And now one for the boys.....


Just three or so weeks ago I was reading in a recent issue of The Atlantic and there was a blurbish bit about circumcision. It stuck in my mind as circumcision is one of those pet topics I'm so apt to go on and on about. I thought about posting about it but I'm still not sure the dust has settled over at the Fobcave. But then I heard of a Pressing Circumstance that made a circumcision talk necessary and since the Cicada-hosted one is still awaysaway, I thought maybe it was time to take up the ole banner and wave it about.

To start with, I am opposed to circumcision. Perhaps I should state this more strongly:


Yes. That's better.

I have a large number of reasons why I feel so, but today I will try to stick with the facts.

[SPOILER ALERT: The following paragraphs do NOT follow thnorm. Instead they discuss human genitalia. Those wishing to avoid such conversations are invited to leave now. That is all.]

Which brings us back to my Atlantickian blurb mentioned above--it seems a good place to start. Unfortunately, the blurbs don't seem to make the online edition so I can't reference you to their source, but here's the deal:

The uncircumcised penis of an adult male has five spots where the nerves are particularly sensitive and which are notably more sensitive than any spots on the circumcised penis. And really there's only one worth mentioning on that poor damaged fellow. The bright side is, that spot's unique to the circumcised penis. The lodestone lining is that's because the sensitive spot is where the damage was dealt. So claiming that as a bright side makes about as much sense as saying it was totally worth losing my right arm to that steamshovel cuz I get the chills when my woman licks my stump.

Crap. I've only touched on my first reason and I'm already getting rude. I apologize. But not sincerely enough to delete it.

Because it's true, isn't it? This notion that the unique pleasures of being circumcised outweigh the more numerous and demonstrably greater pleasures of being un?

Anyway, sexytime is, arguably, a "shallower" reason to pick sides on this issue. After all, isn't is true that uncircumcised men traffic in AIDS?

Um. Moving on.

What about health issues? What about men who lose their foreskins late in life do to health issues?

Fair question. If I'm not mistaken, most of those issues are hygiene-related, so unless you prospective parents are intending to neglect that portion of your child's education, week excuse.

And what if a clean person has this happen to them?

Well, what if the top half of your thumb has to be amputated when you're forty-five? Or your right ear at thirty-five? Or your anterior lobe at fifteen? Or even your tonsils at merely five? Are we going to simply start cutting off everything at birth that might possibly have a health issue later on? You're not going to have much baby left if that's the plan.

Moving on (I really don't want to spend too long on any one point less I offend...more than I would anyway...):

What about religion? I've heard people use this as a reasoning, though I can't follow it. Ignoring what's in the New Testament, I would say I as a Mormon have scripture enough to debunk that silliness.

Now onto the sticky one: aesthetics. This seems to be the one that's gotten me in the most trouble in the past.

I'm not alone in dismissing phalli as inherently lacking aesthetic appeal, but for those who like looking at the occasional wanker, here's what I have to say on the subject.

1. It's a fashion. And an American one at that. And one that seems to be fading at that.

2. The argument that the uncut will only be viewed as merely a fetish object rather than as a person with feelings while traveling with the homosexual community really doesn't do anything for me. Sorry.

3. The argument that the sight of a foreskin will terrify a virgin bride confuses me to no end. If she's a virgin bride, how much difference can it really make?

4. And besides, for virgin brides an uncircumcised penis offers, um, "natural glide." This would count as a plus.

5. And while you have that link open (and still have #3 in mind), note this: "A study (1988) of randomly selected young mothers in Iowa, where most men are circumcised, found that 76% found the circumcised penis looked more exciting. Although 88% of the women surveyed had only had experiences with circumcised penises, a majority of the 24 women with dual experience also felt this way." So there's that.

6. And to wax Mormon once again, how can a clipped private be okay, but not four earrings?

A related topic to aesthetics is the issue of "fitting in." Here are some of the potential concerns I've heard before in this regard:
    v. locker-room shower buddies

    v. Dad

    v. other white kids

    v. local kids

    v. the rest of the gay community

    v. one's own brothers
Now maybe I'm crazy, but most of these I can't even begin to believe could possibly matter. Who goes around swapping penis profiles in the first place? This wasn't part of my upbringing/coming-of-age/weekend-hobby. And even if it was part of yours, anyone who's going to let a tiny piece of skin ruin their life has deeper issues than a decision made their first month of life. Says I without any semblance of understanding or kindness. As I am sometimes wont to do.

Shame on me.

Anyway, I could go on. Especially about the issues connecting circumcision to sex. I could say things like "But the snipped can only wonder what it would be like with all their nerves intact" or accusing the some snipped of jealousy leading to another generation cut off from their----

Or I could talk about the original purpose of the modern style of circumcision which arose out of attempts to curtail masterba----

But I won't. I'm tired. I've said enough. I've probably said too much. I don't think I'll even read what I've already written. But I'll post it anyway.

Because if I manage to save one little boy from mutila--a needless medical procedure,--then it'll make me feel as though my hard work ain't been in vain for nothin'.

So to sing.


"As Old as I Ought to Be" and "A Sexy Bit of Trivia"



I was reading from my birthday book as I walked home from work today (thanks, guys, by the way), and I came across this:
    I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
      1. Anything that is in the world when you're born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

      2. Anything that's invented between when you're fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

      3. Anything after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
So I'm thirty-one and, yeah, I'm closing off. I don't have a smartphone (I only sort of have a cellphone at all). I don't play video games. I don't have an mp3 player. I'm totally behind the kids in this stuff.

But, in my favor, I'm totally in favor of other new tech still. So long as it doesn't go in my pocket, I'm still future-oriented.

For four more years.


I was reading a book on runic magic earlier today and learned an interesting tidbit about that little symbol called a heart:

heart, plain

According to the book, the heart is not representative of that particular organ at all, but ones more immediately connected to, ah, love, viz, the female buttocks and genitalia. Behold:

heart, buttocks

heart, vulva

Pretty persuasive argument, n'est ce pas?


A Simple Svithe

Christ Portrait (2007) by J. Kirk Richards.

Jesus said unto him,
    Thou shalt love the Lord thy God
    with all thy heart,
    and with all thy soul,
    and with all thy mind.

    This is the first and great commandment.
    And the second is like unto it,

    Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

    On these two commandments
    hang all the law
    and the prophets.

last week's svithe


The Twelfth Five Books of 2007.......BUT FIRST!


Before we get into the latest batch of books, you have to check out what we're going to do. And what I totally want to be for Halloween.

Walking with DinosaursThe Brass Clan can get tickets before they are generally available and they emailed and asked if we'ld like to go. Needless to say, we're all stoked. The Big O can't wait to see the dinosaurs eat other dinosaurs. I'm just making up for missing Gertie ninety years ago.

Anyway. It looks awesome. Click on any of the dino photos and watch the videos. I'm pretty excited.

As for the books, we've got a few classics (The Pearl and , perhaps the best new newspaper comic of the last decade, the Great (and Controversial!) Mormon Horror Novel, plus Book #60. Expect long diatribes--or at least discussion--over the G(aC!)MHN and Foundation.

Plus lots of cool dinosaur photos!

Walking with Dinosaurs 060) Tales of the Black Widowers by Isaac Asimov, finished September 14
      I have already gone on about Asimov at some length in this five, so I will keep this brief: Fun little mystery stories. My favorite was the one about the fire, although it was the closest to a cheat. My least liked was the one about Alice, because it seemed to break the rules of Henry's skillset. Technically, I was most impressed by the effortlessly drawn characters, each of whom remained distinct. The perfect book of short stories to carry about in a pocket for instant distraction with minimal requirement.

        three weeks

Walking with Dinosaurs 059) The Pearl by John Steinbeck, finished September 11 and again on September 12
      We read this book aloud in both my freshmen classes. It was my first book since reading Of Mice and Men in high school. And this one has a pretty similar ending. Makes me wonder if Steinbeck has any other tricks. Anyway, I won't write him off entirely until I've read East of Eden and Travels with Charley.

        about a week

Walking with Dinosaurs 058) The Dog Is Not a Toy: House Rule #4 by Darby Conley, finished September 3
      Someone left this book next to the changing table, and I've been reading a bit here and there as I've changed diapers. Then, today, as the Large S took a nap on me, I finished it up. Good book. The first Get Fuzzy collection. I started reading Get Fuzzy online when it was only a few weeks old and I still count it one of the best new strips of the last ten years, even though I don't read newspaper comics online like I used to. Good stuff.

        four days

Walking with Dinosaurs 057) Brother Brigham by D. Michael Martindale, finished August 29
      For those of you who haven't been paying attention (or have been too far removed from Martindale's shouting), this is a Very Controversial Book. I'll get to that later, but first I just want to say that those of you who like idea-driven fiction, this is a great book. If, only the other hand, you read to luxuriate in the wordsmith's killer style, forget about it. I'm going to talk about style first, so we can move onto the meatier stuff without worrying about it, but if you're totally disinterested in issues of style, skip ahead to the *****.

      So it's kinda clunky. Let's just say it cause it's true. The dialogue's not terrible, but no one's going to be putting him on list's with Every-Critic's-Favorite Elmore Leonard any day soon.

      The worst thing (maybe) is this: Martindale can't seem to decide who his audience is. Since the book is steeped so heavily in Mormon doctrines and culture, he seems to be aiming directly at Mormons--who else could follow the twists, other than someone who's been going to their church meetings the last decade or so? But on the other hand, if his audience is all schooled Mormons, why the occasional dunderheaded explanations? (Example: "the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price".)

      Actually, I think I can explain that, because it's not just Mormon stuff that gets overexplicated now and then, and Martindale is hardly alone in committing this sin. Too many writers add awful sentences at the end of paragraphs that make the reader wonder if they think I'm stupid. This is a complaint I make a lot.

      But enough on style. Let's wrap it up with a question: is Martindale a writer whose virtues outweigh a lackluster style or not? Is he like Harry Turtledove, an excellent storyimaginer whose crappy storytelling renders him unreadable (at least to a sometimes snob like me)? Or is he like Dean Hughes who admits to not being a stylist, but is so compelling and unpretentious that it hardly matters? (Or, for that matter, Asimov?)

      I don't know. I've only read one book.


      Let's start with the assertion I've never heard argued, that everything in Brother Brigham is doctrinally sound, from a Mormon point-of-view. This is, in fact, arguable. But only arguable. Also arguable is some of the Church-procedural stuff, but like I said before, this is a novel based in ideas, and I think I'm going to go with the crowd and not argue with the it's-doctrinally-sound assertion. After all, it's an argument I could lose.

      This book had a certain fame and notoriety among Mormon literary circles as the Great Unpublishable Mormon Novel, and I had been anxious to read it for, mm, five years? The first chapter has been online for a while, but I couldn't see much point in reading it without access to the rest of the book.

      (Update: since I read that first chapter a few months ago, the page has been changed to increase readability; which was sorely needed.)

      Then came Zarahemla Books, looking for "edgy but not apostate" Mormon lit and snapped BB right up as one of its first books. So I read the online first chapter. I had style issues, but assumed an editor would have fixed them up (wrong there)--and besides, the opening salvo was plentiful intriguing. I wanted to read more. So I bought the book.

      It took me a couple months to get to it, but finally I did. And now I've read it. And what do I think?


      First, I would have undoubtedly liked the book a lot more if I hadn't heard so much inaccurate praise for it. All the comparisons to Stephen King and nonspoileralerted exclamations like (spoiler alert) SEX! VIOLENCE! EVIL! POLYGAMY! that completely mislead me and led me to expect something other than what was delivered. I mean--there's nothing that explicit in it. The Infamous Masturbation Scene, for instance, occurs between two adjacent paragraphs. That's hardly shocking.

      Although the books' big reveal was never announced to me--although it occurred to me (as a well versed Mormon) before the second chapter ended. The details of the big reveal felt more like namedropping than revelatory, but that's getting way too nitpicky. And, in fact, I would not have recommended the namedropping be changed if anyone had asked me.

      Which brings me to something really important I had better say now: Unless you're kind of squeemish when things that aren't supposed to happen happen (and this book will let you know if you are), then this is a book worth reading. Yes, it's hugely Mormoncentric; yes, it's got some style issues; yes, there is SEX! VIOLENCE! EVIL! POLYGAMY!; yes, yes, yes. But the book offers a hugely different place to stand and examine your faith and that's never bad.

      So here I'll say something about (spoiler alert) the hopeful denouement. It is good and right and proper and nothing like a copout. It's even--I'll say it--faithful.

      And no matter what you think about Brigham Young appearing to a man mowing his lawn, that's an idea worth taking for a drive.

        say two weeks

Walking with Dinosaurs 056) The Foundation Trilogy: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov, finished August 27
      I have been meaning to read the Foundation books for some time--their importance to the development of the thinking and style of American science fiction really can't be overestimated and I felt an obligation to read them. But I never got around to it until Recession Cone lent me his three-in-one set. Although even three books only take us about halfway through the story of the fall of one empire and the creation of another.....

      Style first: Asimov rejected style entirely and in doing so created a voice that has been mimicked and copied to no end. This is recognized pretty widely. So how does his styleless style strike me? Pretty good. Unlike some other styleless writers, his writing is not that clunky. Most of the clunkiness has to do with the book becoming dated (notable it's weirdly period tobacco use and sexism)--the plain style of Asimov's prose holds up fine. Or at least compared to the other fiction I'm reading at the moment. ¶ And the story? Hmm.

      Prefirst: It was surprising to get invested in characters only to turn a page and find out they had suddenly been dead fifty years, but I got used to it and I understood and it makes sense given the story being told.

      Now. First: I love the idea of plotting history mathematically and sculpting a better future through a precise understanding of the human mass. Very cool. And I was in favor of the Foundation all the way. But, in the third book (SPOILER ALERT), we learn that the Second Foundation had been pulling strings all along, I felt these two things equally strongly: a) Those bastards! How dare they! and b) Well, duh. Of course! It makes sense! Good for them. I'm not comfortable with that split in response.

      Anyway, the first book I was in and out of in no time. I slowed down and took many breaks with the others, but they're fast reads too--in no small part to Asimov's styleless style. Should anyone at all interested in American science fiction read at least the first? Of course. Would I recommend it to them? Yes. But I probably wouldn't use it as an example of SF's reasonable claims to ahrt. But it would be an easy recommend to a younger chap wondering where to start.

      I'ld just warn him first that women aren't that docile in real life.

        two months and two weeks

055) Ode To Kirihito by Osamu Tezuka, finished August 20
054) Polygamy Was Better Than Monotony by Paul Bailey, finished August 10
053) Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein, finished August 7
052) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling, finished July 24
051) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling, finished July 21
050) The Ruins by Scott Smith, finished July 13
049) Favorite Stories by Margret Rey, illustrated by H.A. Rey, finished July 12
048) Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins, finished July 2
047) Flight Volume Three edited by Kazu Kibuishi, finished June 27
046) Nobody Is Perfick by Bernard Waber, finished June 14
045) First Paragraphs: Inspired Openings for Writers and Readers by Donald Newlove, finished June 12
044) The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking, finished June 11
043) Dune by Frank Herbert, finished June 9
042) The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels by Thomas Cahill, finished June 8
041) The Roald Dahl Omnibus by Roald Dahl, finished June 6
040) Troll: A Love Story by Johanna Sinisalo, finished May 31
039) The End by Lemony Snicket, finished May 23
038) The Complete Peanuts 1961-1962 by Charles M. Schultz, finished May 22
037) The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket, finished May 21
036) The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket, finished May 18
035) The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, finished May 15
034) Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, finished May 14
033) Chip Kidd: Book One: Work: 1986-2006 by Chip Kidd, finished May 9
032) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, finished May 7
031) The Complete Peanuts 1959-1960 by Charles M. Schulz, finished April 25
030) Devils & Demons edited by Marvin Kaye, finished April 23
029) Talk Talk Talk: Decoding the Mysteries of Speech by Jay Ingram, finished April 23
028) Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman, finished April 20
027) The Long Chalkboard: and Other Stories by Jennifer Allen and illustrated by Jules Feiffer, finished April 19
026) Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis, finished April 19
025) Frank by Jim Woodring, finished April 12
024) The Complete Concrete by Paul Chadwick, finished April 3
023) The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde, finished March 30
022) Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, finished March 28
021) Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller et al, finished March 23
020) A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, finished March 16
019) Batman: Gothic by Grant Morrison et al, finished March 13
018) Wild at Heart by John Eldredge, finished March 7
017) Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid by Megan McDonald, finished March 7
016) 50 Professional Scenes for Student Actors: A Collection of Short 2 Person Scenes by Garry Michael Kluger, finished March 6
015) Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda, finished March 5
014) Frindle by Andrew Clements, finished March 1
013) Brain Wave by Poul Anderson, finished February 27
012) The Best American Comics 2006 edited by Harvey Pekar and Anne Elizabeth Moore, finished February 26
011) Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, finished February 15
010) The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ edited by Mormon and Moroni, finished February 7
009) Lisey's Story by Stephen King, finished February 1
008) The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, finished January 26
007) Empire by Orson Scott Card, finished January 24
006) Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, finished January 22
005) Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh, finished January 17
004) Superman Adventures Vol. 1: Up, Up and Away! by Mark Millar, finished January 16
003) A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, finished January 12
002) Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, finished January 11
001) Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut, finished January 10

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