Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Big Band and MoTab

Music stirs my spirit and invigorates my mind more than anything else, I think. More, even, than food! More than baking, more than rowing, more than writing, and more than the beach.

I went to two free concerts downtown tonight. One was in a small park across the street from my house and featured the Stratford Street Big Band,* and one was at the Salt Lake City Tabernacle and featured mostly secular pieces from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I had a bazillion things to do after work, but I dropped it all for music. That's just the way with me, I guess; I'm a sucker for good music. Heck, I'm even a sucker for mediocre music -- I just want to listen to a live set.

My favorite pieces of the evening were:

Big Band
  • Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)
    This song is definitely the best swing song ever written, and it's certainly in the top 20 songs of all time. Easy. I dare you to listen to it and not start at least tapping your foot.
  • Blue Moon
    If you know my dad at all you're probably familiar with The Marcels version, but this one is nice and slow. There was a cute old couple dancing on the grass during this song; I loved it.
  • Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy
    The Andrews Sisters were the best vocalists of the 1940s.
  • Betelehemu
    This song brings a tear to my eye every time I hear it. I never tire of it.
  • Battle Hymn of the Republic
    Another tearjerker. Especially when the men sang the fifth verse.
  • There was another one, but I don't know the name of it. Suffice it to say, it was partly a Hebrew song, so you know I was all about that. I love minor chords.

Anyway. There you have it. A list of songs that made me want to get up and dance and a list of songs that made me happy-cry. (Maybe a little bit sad-cry, but it's okay because sometimes I like to feel sad. Melancholy, at least.)

*Okay. Let's seriously talk about big band. Big band is some of the best music the world has ever seen, and I was actually a bit annoyed that I was one of the only young people at this outdoor concert (i.e., one of the only people under the age of 60). Good grief! Benny Goodman was a musical genius! So was Glenn Miller! And Duke Ellington! And so many more! Agh!

Thing I'm thankful for: not having to use my car at all today

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Movie Review: Love & Mercy

I didn't even know Love & Mercy was a movie until yesterday, when I searched "movies" on Google. As soon as I saw the poster image for it, though, I knew it had to be good. See?

And then I started reading about it—a movie about Brian Wilson? Specifically about the making of "Pet Sounds?" Starring John Cusack and Elizabeth Banks? Sign me up!

And so I watched it last night. It was weird and trippy (I guess the director wanted movie-goers to understand what taking LSD might be like.), but also just plain interesting. Here are some things I learned from it:
  • Obviously, The Beach Boys and The Beatles were contemporaries, but they also largely influenced each other. Consider:
    • "Rubber Soul"was the first rock album with a theme and not simply a compilation of a bunch of singles. It was also the album that motivated Wilson to write "Pet Sounds."
    • Paul McCartney said "God Only Knows" was his favorite song of all-time. In McCartney's words: "It's a really, really great song—it's a big favorite of mine. I was asked recently to give my top 10 favorite songs [. . .] I didn't think long and hard on it, but I popped that on the top of my list. It's very deep. Very emotional, always a bit of a choker for me, that one." (from the Wikipedia article God Only Knows)
  • The Beach Boys definitely abused drugs. This should be obvious, but in my mind, I always just imagined that the poppy and optimistic California Sound couldn't have been influenced by drugs. The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and the Doors—a lot of their music was dark and brooding—but The Beach Boys? Yes, friends, The Beach Boys. They wrote some of their best music while on drugs, apparently, which makes me wonder . . . Would their music have been better without the influence of drugs? Would it have been worse? As a strong believer in not doing drugs, am I nevertheless glad that The Beach Boys were on drugs, as long as it produced such wonderful songs as "God Only Knows," "Good Vibrations," and "California Girls?" It's something to think about.
  • Some people are just really, really kind. Although both Brian Wilson and his wife Melinda Ledbetter said the biography was extremely accurate, Wikipedia cites Beach Boys fan Peter Reum for outing Eugene Landry as a fraud. (Landry was the doctor who misdiagnosed and abused Brian Wilson in the late 80s.) Instead, the movie credits Ledbetter for that act of kindness. Either way, people are nice. People who save other people from abuse should get a medal or a reward of some kind.
Basically, if you like weird, but interesting movies and if you like music and if you like The Beach Boys and if you're curious about people and the world, you should check this movie out. Plus, when you're done watching the movie, all you'll want to do is listen to The Beach Boys, and that's never a bad thing.

Thing I'm thankful for: mom and pops, for introducing me to the incredible world of rock 'n' roll.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Why I Left Google

I was supposed to write something funny for my next blog post, but I can't think of anything funny at the moment. So instead I'll talk about something that everyone seems to be asking me these days:

"Why did you leave Google?"

The question is usually paired with an incredulous tone, and I guess I can understand why. People are curious, and they want to know why on earth I would leave what is arguably the best company in world. But for my part, it's a tough question to answer. There's so much that went into the decision to leave Google, not the least of which was that I didn't know whether I had it in me to try to convert to full-time employment. (I was a contractor after all. With promise, mind you.)

But really, at the end of the day, I don't know why. I had specific reasons to stay and specific reasons to leave. I love California more than maybe any place ever (more, even, than Austin), but I was mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted. And here's what: When I flew to Salt Lake City for my job interview, I think I knew I would say yes—the way I knew I would choose to go to UT when I visited Austin for the first time. Or the way I knew I would win that writing contest my senior year of high school. It wasn't a divine prompting; it was just . . . fact. I didn't really pray about it because I didn't have to.

I still agonized over the decision, of course, but there was an idea—a subtle thought—that I would move. Not because I should and not because it was "Right," but just because.

I don't think I have a better answer than that. Not now, at least.

Thing I'm thankful for: agency. (Have I talked about that lately?) :)

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

When God Makes You Wait—Huh???

Last week, I read When God Makes You Wait, a blog post about the waiting periods of life. It seems like a rather innocuous article and I'm sure the author had good intentions—some really feel-good thoughts—when writing it, but it's articles like this that keep me up at night.*

"But Sara," you say, "What do you mean by 'articles like this?'"

I mean articles that misrepresent God. Let's go through some of the examples when the Lord, as the author says, makes people wait:
  • "God could have spoken to Moses in the desert about sending him to help free His people from slavery 40 days after he ran away from Egypt. Instead, He made him wait for 40 long years."
  • "God could have gotten Joseph out of prison one year after he was sentenced there. Instead, he was stuck in that dungeon for 10 years before he was finally set free."
  • "He makes us wait to fulfill His call in our lives after He puts the desire and passion in our hearts to serve Him in a certain way."
  • "He makes us wait to give us the desires of our hearts, whether it's a baby, a spouse, or a new job."
  • "He could answer that same prayer that you've been praying for years every night in a millisecond."
But, she says, he doesn't do those things that he could do because he wants to build our faith. He wants to give us blessings that we can't even imagine for ourselves. He wants us to learn some kind of lesson.

I'll tell you what lesson he wants us to learn from these examples: He wants us to learn that everyone has agency. He wants us to learn that Pharaoh—even Pharaoh and his false priests—had the right to exercise agency. Potiphar's conniving wife had agency, too. As do we and the people in our lives. Here's a personal example: The person I loved and expected to marry had agency and chose to end our relationship.** That wasn't God's choice—that was his.

"But that's because God has a better path for you, Sara," people say. I disagree, and I won't put that kind of blame on God because in the end, here's what I think would happen. I'd say, "God, why did you cause so-and-so to break up with me?" And he'd say, "I didn't. He exercised his own free will."

Here's the thing: The greatest principle in this life is that we are all given agency—the freedom to choose. Because of other people's unrighteous exercise of agency—and even righteous exercise of agency—and because of physical laws, our agency is sometimes squashed. People make decisions that negatively affect others' lives. And it's not just "bad" people who negatively affect others' lives; we all do it. And sometimes our positive choices have negative impacts on others, too. Life, to me, is about agency, and it's about the results and consequences of exercising that agency.

Could God have done those things? Could he have freed the Israelites earlier? Could he have saved Joseph even one year in prison? Could he give me a husband or my friend a job? Could he answer the prayer that perhaps is only answerable by the actions of another human being? My answer is no. No, he couldn't. Sure, in theory, he could. But in practice, he could not because he would not. Doing so would violate the precious gift of agency that we all have. That we are all promised.***

Do I believe God works miracles? Yes. How does that fit in with agency? I'm not sure. But I am sure that he doesn't make us wait nearly as much as this author assumes. It's not fair to think so, either. God can't be responsible for everything in this world. He shouldn't have to shoulder the blame that we so often give him. We make decisions, and we affect the outcome of our lives and the lives around us. Rather than say, "What can I learn while I'm waiting on the Lord?" say "What can I choose while I'm living life?"

*They truly do. It's midnight on a school night, and I am blogging about this topic because I feel so strongly about it.
**Don't feel sorry for me; I don't. It's just a good example, so I use it when I can.
***Besides, saying that God could do lots of things but doesn't makes him seem cruel, and I don't think God is cruel.

Thing I'm thankful for: Karla and Fern.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Phones and Toilets

Here are some rules:
  1. You can take the phone into the bathroom with you, if you need some light reading material for a moment. Once you wipe, though, you can't touch the phone again until you wash your hands.
  2. Unless you're cleaning or pacing, you should never talk on the phone while you're in the bathroom, especially not while you're on the toilet.
  3. You should never put your phone in the back pockets of your jeans. Ever.*

*I did that today and promptly forgot about it. Until I went to the bathroom. I always wondered how in the world people could let their phones fall into the toilet. Now I know.

Thing I'm thankful for: a trip to Wal-Mart.