Posts Tagged ‘Utah’

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*Update: As of January 18, Mosaic is available for desktop users.

There has long been talk of applying the choose-your-own-adventure format of children’s storybooks to cinema. Various attempts have been made, largely by blurring the dividing lines between video games and movies, but none that have made significant splashes in the pop culture pond.

And that is what makes “Mosaic” — the new smartphone app-slash-television miniseries by Steven Soderbergh — all the more interesting; not for what it accomplishes but for what it suggests for the future of the medium. Having made my way through most of its episodic chapters and arrived at one of its two conclusions, I would say the story “Mosaic” tells is simply OK — perhaps 3 out of 5 stars if I’m generous — but its structure is fascinating to a degree that elevates the otherwise thin plotting.

The comparison to choose your own adventure books is incomplete, but fair. As a viewer, you’re not able to dictate shifts in plot the way a reader can; instead, you select the perspective of a character to follow through the next sequence of events. I’ve seen other critics describe it as “choose your own *protagonist*,” which is more accurate, as you travel through a static story and ultimately arrive at the same conclusion, albeit with certain pieces of information arriving out of sequence or simply alluded to as off-screen occurrences depending on the route you choose.

 

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But the presentation is also jarring, particularly in the early stages. By way of synopsis, “Mosaic” is a murder mystery, concerned with the whodunit after a celebrated children’s book author, played by Sharon Stone, vanishes following a New Year’s Eve party at her rural estate in “Summit, Utah” (a barely-veiled Park City, which in real life is the county seat of Summit County, Utah).

“Mosaic” doles out its exposition late, and then awkwardly. You start on your path by meeting Stone’s Olivia Lake, and are then presented with a choice between two characters at the end of each chapter — various flashbacks and additional scenes that add clarity are offered as optional detours within chapters — and if you primarily follow Garrett Hedlund’s Joel, as I did, you won’t even know who died, when, or how until quite late in the series.

And because the audience still needs critical information independent of their protagonist selection, Soderbergh is obligated to write in lengthy, momentum-killing monologues that state on-the-nose what has happened just in case you missed it the first time through.

There’s a lot of talent on screen here. In addition to Stone and Hedlund the cast includes Paul Reubens and Beau Bridges in non-POV roles. But no one really does much of anything, as the central gimmick of “Mosaic” means making 15 episodes (roughly 30 minutes each) out of story that can be told in 7.

Soderbergh plans to release a more traditional tv-format through HBO early next year, and I think the actual content of “Mosaic” will be better served that way. But I still wouldn’t recommend watching the show. I would, however, recommend downloading the free “Mosaic by Steven Soderbergh” app for exploration of the selective perspective model.

Why bother? It’s a reasonable question to ask since I don’t think the content is particularly good television. But while the recipe may not have worked out right, there’s no denying that Soderbergh has cooked up something special with “Mosaic.” And with more and more of our television viewing habits shifting away from live broadcasts and toward a binge-able, steaming model, it’s not to much of a stretch to imagine a future where you choose to dwell on the shenanigans of a supporting character a little longer before rejoining the main plot. Or what about a future season of Stranger Things in which you have the option of watching the show in its entirety from Eleven’s perspective, or Mike’s, or a demogorgon?

When the next episode in a series is just a mouse-click away, why limit audiences to a linear progression? In any movie or tv show there are scenes and footage that end up on the cutting room floor. Why not let viewers choose their own 13-step path to the finish line. We’ve already scene this is some DVD and Blu-Ray releases, where a click of the remote inserts a previously-deleted scene. “Mosaic,” in essence, is the natural evolution of the extended cut, in which there is no definitive “version” of a story.

Maybe I’m overreacting, and the many failings of “Mosaic” will put an end to this type of experimentation. I doubt it. I think Soderbergh, and others like him, are just getting started. So download the app, and check it out.

Grade: C+

Mosaic by Steven Soderbergh is currently available as a free download on iOS and Android devices.

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Weiner

It’s easy to imagine a parallel universe in which Anthony Weiner successfully repented of his sins (or never committed them in the first place) and won an unlikely victory in the race for mayor of New York City. In that universe, one can only speculate on what could have been in the embattled politician’s future.

The contrast between that once-bright future and Weiner’s corresponding fall from grace, is made all the more Shakespearean in this searing, at-times-uncomfortably intimate documentary, which tracks the meteoric rise, fall, resurgence and final explosion of an American political career.

“Weiner,” the film, is shot with astounding access to Weiner, the man’s, inner circle. That access was no doubt expected to produce a much different, and much more positive story, and it makes the inevitable trainwreck all the more daunting as it approaches.

But the film also succeeds at humanizing a man who became a national punchline. Weiner is shown here as passionate, energetic, sympathetic and deeply, deeply flawed. The film juggles the laugh out loud humor of a campaign in crisis with the profound sadness of watching a family and marriage nearly torn apart by scandall.

That no other politician would allow this level of exposure, combined with the singular drama of Weiner’s personal story, creates a documentary experience with few equals.

Grade: A

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Joshy

After his wedding is canceled, Josh (Thomas Middleditch) and his friends meet up for what would have been Josh’s bachelor party.

Boasting a strong ensemble of those-guys-you-know-from-tv (Adam Pally, Nick Kroll, Jenny Slate, etc.) Joshy is an ambling, improvisational dramedy that, were it not for the charm of its actors, would likely fall flat. But the energy from the ensemble manages to keep the aimlessness on the rails and distract from the otherwise thin goings-on.

Grade: B-

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Sand Storm

Set in a Bedouin village in southern Israel, “Sand Storm” is a quietly powerful story about women trapped in a suffocatingly patriarchal community. The film is centered on Layla (Lamis Ammar) and her mother Jalila (Ruba Blal-Asfour), separated by a generation that overlaps traditional and modernism. Layla is allowed to study, but is hiding a boyfriend from her father, who has recently taken a second wife while ignoring Jalila and her children.

The authenticity of the culture depicted in “Sand Storm” is elaborately but not showingly detailed. But much of the film’s tension relies on social constructs that could benefit from more explanation for an international audience. It’s apparent that there are deeply rooted customs at play, which threaten the livelihood and happiness of these women, but without knowing that those customs are, its difficult to gauge some of the stakes.

Grade: B

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The Hollars

The quirky family dramedy is a perennial staple at Sundance, and the genre’s demands are thoroughly satisfied by “The Hollars,” directed by The Office’s John Krasinski. This is a film where an aloof son (Krasinski) is summoned home due to the ill health of a parent (in this case, character actress Margo Martindale) and the reconnection to his past jars him out of a rut so he can face his future.

It’s a familiar formula, but one that is successfully executed by the incredible ensemble cast, which includes Charlie Day, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Richard Jenkins, Sharlto Copley, Josh Groban and perfect human Anna Kendrick. It’s funny, it’s heartfelt, and it goes down smooth.

Grade: B+

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Jim: The James Foley Story

James Foley, a freelance war correspondent, was the first American citizen killed by ISIS. His 2014 death, a grueling videotaped beheading after almost two years in captivity, was a watershed moment for the nation, and one that is given the weight it deserves in “Jim: The James Foley Story.”

Both a tribute to Foley and conflict journalism, “Jim” follows Foley’s work in Libya and Syria, before transitioning to his capture and the failed attempts by his family to negotiate a release. The story benefits greatly from first-hand interviews with Foley’s fellow captives, which are dramatized in understated, quasi-abstract vignettes that keep the emotion right where it belongs: the harrowing account of torture, resilience and camaraderie among a group of international journalists.

The film captures the anger and frustration of Foley’s family, openly critical of the U.S. government’s response to his abduction, and also blend of pride and regret they feel out of love for their brother and son and the weight of his absence. Both intimate and sprawling, told in quiet moments and scenes of explosive horror, “Jim” is the kind of documentary that takes days to shake off.

Grade: A

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I participated in my first Ukulele competition, although “competition” in this case is a very loose term.

Little Logan Utah (population 49,000) decided to hold the Utah Ukulele Festival last month. As it turns out, it’s one of several “Utah” ukulele festivals held in the state, and would much more accurately have been labeled the Cache County Ukulele Festival.

Still, it was charming and exactly what I expected it would be. And since we were camping in the area already (more on that later) we decided to stop by.

The festival was mostly centered around an open mic competition, split into two age divisions of 14 and younger or 15 and older. There were also a few vendors, with both high- and low-end ukuleles for sale.

The kids’ division was a hoot, including two separate renditions of Jason Mraz’ “I’m Yours” in which the performers struggled over the syllabic gymnastics of removing “God” and “Damn” from the lyrics.

I performed “June Hymn” by the Decemberists. In the end I think I got demerits for not performing an original song but that was fine because the winner really did steal the show, playing a great tune about saying goodbye to her boyfriend.

Liz filmed my song, which you can watch above. I tried to crop it as best I could but unfortunately my girlfriend is that type of person who films vertically. We’ve talked about it. That, and her opinion of Tom Cruise, are the two most challenging divisions in our relationship.

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The festival came at the end of our trip, which started with a campout in Logan Canyon and a hike up to the wind caves. This was the first time we’ve attempted a Family Camping Trip and I’d say it was, overall a success, although some members of our group were less inclined toward the finer points of outdoor adventuring.

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We also took advantage of the trip to make a detour up to Bear Lake, where we paddled around and got some lunch at La Beau’s. Liz isn’t from Utah, so I explained to her that we are a La Beau’s family and will never, under any circumstances, eat at the Quick N Tasty, which is neither Quick nor Tasty.

Also, because it cracks me up, here’s a picture of Truman creepily staring at us through the tent screen like Paranormal Activity rather than go play in the great outdoors.

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After a year working with the talented folk at the Salt Lake Film Society, and my friends in the Utah Screenwriters Project, my debut feature-length screenplay is finished.

This week the USP had our graduation ceremony, where a group of local actors read a scene from each of our scripts, giving us a first taste of what our work could actually look like off the page.

My screenplay is titled “Brother, Father, Sister, Mother” and it’s about an empty-nester named June whose life is thrown into uncharted territory after she stumbles into bed with the brother of her daughter’s new boyfriend.

You can watch the live reading in the video below (please do! AND TELL YOUR FRIENDS!) but fair warning it includes what the MPAA would describe as “Brief strong language and adult situations.” Technically the video is PG-13, but the script itself is an R-rated dramedy.

But wait, there’s MORE EXCITING NEWS! I was selected by the Film Society as one of two USP Honorees, which means a professional script consultation by Dave Trottier, author of The Screenwriters Bible. I’ll be sending him my script this week, at which point he’ll run it through a meat grinder and hand it’s bloody, mangled carcass back to me with some constructive criticism, it’ll be great.

After that I start the long, soul-crushing process of pitching the script to agents and producers, which, if my self-published novel is any indication, probably won’t end well. But who cares! I’m really happy with my script. Here’s hoping I get to see it – or something else I wrote – on the big screen some day, but if not just watching the actors at graduation was a treat by itself.

Check out the video, and if you know any indie producers looking for their next hit, send ’em my way.

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10553410_10204449416380343_7121517607838412198_nAnyone want some free ukulele music for the new year?

I know I haven’t posted much by way of One Wood Uke lately, but some things just can’t be rushed. I actually started working on this song in September while I was busking at our local farmers market (I’m also drinking Kombucha while I type this — hipster overload!!!) but then I got busy with my new job and before I knew it, it was the holiday season.

Fire/Fear (by The Head and the Heart) just didn’t seem right for a Christmas release, with its pining lyrics and lilting mood, but it’s absolutely perfect for January, the worst month of the year.

I mean, right? I’ve lived most of my life in Utah where January is a seemingly interminable tedium of inversion-bogged, dreary lifelessness. It doesn’t help anything that it’s also my birth month, since birthdays fill me with a creeping dread of mortality and a sense of wasted potential. Time: that unstoppable monster that devours all things.

But even if you’re not, like me, in the throes of seasonal affective disorder, this song is still for you 🙂 Sure it’s about heartbreak, but it’s also about hope. Right? I don’t know. I just like it.

The other reason it took me until January is because when I left my old job in October, I left behind the company-issued MacBook that came with it. Now, I’m not an Apple absolutist like some, but my personal computer was a rather dismal Asus that I had purchased on the cheap in 2012 and barely used since then. It wasn’t up to the task.

But now I’m back on a MacBook and it feels (and hopefully sounds) so right!

As always, head on over to bandcamp for a free download of the song. And if you can tell me in the comments the two places where I messed up you get a special prize.

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It’s been a particularly drab December here in Utah, where an atypical lack of snowfall has failed to make a winter wonderland of the otherwise lifeless inversion-bogged post-Autumn mountains of the Wasatch Front.

So I wanted to go somewhere pretty. Somewhere like the spa at the Grand America Hotel, Salt Lake City’s largest and only AAA rated 5-diamond hotel. This is the big daddy of Utah’s hotel industry. When U.S. presidents visit the Beehive State, this is where they stay.

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As far as the actual Treat Yo Self experience, I was intrigued by the Sugar Body Polish offered by the spa, which promised a “sweet treat to pamper deprived skin” through a blend of sugar exfoliate and moisturizing coconut and safflower oil, rich in Vitamins B-6and E.

I love vitamin B-6, it’s my favorite of the Bs! (Note: I don’t actually know the difference between B vitamins). I was sold, and I invited my friend Liz to come along.

I met Liz in February during the Legislative session. She’s a southerner who likes Mexican food. She’s my polar opposite. Literally. We have the Myers Briggs test results to prove it.

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She’s ok.

We checked in at the Grand Spa and were promptly shown to our locker rooms, which were located on separate floors and which included their own gender specific lounges. I can’t speak for the women’s lounge, but mine had two large plasma screens, a shoe polisher and complimentary tea, pretzels and granola.

I was shown to my locker by an attendant, where I found a very comfortable robe (pictured above) and a pair of Jesus sandals waiting for me. There was also a dry sauna and steam room and a row of showers, including the “experience” shower, a behemoth monstrosity advertized as having 17 separate shower heads (I counted 18).

FullSizeRender(14)After a few minutes in the lounge, I was picked up by my — masseuse? scrubber? — the person who would be performing my body scrub, who led me upstairs to my treatment room, which included its very own experience shower.

She gave me an option of scents to choose from, from which I selected a eucalyptus grapefruit blend. I was also a little congested from a cold so she added some essential oils to help me breathe better.

The scrub itself was very similar to a massage: I lied down on a bed covered by a sheet and she proceeded to pass her sugar-coated hands around my body. But instead of the pressured kneading of a massage, she moved in a back and forth motion similar to what I imagine my teeth feel when I brush them.

After the sugar was applied, she stepped out of the room while I went and rinsed off in the experience shower. I was really excited for this but the shower itself turned out to be mildly terrifying, a disorienting onslaught of scalding hot water coming from all directions with no escape.

I rinsed and toweled and laid back down. She returned to the room, applied some moisturizing oil and that was that. I met back up with Liz in the lobby and we picked up our to-go bottles of sugar scrub for an at-home sequel.

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Properly pampered, we skipped over to Simply Sushi to conduct our interview over some miso soup and tuna rolls.

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Wood’s Stock: Who are you and what do you do?

Elizabeth Converse: My name is Elizabeth and I work in politics.

WS: What did you think of the body scrub today?

EC: It was weird.

WS: How so?

EC: It was like a massage that was cut in half and instead you were scrubbed for the first half.

WS: Did you like it though?

EC: Yeah it was fun.

WS: Have you ever had a scrub before?

EC: No

WS: Walk me through it, what it was.

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EC: You get naked and you get on a table and instead of a massage they rub you down with exfoliates and things that smell good.

WS: What does it feel like?

EC: Tingly. I enjoyed it. A lot.

WS: I’ve had a massage, it’s very smooth. But this was scratchy.

EC: It didn’t feel scratchy to me. It didn’t hurt.

WS: I don’t mean that it hurt but it was scratchy, kind of sandy.

EC: Yeah

WS: Like someone with sandy hands was rubbing my body.

EC: Yeah. You and I define words differently. Scratchy to me has a negative connotation. It was awesome.

WS: So then what?

EC: You jump into this really weird shower with a million shower heads and light reflectors.

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WS: What did you think of that?

EC: I was completely overwhelmed.

WS: Right?

EC: I told her that after I got out. She laughed and said she always has to turn have the heads off, it’s over-stimulation.

WS: It was too much. She turned it on for me and she turned it on way too hot.

EC: With mine some of them were cold and some of them were hot and I couldn’t figure out how to adjust them so they were all warm. I just kept turning awkwardly and making sure all the sugar was off of me. And that’s another thing. Sugar gets places.

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WS: Sugar gets places?

EC: Yeah and I didn’t…

WS: Should we just leave it at that?

EC: Yeah let’s leave it at that.

WS: So after shower what then?

EC: You lay back down on a clean set of sheets. That’s another thing, it was weird laying in sheets with food in them. I haven’t done that in a long time.

WS: You mean the sugar?

EC: Yeah, it’s gross. No eating in bed.

WS: So how does it finish out?

EC: You lay down on the clean sheets. They rub you down with oil, like a mini massage and that was pleasant. I enjoyed both sides of that, really it was just the shower that was weird. She did my stomach, which was really nice and felt interesting.

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WS: When you say she did you stomach, you were laying there topless?

EC: No she covered me with a towel. She just rolled the sheet down and I had a towel.

WS: I’m just mad that I didn’t get my stomach.

EC: It was kind of awesome.

WS: I mean, it’s easy to scrub my stomach.

EC: It was really fun and super relaxing. It’s one of those body parts that people don’t often rub so it was quite pleasant.

WS: How does your skin feel?

EC: I don’t know yet. I kind of want to go home and get naked and test it out. Putting my clothes back on was weird. They were dirty and I was all clean and soft. The hair on my legs is super soft right now.

WS: You’re a sports fan yes?

EC: Yeah

WS: Who do you cheer for?

EC: NBA is Oklahoma City Thunder. I currently do not have an NFL team. I’m looking.

WS: You’re in the market?

EC: I’m in the market for an NFL team. I love Peyton but the Broncos are just a raging disappointment. And then of course college ball, Oklahoma State for life and most SEC teams when they’re not playing someone I care about.

WS: Are you more of a collegiate level fan or professional?

EC: Growing up in Oklahoma there weren’t professional teams so college ball is life.

WS: I don’t know a lot of women who are big sports fans. Where you grew up is it just sports everywhere, every day, everything?

EC: Yeah during the season its just part of life. The only season that I wasn’t invested in was baseball but down there baseball is still pretty huge. It just depends on where you live and what the major sport was in the town you grew up in and for us that was football.

WS: Is it weird to you if someone doesn’t’ like sports?

EC: Yes.

WS: Why? Let’s say, hypothetically of course, that right now you were speaking to someone who didn’t care about sports.

EC: Hypothetically.

WS: What would be your argument to why they’re wrong?

EC: I don’t necessarily think they’re wrong it’s just odd to me. That’s what you do in high school and college, it’s how you show collegiate pride. One thing I loved about my high school experience was that we had players in our drama department. There was no divide there. The directors worked hard to make sure everyone was well-rounded so you became friends with people. You wanted to support them in their careers.

WS: I’m a huge film fan and people are often dismissive of entertainment and I have a speech that I sometimes give as to why I think it’s important. So why is sports important. Why does it matter?

EC: It’s the alternative to modern warfare. I don’t know how to explain that. It allows for a healthy level of competition and aggression where other people might not have an outlet at that time. I think people and young adulthood is a very stressful time and sports and sports fandom allows people that outlet.

WS: What about people who argue that it heightens and fosters aggression?

EC: I think they’ve never seen a bunch of bored teenagers in a neighborhood with nothing else to do breaking stuff. You put those same teenagers who want to break stuff on a football field and they might get to go to college because of it.

WS: It’s bowl season. Are any of your teams still in the running?

EC: Oklahoma State. I don’t know what bowl they’re in.

WS: Would you recommend a body scrub to someone who has never had one?

EC: No.

WS: Why not?

EC: I think it’s something that can be done at home and I’d rather spend the entire time being massaged.

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WS: I can see that. I liked the variety of two experiences. Felt like I was getting a lot out of my trip to the spa. Are you on twitter?

EC: No.

WS: Anything you want to promote.

EC: No.

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Normally, that would be the end of this post. But seeing as how this was the final Treat Yo Self I thought I’d check in with some of our friends from adventures throughout the year.

I asked them a few questions and then invited them to turn the tables and interview me. Here’s what they had to say.

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Adam Blair, from Treat Yo Self: Barbershop Shave

Wood’s Stock: Have you repeated your Treat Yo Self activity? Or have you had any other Treat Yo Self experiences this year?

Adam Blair: Yes, I got a mani-pedi with some friends. And it so happens that I booked a straight razor shave yesterday at Ray’s.

WS: Now that it’s not so fresh, would you still recommend/not recommend your activity?

AB: Absolutely. Straight razor shaves make you feel real classy.

WS: Any questions for me?

AB: Would you rather have rackets for hands or flippers for feet?

WS: Flipper feet would only be useful in an aquatic scenario, but racket hands would interfere with more of my day-to-day activities. I choose flipper feet.

AB: How do you feel about ugly sweater parties?

WS: I support themed parties but I don’t believe in intentionally wearing ugly clothing.

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Cody Titmus, from Treat Yo Self: Chest Wax

Wood’s stock: Have you repeated your Treat Yo Self activity? Or have you had any other Treat Yo Self experiences this year?

Cody Titmus: I think I am going to limit myself to just the one waxing this year.

WS: Now that it’s not so fresh, would you still recommend/not recommend your activity to others?

CT: That’s a hard ‘No!’

WS: Any questions for me?

CT: Why? Whyyyyyyyyyyy?

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Neil Schiffman, from Treat Yo Self: Spray Tan

Wood’s Stock: Have you had any other Treat Yo Self  experiences this year?

Neil Schiffman: The only treating myself I’ve ever really ever done was a pedicure. That was heavenly.  No headaches, crazy soft feet, and crazy Asian ladies making fun of me added up to a delightful experience.

WS: Any questions for me?

NS: When you read Ayn Rand what was your initial reaction and how do you view her writings now?

WS: I still consider myself a Rand fan, much like I consider myself an Upton Sinclair fan. I don’t think either author’s work should be the sole foundation of society or an individual’s philosophy, but I enjoyed Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead and think there’s valuable nuggets in there, particularly about inter-personal relationships. I even gave Atlas Shrugged a shout-out in my novel Committing.

NS: With this Rolling Stone article blowing up in their face, what, in your opinion does this story do to the cause of raising rape awareness? Do people respond “told you rape like that doesn’t happen” or completely ignore any discrepancies and continue to see men as pigs?

WS: I think we’re seeing both reactions, and I worry about this controversy setting the conversation back several years. But many universities, including UVA, continue to be under investigation by the Department of Education for their handling of campus sexual assault and a lot of schools are moving forward with their reviews of campus policies even though the article has been (at least partly) discredited. TIME had an interesting article about the post-Rolling Stone landscape that suggested the conversation is still moving forward.

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Emily Milam, from Treat Yo Self: Hot Stone Massage

Wood’s Stock: Have you repeated your activity or treated yo self in other ways?

Emily Milam:  Probably once a day since February I have thought to myself “I need to get another hot stone message,” but sadly, I haven’t gone back for another. However, this year I went skydiving (which was definitely a treat for me) and I got a couple facials which were awesome.

WS: Any questions for me?

EM: If you had to pick 3 movies that were the only three movies you could watch for the rest of your life, what would they be?

WS: Casablanca, Jurassic Park, Silver Linings Playbook.

EM: Your escorts excluded, which Treat Yo Self was your favorite?

WS: The hot stone massage was the most enjoyable and probably the one that I’m most looking forward to doing again. But in the sense of discovering new and interesting things, I would say the sensory deprivation tank was the most memorable.

Float tank at Salt City Float Spa

EM: What is the most importation news item people should be aware of at this time?

WS: The American diet is a joke, setting us on a trajectory for widespread diabetes in the coming decades. While we were all enjoying our diet Coke, they stopped referring to Type 2 as “adult-onset” diabetes because people are getting it at younger and younger ages. Big sugar is the new big tobacco and common sense reform efforts, like listing added sugar on nutrition labels, are being blocked by very powerful and well-funded lobbying groups. Stop. Drinking. Soda. And watch ‘Fed Up.’

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Chelsey Gensel, from Treat Yo Self: European Facial

Wood’s Stock: Have you repeated your activity or treated yo self in other ways this year?

Chelsey Gensel:  I have not repeated my activity but only because new york is so damn expensive. I have thought about treating myself a few times after reading your blog posts, but I’ve always put it off because of timing or cost – maybe I’ll make a list of my own for 2015.

WS: Would you still recommend getting a facial?

CG: I would recommend trying it at least once, especially if you have problems with your skin. Find a treatment suited to that specifically.

WS: Any questions for me?

CG: Do you feel like you were “successful” with the project?

WS: I do. I like to say that “I fear the life un-lived” and this project really gave me the push I needed to open myself up to new experiences. Most of the things on this list were things I’ve been curious about for a while, but I never had the right motivation to pull the trigger.

CG: Is there any treat you wish you had or hadn’t done?

WS: I don’t regret any of the activities, even though some of them were horrible. Liz and I were supposed to end it with a hot air balloon ride over the Wasatch Front but the pilots cancelled at the last moment because of inclement weather. That was a bummer. I had also hoped to do acupuncture but everywhere I looked sold service packages instead of single visits, which was just too cost prohibitive.

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Tarot cards

We’re reaching the end of the Treat Yo Self project and as I’ve looked back over the year, trying to plan out the end, I wanted to make sure my activities didn’t become redundant in the final months.

Coming up with these adventures is not as easy as it might appear, and as I’ve said before Salt Lake City is not exactly a bottomless well.

But I was talking to someone the other day who told me about having their star chart read. It occurred to me that with the exception of yoga, I’ve had relatively little exposure to new-age, meditative and spiritualistic therapies.

So I looked for a place where I could have my fortune told, and I invited my friend Lia to come along.

I met Lia two years ago through a religious congregation that we were both attending at the time. I had recently moved back to Utah and she, myself and two other friends became a social unit, much like a mixed gender and less-boozy Utah-ized version of Sex and the City.

Lia’s a total Samantha. I don’t actually know what that means.

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She’s OK.

We checked in at Crone’s Hollow for our appointment and Lia went first while I perused the shop’s selection of crystal balls, incense, candles and birch bark.

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Her reading went well over her allotted 20 minutes, but then it was my turn to pass through the beaded doorway of a makeship velvet tent set up in the shop’s lounge area.

Crone’s Hollow employs a number of readers, with names like Starfyre and Lady Luna, who specialize in various methods of divination.

Our guy was a card reader named Rob.

Rob gave me the choice of the tarot deck, which he said is more emotional and esoteric, or the Lenormand deck, which is more literal and external. I’m a literal guy. I’m certainly not esoteric.

He asked me what I wanted to talk about and I gave him the usual response: work and relationships. Then he proceeded to lay out a square of nine cards (the “Nine Witnesses” he said), which represented my ambitions and aspirations (the top row) and what I have the most control over (the bottom) moving from the past (the left column) to the present (the center column) to the future (right column).

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But he also made sure to emphasize that no matter what the cards said I still possess free will. “The cards are not set in stone,” Rob said. “The future is plastic.”

We talked a lot about what I’m looking for in love and in life and Rob advised me to live in the present, be genuine and not worry about things I can’t control.

It was interesting and pleasant but I remain a skeptic. I’m not sure it takes a gift to tell someone to be assertive at the office and sincere in the bedroom.

Properly pampered, Lia and I headed over to Curry Fried Chicken to conduct our interview over some shwarma.

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Wood’s Stock: Who are you and what do you do?

Lia Bliss: My name is Lia Bliss. I work as a hairdresser and I work at a women’s gym and I am a mom.

WS: Was today your first tarot reading?

LB: It was absolutely not.

WS: Are you a frequent…reader?

LB: Readette?

WS: Readette.

LB: I have my own tarot deck so I’ve done my own. I’ve gone to the farmer’s market and had some done and I’ve had friends of mine who are fairly clairvoyant do them, but nothing as serious or professional as today was.

WS: So you’re a believer?

LB: Totally. I’m deep in.

WS: Walk me through today, what it was and what you did.

LB: Like when I woke up this morning?

WS: No just the tarot reading.

LB: We went to a wiccan/pagan kind of coffee shop supply center and there’s a little booth that You walk into.

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WS: That was a great booth.

LB: It was. It was dark and velvety and you feel all mystical. The guy, a bald man with a fantastic goatee, tells you about himself and there’s two different decks that he does. A tarot deck and another one.

WS: Which one did you pick?

LB: The other one.

WS: Lenormand?

LB: Yeah.

WS: Why did you pick that one?

LB: He could tell that it piqued my interest because I didn’t know anything about it. I knew about tarot and he used the same deck I use. So I did the other one.

WS: So at least that part of the experience was new to you.

LB: Totally new. And he did the 36 card spread, the whole thing. And it was interesting because the first three that he laid down he said “Oh, you’re moving soon” and “Oh, you have a soon, not engagement, but renewal of commitment.” Oh do I? Great news! But the way that the deck works, as it was explained to me, whatever is closest to the card representing you are the things you have the most effect on. The further away the less effect.

WS: He arranged mine in a 3 by 3 square. Is that not how he did yours?

LB: No he did all the cards of the full deck and laid them all out. And he told me it’s usually an hour and a half reading but he thought I needed it.

WS: Without telling us too many intimate details, what was your reading? What did he say?

LB: I don’t have necessarily a career to talk about so I wasn’t worried about that. He knew I was moving soon but knew it was just happening. We talked about how me and my boyfriend are very much in line with our timelines. We’re very synced up that way. But I also take on a lot of emotional burden and he was concerned about my physical health. Right next to my card was the representation of physical health in a negative way so he asked if I was OK. He said that I take on a lot of responsibility for the emotions of people around me.

WS: Do you?

LB: Absolutely. 100 percent. When you’re a parent and when you’re essentially a spouse that’s what you do. You take on responsibility for people’s emotions. You want them to be happy. You try to make a loving household. But he said there was a lot of negativity that it was stressing me out so bad it would start affecting my physical health.

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WS: Moving away from the tarot reading, you are a woman in society yes?

LB: Correct. I agree that I exist in this society and I am a woman.

WS: I’m a man in society and can’t really comprehend the female experience. What do you think is different about being a woman?

LB: With women there is no right. Regardless of what you do/are/say/believe, you are wrong. If you were to interview a group of women and ask if they see themselves as an accommodating person, the women who say “yes” would be considered a doormat or a pushover and the women who answer “no” would be seen as a bitch or overly aggressive.

WS: Like the idea of how a man is a boss but a woman is bossy.

LB: Yeah.

WS: Would you consider yourself a feminist?

LB: Yes but not in the bra-burning, I hate men, radical sense.

WS: In what sense, then, are you a feminist?

LB: I obviously think women have a place in society and they shouldn’t be kept at home. I didn’t really consider myself a feminist until I read an article about how women exist in public in a male-controlled space.

WS: Like male gaze?

LB: The article described how a woman can walk down the street and an older man will reach out to her and say “Sweetheart, you’re so beautiful, you should smile more.” It’s so degrading and so disrespectful because fuck you, I should be allowed to not smile whenever I want. Just because I’m a woman doesn’t’ mean I need to smile and be pleasant and attend to your, whatever. I’m allowed to have a personality and bad moods and things like that.

Do I get up in arms about the wage gap? No, it’s not my fight. Do I think the rape culture needs to change? Absolutely. I have five sisters. That should not be a thing. But I’m not a crazy person.

WS: What do people who haven’t thought about gender not realize about gender?

LB: I think there are times when women don’t realize what it’s like to be a woman. And that’s almost worse.

WS: Such as?

LB: When I became a mom I had the biggest internal personality shift, which I thought was supposed to happen. But then I had to have this huge intropersonal, introspective crisis basically where I said I can still be a good mother and raise my child nurturingly without necessarily liking to crochet or quilt. I can still like to twerk on the weekends and also sing lullabies to my baby.

WS: We men often see the pressure that women put on another women and it’s quite strong.

LB: I think men inadvertently compare women to each other because they think all women have the same base level. But people are complex emotional creatures and they’re all going to be different. But I don’t think men are necessarily tough on women, I think often it’s a woman versus woman situation and the men are just around because we need them to procreate.

WS: Are we men caught in the crossfire?

LB: Absolutely. We say that we want attention from men, and attention from men is nice, but it’s like how there’s girl hot versus guy hot. Mila Kunis is guy hot.

WS: Oh yeah.

LB: But Lady Gaga is girl hot.

WS: Gross.

LB: Right. Women like crazy painted acrylic nails and men do not give a shit.

WS: So to wrap up, would you recomend that someone do a tarot reading?

LB: Absolutely. It makes you feel better after.

WS: Anything you want to promote.

LB: Health?

WS: Are you on twitter.

LB: Yes @bestliabliss

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