Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Chapter Two: Late September, or What Happens to a Dream Referred?
So towards the end of September, Facebook notified me that one of my favorite authors, Sarah Vowell was going to be one of the many speakers or readers at the Library of Congress's National Book Reading Fair. For those of who don't know her, you probably have heard her voice before. As anyone who knows me is aware, she provided the voice of Violet Parr from The Incredibles--the invisible teenage girl.
She was reading from her newest work about the history of Hawaii, Unfamiliar Fishes. I very quickly decided that I would be spending the day (24 Sep 2011) in DC and that I would make a whole day of it by going to play in the evening. But yes, all the planets revolved around my chance to meet Sarah Vowell so she could sign my book.
I went with The Partly Cloudy Patriot. That was the first book I ever heard her read from and it has a lot of sentimental value to me. So yeah, after the fabulous reading I went to stand in line so that she could sign my book. It was awesome even though I couldn't think of anything to say to her when I met her. The same thing happened when I met Suzan-Lori Parks and signed my copy of her plays. This time at least, I was told that I could write something for her to use to sign my book. At first, I wanted to have her write, "For one who understood what the Gore campaign could have learned from watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer." But then I figured that was too long. So I went with this instead:
If you can't make out the inscription, it says: "To Allan--to not know me is to love me." It was something she said at the reading in Minnesota that was broadcast back in 2002; otherwise known as the first time I heard her. She said it after a stranger in the audience shouted a proposal to her. "'Will I marry him?' was the question. Um, sure. You're in the dark and I can't tell who you are, so why not? No, no. I'm sure it looks all fine from 50 yards away but believe me, to not know me is to love me." I mentioned that she said it at one of her readings one time and I like it. Her response: "that does sound like something I would say." And that was our exchange. I felt that it fit, the thing I asked her to write because honestly I think there's some wit and truth to it. At the end of the day, as much as I admire her and love her writing, it's quite possible that I might not really like to know who she is in every day life. Part of me still doubts that, but for now, it seems like a really insightful thing to say.
I spent the rest of the day reading in the restaurant in the basement of the Smithsonian Museum for American History. I was there until it closed and then when I sat outside (still reading homework) waiting for the museum to close, I ended up getting a free pretzel. I thought that was kinda cool.
The night ended with a ride to Arlington. I went to a Samuel Beckett play called "Happy Days." It's about an elderly woman buried in the dirt who just talks. It's like she's talking to the audience, but she never really acknowledges the audience, so it's more like she's just talking to ward off the silence. She wants desperately for her male companion (possibly her husband???) to acknowledge her and validate any statement that she makes, but he either cannot hear her or he chooses not to respond. It is so heartbreaking and yet so hopeful. It's a Beckett play and it was quite amazing.
It was in a really cool space too. The Artisphere. Their building had a giant white sphere on the outside and inside was very classy. I really enjoyed it. I hope something takes me there again soon.
Oh and there was also a time I got a free ticket to a stand-up comedy show called "Allah Made Me Funny." It spoke to me--religious identity based performance? is anyone surprised. But really, it was absolutely hilarious. Good times at the end of September. Good times.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Chapter One: Early September
Judy Collins Concert
Thursday 08 Sep 2011
I went to northern Virginia to attend a Judy Collins concert. The public transportation available to the surrounding DC areas is quite fantastic. Collins, if you’re not familiar, is a signer with an expansive career that started with the folk movement in the 60s. So she’s famous for singing songs written by Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. The woman’s voice, after so many years, is just still so fantastic. I have tried thinking about how to explain it or articulate why it touches my core so deeply; and honestly I don’t know that I’ve arrived at anything better than my initial response to hearing her voice: her voice is a river of silver that passes through your heart and into your soul. Seriously when I hear her sing it just sounds like silver somehow—but liquid silver. But then I tend to describe Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” as having a “purple quality” to it. But for Beethoven’s piece it is the aspect of the color, while Judy Collins’s voice is more like the metal silver at a liquid state or possibly mercury. Suffice it to say, I had a fabulous time.
The day of the concert, there was not an hour that it didn’t rain. The venue was a partially opened theatre. The Wolf Trap was mostly enclosed—it had a roof and some open sides. This made some seats (plastic) damp; however, that was fixed by ushers drying the seats with towels. The awesome thing about the circumstances of the evening and the performances was that occasionally between songs you could hear crickets. It was quite organic. Furthermore, every so often, the audience would have the chance to catch a flash of lightning in their peripheral vision; but the storm was also far enough away that we couldn’t hear the thunder. In short, everything sensorially contributed to a magnificent experience. I loved when she sang a song about her mother and when she told the story of the night she was with Bob Dylan when he wrote “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Then she started singing Mr. Dylan’s classic and on the chorus invited us to join in with her. It was a lot of fun. Definitely worth the travel time and money. If you’re not familiar with the work of Judy Collins, I obviously recommend you give her a chance.
A Day in DC
Saturday 10 Sep 2011
I wish to tell you about my Saturday adventure in DC. One of my homework assignments was to go to the library and obtain a card—oh, and by “library,” I mean “library of Congress.” So in the morning, after breakfast, I jumped on the bus to go to the metro station in Greenbelt. After that I rode the metro into DC and there was a stop right next to the administration building for the Library of Congress. It was across the street from the main library. And now I have a card. I’m looking forward to going there. Dear Goodness! Best library ever—at least in the US . . . well, you know, sorta.
I didn’t go into the Library proper. Saturday was my day of fun so I took pictures outside of it and then continued on, taking pictures of the capitol Building. I spent some time at the Botanical Gardens. It’s the kind of building that would have bored me as a child. Who would ever want to see plants? Please?! Now. I love that stuff. It reminded me of Kew Gardens outside of London—but oh so not as wonderful as Kew Gardens. It was soothing and fantastic. Yay, Plants and flowers!
And for you, I have made a video of pictures I took that day. At the time I was listening to my Ipod. I turned on some Yo-Yo Ma covers of Ennio Morricone songs. Awesome orchestration of personal experience and life. It wouldn't load onto the Blogger so I made a video on Youtube. Enjoy:
The afternoon was set apart for an activity set up by the Graduate Studies Group or Society for Graduate Studies (Graduate Student Government). I bought a ticket to take a workshop with other UMD students at the Washington Improv Theatre (WIT). It was basically 2 hours of theatre games so it was nice but not anything I wasn’t familiar with. What was really fun was that on my way I needed to head from the Washington Mall to the metro station near the National Archives and on the way needed to cross Pennsylvania Ave. I tried crossing the street (b/c the cross walk said I could) but a police officer indicated that I needed to head back. After a few minutes a number of police officers on motorcycles came down the road in front of a motorcade of black vans heading towards the White House. There was no limo, so I don’t know if any of those vans contained President Obama if they were other important guests; but yeah, it was kinda cool.
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Classes started this week . . . well, a class started this week. I'm taking four but three of them are on Monday and Tuesday and since classes didn't begin until Wednesday I've only attended one class so far. There's been some other things I did this week: purchased a printer, figured out issues with my fellowship, went to institute and a theatre grad student party in the same night, accepted an invitation to go to a book club, started reading homework. All in all a nice mix of socializing and pre-semester studying. I also finished the last season of Mad Men on Netflix and started watching Downton Abbey.
Here's what I learned: I love reading and thinking about what we have as Paul's writings; I cannot stand reading institute manuals.
I wish I could convey my disdain articulately, but honestly I tried not to write them down. What I remember is every time I read them, I found myself disagreeing with what was published, felt annoyed with the sentiment, and wondered constantly if I should keep reading. Then I would go back to read Paul's epistle and there was just a very different interaction. I pondered. I reflected. I asked myself introspective questions.
Honestly, what I think bothers me about the Institute manuals rests in a topic I always tend to reflect on, but one which came specifically into focus since it is in part connected to an issue ostensibly raised in Paul's letter to the Corinthians: anti-intellectualism. In the epistle, Paul addresses the saints' social and doctrinal problems. They were not unified in their beliefs or their conduct. The lack of unity stemmed not only from immorality, but also disparate interpretations of the gospel. Paul points to the saints claiming that their beliefs were supported by different apostles; however, he spends quite a bit of time reflecting on knowing things by the spirit rather than learning.
As someone who self-identifies as an "intellectual," I found it interesting how my interaction with Paul's text differed so greatly from my interaction with what I was reading from LDS publications that commented on Paul's text. The former I engaged with; the latter I rejected. I think it's because I take issue with an interpretation of Paul's writings to support what I perceive as an anti-intellectual sentiment and epistemology.
I do not think that people in the Church are dumb; nor do I think that there are not intellectuals in the church or that the church is a space where intellectuals cannot reside. But I'll confess that I am concerned that in response to what I consider legitimate claims and questions posed by intellectuals from many different fields, be they scientific or philosophical, that the LDS culture (for the most part) has fostered and developed a fairly embedded anti-intellectual rhetoric that denounces the validity or purpose of questions raised rather than actually considering them. And I find that wanting.
I had a friend once who described a frustration at having his questions met with the response, "Well, is knowing that pertinent to your salvation? . . . If not, then why does it matter?" The answer may be "No. Knowing may in no way effect my salvation," but there is something highly troubling to me about shutting off the dialogue without even trying to explore the ideas.
I find CES manuals that I would like to learn from lacking the type of spiritual depth that I find in Paul's writings. Perhaps it's very reductive to assume, but I really do chalk it up to correlation. I don't turn to the manuals and expect academic articles; I don't hold them to that standard. But I do expect works that open the possibility to thought, revelation, edification. Instead, they seem very fixated on streamlining--on unifying by boxing in interpretations, delimiting them to fit a preexisting mold. And when that discussion just simply is not a correct interpretation and is presented as though it is, well that's just more unsettling.
For example, to evidence that last point, 1st Corinthians 3 and 6 both have references to bodies and temples. Neither of these scriptures have anything to do with living a temperate lifestyle as outlined by the Word of Wisdom or more recent interpretations and amendments to that revelation. Yet that is all that the church publishes on them. This troubling for at least two reasons. First, it's just wrong and sloppy; revealing that the writers are not reading the scriptures. (Which tends to be a bit hypocritical when a lot of Mormons [at least in the missionary culture I remember] like to presume that people outside of the church might know bible verses but don't read them in context and so do not understand their true meaning). Second, and more importantly, it totally eclipses Paul's very salient points about unity and community. There's an extended metaphor in 1st Corinthians 3 that is so eloquent that is completely glossed over in order to privilege a really reductive and didactic reappropriation of the scriptures.
I don't have a problem with the reappropriation, it's that it has become the only way we read and discuss the scripture. It's not that I find the principles or the beliefs of my faith stagnant or dull. However, for me, our cultural treatment and interaction with the scriptures certainly tends to be. Furthermore, it's a bit frustrating to participate in a community that harbors animosity towards your identity and profession. The ironic thing is that Paul was far from lacking education.
And as I think about it, these are two connected but somewhat different ideas: my issues with correlation and the anti-intellectual rhetoric in the church. And I haven't really touched as much on the latter. It's just weird that we have such an expressed admiration for education and people who are intelligent. I definitely do not feel ostracized for being smart; I know it's something people in the Church always expressed admiration for. Yet at the same time, there exists a resilient rhetoric that does not simply disagree with science and philosophy, but demonizes higher learning--making the acquisition of knowledge itself an Original Sin or great temptation. High reason and great sophistry can certainly be used to attack belief, but so can ignorance and misinformation. We address the latter with learning, literacy, and diligence of thought and teaching. Why should we treat the former any differently?
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Sunday 21 Aug 2011: The Walk
It was my first day in new ward: the Glenn Dale YSA Ward. The chapel is about 6 miles from where I live. My father recommended that I find the bishop's number and ask for help getting a ride. I refused, explaining that I had my own plan and that I would take care of it. I intended on taking the bus. It turns out that neither the MetroBus routes nor the Prince George's County bus systems operate on Sundays. By the time I figured this out (late Saturday night) it was a bit late to call and ask anyone for a ride. So I decided to walk to church.
Luckily there was a generous bike lane.
Google Maps estimated that it would take about 2 hours to get there. And that was about right. I listened to some talks from General Conference and a podcast called Hard Core History. Learned quite a bit about the Roman Republic and the Gracchi brothers on the way to Sacrament. I got a ride back home after church.
Monday 22 Aug 2011: FHE Dada
Among other things, I attended FHE at the Institute building. Oh I hope things look better at institute in way of interesting people otherwise I'm doubting that my church community will be a source of great friends out here. Not very lively people. Maybe it was just a low energy day? Anyway, I had planned to wear one of my Legends of the Hidden Temple shirts to see what reactions I might get. Sort of a precursor to my adorning my Captain Hammer shirt. I figure if I wear these items and someone responds with enthusiasm, the exchange will reveal the higher likelihood that a friendship is probable.
One person asked me about the shirt, but that was it. On the plus side we did create some Dada poems. Unfortunately no one knew what that meant. I was the only that responded with any form of enthusiasm which meant that the person who decided that Dada would be the activity asked me to explain it. I gave a one minute explanation rather than my 25 minute lecture, thinking she'd give more background. Not so much. So mostly, it just frustrated people. And when we were making poems, the woman who planned the activity was not exactly creating poems by chance herself even though she was working off the whole idea of Tristan Tzara's chance poetry. I liked the poem I made. Would have copied it down, but it was dada. I made it, appreciated it, and then it was done. Why hold onto it? I did like that some random words I pulled made the line "Books, Books, Read." That was cool.
Tuesday 23 Aug 2011: The Day the Earth Did Not Stand Still
I attended some beginning of the year meetings on campus starting at 11 AM. First meeting with all the graduate students and faculty in our department and then just our individual program. There are 4 graduate programs in the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies at the University of Maryland: MFA in Dance, MFA in Design, MFA in Performance, and MA/PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies. So yeah, after all of our meetings the new PhD students were waiting to meet with Frank Hildy and while we sat around the conference room table, the room started shaking. back and forth. To me it felt like a motion ride . . . like Star Tours at Disney's MGM Studios in Walt Disney World.
I should probably be less glib--I know that it was very terrifying for many people--but I thought the whole earthquake things was a hoot. I had fun . . . and then I went to get food with some of the other grad students. It was a nice day.
Wednesday 24 Aug 2011: A New Home
Not much happened. The big item on the schedule was dinner at Dr. Hildy's house with other students and faculty. I went there before when I came out to visit the school; it was nice to go back because Frank's wife Cindy and her brother are both amazing cooks. Before the dinner, I spent a lot of time on campus wandering around the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center or CSPAC. I decided to take some pictures of my new home. When I first saw this building I think my jaw dropped. It's so beautiful.
Thursday 25 Aug 2011: Allan Davis and the Temple of Gloom
Spent the whole day on an adventure to see and worship in the Washington, D.C. Temple. When I saw gloom, I refer not to the edifice, but to the terrible weather. When I walked outside of my house, it was raining, so I grabbed an umbrella. I realized that I had the wrong time for the bus and returned home. When it was time to catch the next bus, the weather looked fine so I left behind my umbrella and rain jacket. That was a bad decision. It rained a lot and I got soaked.
It took a few hours but I finally made it to the beautiful D.C. Temple.
After I attended a session, I walked outside into a wave of humidity that I have not experienced since I was in the greenhouses at Kew Gardens. I tried taking pictures, but the air kept fogging up my camera.
I had to keep wiping off the lens, but I got some decent pictures.
It took another few hours to get home, but on my way while walking from the Metro Station I saw a frog in the dark. I tried to get a picture of it, but this was the best one I could get. I found him quite cute.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 26-28 Aug 2011: Hurricane Irene
These three days were pretty much all the same. Everything was so frantic because of Irene. We didn't get any rain on Friday. A few showers on Saturday. Some wind early Sunday morning. And two sustained blackouts. One for 4 hours on Saturday evening and one all of Sunday until around 10 PM. It sounds like Irene did some serious damage, but luckily that impact was not really felt in Greenbelt, MD in significant ways. My church meetings were cancelled. I finished reading Antonin Artaud's The Theatre and Its Double, read a lot of a Sookie Stackhouse novel (the books HBO's True Blood series is based on), and played cribbage and Uno with my roommates. A simple weekend for me.
And that my friends was my week before school: an earthquake, a hurricane, and dada. Who could ask for anything more?
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Set up a blog!
Actually I set this up a long time ago and I apparently haven't posted on it for like two or three years. I've retitled it, changed the design format, and decided to try my hand at more frequent ruminations and documentations of my everyday life. It's more of an archive than anything else: evidence that I've actually done stuff with my time. I failed to do that at BYU and I kinda regret that. Those were some great years with a lot of fond memories. But as I spent a week in a new town setting up my new life I realized something--when you don't have somebody around who's going to ask "What did you do today?" or "What did you do this week?" actions have a way of seeming insignificant. The days and the memories blur together, losing distinction. This blog, it's a fight against introspective atrophy. I expect some old friends to occasionally follow and comment so the conversations and dialogues keep going.
As far as what I can say for this week. I moved into the place I'll be living for a year on Monday. I cannot describe how many times I've said in my mind, "It's a good place for your first year here." I'm not sure when I realized that I was saying it so much not as an observation anymore but rather as an effort to convince myself of the sentiment. The truth is that it really is a good place for my first year. It's conducive to studying; other people living here are very nice; I have my own room; and it's conveniently located to so many great things like campus, where I'll go to church, bus routes, shopping centers. At the same time everyone I live with studies math or physics. I'm used to that; I smiled when I saw a quantum mechanics book with Schrödinger's cat on it. But it's no Brett and Casey. I got used to living with people who study history and psychology; it's an atmosphere I miss. The lack will dissipate when school starts but for now its absence is noticeably present.
On Monday I unpacked my boxes and suitcases; then, I walked to Target (about an hour walk) and picked up some groceries. Tuesday, I explored my new neighborhood and moseyed on over to a local co-op grocery store to pick up some more items. Funny thing about getting to a new area: sometimes you miss the road you're supposed to turn on. So while this was the route I was supposed to take:
This is the route I actually took:
Live and learn. Plus side, got to listen to a lot more of my podcasts. I have listened to a lot of Podcasts lately. I also got a Netflix account. That decision has resulted in a Parks and Recreation marathon and the nightly watching of films like the independent sci-fi rom-com TiMER starring Emma Caulfield (Anya from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and the miniseries Tin Man starring Zooey Deschanel. The former was far superior to the latter. Tin Man was a hoot and entertaining but I found TiMER to be highly enjoyable.
It's a movie about a world where a technology has been invented that allows people to know the day when they'll meet their soulmates. Sometimes it's a countdown of a few days and for other people it's a matter of years or decades. Because why not enjoy a light philosophical treatment of fate and agency when watching a romantic comedy?! . . . Yeah I watched a lot of Daria this week too.
In news of actually being productive, I bought a bike this week. On Wednesday, after I took care of some business on campus, I took a bus south of College Park to a place called Arrow Bicycles in Hyattsville, MD. They sell Giant Bicycles. I've missed the Giant Rincon bike I had on my mission and I knew that I wanted that kind of bike again. I think the one I have now is actually better though. It's a black and silver Giant Revel 2. I am completely out of shape and still a klutz; plus it turns out that I hate 4 way stops since I don't actually know how those work and when you're on a bike you're technically a vehicle no a pedestrian so it's just confusing. I really need to learn how to drive. Foreign languages and driving--those are my extra curriculars this year. But anyway I really like my bike.
Ooo . . . and fun story. While I was riding my bike back from campus on Thursday, while I was starting on trail, I came across a deer. I couldn't have been more than 15 or 20 feet away from this night woodland creature chewing on a tree.
It was unexpected, simple, and somehow tranquilizing. When I saw him, I realized that I think I'm gonna like it here.
Monday, December 1, 2008
My first few classes challenged my fortitude. They dragged on forever and I kept falling asleep. Eric smacked my elbow. Emily made a comment about my snoozing. Did Ruth ask me if I enjoyed my nap today, or was that another day? My favorite part of the morning—Dr. Jones making a cameo appearance in Theatre History to announce auditions for Berenice. I got so excited.
The rest of the day was pretty much work and later a fun FHE with dodgeball, crafts, and 4-square. I spent most of my time at the latter. The middle of the day brought a beautiful scripture study. Updating my gratitude journal, I opened my studies with a prayer. Supplication humbled my spirit, or at least sought such a goal. My heart asked the Lord certain questions, or rather posed questions for which I desired to find answers. Proceeding to further formulate those inquiries, I recorded them on the back of the first page to a newly created study journal. I’m focusing on faith right now; however, recent studies of Alma 32 prompted me to study hope—its relation to faith and how I might go about developing hope to strengthen my faith. Friday’s study encouraged me to study President Faust’s talk on Spiritual Nutrients and President Uchtdorf’s recent counsel on The Infinite Power of Hope. Today, I pursued the latter.
Humility invites inspiration that one otherwise misses. I think the Lord attempts to communicate to us, but our ears are not tuned to His frequency, we’re not paying attention. Nothing jumped out at me as a new revelation, yet I was fully engaged in the scripture study. I had questions and I felt directed to discover answers as dictated by God’s Holy Will. When we take the time to ponder the scriptures and meditate their meanings and significance, doors open, we peer into eternity, if only for a short time. I know that hope is a spiritual gift from God. He grants it as we humbly and sincerely seek it. Sustaining hope requires diligent effort. If we, if I, take the time to recognize God’s hand in life, how hope has been fulfilled in times past, confidence in the Lord’s desire and power to fulfill his promises matures. I dare say, it takes root. That confidence, that trust, that faith in God is the essence of hope. There are a number of promises I have hope for and in right now. I have hope that I will find a companion, that I will receive the blessings, challenges, and grace requisite for creating a celestial family. I hope that I will find my direction in academic and occupational pursuits. The Lord will provide the way. Today, I realized a supernal truth which granted me assurance in this whole relationship game. Hope is the assurance and confidence that the Atonement of Jesus Christ will provide us with the ability to receive eternal life. Since eternal life is the type of life that God lives and He resides in a celestial realm in the partnership relationship of a priesthood governed marriage, then hope is the assurance that the Atonement of Christ will provide me the grace to enjoy to blessings of marriage eventually. I just need patience. This gospel is one of peace and joy. I know of its truthfulness and sweet sublimity, satisfying serenity. Christ lives and I joined his spirit in sweet communion and tutorial this afternoon. It made a better day.