she dies.
However, moved by her sacrifice and story, Timoune is welcomed by the Gods. Erzulie takes her by the hand, Agwe circles her with a giant streamer, and Pape Ge struggles to carry her across the Bridge of Death, where she is welcomed by Asaka and turned into a tree (Should someone tell her that her “roots” are showing?). The tree that they transform her into manages to break the gates of the hotel, allowing a future young peasant girl and Tiny Tim Beauxhomme to play together and fall in love. Timoune, then, though not in life, manages in death to bridge the two worlds and connect the two halves of her “island.” The tale of Timoune, then, having been fully told by the storytellers to the young frightened girl, is retold by her, adding, “God bless us everyone.”

However, unlike islands, the story of Timoune, is not isolated or disconnected. It is a story that is found in many climes and countries. It is the story of Romeo and Juliet, the story of the Little Mermaid, and the story of an American Idol (would that make Simon “Papa Ge?”). It is the story even stronger than earth, water, love, or death. It is the human tale that allows us to dream of greater things, to make journeys without knowing their end, and to give love unconditionally. For it may be that in loving without receiving it in return, and with her forgiveness, that Timoune gives us that most powerful lesson of all. We are not in competition with each other, and nobody has to be voted off the island. We do need each other to survive. And we must do good for others without expecting anything in return. Despite Paul Simon’s words, no man is an island. Said the poet, “No man is an island, no man stands alone. Each man’s joy is joy to me, each man’s grief my own. We need one another, this I will defend. Each man is my brother, each man is my friend.” We truly are connected, and whether it be by love, ancestry, death, storms, bright-colored clothing, or distaste of the French, the theme that we are not islands is why we tell this story. Well, that, and for the mangos. Because no man dislikes mango.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Life is full of choices. The smaller ones, like what to wear, how fast to drive to work, or what to eat for lunch, do not affect us significantly (unless of course, you choose not to wear clothes, get pulled over for speeding, arrested for not wearing clothes, and then get salmonella from the peanut-butter they feed you in prison). Others, like what career to pursue, whom to marry, and what to do in our relationships with others, are more lasting. Choices, it seems, often determine our destiny (and our brand of peanut butter). Such a story of choices, consequences, and redemption comes from one of the oldest surviving pieces of literature (no, not the original National Enquirer). This “story” is one from the Bible. The Old Testament, to be exact, unless of course you’re Jewish, then it’s from the Torah and Books of Moses. Or if you’re Muslim, well, then your story detoured back with Abraham anyway. It is a story of a young man named Joseph, a dreamer who made choices, had other choices forced upon him, and ultimately saved his family, his nation, and God’s chosen people (not bad for an old book that doesn’t have any pictures, eh?). It is also the story told in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as performed by the SCERA Youth Theater at the SCERA in Orem (The SCERA Youth Theater being the only group with more children than one of the story’s main characters, Jacob).

The tale of Joseph begins in the land of Canaan. Canaan, in this case, being somewhere near Agrabah (Joseph was distant cousins to Aladdin). Our story is told, or retold, as the case may be, by two spunky, peppy, and amazingly talented singers (think Ariel in Footloose, after all, she knew her Bible). In the land of Canaan are so many children that it could be mistaken for Utah County. One reason for all of these children is Canaan’s most famous resident – Grizzly Adams. Oh sorry, wrong story. I meant Jacob. Jacob lived in Canaan, and Jacob had lots of children… and lots of wives (no Utah jokes, honest, it’s too easy). Being a parent, Jacob had his favorites (as all honest parents do). His favorite son, for he had twelve, was Joseph (Think Huck Finn, but with a really good singing voice). As a sign of his favor for Joseph, Jacob attends homemaking class and designs a bright rainbow-colored coat. It’s multi-colored, it’s psychedelic, and it looks like the parachute you bounced balls with in elementary school. Joseph’s multi-colored chute, however fun for him, angers his eleven brothers who encapsulate what happens when “Lost Boys” grow up. Their reaction and jealousy to Brother Joe provides the catalyst for our story, and some excellent songs as well.

The plan Joseph’s lost brothers devises consists of them throwing him into a pit, selling him into slavery to the Pirates of the Old Testament, and killing a passing cloud. Then to cover their evil deed, they hire Zack Morris to sing a western song to their father, while several cactuses in surgical scrubs back him up (Does a cactus doctor ask for a scalpel, or just use their arm? I wonder…).

Meanwhile Joseph is taken to the Starship Enterprise. I mean Egypt (but their triangular uniforms throw me off). And in Egpyt, there is an episode of Desperate Egyptian Housewives being filmed, starring the “worldly” wife of an Egpytian Millionaire, Potiphar (Think Donald Trump, but with better hair. Same type of wife though). After unsuccessfully trying to seduce poor Joe, Potiphar’s wife makes a false accusation that lands poor Joe in prison (He should have called Johnny Cochran). Strangely enough, prison is filled with children (stupid child labor laws). In these surroundings Joseph doesn’t lose hope, but instead sings about his people being promised a “land of their own,” (obviously a promise not made by a Palestinian). While in prison, Joseph meets some interesting men – Don Quixote and Jean Valjean (oops, wrong story again). In truth, he meets a Butler and Baker (where’s the candlestick maker?) The butler is a cross between William Shakespeare and Willy Wonka, who tells Joseph about his dream, which is interpreted to mean the Pharaoh will soon release him from prison and rehire him into service. The baker, in contrast, has his dream horribly deciphered to mean he will soon be executed (The lesson here kids: don’t wear a beret, nobody likes the French). After the dream interpretations are proven to be correct, the stage is set (or lit) for Joseph to rise from his prison and into the service of The King (also known as Pharaoh). Such a rise is illustrated by a very psychedelic song of “Go, go Joe,” with yellow hair, afros, and things that imply the baker may have been guilty after all, of putting something else in his bread.

After a short intermission, we return to the golden land of Egypt, where a sock-hop is underway. The poodle skirts and white shirts are accented by magical moon staffs, when Joseph is called before Pharaoh Ramses Presley. The Pharaoh, it seems, had some strange dreams of his own (no more eating tainted Peanut Butter before bedtime). Combining the spirit of Elvis with the hair of Alice on “The Brady Bunch” the Pharaoh tells Joseph of his prophetic dreams, which for Joseph signify the next 14 years of crop production in Egpyt (For your own dream interpretations, call 1-900-GO-GO-JOE). As a result of these correct dream interpretations Joseph is made the first Secretary of Agriculture and given a coveted “white hard hat” to symbolize his office. The poodle-skirts invent the concept of “groupies” as they sing to Joseph’s praise.

While the diva-tastic narrators explain the story could end here, we return to Agrabah, I mean Canaan, to see what has become of the Brothers Joseph. They, it seems, haven’t learned the lesson of the Baker, and choose to wear berets. This brings down famine, hunger, and a melancholy song upon them. They reminisce over their former parties, banquets, and piñatas (If only the piñata had looked like a cloud, they might have hit it). They resolve to solve their dietary problems by building a barricade and storming the Bastille (oh wait, that’s the other French story). What they do decide to do, is drag themselves and their youngest brother to Egpyt (I wonder if the youngest brother could pull the sword from the stone…).

And so, in an example of dramatic irony, the angry and jealous brothers of Joseph end up bowing before his feet asking for food (not recognizing him, which might seem weird, until you see Superman magically change into Clark Kent by only adding glasses). The Egpytian palm trees, which were obviously grown near Las Vegas, provide an excellent background for their reuniting with Joseph (who, judging by his new wardrobe, is now fighting G. I. Joe). Joseph begins the first welfare system by rationing food to his brothers, but secretly hiding a goblet in the youngest brother’s sack. As a test for his brothers, Joseph learns they are now honest men, as they sing of Benjamin’s innocence (and one wears the “birthday cake of innocence” on his head to prove it. The bravest brother must be the one stuck with the pink sombrero). Finally revealing himself to his brothers, his father comes to Egypt to reunite with his son (and make him a true Jedi). The show then ends with an elaborate “mega-mix” performed by the Blue Man group.

And so ends the journey of Joseph in the land of Canaan, Egypt, and Agrabah. Having come through sibling rivalry, seduction, a prison sentence, the psychic network, and mardi gras, Joseph is able at last to achieve his full potential, and stand on Pharaoh’s right hand (or right staff, as the case may be). In this capacity he is able to save his family, his nation, and God’s “chosen people.” All because of several choices he makes. Joseph chooses not to give in to Potiphar’s wife. Joseph chooses to trust a higher power while in prison. He chooses to help his family, even after they have betrayed and sold him. Joseph is after all, a dreamer. It may be that the dreamer believes in the virtue of people, in the triumph of good over evil, and in higher powers that can not be seen or proven. And it may be that those qualities are what make him a dreamer. However, his choices, like the clothing we wear, driving speed, and food we consume, have consequences. And the story of Joseph and his psychedelic parachute shows that often the choices that are hardest to make, or hardest to explain, are those that help us the most. And it is often the paths that we would not choose that lead to where we ultimately truly want to go. And even if that place isn’t full of poodle skirts, piñatas, and shiny metallic palm trees, it may still be, for us, the promised land.

Monday, October 20, 2008

My Teaching Philosophy

When I applied for Student Teaching at the U of U last year, this was what I wrote to answer "What is your teaching philosophy"

The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards.
- Anatole France

When I was 12 years old, I approached my mother in the way only a child can, and asked if it would be possible for me to take piano lessons. This is shocking, considering how many parents plead and beg and torture their children to force them to practice and take such lessons, but even more shocking was my mother’s response. She said no. She said she knew I’d likely quit soon after and it would be a waste of time and money. Thus began my passion and determination to play the piano nonetheless. The experience not only taught me a lot about determination, but also about one of the driving forces in my life – education. I have no greater frustration than not understanding a concept, an idea, or the process whereby something occurs. Nothing makes me angrier than when I am unable to try something, learn about something, or find out more concerning a given item or idea. The reason, I believe, is a passion for education. It is a passion for knowing the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” of any situation, and then being able to analyze and act upon that knowledge. It is this passion, and not the passion for teaching young minds, the love of kids, the desire to teach history, a respect for social science, or even the longing for summer vacations that fuels my aspiration to be a teacher (although I do possess all of those things).

In regards to my actual teaching philosophy, I take a cue from Thomas Huxley, the English biologist, who said, “Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not; it is the first lesson that ought to be learned; and however early a man's training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he learns thoroughly.

I believe an education is truly “gained” in the fire of experience. Thus, it may be irrelevant how many facts about the Civil War a student can repeat, if that individual doesn’t know the causes and effects of slavery, or the reasons it must be abolished. Knowing the difference between the Axis and Allies in World War II is immaterial to a student who does not see how and why Hitler gained power. And the settling of the country now known as the United States is unimportant if a person does not understand basic human rights, equality, and what “freedom from tyranny” truly means. Some labels I’ve found for my style over the course of my own education are “transcendentalist,” or, “existentialist,” followed by “post-modernist.” What such terms mean, in my definition, is that I believe students have a right and privilege to learn. They need to hear the course of history taught them with the passion that exists for the human race. However, more vitally, they need, and deserve to be allowed, to process the course of history, question the decisions their race has made, and then make choices and actions accordingly. I think the true role of education is, ironically, to bring up individuals who will question everything they are told, vocalize and share their opinions rationally, defend their positions, and act in such a way to bring about change. It may be that I’ve seen Dead Poets Society too many times, but I believe words and ideas can change the world, but it must be done through the educational system.

Relating to the role that educators, administrators, and students play, I am reminded of the Roman Senate. There are rules and regulations for parliamentary procedure, and there are essentials needed for a school to function, which reach beyond electricity, food, chairs, or a chalk board (though nowadays it is more likely to be an overhead and laptop). There should be a system of discipline for those that interfere with a learning environment. There needs to be a means whereby students with special needs can receive additional attention. Ultimately, however, I consider these administrative functions, and the role of “teacher” as merely a Socratic mediator who conducts conversations, repeats observations, and struggles not to taint the educational environment with their own opinions. This is, naturally, a “goal” and not a concrete reality. Teachers and administration are also prey to standardized tests, state-run curriculum, and all of the chaos associated with daily school schedules. There are specific points to be covered, assessments to be given, grades to be assigned, parents to conference with, and daily lessons to plan, outline, and adapt for individual students. On top of that, there are as many different learning methods as there are students. Some need visual stimulation. Other would prefer didactic multiple-choice answers. Many would choose outdoor “hands on” activities, and there are those who desire quiet and personal reflection. All of these styles must be addressed and accounted for. In addition teachers must follow all ethical guidelines, maintain certain standards, and plan ahead for every conceivable “contingent” plan.

Ultimately, what has evolved for me during my college career is not the desire to teach. That desire is as strong as ever, and I even see a concrete realization of it drawing nearer. Instead, the way I view and acknowledge this “dream” has been adjusted. Like Robert Hutchins observed when he said, “Education is a kind of continuing dialogue, and a dialogue assumes, in the nature of the case, different points of view,” I now recognize and more greatly appreciate those different points of view. My way of teaching is not the only way or necessarily the best way (though it may be the best way for me). My way of learning is certainly not the best or only way for students to learn. In addition, the impressions of how a school must be run are different dependent upon location, time, specific needs, and administration. Teaching and education are as diverse as the student population within them. Just as diversity in a classroom should be valued, so it should be in the teaching profession.

So why become a teacher? Yes, I love kids, which is mandatory for prospective teachers. True, I have a passion for history and the “human drama” that it has written. And yes, I do like having my summers off. However, ultimately it is the opportunity, privilege, and duty that education has for awakening a mind, creating and satisfying curiosity, and providing tools to change the world that draws me to the classrooms I spent nearly twelve years learning within. I love to understand. I enjoy knowing why things happen. I am passionate for the gaining of knowledge. I want to share that love, enjoyment, and passion with students. Who knows, we may even change the world. I will be a teacher. And yes, I do play the piano.


Long long ago, in a galaxy far, far away... also known as Utah County, I used to write a column. It was a theater review column, but instead of reviewing the actual merits of a show, focused more on the odd plot twists, funyn costume choices, and bizzarre things that make watching live theater so much fun (just ask my friend Mindo, she says I talk WAY too much during shows).

So... in order to have someone to make my funny comments to, like "Hey, doesn't Sweeney Todd's Hatt look just like the Ark of the Covenant!" I started the column. Well, and Miriam Latour, who is one of the smartest and most amazing people I know (who hosts, the BEST source for Utah Theater info) asked me to do this column thing. And Hogwash was born.

In addition, like many people who I admire (Robbie and Glade especially) I like to write (read as "ramble") so having a blog allows that. I plan on using this to post the random theater reviews I do (and past ones I've done) as well as some other random writing things.

(A post some other time will have to explain why "Hogwash" and why "Hedgehog" but tonight I'm not in the mood)