Run away
as fast as you can


Run away!.

The Big O and I have been snail hunting over the last week. We have extracted and brutally slain hundreds of snails. Roughly literally.

The Big O has been well trained by his mother regarding the realms of cuteness, and so, when we would discover a particularly small snail, he would exclaim in preternaturally high pitches, "Oooooooooo! It's SO CUUUUUUUTE!!!!!!!!!!!"

And then he would drop it to the ground and grind it into the brick walkway with his besandalled foot.

Today's post is brought to you by Leo Tolstoy


Nekhludoff experienced the feeling which a horse must feel when brushed down before the bridle is put on and it is led to be harnessed to the wagon. But to-day he was not at all disposed to draw. He excused himself and began to take leave. Missy kept his hand longer than usual.

"Remember that what is important to you is important to your friends," she said. "Will you come to-morrow?"

"I don't think I will," said Nekhludoff. And feeling ashamed, without knowing himself whether for her or for himself, he blushed and hastily departed.

"What does it mean? Comme cela m'intrigue," said Katherine Alexeievna, when Nekhludoff had left. "I must find it out. Some affaire d'amour propre; il est très susceptible notre cher Mitia."

"Plutôt une affaire d'amour sale," Missy was going to say. Her face was now wan and pale. But she did not give expression to that passage, and only said: "We all have our bright days and gloomy days."

"Is it possible that he, too, should deceive me?" she thought. "After all that has happened, it would be very wrong of him."

If Missy had had to explain what she meant by the words, "After all that has happened," she could have told nothing definite, and yet she undoubtedly knew that not only had he given her cause to hope, but he had almost made his promise—not in so many words, but by his glances, his smiles, his innuendos, his silence. She considered him her own, and to lose him would be very painful to her.


177.0 Svithetacular: Redux


For the first time, it appears no one was nuts enough to read my entire svithetacular. Ergo, here, one month later, I have combed it for things inside "s and pulled them out. The assumption being things within "s are worth pulling out. So you can read them and be filled. If that's possible without any context....

    Elder Jeffrey R Holland
      "Negative speaking so often flows from negative feeling. Including negative felling about ourselves."

    Elder Joseph B Wirthlin
      "Priesthood means service; bearing the priesthood, I will serve."

    Bishop Kevin B McMullin
      "you are in charge of your world"

    President Gordon B Hinckley
      "I regret that I am so old at a time when the world is so exciting."

    President James E Faust
      "This thing will destroy my family if we don't forgive."

    Elder Neil L Anderson
      "It's true isn't it? Then what else matters?"

    Elder Gary J Coleman
      "I am a devout Christian"

    Elder Dieter Uchtdorf
      "the divine and eternal operative principle of repentance"

last week's svithe


Surprise Saturday Post


Boy--when was the last time I wrote one of THESE?!?!

Gotta keep on your toes, folks.... Gotta keep on your toes.


To your left (volume four)


MelyngochMelyngoch's Lethean Flood
    Mel, it must be said, is one of my favorite people. And this has nothing to do with fishnet in my case, as I've never seen her in fishnet. I suspect I am alone in this designation among all her friends.

    Five quick facts: 1)she's on her way to sweden 2)she's one of two people I know who have used the f-bomb to beautiful artistic effect 3)she, unlike me, has scientific evidence to back up her claim to being an orange person 4) she likes john donne (but who doesn't?) 5)she can provide californians with necessary information regarding her city's club scene

    Also: I've known Mel long enough now that she no longer looks like my friend Mark Stefanik. Now my friend Mark Stefanik looks like Mel.

    I think this is better for everyone involved.


TK's FlowersTK's Korner
    I'm not sure if how I know TK is a secret or not. I'm also not sure if I would have ever solved the mystery if people hadn't been getting our signs mixed up. Which isn't good for her as her blog is wholesome and mine is, well, thmazing.

    At the risk of being crude, suffice it to say she birthed a bat.


SkyeSkye's Skyecares
    Skye is Foxy J's little sister, a talented nurse and conversationalist, and part-time Moroccan.

    (She's in the Peace Corps.)

    She writes long and interesting posts about her moroccaning, which is a hobby so few people know anything about. Admit it: what do you know about moroccaning?

    That's what I thought.

    Time to find out.


KatyaKatya's Thoughts
    Katya is the world's most intimidating librarian, something I did not know when I met her on the grass under a tree at the Fobs' in Orem, Utah.

    (I was going to say "when I confirmed her corporeality on the grass under a tree at the Fobs' in Orem, Utah," but suddenly suspected that might get misinterpreted. We can't have that. We must be precise in our meanings. Always!)

    Katya is one of the handful of people I am perpetually surprised to realize I have almost no real-world knowledge of, because I feel I know her so well. Better these days than, for instance, Miss Nemesis, whom I still adore and with whom I have spent hours and hours and hours--to the point of getting on her nerves-- but don't talk directly with anymore. Not that it's my fault she chose Seattle over us.... Miss Nemesis--!

    Ah, the internet. What a curious, curious world it is.

    Anyway, if it lets me get to know people like Katya (who, in 1987 would by now be no more than an eighth-remembered name), then it has it's merits.

    Also, it has Wikipedia. Wikipedia is awesome.


Volume One, 1990 - 1999
Volume Two, 2000
Volume Three, 2002


Me versus the sougrass


I spent some hours today tilling and picking and plumbing and sieving, going through the dirt, searching for--I'm sorry, must you do that?

Anyway, sourgrass, or oxalis, though both beautiful and tasty (no joke!) is also an astonishingly pernicious weed and--excuse me? I'm typing here?

Everytime I thought I had finished a stretch of soil, I---Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Stop staring at me! Stop it! I can't take it! All I'm trying to do is type a simple blogpost! Why won't you let me in peace? Is it so much to ask!

I deserve as much respect as anyone!


Willie Shakes


Buddy! I almost missed you! Happy-came-to-life-and-died-on-the-same-day day!

Sixth Five Books of 2007


Cover by Edward Gorey

30) Devils & Demons edited by Marvin Kaye, finished April 23
    Whoo. I've been working on this book a long, long time. But it was worth it. The last couple stories (read tonight) were quite nice and although the book had its share of fallflats, as a whole, I quite enjoyed it. Of particular note are Robert Block's "Enoch" and Earl Godwin's "Daddy"--the latter is the first tale to be added to my collection of truly impactful short fiction (upon me) in many a long year. And one of only two since my mission ended a decade ago. ¶ I suppose one should be shocked to know that this book has spent most of the current millennium off and on my nightstand--no doubt the last bit of proof that I am a lost soul indeed--but why? I think the modern American spends too much time mollycoddling himself, pretending the world is beautiful and fair. Which, speaking again of the latter, it most certainly is not. Using fiction to examine the horrors that live in our minds and that are symptomatic of this life is helpful I think. Now. Who wants to go see The Host with me?
    coming up on four years

Talk Talk Talk

29) Talk Talk Talk: Decoding the Mysteries of Speech by Jay Ingram, finished April 23
    This book is a nice 101 in linguistics. It hits on a multitude of topics with just enough depth to feel you've really learned something--unless it's a topic you've already studied. Fortunately (actually, unfortunately), I have not studied much in the field and thus I was rarely frustrated by long strings of information I already knew. ¶ In addition to the book's many merits, it was also fascinating to read a book that was so unabashedly . . . Canadian. The book was researched and written by a Canadian radio personality and assumes a Canadian audience (ex: "If you had been born in Italy instead of Canada....") which made the book extra delightful to be, due to my irrational love of all things Canada. ¶ Recommended to people interested in creoles, Freudian slips, tip-of-the-tongues, Spoonerisms, Proto-Indo-European, Neanderthal larynxes, interrupting, strokes, wild children, Noam Chomsky, positron emission tomography, the Tower of Babel, Martian, Koko the gorilla, Wernicke's area, Margaret Thatcher, aphasias, speaking in tongues, and, of course, Canada. ¶ Unless you've already a master's degree in the field.
    month and a half

In Austria, the genius sleeps tonight.

28) Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman, finished April 20
    I don't know what I was expecting. Something less beholden to the title? A more indepth look at Einstein's actual conclusions? Pizza? Don't know, but Einstein's Dreams was not what I was expecting. Which isn't to say I didn't enjoy it. The series of dreams reminded me at times of novel-length looks at single visions of time such as Timequake and Thief of Time, or of the Mormon doctrine of God's timeless time, but this book ran through vision after vision with a rapidity that led to a completely different aesthetic experience. ¶ The dreams were not all the same, though the writing was consistent. Some were intellectual exercises, some were beautiful prose poems heartrending and tragic--or sweet and warm--and deeply human. ¶ I can understand why this book has been a touchstone for so many people. After all, it's a pretty good read. With physics.
    fewer than twenty-four hours

The Long Chalkboard by a husband-and-wife team

27) The Long Chalkboard: and Other Stories by Jennifer Allen and illustrated by Jules Feiffer, finished April 19
    From the outside, this looks like a picture book for grownups, and I think that's an apt description. Flip it open, and it looks like a collection of New Yorker cartoons. Read it and it's a nice little collection of three entirely pleasant short stories--one about a giant chalkboard, one about a pair of feuding children's book writers, one about a talented maker of chili. ¶ The book is an excellent example of how words and pictures can play together and one of the most effortlessly mainstream examples of comics I've ever seen. ¶ Check your library.
    about seven hours

Sinclair Lewis as Babbitt

26) Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis, finished April 19
    Babbitt has had the bad luck of constantly getting misplaced and reshelved without invitation, which is part of the reason it has taken me so long to read. The other reason is this: it's not demanding. ¶ When Babbitt came out it was a big success and created a new archetype for America to recognize and immediately accept.... Or at least that's true according to the afterword in my copy. ¶ Anyway, good book. It's surprising that I can say that so readily about a book about a boring guy who does boring things, but it's true. It is. ¶ The book isn't much of a novel when you take it apart--it's really a 300-page character sketch. And watching Babbitt finding new ways to be unhappy...maybe I enjoyed it as much as I did because I spent well over a year reading it. ¶ Anyway, it's a classic, so you can get it cheap.
    coming up on two years


25) Frank by Jim Woodring, finished April 12
24) The Complete Concrete by Paul Chadwick, finished April 3
23) The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde, finished March 30
22) Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, finished March 28
21) Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller et al, finished March 23
20) A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, finished March 16
19) Batman: Gothic by Grant Morrison et al, finished March 13
18) Wild at Heart by John Eldredge, finished March 7
17) Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid by Megan McDonald, finished March 7
16) 50 Professional Scenes for Student Actors: A Collection of Short 2 Person Scenes by Garry Michael Kluger, finished March 6
15) Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda, finished March 5
14) Frindle by Andrew Clements, finished March 1
13) Brain Wave by Poul Anderson, finished February 27
12) The Best American Comics 2006 edited by Harvey Pekar and Anne Elizabeth Moore, finished February 26
11) Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, finished February 15
10) The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ edited by Mormon and Moroni, finished February 7
9) Lisey's Story by Stephen King, finished February 1
8) The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, finished January 26
7) Empire by Orson Scott Card, finished January 24
6) Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, finished January 22
5) Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh, finished January 17
4) Superman Adventures Vol. 1: Up, Up and Away! by Mark Millar, finished January 16
3) A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, finished January 12
2) Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, finished January 11
1) Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut, finished January 10

Planet Earth

Great White Shark

I don't know how many of you have seen the incredible new Planet Earth series of documentaries on Discovery lately, but they are astonishing. For the first time, my general and undeveloped desire for HD has become an aching, aching need. The photography is incredible on a twenty-year old television. I can't imagine the awe of creation I would be inflicted with if only I were blessed with sixty-plus inches of plasma.

The movies are now out on all sorts of DVD but will still be regularly recurring on TV for a while as well.

Planet Earth really is like nothing I've ever seen before. Take this video of a great white shark, for instance--have you ever seen anything like it? No? Now. Imagine it in HD. And realize that although this may be an awesome shot, it's not that remarkable compared to the other eleven hours of show.

It's a beautiful world we live in. There is so much wonder and majesty.

Take a look.

(Since you probably couldn't read the entire thing above, Note: This clip is from the BBC version narrated with a slightly different script by David Attenborough instead of Sigourney Weaver. To my surprise, I actually like SW's version better.)


The Svithe of the Two Socks


Sunday: I need socks for church. I grab two seemingly identical Gold Toes from my drawer. But they are not identical: One has faded. I don't have time to change it.

At the end of the day, the faded sock has stayed up without fail.

The blacker sock has fallen down my calf over and over again.

last week's svithe


Zilly zee zee


Zilly zee zee
Toodee, toodee

Zilly zee zee

Zilly zee zee
Toodee toodee

Zilly zee zee

Zilly zee zee


I am Korean;
I am a Writer


So. Virginia Tech.

I don't know anyone who attends the school and I've followed the coverage just enough to know the basic facts and to have read Cho's two plays and I just want to comment on two things: one about something I haven't heard and one about something I have.

1 Unlike Sikhs getting shot post9/11, I haven't heard nor do I anticipate--nor can I hardly imagine--a backlash against Koreans because of this barbarism. But, for the first time I can remember, the attacker in one of these events has not been a white kid. I'd never thought about that fact until I learned this one was different, but know I wonder if America's sizable Korean community might be painted with a Cho-colored brush.

This possibility would, of course, bother me with any minority community, but especially when it comes to Koreans. There have been times in my life--stretches lasting full weeks--wherein I totally forgot I was not Korean. My language skill may be shabby these days, but I still think of myself as adopted by the Peninsula.

Don't hate Koreans. We're people just like you.

(Not that readers of Thmusings would be so ignorant.....)

2 The thing that bothers me with reason is how so many in the media are suggesting that Cho should have been locked up long ago because he wrote violent tales.



Here I am.

Lock me up too.

I've read those plays, as I mentioned, and (including the fact that he's a crappy writer) there wasn't much to distinguish them from the sorts of things my high school students (male) would turn in for creative writing assignments.

And although I get the impression that the two plays posted were much milder than others he wrote for class, they were also milder than some things I've written.

It's important to keep in mind that it wasn't just the stuff Cho wrote, it was his demeanor--his aura--that made people leery of him.

And it wasn't just in his creative writing classes that he was looked at warily.

Now it seems like the backlash against the simpleminded scary-writing-must-mean-psycho conclusion has already begun--and thank goodness--but the fact that the media leapt on this so quickly suggests to me that (at least when we don't have any better facts to report) people are willing to treat the writing of fiction as a disease.

Question: How far from this mindset to bookbanning, government-sponsored censorship, Fahrenheit 451?

I'm not paranoid.

I'm just asking.

How far?


Tusk asks


For the first time, a blog-forward I approve of. You have to request it to get it and each time it is different.

Tusk offered, I took the bait.

1. Who is the most effective supervillain?
    I was going to pick some really hot chick, but then I saw a picture of the Joker as I was researching, and who else could I choose? Who else is so unpredictable? Who else is so completely un-understandable? Who else cares so little for my life? He scares the crap out of me.

2. What is your least favourite snack?
    Cheese crackers of any sort. Cheese cracker-eaters are a truly messed-up breed. And you can tell them I said so.

3. What is the ultimate Karaoke song--why?
    "You Lost that Loving Feeling"---I know because I was at an ice cream shop and a friend of mine, without music, got about one hundred people to sing along with him. That guy is awesome.

4. What is your favourite childhood memory?
    On our way back from Mount Rushmore, my family, grandmother and Cousin Sbook stopped in Yellowstone. The whole trip was awesome, but I have fond memories of Sbook and I walking right up to a moose--which we both new to be legally suicide--and talking deeply about Hey! there's a moose! That was pretty good.

5. If the blogosphere were a body, in which part would your blog be?
    The betwixtia--that spot on your retina between rods and cones, and the optical nerve. If it actually does anything, it fakes seeing spots. (Note: I totally made betwixtium up. I have a real problem with that.)

Now! If you want to play, leave a comment and I will visit you (or email you) and ask you five questions all your very own. Or not. Whatever.


That kind of movie (a svithe)

Brigham City

That kind of movie

Back when I was working at Video II, I used to talk movies a great deal with a guy named Alex (also Mormon) who was a huge film nut. For his first date with his fiancee, they each brought a movie and had a doublefeature. I forget what he brought, but she brought American Beauty, and her exquisite taste in film was what first let him know she was the girl for him.

We were working in our backroom together when Video II purchased several hundred copies of Brigham City. I acclaimed the film (more on that later) and he was shocked by that acclaim. But when he saw that the movie had been favorably compared to the Coens' Blood Simple he rethought his kneejerk rejection to Mormon cinema. But, alas, (he said), for his fiancee would never go for it. She just didn't like that kind of movie.


"That kind of movie"?!?! What the heck is "that kind of movie"?!

I don't understand how so many "cultured" Mormons reject the possibility of their own crafting good art. As if there is something inherently gauche about being LDS.

And it pisses me off.

Richard Dutcher

Richard DutcherRichard Dutcher directed Brigham City and he directed God's Army--the first Mormon film of the modern era (if you will). In my opinion, God's Army was pretty good, though not astonishing or anything. But it certainly bode well.

The next year he released Brigham City and that movie affected me powerfully in two ways. The night after coming home from watching it, I was awake long into the night considering my own capacity for evil. I lay there, looking at my hands, and contemplated their ability to strangle. Which was an unfortunate reaction, because much more powerfully than its depiction of evil, the movie gave a powerful example of redemption. Never before had I understood the meaning and purpose of the sacrament quite so clearly.

The movie taught me my own religion.

And it was as good as a Coen Brothers' film. Best of both worlds.

But, it ends up, in some way, even Dutcher considered Brigham City to be that kind of movie.

Movies that suck

The Singles WardOne of the first nonDutcher LDS films was this monstrosity. Dutcher read an early draft of the film and offered advice to make it better. He saw an early cut of the film and offered advice to make it funny. In neither case was his advice followed and the final product was one of the worst movies ever. EVER. It had exactly one funny moment (not enough for your average comedy) and was a repulsive mess from start to finish. It's an awful film.

Unfortunately, The Singles Ward has proven to be a more0followed template than Dutcher's work as the world of LDS film has unfolded.

And it's a pity.

Or it was.... Until Thursday.

Going away

Last Thursday appeared Dutcher's final words as the godfather of Mormon cinema. He has now cut his ties. Not only as the unofficial head of a movement, but as a Mormon entirely.

Although it comes a blow to the gut (more on that later), with a day's passage, it's less surprising. Dutcher's official bio, for instance, makes his Church membership sound more like a point of academic interest rather than an actual part of his soul, and I'm sure he wrote it himself. Writers, at least, certainly ought to write their own bios. Seems silly to leave it to someone else.

Also silly: some of Dutcher's reasons for going away.

For instance: he doesn't like the movies the Church produces.

Lady Steed and I heard Dutcher mention this topic at BYU once just before the release of Brigham City. Talking about the Church film Testaments, he complained why, with so many great stories available in the Book of Mormon, did they feel the need to make a Book of Mormon story up? And to give it a monkey? Fair questions.

Me, I thought Testaments was pretty nondescript. Save for the absolute final moment when it suddenly worked, the movie was just silly.

So Dutcher thinks the Church should make better films. And that Singles Ward (et al) sucked. And that--here it comes--LDS filmmakers should be aiming more for the acclaim of the world.


Keith Merrill

Kieth MerrillKeith Merrill is the Oscar-winning director of Testaments (I think it must kill Dutcher that a 'Church-film-making hack' like Merrill has an Oscar, but that's another discussion.) and yesterday, the same newspaper that carried Dutcher's self-serving valedictory address published a (also somewhat self-serving) reply from Merrill.

While he seems a little preoccupied with Dutcher's slams on his work, I do believe him when he closes with
    Perhaps my anger is in truth deep sorrow. A sense of loss. The ultimate great loss to Richard Dutcher and his family by his departure from the church. The great loss of a truly talented filmmaker from the league of "inspired hearts and talented fingers" seen in vision so many years ago.
This is also how I feel. I feel loss.

But we'll return to that in a second. Right now, what Merrill said.

One of his major points was an attack on Dutcher's telling young filmmakers to "Passionately adhere to the guideline that it is better to tell an R-rated truth than a G-rated lie." Now, while I agree that a) the MPAA is a waste of time and b) the MPAA is not church-sponsored and c) it is better to tell an R-rated truth than a G-rated lie, Dutcher has created a pernicious false dichotomy here. He seems to suggest that there are no R-rated lies or G-rated truths or PG anythings. Now, intellectually, I'm sure he will reject that reading of his statement, but, by reading his words, I think he does believe that. Or, at least, he believes telling the truth is important--but the only truths that will get him the acclaim he craves are of the R-rated variety. Whatever that means.

Neil LaBute

Neil LaButeFor a long time, I have had in my heart a soft spot for the famous misanthrope (and estranged Mormon) Neil LaBute. Even though the only one of his movies I've seen was one of the worst literary adaptations of my acquaintance (although I do thank it for proving my long-held assertion that the book was unfilmable). (I do have another film of his in my posession [a leftover screener from my Video II days], but I've never gotten around to watching it.)

The reason I liked him all the same was this: LaBute was disfellowshipped not too many years after becoming a Mormon because of his play bash which, though he did not intend to be viewed as antiMormon, many saw that way anyway. C'est la vie, LaBute.

That isn't why I liked him, though I felt for his being misunderstood.

Why I liked him was this: He did what he was asked by Church leaders and never wrote about Mormons again. Now, I think that was an appalling thing to ask, but I'm not about to secondguess the people on the ground (if you will). The point is, they asked him and he did it. He hasn't written about Mormons since.

Recently, LaBute gave up on his half-in/half-out status and also quit LDSing. He's done; he's out; I'm sad.

An important difference of course is that LaBute never set himself up as The Great Mormon Filmmaker, so the loss of his faith is more of a personal tragedy than a blow to Mormon artists in general.


Being a faithful Mormon presumes that one accepts the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the source of purest and wholest truth. Mormons are unusually willing to accept other faiths and practices as also being sources of truth, but the fullest truth we claim for ourselves. In, one hopes, all humility.

Art--I agree with Dutcher here--is also a pursuit of truth. Or should be.

Ergo, I cannot look at the loss of talented artists' faith as anything but a loss also in artistic potential.

LaBute has said as much in an interview I can't find, but could have sworn was on Salon. He said, to molaq it, that he had to decide whether to tell stories of depravity or stories healthily Mormon and chose the former.

Do you smell another false dichotomy?

Orson Scott CardI've heard Orson Scott Card speak a number of times, and something that is obviously an irritation to him is how so many people just assume he must have either left or been kicked out of the Church by now because, well, he's a writer and sometimes he writes about unsavory things. Apparently he and fellow Mormon SF-writer Dave Wolverton (who I hear is even more unsavory) chat about this now and then. Apparently people are appalled that such writers get called to fill roles such as high councilman. Horrors!

Shocking and faithful?!?!

So what gives? Some people reject their faith in order to be shocking? Others can shock in spite of their faith? What am I missing?

From Card:
    The fact of the matter is that if you tell the truth, some of your audience will always be shocked anyway; you don't have to soup it up.

Anyone with a sense of history knows that truth-tellers of all stripes--including religious and artistic--have always been prime candidates for stoning. And anytime someone decides they would rather associate with one group of truth-tellers over another, well, I just hope they picked the group actually interested in truth.

    ...the untrained audience is always opened to being transformed, the elitist audience is willing only to be impressed.

Friend Dutcher, I loved you. Good luck out there. And while I could wish you luck in your quest for "truth", I think instead I'll offer you luck where you really want it:

I sure hope you're impressive.

Forced to choose, I hope I would give up being impressive.

But let's be honest.

No one forced you.

last week's svithe