Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What About the Camera Crew?

I like watching shows about surviving out in the wilds. In shows like Survivor Man and Man vs Wild the starts pit themselves against nature. They are dropped off someplace and have to endure hardship, bad weather, hunger, and thirst. Along the way they explain why they are eating grubs or the best way to build a primitive shelter. Recently I watched a couple episodes of Out of the Wild: Venezuela. In this show nine people are dropped off in the wilds of Venezuela. Their goal is to make it to civilization. There is no prize at the end except to have conquered nature. Each person has a GPS tracker that they can push at anytime to be extracted and flown back to comfort and three square meals a day. Together these strangers learn how to read a map in order to find a stash of supplies and then their camps. They have to find their way down steep cliff sides, build stick shelters against the rain, contend with poisonous snakes, contend with infection and hypothermia.
 By the last episode four people chose to give up the quest of battling the wilds. The last five have built a raft and are slowly floating their way towards civilization. They feel some relief to be able to float along. They haven't eaten in two days and are weak with hunger, but optimistic. Their morale comes crashing down as they discover a large waterfall keeping them from floating. They have to carry their raft nearly a mile in order to be able to float on the river again. One of the men starts stumbling around and nearly passes out. The last woman of the team gathers her strength and scouts out a place to carry the raft. She motivates the men and they stumble their way there. They spend the night and the next day go back for the other part of their raft. One of the men stays behind to catch turtles. Eventually they get back on the river. They eventually find a couple fishing. Trying to communicate with them in Spanish, the couple eventually understands what they want. All five scramble into their boat and are dropped off and pointed towards the road. They hitch a ride into town and their friends and families are waiting for them. Everyone is crying and hugging, overjoyed to be reunited and to be out of the wilderness. All of them talk about how they thought they were going to conquer some of the harshest wilderness in the world, but instead found that it was themselves they had to conquer in order to survive.
This show was touching, exciting, frightening, joyful, and entertaining. However, a niggling thought refused to be vanquished. You have these people surviving some incredibly difficult situations and their stories are captured for us to watch in the comfort of our own homes on video. I can't help asking, what about the camera crew? The entire adventure is well documented with beautiful photography, so well done that you forget that someone had to be there to video it. Much of the camera work could have been done by helicopter, but there are lots of close up shots of conversations and the solo conversations with the camera about the adventurers thoughts about their situation. Do the camera crews carry tents and lots of yummy food, while the players are starving? Do the camera people suffer as much as everybody else? The inevitable presence of the camera crew throws a shadow over the brave exploits the adventurers. Maybe they don't enjoy the comforts of any of the camera crew, but what if the crew takes pity on them and shares chocolate bars or a tasty dehydrated meal? As much as I enjoy watching people trying to survive in the wilderness and I like to imagine how I would do a much better job then them. I still can't help thinking, what about the camera crew?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cooking Shows

I have spent many hours watching cooking shows. I like them for the ideas they give me to vary my go to meals. I like them because I like food. My favorite cooking shows are those with a competition built in. Iron Chef is one of my favorites. I'm fascinated by the ways that these chefs take unique ingredients and build on average a 4 course meal around that ingredient. I like trying to guess which chef will win based off of the judges comments and my own perception of what their meals might taste like. I really enjoy chocolatier and cake making competitions. In these there is usually a theme. The contestants design and makes practice pieces and then the big day comes. The contestants have their space and you get to watch the edited process from the beginning. After many hours they transfer their chocolaty sculptures or elaborate cakes to the judging table.
This afternoon I stumbled onto an old black and white cooking show called The French Chef. The featured recipe was french onion soup. I only caught the last couple of minutes. The cook placed french bread slices on top of the soup and spread thinly grated cheese over the top and into the oven it went. In the way of cooking shows she pulled a nearly finished french onion soup from a second oven. In a measuring cup she measured loosely a variety of ingredients and mixed them with some of the broth from the soup. Her final instructions were "give it a shimmie." as she shimmied the soup to mix the added ingredients into the soup. At the table she pointed out a good meal to go with the soup and the appropriate way to serve it. Signing off she said, "Now you know the proper way to brown onions without burning them. This is Julia Child until next time..." I must say that Meryl Streep did an excellent job imitating Julia Child's voice in Julie and Julia.

On a different channel I found America's Test Kitchen. They demonstrated how to make Chinese style BBQ short ribs. The sauce involved hoisin sauce, soy sauce, ketchup, sugar, lots of fresh ginger, and garlic. This sauce was poured over the ribs and then the whole package was put into the oven for slow cook. Then the ribs with the basting sauce were placed on a hot grill with earl gray tea bags in tinfoil placed over the coals to add a nice smokey flavor. After removing the ribs from the grill and plating them, they ate them. Oohing and aahing they exclaim the quality of flavor and the tenderness of the meet. Finally they direct you to where you can find the recipe so you too can make delectable ribs.
As much as I enjoy cooking shows, the part I dislike is watching the cooks, audience, and judges eat all that fabulous looking food. I don't want to make these. I want to eat them the way the professionals make them. It is a problem watching people on TV eating delectable foods and exclaiming over them and all I can do is watch from the sterile medium of my television, no taste and no smell. If I knew how I would find a way to get myself onto those shows regularly so I could eat and even better if I could get paid to eat. The only way to make it better would be to be on a TV show that incorporates travel and food. But I digress. I like cooking shows. If you want to give your brain a break sit back and watch Paula Deen work her magic with butter and other fabulous ingredients.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

We're here for RSL!

Last night I went with a couple of friends to the Real (rey-al) Salt Lake soccer game. While finding our seats the fans shouted their approval for RSL (Real Salt Lake). Then the cheer rang out across the loud speakers, picked up by thousands of voices. "If you believe then stand up on your feet and shout it loud Real. Here at the RioT the battle hymns begun, we’re here for RSL." RioT stands for Rio Tinto Stadium. As the cheer dies down the players enter the field with the fans calling out the last name of each player.
Our opponents for the night were the Tauro FC from Panama City, Panama.This was an important game for us in the CONCACAF Championship League. We had to beat the Tauros in order to advance to the next round. The first half was pretty uneventful. I have only been to one other soccer game several months ago and I usually find it boring to watch games on TV, so I have minimal knowledge of what to look for in a game. I spent the first period chatting with the people around me and asking uneducated questions about the game.
During half time we walked around and talked to some other friends that were at the game. Our seats were on the North side of the stadium behind one of the goals. No sooner than we sat down than we scored our first goal. We jumped to our feet yelling and belting out the cheer, "Here at the RioT the battle hymns begun." The fans  were hyped and the players played with new enthusiasm. Several minutes later we scored our second goal. The stands went wild. Everybody jumping, shouting, and singing. after the second goal was scored there were considerably more fouls called and one of our players received a red card. The family sitting behind us loudly expressed their opinions about the refs calls that went against us. The game ended, a shut out.
Happy fans poured out of the stands and filed up the street to their vehicles. No I feel slightly more educated about soccer and will definitely be back to cheer Real Salt Lake onto more victories

Picture courtesy of

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Master Craftsman/Craftswoman

Medieval guilds had a system to provide inexpensive labor for craftsman and trade skills for apprentices. Boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 15 often were apprenticed to a craftsman or craftswoman to learn a trade. In exchange for room and board an apprentice would work for a craftsman for seven years and learn the skills of the trade. When an apprentice completed their training they progressed to journeyman. A journeyman was paid a daily wage and could hire other people. A journeyman worked to improve his or her skills until he or she created a masterpiece. A masterpiece had to be accepted by the masters in the guild as a piece that exhibited the skill of a master craftsman. Once approved a journeyman became a master craftsman.
This system has evolved to our current education system. To receive a masters degree most programs require the student to write an original thesis which then has to be approved by a panel.

I love to crochet. Several years ago a friend taught me how to crochet. I made lots of basic projects including many hats for children in Swaziland. As my skill increased I took on increasingly more difficult projects. I made an afghan that has cables and many baby items. I made hand puppets for my sister without using a pattern. My most recent accomplishment is a lacy purple cardigan. My knitting and crochet peers have lauded my achievement. I think I did a good job, but I can see too many problems with it. I was careless with my yarn purchase because I didn't pay enough attention to the dye lot, therefore it has a two tone quality. I also made several errors that are obvious enough to me, that makes this project not quite to the level of a master craftswoman. However, I feel like I'm fairly close to reaching a master level. I really enjoy striving to improve my skill. Someday I will reach the skill level of a master crocheter.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Fitzwilliam Darcy

"It is a truth universally acknowledge, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." -Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Among opening lines, Pride and Prejudice has one of the best. It promises a frolicsome tale with romance and wealthy men. The novel lives up to its beginning and leaves women longing for a Fitzwilliam Darcy all their own. Pride and Prejudice captured the reader and sketches such vivid and lovable characters that the reader is unwilling to let them go at the end of the novel. What kind of marriage do Lizzy and Darcy have? What about their kids? What happens to poor unfortunate Lydia, pedantic Mary, and dependent Kitty? How does Lady Catherine respond to her nephew's unfortunate alliance? Does Colonel Fitzwilliam, the second son of an earl, find himself a suitably wealthy wife? These questions beg for more time with these fascinating characters. Readers want a sequel.
Many authors attempt to write the sequel to Pride and Prejudice with varying degrees of success. Some authors try to imitate Jane Austen's vocabulary and writing style to bring back to life their favorite characters. These are noble efforts, but because it isn't a language style that comes easily to us it tends to feel artificial and at times difficult to understand the story line. Other authors have a different conception of the characters than I do. It is distressing to read about Lizzy or Jane saying or doing things that don't fit in with my conceptualization of them. The ones I like the best focus on story and character above language. They have some catch phrases thrown in and avoid slang, but are easy to read. The characters live up to most of their promise and the end has me sighing after a Darcy of my very own, just like Pride and Prejudice
There are common themes in many of the "sequels." Lizzy and Darcy remain wildly in love and have passionate fights. Jane has a brood of children in quick succession, where as Lizzy takes a while to get pregnant and has a difficult pregnancy. Lydia, Mr. Collins, and Charlotte rarely redeem themselves and are often portrayed as being foolish. Lady Catherine De Bourgh usually retains her bitter feelings towards Lizzy and makes her life as difficult as possible. However, in one version I read recently, Lady Catherine improved upon closer acquaintance. Much like Darcy in Pride and Prejudice she proves to be fiercely loyal to her family and her family in turns is accepting and exasperated by her quirks.
As good as some of the "sequels" are they just don't quite deserve to be sitting next to Pride and Prejudice in my book case and leaves me wishing that Jane Austen was the sort to have written sequels. Maybe that is part of what makes the book so enthralling: it contains a fairy tale ending, each person can come up with their own ideas of what happens next, and Darcy remains shrouded in mystery. Maybe if we had lived in that time we too could have a Darcy of our own.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pioneer Day

July 24th passes like any other summer day in most of the United States. However, in Utah, it is a state holiday celebrating when Brigham Young and the first pioneers entered Salt Lake Valley on July 24th 1847. Yesterday while driving home from work I saw people setting up tents and pavilions along the street, getting ready to camp out in order to have front row seats for the parade today. I walked over to see what sort of parade the city of Salt Lake puts on. People lined the street. Individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit pushed carts full of balloons, hats, and umbrellas. Others pulled red flyer wagons packed with coolers advertising water and Gatorade for a dollar. The Salt Lake City police department entertained the crowds zooming by on their motorcycles and high fiving the front row. The Utah Military reserves marched pass followed by vehicles carrying soldiers and children with Make a Wish Foundation.
All good parades have floats and this one was no exception. In front of the floats that won awards, marched men and women dressed in pioneer outfits holding the sign proclaiming the honor accorded. A large float featured a blimp with a Mormon hand cart suspended underneath. Inside the carts several people waved to the crowd in period costumes and several people peeped out on top of the blimp. The blimp declared Flying to Zion. Behind the float people pulled several hand carts loaded with goods, carrying a sign proclaiming, Walking to Zion. Another float celebrated bringing the LDS faith to the Hawaiian Islands. The University of Utah and Brigham Young University also presented a float in the parade. Several marching bands represented the local high schools. Davis High school from Kaysville proudly marched wearing t-shirts proclaiming their upcoming appearance at the 2013 Rose Parade. In between the floats and bands, clowns on double decker bicycles and  a man on a unicycle with a parrot on his shoulder awed the crowd.
Pairs of LDS missionaries wandered along the sidewalk talking to anyone interested in asking question. A woman handed out coupons for her beauty salon and an on duty police officer stood at the intersection telling people to keep the street open in case the fire truck needed to come through. Five minutes later the officer would have to clear the street again as new people crowded up, seeing a prime location for watching the parade. Women pushing strollers  and a man with his head shaved except for two rows of gelled spiky hair walked towards the park where the parade ended.
The rest of the day will be commemorated with barbeque's, snow cones, rodeos, and fireworks at the end of the day. July 24th is celebrated as big or bigger than the 4th of July. It still seems strange to me even after living in Utah for six years that the 24th is such a big holiday. On the other hand, the 4th of July celebrates our countries independence. For the LDS the 24th represents their own independence. After being persecuted and kicked out of New York and later Indiana, the Salt Lake Valley represented for them a chance to build their own community and live their faith free from the strictures imposed in other locations. That is one of the reasons our forefathers left England, to practice their faith in the way they felt was right. Maybe it isn't so strange after all. People in Utah get to celebrate independence twice in a couple of weeks, it makes for a festive month of July.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

20 Minutes to Pack

There are currently 8 uncontrolled wildfires in Utah. Utah Fire Info provides information on the active fires, how to protect your home if it is in danger from the fire, resources, and fire safety. Many people have had to evacuate their homes, often with short periods of time to gather their belongings. One of my classmates had to leave class early to check on her home. I heard on the radio that some victims of the fire were forced to gather their beloved possessions and evacuate in 20 minutes.
I stated thinking about what I would take with me if I were given 20 minutes to evacuate. My heart and my brain had very different ideas of what is important to me. My heart began weighing the value of my possessions depending on their sentimental value. Memorabilia such as pictures, old journals, the quilts my aunt and my mom made me, the afghan that my grandmother crocheted make the top of the list. I enjoy traveling and I would want to save the souvenirs I brought home with me. From Swaziland I have a piece of material with the Swazi flag, and a soap stone candle stick. From South Africa I have four picture created from banana leaf: an elephant, a lion, and a village. I brought back two small framed feathers from Costa Rica. Each one has a tiny painting, one of a toucan and the other of a monkey. From my trip to Vietnam I would pack the silk blouses I had made for me and my collection of recipes that I received from taking a cooking class. I did a study abroad in Fiji. I would take my sulus, long colorful wrap-around skirts. From Mexico I would pack my calendar and pictures painted on bark. My heart also wants to take items that my family has given me. I have paintings that my mom and my sister painted for me. My dad made me some earrings with my birthstone and some books that my other sister gave me. I would have to pack my books. The list can go on and on when dealing with the heart.
My head is much more practical. First I think about survival. I would pack my hiking backpack with a sleeping bag, a tarp, several knives, lots of rope of varying widths, my fire kit, a lighter, my head lamp. I would pack functional clothes for whatever circumstance I might come across. I would pack bottles of water and non perishable food. Second, my head insists on packing items that would be expensive to replace and that I would have difficulty living without. Items in this category include my computer, camera, and digital recorder. I might need some dress clothes and make up. Toiletries and eating utensils could be useful.
It is possible that I might be able to gather all of the above in 20 minutes plus whatever else might occur to me. If I had to choose from the above lists I would start with what my head says I should take. However, I think that being placed in such a situation I would sweep everything off of my dresser and into a box. I would quickly fill boxes and bags with everything I can grab. I think I could fill my car with most of my possessions in twenty minutes. I feel fortunate that I have minimal material possessions.
It is an interesting exercise to think about what is important to me. I also like the challenge of thinking how I would react in an emergency situation. If you had twenty minutes to pack what would you take?