Tuesday, January 25, 2011

LONDON - Catching Up

Note: I will add more pictures to this post soon
Arrived in London. Somehow I was convinced that I would never get here. This idea entered my mind well before my first plane took off. The idea of me in London seemed like a daydream. Something I might wish for, but only on a whim. It was on my second plane (when I hit turbulence nearing England) that I was reminded that I could not and would not ever actually be there, and it almost came as a relief. To crash and burn so close to my destination. Like other great overachievers, I had stretched out my hand and hopes too far. To die reaching for the sky, for greatness, for something more than just what I've been given. I like the idea. Unfortunately, the turbulence passed and we landed safely.

January 7, 2011
Visiting the tower of London. It is a wet day. Castle and cobblestones glisten. London feels as if it’s in a cloud bubble. There is layer upon layer of cloud, sometimes you can see the lower faster moving ones passing by, but above them it is only gray, no sky or world outside of this one. Occasionally the sun creates a light spot, giving a slight change of hue to what is normally an untainted light-charcoal-gray dome.  The tower of London is impressive. It stands as a regal relic of keepsake and tradition. The stones are ancient, and so should be the traditions. Yet the stones remain, and so too the traditions. The royal jewels are stored here. Huge massive diamonds are inlayed in silver and gold. Crowns, scepters, even silverware. What are they for? Exaltation? Ceremony? A few moments of purpose followed by years behind glass. We see them there, reflecting the lights made to illuminate their greatness. They are greater than us. The queen is greater than us. We cannot touch them. They tower over us like the glistening stones of the structure that houses them. This is wrong. No one is greater than I, than you, than the middle-class Brazilian family standing next to me in line. Why should I feel grateful that the royal family, in all their greatness, condescend to show me their stones. I want to break the glass case. To throw the stones in the river and melt the metal down, cast it into thousands of rings and marry the world to a new tradition, or to no tradition at all. Is this the American inside of me? I come from a land with little history and even littler tradition. A land that says, you are your own king, you make your own crown.

January 12, 2011
Visited Salisbury cathedral, Stonehenge, and Bath. Excellence in location; all three places. I have a sore throat/cough and my pilgrimage to Bath treads on the very same road fellow ailed pilgrims have traveled for centuries. My dreams are also the same as theirs: to touch the water and be healed by some magical unseen spring of hope. The tour was a little boring. I rushed through all the preliminary exhibitions and display cases so I could finally get to the water. When I did, I quickly dipped the pointer finger on my left hand into the spring’s water, ignoring the pleas of the waters keepers asking us not too. How could I not? I yearned for healing. My throat throbbed with an unbearable pain that modern medicine was powerless to heal. The water could though, and I knew it, I believed it with ever fiber of my sickly being. As my fingertip touched the magical water’s warm surface, I felt a surge of life giving energy pass through me. I felt powerful! like the stalwart pillars of the bath’s walls, I could do anything and last forever. This was better than any drug, and suddenly I knew just touching it wouldn’t be enough…I needed to drink it. It needed to become a part of me if I wanted this healing high to last. Unfortunately however, the sacred waters are well guarded and no opportunity to drink of them presented itself during the tour. Discouraged, I made my way through the exit and into the gift shop. In the gift shop, my prayers were answered. I found a bottle of Bath water for sale, only 4 pounds! I bought it immediately. After eating a delicious steak pasty with everyone, huddled and standing inside because of the rain, we went into Marks and Spencer to sit down and the girls got some tea. At the table I unwrapped my Bath water, and after finally getting the cork out, I drank to my health.  

January 22, 2011
York, Preston, and Liverpool.
York is like a little medieval village. Quaint narrow alleys with shops that seem to lean over the street, making it feel like walking through an arch of architecture. The cobblestone paths weave their way through the small city, they feel as if they were designed with no direction in mind, their curves and winds are arbitrary and inspired. It feels good not to walk in a straight line, but to be guided along, not knowing which way I will turn next. The cathedral here is breathtaking. It is medieval, and in the religious fashion so common to that time, its large arching spires force my eyes to heaven, whether or not I want them to go there.
Preston has a lot of history. It is not very large and has a distinct rural feel. Despite our tour guides attempts to win us over with fact and story, the sunset had our full attention. It was unbelievable. It was as if the sun was returning from the thousand years sleep of the dim gray day. Its warm effervescent beams caressed the earth, illuminating, creating art as it painted pictures of this world of Preston, scenes and colors the town had never seen before.

Liverpool was more modern. A young city, perhaps not always young, but the young had made it that way. It is foggy and cold. The fog is thick, I can see it rolling off the waters and invading the city. A slow unstoppable force that flows between the buildings, filling in open spaces, making everything feel close and immediate. It feels claustrophobic. It presses on me, wraps me up in its cold arms and squeezes. I breath it in, the fog is so thick that I can feel it moving through my throat and into my lungs. I fight it there, my lungs warm the air, the foreign fog disappears and as I breath out, I create my own fog. The night is still early, so the streets of Liverpool are filled with all ages. Middle ages walk in pairs of opposite sex. They take quick steps and walk in stride. They are out to eat, to talk, and then to return home. The old are slower. Their time is day, and when the gloaming begins, like coupled birds to their nests, they prefer roosting to the dangers of night. Only a few old are seen, but only for a moment. As quickly as they can, they leave the city buildings for the safety and warmth of a cab. It is the young that rule the night. They travel in packs. Loud unorganized masses made of individual pieces that cannot and will not function independently. They are hoodlums. Hormone driven hooligans that want to laugh and dance and drink. Music is their lifeblood. It is as important to them as the foggy Liverpool air they breath. Without it they would starve. And they did in the past, the time before The Beatles - those gods of music - changed this city forever. They fed the hungry masses. Their sermons were more powerful than words, they were music. They spoke to an entire generation, and that generation listened with eager hungry ears. They had been waiting for a savior. They had been cooped up in their homes, electrons revolving around the nuclear family, powerless to leave their path. Rock and roll electrified them. It shook them from their orbit and propelled them into the world, free to bounce around, absorb and be absorbed. The youth took the world by storm and it would never be the same. Liverpool was the base and The Beatles were the catalyst. The biggest atomic bomb to ever go off, the chemical reaction started small, exploded quickly, and then filled the world with a radioactive cloud of radio waves. Liverpool is ground zero and I am here, examining the leftover pieces like a forensic scientist, just trying to understand. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wizard Dreams

I’m pretty sure the corndogs I bought at the creamery and ate for dinner poisoned me. I had a terrible stomach ache, the kind where you just lay there on your side hugging yourself.

I tried to read for awhile, Sophie's World, a book about philosophy and a little girl who is learning all about it from an older man mentor figure. It’s really good actually and I’m currently learning all about philosophy during the renaissance. Anyways, between the stomach pain and lack of sleep last night I ended up falling asleep for awhile. I dreamed that I was in some intense situation in which I need to solve some kind of puzzle and there was this wizard helping me do it; by like giving me clues and stuff. He was a philosopher wizard, a very religious one wearing a large gold crucifix; he kept making me question reality and such. He was even wearing a pointy blue wizard hat (sad my subconscious is so cliché).

That’s about all I can remember from the dream, I just remember waking up with a feeling of urgency, that there was something pressing I had to figure out, and now.

Still lying down, I noticed a few pieces of paper on a chair a few feet away. Right before I had fallen asleep I grabbed a blanket off of that chair and must have uncovered the paper without noticing it. I investigated and found the weirdest things drawn in blue ink on three pieces of lined notebook paper.
One sheet had words mixed in with other shapes that I couldn’t really make out. I did find the words “HELLO” and “SKY” however.

Another sheet had a sketch of a man with no face, but I got the impression it was Jesus.

The third sheet had scribbling in the center with the word “Disorder” written above it and other bubble letters on the bottom I couldn’t make out.

I’m pretty sure that right after I had woken up, for the 5 minutes I was investigating those sheets of paper, I was convinced the wizard from my dream had left them for me; pieces to the puzzle! Two minutes later it dawned on me that my brother who had stayed with me for the weekend must have left them, and after asking him, I learned he had. I had to laugh, I had really thought someone (my wizard, see right) had snuck in my room and left them on the chair while I was sleeping. If only!

This experience reminded me of being a kid and having that ability to sincerely believe the completely untrue things people tell you or the things you make up in your mind. Like santa clause, imaginary friends, or the bridge to terabithia.

My stomach still pained so I filled up the bath tub and turned on In Rainbows, by Radiohead. I took like an hour in the bath, listening to the entire album.

In Rainbows is one of my favorite albums, it’s beautiful. Every time I listen to it, it’s like I’m somehow rehearing it for the first time. There is always something new to discover. What a masterpiece. 4 minute warning, the last song, just amazed me. I think when the album ended I must have replayed that song three or four times. His voice is so pure; it carries the music, like a lullaby. Sing me to sleep Thom.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Provo Farmers Market

Today I went to the Provo Farmers Market for my internship working with the BYU Library and the Utah Heratage Project on a project called "By the Sweat of Their Brow" to research the history of agriculture here in Utah Valley. I met up with a girl named Kelly who is working on a similar project and we walked around the market talking to produce providers and getting contacts. Here are a few of the people we talked to.

 mom and daughter



Friday, September 4, 2009

An 8am Discovery

I made a discovery this morning. Taylor Swift is really Joan Rivers. I think we all need to take a step back and just sit in awe at the marvels of modern plastic surgery.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

brenden catching up

ahh ive been bad. summer came and i neglected my blog and forgot how to write. i didnt forget how to read though. here are some of my recent reads...

I started the summer off with some light reading. I reread the Twilight series. I read the books before I saw the Twilight movie and since then, when i think of Bella, i see Kristen. My crush on Kristen Stewart inspired a rereading of the series with her replacing the previously cast Bella in my mind.

It's always a sad time when a movie character replaces the one you had invented on your own when reading the book for the first time, but in this instance I didnt mind so much. I get butterflies in my stomach when Kristen nervously bites her bottom lip so i threw that image in quite often while I read.


Next I finished The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I had read the novel in highschool and im not sure what inspired me to revisit it, but Im glad I did. It was fun to spend some time in the "roaring" twenties with Nick, Jay, and Daisy. Part of the reading experience for me is relating to the story and its characters, and in The Great Gatsby I find myself drawn to Nick. He is a quiet observer who knows each character intimately simply because he cares enough to watch and pay attention. He is the confidant and friend that isnt always in the limelight, he shys away from it actually, but is always there to catch the stars when they fall.

Ive made it a new habit to watch any movies I can find that were made based on the books I read. I found a 1974 version of The Great Gatsby starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow that was just great. I appreciate it when a movie stays as true as it can to the book and this one did a fine job. It did lose a little bit of the magic and heart that the novel houses, but Daisys character, Mia Farrow, made up for any losses. On a side note, it was hard to get over the idea of her being the same actress in Rosemarys Baby, such a creepy movie. I was half expecting some supernatural devil spawn to spring out of a corner of the screen to attack her.

The next book I ventured to read was Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. From the beginning of the work this instintantly became one of my favorites. I followed the life and adventures of an endearing young protagonist named Pip. In a classic Dickens-style heartwarming tale of a rise from rags to riches, I was right along Pips side, falling in love with the heartless Estella, becoming a gentleman and gaining a hope of someday winning her affection, and having my heart broken. This novel is a masterpiece and one I energetically reccomend to others.

I found quite a few film versions of Great Expectations and was excited to watch them all. I started with the most recent, a modern adaptation made sometime in the 90's starring Ethan Hawke and Gweneth Paltrow, and was so dissatisfied that I almost didnt finish. It strayed so far from the storyline that it lost all of the power of its messsage and heart. Dickens must have been turnng in his grave upon the latters release, pulling out whatever hair he had left. My favorite version of the movie however was made in 1946 and, of course, it stayed true to the storyline and dialogue of the book. The acting was somewhat dry, but the message was as emotionally potent as ever.


A Clockwork Orange was my next read. What a mindfull that was. I dont reccomend this one to the faint of heart as the subject matter is entirely saturated with violence and an evil minded narrator. It was a lot of fun to read because it was written in semi-old english with a lot of made-up vocabulary words that the author used in proxy of many common ones. The narrator Alex speaks in "nadsat" which is the common slang of the teenagers of the future.

An example:
"to tolchock some old veck in an alley and viddy him swim in his blood."
meaning "to kick some old man in an alley and watch him swim in his own blood"

Fun right?
I have a thing for utopian or anti-utopian novels (such as Brave New World, 1984, The Giver) and this one threw me off being dystopian. Depicting a future not even trying to be perfect but simply housing chaos and disorder. The trick to the novel was that amidst all of this "ultra-violence" and mayhem that would normally be read or observed with unease, through the narrators nonchalant and hopelessly guiltless view, many of the most vulgar scenes are underlined with a sense of humor that make the reader question their moral scruples. Alex is a gang leader that commits horrid crimes, is eventuall inprisoned, and introced to a new technique that will supposedly cure him of his michevious ways. Agency is a common moral dillema towards the end of the novel as well as the nature of man.

The movie Clockwork Orange, fittingly made in the 1970s with its crazy set design and fanciful and futuristic feel was every bit as obscene and unsettling as the novel. I would only reccomend the movie to serious buffs or fans of the book. __________________________________________________

This has been a long post, but I only have one more book to catch up on. Just tonight I finished Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. What an unusual gem this was. The book (and not to mention almost every character within its pages) had relatively no reediming qualities. What a sloppy mess of tangled love stories it turned out to be; if you can even call them love stories. I loved this book for that very reason though. Heathclif is now one of my favorite literary fiends. The story revlolves around Heathclif and his love for Cathy, who marrys another and dies. The rest of the novel painfully describes how he proceeds to ruin every single life within his power to corrupt. He skillyfully remains soulless until the end, never repenting and caring for no one but his departed love. I was impressed with his ability to feel absolutely no compassion for anyone, as most stories include some kind of a reformation or at least a transformation in the slightest of the protagonist, but Heathcliff, like the ancient walls of Wuthering Heights themselves, remained unmoved until the end. Probably the most insane and untraditional love story I have ever encountered, with only the slightest residue of a silver lining, I gladly count this novel as another one of my favorites.

So far the movies I have found are a Masterpiece Theatre's production made in 2009 that is 3 hours long. The story was very distorted and the characters were far too likeable to ever reccomend this production of the classic. I have yet to watch the 1939 version, but I can already assume I will like it better.

Says Heathclif upon Cathys death,
"I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!"

Friday, April 24, 2009

Petrarchan Love

One day in class my professor used a term to describe a type of love, “Petrarchan.”

Have you ever “fallen in love” with someone you can never have?

Maybe it was a crush on the popular boy or girl in your high school or maybe it’s an obsession with a celebrity that goes beyond fandom, in any case, we have all probably felt that kind of love before. An infatuation with a person that is more than perfect, they are every fantasy you have ever have personified and walking the earth.

I researched the term “Petrarchan” and discovered it is derived from a fourteenth century poet named Francesco Petrarch. This man is amazing.


Petrarch lived in the early fourteenth century and had a passion for literature. His father wanted him to become a lawyer, but Petrarch felt that the legal profession was “selling justice” and refused to practice. Instead he became a priest in the catholic church and spent his days reading and writing literature. He was not allowed to marry and never fell in love during his time as a priest.

This is where the story gets good…

After leaving his profession as a priest he was in the church on Good Friday, it was a beautiful spring day and he was 23. In church, he saw a 17 year old girl named Laura; it was love at first sight. She was already married to an older man and refused Petrarch because of that, but did that stop his love? Absolutely not.

Laura became the inspiration for one of Petrarch’s greatest works, a collection of 366 poems called Il Canzoniere. Here is an exceprt about the day he first laid eyes on her…

It was on that day when the sun's ray
was darkened in pity for its Maker,
that I was captured, and did not defend myself,
because your lovely eyes had bound me, Lady.

It did not seem to me to be a time to guard myself
against Love's blows: so I went on
confident, unsuspecting; from that, my troubles
started, amongst the public sorrows.

Love discovered me all weaponless,
and opened the way to the heart through the eyes,
which are made the passageways and doors of tears:

so that it seems to me it does him little honour
to wound me with his arrow, in that state,
he not showing his bow at all to you who are armed.

Imagine a love so intense and real that the idea of that person alone inspires hundreds of poems. Petrarch’s love for Laura was unceasing and although it brought great inspiration, it caused him even greater agony. He had contempt for men who persused women and wrote poems exclaiming Laura’s beauty and magnificence rather than love poems to woo her to him. Petrarch put Laura on a pedestal and glorified her name with his writing. He loved her unconditionally and that love was real, even though he was never able to have her.

Petrarch loved Laura until the day she died. She died at the age of 38, meaning Petrarch loved her for 21 years. Upon her death he experienced extreme grief and never loved again.

That is Petrarchan love.

Petrarch wasn’t and isn’t alone. My professor used “petrarchan” love to describe the feelings of many modernist writers, Matthew Arnold being my favorite. The poor guy fell in love with a girl that didn’t love him back…

We were apart; yet, day by day,
I bade my heart more constant be.
I bade it keep the world away,
And grow a home for only thee;
Nor fear'd but thy love likewise grew,
Like mine, each day, more tried, more true.

The fault was grave! I might have known,
What far too soon, alas! I learn'd--
The heart can bind itself alone,
And faith may oft be unreturn'd.
Self-sway'd our feelings ebb and swell--
Thou lov'st no more;--Farewell! Farewell!

Arnold struggled with isolation and quite naturally a woman occupied his thoughts. Unlike Petrarch however, many of the modernist authors did not embrace their unrequited love, but bemoaned their loneliness and complained about their circumstances.

In our day we are no different than Petrarch or Arnold. Whether we like to admit it or not we all fall in love. We have to fall in love. In many ways Arnold mirrored the attitude of John Donne’s idea that, “no man is an island entire of itself.” As hard as we try to tell ourselves otherwise, we can’t, and don’t want to be alone. It helps to know that through the ages, people have felt just like we do.

So the next time you fall in love with a cute boy or girl you always see in the library, don’t feel so bad facebook stalking them, Petrarch or Arnold would do the same.