Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Street Performers

One of my favorite parts about Chicago were all of the street performers. On Friday night I walked from the Drake Hotel down the Magnificent Mile and saw a number of different performers. I saw painted people in statuesque poses, breakdancers, tap dancers, artists, and drummers. Here's a little sampling for you.

Though, I respect the art of man mimicking mannequins, it seems like a giant display of "time out" to me. They were probably really naughty kids. Still, though.

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I saw these guys about a block away from the from the statuesque poses.


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One of my favorite set of street performers was this band of brethren beating the bottom of five-gallon paint drums. I was walking on the other side of the street when I heard the noise and crossed the street to see what it was. Blogger broke down the resolution of the videos, so you can't really appreciate how fast the drumsticks are going, but if you ever see me with my laptop, ask me to pull up this video for you, so you can see how insanely fast they're drumming. I guess if you're going to sell your soul, being a really good drummer wouldn't be a bad skill to acquire in the bargain.

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And of course, the classic street performance–the break dance. I saw these guys right after I saw the two drummers in the first video. The Asian guy that dances second was standing on a box as I was walking by, and was talking to the crowd as his comrades rolled out the faux-wood floor. He shouted to the crowd, "We are here to break dance for you! Please, please, do NOT try this at home. Try it at your friend's house!" (buh dum, CHHH! wakka, wakka, wakka) He continued, "Now, if you either like what you see or can't do what we're doing, we want you to CLAP and put money in the hat! If for some reason you don't like what you see, or you can do what we're doing...we still want you to CLAP and put money in the hat." I kept waiting for him to explain the option of just recording the performance and posting it on your blog without putting money in the hat, but he never brought it up, so I just did it.

Every time I see break dancing I can't help but think of hearing about when mom signed up Johnny and Joseph for break dancing lessons and how they ran away half-way through the first lesson and hid behind the vending machines after getting scared when their teacher started spinning on his head. I also think about the Would You Rather? question about break dancing and how under the "things to consider" section it asks, "What's past tense of break dance? Break danced? Broke dance?" Hmmm...I should probably go out to my car and find the question so that this would actually be funny, but I'm not gonna. I still love you, though (depending on who's reading).

Chi-Town

I just got back from Chicago and I heart it. Feeling the humidity and seeing the diversity, the Great Lake, and the tall buildings all brought back memories of Toronto.

Here are just a couple quick stories about my trip: I went against my better judgment and went swimming in Lake Michigan with some friends one afternoon. The Drake Hotel was right next to the beach, so the view of the lake was tempting, especially once we found out there was no pool at the hotel. There was a lifeguard and a plethora of others swimming, which helped to subside our fears of big factories dumping chemicals into the lake for years; and, I also knew from my public policy class that nowadays, thanks to the EPA, most lakes are fishable and swimmable. But I was still worried. It's kind of a weird feeling being more worried about swallowing water than you are about stepping on glass or thorns on the beach or about drowning after a massive wipeout with a wave. It's probably because there's nothing worse than getting a lump in your throat—a cancerous lump, that is.

I also had a fun experience of finding out just how expensive a cab ride can be. I was taking a cab from Chicago out to Naperville and found out a few miles out of the city that it would cost about $90! I found that out about $30 into my ride, so I had the cab driver drop me off at a gas station on First Avenue and Harlem and called my friend, Bryce, to come pick me up.

The cab driver dropped me off in a pretty run down area. It's probably nicer in the daytime. I wasn't scared until I realized I was the only white guy in the neighborhood and that I had a laptop and a few bags with me. I was a sitting duck. I kept my cool, but it was hard to when the Hispanic gas station attendant behind six inches of bullet proof glass kept shaking his head, looking at me, saying, "Wad are jou doin' hir? Jou're di' olny why guy hir. Jou gonna get shot, mahn! See di sign ou-side? Dey shot da polis hofficer. He wassa why guy, like jou. Dey shohis dog, too. No respec, mahn. If dey do dat to hjim, wad dey gonna do to jou? Jou prolly gonna gayshot, too. Issa bad nyeborhood, mahn." And after this manner did he speak unto me, insomuch that I did begin to be exceedingly frightful, lest at any time I should be brought into bondage by some unknown party, and they should slay me.

Anyway, despite the scariness, I have thought about moving to Chicago next summer for an accounting internship; but, I'll still have to see how everything pans out. In the meantime, here are some pictures from my trip!

Giordano's deep dish pizza was a must. It was like a party of cheese inside of my mouth.

This is Cloud Gate, a giant metal bean in the middle of Millennium Park. They had tons of cool activities going on around the park so I spent a lot of my time here after the conference.

This is the picture I took of me reflecting off of Cloud Gate.

These fountains were pretty sweet. There are two towers opposite each other in a plaza with faces of ordinary citizens of Chicago. The faces are on giant television screens and they blink, move their eyes, wiggle their noses, and smile. Every twenty minutes, the face moves its lips together like it's about to whistle and it shoots water out on to the ground. Little kids are waiting outside in hopes that they'll be able to get squirted. It smells like dirty little kid sweat and feet all around the fountains. After the fountains finish, the throngs of tourists disperse to different attractions while more tourists and passerbys grab the vacated seats and wait for a spew minutes until the fountains go off again. P.S. Is it just me, or does the guy spurting water on the left kind of look like Joseph?

There was a really nice theater in the middle of the park where they held free concerts every night. I went to an orchestra and choir concert one night and to an opera concert the next night.

The Sear's Tower – If I work in Chicago, I'll be working a couple of blocks away from the tower.

This is me in front of the Art Institute of Chicago. During the summer months they have free admission on Thursday and Friday evening. It's always cool to see the original of a painting you studied in an Art History class.

The Shedd Aquarium – The aquarium is located right on Lake Michigan on the Museum Campus. They have three or four beautiful museums right next to each other. If I had more time I would've opted to buy a City Pass so I could've seen all of them. In one of the museums they have a German U-Boat that the U.S. captured during World War II and you can walk through it.

There was about an hour wait to get into the aquarium, so the museum had workers bringing different types of animals outside to entertain the people in line. I wanted to get a picture with the blowfish because its head is bigger than mine, yet smaller than Kent Norton's.

There was a pretty sweet dolphin show at the aquarium. "Do you know ze dolphin?" They also have beluga whales there, but they're not very hot, so sorry, no pictures.

Me at the 4-D theater waiting to see a short film called Planet Earth: Shallow Seas. Water sprayed in my face every time a whale surfaced and blew water out its blow hole. They also had a little weed wacker thing under the seat that would hit your legs when it showed sea critters crawling around on the ground. It showed some clams that would electrocute their prey and the seat would vibrate every time the clams would shock. But the best part was when it showed giant sea snakes swimming through the ocean. It looked like the snakes were coming out into the audience. It was pretty intense–a little girl even started crying. As people were beginning to squirm in their seats a pole, about an inch in diameter, that was in the back of everyone's seat poked the audience and everyone screamed. You got me!

On Saturday night I saw Wicked for the first time. It was incredible! I think that the women that played Elfaba and Ga-lin-da had the best voices I've heard on Broadway.

Worlds collide in Chicago? Me with Bryce Gandy, my roommate, and Jordan Binning, the elder that I trained in Toronto. They were so kind to take me around Chicago and to the airport. I also wanted to thank Bryce's girlfriend for taking this picture for us.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Persecution

How grateful I am to belong to a church that does not persecute others because of their beliefs! As I walked through Millennium Park in Chicago I noticed people dressed as ghouls, goblins, and others with gas masks, and one with a poster that read Tom Cruise does not equal Top Gun. I almost asked if I could borrow a gas mask because there were some pretty putrid stenches emanating from the manholes and vents in Chicago every few blocks or so.

Though I do not believe that the Church of Scientology contains the fullness of God's gospel, I would not stand and protest against their beliefs. What I really thought about was how peaceable followers of the Lord would act. I recalled the public policy of King Mosiah in Mosiah chapter 27:

2 And it came to pass that king Mosiah sent a proclamation throughout the land round about that there should not any unbeliever persecute any of those who belonged to the church of God.
3 And there was a strict command throughout all the churches that there should be no persecutions among them, that there should be an equality among all men;

I then found these words in Alma 1:

19 But it came to pass that whosoever did not belong to the church of God began to persecute those that did belong to the church of God, and had taken upon them the name of Christ.
20 Yea, they did persecute them, and afflict them with all manner of words, and this because of their humility; because they were not proud in their own eyes, and because they did impart the word of God, one with another, without money and without price.
21 Now there was a strict law among the people of the church, that there should not any man, belonging to the church, arise and persecute those that did not belong to the church, and that there should be no persecution among themselves.
22 Nevertheless, there were many among them who began to be proud, and began to contend warmly with their adversaries, even unto blows; yea, they would smite one another with their fists.
23 Now this was in the second year of the reign of Alma, and it was a cause of much affliction to the church; yea, it was the cause of much trial with the church.
24 For the hearts of many were hardened, and their names were blotted out, that they were remembered no more among the people of God. And also many withdrew themselves from among them.
25 Now this was a great trial to those that did stand fast in the faith; nevertheless, they were steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God, and they bore with patience the persecution which was heaped upon them.

It made me think of how I have reacted when I've encountered protestors and how I should act in the future. It is important to have patience and to not lash back against persecutors, but to have faith and trust in God, and act as the Savior would act. This is taught best in Mosiah 24:

8 And now it came to pass that Amulon began to exercise authority over Alma and his brethren, and began to persecute him, and cause that his children should persecute their children.
9 For Amulon knew Alma, that he had been one of the king’s priests, and that it was he that believed the words of Abinadi and was driven out before the king, and therefore he was wroth with him; for he was subject to king Laman, yet he exercised authority over them, and put tasks upon them, and put task-masters over them.
10 And it came to pass that so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God.
11 And Amulon commanded them that they should stop their cries; and he put guards over them to watch them, that whosoever should be found calling upon God should be put to death.
12 And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts.
13 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
14 And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.
16 And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Choose the Right

Aside from the occasional walking into a public washroom without urinals or going several consecutive days with my fly unzipped, the most awkward situation I find myself in at least once a week is when I'm walking down a corridor or even a wide open space and find myself walking head on with someone wondering whether they'll keep walking straight towards me like an asteroid in its orbit or whether they'll move to avoid a pedestrian pileup. We've all done it, the awkward step to the left while the person facing you steps to the right and your body reflexively goes into back-and-forth basketball defense mode. It used to bug me so badly that at one point in high school I instituted the "stiff shoulder" and would literally walk into people and give them a hard shoulder without flinching to avoid the hassle of waiting to see what the other person would do. One kid ran into me and fell on the floor, which made me feel pretty tough despite my lack of pectoral muscles. The stiff shoulder has since become kinder and gentler to unsuspecting travelers, thereby alleviating the effects of Bumper Bob in public settings. However, I do think that if everyone just decided to choose the right when faced with the "which way are they gonna go" decision, that we could go a long way in clearing up this collision conundrum. At least that was my theory until I was on my way to use the washroom without urinals when a girl popped around the corner like a jack-in-the-box and I chose the left to avoid imminent impact.