Thursday, 3 December 2009

St. Peter's

When in Rome, we visited St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, the headquarters of the Catholic Church. Here is a reflection that I wrote for my Religion class.

St. Peter’s

While I was in Rome, I visited St. Peter’s Basilica. I had dreamed of going there for years, ever since I had learned all about it in my high school art history class. I couldn’t believe it; here I was in Vatican City, the world headquarters of the Catholic Church! What an amazing experience. La Pieta, Michelangelo’s famous sculpture was so beautiful; everything I imagined it to be and more. Bernini’s towering baldacchino that stood above the altar was even bigger than I imagined. The interior of St. Peter’s was very ornate and intricate, with lots of gold and bronze; there was not one inch of undecorated space in that building.

We also visited the crypt, where all of the previous popes had been buried. There was a crowd of people around the tomb of Pope John Paul who died in 2005. Many seemed to be mourning and placing flowers on his grave and some were even crying. It was interesting to compare this to the graves of our previous prophets. They are buried in much more humble circumstances and do not usually have many visit their gravesites. Seeing all of the popes’ graves made me ponder on the process of papal election. When one pope dies, all the cardinals debate about who should be the next pope. When they come to a decision, smoke signals are sent through a chimney to tell the news.

I was comparing this to the way a new prophet becomes the head of the church when the previous one passes, just as President Monson did a few years ago. The process seems to rely on God and is very structured and just seems to make sense. The quorum of the twelve works together and agrees; they are all men of God that are inspired to lead the church. St. Peter’s was beautiful, and I was so grateful for the amazing opportunity I had to be there, yet every time I visit another church, I am even more grateful for our temples and churches and the truth that I know.

The Beatles

In Humanities 202, we learned a few things about the Beatles and were asked to write a paper analyzing a particular Beatles song.

The Beatles: Taxman

“Taxman” was written by George Harrison and was released as the opening track on the album Revolver in 1966. It was written during the later phase of their career, when their lyrics were becoming deeper and full of meaning rather than sappy meaningless like many of the lyrics they had written in their early stages. It is said that Revolver is where Harrison came to the fore of the band because not only did he write three songs on the album but was honored with the album opener. This proved that George could now write songs as good as John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

The lyrics of “Taxman” confront the Progressive tax the government was taking from the Beatles. Harrison said, “‘Taxman’ was when I first realized that even though we had started earning money, we were actually giving most of it away in taxes.” Because the Beatles’ high income, they were placed in the top tax bracket in the United Kingdom, which made them liable for a 95% supertax.

The musical structure of the song adheres mostly to traditional rock, using an electric guitar. There is a steady and strong beat that adds an element of subtle anger into the song. It is rather upbeat as well. Most of the tracks on Revolver have an electric guitar-rock sound, in contrast to their previous folk-rock album Rubber Soul. The lyrics of “Taxman” have a slight sarcastic tone as they talk about the tax collector taking all of their money. By recording this song, the Beatles were sending a political message to the government, opposing the ridiculous taxes that were being charged. They even include background vocal references to “Mr. Wilson” and “Mr. Heath,” referring to the leaders then of the Labour party and Conservative party, the two largest parties in British politics.

The poetry of the lyrics is pretty literal; “There’s one for you, nineteen for me” refers to the 95% tax that they were actually being charged. Yet they are also comedic, referring to unrealistic items to be taxed such as your own feet. I believe that the Beatles were upset about giving so much of their money away so they wrote a song, but they also knew that it would appeal to everyone that has ever worked has been taxed and there is and always will be a taxman. There are parts of the song that imply that the government finds excuses to create more taxes. “If you get to cold I’ll tax the heat, if you take a walk I’ll tax your feet” entails that the government will keep coming up with new things to tax and soon everything will have a tax.

I chose this song because I’ve related to it lately. This summer I had my first real job and until then I never realized how much money the government really takes! I earned about nine dollars an hour but when I factored taxes into it, I probably only earned around seven dollars or less. It was hard to expect a certain amount of money and receive much less. I believe part of the reason the Beatles were so popular was because so many of their songs related to the general public.

Bienvenue a Paris!

We traveled to Paris as a group a few weeks ago and what a trip it was! It has been my dream to go to Paris and I'm so grateful that I had the opportunity to go, even if it was only for a few days. I learned so much about the wonderful city and its culture. Paris is such a magical city!

One of our first stops in the city was Sacre Coeur. It is such a beautiful church set upon a hill. I did have to climb a few stairs to get to it, but the view of the city was totally worth it.
The second day of our trip, we made a trip out to Versailles. Both the interior and exterior of the palace were exquisite. The Hall of Mirrors was unreal! The extensive grounds were also very beautiful. Those kings were some spoiled men!
We made a trip to the Louvre, of course. Calling it huge is a major understatement. We spent three hours in there and hardly saw even one floor of one wing. It is awe inspiring, both inside and out.The Mona Lisa gets a whole wall to herself, as well as an everything-proof sheet of glass. Unfortunately you can only stand about ten feet away from it, but it was still a lot of fun to see probably the most famous painting in all the world.The Cathedral of Notre-Dame was my last stop of the day and was a great note to end on. We climbed up to the top of the tower and saw the big bell that would take over ten men to ring. We couldn't help picture Quasimodo scaling the side of the building and ringing the bell. Here is the famous gargoyle with a view of Sacre Coeur in the background.The three days I spent in Paris were some of the happiest and most interesting I have ever had. I love love love Paris and hope to return to this romantic and beautiful city very soon.

Mosque Visit

We visited a Muslim Mosque as a group and learned a lot about the religion of Islam. here are some notes that I took at the Mosque.

Mosque Expanded Notes

Muslim/Islam Mosque:

· The common greeting is a prayer; you are sending blessings to the person you greet

· This mosque is the central mosque in London and UK, and one of biggest in Europe

· It was designed by a non-Muslim

· Women and men pray at the same time but in separate rooms

o To maintain privacy and modesty of sexes

· Pray 5 times a day

· Before prayer, they go through a washing. They wash their feet, behind the neck, and hands. This is to soothe and relax and also to look and feel your best for God.

· Removing shoes is required. This is both to keep the place clean and to pay reverence and respect.

· The design of the dome is purely practical—it is the best design for acoustics, it is structurally stable, and provides for good air circulation.

· There is a certain protocol to prayer. It involves prostration and bowing. They believe it was taught to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel

· There are four units to the prayer; one must finish all four units or the prayer is not complete.

· The mosque is very busy and crowded on Fridays

· An imam is a leader

· There is a symbol above the altar which is actually a prayer

· There is a nursery school provided in the basement

· Cat Stevens is the chairman of the weekend services at this mosque

· Every mosque is required to have a library; this is the source of knowledge and knowledge is very important to the people of the Muslim faith

· Muhammad is the founder of Islam. He lived from 570- 633 A.D.

o His wife was the first person to accept his teachings

o His name means “the praised one”

· 5 Pillars of Islam:

1) There is one God and Muhammad is the final messenger

2) Prayers

3) Alms- charity, giving to the poor and needy

4) Fasting during Ramadan

5) Pilgrimage to Mecca

· Allah means “one and only” (referring to God)

o It is without plurality and gender

· Service, teaching, and smiling all very important; part of giving alms

· Modesty also very important; that is why the women wear scarves on head

· Forced marriage is prohibited but arranged marriages ok

I learned many new things about the Muslim faith by visiting the Mosque. In fact I knew very little before our visit. It surprised me that there are many similarities between the Muslim faith and our beliefs as Latter-day Saints. Our guide was very nice and made me realize that although people may be of different faiths, they are still normal people. There are many false misconceptions about people of the Islam faith, but visiting the mosque answered many of the questions that I had.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

J.M.W. Turner

For my Humanities 440 class, I was assigned to choose and analyze one of Joseph Mallord William Turner's paintings that is on display in the National Gallery. I chose The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be broke up. Here is the paper that I wrote:

J.M.W. Turner: The Fighting Temeraire

Joseph Mallord William Turner was a great Romantic style landscape painter, and is said to have laid the foundation for Impressionism. Out of the several Turner paintings in the National Gallery, I have chosen to analyze J.M.W. Turner’s painting The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up, painted in 1838. It is a depiction of a tug boat pulling a war vessel into harbor in the setting sun to be broken up. In 2005, this painting was voted the greatest painting in a British art gallery. In this particular painting, Turner used thick and somewhat wild brushstrokes. The paint is thicker in some spots than it is in others, giving the painting an uneven texture. The image is much less precise than previous classical images; it is almost considered abstract compared to the preceding styles of painting.

Turner uses very vibrant colors to depict the scene. Although the scene is of a ship in water, there is nearly no blue used in the painting of the sea or the sky. He uses many different shades of red, orange, and yellow which makes the sky look as if it is on fire. The ship seems to be nearly colorless, which brings even more attention to the striking sunset. Perhaps he is using the setting sun and the dark colors of the tug boat to bring the viewer’s focus to the small tug boat to emphasize its power and strength. Earlier landscape painters mostly painted very picturesque and ordered scenes. There were many strict rules set by Gilpin that were to be followed in order to paint a correct landscape; many artists such as Constable painted happy and ideal scenes. Extremely bold and bright colors were rarely used. Turner stepped out of the box and broke all these rules. The Fighting Temeraire is proof that Turner could paint a genre-style landscape painting in a completely different technique and still create a masterpiece.

Turner’s thick and “messy” brushstrokes evoke a sense of excitement and power from the viewer. It is evident that hard work is being performed and that there is a lot of action taking place; this definitely isn’t a peaceful and quiet setting. The cloudy sky brings a type of mysterious wonderment to what is happening and makes the viewer curious, thus pulling him/her into the subject of the painting. The rather large size of the image also contributes to its magnificence. If it happened to be smaller, I believe that its emotional impact on the viewer would not be as grand. The painting has a theme of conclusion. Turner depicts a ship which played a role in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, which is being pulled away to be destroyed. The sun is setting, bringing the end to a long day’s work. This could represent the end of an era, such as romantic landscape painting. The image also brings hope; after the end of one day is the start of another.