Saturday, April 29, 2017

Barber's Violin Concerto

I feel like I am making progress in my appreciation of classical music.  Last night's Utah Symphony concert not only featured a piece that I actually recognized but it also featured a conductor that I really like!  Yeah, I know conductors by name!  Jun Markl is a frequent guest with the Utah Symphony and I have always really enjoyed his interpretations.  I think he is elegance personified on the podium!  When I learned that Markl would be performing with the the Utah Symphony and that the concert would feature Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, I had to get a ticket and I am so glad I did!  The orchestra began with the aforementioned Adagio for Strings and I loved it!  It is mournful and melancholy (Why do I like such sad pieces?) but I think it is exquisitely beautiful!  I love how the theme is developed by the violins and then is picked up by the violas and then the cellos and then, finally, by the basses.  As I listened I closed my eyes and let the music wash over me and I was filled with such a sense of yearning.  I enjoyed this moving piece very much!  Next, the orchestra played Barber's Concerto for Violin with soloist Karen Gomyo.  I was not familiar with this piece but I loved it.  I thought it was incredibly romantic and Gomyo gave a very passionate performance, especially in the final movement.  The second movement featured a theme played by a solo oboe which gave me goosebumps!  After the intermission, the orchestra played Piano Quartet No. 1 by Johannes Brahms arranged by Arnold Schoenberg for the full orchestra.  I especially liked the final movement which was inspired by a gypsy dancing and included a fun theme played by the solo clarinet and a theme played by the xylophone.  The same program will be performed again tonight (go here for tickets) and I highly recommend it for a chance to see Jun Markl in action!

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Lost City of Z

In an attempt to cross another film off of my never-ending list, I met my friend to see The Lost City of Z last night.  This is an epic adventure movie like they don't make any more and it has a very old fashioned sensibility to it.  It is based on the incredible true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett's expeditions to find an ancient city in the Amazon.  In the early 1900s, eager to make a name for himself, Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), a major in the British military, accepts a commission on behalf of the Royal Geographic Society to survey a part of the Amazon.  On this expedition, he discovers evidence of a civilization which, he believes, predates those of Europe and Asia.  He becomes obsessed with returning to the Amazon to find this lost city even though it means leaving his wife (Sienna Miller) and children behind for years.  After a failed attempt to find the city, Fawcett returns home at the outbreak of World War I to serve in the army only to be wounded at the Battle of the Somme.  After a long convalescence, he feels it is his destiny to find this city and mounts yet another ill-fated expedition, this time with his son (Tom Holland).  The theme of obsession, of striving to accomplish something to the detriment of everything else, is one that I find compelling and it is very well developed in this film.  I felt emotionally invested in Fawcett's journey which is why I found the ambiguous ending to be so distressing.  I realize that it is a true story and the filmmakers had to be faithful to the actual events but, after everything that happens in this story, I wanted a more satisfying resolution!  The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous with an almost sepia tone making the lush scenery seem otherworldly.  Charlie Hunnam gives, what I consider to be, his best performance to date because he is so commanding in a complex role but I did feel that his delivery was often very stilted.  After Fawcett's first expedition, he gives a very stirring speech to the Royal Geographic Society but almost all of his dialogue is at that same pitch which doesn't really work.  I was quite impressed with Robert Pattinson's performance at Fawcett's aide-de-camp.  I always suspected that he was a good actor!  Despite the fact that the ending left me shattered and a few other missteps, this film is a sweeping spectacle that I would recommend.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Cezanne et Moi

There are quite a few movies currently at the Broadway that I want to see and one of them, Cezanne at Moi, has a very limited engagement so I thought I had better see it last night.  This film is a luminous biopic about the turbulent friendship between Emile Zola (Guillaume Canet) and Paul Cezanne (Guillaume Gallienne) and I loved it.  The narrative begins when the two men are in middle age.  Zola is a successful author who has become one of the bourgeoisie he was so disdainful of as a young and penniless poet while Cezanne is still a fiery rebel estranged from his wealthy family who has yet to experience the success that would come to him at the end of his life.  There are flashbacks to their childhood in Aix en Provence, their days as struggling artists in Paris, and the rift in their friendship as Zola achieves more and more success and Cezanne becomes increasingly erratic.  The film reaches its climax in a scene fraught with tension as they hurl accusations at each other, each desiring what the other has.  This film is beautiful, almost as if you are watching one of Cezanne's paintings coming to life on the screen, and both Canet and Gallienne give incredibly powerful performances.  However, it is most definitely character, rather than plot, driven and the flashbacks are very nonlinear.  Also, there are lots of obscure references to art and literature that not everyone will be able to appreciate and I should mention that this film is in French with English subtitles.  It is definitely not for everyone but if you enjoy period pieces about interesting and complicated people, I highly recommend Cezanne at Moi.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Last Friday Tashena competed at another track meet and she did very well.  It was an invitational meet which means you have to qualify in order to attend.  She threw the javelin 99'9" which is a new PR!  This is absolutely incredible to me because this is the first year that she has competed in the javelin.
She is amazing!

Note:  She took fourth place overall in javelin, second place overall in discus, ninth place overall in shot put, and fourth place overall in long jump!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Prom 2017

Bountiful High School held its annual Jr. Prom on Saturday night.  Tashena's date was named Duncan and they went with a group of friends to the dance.
Pinning on the boutonniere!
Tashena and Duncan.
The whole group.  I love how they coordinated their outfits in a black and white color scheme.  I thought they looked very striking.  I also love that Tashena's dress is taking up half of the picture!
The boys.
A lighter moment.
The girls.
What a cute couple!
Tashena in her beautiful dress.  I went with her to look for dresses last week and, despite the fact that I loathe shopping, I had so much fun with her.  She really wanted a black dress and this ended up being the only one she tried on because she loved it so much.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Graduate

I was quite young and very inexperienced, to say the least, when I began my teaching career.  One of my colleagues in the English department basically took me under her wing and not only became a much-needed mentor but also became a good friend.  Often, on the weekends, she would invite me to her house for dinner and a movie.  She loved movies, especially classic movies, and she had an extensive collection.  Most of the time she would let me pick and one night I selected The Graduate because I hadn't seen it before.  I remember my 21-year-old self being completely blown away by this movie!  Aren't all 21-year-olds particularly susceptible to themes of alienation?  I loved this movie so much my friend let me borrow it and I think I kept it much longer than is considered polite.  Yesterday I had the opportunity to see it on the big screen for the first time and I have to say that I was just as blown away by this screening as I was the first time I saw it if not more so.  It is amazing to see these classic films on the big screen as the were meant to be seen!  An angst-ridden young man (Dustin Hoffman) has recently graduated from college and is at loose ends when he begins an affair with a lonely and disillusioned older woman (Anne Bancroft) and then realizes that he really loves her daughter (Katharine Ross).  Hoffman, Bancroft, and Ross give amazing performances (all three were nominated for Academy Awards) which definitely stand the test of time.  Mike Nichols is a genius (he won an Academy Award) and so many of his choices still seem brilliant to me such as Benjamin's nervous tics and whimpers in his initial interactions with Mrs. Robinson.  I love the music by Simon and Garfunkel.  In fact, to this day I cannot use a moving sidewalk in an airport without hearing "The Sound of Silence" in my head.  I highly recommend this brilliant film which is being screened in select theaters for its 50th Anniversary as part of the TMC's Big Screen Classics series.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Born in China

Ever since I saw the documentary Earth in 2007, I have been a huge fan of Disneynature and I have been looking forward to the latest entry in the series, Born in China, for quite a while.  I saw it yesterday which was quite appropriate for Earth Day.  This documentary takes us to some of the remotest parts of China to follow three animal families:  a snow leopard named Dawa and her two cubs, a golden snub-nosed monkey named Tao Tao, and a giant panda named Ya Ya and her baby Mei Mei.  The cinematography is absolutely incredible and I was most impressed with how much the mountains and plateaus of China resemble those of North America.  Whenever I think of China, I tend to think of crowded cities.  The documentary is narrated by John Krasinski and his commentary provides a narrative arc for all of the footage of the animals.  Dawa's story is all about survival.  Her territory is threatened by another snow leopard who challenges her in some thrilling scenes and I found her story to be the most compelling and affecting.  Tao Tao's story is about fitting in with his family after a new baby displaces him and it provides much of the comedy in the film, especially when the monkeys walk in the snow.  Ya Ya's story involves teaching her cub how to be independent and learning how to let go.  I really enjoyed this documentary and I was especially touched by how affectionate the animals are with their babies.  I highly recommend Born in China as a reminder of how spectacular our world is.

Note:  If you see this movie during its opening week (April 21-27), Disneynature will make a donation to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for every ticket.

Friday, April 21, 2017

I Will Miss Them

This week my current student body officers have been conducting the election for the 2017-2018 officers.  The students who are running for office are absolutely stellar and this has been the easiest election I've ever done.  No drama!  I have to admit that there was a moment when I wondered if I should stay on as the advisor because I know this group will be fun to work with.  But I have thought long and hard about the decision to give up all of my extracurricular activities and I know it is the right one.  I need time for the people and things that are important to me because, at the end of the day, what I do, while rewarding, is just a job and it shouldn't consume all of my time and energy.  I am really proud of what my officers have accomplished this year (go here and here) and I will definitely miss them but I am really looking forward to a year with less stress.

Note:  One of the things I had to consider very carefully in making this decision is the fact that I would make less money.  I came to the determination that my happiness was ultimately more important.  However, there is currently a huge teacher shortage in the state of Utah and the school district that I work for has decided to significantly increase teacher salaries in the hopes of attracting more candidates to fill all of the openings next year.  Even after giving up all of my extracurricular activities, I will still make more money next year because of this raise!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Yellowstone with Sean and Tashena

Over Labor Day weekend in 2010, my family went on a camping trip to Yellowstone National Park.  It is one of my very favorite trips because I got to spend so much time with Sean and Tashena.  Marilyn and I stayed at a cabin at the KOA near the park while Kristine, Trent, and the kids had their camper at a site near us.  The kids spent a lot of time hanging out at the cabin with us and we loved it!
The weather was perfect and it was so much fun seeing all of the different geysers and pools.  We would get up really early to be out and about when the animals were most active.  Here are some of the pictures from around the park.
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