Monday, July 27, 2009

Culturama: Llama Fest!

Starting off the culture posts with a bang! Last weekend my friend Leanne and I hit up Llama Fest, an annual event held at the Krishna temple in Spanish Fork. I've always wanted to check this event out in years past that I've been here but never took the chance, and this year the promise of 75+ llamas in one location was too much for me to resist.

Unfortunately we were too late to catch any of the obstacle course that the llamas were subjected to, but we did manage to catch a glimpse of the award ceremony afterwards. A certain llama named Dennis swept the floor with the competition, getting a ribbon in almost every category, including first place in said obstacle course. We all felt a little jealous of that guy.

Between awards, we were treated to cultural dances from various individuals who represented several countries in South America. What's funny to me is that, after about 20 minutes of watching, I realized that the advertisement of these Latinos representing all these different countries was probably false. During the chunk of time I sat there, there was one group of adults and one group of children that alternated on the dance floor, taking turns so that one group could go backstage and change into appropriate costume for their next number! But entertaining nonetheless, especially the two little tykes who looked about age 6 and constantly looked to the other couple for guidance on what to do next.

We went on to explore the temple itself (pretty basic place, actually -- worship area upstairs where they were giving an interesting demonstration of their chanting while visiting children poked and climbed on statues of their gods, and a restaurant/gift shop downstairs) after I had led Leanne over to where the llamas were being held outside. The best part was probably feeding the llamas -- they were pretty vigorous when it came to hay. But petting the llamas was a very uncomfortable experience. Imagine a huge ball of dirty wool and then reaching out only to feel a very bony skeleton beneath. Seriously, you can feel every detail of every bone and tendon. It's really sick. Like cross-breeding a sheep with one of the Olsen twins. In any case, llamas aren't very social creatures. Like their cousin the camel, they were bred to labor.

There was one llama in particular that made us afraid. I didn't snap a shot of it in hopes that the memory escapes me one day. This little guy was about half the height of a normal llama, had eyes that were only half-open, and a lower lip that hung loose off his jaw, leaving a long trail of green saliva constantly oozing out. He kept drunkenly staring at us. He's basically the reason we left the petting area.

But after that we discovered the zebu! Read the wikipedia article for more info on these guys. They didn't really care that we were there to see them, but they stayed close enough for me to grab onto their fleshy humps on their necks. I'd never seen one of these before. It kind of made me want to buy a mini-wagon and hitch 'em up for a mini-trek to Springville.

I'm sure this experience would have been much more enlightening if I'd bothered to research why exactly this event even occurs (I assume it has to do with the fact that there's a lot of llama/alpaca ranching in Utah) and why at the Krishna temple of all places, but it was fun nonetheless and I learned a few things, like how llamas can withstand extremely cold temperatures yet are prone to heat exhaustion at about the same levels of heat as humans. In that sense, I feel like I can really relate with llamas now.

I think I'll name one of my kids Dennis.

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A Whole Lot of Writing -- with No Pictures?!

Well, I always swore I would never turn this blog into a public journal, but I've already broken that rule a couple of times, and feel it's time to admit that I might head slightly in that direction on future posts, including this one. Enjoy!

Cultural Adventure Posts
I decided I'm going to try to post something, even if it's brief, on a regular basis, regarding my experience re-immersing myself in the Salt Lake/Utah Valley culture. Mostly this is to motivate me to get off my duff and live life to its fullest, but I also think it'll be an adventure in discovering Utah again. My first tenure here was spent with too much focus on school. This time around, I've decided to be more committed to experiencing the richness this state has to offer -- the great outdoors adventures, the local art communities, the festivals, etc. Heck, even some of the campus events that I never got around to doing will be a part of this series (I sadly never went to a football game while a student here!).

I feel that too many of us that went to college in Utah and then left the state have decided to focus our memories way too much on a few bad experiences, blowing them out of proportion and forgetting the good. One of my goals in these posts is to not only rediscover what is great about life here, but to find new things to rave about this state. It's not just some place where a bunch of Mormons enjoy living in a cultural bubble -- it's an environment worth exploring!

Lord of the Muscles: Return of the Calves
Time to get back in shape. I believe I weigh more right now than I ever have, and that ain't right. After having settled somewhat in my new digs and recovered from my mountain biking accident (oh, the post is forthcoming, don't you worry), I've decided to get back into an exercise routine. This will probably take place in the evenings as I usually can't even see straight until after lunch time. In any case, I'm documenting and measuring this progress by snapping weekly photos of my left calf. When the golden calves have returned from under their fleshy curtain of solitude, you'll know I'm back in business.

Don't worry, though, I won't be posting these photos of the calves. That would just make me look like I have some odd sort of fetish! No, once I'm back in shape I'll probably just pick the best ones and make a slideshow to demonstrate my progress over time. That's what normal people do, right?

Growing Pains
First of all, wasn't that such a great show? Seriously, there are few '80s comedies that have stood the test of time, and this is one of them. It had some really witty jokes and most of the plots strayed from the cliched scenarios that were recycled throughout prime time television in those days. Oh man.

But I have decided that it's time to grow up just a little. I'm not totally changing my personality here, but let me share a few points I've been thinking about:

  1. I'm seriously cutting back the time I spend on a certain video game. I've never really been as hard core about it as the stereotypical gamer is, but as I thought about embarking on the aforementioned cultural journey I realized this could be a pretty big distraction for me. I may even delete it from my hard drive to purge myself. I don't regret playing or anything, and I certainly plan on continuing very casual use of my PS3, but I just need to make sure I'm well-rounded enough that I'm not ever even tempted to start on the path of introversion via video games.

  2. In a recent issue of the Ensign (for any non-LDS readers I may have, this is a monthly magazine that most Mormons in the US subscribe to), a British general authority wrote an article on how the gospel refines our tastes and language. It's made me think quite a bit, as he stated that one who has really lived the gospel over a period of time avoids casual language and colloquialisms (I think he gave an example of how God would never describe a good experience as "awesome"), and that said person also really appreciates classical music from centuries past and such.

    It was hard to swallow at first. I felt like he was telling me I'm wrong for regularly using the term "hard core" and listening to rock music. Heck, by his definition, even the Beatles aren't refined enough. In fact, a couple of people who I consider to be among the best understanders and livers of gospel principles are some of the roughest-around-the-edges people I've ever known!

    But as I got to thinking more about it, I am not so sure he meant what my knee-jerk interpretation figured. I think a lot of the things he mentioned are things that naturally occur over time spent in the Church -- as in decades. And you know, I'm okay with Old Man Shark speaking a little more maturely. I don't picture myself in my 60s and 70s constantly praising my grandkids by saying "rock on!" (note the inclusion of the qualifying word "constantly"). Also, I think the seeds for that appreciation of classic arts are already planted. I own and listen to Handel's Messiah now and then and in humanities courses I've taken, I've honestly been amazed by the musical progress made by our predecessors. That being said, I don't think it's wrong for Old Man Shark to pop in some Weezer or Beatles or what have you. I know this sounds weird in a Holy Roller sort of way, but when it comes down to it I believe that a lot of rock music is of God, and I don't think "Hard Day's Night" is going to be banned from Heaven, you know? These artists have also made some excellent contributions to cultural history and I think there's a lot of inspiration in some of this music.

    That being said, I've decided there are things I can and perhaps should do to not seem like such a slob in some regards. For the most part I refer to my language. I don't consider myself to be someone with a dirty mouth, but in the past year or so I've been more lenient on my uses of the words "hell, "damn," etc. ... some of the "lighter" curse words which I'll use maybe once every couple of weeks just for shock value or hyperbole. I think I'd like this to come to an end... Just a little personal thing that I want to give up to show a greater commitment to being a better product of my religion. I also need to re-tighten my standards a tad on some of the media I expose myself to. Again, I'm not into porn or dirty music, in fact I still don't watch R-rated films, but sometimes I feel I let things slide that maybe I shouldn't. So, expect future writings to be just as rockin', but with better ways of communicating said rock!

  3. I've gotten less snooty about the nickname. Don't get me wrong, I definitely still prefer going by "Shark" because I'm so used to it, but I've decided from here on out that I won't sneer (visibly or not) at people who decide to make use of the name on my birth certificate. Is it part of growing up? I'm not sure. I just know that I've felt like it's not worth alienating people. I don't care if someone looks down on me for having a "unique" nickname -- if they're too cool for school, that's their problem, not mine -- but there may be times I could reach out or be a friend to someone, and I'd hate it if I found out I had missed an opportunity to do so just because I had driven them away by insisting on being called something they were sincerely uncomfortable with. So, for the record, I still prefer Shark, but you can get away with calling me by my given name without incurring my wrath, though it may take some getting used to for me.

  4. I want to be like Darrell. I know this seems counter-intuitive under a heading about growing up (bwah bwaaah, just kidding Darl!), but I've always admired Darrell for his financial responsibility and I think it's time I join the game. I've already been doing much better lately at saving up money, but I can still do better. A lot of this stems from recent conversations I've had about being a good provider, both spiritually and physically, for my future wife and kids. I know already from experience in dating relationships that it feels terrible when you don't think you're being what your significant other needs. I'd hate to accept the responsibility of being a husband/father and not be able to support my loved ones in a way that they can be free to lead happy lives.
Well, this is one of the most personal posts I've written in a long time. Better enjoy it, as I'm not planning on being this sober all that often (hic!). So on that little note...


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