"Morning Walk, Spring 2009"


Sorry---I forgot. I'll tell the story tomorrow--it's already mostly typed, but this needed to be mentioned TODAY, so, there you go.

Today, please allow me to direct you to the Wilderness Interface Zone. A poem of mine is published there as of now.

(As always, allow me to remind my poet friends that if I can get poetry published, there is no reason on this beautiful earth why they should not be getting published. So submit already, you lazy fobs.)


Regarding Sunstone West


My time is short so I will not be able to fully rehash Saturday's events, so I'll save my big (horrifying) story for tomorrow.

First, I have learned definitively that, even without jokes, I can be entertaining. When "Saturday's Werewolf" goes live at Reading Until Dawn you can see for yourself that, yep, no jokes. But a lack of jokes doesn't mean you can't get an audience to laugh. So that's a relief.

And thanks to FoxyJ, Skylark, BerCarTop, Lynette and Karen who call came to be a kind audience. It was nice that everyone I knew came. Even if that meant they missed the movie that, I really wanted to watch myself.

My respondent didn't disagree with much other than my introduction and so any concerns I had about being torn apart were unfounded. Also, she's read but two of the five books, so I actually was better prepared than she was in many respects. Even if I skipped the second book entirely.

This was my first Sunstone experience and there was much less of the heretic than I had suspected. Frankly, although self-definition might vary (expect a post on the Borderlands concept soon), I am in a similar intellectual place with most of the attendees.

Continuing this disjointed review, let me note now that I was disappointed to be the only person talking about Mormon art. I found that a pity.

My big regret is skipping out on the This I Believe session because a) I had intended to submit for that panel but never got around to it--even though I had something written, b) they ran out of time and c) now I won't be on YouTube. Curses.

(Actually, I am on YouTube. (Links available here.) Just not as part of the Sunstone thing. Ah well.

As FoxyJ mentioned, there was a milieu of bloggers exclaiming Oh! You are [X]? How exciting! I was surprised to be included in that. I don't frequently comment on the biggest blogs in the Bloggernacle so I didn't expect any name recognition, but my connection to Motley Vision provided. (Incidentally, aside to William, you might consider adding me as an official contributor. No matter how many times I clarified that I was not, I was still constantly introduced as such. As long as I'm sullying your name, I might as well do it officially.)

Oop! The bell just rang!

I'll tell my embarrassing tale tomorrow, then finish up with odds and ends later in the week.

Till then!


Unprocessed EQ lesson (-cum-svithe)


When I teach in Church, I often have a sloppy outline I work from. This is that. You're welcome to glean from it what you may (pun intended).


Let's bust out our scriptures.

Someone find and prepare to read the last half of Isaiah 58:3 and someone else find and prepare to read the last, oh, third of D&C 59:13.

Let's keep these scriptures in mind as we move on.

Berkeley Ward's feeding of the sailors in a time of rationing.

The expenditures of the Welfare Program---where does it all come from?

Last year our stake was $190,000 in the hole, FO-wise. Anyone want to guess which direction welfare payments are headed this year? I don't have data, but anyone want to guess? Will the stake give our more or less cash and food this year than last?

None of us have given as dearly as the widow who gave up her last mite. Nor, indeed, are we asked to. Nor, I suspect, was she.

If we were flooded with hungry, lonely sailors, would we be prepared to love and serve them?

What sacrifices are we willing to make?

If fast offerings don't hurt a little, are they still a sacrifice?

We're going to try something a little different today. (I'm not sure this should surprise you. I seem to have a defect in my personality manifested by the need to do things differently.)

I'm handing out a fact sheet now. On the right side is some interesting factual schtuff you're welcome to look at. But on the left side are the Welfare Program's Basic Principles.

The first one, you will notice, explicitly states the scriptural basis for this injunction. Someone look that up for us.

Let's read the principle, then the scripture.

Whaddaya think?

Okay. Now, here's what I want to do. We're going to break into group of two to four people and each will take one of these principles and I want you to find scriptures that illuminate your principle and enlighten our understanding thereof. Try to find two or three. Some will be easier than others. I'll give you a few minutes, then I'll ask each group to read their principle and share what scriptures they found and any minirevelations they had while seeking (and thus finding) within Holy Writ. And don't forget our opening verses and the connection with joy.

If I need more:


The natural disposition of man, as I have often remarked, is to be selfish, sordid, and grasping; to think of self, and self alone, and figure for personal advancement. But all the teachings of the Gospel are the exact opposite of this. We find that the requirements that are made of us to pay tithes and fast-day donations … and to contribute of our means to send the Gospel to the nations of the earth—these requirements chase out of the heart of man every selfish and sordid disposition. Instead of being selfish, the faithful Latter-day Saint is filled with the love of the Gospel, filled with a desire to contribute of time and means for the onward advancement of the kingdom of God. The Gospel, if we are faithful to the requirements that are made of us of a financial nature, takes the selfish, sordid man, and makes of him a generous, noble, free-hearted individual. … The Gospel fills us with a desire to leave the things of the world, if need be, to go to the uttermost ends of the earth, without one dollar of reward, for the benefit and salvation of our fellow men.

Let me warn the Latter-day Saints to buy automobiles and to buy the ordinary necessities of life when they have the money to buy them, and not to mortgage their future. … I want to say to you that those who discount their future, who run into debt for the ordinary necessities of life and for the luxuries of life, are laying burdens upon themselves that will come back with compound interest to cause them great trouble and humiliation.

I believe that people are blessed in proportion to their liberality. I am not saying that they always make more dollars, perhaps, than the other man. But so far as an increase in the faith and in the testimony and the knowledge of the divinity of the work in which we are engaged, men that are honest with the Lord in the payment of their tithing grow as men never grow that are not honest. There is no question in my mind. Moreover, I am just foolish enough to believe that the Lord magnifies those who do pay their tithing and that they are more prosperous, on the average, than the men who do not. I believe that to those who are liberal [with their donations] the Lord gives ideas, and they grow in capacity and ability more rapidly than those that are stingy. I have that faith, and I have had it from the time I was a boy.

We must be honest with the Lord. The great trouble is that there are many people who, as they grow and increase in the things of this world, set their hearts upon them and lose the Spirit of the Lord. Therefore, that which is counted by the world as success is failure; because if a man starts out for a prize and he fails to secure it after laboring nearly a lifetime for that prize, certainly his life has been a failure. I know many individuals who, when they made small sums of money, were absolutely honest with the Lord, and paid one-tenth of it. But when they made large sums of money they paid all the way from one percent, instead of ten, up to two or three percent. What is the matter? Why, the appetite for money grows upon a man, increases and strengthens unless he is careful, just as much as the appetite for whiskey. It gets possession of him, and he loves the money instead of loving it only for the good that he can do with it. He does not estimate properly the value of things.

I heard a story of a brother (I have forgotten his name now) who attended a meeting in the early days. President Brigham Young made an appeal for donations to send to the Missouri River to help the Saints gather to Zion. He wanted everybody who could afford it, to give an ox or a cow or any other donation. One good brother jumped up and said, “I will give a cow.” Another brother got up and said, “I will give a cow.” The first brother had two cows and a large family; the other brother had a half-dozen cows and a small family. And, so the spirit [of the devil] came over the first man, [saying,] “Now, look here, you cannot get along with your large family; you cannot possibly get along with one cow. Now, that other man has got a small family and six cows; he could just as well give two or three and still get along all right.” As he started home, he walked four or five blocks, all the time getting weaker and weaker. Finally he thought, “I guess I won’t,” and then he realized the difference in the spirit that was tempting him and the one that had prompted his promise to the President of the Church that he would give a cow. Here was a spirit telling him to fail to fulfill his obligation, to fail to be honest, to fail to live up to his promise. He stopped short and turned around and said, “Mr. Devil, shut up or just as sure as I live, I will walk up to Brother Brigham’s office and give him the other cow.” He was not tempted any more.

here should be in the heart of every man and woman, the cry, “I am going to live. There is nothing given to me but time in which to live, and I am going to endeavor each day of my life to do some labor which will be acceptable in the sight of my Heavenly Father, and if it is possible, do a little better today than I did yesterday.”


Second, we need to appraise our own lives. How well are we listening to the Spirit? Are we living according to the eternal truths and doctrines of the restored Church of Jesus Christ? Can we effectively appraise the needs of others by the prompting of the Spirit? It impressed me that Muhammad Yunus must have been prompted by the Spirit when he organized a very unusual bank in Bangladesh, which some have said was the beginning of microfinance. When Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his efforts to help the poor, was asked what his initial strategy would be, he responded:

“I didn’t really have one at the time. I simply began trying to help with my own funds, then went to the banks and asked them to get involved. They refused for several stated reasons, and thus my strategy began to evolve into: ‘Whatever the bankers did, I simply did the opposite.’ The bankers would only lend to the rich. I would only lend to the poor. The bankers would only make large loans. I would only make very small loans. The bankers would only lend to men. I would only lend to women. The bankers would only lend if there was collateral. I would only lend without collateral. The bankers required extensive paperwork. I only made loans that even an illiterate could understand. The bankers required their clients to come to the bank. I took my bank to the village.”5

It should be noted that the banks expected a high rate of loan defaults. Yunus expected and experienced almost none. I understand that Mr. Yunus’s bank has provided more than $4 billion in loans and is entirely self-sustaining. Surely the Spirit of the Lord guided this noble effort.

Ben Franklin: “We stand at the crossroads, each minute, each hour, each day, making choices. We choose the thoughts we allow ourselves to think, the passions we allow ourselves to feel, and the actions we allow ourselves to perform. Each choice is made in the context of whatever value system we’ve selected to govern our lives. In selecting that value system, we are, in a very real way, making the most important choice we will ever make.

Those who believe there is one God who made all things and who governs the world by his Providence will make many choices different from those who do not. Those who hold in reverence that being who gave them life and worship Him through adoration, prayer, and thanksgiving will make many choices different from those who do not. Those who believe that mankind are all of a family and that the most acceptable service of God is doing good to man will make many choices different from those who do not. Those who believe in a future state in which all that is wrong here will be made right will make many choices different from those who do not. Those who subscribe to the morals of Jesus will make many choices different from those who do not.”

Here's the choice facing us, to quote Zechariah---

Zech 8:18 Thus saith the Lord of hosts; The fast of the fourth month . . . shall be to the [Berkeley Ward] joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.

The fast of the fourth month will be upon us when next we meet. What choice will we, on that day, make? And assure you, brethren, that it is, "in a very real way, . . . the most important choice we will ever make."

testimony amen


last week's svithe



Love That Dog.

020) Love That Dog by Sharon Creech, finished March 18
    This book is a short, brief read. Won't take you past an afternoon. It's the tale of Jack who, at first, refuses to right poetry (it's for girls) who becomes pretty decent. I just learned that Creech release a sequel last year, so I'm excited to go check that out.

    three months

019) Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block, finished March 17
    This short little novella caught me off guard. I picked it up because it was small and would fit in a small spot I wanted to keep a book in. I did not expect to really get into it. I certainly did not expect to love it. But I did and I do.

    I don't think I've ever had such a revelatory experience with a book. Reading this book was like cutting the Gordian Knot. Reading this book means I am already pages into a book of my own that's been on the shelf for years now.

    Weetzie Bat is easy to dismiss as frivolous (or even immoral), but it is lovely and charming and utterly, to me, inspiring.

    You will likely hear me mention this book again.

    a couple weeks

018) The Proviso by Moriah Jovan, finished March 16

017) An Ensign to the Nations: History of the Oakland State by Evelyn Candland, finished March 7
    This book is great. Every stake should have a history written about it. I learned a lot about the history of the Church in my area and I now feel actually a part of the stake community of the stake in which I now live. I know how the Oakland stake convinced the French government that Mormon missionaries are not spies. I learned about a popular radio broadcast we once gave. I learned about the stake president who died less than a year after being called. I learned that the Interstake Center used to be red brick. And the passion and inspiration that allowed the Oakland Temple to be built.

    Oakland Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
    Every stake should have a book like this.

    four months or maybe more

016) Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley, finished February 27
    I bought this in high school and loved it.

    Then didn't touch it for fifteen or so years.

    And now? Later?

    Still a good book. Some of the writing is a bit clunky, but from what I know, that's probably at least partially to blame on Percy who rewrote parts of it and made it more convoluted.

    And get this: she was 19 when she wrote this book. Nineteen!

    This book makes me feel like an old man.....

    about three weeks


015) Batman: The Black Glove by Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel and J.H. Williams III, finished February 23
014) The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story by Richard Preston, finished February 22
013) Lex Luthor: Man of Steel by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, finished February 19
012) Blue Beetle: Shellshocked by Keith Giffen and Cully Hammer, finished February 18
011) The Joker by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, finished February 17
010) Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, finished February 18
009) Superman: Red Son by MJR&M, finished February 11
008) The Best American Comics 2008 edited by Lynda Barry, finished February 9
007) The Blot by Tom Neely, finished February 6
006) JSA: Darkness Falls by Goyer, Johns, et al, finished January 28
005) The Road by Cormac McCarthy, finished January 24
004) Poor Sailor by Sammy Harkham, finished January 19
003) The Waitress was New by Dominique Fabre and translated by Jordan Stump, finished January 19
002) Stagger Lee by Derek McCulloch and Shepherd Hendrix, finished January 12?
001) The Arrival by Shaun Tan, finished January 8


Simile of the day


He looked like a Klingon member of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
    -----Kage Baker


The Proviso by Moriah Jovan


Today's book's similarities to yesterday's book can be summed up rather quickly in four words: Can Be Termed Romance. That's about it. Yet the peripherals of these books are in startling alignment. But I'm not going to spell it out for you. Other than to say I also don't like this cover (albeit for very different reasons):

The Proviso by Moriah Jovan

Unlike Monday's book, this one I have actually read. Moriah sent me an ARC and I promised to read and review it. Although I also told her it might be awhile as I don't generally speed through 700page books. Unless, you know, they're in huge type and being simultaneously read by millions of small children who will ruin it for me if I don't finish it within a week of when they do. But no one has accused this LDS "romance" writer of being the next J.K. Rowling, so I figured I was safe.

So I've been reading the book for a few months now and finished it a little over a week ago. I'm going to start by giving you an overview of the book, but before starting with that start, let me quickly warn you that I am not going to be too worried about being spoiler free. My spoilers will generally be vague in nature, but will let you know What Sort of Thing to expect. You might want to start with the free 200page sample, then return. Just sayin'.

That said, basic structure:

The Proviso, for all the other things you could call it, is three romances. Three cousins take turns falling in love and getting married and, um, too soon for that big of a spoiler. Other things happen too. Right now I'll just say sex, because we can't talk about this book without talking about its sex anyway.

Cousin Giselle falls in love (sex and marriage inclusive) with Bryce. Who is covered in scars.

Cousin Sebastian falls in love (sex and marriage inclusive) with Eilis. Who stops wearing Chanel.

Cousin Knox falls in love (sex and marriage inclusive) with Justice. Who has red hair.

Also there are bullets.

As the author of an it-could-be-called-a-romance-but-that-seems-to-miss-the-point book myself, I'm sympathetic to Moriah's reluctant attempts to pigeonhole her book:
    I don’t know how to classify The Proviso. I never did. Drama? Yeah, plenty of that. Family saga? Check. Epic? Uh, most definitely, as it takes place over the course of 5 years. But epic what? I can’t think of a book I could compare it to. Healthy doses of religion and spirituality mixed in with money and explicit sex? What? What’s anybody supposed to do with that? It’s not LDS romance/literature/fiction (defined as anything that could be sold at Deseret Book/Seagull), although I could call it Mormon fiction if a criteria of “Mormon” is that a Mormon wrote it. I call it a romance because I see myself as a romance writer.
It's a complicated book. It's "based" on Hamlet. It shows a heavy Randian influence. It has lots and lots and lots of explicit sex. (She wasn't kidding about that. I don't think I've ever finished a book with so much explicit sex before. And I read Piers Anthony as a teenager.

(Note: Had I hit the first sex scene when I wrote this, I would have rethought my manner of presentation. Especially after this conversation.)

So this book has sex. But the cover should have cued you into that.

Now for a series of disconnected facts about the book that I will comment on as whimsy strikes me.

So the Randian thing. It made me want to scream at times. I'm always leery of anyone--even fictional anyones--who aligns themselves too thoroughly with any one philosophy. But Rand is so much a part of who Giselle and Bryce are that it can't be ignored. They won't let you.

I think Moriah knew how overblown they got, because she balanced the book out with a character who hates Rand and dismisses her as so much hollow frumpf. Phew.


Something that struck me as I got, oh, let's say a third of the way into the book, is that most of my irritations with the book came from misunderstanding the characters. From an artistic standpoint, Giselle and Knox (to name only two) are not mere human characters acting out human actions on a human stage. They are Greek Gods. They are the great heroes of yore, transplanted to modern Kansas City. The actions played on this stage are higher and broader and deeper and more more more than anything I myself might ever do. This book doesn't merely borrow plot points from Hamlet. It goes back even further to bring us to a world of Kings Who Are Gods. Once I realized this and then read the book through this perspective, the book worked much better.

The risk, of course, in writing that last paragraph is that you will now dismiss the book as being somehow literarily unworthy. Which would be stupid and make no sense. What, we're going to throw out Edith Hamilton on the same grounds? Be serious. Just because we don't see gods much shouldn't make as book about them less interesting. Think about that logic for a moment....


I want to talk about an ethical question for readers which I don't think I had ever considered before reading this book. As a Christian, I am required to forgive all men. Yet I have made a deliberate choice not to forgive Knox. And it was only with difficulty that I was able to forgive Justice for forgiving Knox.

I have decided that, as these are fictional characters, I am under no moral obligation to forgive. These are not living, breathing souls; no matter how well fiction is crafted, it is still an act of creation less than Creation.

After the end of the book proper, Moriah included a set-back-before-the-book-even-started short story, "John 3:16" (available online), the inclusion of which is rather fascinating as it did a couple of things for me, as a reader. Added value, obviously--everybody loves a free bonus. But it also reminds me of how much I hated Knox. And it undercuts all the hard work Moriah had spent in the seemingly impossible task of making me (almost) forgive the bastard, which thing I had sworn never to do. But she spent many many many pages redeeming him and giving him a deus ex machina and then, after the final page, "John 3:16" made me hate him all over again. Fascinating artistic choice, Moriah. You have to tell me why you included it. I have to know.


In this book, eyes widen, heads are thrown back in laughter (or in scream), characters gasp for one reason and catch their breath for another, hands move to the face, etc etc etc. The characters seem to have a limited (and shared) repertoire of physical expressions of emotion and thought.

I've been wondering about this. Maybe it's hard to have enough little things to keep these kinetic indicators fresh over 700pages? I don't know.

I've been wondering what I would do with them had I been the book's editor. And I'm not sure. I think, within the realm of "romance", these shortcuts are common. And I don't think they bug other readers like they bug me.

Which reminds me of another stylistic difference between Moriah and myself. In my opinion she spends waaay too long to describing characters and their appearances and their clothes. This is not something I do. As a reader, I'm not likely to remember the way the author describes a character anyway. (Unless they pound it into me repeatedly.) And so I have decided that minimal details are necessary; let the reader create the character in her own image. I will provide vital details but the rest mattereth not and may be entrusted to the reader's imagination.

I am reminded of an interview with Daniel Handler that I can't find now. His publisher had wanted Violet to have some sort of physical description. ANY sort of physical description! He disagreed. He, like I, would rather leave a character a blank slate for the reader to paint herself upon.

The compromise he arrived at was, whenever Violet was ready to invent, she would pull out a ribbon and tie up her hair.

Perfect. Simple. Beautiful.


We will agree to disagree on this point.


As a reader, I'm not one to read 1000page tomes. I read more for breadth than depth and short books allow me to read more books by more authors.

That said, occasionally reading a biggun such as The Proviso is good for me. The manner of storytelling is necessarily different as are the opportunities available to writer and reader alike.


It would be interesting to see how various brands of feminism would take on this book. Take for instance (major spoiler alert here) the uses of pregnancy:

Three main women, Giselle, Eilis, Justice.
    Giselle desperately desires to be pregnant but her husband refuses. Eilis becomes pregnant when she is deemed to be the first woman worthy of condomfree sex by her love. Justice, if she has a baby, will fulfill a legal requirement for her husband and bring him great wealth.
I smell a dissertation here, just waiting to be written.


Well into what I had thought was a 150page denouement (another major spoiler alert), I was surprised by the book's climax. I mentioned this to Moriah and she said "They let their guard down. So did you." And all I can say to that is Bravo. Well written.


I suppose the only other thing I really have to talk about now is the MORMON thing. A healthy percentage of the characters in this book are Mormon to one degree or another. But of the major characters, not one looks anything like someone in a Jack Weyland novel. Besides the copious sex (only some marital) and dripping language (and I don't mean with godliness) and the shooting people in the face, there are no casseroles or home teachers or Pinewood Derbies. This is not a typical look at Mormonism. This is a look at Mormons ranging from the almost lapsed to the never-coming-back. All the good, active Mormons are relatives we only see in passing, on special occasions--holidays and the like.

Yet the book's Mormonism is plain on the face. The issue is summed up well by the first page under the cover:

proviso jovan frontispiece

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and guess this is enough to offend a lot of good Mormons without reading past that first page. And, going further out on this steady and secure limb, I'm going to guess that actually reading the book wouldn't change their minds.

Now, my work has never been labeled erotic, but I, like Moriah, agree that we should not say Mormon artists May or May Not do any such whatsoever. We should watch ourselves and be sure that we judge not. We can certainly judge what we will or will not ingest into our souls, but judging a work's creator is a different problem altogether.

But I'm getting offtopic.

Let me wrap up the Proviso-Mormon thing with comments on the Mormon-hierarchy issue which weighs so heavily on so many of the characters.

First: I have a hard time believing it. I come across it so often in Mormon fiction (of all stripes) that I guess it must exist, but the idea that people structure their selfworth around obtaining "higher" and "higher" callings seems implausible to me. Perhaps a few, but can it really be so rampant? Those of you Mormons who are still reading, please comment on this. Do people really lust after and seek after callings? And not in a casual daydreamy way, but in an ambitious-caesar kind of way. Please. Enlighten me. Because if people do, they're idiots. And they have no understanding of our doctrine.



Anyway. Despite my owning a paper copy, The Proviso is primarily being marketed by its publisher as an ebook. Just wanted to mention that. And having mentioned that, here are my last few thoughts before I call this good and walk away:
    1. Visit http://theproviso.com/. Speaking of added value, here you get some. The first 200pages as a free download and the sites filled with little datums and factoids and excerpts and thises and thats. If you're interested but merely want to know more, go there. 2. Ummmmm. I thought I had more to say. But it's gone. But that's all right. I've said enough. 3. But I will say that for my issues with the book, overall I quite enjoyed it. I'm excited to read a couple of the other books in the Dunham series (no need to read in order), notably the post-apocalyptic one and the bishop-and-the-whore one. If she can make me find restructuring interesting, I'm sure she'll succeed there.

buy from amazon


The Stranger She Married by Donna Hatch


Today and tomorrow I am going to talk about two books that couldn't be more different yet share so many things in common it's rather difficult to recall their utter and ultimate differences. One thing they share is covers I find just awful.Although again: awful in completely different ways and for completely different reasons. I won't comment on the covers any more than that.

Donna Hatch: The Stranger She Married

I was vaguely aware of this book's existence but I would not be blogging about it now had I not won a copy.

Then Donna emailed me and asked if, as I am a "guy", I wouldn't rather have $10 to Borders. I told her if she sent it I would read it, the direceted her to Thutopia to check out my book reviews. She decided (perhaps because of all the Batman I had just read?) to send me the ten bucks. Which I am grateful for and will soon spend.

But in a way, I'm wondering if I made the right decision. Before coming in contact with Donna I had no idea what a "Regency Romance" was and, theoretically, I want to give every genre a shot.

While I may have lost my chance at Regency Romance, I have still learned interesting things from Donna like what the heck is 'Regency' anyway and who the heck were the Bow Street Runners and why ahistorical writers are the devil. She's a woman who does her research and that makes for some interesting stuff, whether you read her fiction or not.

Donna's book is published though Wild Rose Press and, best I can tell, WRP's business model is ebooks first. This may well be the future, but few publishers push the e as hard as WRP, giving away free Sony ereaders and giving the ecopy much more attention on the for-sale pages as the hardcopies.

I've discussed this issue some with a friend of mine (the author of tomorrow's book, incidentally) and if it wasn't for the $300 investment, I'm ready for some electronic ink to wet my pocket.

In the meantime, here's The Stranger She Married's booktrailer:


This Life Is Good (there's a svithe in here somewhere)


It hit me the other day as I was walking home from work that these are my good old days. Sure there are imperfections, but my life is about as good as it can be.

A few things triggered this realization:
    Most immediately, it was seeing the corkboard. There's a corkboard on our street that one of the neighbors maintains that anyone can put a note on. Currently there's one about shameless makeup manufacturers and one that suggested I have a good day. How cool is it to live in a neighborhood where neighbors leave notes saying their band is playing or their dog is missing or they're old enough to babysit now?

    Before I left campus I passed a group of students--about half of whom I taught last year--and they all shouted out heys and hellos to me and waved and said good things about me to their friends.

    Earlier in the day, I had a student randomly stop by whom I had arranged not to be in my class this semester because last semester he spent half his time yelling at me and preventing other students from working. Never had I been so sure someone was about to hit me. But he dropped into my class of a sudden and told everyone to be good and that I'm his favorite teacher. I can't imagine what his relationships are with his other teachers.
And that doesn't even get to the good times I spend with the Big O and Large S, throwing balls around every afternoon and having them run to the door happy to see me when I come home.

Seriously. When will life be better than now?

I may not be able to afford to always live in this neighborhood. My job may not always turn out okay. My kids may not always be 90% hugs.

But right now life is good and I'm making deposits in the memory bank. In general, I'm optimistic that next week will be as good and that the years get better, but no matter what happens, life is good now.

last week's svithe


1,000: thMillennial Post


- 1000 - 1,000 - M - 1 × 103 - 1 E+3 exactly -
- ألف - su - hiljada - mil - číslo - tusind - tausend -
- 千 - 一千 - millar - mila - mille - tuhat - τёжа - tshiên -
- אלף - tisuću - ezer - Þúsund - ち - せん - 천 - nkóto - míli -
- १,००० - duizend - tusen - tysiąc - waranqa - тысяча - tisoč -
- isang libo - หนึ่งพัน - một ngàn - một nghìn -

Or, THOUSAND (one).

Man. Given that the universe is a base-ten universe this occasion is of major significance not only for me and for you, but for the universe as well.

Given such gravity, I feel I should take this opportunity to examine all of time from this perspective of my 1000. First we will look back. Then we will look under the soles of our shoes. Then we will look into the soul of the future.


Looking back
    Names = 2 (Tehachapiltdownman, Thmazing's Thmusings)
    Svithes = 149
    Books discussed > 140
    Posts mentioning male genitalia even though I claim to hate such fixations ≈ 10
    Labels I use = 3
    Thvlogs = 10
    Thvlogs yanked by YouTube = 2
    Words in lds-eros posts > 20,000
    Placentas = 1
    Disgusting things > 1
    Animated gifs ≈ 6
    Runins with the law ≈ 1
    Shirts sold by Thtore = 4
    Lunch dates made in comments ≈ 1
    Dickinson parodies = 1
    Number of blogger originally linked to = 2
    Fish > 25
    Things blamed on NPR ≈ 10 (including this blog's very existence)
    Thimprovs and Abstructs > Q

Here and now
    It's been a good run, hasn't it? I am, overall, quite pleased with what this blog is, now, these thousand posts. When I started Tehachapiltdown man on August 8, 2005 I had no idea what my plans were. Looking back (see above) this is obvious.

    When I left Tehachapi, I needed a new name. Several made suggestions, but Cricket suggested Thmusings which was too perfect not to adopt. And so I did.

    But now I am changing the name again. Individual posts will still be called thmusings, but, now, welcome to Thutopia. The redesign is mostly completed (though never entirely) and I do, as the banner says, Welcome you to Thutopia.

Looking forward
    I think ambition is important. And now that the ides have past, I think it's a good time for me to show you what's in Thutopia's future:
      Manufactured statistics
      World peace in 15o-word increments
      Breaking news
      Free downloads
      First glimpses at Exciting New Books
      Sex, Drugs (OTC only), Rocknroll
      Someone who actually trounces me in the Preseason Oscar Game
      Ponzi schemes
      HiLARious videos
      Thvlogs that make sense
      Culturally insensitive typos
      Horrific descriptions of horrific rashes
      Tchtching of mass murder
      Chicken noodle thoup
      Carb-burning regimens
      Fonzi schemes (heeeey)
      Sulphuric acid, common everyday uses for
      Idiotic spam repurposed
      Snide remarks about the Other
      Amazing Photographic Evidence of my Awesome Spawn
      Links to stuff I write as appears elseweb
      Water polo
      Scotch tape
      Plutonium, common everyday uses for
      Comics and cartoons
      Bad Photoshop jobs
      Breaking news
      Massive loss of life and property by means of the Hayward quake
      Thonzi schemes (sign up now)
      Recipes for butternut squash
      Carpal tunnel syndrome
      Bits, bytes, pixels
      Religious epiphany
      Electoral College reform
      Chickens (sans eggs)
      Eggs (sans chickens)
      Eggs and Chickens (together)
      Penguins (see chicken pattern)
      Farm bills
      Luxembourg invasion
      Irony bailouts
      What everyone is talking about
      The elephant in the room
      The rest of the story
      Thexy thundercurrents
      Thorganic produce
      Thneezzes &
It's a thabulous future.

Join me.


T -th- H -th- M -th- A -th- Z -th- I -th- N -th- G




Nine hundred ninety-nine bolts in my brain....
Nine hundred ninety-nine planks on my house....
Nine hundred ninety-nine shoes for my feet....
Nine hundred ninety-nine eggs in your gut....
Nine hundred ninety-nine thoughts for a cent....
Nine hundred ninety-nine gees with an up....
Nine hundred ninety-nine marks on my hide....
Nine hundred ninety-nine stubs for my toe....
Nine hundred ninety-nine charms through my teeth....
Nine hundred ninety-nine ups left to suck....
Nine hundred ninety-nine books in the barn....
Nine hundred ninety-nine scars in my eye....
Nine hundred ninety-nine flames for a buck....
Nine hundred ninety-nine deer in my fridge....
Nine hundred ninety-nine wolves for a dame....
Nine hundred ninety-nine strokes for my love....
Nine hundred ninety-nine pricks per your need....
Nine hundred ninety-nine vests on the floor....
Nine hundred ninety-nine boats left afloat....
Nine hundred ninety-nine jams on the air....
Nine hundred ninety-nine bowls left to wash....
Nine hundred ninety-nine grets left to re....
Nine hundred ninety-nine stuns in my gun....
Nine hundred ninety-nine thought for to think....
Nine hundred ninety-nine jumps with this rope....
Nine hundred ninety-nine ropes that won't jump....
Nine hundred ninety-nine parts of this list....
Nine hundred ninety-nine [your turn]


Moby Dick Tracy


First seen in.....


art by piraro


art by by Danny Shanahan


art by theric

The astute reader will notice that although I made mine before seeing the others, I will never be able to accuse Shanahan of anything he couldn't accuse me of first.



The Mad Svither: PR Officer for The Better World


Or not. Whatever. The title of this post is just in reference to intristin shtuff at church today.

What I want to talk about today is past svithery. Specifically of the thericonian variety. I don't intend to talk about your old svithes today, even if they are among my personal favorites.

What I'm doing here is discussing some posts I've written that I still remember well. And whether or not that's a good thing. It's all part of my nearly-a-thousand-posts nostalgia fest of late.

Itinerant Svither (The Weekly Svithe - Thmusings) is probably my overall favorite--though I may feel such just because Tolkers said nice things about it. And because it makes me look culturally literate.

The Circumcised of Heart -or- A Svithe on Semen (The Weekly Svithe - Thmusings) on the other hand, is the svithe I thought would be my final downfall. Isn't it funny how impossible people are to predict?

Success & Jealousy (The Weekly Svithe - Thmusings) I am glad I wrote early. I have linked to it many times because it provides a lesson I need frequent reminding of.

The Parable of the Drunk Driver (The Weekly Svithe - Thmusings) was what I imagined most of my svithes would be like when I started doing this. In fact, such posts have been quite rare. I don't know what my point is.

A Deceptive Svithe (The Weekly Svithe - Thmusings) is proof that I will never be the best celebrator of Mothers Day.

Stone Soup Svithe (The Weekly Svithe - Thmusings) is an example of how we can learn from others. I think this nonmiraculous explanation of the feeding of the five thousand is one of the most beautiful and Christian things I've ever heard.

Ecclesiastical Svithery (The Weekly Svithe - Thmusings). I'm only mentioning this one so I don't forget to write my book someday.

That Kind of Movie (The Weekly Svithe - Thmusings) is one of the svithes in which I reflect on the intersect between art and faith etc. (And if I were an academic I would now be using the word liminal in a sentence instead of writing a parenthetical.) These questions matter to me and help explain why I spend to much time at A Motley Vision. Because the exploration is only beginning.

Axe & Svithe (The Weekly Svithe - Thmusings) --- sometimes the subtleties need to stay behind.

Shvythe (The Weekly Svithe - Thmusings) --- because sometimes I am.

The Infinite Svithe (The Weekly Svithe - Thmusings), because it's fun to express religion mathematically and I really don't do it often enough.

Priestcraft in Svithery (The Weekly Svithe - Thmusings) comes last because I probably just broke that rule in a most egregious way.

I'd better keep up this svithing till I actually learn something, don't you think? And maybe, maybe, someday I will.

this svithe on the weekly svithe
this svithe on thmusings
last week's svithe




Among the other popular topics in my last near1000 posts are my tonsils. But it's been nearly two years since they were last under discussion (and my Google hits show that lack), so I suppose it's time for me to revisit the topic---especially since I only just finally learned the technical term for what ails me. (Thank you, Wikipedia!)


    In Whited Sepulchers, I referred to stuff "Completely digested and completely disgusting" caught in the back of my throat.

    And in Enema in my mouth, I looked forward to "A lifetime of happiness free of feces-smelling cheese-curd-looking food particles"---

    Then in Porous tonsils, hooray! I cursed my "Freaking mortal tabernacle" because the enema-in-my-mouth solution proved imperfect.

Early last summer when we went on water rationing, I decided the water lost while warming up water for my throat could be cut, so I stopped the nightly washes.

Then last week I changed my mind. I realized I could save the warming-up water for the toilet and thus tonsilrinse guiltfree.

A few things got me thinking about doing this:

    1. Lady Steed said my breath stunk, and she said it pretty much all the time.

    2. I read the above linked-to Wikipedia article.

    3. In scraping my tonsils clean with the buttend of my toothbrush I discovered a secret compartment full of crap.

I'm not kidding. With a stripped Q-tip I pushed my left tonsil towards the center of my throat and I discovered a cave as big again as my tonsil and filled with small yellow curds.

It was a horrifying discovery.

And so I'm back on the oral enema regimen. Whee.

So. Tonsilloliths. Apparently--and this doesn't surprise me--they are not merely food but also dead bacteria and white blood cells. I've suspected for a while that they were being generated within my body rather than arriving from without only to undergo a metamorphosis. And that raises the question: what good rinsing?

Link-following on Wikipedia led me to Tonsillectomy. Now, I've been opposed to a tonsillectomy on the grounds that they take famously long for adults to recover from. Besides, tonsils serve important immune purposes and, allegedly, tonsilloliths can still be formed in the tonsilless soul.

But then I was Wikipedia and I began to realize that there are many, many surgical options when it comes to tonsil removal. Here are a few of the most appealing:

    Radiofrequency ablation: Monopolar radiofrequency thermal ablation transfers radiofrequency energy to the tonsil tissue through probes inserted in the tonsil. The procedure can be performed in an office (outpatient) setting under light sedation or local anesthesia. After the treatment is performed, scarring occurs within the tonsil causing it to decrease in size over a period of several weeks. The treatment can be performed several times. The advantages of this technique are minimal discomfort, ease of operations, and immediate return to work or school. Tonsillar tissue remains after the procedure but is less prominent. This procedure is recommended for treating enlarged tonsils and not chronic or recurrent tonsillitis.

    Thermal Welding: A new technology which uses pure thermal energy to seal and divide the tissue. The absence of thermal spread means that the temperature of surrounding tissue is only 2-3 °C higher than normal body temperature. Clinical papers show patients with minimal post-operative pain (no requirement for narcotic pain-killers), zero edema (swelling) plus almost no incidence of bleeding. Hospitals in the US are advertising this procedure as "Painless Tonsillectomy". Also known as Tissue Welding.

    Carbon dioxide laser: Laser tonsil ablation (LTA) finds the otolaryngologist employing a hand-held CO2 or KTP laser to vaporize and remove tonsil tissue. This technique reduces tonsil volume and eliminates recesses in the tonsils that collect chronic and recurrent infections. This procedure is recommended for chronic recurrent tonsillitis, chronic sore throats, severe halitosis, or airway obstruction caused by enlarged tonsils. The LTA is performed in 15 to 20 minutes in an office setting under local anesthesia. The patient leaves the office with minimal discomfort and returns to school or work the next day. Post-tonsillectomy bleeding may occur in 2-5% of patients. Previous research studies state that laser technology provides significantly less pain during the post-operative recovery of children, resulting in less sleep disturbance, decreased morbidity, and less need for medications. On the other hand, some believe that children are adverse to outpatient procedures without sedation.

Hey! Lasers!

Anyway, my point is that I think one of these types of surgery might be the way to go. I'm sick sick sick of dealing with this and if modern medicine can give me a more permanent solution with a minimum of pain or danger, then why not? Now I just need to get Kaiser on board and we'll be good to go.

The problem will be getting me to a doctor. I'm terrible about getting to doctors. But the longterm benefits of this seem worth it.

I just hope I get a doctor who doesn't mind printouts from Wikipedia.....




Last week I safely and easily shared a Churchmade video. This week, at Church, I compared angels to germs. So I'm thinking that letting someone else do the svithin' for me would be wise.

So I swung by lds.org to see what was on their front page and I found a link to the Mormon Messages YouTube channel.

Well that was easy.

The only question is, what to share?

Obvious answer: the one with aliens:

I was hoping for something more on how angels are like germs, and this totally paid off! Mothers are like aliens! I knew it!

Hmmm. Time for me to get more serious.....

Next week: a look at svithes past. We'll see where that takes us.

In the meantime, revisit last week's svithe.


thShower Redemption


In this millennial moment I think back on these pat nearlyathousand posts and wonder what topics I should revisit. A few themes have been recurrent of course and now seems like the time to comment on the past. I'm not often waxing nostalgic so I should take the chance when I can. Even if it means that I destroy what we know of history in the process.

Take showering, the process by which I generally clean my body. Showering is done by placing the naked body under a stream of falling water. Combine the water with cleansing chemicals (eg, soap) and together they leave the body clean, if wet. Generally I use a drying process called "toweling" after showering before redressing in order not to dampen my clothing.

But if you read Thmusings you already know all this. I've talked about my showering habits and methodology before (here and here and here and here) but all these posts do not reflect the current reality. Anyone reading these posts would assume that I, Theric, am a lengthy showerer, using thousands of gallons a month in cleansing my body from dirt and oils.

Not so.

Times have changed (cf here or, even better, here). I am now most notable for how very little water I use in the showering process.

(Before I share my secrets, it should be noted that all water from the showering process is now preserved in the Thteed household and used to flush the toilet.)

Here's how it works. (Note that step two is omitted in warm weather as I, in those circumstances, shower in cold water.)

1. Keep water heater at a low enough temperature that one may stand under an undiluted stream of hot. (This prevents the need to adjust hot and cold to a livable temperature.)

2. Warm the water.

3. Drench hair and turn off water.

4. Shampoo hair and use the resulting suds to wash face and ears, neck and as far down my body as they will reach.

5. Turn on water and rinse shampoo from hair and body.

6. Turn off water.

7. Using body hair as a loofah, use a small amount of soap to wash remaining body.

8. Turn on water and rinse body.

9. Turn off water.

And I'm done.

This method uses about five gallons of water, I would estimate. According to a brief amount of internet research, the average showerer uses 15-25 gallons per five minutes of showering.

Living in California and showering as I do, I think it's now pretty safe for me to say that I am a better person than you.

How does that make you feel, you wastrel?


Ever wonder what's the most popular thing I've ever done (by far)? I'll tell you: The contents of this cat's belly.


I try hard, you know? And now as I approach my my 1000th post, I have to ask myself, What have I done, as a blogger, that's been really successful?

I can see two ways to answer that question: What has been of use to regular readers? and What has been of use to search-engine users?

To the latter question, the answer is clear. This disgusting image:

cat guts

One reason I stopped keeping track of my search-engine hits (besides that it just got to be too much to keep track of) was that every day (every day!) more than several people stop by looking for the above image. I don't know what the average is, but it's probably ten or twenty people. Looking for this image. Every day. The funny thing is that it's never actually appeared on my blog. I've only linked to it. So people who arrive through Google Image Search (or Yahoo! or AOL or whatever) looking for this image can't actually see it. Which seems unkind. So, given that possibly 25% of my total alltime viewership has come to see this image (it used to be fifty or sixty a day), I though that this millennial moment was a good time to finally put it on display.

The image is © by David B. Fankhauser, Ph.D., a professor of biology and chemistry at the University of Cincinnati Clermont College. And he has other striking images on his website such as

cat brain removalthis cat brain,

human hearta ready-to-barbecue human heart and

mystery beveragemm, well, I don't even want to tell you what this is.


(And keep up the good work, Dr Fankhauser!)



Svithe: Create


I first saw this on Segullah and since then have noticed it several other places. It was apparently given at a women's meeting as it skews female about halfway through, but I still like it and I'm going to treat it universally as it's playing on one of my favorite themes. So in case you've missed it, President Uchtdorf:

last week's svithe