Sunday, August 21, 2011

My recent interaction with a now-incarcerated child pornographer

During my senior year of high school, I was part of a singing group comprised of about 15 high school-aged kids. The director was a man, who, in an effort to avoid any undue exposure, I will call Peter Jacobsen. Peter was one of the gentlest and kindest men I have ever met. While he was at times a bit eccentric, his central aim was to help us experience the great power of music and let us “touch the Divine through [that art],” as he frequently put it. While I worked with Peter, I could always sense a bit of sadness within him. I always assumed it was simply a lack of the gospel in his life, for as I understood life at that time, the gospel was what made people happy and if they weren't happy, it was because they didn't have the gospel (when I say “the gospel,” I refer to the gospel taught in Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). I now understand that sadness was directly related and caused by his terrible addiction to pornography and the incredible shame he must have felt because of it.

Peter and I have kept in contact throughout the years and he seemed to be enjoying life fine until January of 2009, when every time I spoke with him, he would report that things we really going terribly for him, but he would never explain beyond that. In April of this year, I received an email from a friend of his, informing me, along with many others of Peter's friends, that Peter had been arrested in 2009 on accounts of possessing more than 100 pieces of child pornography. His friend was asking us to each provide a letter of reference for Peter. You might imagine my reaction to receiving such notification. It was one of the most revolting and saddening bits of news I had heard … in my life. I wrote the letter of reference, recounting my experiences with Peter in his singing group.

Peter's experiences started at the age of seven, when he was raped repeatedly by an older child in his choir. They continued when he was a teen-ager, by his choir director. Early in his adolescence, a neighbor girl invited him over to her house, where she showed him pornographic magazines. So started his addiction to pornography. In 1993, he read an article on one of the pornographic sites he was viewing about child pornography and found himself strangely aroused. He said in a therapy session that it scared him and he fled from the situation. He enrolled in sex addict therapy a few times, but never to any avail. In 1997, he started viewing child pornography and continued until 2009, when it was discovered on his work computer. The rest is history. However, he never touched anyone or molested them in any way. Peter was always a very honest man and he swears to the fact that he never did touch anyone. In fact, now that I think about it, he even took a polygraph to prove it.

A couple months after Peter's friend had contacted me, Peter contacted me personally and asked me to be a character witness at his trial. I decided to go and tell my honest experiences with him, to see if I could somehow lessen his sentence from life to something where he could get his life back in order and perhaps even experience real joy in this mortal probation (I do not claim infallibility on the decision to go; who knows if it was an intelligent use of my time and money?) So I went on Thursday of this week. As I arrived at Peter's house Thursday night, I could feel the darkness that had enveloped the house and the ensuing sadness that was there as a result of the decisions Peter had made and the effects they had had on his family.

Peter ended up being sentenced 25 years in prison, with a 16 year suspension, with the chance of being let out early on good behavior, in addition to indefinite parole. Basically, that means he'll be in for nine years, with the possibility of eight if he behaves himself and demonstrates he is fit to be in society again. Below is a letter I wrote to my friends in the singing group Peter directed. I sent it after I sent the recap of the trial.

Hello again to all of you,

I am now flying back home to Utah from Peter's trial and I've been journaling here on my iPod about yesterday's events. Actually, these thoughts started yesterday as we were waiting for the trial and I just wanted to get them down so I could organize them a bit more and understand what was going through my head a bit better. Anyway, as I was sitting here writing, a thought occurred to me: at breakfast yesterday, Peter said he wanted to tell people his story so they could avoid the kinds of experiences he has had. Well, Peter can't very well tell his story right now, since he is behind bars, so I feel like it, in part, falls to me to do so, and once you have heard it, I feel it will fall to you as well. Below are my thoughts. The first bit is about transgression in general and the nature thereof, while the second is about deviant sexual behavior.  Much of it is in "braindump" mode and thus has little organization. I've edited a little afterward so it makes more sense to you. Since I have written literally all if this on my iPod, it is very probable there are multiple typos and even wrong words (blast you, auto correct). Please forgive my human frailties (a.ka. Bad thumbs on my iPod).

As I sit here waiting to testify at Peter's trial, we are listening to other people's hearings. It is absolutely incredible to see how people's lives are being completely ruined and almost ended by their actions. Talking with Peter today at breakfast, he told me that he's felt like a failure his entire life because of his addiction to porn. Similar to his addiction to porn and that bad behavior, the other people are also addicted to their bad behaviors. As they have made bad choices, they have surrendered their agency to Satan and to the consequences of their actions. Although they are always free to stop their bad behavior, they do not see that option and thus feel they cannot make the choice. Perhaps it is that when we make bad choices our ability to see the way out with our spiritual eyes is limited.

2 Nephi 2:27: Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

So, is our captivity inflicted by God, Satan or is that a consequence inflicted by the eternal laws that govern everything in the universe? Independent of who inflicts that captivity, we are limited to live in the consequences of our actions instead of being free to choose how we live. Perhaps in that scripture, the captivity to which he is referring is not hell itself, after this life, but instead the damming effects of sin and the captivity in which we find ourselves when we choose that path (sin).

And it's interesting, because we all find ourselves in captivity to a certain extent, since we are all human and have sinned. I suppose the greater the law that is violated (and the more severe the violation), the greater the resulting captivity.  Since the law of chastity is God's second most serious commandment, with only the shedding of innocent blood surpassing it in gravity, the resulting captivity is incredibly intense – more so than that which is related to most other sins.

Some people wonder why pornography is so addictive and destructive. Here's a bit of the science behind it, mixed with some Christian doctrine:

When we engage in sexual activity out of wedlock, obviously the Holy Ghost cannot be there because we are acting directly contrary to God's commandments. Satans counterfeit - his attempt to mimic that most sacred experience - is the six dopamine that are released in reaction to sexual transgression. Those are what make sexual behaviors out of wedlock so addictive. In cocaine and heroine use, three or four of those dopamine are released, but in sexual acts out of wedlock (which are not sanctioned by God) all six are are released, making any kind of sexual activity outside of marriage so incredibly much more addictive than the very worst of the drugs out there. And as we use those "substances" (the so-called "drugs" of sexual activity – in any of its forms – out of wedlock), they stop having the same effect as they once did because our psyche becomes accustomed to the "drug."  We then have to seek out stronger and stronger stimuli until we lose total self control and we end up engaging in completely sinister, dark and insidious acts that our minds, in our normal, chaste (or at least what society calls "chaste”) state – cannot comprehend. This is precisely what happened to Peter Jacobsen.

When married couples engage in sexual behavior, because it is not only sanctioned by God, but blessed by Him, instead of the six dopamine being released, God's version instead occurs, which is an experience of two people becoming one with God, as they, with Him, engage in the creative process - that of bringing lives into this world. It is spiritual, supposedly (I've never been married and therefore have never had sex with my ... not-wife) incredible. It is therefore not addictive at all and does not lead to any other behaviors but instead brings the two people closer to God. And it is beautiful and healthy as the two people use that to enrich their relationship not only with each other, but also with their Heavenly Father.

End braindump.

Friends, pornography MUST stop. Society is being torn apart by sexual sin and I would venture to say that the majority of it originates in pornography. Do not let it into your life. The slippery slope is just too great. What happened to Peter could happen to ANY of us. Do not think you are immune to it. YOU'RE NOT. Pornography is a gateway drug that can lead to other drugs like molest, rape, child pornography and any other type of deviant sexual behavior. If it is in your life, do WHATEVER it takes to eradicate it from your being. It is more addictive and destructive than any drug out there and it will destroy your life, through whatever small (or large) presence it has there. Think I'm exaggerating? If you have viewed pornography within the last, say, month, look at your significant other; do you love him or her because of the very person he or she is or because of the physical pleasures he or she can offer you? It's a bit of a wake-up call, isn't it? If the eradication means getting an Internet filter, DO IT. If it means getting one for your husband or boyfriend or father, DO IT.  In most cases of pornography addictions, the subject needs counseling to break their dependence on the monster.  If you think you can break it on your own, more power to you, but you're probably wrong. Sorry. You'll likely relapse.

Pornography pervades more than just video and photos. It finds itself in our language, our jokes, and most importantly, our thoughts. Choose to take the higher road. Do not view films - even some that are PG-13 - that have sexual content or excessive innuendo.  When conversations turn to that subject, change the subject or simply leave. Peter taught us to always take the higher road.  It is so ironic he taught us a higher, better way, when he was in fact in the gall of bitterness and anguish. One of the sadder moments of yesterday and the night before was when he would tell jokes of a sexual nature. There he was, a broken man, trying to piece his life back together, and he was still keeping one foot in the world that had held him captive since he was seven years old. Little wonder that he still had occasional relapses with adult porn, even after his initial arrest in 2009. By him indulging in those jokes and conversations, all he was doing was baiting Satan to come and tempt him once again. And the result was always the same: relapse.

If we are to successfully combat the epidemic that is consuming the world, we must eliminate it completely from our lives. Please, make a personal pledge with me (alongside me, not with me. Make it with God), right now, that you will totally eliminate this from your life. Let us learn from Peter and his experience. Let his experience be a turning point in your life. And may the Lord bless you in your commitment to righteousness and purity. Only in Him, our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, can we be made whole and perfect. So rely on him and remain ever so close to Him. And even if you aren't a religious person, then do it for your own personal peace of mind and out of respect and love for those around you. Think about the effects pornography has on those who love you and depend on you for love. Think about how pornography affects your ability to see them as dignified people, as opposed to objects after which you lust. Porn will destroy you and it will destroy your family. Don't let it.

If Peter wants his story told, then let's tell his story through the way we live our lives and the commitments we make.

Let's do this.
All my love,

Here is a link to a speech about pornography, made by a leader in my church. Perhaps you will find it informative or even eye-opening.

Monday, November 15, 2010

oh gosh, i got passionate again....

this is a controversial blogpost. some of you are going to disagree vehemently with it. i got passionate in my writing. some of it is emotional. it is my reply to single dad laughing's post, "Worthless women and the men who make them."

i've been thinking about this post for the past two or three hours and have made some conclusions:

1. we are responsible for what we think of ourselves. one of my favorite lines from the musical "AIDA" is, "you are your own master; if you don't like your fate, CHANGE IT." Yes, society does a PISS POOR job of building us up, but WE ultimately decide what we are and are not going to believe. and OF COURSE the people around us have a massive impact on us, but we also have the responsibility and CHOICE to surround ourselves with people who are good for us. women, there ARE good men out there. FIND THEM. and don't settle for less.

2. this article is about 60% good and excellent and true and noteworthy. but wow, does it patronize women. it says, "women, you aren't strong enough or aren't intelligent enough to decide what goes into your brain or not, so let's see if we can alter your world." NEWSFLASH: the world is NOT going to change. and it's only going to get worse. sure, the men in your life may be different, but porn and the like is only growing at an increasing rate. there will be more and more ads, storefronts, magazines, web sites, etc, and it will still be right in front of you. and although YOUR men may not look or may not comment, others will and you will still hear it. but will you LISTEN to it? i hope like HELL that you do not. i think i need to illustrate this point:

the SAME thing happens with guys. what about abercrombie models? jcrew models? viggo mortensen, johnny depp, brad bitt, george clooney, orlando bloom? Do our girls not stop and stare and drool at them? do you think guys just don't WANT a sixpack and don't want to have lats that can take out small buildings? the fact is that they do want it, but how many men do you know who do have those things or are as hot as those men? about as many women as you know who have an "ideal" bust, chiseled abs, and a super tight butt. but friends, you have to decide who are you and what you want to believe. i have decided that i am what i am and that I LOVE MYSELF. Now, this is not to say that I don’t believe that the vast majority of men are brainless pigs, but the point that I’m trying to illustrate is that things go both ways and women are just as capable as men in developing their own healthy self-image. I was initially impressed with this post, so I posted it on my facebook page. My friend (girl) replied shortly thereafter with this, which got me into this vein of thought:

“Whatever. I think he's a chauvinistic ass-hole who has a HUGE ego to think that men determine what women should think about themselves. Be it for evil OR good. So, if men suddenly become all perfect and not perverted, THEN women will love themselves? Don't flatter yourselves, guys. And women should GROW UP and stop blaming their problems on men. He's certainly right about some things, but the whole thing made me want to gag.”

I think it’s stupid that we are trying to say to women, “here honey, the naughty world is after you again; let’s see if we can pad things around you a little more so we don’t damage your fragile self.” It is just so condescending and patronizing. WOMEN—YOU *CAN* BE STRONG!! YOU HAVE *EVERY* CAPABILITY to be so. So do it. Be strong. Be yourself. And love it, dang it. I know I’ll love you. If only you could hear all the wonderful things people say about you.

Well, frankly, it doesn't matter how many complements people pay you; of course, they’re nice and wonderful and all, but ultimately, if it doesn't come from within yourself, you won't believe it. YOU have to change YOUR thinking and YOUR belief system or your life won’t get better. If the men in your life change, and start paying you complements, things might get a little better, but it likely won’t be lasting. You, yourself, ultimately have to make the change.

Something that helped me (and continues to help me) immeasurably was keeping a daily victory journal. I am not allowed to write anything negative in the journal. I now keep a journal recording God’s hand in my daily life—all the evidences of His involvement in my life. Wow, what a blessing it is for me.

now, i realize there a fair few women (ok, mountains of them) who are in some pretty tough situations. that is truly, absolutely devastating. i read the comments on this post and my heart just breaks and is shredded. honestly, i don't know what to tell you, except this: cast your burden upon the Lord and live your life. be your own person. you really are the master of your fate. yes, make your husband read this post and help him and don't give up on him, but there will be some situations that just won't get any better. gosh, that sounds so pessimistic, but i'm just trying to be realistic. But give your burden to the Lord and let Him take the pain for you. Let Him carry it. You don’t have to. There’s a whole book on this: “The Peacegiver.” I HIGHLY recommend it. Wow, is it good.

Those are my thoughts. I didn’t expect to write so much, but sometimes when I get going, apparently I have a hard time stopping. Feel free to email me your thoughts on this.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

From Survival Mode to Thrival Mode

General Conference (the semi-annual Church-wide meeting for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) was, as it always, wonderful for me. I am usually pretty good about taking fairly extensive notes during the various talks (sermons), but I decided to just sit back a bit more this time and only write down the things that really penetrated me through the Holy Ghost, knowing full-well the talks would be online (,5239,23-1-1298,00.html) and I could go back and review them later.

During Elder Neil L. Andersen's talk of the Saturday Afternoon session, I had a particularly poignant thought come into my head that took me on quite the journey throughout the rest of his talk (so much so that I, till today, have no idea what he said). The thought was that for too long (namely this spring and summer) I have had the mentality of just “hanging on” spiritually and emotionally. I accept much of the blame for this mentality, but I also think our culture propagates it through the way its members view life. We focus so much in our culture on trials and dealing with them with a positive attitude, etc., etc. that we, as a people, get into this mindset that “if I can just get through this with a lot of prayer and scripture study, I know I'll be okay.” We think of "dealing with" trials, rather than embracing them and thriving, not only in spite of, but also because of them. I think this is actually a pretty dangerous mentality, to be honest. It puts us in survival mode, instead of … thrive-al mode – a mindset wherein we think of ourselves as able to not only survive, but thrive, both spiritually and emotionally.

That evening in Priesthood Session (a session especially directed toward the men of the Church. Don't worry – the women also have a session especially for them a week earlier.), President Monson mentioned a man in his talk (,5232,23-1-1298-21,00.html) who faced a ridiculously hard decision. In his decision-making process, he once thought to himself, “in my particular extenuating circumstance, it’s okay, just this once, if I [do] it. However, he says his entire life has turned out to be an unending stream of extenuating circumstances,” President Monson said.

I think this man's life, with all its extremes and ups and downs, is no exception to the majority of people's lives. We all have trials and hard times, many of them coming one after the other without much relief in the degree of intensity. It would be unfair to say we should put those aside or belittle them – they are, in fact, the building blocks of our personality and character, as so much of who we become is based on how we react to those things.

But if we get into the mentality of “just let me get through this,” then (1) we only view ourselves as victims of life and (2) we never get to the point where we can really thrive and succeed spiritually and emotionally. Frankly, there will always be more trials and hardships—isn't this life supposed to be a test? When did we get it into our heads that we would just float through this whole thing? We might as well as get used to the lemons life throws at us because there will always be more – some sweeter, some exponentially more bitter.

But how? How do I thrive amongst all this CRAP in my life?

Elaine L. Jack, the General Relief Society President during the early 1990s, gave a devotional at BYU on this topic in which she offered some of the most exquisite counsel I've ever heard on the subject. Her devotional, entitled “Get a Life,” focused on a few points she recommended to people on how they can love their life. The most poignant part of the talk ( ) was when she spoke of embracing our life, which Our Heavenly Father has given us:

"Sometimes I fear we have expectations that the good life is the life being led by someone else. The truth is that the good life is the life you have, for it's the only one you can lead. I believe Nephi understood that--with a full heart he could thank the Lord in the midst of trials that often were life threatening. To thank the Lord for his blessings to us is to understand how good life is, even when it seems unpleasant, unsuccessful, or just plain hard."

One thought I have after reading this is that we must embrace our trials—love them and all they bring with them. And then take everything we can from them to make ourselves better people.

Sister Beck, in her Regional Conference talk at the beginning of September, said “we are doing better than we think we are, but we can do better.” So very many of us are doing all the right things, yet we are still in survival mode, emotionally and spiritually. After her talk and after my experience at General Conference, I have felt like shouting both to myself and those around me “YOU'RE DOING IT!!! YOU'VE GOT IT! Stop worrying so much and being driven by guilt.”

I think one of the key steps we need to make to get from survival to thrival mode is to actually believe her! Believe that we really are doing so much better than we think we are. Yes, we can do better, but we need to look at what we've accomplished in our spiritual and emotional progress and realize that we are, indeed, becoming the people God wants us to become. And then we need to embrace life and all that comes with it and use it; if its going to be there, we might as well use it to our advantage instead of dreading and—heaven forbid—complaining about it (See post entitled “Happiness is...”). And we wonder how we can do better? If we do this, what incredible progress we will make in our lives.

And when we do this, I think we can really experience the true joy this life has to offer. In my deluge of thought from the Holy Ghost that I received in G.C., one of the reasons, He explained to me, that I was receiving that was so I could feel more appropriately confident in building the Kingdom of God on this earth. The Lord needs us, but if we are only grappling and floundering to stay afloat, He can't really use us. We must believe we are who and what He needs to build His Kingdom, because, frankly, we ARE. He sent us here and foreordained (not predestined) us to carry out specific tasks. He has given us the necessary tools--some of which are, in fact, our trials--to fulfill our missions and find in them the great happiness the scriptures so often reference.

Anyway, so those are my thoughts.

I don't know if any of this applies to anyone out there, but I suspect it does. Take from it what you will. It's at least super helpful to me. I personally need these braindumping sessions every once in a while. And I post these things in hopes that my thoughts will help someone out there who may happen to read this.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

SUnday, June 6, 2010

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sabbath. Last week's sabbath was really good. I remember it well because I wrote about it. But this one was not quite as good. I think it was probably because I didn't keep it. We had an optional trip to Windsor to tour the castle and attend an evensong there. They made it perfectly clear that they trip was optional, but I wanted to go, so I did. It wasn't so much that we were paying money to do things, so much as the fact that it wasn't a day of rest, neither figuratively, nor literally. I cherish my sabbaths because they help me put everything in perspective and when I don't have the opportunity to do that, the day means so much less than it normally does. Even if I go to church, as I did this morning, and then go and do something else, it just doesn't allow me the rest and sanctity of a normal sabbath. And that is important. In the Bible dictionary, it talks about how entire nations' downfalls have been the result of their breaking the sabbath. While I do not think the Lord would destroy an entire nation just for breaking the sabbath, I do think it can be a starting point—a gateway drug—that can lead to other things. All it takes is us changing our scopes and direction once and if we don't get back soon (i.e. by going to church and being strengthened there), we get farther and farther off the path. It just doesn't take very much for us to stray a little bit to get us to stray a lottle bit.

Church was really good today. I went to a family ward in the morning and really liked it. The ward is pretty big, with TONS of visitors every week, but the actual members seem to be really awesome. It seems like they are a bit like one of my areas on my mission—really well-established, but they also have enough recent converts that it keeps the ward fresh and young at heart, in the gospel sense. It was really refreshing to be back in that kind of environment. I really liked it.

I skipped out on Priesthood and got something to eat, because otherwise, I wouldn't be eating till about 8-8:30, when we got back to London from Windsor.

And then we went out to Windsor by motorcoach. Windsor Castle was really cool. I felt like I connected much more with it than I did Versaille(s?). It was far more human and a bit more sensible...which is not to say it was not ornate and just decorated out the wazoo. But it was a little more down-to-earth out the wazoo decorating.

Anyway, I enjoyed it. Then we got food at a dirty pub. And missed Evensong because we got to the door one minute before the service started. That'll teach me to be late to things. Or not really early to them. Something like that.

Then on home for a chill night of talking with friends. As I was doing so, one of my friends had another friend over here who wanted to go visit another friend over at the London center and then had to get to her hostel a little ways away. My friend didn't want her to go alone, so she asked me to go with her. While I was over there, I met this girl who really caught my eye. We had great a super great, tintillating conversation and I fully intend on asking her out when I get back to Provo. It was really quite refreshing to meet someone that actually caught me eye. It hasn't happened since...September. I'll look forward to exploring that when I get back to Provo.

We got to my friend's friend's hostel at about 12:15, and then I had to make my way back on the bus system, since the Tube was closed. It's a good thing I lived in Sao Paulo for two years, or I'm pretty sure I would have been reasonably scared. But I was totally fine. I am glad I feel confident about getting around places. It makes life for easier.

Anyway, this is the last time I have to do an official journal entry for my program. I'll obviously continue blogging here and there, but it'll likely be a bit more sparse—certainly not daily. But keep in touch, ok? If you miss me, find me on facebook or email me. Love to all.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Let's see...what did I do today?! Heavens, I really can't remember. Isn't that weird how after an incredibly eventful day or weekend, someone can ask you what you did and you can totally not recall anything that you did? I think it is.

Well, now I remember. I woke up at a reasonable hour (9ish, which, if I were at home, would not be a reasonable hour, but I've adapted slightly different sleep habits on this trip.), read the skippies, and then went to get tickets for a touring production of “Spamalot” with theatre friend Annalee and a few of her friends.

We went to Pizza Express, which is pretty similar to California Pizza Kitchen back in the states, before the show for lunch and then hit up the show.

Honestly, the show was kind of disappointing. I think in order to really pull it off, you have to go at it with about 400% dedication and these guys did it with about 94%. In a regular show, 94% might actually fly, but not this one; you need much more than that. I could see the show being just phenomenal, but they weren't totally committed to their humor and jokes, etc. I think I'm finding that I find British musical theatre to be fairly disappointing on the whole, actually. There have been very few times during this trip that things have really clicked in and made me think they really worked. Now, straight theatre is a totally different story. The straight theatre has been, on the whole VERY good. I've been super pleased with it. But I don't think I plan on seeing any more musicals in England (if/when I come back) unless I hear consistent rave reviews from extremely credible sources.

Since the show got out a bit early, I headed back home before our evening concert of the Croyden Philharmonic Choir. They did Haydn's “The Creation.” The orchestra was pretty decent and the choir was....well, as my friend, Emily, and I decided, not painful...mostly. The soloists were actually quite good though. I especially liked the soprano. She had a beautiful, Baroque-style voice and had not been singing for so long that it had gotten too warbly. Often, when sopranoes get into their career, they started being influenced pretty heavily by opera and other styles of music and they start developing a shrill, warbly sound. Well, it's not like it's a light switch and BAM, they have it, but they definitely do go that direction. Anyway, she had a very round, warm tone and it was very pleasant to listen to. I also thought the tenor was quite good. He placed his voice in fairly high placement, which lent itself well to Haydn's music. The baritone was....good, but I didn't like him. And he had some warbly notes, when it wasn't quite clear which note he was trying to sing.

I felt kind of bad tonight. I went to the concert not really in the mood to go to a concert. Consequently, when I saw that the concert was going to more less like the Ealing Choral Society from a couple weeks ago, I kind of tuned out a bit. I think I could have gotten a lot more out of the concert, had I gone in with the correct attitude. But then again, sometimes you just don't want to do things. And I suppose it is our responsibility to change our attitude, even if we don't want to do that thing.

One highlight of the concert was the conductor. He was about as ballistic as they come. When he wanted a really big rebound in his pattern, he would often have his hand explode into a brief jazz hands-like manner, usually accompanied by a swift head flip, which caused quite the hair flop. The man was all over the place. It was really quite thrilling to watch him and his animation.

And then back to the flat to hang out for a chill night.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday, June 4, 2010, 2010

I really enjoyed our day today. We started the day by going to class and having Brother Whimmer (our tour guide, more or less) lecture on the two World Wars, focusing largely on the wars from the British perspective. I really liked that, but found myself wanting more time to go through everything (as he did). He only had about an hour to do both wars, so it was rather rushed.

We then went through two choral pieces written during and/or as a result of the wars: Vaughan Williams' “Dona Nobis Pacem” and Britten's “War Requiem.” I really enjoyed the VW piece, but I still have a hard time connecting with Britten. I can accept and appreciate his music as very intelligent and complex, but I just can't connect with him emotionally. We did a piece by him this past year, “I Loved a Lass,” which which I actually connected fairly decently, but basically everything else I've heard by him has been just a little too disjunct for my liking. I feel a bit frustrated by it, because I often pride myself on being extremely open-minded about music and can fairly easily delve into a piece of music and a composer—if it is good writing. There are plenty of composers I just can't appreciate because they simply do not write good music.

Anyway, after class, we headed home for some lunch and then we all went independently to the Imperial War Museum, which I loved. In fact, I may even go back. One thing I found a bit frustrating about it was that they had INCREDIBLE amounts of uniforms and armory, but it was sometimes a bit thin on the information about the wars. I would have preferred to receive more information about what actually happened in the wars, as opposed to just seeing uniforms, guns, armory, etc.

They did have two exhibits that I enjoyed a great deal:

One was a trench exhibit/replica/simulation for World War I. It smelled really bad—probably not as bas as the actual ones—and they did quite a good job of modeling and designing it to look fairly haphazardly constructed, as I imagine the original ones were. I felt like I got a better grasp of what trench life was, though I am probably nowhere near where I should or want to be in regard to my knowledge of what it was. I wish there were more films about WWI so we would understand it better. I suppose the US wasn't nearly as involved in that war as it was in other wars and since the majority of films that come out in the US are made by Americans, they just aren't as motivated to write scripts about it.

Anyway, the other exhibit that I liked a lot was a bomb shelter that they used during the Blitz, when the Luftwaffe bombed the living daylights out of London. They had us all go into a super small brick room with two wooden benches. We stayed in there for about five or ten minutes while we were “bombed,” which consisted in recordings of loud explosions and screaming, among sounds of buildings collapsing. They then had us move out of the room once the bombing was over and we saw the ruins of the city. It was dark and there were tons of “fires” all around us. They narrated it simply by recordings of people talking to each other about the damages from the bombs. It was pretty cool.

After the museum, friend Emily and I went to get yummy Thai food. Then I watched “Saving Private Ryan” with a few friends. I don't necessarily enjoy watching that movie, but I think films or experiences like that are essential to understanding what WWII was and what war is. I remember not really appreciating war and WWII until I saw that film. That film brought to light all the things they had to suffer through. I hadn't seen it since I was about 15 or 16, so I thought it was about time I watched it again. It's a fabulous and powerful film.

Below are my notes from class today.

140 million deaths associated with deaths in 20th century
GB had had peace for about 100 yrs prev to WWI
problems within the empire, but no wars
previously constantly at war with Frnc
most powerful and wealthy country in the world at that time
highest standard of living, healthiest people
GB believed that war was a thing of the past—that they had established peace

We (U.S.) have a tendency to view war as moral conflict b/t good and evil—God and Satan, essentially
WWI was fought b/t abt 40 mi b/t France and Belgium (trenches)
gases used in trenches
effects lasted yrs and yrs
role of U.S.:
53,000 casualties
Amer perspective: “aw crap, we've gotta go save Britain again”
Brit persp: “Johnny come late.”
not a moral war.
Ex: cooks exchanging recipes, Christmas Eve celebration
ended bc both sides were totally exhausted and couldn't suffer any more casualties
often stated that God was one of the casualties – faith


Germany got short end of stick
blamed largely for WWI
in Treaty of Versailles, Germany had to admit guilt
$40 Bill. Reparations due from Germany
hyper inflation
Sept, '39 – May '40 – not much fighting, but some gunfire
Hitler: “Give us the continent (incl Russia) and you can have the rest of the world.”
Churchill refused
England sent armada of little boats to pick up soldiers
May 29, 1940
Britain alone against Luftwaffe
Churchill gave speech declaring their aims against Germany
Hitler hated it – began 80 day war of personalities b/t the two
began preparations for operation Sea Lion – German Navy to take out Royal Air Force
RAF – only 1200 pilots
Battle of Britain
RAF was very effective, but couldn't afford losses
for every 1 RAF loss, there were 2.5 Germ. Losses
Sept. 7 – German Luftwaffe invades, supasses London, bombs civillian areas
50-60,000 Britons killed
although many civillians were killed, it gave RAF chance to recover and rest; retrain, etc.

Vaughan Williams

brought up in very affluent family
enlisted in WWI as ambulence man – carrying stretchers
horrific experiences
people who heard his music before said his music was never the same
Commissioned to write Dona Nobis Pacem as WWII was brewing
chose texts from several scs
began with mass, then moved to Walt Whitman poem (Whitman served as nurse during Amer. Civil War)
Went around and recorded people singing English Folk songs that had not been written down
much of his music sounds like English folk songs

Friday, June 4, 2010

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Enchanting place, that one. After a nice lunch at Pizza Express with Heather, Emily, and Nick, the group took a tour of the Cathedral of Canterbury (the equivalent of...Temple Square for the Anglican Church, you might say, since that is where the head Archbishop resides), which was quite nice. It was an actual tourguide, which really made the cathedral come to life for me. I loved being able to ask him questions and get his take on things. There is a ton of history in that cathedral. My favorite stories from the cathedral:

When Oliver Cromwell was ridding England of all fancy piety, he had his men break all of the stained glass they could reach in the cathedral. They had fairly tall ladders, but could not reach all the windows, such as the ones a few stories up. So the top windows are from the 1200s and the bottom ones are from the 1600s. Beautiful stained glass. I'd say it's just as pretty as Saint Chapel in Paris, but the entire sides of the cathedral aren't covered in glass like Saint Chapel is.

The other story had to do with World War II. The Luftwaffe dropped tons of incendiary bombs on th cathedral and they actually had employees who would stay up there and kick off the bombs. Pretty incredible stuff. And amazingly enough, the cathedral was totally untouched through the war.

Really gorgeous place. Tons of history.

After, we went to an abbey that was totally destroyed in the bombings. It was cool. Really pretty. Not too much more to say about that.

And we went punting on a manmade canal and it was pretty. And then we went to a sung Eucharist at the cathedral. The choir was....well, bad.

And back to the flats to....well, I don't really remember. Must not have been terribly momentous.