Friday, July 12, 2024

How Big is Your God?


(Guest post by Spencer's dad)

Thirty-nine years ago, just after we were married, we had a High Councilman share a message that has stayed with me.   He asked three short questions.   It must have been amazing to others as well because a few months later, this brother came back and did a fireside on the same topic.    

For nearly four decades I have thought of these questions.  

Initially I was going to share in this blog post what I thought each question might mean or look like to each of us.   I won’t do that because I don’t want to limit where these questions might take you.  I will add question four, which I believe moves from theoretical to practical.

1.   How big is your God?

2.   How powerful is your God?

3.   How much do you know about Him?

4.   What difference does this God make in your life today?

Every time I ask myself these questions my pondering leads to new possibilities that I had not previously supposed.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Artist Spotlight: Rebecca Johnston


I knew her as Becca when we were freshmen together at BYU. She's still one of my best, most trusted friends with inside jokes about Narnia, Pocahontas, and her love of band. When she's not wrangling her kids, she's a pro artist, known by her full name. So without further ado, I wanted spotlight Rebecca Johnston.

Where are you from and how does that affect your work?

I’m from northern Utah. I know that many people associate Utah with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And while the gospel of Jesus Christ is the biggest influence on my work, I don’t think that’s entirely because of my physical location. I think the people living here, like my family, friends, and others, have had more of an effect on me and my work than Utah itself. 

However, the art community here has helped me grow and share my work, and it is comforting to have an audience close by that appreciates the kind of work I am most passionate about. 


Tell me about your favorite medium.

My favorite mediums are oil paint and drawing. I didn’t paint until college, so drawing was my first medium. There’s something about the way a pencil moves across the paper that I love. I also love that drawing is more portable than paint. 

I also love oil paint. I love that you can create so many interesting textures and marks, that it’s easy to push and pull her paint, and that it’s the most forgiving paint medium (in my experience). I love what you can create and convey using color! 

Where do you find inspiration?

Most everything I paint or draw has roots in the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Plan of Salvation, and the doctrines of the family. These subjects are what bring purpose and meaning to my life. I particularly feel inspired after attending the temple, participating in a spiritual discussion, or receiving personal revelation. Even when drawing portraits, I know every individual has infinite worth and potential, and that each person has a story perfectly designed by God to become the best they can be. I also get a lot of inspiration from gospel artwork done by other artists. 

Though not as big of an influence, I’m also inspired by cute or beautiful things. I love soft materials, I love cute illustrations, glitter, lots of color, abstract art, etc. Even if I don’t have an interest in learning a particular skill, I admire and I’m inspired by the creativity of others.

When is your favorite time of day to create?

The best time of day for me to create is usually between 10 AM-1 PM. I’ve had to learn that through trial and error. That’s when I feel my best and when I’m most creative and productive. 


Describe how art is important to society.

Art is important to society because it can teach and share ideas and perspectives in a way that many people can relate to and understand. There are things that can’t be described with words but that can be described through art. It’s a language! 

Not only that, but the beauty and wonder we can experience with art helps provide hope, peace, and joy. It helps us notice the beauty and blessings around us. Even the act of making the art can relieve stress and allow someone to express themselves in a healthy way. It has the power to brighten our dark days. 

On a spiritual level, I love that art can help me feel closer to my Savior and feel His love for me. It has the power to connect people and help them feel less alone. 

What motivates you to create?

Honestly, creativity is a natural instinct for me. I’m ALWAYS wanting to make something. That desire isn’t limited to art either. I love crocheting, playing music, making cards, occasionally doing origami, or other crafts. 


How do you define success as an artist?

Currently, I would first define success as being happy in the process of creating, having fun just doing it. Secondarily, but not necessarily required, success means being able to create art that’s both meaningful to the artist but also connects with and helps others. And, you know, having the funds to keep creating is a good thing too. 😉

Does art help you in other areas of your life?

It definitely helps with my spirituality, which then flows into my family and other relationships. Creating art is often not mentally easy for me. It requires me to lean on the Savior, to turn to Him more than I otherwise would. He has made Himself known to me through many personal blessings related to my art and my goals. Through art, my personal testimony has been strengthened. I’ve only made it this far because of Him. 

Art also provides opportunities for me to meet people and help others in unique ways. 

How do you develop your art skills?

I have to practice and do the work. Many people think art is something that just comes naturally, but any art skills I possess have had to be honed and developed just like any other skill. In addition to painting when I can, I also continue to learn about techniques, tools, and art principles. I like the Strada Easel challenge, timed sketches, life studies, and studying the work of artists I admire. I’m grateful that whenever I experiment and practice, no effort is wasted because I always learn something. 


What’s integral to the work of an artist?

I think an integral part of the work of the artist is being authentically you instead of trying to create what and how everyone else wants you to do it. I actually wrote “paint” instead of “create” in the last sentence, but I had to learn the hard way that there are many ways of being an artist. It’s not limited to painting and drawing. If you have something creative you love, do it your way. Your mental health will thank you, and I think you’d be surprised how many people will appreciate your ideas. 

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

One of my favorite things to see is the touched response someone has when I ask to draw or paint them, or when they see the finished piece. Their smiles make me so happy. Someone once said that they’d cherish the portrait I did of them for the rest of their life. It’s exciting, humbling, and very gratifying. 

What do you dislike about the art world?

I dislike that there’s so much competition. I understand that it’s good to have others that are more skilled so that you can keep pushing yourself to learn and become better. I also understand that there is a place for excellence and that, logistically, not everyone can be celebrated all the time. But I also think the external pressure to create amazing things all the time can be suffocating and stifle creativity. 

What superpower would you have and why?

If I had a super power, it would be to apparate like they do in Harry Potter. I’m perpetually late because I underestimate the time it takes to get somewhere. Plus, if I need groceries? I can apparate. Need to take them in from the car? Apparate. Need to escape a disaster or go on vacation? Apparate! So much of my life would be easier if I could have that ability! 

Your top 3 fandoms of all time

Bluey, hands down, is my first favorite fandom. But I also enjoy Avatar: the Last Airbender (the cartoon, not as much the new stuff) and Psych

She did this beautiful sketch of my wife and firstborn, which I absolute adore.
--Spencer

If you're an artist (even if you're not a Latter-day Saint) and would like to be featured on our blog, send us an email to mormongeeks@gmail.com or message us on Facebook/Instagram. 

Follow Rebecca's art on Instagram and Facebook. You can also follow her crochet work on Instagram

Monday, July 8, 2024

Mini Bluey? Bluey Shorts... Bluey Minisodes!


Bluey has new (mini) episodes

For those who don't know why that's a big deal, you can watch all of Bluey, seasons 1-3, on Disney Plus. Don't like Disney? Well, most of Bluey is available on its official YouTube channel as well. Still don't know why it's a big deal? Well, just read my previous article on Bluey to find out, and read on... 

Our favorite show where we find amusement and advice from cartoon dogs is currently in a short hiatus, as the creators take a break from making new episodes. While Bluey still specializes in short episodes, we now get access to more miniature episodes to pass the time before they announce the next project. How did they fare? Let's start in order:

Burger Dog

While the cultural zeitgeist is all around the song based on the title, "Burger Dog," this showed a rare, weak moment from the girl's father, Bandit, our favorite cartoon dog dad (though him and Goofy might rotate the spot in my book depending on my mood). Though Bandit entertained their request to dance to a new song, he found it repetitive and annoying, and then *gasp* lied to his children by telling them that his phone died. This got a bit too real for me when the mum, Chili, calls him and confronts him about it in front of the girls. Moments like this make us face some of the weak moments of being a parent, perhaps a bit too well.

Surprisingly, this is not the Burger Dog minisode

That said, Burger Dog now has karaoke. You can sing along:

Burger dog, b-b-burger dog,

He has pickles and he has cheese,

Burger dog, b-b-burger dog,

Fluffy bun with some sesame seeds,

Burger dog, b-b-burger dog,

Yum yum yum yum yum yum yum 

Burger dog, b-b-burger dog,

He was once a weiner dog,

But now he is a burger dog... 

Maybe we were all weiner dogs once, but now we can be burger dogs, together, finally, in the end.

Bingo 3000

In our second Bluey minisode, Bandit struggles to self-repair the Bingo 3000, and has to call the help line to get it to work. Unable to make it work, he comes up with a creative story of how it'd have to be shipped, and he can't go to all that trouble, so he instead just lives with a broken Bingo 3000 robot. Later, Bingo 3000 is seen serving her parents, but with her "broken" legs. One of the things I love about Bluey is that the parents and the children aren't just real with their games, but they're consistent about things that happened, rather than just changing the game "for convenience." Further, Bandit likes to throw in a preview of "real life" to his kids with his stories, which I think is great. This was a fun game.

Muffin Unboxing
(This picture is from Muffin Cone though)

Muffin now has an unboxing channel on DogTube (Unless they still call it YouTube in the bluey universe). She is everything you'd expect from our favorite, erm, energetic cousin. To be fair, I could totally see Stripe trying to set up a side hustle with his kids this way. This one even comes with our favourite style of editing we saw in "Bumpy and the Wise Old Wolfhound." Muffin is quite a perfect example of the foibles of being a kid, including only wanting toys when others want to play with them (and having very little self-control with candy). Her energy is pretty, erm, delightful though.

Letter

We get a trip back to the 80s, Bandit's childhood, through the lens of a spelling challenged child-Bandit, and his Grandma. Bluey and Bingo really thought his spelling mistakes were funny, but the level of detail in his drawings were top notch. He really should have kept up with drawing. Kris (or Chris? We catch a glimpse of Grandma's name in "Christmas Swim") is always fun on the show, and has great commentary on her son's youth.

Hungry

Bandit is hungry. Bluey is a convenient snack. Bandit learns a valuable life lesson. Then forgets it immediately. Plus it's a simple game to replicate. What's not to love?

Three Pigs

This really was an episode about the wolf and the pig justice system. Moral of the story, the system works. Also, don't pee in the pool. You'll regret it.

Animals

This is perhaps the simplest episode, and the final one of the batch. Chili and Bingo have a cute moment in the park, and Chili pretends to be animals walking around on "the ground," Bingo's back. This could have happened in any moment, on any day, between any other moment, and has such a variety, that it's so versatile. It's really all about the creativity of the parent, and it's such a simple, yet fun little game.


Ultimately, these minisodes could be easy to snuff at, since they're only about two minutes an episode. The thing is, even in such a tiny package, the show's creators where still able to develop characters, demonstrate games for kids and their parents to interact with, and tell a story. Even if we have a little time between a task, or a moment with nothing to do, we can take the time to spend it with our children, and create beautiful memories. We don't have to take twenty minutes with every interaction, we also don't have to pass up opportunities just because we think it's too small. There's enough to do something, to remember, and enough to make memories to last a lifetime.

Last of all, I will have Burger Dog stuck in my head for a long time.

-Kenton

Friday, July 5, 2024

Good Movie Additions: Prince Caspian


Book-to-movie adaptations get a bad reputation from years and years of Hodge podge work (see fans of Percy Jackson and their movies) but I still stand behind the apple pie metaphor from a blog post TJ did years ago. It’s an adaptation, after all, not a direct translation. So some artistic liberties are taken. Some adaptations cause fans to die a little inside (see the Burrow burning in Half-Blood Prince) because they’re unnecessary, but some enhance the feeling and theme of the story (see Stephen’s post about Dawn Treader). I guess my point is that not all creative additions to book-to-movie adaptations are bad. That’s what I want to delve into with some of these blog posts. Today’s example: Prince Caspian.


Susan’s Awkward Encounter and Peter’s Fight

Perhaps it was foreshadowing for her eventually forgetting Narnia, but a couple times it almost seemed like this movie went out of its way to make Susan less approachable (and yet more appealing to Caspian--which wasn't in the books). The first (and funniest) of these was when she briefly took on a fake name at the train station to avoid being hit on. But of course that awkward encounter was interrupted by Peter and Edmund getting in a fight. I liked the additional scenes before entering Narnia because it put the four siblings in this struggle being back in England, despite ruling for years in Narnia (imagine going through puberty twice....). Especially for Peter, it set up his prideful persona that had to be shed later on in the movie to make way for Aslan's will.


The Urgency of the Mystery

In the book, the Pevensie siblings were excited to get back to Narnia, but they seemed to just be along for the ride, as far as all the mystery. In contrast, the film explicitly pointed out that things had changed since they left Narnia. Cair Paravel had been attacked, their friends from their reign were likely long dead, and even the questions asked to Trumpkin added a sense of urgency to their arrival in Narnia. Even the fact that Caspian blew the horn as he was pursued (not to mention Trumpkin's kidnapping and execution) gave a sense of urgency, as opposed to waiting endlessly before calling for help. Something was wrong in Narnia and the events of the movie had a pacing that knew it had to be fixed. But still there was time for a wardrobe change before encountering Trumpkin (kings and queens have to make a dramatic entrance, after all).


Waiting on Aslan

In the book, the Pevensies and Trumpkin encountered Aslan long before arriving at Aslan's How. But in the movie, Trumpkin took the kids to Caspian and even had a failed attack on Miraz (a scene which I heartily enjoy, despite having no precedent in the book) before putting their faith in finding Aslan finally. Maybe it's just the time of life I was in when I saw these movies (Prince Caspian helped me a lot with waiting to go back on my mission, just like Peter had to wait to go back to Narnia) but there's something deeper to me about the Narnians having to wait on Aslan repeatedly before he was ready to appear. Like Lucy said, "Maybe we're the ones who have to prove ourselves to him." The book had good lessons about faith too, but I loved the movie's version.


Caspian's Vengeance

While in the book the Narnians pledged themselves to Caspian quickly and he seemed to be blindly faithful to the kings and queens of old, the movie version showed all the harm and trauma he'd been through. Hated by his uncle, who tried to have him killed, only to be found by the Narnians who didn't want to trust him and to learn that Miraz had killed his father too... it's enough to get under any man's skin, never mind a teenager. So I liked how human Caspian was in the movie. He was flawed and impatient and it nearly drove him to resurrecting the White Witch (I love that she had a reappearance in the movie, instead of only being spoken about in the book). Unlike Peter, whose pride manifested as being over confident, Caspian's showed up in anger, wanting to claim what had been taken from him. But like the High King, Caspian also needed some humbling.


Like last time, tell me where the movie fell short and where you think the artistic liberties won out. And as with all Narnia posts...

For Narnia and for Aslan!

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Try Everything

Have I mentioned that I love listening to music with my daughter? We have been on an a cappella kick recently and have enjoyed the talents of “Home Free,” the 2013 winners of NBC’s show, The Sing Off. Their arrangement of “Try Everything” recently struck a chord with me (pun intended). 

For the sake of background, “Try Everything” was originally sung by Shakira and is from the Disney movie, Zootopia about aspiring police officer Judy Hopps and the crafty criminal turned sidekick, Nick Wilde. I loved the movie and have used the “What do you call a camel with 3 humps?” joke often. (The answer is “pregnant”) But I want to focus on the lyrics to the main song from the soundtrack, “Try Everything.” The last verse resounded with me on a day when I was feeling a little down:

“Look how far you've come

You filled your heart with love

Baby, you've done enough, take a deep breath

Don't beat yourself up

Don't need to run so fast

Sometimes we come last, but we did our best”


I have had the experience of coming in last and it was embarrassing, but I do think I was doing my best. I’m sure there are always moments we can look back on in our lives and think, “Wow, that was dumb. Wish I could have changed that or done that better.” I think that is one of the beautiful things about the principle of repentance in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In his April 2018 General Conference address titled “Until Seventy times seven,” Elder Lynn G. Robbins spoke about how repentance allows us to make mistakes and learn from them as opposed to being condemned by them. He said,

 “Mistakes are a fact of life. Learning to skillfully play the piano is essentially impossible without making thousands of mistakes—maybe even a million. To learn a foreign language, one must face the embarrassment of making thousands of mistakes—maybe even a million. Even the world’s greatest athletes never stop making mistakes. ‘Success,” it has been said, “isn’t the absence of failure, but going from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm.’”

Isn’t that a liberating idea? I can do my best and still fall short, come in last place, mess up again, lose another fight, but because of the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, I can learn from those experiences and keep moving forward. Now, let me be clear, while “Try everything” sounds great, there are some things that I don’t want to try. I have seen the negative effects of some things in the lives of others and that is enough for me to know that I don’t want to try them. I am eternally grateful for the love of Jesus Christ. I love that “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Monday, July 1, 2024

LDS Geeks Podcast #21: Second Doctor Companions


After a little bit of a hiatus, because life got busy for him, I got to record with TJ again. We're moving along through our Second Doctor series. Check out our discussion about his companions. Much less than the First Doctor, we were mostly a fan of the Second Doctor's TARDIS teams.

--Spencer

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