Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Les Miserables

I just got back from seeing a movie I have been waiting to be released since I first fell in love with this beautiful musical. Rather than give some sort of review of the film version, or brag obnoxiously about how I got to see it almost a week before it opens to the public, I feel compelled to write some reflections on why this story resonates not only with myself, but (obviously) with audiences worldwide.

It was Uncle Mitch's fault I got hooked in the first place. He left behind a 2-disc CD set at our house during one of his visits and around the age of 10, I listened these CDs into complete obliteration and bought another version when I left for college. When I was twelve, I sang Castle on a Cloud in a singing competition and by the age of 16, I knew I wanted to play Eponine in the musical someday. (Frankly I still do. Some way, somehow...) When I was 18 or 19 I finally read the book. Only one part distinctly sticks out to me: when the Bishop gives Valjean the candlesticks. I remember thinking about what kind of forgiveness it would take in your heart to immediately respond how the good Bishop did.

While I can't remember other distinct moments in the novel, I do remember thinking the musical followed the sense of what the book got across fairly well. You see, while this is a story about a man who steals a loaf of bread, and a government which punishes him unjustly for it, it's really something so so much more.

Victor Hugo (the author of Les Miserables) did something extraordinary within this one novel. He showed that in this world filled with death, there is a whole lot of life; where there is great amounts of sin and transgression, there is an equal amount of repentance and redemption; there is great hatred, but greater love; men of lust, but as many men of honor; greed countered by charity; and where we often see so much despair in this life, Hugo shows there is a great amount of hope.

In this postmodern world of ours, we are quick to point out (and even focus on) the problems. Hugo doesn't ignore these. He battles them head-on, showing the flaws in this life through those characters that show how we can best resolves these problems in our world.

I can't think of a better message for our entertainment to focus on this Christmas season.

Monday, October 29, 2012

One of my favorite parts about school...

... is how all my photo friends get my wheels spinning. My friend Christi, for example, is doing a project right now on stereotypes. In talking with her a little about that idea, it really made me think about how I view others and how others view me.

Last year in fine art, several personal projects people did still managed to speak volumes towards others' experiences. It helped me a ton when I was working on my own BFA project.

And a new project that Tonya is starting can't help but make me wonder. I'm intrigued by the concept: one that follows along the same lines as Post Secret. That is, she wants to collect secrets and is working on images based on them. I can't wait to see what she comes up with as a final product, but she needs some help with the process.

As part of this project, she's started a website where people can ANONYMOUSLY submit their secrets. As she states:

"By sharing your secret you will find a small bit of relief. We hope you’ll be able to let go of the burden you carry when you hold on to a secret. It can be a start to the healing process. Secrets can be good, bad, or just something we’re embarrassed to admit. Please share a sincere secret and spread the word about!"

Of course, the more secrets the better. I've linked  you three times now, so go check it out and SHARE. I'm thinking the more people that share this, the more interesting her project is, the more my wheels start turning. (So this post is entirely selfish after all! :) )

Monday, October 22, 2012


There is nothing better to do for Halloween than to get all dressed up and go to a Masquerade, right? Right!

My friend Chessie and her roommates (Kassidy and Logan) came as well. It was a rather long trip up to Ogden (it was Chessie's friend putting it on up there), but we had a blast! I even brought some lights and we did a random side-of-the-road photo shoot. Unfortunately it was so cold, only Logan cared to get a picture with her mask. Mine broke and Kassidy and Chessie were not in the mood to be in the frigid air a moment longer than necessary. Here's some pics from the night. Just for kicks and giggles :)

Logan in her mask

While Chessie didn't care about having a pic in the mask, she did want to show off her hair

The camera turned on me... I allowed it as it shows off the awesome dress and jacket I sewed for this event

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sometimes, people mistake me for...

... a mom. Granted, I'm old enough to be a mom and I am now often carting two munchkins around in a stroller with me around a campus where 90% of the girls under the age of 30 have babies already. I find it slightly awkward, especially when people give me some huge pat-on-the-back compliment like "Wow, you must be a superstar." I simply tell them that I'm far from it, but I'll tell my sister they think so!

... a professor. One of the most common assumptions people ask about me actually. I do believe I've been asked if I teach at UVU more often than I've been asked if I'm a student at UVU. Here's to hoping that in a few months that is no longer a mistake and that I can say "Yes. I do teach here."

... someone with talent. And no, this isn't some big sappy "oh woe is me" statement. It's an acknowledgement that just because my interests vary greatly doesn't mean I'm great and my varying interests. For that matter, singing is the one thing I developed to the point of getting good at (I'm a bit rusty now, but am sure with opportunities I could improve) and I'm getting there with photography. I hope to be good at a great many important things someday, but I'm just someone who tries very hard in the meantime. And as I've said before: I would rather be recognized for my hard work than raw talent.

Funny how people's perceptions have the ability to make us re-examine who we truly are.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Accidental Farmer

My family isn't exactly known for their skills in agriculture. I probably come closest, having always had an interest in having a garden (though I haven't made much of an attempt in over a decade... someday when I have a house I need someone to teach me!)

But last year my dad did some random experimentation with a pile of wood chips he turned into a compost pile on the side of the yard. He added rinds from watermelons and cantaloupes, not to mention the seeds from the later. Like Jack and his Beanstalk, a plant started to grow.

And soon there was a melon. And just today we found two more:

Mom acts all exasperated about this rogue plant, but the rest of us are extremely entertained. Plus, we picked the first one and it tasted delish!

Dad picking his cantaloupe

Monday, July 16, 2012

One of my Favorite Things

I love skyping with my niece and nephew. My sister hooks it up to the TV so that my face is on both screens and they spend the entire time looking back and forth between the two trying to figure out why Aunt Rie is in both places at once. Also, Chris still smiles like the Mad Hatter when I do the "what are you doing?" ASL sign to him. Plus I get to see their cute faces!

Saturday, June 9, 2012


I'm going to get on my soapbox for a moment.

There are a few words in the English language that, while seemingly harmless on their own, I believe we make toxic with the way in which we use them. The word potential for example. A girl I once knew was constantly told "you have so much potential." She would talk about how often people said this to her in her saddest moments and at first I thought those words buoyed her up and rallied her to become the person she knew she should be.

The more I got to know her, the more I realized what people were really saying when they used that word. What they really wanted to say was "you are a sorry excuse for a human being. You're rude, unkind, and entirely selfish, and you're going to burn bridges with anyone that's decent because no one wants to be around someone who acts like you." Instead, they tried their best to turn it to a cheerful "you have so much potential." The fact is, you rarely hear one person tell another they have potential when they're proud of them or think highly of what they've done.

Even though I'm in Estonia, there's plenty of graffiti written in English. One bit of graffiti caught my eye Friday night as I walked back to the dorms:

It got me thinking about that word. We've grown up with this mythical idea of the word Someday.

Someday my Prince will Come for example. You know... you sing the words and sit by a well and some handsome man is bound to show up to finish what you're singing. The truth is that those who sit by the well will often find their only company is their own echo. Someday.

Or have you ever noticed how someone talks about life long dreams? They're telling you about how they want to go to that particular place, or pursue a particular hobby, or get that particular job and they end with a sigh--the word someday wedged into its corners.

To the untrained ear it sounds hopeful, but after saying that, what do we do to make our someday happen? As one of my favorite teachers once said, "luck favors the prepared."

So here's my newest commitment to myself: no more somedays. For anything that's important to me there's something I'm doing to make it happen. If it's on the sidelines, it's because I put it there... not by chance, happenstance, or because I'm waiting for my fairy godmother to come wave her wand and make my dreams come true.

I am the captain of my fate. I will take a stand and own it.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Happy Birthday Nerdbomber #1 !


You are turning 16 today! I remember when I first got to know you at the age of 7. Even then you were precocious (not to mention mischievous at times) and always so, so talented, beautiful, and such a fun girl to be around.

While there are people who will give you much more dating advice, I offer you just a little of my own.

Treat the boys that take you out well. We often hear tirades about how women should be treated and entirely forget that this goes the other way around too. Never talk badly about them to your friends. If he would be embarrassed by what you say, don't say it behind his back. Don't spend the night on the phone texting or checking facebook when he's reserved his own time to spend with you. Don't lead them on. (We already know what a heartbreaker you will be without adding this to the mix!) Be grateful for anything he offers, and graceful taking compliments he gives. Be sincere and kind.

Oh, and expect the same in return. If any boy is not treating you right, run for the hills! You deserve the best, girl!

Happy Birthday!


P.S. I should put some super embarrassing story here... like maybe the one about how you and your brother rolled in the mud on the way home from school one day... but I'll save that for another day. :)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Welcome to the Nachtwey Lounge

My friend Mel and I had an entire conversation about the name of the lounge, also known as the back wall of the photo room. I liked Nachtwey Lounge. It sounds classy. Sophisticated even. She suggested some other photographers' names and maybe f/64 or something to do with postmodernism. I don't remember, because I still liked Nachtwey Lounge better.

I should explain that this didn't start out entirely my scheme. A group of us talked about how we needed a couch. Everyone in the photo department spends their life in the same room and it needed a more homey feel. We decided we could remedy that. Jake had a couch and became the best red herring ever. Devan had a truck. Melanie and I had the muscles ( . . . or at least the feminine wiles to get a couple guys to carry in the couch from the top of the stairs just outside the GT). And we had Mike's silence, in exchange for him having a place to nap when his shifts were slow.

Then my roommate Chessie gave me an idea. What if things just started showing up? One thing a week . . . a table, then a book, then a blanket . . .

This one got the most reaction:

I would like to point out that there are many more things this particular expression could mean. And no matter what he says, we get this exact look all the time. (Also the . . . is a very specific version of this expression. See Mel for an example.)

John, of course, couldn't be left out of the mix:


Most of the items were thrift store finds and fix-ups. Chloe helped with the lamp (which needs to be rewired, I think), and there were suggestions given by several others as to the additions week-to-week. Yes, there were more people that knew about this too. I'll let the rest of them admit to it if they so wish. Until then, Photo world... enjoy the Nachtwey Lounge!


(And on a side note, there is a severe lack of pictures of Barb. The Capitol Reef classes need to change that this summer!)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Dear Family & Friends,

Some of you may know already, but I've been working on my final project in school--a project in which will take place in Estonia. As a result, I have been spending this school year working on funding. On top of the grants and scholarships I have applied for, another fundraiser I have started is through a website called KickStarter.

Kickstarter is a website that helps launch creative projects. I have set a goal amount to raise $4,000, and from there it's up to backers to decide how much they are willing to pledge to this particular project (each amount also has an incentive attached). If the total amount pledged equals or exceeds my goal, the project will be funded. If it comes short of that, it will not. The final date for pledges is April 20th at 10:00pm.

This is where I'm looking for your help: even if you are unable to help financially by pledging, I am asking that you share the link below wherever you are able: Facebook, email, blogging, etc.

For those who I have already noticed sharing this on facebook, thank you! There are 18 more days and any advertising of this project helps!



Wednesday, March 7, 2012

An episode not to miss!

In the fall semester, I took a fine art photography class. One assignment given was to mimic a fine art photographer. We were given a list. I call it the "List of Eminent Doom." I looked through, and only one photographer seemed like one I'd be interested in trying their style: Cindy Sherman.

Cindy is most known for a series called "Untitled Film Stills." These pictures consist of a woman dressed up and pretending, more or less, to be an actress at different points in a career. There was one problem with Cindy's work to which I could not reconcile myself: she is the woman dressed up. Yes, these are often referred to as self-portraits. My friend Mel said she'd volunteer to be in them instead, but I knew I'd have to have more than just a loathing for pictures of myself to remain behind the camera. Then I found an article. A glorious article.  In that article, Cindy was interviewed and states that the mistake people make about this series is in calling them self portrait.

DING! DING! DING! We have a winner! 

There were other points I could quote, but that did it. I grabbed Mel, her array of wigs, my camera, and a roll of film and got onto the project quickly. The day I brought mine, the first thing Travis (aka Professor Voldy) said was "Wrong. You're not in them." I would like to first point out that I didn't have to say I was mimicking Cindy. The images were that awesome. Still, he argued with me about it. He tried to get me to admit I should have been in them. I wouldn't budge and neither did he.

It was okay, though. Expecting to win an argument against Travis is like expecting that they might decide to start up the show Pushing Daisies again. It's just not likely.

Except then it happened. Me winning, that is. We stopped arguing about it that day. What I refer to is when he told his fine art class this semester that ... and I quote... "Marie won". Yes, he admitted publicly that I won the argument. But when I asked him about it, he vaguely waved me off and tried to restate what he'd "meant". It wasn't until we got into it one day that, in a moment of acting like a five-year-old, he huffed, "Fine! You win! You happy?"

I smiled and confirmed that, yes, I was very happy.

Why do I tell you this story? For a few very good reasons.

First, I could very well be the first student to have gotten Travis to admit defeat. This is huge and may never happen again.

Second, our podcast has a Cindy Sherman episode up. It's the first one about a photographer that we've done, so you need to go listen! Here! (You can use the player on the right.)

Last: hold out hope people! Pushing Daisies has more of a shot than you ever thought before!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Dear Aunt Emma,

The last few years it has been wonderful to have you living a few blocks away.

I've enjoyed seeing you for holidays and family gatherings.

I loved visiting with you.

We will all notice the empty seat where you should be, but I am grateful you won't have to endure any more surgeries, rehab, or pain.

Love you, Aunt Emma. Rest in peace.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day Adventures!

I spent the last half hour sitting here trying to figure out how today became such an entertaining anomaly. And then I remembered... it's because of that once-ever-four-years phenomenon called Leap Year.

While subbing for a photo history class, Jason Alexander popped in and told me I needed to demand the prorated price from the teacher I was subbing for (who apparently asked Jason to just say "hi"). There's something about a celebrity reminding you to not undervalue your services that makes you stand a little taller. As for the demands... I'll just let my teacher buy me lunch sometime. Or remind him how helpful I was right around grading time.

Then there was the about-to-be-infamous Chester the Best-er driving incident. You know... the one where she was in MY car driving to the gym with me in the front seat and rather than turning into the drive, she decided to go against traffic, in the bike lane... on the far left side. *sigh* Asian Drivers.

And, of course, the continual urge to go up to Mr. Right and say "Marry me. Marry me now. Or at least help me find a hot Irishman." It worked for Amy Adams, right?

Leap Day...




Monday, February 6, 2012

Upgrade in Status

Friday, my sister called me.

"I kinda need help on something, but I'm not sure if you can... maybe?." She sounded nervous with a dash of apprehension and a bit of phlegm.

"What is it?"

"Well, Cory and I are in art history--" my ear perked up "--and I just can't figure out a few things."

So she started it, tentatively, with a piece by Cimabue. I corrected her pronunciation and she seemed surprised and elated to finally know how the name was said (Sim-uh-boo-ee). She started to describe which piece.

"Madonna and Child?" I asked.

"Madonna Enthroned," she corrected.

"So, you have Mary holding Christ in the center, with angels around them, prophets below in a really odd use of space," I analyzed as a basic overview.

"You know this one!" Apprehension gone (though still with the phlegm... I think she may have a cold?), the relief that I actually would be able to help seemed to become a reality to her mind and she made her way into asking more questions... about more pieces... each one surprised at the idea that I knew the image and, perhaps, some information about it.

We decided that the quick run through wasn't quite enough and set up to do another session in the morning on Skype. The next day, somewhere between baby talk with my niece and nephew, and actually getting down to business, I told Megan, "I'm excited about this! Here I always kind of thought I'd just be the freak in the family that was way into art history."

"Oh, you're still a freak," she made clear.

"Yes, but now I'm a helpful freak!"

We went on from there, having discussion of Giotto, the proto-Renaissance, tempura, and halos (if you got giddy over any of those terms, you may be a freak like me), and it all helped to reaffirm something I've been figuring out for a while now:

I love teaching!

So the next time you need help with art history, you know who to call. Because no one will be quite as helpful of a freak as me :)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mini Me

The one on the left is me at 5-6 months, the one on the right is my niece Ava (4 months). Can you tell who she looks like? Somehow she picked up on those recessive Mason genes. As a result, if I never have kids of my own, the stunning good looks will at least continue on!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Baby Names

Our family is infected with needing to find a scheme for baby names.

Mom and Dad went with the M&M theme.... (Mike, Melanie, Mihkel, Marie, Megan, Matthew)

If you think that's bad, Mom's parents did not only all M's, but rhyming middle names. (Michael Layne, Melanie Jayne, Mitchell Dwayne, and Marla Shamayne)

My sister and her husband are taking advantage of the last name Arling by making meaningful initials. Like Christopher Isaac Arling (CIA) and Ava Daphne Arling (ADA). I'm pretty sure FDA, HOA and MIA are in the works.

After a conversation with a friend, I have decided on my own quirky naming scheme. Let's see if you can figure out what it is:

Twin boys
Cole & Brett
Jacques & Henri

Twins (boy and girl)
Leigh & Lander 

Girl names
Julia Margaret
Joyce (this one has a duel reason)

Boy names
Sergon Hershel

Names that can't be rocked in the 21st century 
 (though I'd wouldn't mind otherwise)

And last... one name I would totally use, except it would be tempting fate ... Diane. 

If you understand the theme and have any other ideas, I'd love to hear!

Monday, January 23, 2012

And now I get a little Romantical...

I'll admit that I'm generally the sensible gal who moves forward in life, not in need of a man to make life fulfilling... but sometimes the want comes into play and those times get a little sappy, even for my taste.

Lately I keep having really vivid dreams about having a guy in my life. Sometimes it's just his arm around my shoulder while we're watching a movie, or talking, or (like last night) discussing details with a fiance about our upcoming nuptials whilst boxing up my things to move into his house. (Cheesy, cheesy dreams)

My subconscious is trying to tell me something... and I don't like it. Frankly, the last time I was feeling this way, I ended up dating someone I wasn't as interested in as he was interested in me and I broke up with him when he was in Oklahoma, getting trained to be deployed to Afghanistan. (I'll bet any of you who thought I was nice are coming to the realization that I'm a terrible, awful human being. Now, at least, you know the truth.)

That said, I think back and remember what didn't work for me in that whole dating situation. He was a sweet guy. Probably sweeter than I deserved. He said all the right things--you know... the whole "you're beautiful" bit--bought me flowers, took me to dinners... but it all felt stale. The one thing I remember loving was when he wrote a note or card and gave that to me.

Perhaps I have a very different idea of what romance is. I find it once in a while in lyrics or lines of a play, or a saying. The most recent one I've been hung up on is a part from the book East of Eden. It's when Adam is describing his feelings for Cathy Ames and what she meant to him. He tells Sam:

"A kind of light spread out from her. And everything changed color. And the world opened out. And a day was good to awaken to. And there were no limits to anything. And the people of the world were good and handsome. And I was not afraid anymore."

Wouldn't it be wonderful if someone felt this way about you? And you actually deserve it??? (Anyone who has read East of Eden will know Cathy was definitely undeserving.)

*Sigh* Oh the romantic inside that just won't let go.

What makes you go all Romantical?