Saturday, April 30, 2011

Grave Matters

One of my current favorite songs is "Organ Donor" by Jeremy Messersmith. It's a great song with a really fun video. I think one of the reasons I like this song so much is because I'm a pretty morbid person.

I guess in order to be in a field like forensic anthropology, one has to have a certain level of tolerance for all things "grave," but I think that sometimes I take this a few steps beyond the normal levels of morbidness. Today for instance, we had an outdoor grave-excavation exercise for our field methods class, and as I was digging, I noticed how soft the dirt was. I said to my friend working next to me, "this is really nice dirt; if I were going to be buried alive, I would want to be buried under dirt like this." He gave me a really weird look, but come on, if you're going to be buried alive, it would be much more pleasant with nice soft mineral-loam than with rocks. And if you think about it, that's showing how optimistic I am, looking for the silver lining even while being prematurely-interred.

When I'm not being terribly morbid, I'm being quite domestic (but probably also a little bit morbid even still). I'm making some awesome soup right now, using the leftover ham bone from Easter dinner. However, as this ham bone soup is simmering, I am reminiscing about the days when I would process skeletal remains in a slow cooker (but my soup smells a heck of a lot better--probably the bay leaves). The funny and morbid thing is that the idea of making soup sort of came after the idea to process the knee joint and keep for zooarcheological study. How efficient is that? If you're going to be processing remains, might as well make some soup!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Word of Wisdom and Personal Philosophy

This might be a Mormon blog post; don't say I didn't warn you.

I went to a bar/restaurant with members of this performing ensemble in which I'll be singing in the summer. While I was trying not to be unfashionably early, I called home to kill some time and ended up talking to my dad for a few moments. My dad has this strange idea that anytime I go somewhere where people will be drinking, I'll succumb to the tantalizing temptation to drink and become an alcoholic. Every time this happens, I have to tell him, first of all, my formative years are pretty much over, and if I were going to start experimenting with alcohol (or any other vice, for that matter) I would have done it already, and secondly, I don't drink. Period.

I don't drink; I have no desire to drink; and I've never ever been tempted to try alcohol. There was one moment in a bar when my friend had a drink and I thought, "hmm, that smells nice", but it was definitely the combination of fruit juices and not the alcohol that was responsible for the smell. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints teaches something called the Word of Wisdom, which is a set of commandments from God that dictate how to lead healthy lives. We abstain from alcohol, tobacco, tea and coffee, and other harmful substances (illegal drugs, etc.). When I'm at a bar or restaurant where my non-LDS friends are drinking*, and they ask why I'm not drinking, I usually respond with "I'm a Mormon," and that's usually the end of the conversation.

Sometimes I wonder, however, is the real reason I don't drink because I am a Latter Day Saint? One of my acquaintances from my congregation wrote a blog post about "justifying our beliefs," for instance, saying we keep the Word of Wisdom for health reasons instead of saying that we're keeping a commandment. I believe that the Word of Wisdom is a commandment from God, but knowing what I know about alcoholism and the other various dangers of alcohol, I'm not sure I would drink alcohol if I weren't a Latter Day Saint. The same concept applies to other aspects of the Word of Wisdom, as well as the Law of Chastity.

I guess basically what this post is trying (in a rather clumsy manner) to say is that we can make choices about our behavior independently of our religious beliefs. Obviously, if we have a testimony of the commandments that we're given, we should strive to keep them, but it is also perfectly acceptable to have personal philosophies about what those commandments mean to us. Is that what I'm trying to say? I think so. Thoughts?

*I wanted to throw this extra thought in here, but it didn't really fit with the rest of the post (I really love footnotes for this reason). I just wanted to reference a good post by another acquaintance of mine that kind of explains the whole "Mormon bar scene" dynamic.


My story continues. Last week I got a nice little email from the folks at the Boston University Department of Anthropology saying that they had no money for me, but I'm welcome to apply for next year. That shattered my entire sense of reality for a moment; it was like my entire concept of a future was snatched away from me like a balloon snatched from a child on a windy day. I did what any reasonable person would do after such an event: I applied for a job in Canada, naturally (hey, they wanted a forensic anthropologist and they mentioned nothing about having a PhD!). I also applied for about a million other jobs in Boston and Cambridge.

Even though the concept used to terrify me, I've come to terms with the idea of taking a "gap year." I have gap year plans as well! They include hanging out with all of my other gap year people, getting a job and making enough money to survive and pay off some of the student loans, cutting down my thesis and submitting it for publication/presentation, and exploring my artistic talents.

I guess I have to explain that last one a little bit. I had a chat with one of my advisors today about how it "blows" (his words, not mine!) that I didn't get any funding for the PhD, and he said that since I've worked really hard for two years, I should take this time to evaluate my life, and do things that are a little "out of context." Of course I'm going to work to be a better anthropologist and scientist, but I think I should make this a great year to figure out who I am as a human as well, and part of who I am involves a lot of artsy stuff.

A lot of times I wonder how I got into science, and it's because I love how fascinating and challenging it is, and because I want to "serve justice" as a forensic anthropologist. That said, I have this insane love for music, performing, and writing. I have a folder on my computer desktop full of song lyrics, screenplays, and musicals that I've written (one day I'll write a post about my "Panda Express" musical). I've kind of neglected the performing part of my life for the past two years, so I'm going to try to get a little bit of that groove back this summer and into the next year. So that's coming.

In other news, it's finally starting to feel not like winter anymore!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Response to All the Dating Chatter Out There

This is neither my Mormon Blog or my Angry Blog...but it might be mistaken for such for a second.

At the most recent General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the theme was (apparently*) "go and get" Somehow, the single men of the church interpreted this theme to be "if you're not married right now, it's your fault and therefore you're going to go to hell." This prompted a lot of controversy and chatter in multiple forms, from fake motivational posters to manifestos about how women are equally responsible for the fact that the planet is overrun with young single men. As a result of all of this controversy and chatter, I've witnessed a lot of ridiculous conversations (both on facebook and in real life) in which I've abstained from taking part...until now. Here's my take on the subject, and just so y'all know, I am single (but not the bitter kind).

First of all, where are all of these single men? Apparently they're running rampant through the streets and waving their "I don't want to get married" banners somewhere, but I haven't seen them. Maybe I'm just too busy not gussying myself up and presenting my attractive feminine charms to notice them.

Secondly (and maybe finally, haven't decided yet), dating is not that difficult. Sixteen-year-olds do it all the time; intelligent adults in their twenties and thirties should be able to figure it out. Maybe if people spent more time actually dating and less time whining and ranting about who's to blame for all of the singleness out there, people would do better. Some tips:
  • Guys: if you like a girl, ask her out; if she doesn't want to date you, ask someone else out; if it seems like its going well, keep dating her; if you don't want to date her anymore, stop asking her out.
  • Girls: if a guy asks you out once, go...won't kill you; if he asks you out again and you like him, keep going; if he asks you out again and you're not sure, say yes and keep going until you decide either way; if you know you don't like him, don't go out with him.
Seriously...not that difficult. I guess everyone gets concerned about all the little feelings out there, but guess what? People are resilient. As a species we've had to deal with rejection for several thousand years. Don't think so highly of yourself that you're afraid to tell someone the truth about how you feel because you might destroy him/her emotionally. A pint of ice cream and a "Very Best of Cher" CD later, he/she will get over you. Granted, you shouldn't be like, "you're awful and I never want to date you again," but if you don't like someone, let him/her know that you don't want to keep dating. Don't stunt your happiness/potential to find someone with whom you actually want to be by leading someone to think that he/she might be that person.

Finally, if you're not married and want to be, don't worry, it'll work out eventually. If you're not married and don't want to be, that's fine too.

Okay, maybe this was a little bit of an angry blog post, but I'm not angry. And maybe I'm wrong about the whole thing; I will admit that my view on human interactions isn't necessarily based on interactions with actual humans, and when it comes to emotions, I am slightly exceptional in the fact that I don't have many of them. Also, I haven't had people yell at my blog in a while, so with hope I'll get my viewership up with this one.

*I say "apparently" because I didn't really feel the marriage pressure all that much as I was too busy picking out themes relevant to my personal spiritual growth.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Music

In case anyone is wondering, this is my current "Top 25 Most Played" list on iTunes:

  1. "Breathe" - "In the Heights" Original Broadway Cast
  2. "Grace Kelly" - Mika
  3. "Blackout" - "In the Heights" Original Broadway Cast
  4. "Don't Rain on My Parade" (Glee Cast Version) - Lea Michele
  5. "Happy Ending" - Mika
  6. "Lovefool" - The Cardigans
  7. "Kissing You" (Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet) - Des'ree
  8. "Please" - "Miss Saigon" Original London Cast
  9. "Passeggiata" - "The Light in the Piazza" Original Broadway Cast
  10. "Burning Love" - Elvis Presley
  11. "Skeleton Song" - Kate Nash
  12. "Crazier Than You" - "The Addams Family" Original Broadway Cast
  13. "It Won't Be Long Now" - "In the Heights" Original Broadway Cast
  14. "Snow Angel" - Tori Amos
  15. "Fields of Gold" - Eva Cassidy
  16. "The Story" (Grey's Anatomy Cast Version) - Sara Ramirez
  17. "You Don't Know Me" - Michael Buble
  18. "Here We Go Again" - Ray Charles and Norah Jones
  19. "Glitter in the Air" - P!nk
  20. "Fat Bottomed Girls" - Queen
  21. "U Want Me 2" - Sarah McLachlan
  22. "Bring On the Wonder" - Sarah McLachlan
  23. "Elaborate Lives" - "Aida" Original Broadway Cast
  24. "Sway" - Bic Runga
  25. "Rakut" from Eric Whitacre's "Five Hebrew Love Songs" - BYU Concert Choir

I defy you to mock more than 10% of those. This list doesn't necessarily reflect my current most favorite songs, which I have recently downloaded and therefore not played fifteen times yet.

The Unknown

You know those people who think that life is an adventure? That the unknown is this wonderful endless realm of possibilities? I hate those people. Okay, I don't actually hate those people, I just can't understand them. At all. I like knowing things. I like knowing what I'm eating for lunch tomorrow; I like knowing whether or not I should bring an umbrella with me; I like plans. Right now, however, I'm at a really horrible (some might say "exciting," I say "horrible") place in my life where a lot of things are unknown.

I hate not knowing...

  • Exactly what I'm doing next year: I got into a PhD program at BU, and I'm really excited about that, because I have a somewhere to go, but while I'm on the financial aid wait list, I have to do a lot of waiting and wondering exactly how I'll be paying for the rest of my education, and if I can't pay for the rest of my education, what I'll be doing instead.

  • How I'm going to pay off my student loans. I got the "pick a repayment option" packet in the mail last week, and it's all terribly depressing.

  • What I'm supposed to talk about in the graduation speech I'm supposed to give in exactly one month. I know, I should be honored that the dean wants to sit down with me personally and discuss this important thing, but is it too much to send out an email with a topic and a time limit?

  • What I'm doing this summer. I have applied to all of the jobs. All of them. Well, not the ones that require computer skills or the courage to commute to Roxbury, but pretty much the rest of them. Do you think one of them would realize how awesome I am and promptly write me back and offer me all of their money? Of course not. So I continue to apply for all of the jobs.

So this is basically my depressing blog post. Sorry about that. And I know I'm supposed to do the whole "faithfully pressing forward" thing, but I just very much dislike not having a plan. So send me good planning vibes, everyone, and maybe I'll actually know something!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"Let [Me] Entertain You"

Last night our church had it's annual talent show. It was kind of a big deal. For one, I was able to invite some of my classmates and give one of them her first "Mormon activity" experience. On the performing end of it, I had the opportunity to co-emcee the show with my pal Ashley. All of you readers should know that ever since I was a small child, I dreamed of hosting the Tony Awards, so this experience really meant a lot. For instance, it taught me that in life, I need to aim lower.

I feel like the hosting went fairly well: most of our jokes resonated well with the audience, we had good rapport, and every time I stepped on and off that stage in my dangerously sexy purple high heels I didn't kill myself (which is the true Darwinian definition of "success"). I also performed in two other acts: I was a model in a fashion show displaying the designs of a brilliant seamstress in my ward, and I sang in an acapella group performing Mariah Carey's "Always Be My Baby." Both of those were quite successful.

This talent show experience was different from others I've done for one main reason: my singing wasn't the focal point of my contribution thereto. Normally in a talent show I'll do a vocal solo or sing in an awesome musical. This time, I decided to explore my layers, kind of like Idina Menzel in "Enchanted." It also worked out well because I just got done being sick and was too phlegmy to do any fantastic singing. Although the hosting experience was fun, I think I'll go back to vocal performance next year. There's a duet from "The Addams Family" (the musical) that I'd like to do as soon as I get up the nerve to actually sing it with a real boy.

As a host, I did discover another new talent that I can eventually put to good use. Like any good host (who takes her hosting duties far too seriously) I had a few wardrobe changes throughout the course of the show, and, I'm happy to announce that I can change clothes really quickly. I feel like that can go on my resume somewhere.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

"The Story" and Other Musical Inspirations

I have this pathological thing that forces me to watch any TV show's "musical" episode, even if I don't actually watch the show. This is probably why I continue to watch "Glee." In terms of quality, there's a range. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" pretty much wins, hands down, for best musical episode ever. The loser? "7th Heaven"--horrid. "Scrubs" did a great one, "Even Stevens" Influenza musical was cute, and the "That's So Raven" musical wasn't the most painful thing I've ever had to endure.

Anyway, they did this on "Grey's Anatomy" a week or so ago, and even though I said I wasn't going to watch it, I did. It's a sickness, people! I'm not really a fan of all of the sturm und drang angst of "Grey's," and it's totally unrealistic that all of the main characters would be operating on one person all at the same time. Don't they have other patients? It was still better than the "7th Heaven" musical. The standout moment of the entire episode: Dr. Calliope Torres' astrally-projected spirit singing "The Story" to her lesbian lover, her premature baby, and her comatose self.

Okay, that looks a little bizarre when written down. But it's true. I was moved. Is it just coincidence that "Calliope" means "beautifully-voiced?" Don't think so. Not that I didn't already know that Sara Ramirez is a goddess (she gave a Tony Award Winning performance as the Lady of the Lake in Monty Python's "Spamalot"--go look it up). I have a crush on her voice, and the iTunes people have 99 cents from me to prove it.

In related news, I auditioned for a choir called "Calliope" this morning. I'll find out if I get in by Tuesday, but I think my audition went really well, despite the full-scale attack my respiratory system is currently launching. For the audition, I sang the second verse of Ryan Murphy's "Pilgrim Song" and "Rakut" from Eric Whitacre's "Five Hebrew Love Songs." The latter is perhaps one of the most beautiful things in the world, not only because I think Hebrew is one of the most beautiful languages in the world, but because of the text:

"Hu hayah maleh rakut
"Hi haytah kashah
"V'chol kama shenista l'hisha'er kach
"Pashut uvli sibah tovah
"Lakach otah el toch atzmo
"Bamakom hachi, hachi rach"


"He was full of tenderness
"She was very hard
"And as much as she tried to stay thus
"Simply, and with no good reason
"He took her into himself
"And set her down
"In the softest, softest place"

The alto line just does the most amazing thing with the last four lines, and you can actually imagine being tenderly set down as the line flows. Ah...I love gorgeous music!