Friday, February 24, 2012

Valentine Ride Around Town: 2 - Follow The River To Ocean Beach

Part 1: Through Mission Hills to the River
Part 2: Ocean Beach via OB Bike Path
Part 3: Sunset Cliffs to Cabrillo
I ride slowly and write even slower! Apologies for the delay! I meant to finish this up before last weekend, but I've been out riding around town a lot because we are having outrageously sunny and mild weather. I'm expecting another batch of time-consuming work to come in in a week and the new computer I ordered from Dell still hasn't arrived (a ridiculously maddening buying experience, even though you didn't ask me!). This current laptop I'm writing on has four dead keys in its keyboard that failed to come back to life even after resetting... and three of the dead keys are often used ones, so I'm finding having to keep an on-screen keyboard open to type those letters with in combination with the normal keyboard a pretty annoying typing experience.
Looking north up Morena Blvd from Taylor St in Old Town
But, without further delay, a bit over a week ago on Valentine's Day I had the bright idea to spend the day chocolate-freeing bicycling around town. My plan was to ride all the way to the end of Sunset Cliffs Park on the Pacific Ocean side of Pt. Loma peninsula, then climb up to Pt. Loma Nazarene University to take a photo of two of the gorgeous campus there before coasting downhill back to downtown by way of the Embarcadero promenade/bike path and catching a bus home.

This video was shot on a subsequent late-afternoon ride to the beach. My camera ran out of memory half way through my trip so I had to delete much of the OB Bike Path videos to make room.

I made it through the surprisingly traffic-free Morena Blvd/Taylor Street intersection to the entrance to the Ocean Beach Bike Path, just after the I-8 overpass. After the 40 minutes mostly spent trying to not get hit by a car on the various San Diego city streets, turning into the beautifully car-free and relatively city-insulated pedestrian/cycling trail is always a welcomed escape for yours truly. The path runs straight west toward the ocean, flanked by the San Diego River channel to the north and I-8 (for much of the way) to the south. Civilization is never more than a few meters away, but who cares about that with the squirrels zigzagging through the river's rocky bank and the various exotic water birds fishing and preening and doing other birdy things just a few yards to your right?

Between Morena Blvd and W Mission Bay Drive the river is mostly dry and there are pockets of homeless folks hanging out near the road overpasses. I even spotted a tent in the islet in the middle of the river channel! Hopefully its owner keeps apprised of the weather report. Like other rivers in the Southern California semi-desert, the San Diego is mostly dry most of the time, though is prone to flash-flooding when it rains up in the mountains to the east. 

spoor in the sand, a visit with some California sunflowers, and the river.
The OB Bike Path is popular with the local cyclists, though you can go many minutes without passing anyone on this trail. It gets busier west of Sunset Cliffs Blvd, though. Immediately west of that is Robbs Field Park, with its skate park, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, and other recreational facilities. The pavement also becomes quite bumpy from here on into Ocean Beach itself. Near the river mouth there are many hiking trails into the river bed, with white sand dunes, friendly little beach evening primroses, gopher mounds and lots of dogs and their owners. The beach to the right (north) of the OBBP is Dog Beach, the only 24 hrs dog beach in the county (watch where you walk... not everyone cleans up after own pooches!), to the left (south) is Ocean Beach proper with the famous concrete fishing pier.

There is a big parking lot where the OBBP meets Ocean Beach, with access to Voltair St, the local main thoroughfare. I only lingered around for a while before taking Brighton Ave southeast to Abbott St and headed south toward Sunset Cliffs Rd. Ocean Beach has a sort of hippie culture thingy going on, and there are many happy homeless people around especially along the boardwalk and pier area. 

They are quite different from the downtown homeless in that many are living this nomadic life-style by choice... I trailed behind one homeless gal for a bit who was walking around picking up all the street litter. She turned around, said hello, shrugged her shoulders and said that she's gotta keep her house clean. What could I do but to present her with a bar of Toblerone as a Valentine's Day gift? We walked into a couple more of her cleaning crew and they, too, genially helped ridding me of two other Hershey bars that were loading down my backpack. My trip was going really well!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Met HD Götterdämmerung Broadcast

Two Saturdays ago I took off from the house into the surprisingly rainy morning and headed straight to the AMC movie theater in Mission Valley to catch the Metropolitan Opera's HD broadcast of Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods). This, of course, is the grand finale of the German master's most ambitious musical drama quadruplet. I am not a lover of the Wagnerian operas, but the quality of the cast and, having seen the previous broadcast of Die Walküre last May, the curiosity over the staging (with that monstrous one-set-fits-all shape-shifting La Machina) compelled me to spend six full hours of my life sitting through one of opera's most long-winded works.

You would think that, for arriving at the theater a full 50 minutes before showtime, I was an early bird that was sure to earn my pick of good cinema seats. It was just good enough to get inside the auditorium with 45 mins to spare since all the good seats were claimed very shortly after! More than I was when I attended the HD broadcasts of Carmen and Der Rosenkavalier, I was quite surrounded with a sea of gray hair for this Wagner opera. A genial and talkative lady who sat behind me was an 88 yrs old opera novice who professed to not liking Wagner's stuff that much but was determined to 'see everything' in her effort to educate herself about this art genre. How can anyone not admire that attitude??? If I ever lived to be that age I hope I'll still retain as inquisitive a mind!

If you aren't familiar with the Ring of Nieberlungen story, I'm afraid it's a long and complicated one that I don't particularly feel like regurgitating. In any case, one can hardly do better than resorting to Anna Russell's take on it to catch up on the story!

Unlike Die Walküre, the broadcast of Götterdämmerung went without any machinery glitch. Maestro Fabio Luisi was conducting the Metropolitan Opera's celebrated orchestra this time around (Maestro James Levine is battling a series of illness), and the combination is so efficient and effective that even after 6 hrs I could still not find it in myself to complain about anything. Siegfried's Rhine Journey was swiftly eventful, and the Funeral March taunt and traumatic. It helped that the singing cast was so well stocked with big and very musical Wagnerian voices that the performance was probably the shortest six-hours-show I've ever attended.

Having found Deborah Voigt rather low-octaned as DieWalküre Brünnhilde, I was quite impressed with her quite more dramatically demanding Götterdämmerung Brünnhilde. Mind, she started out a bit underpowered, still, but absolutely caught fire in the final two acts and gave positively everything she had. The voice was just large enough and the range just wide enough, and she put so much into her acting that if one both watched and listened at the same time one would be hard put to find anything wanting.
Deborah Voigt as Brünnhilde (Brigitte Lacombe)
Jay Hunter Morris, released from the San Diego Opera's engagement as Ahab in this month's Moby Dick (though he will sing the role here tomorrow as Ben Heppner has called in sick) to sing Siegfried in both this opera and its prequel, was a most convincing good-hearted but dull-IQed hero both visually and vocally. I hope he isn't getting himself over-engaged too soon in this repertoire, though, as the voice sounded a bit tired by the end of the long opera.

Iain Paterson and Wendy Bryn Harmer were splendid as the Gibichung siblings Gunther and Gutrune. Royal in their bearing and expressive without much hamming up, they actually made the pair quite more human and humane than the characters often appear. Bryn Harmer, in particular, has the making of a wonderful Sieglinde a few years down the road, I think. Eric Owens was menacing as the vengeful Alberich. As Waltraute, Brünnhilde's panicky Valkyrie sister was a very luxurious casting of Waltraud Meier. Her voice sounded surprisingly small at first, but she heated up speedily and chew the scene like nobody else does.

Even the minor cast members were uniformly first rate! Of the three Norns, Heidi Melton as the 3rd Norn was particularly fetching in her vocal security and stage-awareness. I almost mistook the Rheinmaidens of Erin Morley, Jennifer Johnson, and Tamara Mumford for ballerina stand-ins! So wonderfully lithe and nimble they were. Then they started singing and put a new image of ship-wrecking water nymphs in my head.

As impressive as just about the whole cast was, it was the sonorous and imposing presence of Hans Peter König's Hagen that walked off with the show! I'm a die-hard mezzophil, but a few notes into his singing and Herr König had me converted to his dark bassly subject. Half the audience in the movie theater just about jumped off our seats to join the man when he blasted the floor off the auditorium in his call to the Gibichung vassals to gather 'round and welcome Gunther and his bride. As sorry as I am to have been too young to hear live the voice of Hans Hotter, I am a mile over the moon about being an opera fan in the Hans Peter König era. 

Met HD broadcast in movie theater - intermission. (Smorg)
There were two long intermissions where the sturdy-bottoms among us got to see behind the scene interviews with cast members, hosted by soprano Patricia Racette (she was here a few seasons ago as Madama Butterfly!). Perhaps I'm being too picky, but somehow she seemed rather scripted and not quite at ease. She was a big improvement from Placido Domingo, to be sure. At least I could understand everything that was said... though I was surprised at how accommodating the cast members were about talking so much in between their big singing scenes!

I also had a bit of a problem with the video direction. Watching opera in HD broadcast instead of onsite, of course, puts us audience at the mercy of the video director who gets to choose what we got to see, and the director's tendency to linger on closed up shots bugged me after a while. Many of the closed up views of the singers just aren't flattering, and it was a bit weird to see Siegfried lying there clearly belly-breathing well after he expired (I doubt that such movement was visible to the live audience in the house... and wouldn't have been visible to us HD broadcast viewers had the shot gone wide after his last slump). 

I don't know if the millions Robert Lepage spent on the Machine was worth it. I like the thing and how the lack of time needed to change set in between different scenes helped moved things along (and how the bareness of the stage otherwise forces a lot of good acting out of the singers), but is it still very expensive even for a set of four operas. Some other audience members didn't like the machine as much.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Valentine Ride Around The Town: 1 - Through Mission Hills to the San Diego River

Part 1: Through Mission Hills to the River
Part 2: Ocean Beach via OB Bike Path
Part 3: Sunset Cliffs to Cabrillo

I don't have a sweet tooth. My entire set of teeth is glucophilic! The candies aisle at the grocery store is the bane of my sugary existence. It should then come as no surprise that I woke up on Valentine morning practically surrounded by the varieties of chocolate bars acquired from my many raids to the local stores and sweet shops over the past month.

Don't blame me. My guardian angel is the tooth fairy!
What to do with such a guilt-betraying horde of mellifluous theobromic nibblers? I looked out the window at the delightfully rainless Southern Californian sky above and the dustily idle mountain bike below - the very machine that I had spent the dollars that should have facilitated my encore encounter with Lise Lindstrom's delicious Salome upon - and the answer came to me in a whiff of hyperactive imagination: Off on that bike goeth thou, ye Smorg, and return not until the last of those blasphemously tasty chocolate bars has been passed along to others more in need of their richly psyche-soothing extra sweet calories than fat-bottom-you do!

And so began my ambitious Valentine's Day epic sugar-freeing bike ride. Being a slow slugger that I am, I opted for the path of least resistance and headed northwest (down the hill, of course) toward the beautiful uptown community of Mission Hills, at the bottom of which lies the closest access point from my humble abode to the beautifully flat Ocean Beach Bike Path.

Pioneer Park gravestones
Having taken off at the hour where the more industrious residents of San Diego had all completed their morning rush to work, the traffic was accommodatingly light. I rolled through Mission Hills so smoothly that I decided to take a short detour from the route to pay a visit to Pioneer Park and its row of old gravestones. A lot of names interned there turn up at various Old Town museums. I don't know why, but the priests were all lumped up in one corner... Perhaps to confine posthumous ecclesiastical discussions there and allow the rest of the interns true peace?

Mission Hills is a really great neighborhood to stroll or ride around in. The stately old-moneyed craftsman mansions, bungalows, and various revival houses framed by green shrubs and manicured lawns. A car passes through every few minutes instead of in a constant torrent. I headed west on Ft. Stockton Rd, veering onto the laid back San Diego version of Sunset Blvd just as two red-shouldered hawks low-dove over the road into a yard nearby. One popped back out empty taloned, but the other escaped into a tall fir carrying someone's lunch in its beak. Naturally I don't have a photo of it... These hawks are so fast and quiet they're always apparating out of thin air just when I couldn't spare a hand to fish out the slow-acting camera! 

View as you turn the last curve on Sunset Blvd in Mission Hills
Mission Hills has many rustic side-streets worth exploring on bike, but the day had grown a bit older and the ocean beckoned, so I stayed on Sunset Blvd, making for the straightest path to my destination. Entering the last curve there is an awesome view to be had if you are on foot or bike (you lazy buggers going 'round in cars will just have to go park a bit away and walk back to the curve to catch this, I'm afraid. The road is narrow and marked fire-lane red all the way).

And then, of course, there is Juan Street... A decade or so ago I would have had enough of the dare-devil left in me to fly down this steep stretch of paved slope like an aerodynamic roadkill waiting to happen. Alas, I have survived enough close-calls to know that even a hardiest cat do run out of lives after so many encounter with what old Maverick famously characterized as 'the need for speed.' 

Looking down Juan St toward the San Diego River.
Besides, there's a stop sign before the bottom of the hill right where Heritage Park and the Mormon Battalion are... These are relatively busy tourists attractions, so any unsightly spill would likely be photo-documented by one or a few of the camera-toting folks and end up on Youtube where indiscretions go to spend the rest of eternity being replayed for the amusement of others long after crash wounds have faded into scars. I screeched to a complete halt right on the intersection line and hobbled in to the MoBatt to entrusted a few Valentine goodies to Sister Nächstenliebe to pass along among her fellow resident missionaries before escaping from another 'would you like to have another discussion' to my adamantly religion-free bicycle.

Juan Street forms the northern boundary of Old Town State Park, and just a couple of blocks' worth to the west lies Old Town Transit Center and its many bus terminals and trolley station... quite a temptation for soft-bodied Smorg to cut the trip short and hop a bus home in time for lunch! But you'd be proud of me; I prodded on and turned right (east) onto Taylor St to be rewarded with a largely empty road that made the transition onto Morena Blvd less nerve-racking as it could have been (cyclists have a way of ending up in the evening news when we try to make a left turn at a major intersection while surrounded by California drivers!). On the right side of the road just past the I-8 overpass was the entrance to Ocean Beach Bike Path. I've made it to the river!

Unfortunately it is now dinner time and I'm too exasperated by the computer's malfunctioning keyboard to continue typing. Will have to pick this up later! smiley

Saturday, February 11, 2012

One Last Moment in Time for Whitney Houston

I don't generally follow the private lives of performance artists, but it sure sucks when they leave the struggle sooner than we fans are prepared for... if one can prepare for such a thing.

RIP Whitney Houston, and best wishes to her loved ones.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Strauss' Salome at the San Diego Opera

"Salome, tanz für mich.
Wenn du für mich tanzest
kannst du von mir begehren was du willst
Ich werde es dir geben."
   - Hugo von Hoffmannstahl, Salome.

The opera season has started here in San Diego. Last Tuesday, after spending 10 straight hours working myself silly at the computer, I sneaked downtown for a break an caught the second performance of Richard Strauss' Salome at the Civic Theater.

Rush ticket line for Salome at the San Diego Civic Theater.
This not being Munich or any other German-speaking city with great appreciation for one of Strauss' most atonal musical drama, the show was not sold out and there were plenty of rush tickets available at the box office (in case you don't already know this, but it pays to call the SDO a few hours before showtime to ask about rush tickets. The orchestra ones were going for $75 and the balcony ones for only $45!).

Long time readers of my blog might remember that I had a rather contentious relationship with Salome. It was the first opera I ever saw live and the sensationalism of the story, albeit biblical (though the opera was adapted from the Oscar Wilde play), repulsed the then rather prudish me, and kept me from buying another opera ticket for a long time. Salome, the step-daughter/niece of Herod, becomes fixated with Jochanaan (John the Baptist).... or rather, with his body, when he repeatedly rejects her sexual advances while unlawfully visiting him in jail. So when her temperamental (and more than a bit creepy) step-dad asks her to dance for him Salome puts on a rigorous strip tease that is so erotically enchanting that he offers her any reward of her choosing - up to half of his kingdom. Alas, as messed up as Herod is, he couldn't have anticipated the depravity of his step-daughter's request; she wants John's severed head.... and what she then proceeds to do with it is something that should keep young audience from attending this show.

Sean Curran's 2012 staging of Salome at the San Diego Opera. From the balcony.
If the story and the explicitness of Wilde's spotlight on Salome's immorality isn't already disturbing enough, Strauss' indulgence in his ability to describe in music the texture of a dripping drop of blood from a dangling head and every other details of the opera's many gory scenes quite guarantees that nobody would leave a good performance of Salome without many disturbing thoughts in his/her head.

But the performance of this show last Tuesday was quite more than just good. There are already many good reviews posted about it online if you google for it. I was really pleased with just about everything, with the exception of Irina Mishura's one-dimentional caricature portrayal of Herodias (Salome's equally morally deficient mother). The minimalistic staging was very appealingly uncluttered and allowed the show's many good acting singers to show off their stagecraft. The San Diego Symphony under Steuart Bedfort was its wonderful self in the partially covered pit. The orchestra occasionally covered the singers, but I don't think they could have dialed it down much softer. Strauss orchestrated this thing for 112 or so instruments, though the pit at the Civic Theater could only seat about 75 players... That's still a big orchestra!
Lise Lindstorm as Salome performing Dance of the Seven Veils. [Photo: Ken Howard]
Seventy five players can all play softly and you'd still get a pretty dense sound for a soprano to try to slice her voice over. The undisputed star of the show, Lise Lindstorm, didn't find much trouble doing that; however, at least not in the upper part of her range. Her lower passages were sometimes lost behind the orchestral sound (I was up in the balcony, so I got the best acoustic in the house), and I did find her upper voice rather monochromatic after a while. Not that any of that did any harm to her vivid incarnation of opera's most morally repulsive role... One pretty much expects to walk out of this show with either the Dance of the Seven Veils or Salome's obsessive; 'Laẞ mich ihn küssen, deinen Mund, (Let me kiss you on your lips),' or the imagery of her playing out her sexual fantasy with a realistic-looking bloody head uncomfortably stuck in one's head. To much of my surprise the thing that haunted me as I caught the bus home from the theater was what Salome whispered to Jochanaan's permanently displaced head;
'Hättest du mich angesehn ------ Had you looked at me
du hättest mich geliebt. ---------- you would have loved me.
Ich weiß es wohl, du hättest mich geliebt -- I know this well, you would have loved me,
und das Geheimnis der Liebe ist größer -- and the mystery of love is greater
als das Geheimnis des Todes. ------------- than the mystery of death.' 
Aside from the preposterous thought that Salome would have anything credible to say about love. The lass is so psychologically dysfunctional that she would make a sociopath seem warm and cuddly by comparison. The thing that disturbed me was the legitimacy of her complaint. Jochanaan, splendidly assumed by the charismatic Greer Grimsley, was a whole lot of insufferable holier-than-thou y'all-are-gonna-burn-in-hell self-appointed judge of everyone else without much trace of love and/or compassion in his interaction with the admittedly spoiled though still obviously mentally underdeveloped teenage girl. That isn't to say that he deserved to have his head forcibly removed from his body to be used as the girl's celebrated sex toy... but had the man given the lass a real chance and treated her with more compassion this particular Salome might have become receptive to growing some nuggets of human decency and the night might have proceeded rather differently for all involved.
Hättest du mich angesehn... [Photo: Ken Howard]
Of course, this notion that there was a lost chance for redemption for Salome is not supported anywhere in the opera. After all, the lass pays not the slightest attention when Narraboth, Captain of Herod's Guards, kills himself when he could no longer stand her indifference. That I thought of that possibility at all while watching the show convinced me that Lise Lindstrom is one heck of a bloody marvelous singing actress. She could sing, she could dance, and even when she wasn't doing anything she still managed to own the stage just by sitting still on the bare floor gazing into the Civic Theater's cavernous unlit auditorium as Allan Glassman's superbly sung and acted Herod argues with his preposterously cartoonish wife in front of their palace.

I hadn't heard of Allan Glassman before, but I sure will be on the look out for him from now on after seeing what a drama-oriented singer/actor could make out of this normally so dismissibly annoying operatic character. For once, a big voiced tenor who allows me a glimpse of what could have been 'great' about Herod the Great! I should also put in a little kudos here for Sean Panikkar as the tragic Narraboth. He made me wish that role more stage time!

The third performance of Salome at the San Diego Opera starts in just a few minutes. You know, I was actually thinking of going down there to catch it until I stopped by at the bike shop and paid another $100 I didn't really have to have the derailleurs and a few other things fixed. That's pretty much my 'pleasure spending' budget for a few weeks. You know how that goes! If you are in town this weekend, though, the final performance is at 2PM on Sunday. It's only 2 hrs long, so you can go and still come back to catch the second half of the Super Bowl, even!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mormon Encounters: Part 7 - Adam & Free Agency?

My Mormon Encounters saga continues...
Part 1: First Meeting
Part 2: Reading the Book of Mormon 
Part 3: Going to Mormon Church
Part 4: Mormon Battalion & General Conference
Part 5: The Missionary Sisters
Part 6: A Talk Among Friends
Part 7: Adam and Free Agency
Part 8: To the Investigators
Part 9: To the Missionaries

I meant to write a few post this past month but time flies whether one is having fun or not, I found. I had resettled closer to downtown San Diego with a friend, a dog, and a lot of projects. My work keeps me on the computer most of the time, though every now and then I also get to do something a bit more calorie-chewing... And we all need that especially after all the holiday feasts of November and December!

Relocating, of course, means no more Mormon visit to the Smorgabode, though I still keep in touch with a few favorite missionaries (I know I'll get into trouble with this, but then a trouble-free life would be so boring!). A couple of weeks ago Sister Begeistert and her new companion Sister Blondchen gave me another tour of the Mormon Battalion Museum when I dropped by to dump some farmers' market bounty off on them (missionaries are dead useful in helping destroying evidence when you succumbed to a bout of gluttony and bought too much food to fit in the fridge!). We got to talking religion again, of course (that's the downside of hanging with active misshies... they're always on the church's clock!).

Mormon Battalion Memorial on top of Presidio Hill

I'm afraid we didn't progress much. They were trying to tell me about the Mormon interpretation of the Adam & Eve story, and how god is evidently more merciful than Satan because 'he knew what Adam would do before hand but allowed him the 'free agency' to do it (disobeying and eating the forbidden fruit), whereas Satan would have forced Adam (and the rest of us) to only obey, and also in fixing it so that the result of Adam's disobedience was that man became mortal and could now 'learn' and 'progress''. It sounded rather nice and cheery (it helped that the sisters seemed genuinely uplifted by it), but being a killjoy that I can often be, I thought it over and decided that the story didn't seem to say what my patient missionaries thought it said at all.

First off, how can there be any free agency (Mormonese for 'free will') if god can unerringly know everyone's future action? If god knew that I would bring the sisters some blackberries that day, then instead I decided to live up to my moniker and smorg up all the blackberries myself, then I would have retroactively proven god wrong now, wouldn't I? So you really can't have it both way; either there is free will/agency and god doesn't know our future decisions, or there is no free will and god knows the future. The way the sisters interpreted the story didn't support the concept of free will at all, but predestination.

I find it more comforting that these kids chose, of their own free will, to donate their blood to help others rather than that their action was predestined. After all, the implication of predestination is that one is not accountable for one's action... since one couldn't have chosen to do otherwise.

Sister Blondchen tried to posit that god only knows what would happen but he didn't necessarily plan the event out, so somehow free will could still be operating (Ah! The stance softens... She was now not so certain and was doing more damage control than aggressive assertion. Progress!). The question that begged, of course, was who or what, then, controls our destiny now that god isn't so in charge but is more of a bystander??? Luckily the sisters then realized that they had found themselves in a hole and prudently stopped digging... and changed the subject.

My second problem had to do with this idea that god showed wisdom and mercy in penalizing Adam's disobedience by doing him and mankind the great favor of allowing us to die and suffer (in so doing enabling us to 'learn' new things... this little nugget comes from the Book of Moses in The Pearl of Great Price, I think). I would agree that being mortal is a major plus. I shouldn't wish to live so long that I become tired and bored with living! The setting up of this so that Adam had to do a 'bad' thing of disobeying in order for good thing (mortality and spiritual progress) to become available for man bugged me, however. Why would a god purposefully set Adam up to fail and then deigned to chastise him for fulfilling god's plan when he did? And why reward bad behavior? Wouldn't it have been more moral-building to set this up so that good thing can happen only if Adam had chosen to do 'the right thing'?

Don't get me wrong, I have very little tolerance for obedience just for obedience's sake, but the way this story is told to me made it quite clear that obedience is the desirable virtue and that Adam had goofed when he ate the fruit. So... I had a hard time understanding why the Mormons should find this tale so faith-building (even though I am, by now, quite familiar with this religion's running theme of 'the end justifying the means'). It seemed to me that the morals of the story go against both the notion of free agency and the idea of a just god or the virtue of obedience!

Needless to say, this meeting didn't lead me any closer to accepting the Mormons' idea of god. Ultimately, after having asked oneself the questions 'what is god and what, if it exist, is god like?' one also has to ask, 'if there is a god but it is immoral, would I still submit myself to it?'. Do people worship an idea of god because they are afraid of what god can and will do to them if they refuse, or do they worship a god because it is worth worshiping?

A good sport as she always is, Sister Begeistert actually thanked me as we parted for 'making her think again'. Sister Blondchen was harder to read, though I thought she became more a Constanze than a Blond as our meeting came to a close. Was that an improvement? I don't know. Have a look/listen to a marvelous Constanze and see!