Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A tribute to the Mouritsens who are--sniff, sniff--moving

The Mouritsens are moving to Rhode Island. I've been trying to think of an appropriate way to bid farewell and make a fitting tribute. I thought about how Josh (age 8) is an awesome cub scout and knows all about cars and cool things, or how Sophie (age 6) is a great princess, or how Max (age 2-3?) is pretty much the coolest kid in nursery, or how Christian (age <1) is a great sleeper in the church foyer, or how Jenny always makes the best food for any occasion. But my favorite memory remains Robert's 9/11 anniversary Elder's quorum lesson.

It started like most Elders quorum lessons, a brief introduction to the topic, this time it was to remember those fallen in 9/11 and to listen to President Gordon B. Hinckley offer his thoughts on the matter. Robert had recently watched the special program that the church had put together after 9/11, and was really impressed. (It was probably the testimonies). He brought the DVD with him so we could all likewise partake. We had about 30 minutes until church would be out.

The technology wasn't working quite right. No worry, two elders got up and went to work rearranging wires, wiggling switches, checking and adjusting volume etc. For some reason, it still wasn't working--the sound came on, but no picture. Another round of technology "gurus" went to work. I think at the height there were maybe 5 people working on it at once? After 20 minutes, the wires were rearranged, the switches rightly wiggled, and the circuits correctly aligned and the image and sound came on. Have you ever removed a 85+ pound crappy backpack and had an ice-cold refreshing drink of spring water looking out over stunning sunsets after a grueling 15 mile hike through torturous terrain? Then you know something of the euphoria we felt.

There was the obligatory opening prayer, I believe President Packer gave that, and it lasted for a while; and then a number by the tabernacle choir. It wasn't a number I was familiar with. I don't think any of us had heard it before. It was somber, you could tell that by the minors and keys, but you couldn't really make out the words. Anyway, the song lasted a good 9 minutes. I'm not sure what its message was, but it was, for all intents and purposes, heartfelt. And probably longer than Robert had remembered. I guess if you are watching a video like this at home, you can fast-forward through really long and somber songs, but if you're giving a lesson, you kind of have to approach it like: "Oh, I totally get into the musical numbers as well. They absolutely contribute to the message." This wasn't really Robert's attitude. His was more: "Hey, if it can kill 10 minutes of my lesson, and at least appear deliberate--I am game."--by that same token, the technology mishaps by no means bothered Robert.

So after the technology work, the prayer and musical number, I think we watched enough to see President Hinckley approach the podium and say a few introductory remarks (< 1 minute) to what would have been the main event had it not been for the technology and somber number. Then our kids came in, we had to rush a quick prayer and the lesson was over in real time; but may it, and the associated virtues, always live in our hearts.

Here's to Providence delivering numerous opportunities for the Mouritsens to enlighten, enrich, and entertain!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

An open letter to Cindi Lauper

Cindi Lauper's "Time after Time" just came on the radio, and I remembered that I want to make it public that I think Cindi Lauper is the most underrated singer/songwriter. I have written a letter to Cindi Lauper below. I still probably won't buy any of her albums, but that has as much to do with the technological advances brought on by robots as with anything else. Her songs stand out far more now than just about any song they came out with.

Anyway, Happy Birthday Gabby.

An open letter to Cindi Lauper:

Dear Cindi Lauper,

I was never a huge fan of your music. When your songs first came out, I doubt I would listen to them if they came on the radio. In fact, I probably made fun of you, or people who owned your albums or really liked your music. You also just seemed a little too punk, or a little overconfident that you had a look that was working for you and had the potential to sweep the nation, or something that I couldn't peg, and I could never figure out what your thing was. I'm still not sure that I have figured out what your thing is, (as important as that is) but I don't think I would turn the station if a song of yours came on now. And I would turn the volume up for basically every song of yours that is still played. I'm not sure what happened to make the change, and it still feels strange to think of you as a great singer/songwriter, but when I hear your songs, the feeling I get is "I really like this song...I didn't realize how much I really like this song...Wow, this is a great song." Again, this feeling is magnified by my confusion, because I think I just thought of you as a throw-away 80s singer, and it's not just like one song, but almost every song of yours that is still played captivates me. You've bewitched me Ms. Lauper, body and soul.

Ben Blair

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The advantages of a Japanese education

For the past almost year, I have been teaching English to Japanese people. I think my favorite thing I've learned is that Japanese elementary schools routinely have unicycles, and most or all kids know how to ride unicycles.