Since both candidates are all about change and not having an ideologically pure cabinet, I'm going to make a couple excellent suggestions to both with a sample link as to why.

Secretary of Education: Robert P. Moses
    Algebra as civil right!

Secretary of Defense: Montgomery McFate
    Anthropology as "weapon"!

Thvlog IX: Take that, banana!



Svithing Page One


The current First Presidency message, President Eyring speaks on unity, being one.

This sense of Zion can be hard to develop, but obviously it is founded on love and thinking the best of each other. I excerpt one paragraph, then leave the rest to you:

    If we are to have unity, there are commandments we must keep concerning how we feel. We must forgive and bear no malice toward those who offend us. The Savior set the example from the cross: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). We do not know the hearts of those who offend us. Nor do we know all the sources of our own anger and hurt. The Apostle Paul was telling us how to love in a world of imperfect people, including ourselves, when he said, “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil” (1 Corinthians 13:4–5). And then he gave solemn warning against reacting to the faults of others and forgetting our own when he wrote, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

last week's svithe


Artful mistyping


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Qfner wkw wkg? W wke wowr? Wwk wkg hioth, qwkng? Egle wk ekw?

Phwkoenr wekner wer.


The Erotic in LDS Lit
Part VI: Theric replies to your questions and comments (a)


If you fear, fear not. If you fear not, fear.
---J. Reuben Clark


So replying to all the wise and witty things you all have shared over the past six weeks really won't be possible in just one post. So this is (a) and we'll keeps going through the (a)(b)(c)s until everything I want to touch on is. That means, if you keep leaving scintillating comments, this series will last forever! What fun!

To revisit any prior portion of this series, click here then scroll down. (And don't miss everyone's comments --- they're every bit as good as anything I had to say.)

Does LDS culture create negative feelings towards sex among premarried people?
    Even though Recession Cone argues it's not so, the fact that Tyler and Foxy and Schmett all feel that LDS culture and Church teachings in some way (even if unintentionally) create negative feelings towards sexual relationships among the unmarried suggests there is something going on here. I can't remember much about my in-church chastity lessons as an adolescent other than that I dreaded them. I don't even precisely remember why I dreaded them. Just that I did and that that feeling seemed general among my classmates. So I don't really feel qualified to comment on this issue. I would consider asking some young adults in my ward, but that might be a little creepy. Anyone with further intelligence on this topic is invited to spill.

Celia: There's a difference between an anatomy text book description of sex (fine for educational purposes) and a novel type description. Novels are meant to suck you in and make you feel a part of the story. Even if it is a truthful and honest and moral account of sexual interaction between husband and wife, if it is explicit and goes into detail that is meant to suck the reader in and vicariously experience those same feelings, it is not appropriate for a reader (in my opinion) and is obscene porn.
    But, then, not all manuals are created equal either. Consider The Act of Marriage v. The Joy of Sex. One is practical, the other recreational. I have no problem with either, but I'm sure many would disagree with me on the basis you recommend, viz. the latter is titillating --- I would imagine unavoidably so for healthy adults. Then there is The Joy of Sex's companion volume that's been out of print for almost 20 years. The original volume was recipes for one man and one woman while the latter offered advice for inviting others into the bedroom or visiting group sex retreats. Less commendable. (And, I'm guessing, out of print because we're now in the AIDS era.)

    I'm not sure it's reasonable to okay any writing with sex if we refuse to allow the reader to feel that sex in the reading; I'm just not sure it's possible. Which isn't to say the notion isn't important to consider (haven't I been doing so for two months?), but I don't know that there is a clear line in the sand between manual and fiction. Every manual tells stories. Every story has facts.

    I suppose this brings us back to intention, as you were talking about earlier (and as did I in parts I and II)? Intention is so often key. We will be judged by the thoughts of our hearts, etc.

Celia:While I don't necessarily disagree your scenario of "moral pornography" with the couple taping themselves for their own watching, I believe that could be used inappropriately, even by that couple. What if the wife's out of town and the husband watches it and masturbates? Does the masturbation then become a moral act because the arousal came from watching him and his wife? I don't believe so.

Chosha: Lastly, and it's a smidge off-topic, but I'd like to respectfully register my disagreement with part of celia's comment. I think it's entirely appropriate for a husband to masturbate when his wife's out of town (and use their self-made video, too, as long as she's cool with that). Better for either spouse to do that than to let the sexual frustration build until they are lending power to temptations that wouldn't normally make them even take a second glance. Also a good (common sense) compromise in marriages between people with very different levels of sexual appetite.

MoJo: I agree and would like to add a second side effect: Contention/disintegration within the marriage relationship even without the possibility of one party going outside the marriage for relief. It may not occur to either spouse to go looking elsewhere, but tempers may flare and create varying levels of contention, which is no more helpful.
    I also don't see a problem with making videos in theory, although I agree with Celia that the risk of it falling into others' hands makes me extremely uncomfortable.

    As for the masturbating-alone thing, I don't know. It's true that no two people will have identical sexual appetites and I can see that spouse-sanctioned masturbation could solve some crankiness issues, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. It could fly off in an uncontrollable direction; it could result in a lack of sexual energy for the spouse; it would almost certainly result in more masturbation than is strictly necessary for the issue at hand.

    But all that said, what do I know? This is exactly why the Church avoids going into the bedroom as much as possible and why I will refuse to recommend any course of action regarding (let alone pass any judgment on) this issue beyond the borders of my own marriage (which decisions I shan't be sharing). Sorry. No authoritative pronouncements on this issue forthcoming from Thmazing's Thmusings. Ball's in your court.

On people who think LDS Lit should follow a stricter sexcode than other literature.
    First, I agree that some of the sex in the national market does not belong in books for by and about Mormons. Although, again, I'm not going to start drawing lines and expect other people to follow them.


    I didn't mention this in III.V, but, even though I was expecting it, the sexual portion of Angel Falling Softly DID startle me and I DID feel that its (relatively mild) explicivity didn't fit in with such an 'LDS book'. I've been examining this reaction, looking for understanding, but I'm afraid I haven't a great explanation for it.

    I would not consider anything in the book gratuitous.

    I would not consider anything in the book 'explicit' as I would normally define the word. The most 'explicit' encounter was between a man and his wife and was entirely metaphorical (although metaphors can be sexy).

    The book met my own standards for proper sexuality in fiction cleanly, yet, because I viewed the book as 'LDS', I was still weirded. Why? I didn't have the same feelings about other Zarahemla titles with sex (see Brother Brigham and Long After Dark (as discussed in Part III) and On the Road to Heaven). So what made this one different?

    I'm not sure. Was it because it was well written? (So were LAD and ORH). Was it because some of it was outside marriage? (The main scene of bother wasn't and some of BB's weren't.) Was it because no one had awful results over the inappropriate sex? (That wouldn't explain why the issue appeared as the scene occurred.) Was it because it managed to be slightly titillating? (LAD managed more than that.)

    I just don't know. But I felt I should mention it. I'll keep an eye out for this phenomenon and try to figure out what my own standards are in a way that can be expressed more plainly.

A Definite Definition of Pornography!
    I've used more than one definition for porn over the course of this series, stealing them from D.H. Lawrence ("Pornography is the attempt to insult sex, to do dirt on it."), Publishers Weekly ("It is one of the tropes of pure pornography that events are without consequence. No babies, no STDs, no trauma, no memories best left unexamined."), Levi Peterson ("It is gross disproportion that creates pornography. . . . [When things (sex, violence, &c) are] amassed, concentrated, enormously emphasized --- if they become the single end and purpose of the writing --- they are pornographic."), B.W. Jorgensen (can't really nail his down to one sentence), and a few all my own.

    No definition will satisfy all, however. Celia offered these: "...any material depicting or describing the human body or sexual conduct in a way that arouses sexual feelings" (from the Church's website) (which Eugene suggested we clarify to "Any material depicting or describing the human body or sexual conduct in a way that really, really, really arouses sexual feelings.") and "Pornography refers to explicit depictions of sexual activity in written or pictorial form in an exploitive style . . . [in order to create] erotic arousal for commercial gain" (from BYU's website).

    Eugene also suggested that "In porn, the contempt for both [characters and audience] is obvious."

    MoJo combined some of the above: "I think between the two ["consequence-free sex" and "In porn, the contempt for both is obvious."], those might actually be the most succinct and applicable definitions [of pornography] I've ever seen."

    Sure. Whatever. I don't know. From the beginning I said I would be treating the pornography's definition as fluid, and I'm really not anxious to nail it down now. But I will say that separating porn from erotica and obscenity is helpful and allows us to be more precise. Even if we have to redefine the terms every time we meet.

    This indefinability, I think, explains why metaphors are so popular. Like poison! Yes, Jorgensen specifically rejected that metaphor for porn (and for good reason) in Part II, but I'm returning it to it now. Because everyone loves it, darn it.

    Pornography is poison. But, then, so is salt, table salt, good old NaCl. And so is baking soda. And, rumor has it, nutmeg. But to slap a skull and crossbones on pumpkin pie isn't helpful in the least. (Unless it's for a Halloween party, of course.)

    Pornography is poison.

    But some 'pornography' just makes gourds taste delicious.

    (courtesy of theric, professional metaphortician)

And that's enough for today. Again, if you want to reread the earlier posts in this series, click here then scroll down.


Every other time I've been a G. What in the world happened????


OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

I knew it!


In Politics, It's Not What They Say; It's What You Hear

I like to think I'm flexible in my decision making, but, really, am I? I don't know. I haven't heard anything from people I consider rational to really change my mind about the presidential election, and I ignore people I think are crazy.

But what if the crazy people are right?

How will I ever know if I never listen?



The 17th Five of 2008


I think maybe I'll start introducing these posts as they tend to be long and then you won't have to scroll down if you're not so inclined.

This time I'm reviewing a book about the Fighting Parson and his wife and how they reopened the road to upstate New York for Mormons everywhere, Garry Wills's parsing of Jesus's message (unlike me, he leaves off the s on s-terminating names), a crappy comic, a classic (and excellent Mormon novel) and one of the few scary books for children that actually gots the stuff.


085) A Lion and a Lamb> by Rand H. Packer, finished September 20
    This book has a lot of typos, some amateurish touches, is obviously written by a family member, forgets some of its original theses as it goes along.

    Lion/LambBut this book is also about a fascinating story from Church history, a pair of wonderful characters, and is charming and delightful in the way I praised Added Upon for.

    In 1915, Willard and Rebecca Bean were called to leave their Utah home and move to New York, to live in the home Joseph Smith grew up in and make some friends. Which was tough. The people of Palmyra hated the Mormons and weren't shy to show it.

    Lucky Willard was a champion boxer.

    But, in pure Almaic fashion, his weekly preaching won over way more people than a couple knocked noggins ever did. By the end of their quarter century in New York, they were among the most respected and beloved citizens of their town and the Church was well on its way to the Hill Cumorah Pageant and a Palymra Temple.

    The tale is a lovely and kind look at a lovely and kind couple. (And don't pay the $90 dollars you'll be asked to at Amazon. The publisher has a much better offer.)

    Thanks, Mom and Dad. Good Coast Guard Day present.

    just over a month

084) What Jesus Meant by Garry Wills, finished September 20
    Loved this book. And since Willis has written a couple sequels (What the Gospels Meant, What Paul Meant), you might guess I'll head there next. But that's because you don't know Garry Wills like I know Garry Wills.

    My first Garry Wills book, Certain Trumpets, I received from a professor for getting the highest score on a test. (All professors should do this.) Certain Trumpets is a book about types of leadership and it looks at a leader type, someone who exemplifies that type of leadership, and someone who is quite the opposite. For instance, King David was a charismatic leader (someone who comes to power by force of personality) and his son, Solomon, was the opposite --- his kingship was merely inherited and he ran the ship like a dull bureaucrat. Other examples of leadership included JFK and MLK and people known neither by their initials nor in the Bible. It was a great book. I loved it and have been meaning to go back to it since I first read it, about a decade ago.

    Wills, at that time, was best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning Lincoln at Gettysburg. I'm a huge Lincolnphile so that book's been high on my list ever since.

    But I saw What Jesus Meant on remainder and picked it up (foreward title: "Christ Not a Christian) and loved it immediately.

    Garry Wills courtesy NYTHe starts by laughing at WWJD? because, let's face it, do you want your kid, at twelve years old, disappearing in the big city? Destroy someone's herd of pigs? Hang out with beggars and prostitutes? Allow himself to be killed only to raise himself from the dead (even if your kid could do that)? Obviously, being a Christian doesn't boil down to doing exactly What Jesus Did --- so what does it mean?

    Intriguing start. Cheap price. I bought the book.

    As a Mormon aside, yes, there are doctrinal points I disagree with Wills about, but in fact these are very few. Mostly I found his book enlightening, inspiring and instructive. I learned things. Plus its short and fun and a good read. I recommend it to anyone.

    So which Wills book do I want to read next? Why I Am a Catholic. Because I had no idea devout Catholics could be so incredibly antipapist. And I got to know how he reconciles that.

    Buy your own copy. (It's cheap.)

    And then as you read, ask yourself: How Christian am I? Jesus gave with no expectation of return. When was the last time I had someone over for dinner that could never possibly feed me back? There's a Christian goal I could obtain. So why does it seem so hard?

    The books posits many opportunities for reflection, self examination, and worship. Because, when you and Garry Wills are gathered in his name, he will be there. I suspect. I might be pushing it, but probably not.

    I'll stop talking now.....

    just under a month

083) The Lost Ones by Steve Niles et al, finished September 18
    So Mr Niles writes the script and different artists draw different portions of the story in different styles. Intriguing idea.

    Too bad it sucked.

    I mean: really really sucked.

    a day

082) Dorian by Nephi Anderson, finished September 17
    I think I just had a Jane Austen experience.

    You know how Jane Austen fans just swoon over her antiquated but perfect prose and clever characters and still-real situations?

    So before I get too slobbery, I'm going to talk about what I didn't like about this book.

    Like Added Upon, Dorian could get a bit preachy. Usually this was done via the longwinded but much beloved Uncle Zed. There were moments it went on a little long, but it was never as bad as in Added Upon or, say, Victor Hugo's rhapsodies about the Parisian sewer system.

    I hate hate HATE the word "drugged." The book would have been vastly better without it. Thank goodness it only appeared once in the entire volume.

    I could write a paper about the three deaths (four, really, or five --- depends how you count --- if you include the ones that occur offscreen, but I wasn't too enthralled with the final one. I can say much positive about it as a storytelling choice, but in the end it may have been just too easy.

    And that's about it for dislikes. There are other elements I might not be able to stand in a modern novel, but it's like listening to foreign pop music: Clichés I would detest in American music become delightful if sung in French or Javanese. (Have you noticed this?) Dorian dates to 1921. It's charming.

    Some things not directly related to my liking the book but that were fascinating all the same:
      how the Sabbath was observed by Mormons in 1921
      rural attitudes to education in 1921
      vestigial class structure in 1921 Mormon society
      et cetera
    Anyway, Dorian.

    The title character is a big country boy who lives with his widowed mother and has a penchant for books. If you were ever sent to town to buy some decent shoes and came home with David Copperfield instead, this book is for you.

    Nephi AndersonYou could, I suppose, reduce this book to "Dorian's Adventures in Love", but that does such disservice to the beauty of this book. I can understand why other people are angry Added Upon's fame has led to Mormons forgetting Anderson's other books.

    The first death shocked me. Horrified me! In fact, I was shocked and horrified many times. But these shocks and horrors felt so true, so honest, so lifelike that I only felt more deeply for the characters. I love these characters. Dorian and I don't have an awful lot in common, but I think highly of him as a person and would love to meet him. And he's so well drawn it feels more like "Too bad he must be dead by now" than "Too bad he never actually existed."

    I don't have easy access to other Anderson books, but I'll be keeping my eyes open.

    And, in the meantime, I'm returning Dorian to the Berkeley Ward Library. It'll be waiting for you.

    about a month

081) If You Want to Scare Yourself by Angela Sommer-Bodenburg, translated by Rene Vera Cafiero, with illustrations by Helga Spiess; finished September 12
    I don't know who's to blame for this volume's remarkably ugly cover (beyond all people in children's publishing back in 1989), but I really thought this book would be a waste of time. I picked it up off a sidewalk because I was about to see a kid I though might like it, but he rejected it straight out. So it's been in the Lapper since then. Until this afternoon, rather, when the Big O and I got in it to move it to the driveway. He saw it and wanted it and I said, okay, sure, whatever, and we started reading it; I read, holding the book with one hand while batting or pitching with the other hand.

    And what a wonderful surprise awaited within! First of all, the interior illustrations were pretty darn great--actually creepy, which was a surprise. In fact, the text itself was creepy, which never happens in collections of "scary" stories for kids. (Maybe because this is a German book?) There were moments of genuine eeriness even for me.

    illustration by Helga Spiess

    The werewolf story in particular really grabbed the Big O.

    He's been interested in scary stories for a while, but this is the first one that really worked for him. I hope that doesn't mean he'll end up in our bed tonight....

    So! Recommended! And available for practically free plus shipping!

    (Incidentally, this is the first "long" book the O and I have finished in quite a while. In part because even though he likes it, he's not that thrilled about Mr. Popper's Penguins (???) and so we've been working on it for almost a year. Lady Steed just started on Charlotte's Web with him however, and that does seem to be going better.)

    about three hours