Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Provo City Center Temple Dedication

I remember you could see the corner towers of the old Provo Tabernacle from the side of the hill by the testing center at BYU. I never got to visit the old Provo Tabernacle before it burned down--it burned down right at the end of my first semester. And I wasn’t even in town at the time--I was at my aunt’s house in West Jordan, visiting for a couple of days before I went back home for Christmas. A friend of hers came over to visit, and she told us what had happened.

Via LDS Magazine

The annoucement that it was going to be rennovated into a temple the following October was cool, but I was slightly more excited by the fact that a temple had been announced in Paris, France in the same session of conference.  But new temples are always exciting, and having one being built so close to where I was living gave me something to look forward too.  

Before the construction actually began, the BYU Archaeology department got to do a special excavation of the remains of the first Provo Tabernacle.  I was taking an advanced Anthropology course at the time and my professor and my TA got to be a part of it.

Being a BYU student and Provo Resident, I drove through downtown Provo quite a bit while the City Center Temple was under construction, and I was about as amazed as everybody else by seeing the shell of the old tabernacle on stilts.

Via dailymail.co.uk

So in January, FINALLY, the new temple was ready for the open house.  And I got to go on a special tour of the Bride’s room and a sealing room that was held for the single sisters in the Provo area.  That was really an amazing opportunity.  In the middle of February I was able to take the regular tour of the rest of the building.  I noticed that for the video presentation instead of the voice-over narrating the history of the temple’s location this time there was a group of people talking about the purpose of the temple.  

Via Deseret News

The City Center Temple is beautiful.  The interior design stays in harmony with the style of the old tabernacle--specifiaclly with the gothic archways on the doors and windows.  The art glass is pretty, and I liked the molding on the ceiling of the celestial room.  I also liked the square design of some of the hallway furniture.

Via stgeorgeutah.com

Don't take what I'm going to say here as fact because it's opinion. As much as I was looking forward to seeing the cultural celebration I was hesitant about what I was about to see.  When I was thirteen, the San Antonio temple was dedicated and I got to be a part of that cultural celebration, and it had really elaborate costumes and dance numbers.  A year or so ago, I watched the cultural celebration for the Ogden Temple expecting something similar.  Instead I walked away sort of creeped out by the lack of choreography and the boring routines performed to religious songs (it’s how I was raised--contemporary pop-style religious music is heresy).

I wasn’t aware that we were supposed to have tickets in advance for the show, but thankfully someone standing near the door had an extra ticket he was willing to share.  I had a hard time finding a seat and ended up in the nosebleed section of the southwest corner of the Marriott Center, but then I ended up sitting next to one of my old religion professors and his family.  I took that as a good sign.

Via LDS Living

So watching the performance was a bit of an ordeal.  I was pretty critical of what was going on at first. I sort of liked “Through Heaven’s Eyes” since, of course, it’s from The Prince of Egypt, and the choreography with the scarves was cool.  But it was during the “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” that I had my epiphany. Those local kids worked just as hard for this cultural celebration as I did for mine. I had no right to judge them. And “Beauty for Ashes” had a much more different audience and culture than “The Heart of Texas” and the show in Ogden--not to put this in too bad of a light but Texas does have a little more cultural diversity, and much different traditions. After I’d figured that out, I had a much better time. I really liked the dances performed to “Glorious” and the “Give Said the Little Stream” Remix.

The video presentation in between the musical numbers was really good.  Not being from Provo, I was glad to learn the story of the old tabernacle and the new temple from the perspective of the people who live here and the people for whom this event is the greatest thing in their lives.

The one part I had a real problem with was the number “Celebration.”  It was great until the giant purple ball came out.  I get that it was a symbol of unity, but it was still really weird.

Via Mormon Newsroom

I was kind of hesitant at first about the second-to-last number with the girls dancing to “Savior, Redeemer of my Soul,” but then I remembered it was one of my favorite hymns.  It was actually an amazing number to watch.  I liked the effect of all the girls dancing in simple white dresses--it’s probably what heaven looks like.  Drawing attention to Christ should be a good thing, for an occasion like someone else’s cultural celebration I shouldn’t be so picky about how it’s done.

I went to the 3 p.m. session of the dedication in the Marriott Center. Like at the cultural celebration, the theme of the tabernacle being rebuilt as a temple from the ashes was used as a metaphor for how Christ can change our lives and how we can be spiritually healed and redeemed even when we think we are beyond hope.

Via LDS Daily

The highlight of the whole session, though, was getting to do the Hosanna shout and then the Hosanna Anthem being sung afterward.  On the special tour I went on in January I got a handkerchief with the temple embroidered on that, so I got to use that.  But of course, it blew my mind that I was doing a Hosanna shout on Palm Sunday.

One of these days, I’m going to walk down University Avenue to the City Center Temple just to see how long it takes to get there.  The original Provo Temple is only thirty minutes walking from my house.  It’s amazing to be living smack between two temples!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Bringing Mira Nova to Life

It's time for Salt Lake Comic Con FanX, and this Friday I will be debuting a new cosplay, Mira Nova from Buzz Lightyear of Star Command.  If you read my most recent post at The Geeky Mormon you'll learn more about the show and the character.  I want to focus this post specifically on building my cosplay for this character, which, admittedly, was one of the most difficult and ambitious projects I have ever undertaken.

I wanted to make the princess dress that Mira wears in the episodes "First Missions" and "It's a Zoo Out There."  It looks like a simple gown, but bringing together all of the different pieces was not easy.


Probably the least complicated part was building the gun.  I found a sci-fi looking water pistol at the DI and painted it.  I first gave it several coats of red spray paint.

This was followed by silver and orange acrylic paint for the details of the gun.

I ordered the tights and shirt under the dress from Amazon and Walmart.  I got a cheap sequin tiara at JoAnn's, face paint from Michael's, and a wig from a Halloween store.

The actual gown, of course, was the hard part.  I made a mock-up out of muslin and then cut up the different parts to use as a pattern when I cut the actual fabric.  I got the fabric around President's day: silver material for the collar and hot pink for the stomacher from Hancock's, pale pink crepe for the gown as well as interfacing for the collar from Walmart (because I'm cheap like that). I spent most of the last three weeks cutting, re-cutting, sewing, and re-sewing.

The stomacher I made as a separate piece and sewed one side with the hot pink material.

I sewed the skirt separate from the bodice and attached it after I had sewn on the zipper on the back. Then I attached the stomacher to the front side of the bodice, sewing through the front on top of the seam.  It took several tries to get the bodice sewn to the right part of the bodice.  When this was finally finished, I sewed the collar on.  The collar is two long pieces of silver fabric wrapped around stiff interfacing.  After being sewn on, I turned the sides of the collar up so they would stick up.

Trying on the dress

In the cartoon, Mira's dress has a gold pendant on the collar.  For my gown, I got a gold pendant from Hobby Lobby and sewed it onto the top of the stomacher near where it meets the bodice.  Like everything I sew, this outfit didn't turn out perfect--the waist is too big and it's kind of tricky to take off.  But it's wearable. I feel good wearing it.

The most aggressive problem I had for the entire costume was the shoes.  Mira has silver boots for her ensemble.  Owing to time and costs, I was unable to find silver boots for my own dress.  I did, however, make covers to go over my calves out of silver fabric I found on sale at JoAnn's.  I got white shoes and white socks for my feet. 

I did the makeup test yesterday.  The face paint actually wasn't that difficult, the trick being to make sure it goes on evenly across the face.  This is my first time cosplaying a character with face paint.  Or a wig.  This costume requires both.  But the results are amazing.

I really like this shot of me without the tiara.

Full view of the gown and the "boots" taken with the cruddy camera phone.

I suppose I could always build another version of the dress if I want to, someday when I have the money and time.  But for now, who says I shouldn't wear it because it didn't turn out perfect?  It's not so much about showing off my skills as it is showing off the character--showing off that I love Mira and how you don't have to have your face plastered on merchandise to be an inspiration to someone else.

I'm looking forward to being Mira Nova on Friday and seeing how many people recognize her!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Lizy Reviews: The Good Dinosaur

I can’t fairly give you an analysis of the film without giving away some of the jucier secrets about this interesting world that Pixar has created. If you would still rather be blown away by the interesting quirks of this film, close this window and go watch it yourself.  

Arlo and Spot in "The Good Dinosaur"

The Good Dinosaur opens with the sequence we saw in the previews of the asteroid that should have killed the dinosaurs missing earth entirely.  By few million years later, the world is shared by humans, dinosaurs including some feathery raptors, birds in various stages of evolution, and various Ice Age mammals. The dinosaurs are sentient to the point that the family of our protagonist, Arlo, literally tills the soil and cultivates food for the winter. Other dinosaurs, like the T-rexes, herd bighorned bison. While Arlo on his journey home mostly struggles against the elements, he also faces antagonism in the form of weather-worshipping pterodactyls. The lead pterodactyl, “Thunderclap”, applauds Arlo’s quest to find his courage as a “relevation”, and I kind of wonder if that’s Pixar’s subtle way of communicating that courage and other values are relevant.  However, hearing it from the bad guy, I don’t think Arlo listened to him.

Aside from the cowboys and the farmers and the outlaws we don’t see very many other “sentient” characters, but there seems to be some kind of implication in Arlo’s mind that he can ask other dinosaurs for help.  

Via Screenrant

The humans we do see don’t have any kind of civilization to compete with the agricultural/pastoral dinosaurs.  In fact, it seems kind of derogatory of human nature that the main human character mostly acts like a dog and goes by the name “Spot.” However, Spot is a lot more “human” than the audience as well as Arlo realizes at first, but maybe Spot doesn’t know better.  And his animal-like loyalty to Arlo makes an impression from the start.

In the opening stages of the film, I kind of had my doubts about what kind of agenda this movie had.  Nearly all of the dinosaur characters have “hick” or “redneck” accents.  Arlo’s dad is determined to kill the “critter” breaking into their winter storage. It seems like a typical setup for a plot about not killing the innocent creature.  As the story progresses, however, it becomes less of an issue.  With Arlo on his own with only Spot for companionship and survival, he quickly renounces his intentions to kill the boy, without openly having to say so, and in the end Arlo’s devotion to Spot does not become an issue between him and his family.  

Via Deadline

Watching Arlo develop his courage is almost as fun as watching him bond with Spot.  Timid since hatching, Arlo is afraid of just about anything.  However, when Arlo finds a motivation to get something, he goes for it. However, The Good Dinosaur also makes extremely strong points about dealing with grief, and family--strong enough that I was literally in tears on more than one occasion.

The Good Dinosaur is rated PG  for thematic elements and rude humor and pretty much earned it. We actually hear Spot tinkling behind the rock, and also there’s a short disturbing sequence where Arlo and spot both get high on hallucinogenic fruit.

A really mean critic would say this is a thinly veiled western about a boy who adopts a coyote. But the twist about dinosaurs that cultivate their own food is interesting in its own right.  I would still call it a western, but in the sense that it brings out the best of the west. The music score isn’t the best I’ve ever heard but it’s still fun to listen to, and fits in perfectly with the homestead and cowboy themes and giving them a prehistoric twist. The film also showcases some of Pixar’s best animation to date.  While anything that moves is rendered in a cartoony style that isn’t visually that distinctive from stuff you see from other studios these days, the landscapes, plants, and water are rendered very realistically. The bison herding sequence does feature Monument Valley in the background, but while none of the other scenes are as explicit references to places I know of in the west the atmosphere feels very much like home to someone who’s spent a lot of time in Utah and Arizona (a geologist friend of mine pointed out the resemblance to Wyoming). The Good Dinosaur is definitely a movie worth watching.  There aren’t a lot of quotable lines but it’s one daaaaaang good adventure you certainly shouldn’t miss.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Lizy Reviews: Princess Academy--The Forgotten Sisters

I’m not a huge fan of sequels, particularly if I wasn’t aware that the series was ongoing in the first place. I read Princess Academy in high school but I wasn’t a die-hard fan.  When Princess Academy: Palace of Stone came out, I read it and was treated to one of the most in-depth treatises about politics and human rights I have ever encountered (which isn’t saying much because I haven’t read many). Having finally read the third book, I can tell you that the Princess Academy trilogy is a well-written, thought-provoking series.  The Forgotten Sisters, in particular, is some of Shannon Hale’s finest work. It develops the linder magic system established in the first two books nicely, and the action and pacing have escalated nicely from the first two.  It seems like there wasn’t much of a premise for the plot of this installment from the first two books, but I ended up enjoying it anyway.

Literally as Miri is stepping out the door of the royal palace in Asland to return to her beloved Mount Eskel, she is informed of a diplomatic emergency which requires her to go live as a tutor to three wild royal cousins living in the swamps at the edge of the kingdom. The stakes of this venture are running high: one of the three sisters must be prepared to be a suitable bride for a warmongering king or else Danland faces an invasion. The royal cousins, however, aren’t exactly eager for an education, and Miri isn’t allowed to tell them precisely why they’re needed. Before she can convince them to take lessons, Miri will have to take a leaf or two from their book about fighting, hunting, and survival, caiman wrestling included (and the caiman wrestling was the best part).

It seems like with every page turn Miri figures out just how much danger she is in, not only in coming to the swamp but for entering the lives of the headstrong Astrid, the tender Felissa, and the curious Sus. Before we leave the swamp, we will have come to love these sisters as much as Miri does. Their adventures after leaving are the stuff girl-power dreams are made of.  The Forgotten Sisters is filled with unlikely allies, exciting twists, and swashbuckling action. Also, Peder is awesome in this book.

The ending does leave some questions.  For instance, is everything going to be all right for Astrid, Felissa, and Sus in their rightful family again?  Will Sus go through with a decision she made when she was ten without repercussions?  And as for the epilogue, Miri has already made the case that there is no reason for men to be afraid of women, but are the women striking back a little too much? Well, that's a debate for another time. Thankfully, there are no loose ends hanging for Miri.  

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

You Had Me at "Hamilton"

It started when one of my theater geek friends posted a link to a news article on Facebook. Of course, with a name like Hamilton, and the premise being the story of an influential figure from the Revolutionary War period, a history buff like me couldn’t pass it up.
That was about the same time, of course, that the show became all the rage on Tumblr.  GIFs and fan art started appearing everywhere. I listened to most of the soundtrack while working on a sewing project and had a great time.

my edit

So for the record, I have heard of Alexander Hamilton. Anyone here remember the show “Liberty’s Kids” from back in the day? Young Colonel Hamilton’s first and most memorable appearance on that series was his ride with James to Morristown, where he shared his backstory about being orphaned in the Caribbean.  He didn’t mind being with James, since they were both “Gentlemen of Low Birth.” But other than that I never really paid attention to Hamilton, in real life or otherwise.
The real Alexander Hamilton was actually kind of a big deal.  I knew he fought in the Revolution and he was close to Washington.  I had no idea that he was pretty much Washington’s right-hand man. I knew he was at the Constitutional Convention but I didn’t know much about his participation. I knew that James Madison wrote a few of The Federalist Papers and John Jay added a few but I didn’t realize that “Hamilton wrote the other 51.”  I also knew that Hamilton was the first Secretary of the Treasury--hence why he’s on the ten-dollar bill.  But I had no idea that he helped Washington run the country during his first term as president and that a lot of his initiatives created the America we have today.  
Needless to say, I have not looked at a ten-dollar bill the same way since Hamilton came out.

Hamilton the Man

After listening to the soundtrack highlights, I decided to check out the eight-hundred-page Ron Chernow biography that inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda so I could learn more about this guy. Though I am an introvert I am a people person and a sucker for biographies: the best way to learn about history is through the lives of the people who shaped it. I got through half of it before Christmas.  I had to return it and I only just recently re-checked it from the library. 

Alexander Hamilton was many things: a war hero still ambitious for military glory after the fighting had ended; a loving husband and father as well as a scoundrel; a scholar and a diplomat, a finance guru, a lawyer; a loyal friend; an enthusiast of medicine; a politician who pushed his own ideas as well as a realist who understood the world around him; but most importantly to me personally, a writer.  True, a much different kind of writer than me, but someone who put his thoughts on paper.  The line from the musical “Why do you write like you’re running out of time” is not only accurate but it convinced me that, more than any other founder, Alexander Hamilton is my spirit animal.

Every founding father was brilliant in their own way, but they were so adamant about their different ideas that they couldn’t get along.  I am reminded of a statement that Joss Whedon once made about the Avengers: they don’t belong in the same room together.  Putting all of the big names in the American Founding together for the administration of the first president may have worked to unify the country at the start but it ended up creating the party system as people rallied to different figureheads. Chernow successfully argues that Washington was not Hamilton’s puppet, as Thomas Jefferson would have you believe, but that while he took lots of advice from Hamilton he was a moderating influence and tried to placate both of the parties. And while he did favor emulating British systems of commerce and industry, he was very, very much American.
Most eighteenth century figures I admire are brilliant in their intellectual and/or military talents but have really reprehensible personal lives. John Adams was the perfect family man and did a lot of great stuff, but he had temper issues and he was super insecure as a president.  Thomas Jefferson was not only immoral but he was also a jerk towards Hamilton and the Federalists. James Madison was less immoral and more of a jerk because he was so close to Jefferson.

Via CBS News.com

Alexander Hamilton was a great family man, no doubt about that.  I prefer to think his affair with Maria Reynolds was disappointing but his only real dalliance--it was more like David’s affair with Bathsheba. But Hamilton’s true strength was in his intellectual prowess and in paving the way for an America built on industry, trade, urban development, and finance.  Chernow indicates that Hamilton was a man ahead of his time. Southerners like Madison and Jefferson didn’t see that relying on an agrarian-based economy was not the way for America to get ahead.  Hamilton, a self-made man, knew how to make a country in the same way.  Hamilton also saw that there wasn’t anything wrong with trade relations with Britain and he saw the French Revolution for the chaotic mess that it was.

Hamilton: the Musical

Being a history geek, I already knew the Founding Fathers were humans.  It’s nice that the Broadway musical has convinced its fans of the same idea. The multi-ethnic casting, as well as Miranda’s inspiration for the show correlating the story to modern rap battles and street fights, makes Hamilton’s story applicable and real to today’s audiences. It used to be that people complained about living in a country founded by dead white guys.  Newsflash: those dead white guys had feelings, they had struggles, they were human. Hamilton fans GET IT. And Hamilton also teaches and reinforces the idea that America is a place where anyone can succeed, including people who are originally from somewhere else.  
The musical also depicts how Hamilton’s self-motivation was also his Achilles’ heel.  He was so determined to make something of himself that he pushed other people out of the way.  It made more sense to him, for instance, to confess his adultery publicly than to let the world believe he had been abusing his office as Treasury Secretary, effectively putting the world before his wife’s feelings.

Hamilton musical:
via Pinterest

I am a huge fan of anyone named Elizabeth.  Eliza Schuyler is no exception, and with her show-stopping numbers in Hamilton--“Helpless,” “That Would Be Enough,” and “Burn”-- Miranda creates a very three-dimensional portrait of an extraordinary but hitherto unrecognized woman in history. Chernow’s biography makes it clear that Alexander leaned on Eliza so much for emotional and spiritual support.  The musical shows her as someone who took her own initiative to make herself part of the story--Hamilton’s story, which, in a sense, is America’s. Eliza is a great character in the show because she’s an independent woman but at the same time someone in love with Alexander and a devoted wife and mother.  It is relieving to see a woman in those domestic roles portrayed in such a positive and influential light.

Lin-Manuel Miranda<<< has gorgeous hair:
Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton, via Pinterest
The Broadway show also gives a sympathetic perspective of Aaron Burr.  History tells us that Hamilton disliked Burr because he was a politician who changed his stance to suit his needs. In the show, we get the incredible solo “Wait for It,” the “Stars” to Burr’s Javert.  Hamilton rushes around and grabs life by the horns.  He does what he thinks is right.  Burr takes his time, taking opportunities to advance himself from elsewhere rather than creating his own future.


Hamilton is another instance of me jumping on the bandwagon, but I have gained, and continue to gain, a lot from this latest fad personally. I’m not a huge fan of the explicit language in the lyrics or the chorus doing sensual dance moves in eighteenth-century underwear (although it’s an interesting visual device in the theatrical sense). I am also not a huge fan of rap or hip-hop, but I do like it occasionally as long as it's clean and catchy. I am a fan of men in eighteenth-century costume and Lin-Manuel Miranda ROCKS IT! More importantly, I am a fan of what Hamilton represents: making the past real and relatable to the present, and paying tribute to the contributions of a heroic founding father.