25 October 2006

I wish...

I had more free time. Have you ever said that? I know I have. On this board, actually.

Today (once again in my Brit Lit class), we took a break from 17th century lit to discuss what it is, exactly, that a good education should consist of. We talked about class sizes, and about how we shouldn't have one specific major but be able to focus on lots of different things and see the connections, and lots of other things that make me want to go to Oxford (though I never thought I'd say that). Then someone mentioned the importance of free time, and we got into a fairly interesting discussion that I thought I'd write about here for my topic of the day.

First of all-America is a work-a-holic nation. There's a phrase we use here that says we are "working like dogs". Well, in all of Europe, they say "working like an American". We are work obsessed. Most of our education is geared towards getting a job. Going to school isn't a luxury any more-it's almost a necessity in American society if you intend to make money. And there is some merit to that-but think about this:

In Europe, (England in particular, for the point of my discussion), workers are only allowed to work a certain amount of hours/drive a certain amount of kilometers/whatever their job requires. It's limited. And if a manager thinks they are working too hard, they can send them home. They have required vacation days. American's are always wishing for free time but, honestly-what do we do with our free time? Most of us are so work obsessed that when we get free time we don't know what to do with it. Rather than take time off from work to learn something, or go to a museum, or experience life in some way, we sit around at home and wait for ...whatever we're waiting for.

There was a study done in Europe of couples that were filing for divorce a while ago. These were couples who weren't just thinking about divorce, they were set on it. They had filed the papers and were ready to call it quits when the governments of these countries kind of pooled together in a study of divorcing couples. They offered to pay them if they would help with an experiment for six months. The first third of the people were put through traditional marriage counseling-and about 20% decided not to get divorced. Another third was given money to cover any financial struggles they were having, and a little more than 20% of that group decided not to go through with the divorce. The last third-and this is crazy- were paid to spend time together for six months. They had to be with each other on paid leave of work and everything else for six months. 96% of those couples decided not to get divorced. Just because of time.

So now I've started thinking-I'm always complaining that I don't have enough time in the day. I spend all day trying to get through class, and work, and rehearsal, and homework, and I talk about how there aren't enough hours in the day, and my roommates do it too, but what if we're spending more time doing homework, for example (I can't exactly cut back on work hours or class hours), because we don't take time to do something to enrich our minds away from schoolwork. Something besides sleeping (though that can also help).

I've started a list. I have books I want to read, things I want to do, movies I want to see, poems I'd like to write-I even (get this, Liz), have considered going online and finding a bunch of math problems to solve just for the sake of doing something with my time that can be more beneficial to me in the long run.

I'll get back to you on how it goes-but I'll bet something good comes of it. Because education shouldn't be divided into subjects that never touch each other. Education should be about finding connections between things you never thought possible. Subjects that aren't divided into water-tight bulkheads (see Dorothy Sayers' article The Lost Tools of Learning, available online), but should be like a river, moving forwards and mixing together into something that feeds the land around it.

18 October 2006

Standing on my head

I've been reading Milton for my Early British Literature class lately. Paradise Lost, to be more specific. It's a bit frustrating to read, let me tell you. It's turned ideas on their head for me.

For those of you who don't regularly read old English literature, the premise (of the first part of Paradise Lost, anyway), is describing the fall of Satan from Satan's perspective. It's interesting. CS Lewis does it in a way in Screwtape Letters, which I love, so the idea isn't new to me. What was frustrating was the way Satan is described as a fallen hero. This semester I have read an *insane* amount of old texts and they've all started to blend together because Satan is described in virtually the same terms as many other fallen heroes in Greek lit and Roman lit and even American lit. He is described as a man (well, man-ish), who was suppressed by an angry monarch for using his words against the power of that monarch.

Isn't that pretty much what America did to gain independence? Comparing Satan to a fallen hero bothers me because, from a literary standpoint, he is. Something in my psyche really wants to argue against that, but I can't do it.

In reference to this, we talked in class about the quality different actions or feelings. Milton believed quite firmly that in order to know good, you must know evil. Mormons understand this. Most of the people in Milton's time didn't quite get it. (Heck, lots of people now don't get it as evidenced by all the "Adam and Eve are evil" backlash). The way Milton saw it, a quality has a good side, and a bad side. The bad side isn't the opposite of the good side, necessarily. For instance, the quality of generosity. The bad quality of generosity isn't selfishness, it's giving so much that you have no time for yourself. It's giving so much that you spend more than you make. It's giving for the recognition. You're still giving in all of these, but for bad reasons. Milton believed that the most dangerous form of evil wasn't exactly pure evil or even just the absence of good: it is the perverse version of an otherwise virtuous quality. The thing that seduces someone the most is being faced with the dark side of something virtuous. Look at the religious zealots, for example, who see the dark side of faith. Or what about the good side of lust? Aren't we supposed to be physically attracted to the people we marry? I know I want to be. I don't think I could spend the rest of my life (not to mention eternity) with someone I didn't find attractive.

This professor is always going on about how she wants us to be scholars and not just students and today I feel like a scholar. This is definitely something to think about.

16 October 2006


Most of the time I use this place as a springboard for venting. Today I have something much more entertaining for you. Well-I thought it was entertaining anyway.

Last Friday I was walking towards the HFAC past the library on my way to rehearsal for The Importance of Being Earnest. It was about four thirty so most people were in class and campus was pretty empty. I passed a girl leaving the library who (believe it or not, and cover your ears if you get offended)-she swore. Oh my gosh. I almost laughed out loud. It wasn't a bad swear word (in comparison). One of those "in the Bible" words that some people "Mormonize" even in the Book of Mormon. But oh it was funny. I don't even know why it was funny exactly. It's not like I've never heard the word before, it just took me by surprise. Not that I condone bad language, but it was a nice ice-breaker of sorts. Because, face it: most of us have moments where we just want to let it out...

The other funny thing I saw was when I was leaving the HFAC after rehearsal was over. I was walking by a practice room when I saw a kid rocking out to a ukelele. I didn't even know you could rock to a ukelele. But this kid was really into it. Hard core ukelele-ist. Now I've seen it all.

So to anyone who says that BYU isn't diverse-remember: we have people that swear. And play the ukelele. And maybe at the same time! *Gasp*

11 October 2006

Looking for a Window

I've had a really terrible last 48 hours. It's been a series of Jonah Days. I've been in the depths of despair. I've had no flying and all thud for the last two days.

Ok. It's not that bad. No matter how bad things are, they can always get worse (isn't that a comforting thought). But my last few days have been pretty terrible and I've thought about some things that I thought I'd post about.

First, let me explain the situation. I auditioned for A Christmas Carol at the Hale in Orem last week. I did the show last year so I wasn't so worried about getting cast. I was looking forward to it (was-note the past tense. Can you see where this is going?). Last year I was a member of the choir. This year I thought it would be fun to be part of the cast, so instead of going directly to the choir call back that I was invited to, I auditioned for the main show as well. My reading went really well (the directors raved about it), and the song went well too. Long story short, I wasn't called back for the cast. Ok. No big deal-I was in the choir last year and had lots of fun. So I went to the choir call back.

I was there for five hours. Five! I had been hoping to be out of there in no more than three so that I could go home and study for a test I had to take. And after all that pain: I wasn't cast. The new choir consists of about three people who have done it before. There are at least four of us who have done the show before that were cut, including one family who have been in the choir for about ten years, and my friend who has done Christmas Carol for about four years. Needless to say: we were pretty upset. My friend called the director yesterday to thank her for the opportunity and ask her about what happened (the girls that were chosen, and some of the boys were not exactly consistent vocally), and the director told her that both of us (meaning myself and my friend), were perfect. We couldn't have done anything else to get in. We didn't do anything wrong. She just felt inspired to cast other people this year.

I hate that.

Not inspiration, exactly. I mean, it's wonderful. But for one second (or maybe a little longer) I had the thought "this never would have happened at home". Theater politics gain almost an entire level of annoyance in Utah that they don't most other places because the directors are biased two times over-one in prior relationships, and two in inspiration. Bah.

I'm not nearly as bitter about it now as I was yesterday morning. You've seen my posts on how busy I am. God knows I have enough to do this semester. But a conversation I had with my friend on the way home got me thinking. She said that maybe this time the people who were cast needed to be there, and that next time things would be more in our favor. But I don't know that I believe that.

Here comes my theory. There is a line in The Princess Bride that says "who says life is fair, where is that written?". I like that line. No. Life isn't fair. But God is. It's one of the parts about His character that makes Him God. I don't believe that God would bless these other people and say "oops...sorry Joni. I'm going to leave you out in the cold for a second and I'll be back. Hang on". He doesn't work like that. One of the most complex, and incredible parts of his plan is that no matter what happens, everyone benefits. What happens to one person will, or at least can influence another person for the better also (even if it's not obvious). Everything happens for a reason. God doesn't forget one person to help another.

So while I hate that I don't get my fabulous shoes and hoop-skirt this year, and I still wish that things would have turned out in my favor-I know that whatever I want for myself isn't as good as what God wants for me. And while it may be hard right now, I know that when doors close, windows open. Maria had it right in The Sound of Music-there is another way. A better way. So now that I've had my cry-I'm not going to turn my back on the world, I'm going to face whatever comes as a chance for a new adventure. Besides-if I got everything I auditioned for, I wouldn't appreciate theater. It would become something I do, instead of something I love.

05 October 2006

Alright Freud-analyze this.

I had a weird dream the other night. And believe me when I say that I have no idea where it came from. But then, random dreams are usually the best, right?

I dreamed that I was on some kind of cruise line that decided to build a bunch of ships that would give passengers the ultimate experience. Titanic. That's right. I dreamed that I was on a ship that re-enacted Titanic. Every bit of it. The sinking, the dead people, the iceberg, everything. Yeah. That's right. I dreamed about Titanic. Where that came from-who knows. But the details are pretty interesting.

Now, I'm not sure if the cruise line got volunteers to play the dead people (or did they actually die?), or if they were 'I'm dying of hypothermia' dummies or if people were picked at random, but I knew that the ship would sink, because my stateroom or cabin or whatever it was (it was like a third class room until I went back to go get my books and then it looked like a first class room) was under water at some point.

Rest assured-I don't think any cruise line is about to start giving passengers THIS kind of ultimate experience. Most cruise lines settle for midnight chocolate bars and all you can eat any time of the day buffets. The closest most of these ships will come to sinking is if passengers start gaining too much weight (though I guess even that isn't possible since the food would have already been on the ship in the first place). Either way though, it was a great "what the heck" kind of moment when I woke up.

The only connection I can work out is this: I had been talking with my mom that day about Pride and Prejudice, written by Jane Austen, who also wrote Sense and Sensibility, which was made into a movie with Kate Winslet in it, who is in the movie Titanic. So...there you go.

Have at it Freud.

04 October 2006

I'm sorry, that *offends* me.

I hate that word. Offends. The way that word is thrown around on BYU campus is ridiculous.

I had a conversation with two people from one of my English classes today while on campus that frustrated me. (Not offended, frustrated. There's a difference). One of the girls was saying that every actor or actress is a prostitute because all of them are selling something. (I assume she means their bodies). I pointed out that I'm an actress (or claim to be one, I've done enough theater to deserve the title, I think), and that I don't agree with her. I said that while there are plenty of very public people out there that have certainly given off the impression that they want to be selling themselves to...whatever (the name that comes to mind for me is Lindsey Lohan). But I would hardly say that all actors and actresses both on and off the stage are selling themselves.

She went on to say that people who play bad characters are selling something. She said that people sympathize with the bad characters. Fantine, in Les Miz for example. She said that Fantine does bad things (prostitution) to save her daughter and that she's glorified as a heroine for her prostitution.

Good. Gravy.

This reminds me of most of the Banned Books Week type arguments we read about as English majors. Parents wanting to keep their kids from books that deal with death or with really evil characters or subjects because it could teach their kids to glorify evil. Books like Huck Finn, or (my personal favorite), Harry Potter. Or Catch 22. The Bible (*gasp*!) . It gets pretty ridiculous.

Pulls out the blogging soap box.

I don't want my kids to be evil. Who does?! What parent decides to raise their kid to be the next Hitler? No parent I want to know of. But sheltering your kids from the extreme evils of the world aren't going to make them go away. Hiding from 'questionable' material isn't going to stop it from spreading. And I mean this within reason. We shouldn't go and watch porn-films just so we know what goes on in them so we know what to avoid. That's not my point. My point is this: Shouldn't these books/plays/movies teach us to sympathize with the evil characters of the world? Or the characters that aren't so virtuous? What is so wrong with that?

Fantine for example. She does something evil to bring about good. She sells herself to prostitution (knowing that it's wrong), in order to save her child. She decends below all to save the life of another. Are we seeing a metaphor here? I hope so. What mother wouldn't do that for her child? Wouldn't it be more selfish for her to sit around? Knowing the conditions of France at the time Les Miz takes place, and knowing the options for single women...there really wasn't much else she could do.

I feel bad for Voldemort in Harry Potter. I feel bad for Javert in Les Miz. I feel badly for them because I see what has happened to them. They end up alone, and miserable in spite of their power. Does that mean I'm going to join ranks with them (even though they are fictional-work with me), to empathize with them a bit more? No. But we need oposition. The scriptures make that clear all over the place. There must be extreme evil so that there is a chance for extreme good. I don't want to read a book about a hero who isn't flawed. That's boring! I don't want to see a play where all the characters sit around singing "Sunshine Day" and talking about happy religious things. That's not life. I can't relate to that. There needs to be a struggle.

I don't think that writing this will accomplish much. To be honest, my friends that read this and any other random people out there that read this will probably agree with me. Mostly because I've spoken with the people who read this, and I've already talked with them about this. And writing letters of protest to the world about why banning Harry Potter is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of will not change the fact that parents out there are worried about their kids turning into mini witches and wizards overnight because of a fantasy book.

So in response to my classmate-I'm sorry you feel that way. Really sorry. Because in spite of the terrible shows that are out there, and the horrible literature, and the pornographic films that really are selling something-there are still good, virtuous kinds of media out there. I'm sorry that there are people out there who take advantage of the bodies they are given to present themselves in terrible ways, but I cannot agree that all films/books/plays are evil. We need evil characters or there won't be good characters. If I choose to portray a character in a play that is bad, or even evil, I hope that I would do so in order to make the real hero that much more heroic. So stop being offended and realize that for every bad film, there are several more good ones out there that can uplift and inspire.

And...just for her information-I'm pretty sure President Hinkley said that his favorite book (outside of scripture) was Les Miz. Oh...and read up on Elder Bednar's talk from the last conference for more information on being offended.

Soap box over. I'm off to go read something evil.