2010-07-29

I should never prepare for anything.

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In a novel attempt to be responsible, I've been taking GRE practice tests. With each attempt, my verbal score drops 20 points. At this rate, when I take the test tomorrow, my verbal should below my quantitative.

What universe are we living in?

2010-07-26

California Republicans are Stupid.
(also, delicious food)

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So I, like plenty of Californians, am itching to get Barbara Boxer out of the Senate. And with anti-incumbency at high highs, this seems like the year for it. But then, in the primary, Republicans rejected probably their best Senate option in a long time in favor of someone who just might be crazy. Nice work, California Republicans. Brilliant move.

When Lady Steed and I were at Chez Panisse the other week, the table next to us upon whom we eavesdropped, was a group of people who reacted with audible gasps when they learned that one of their own's son had married a Republican. And, even more shocking, she seemed to be a descent person. Even though she was a Republican (and not an adventurous eater --- the other thing that her mother-in-law generally cannot forgive in a person), somehow she seemed to be a good person. Hard to believe, I know, but her mother-in-law herself admitted it to be true. Imagine!

Rich white liberals, I tell you. Sequestering themselves away from people unlike them. Not what the word liberal is really supposed to mean, imho.

The company may have been amusing, but the food was remarkable. Our big writeup is now up on Lady Steed's blog. At least skim it. We spent a fortune on this food. You might as well read about it.

2010-07-25

Pioneer Day Svithe

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When Brigham Young went off to declare some place The Right Place, he left behind a tawdry instant city set up in the middle of nowhere called Winter Quarters. Hosea Stout, as chief of police, was left behind to help maintain order. To deal with the drunkenness and theft and false prophets and all sorts of malarkey that was going on.

It got so bad that, according to Hosea's diary, on June 20, 1847, Orson Hyde had to "preach[...] his celebrated bogus sermon, denouncing all bogus makers, counterfeiters thieves &c & commanding all such & all who knew of such to come forth with and tell him & also absolved them from all former acts and covenants to keep secrets. This made quite a stir & caused some to 'confess their sins'"

So Hosea is dealing with rampant hooliganism, making friends with the Omahas the same time the feds are trying to recruit Mormon help to attack the Omahas, dealing with an endless series of people who try to either disband the police or cut their pay, etc etc etc. Almost makes the trek across the plains sound like the easier option.

And this is perhaps my point.

I think, as humans, we need role models to look up to. And, for instance, a sick Brigham Young in his cart declaring this valley the right place is a stirring image. But every Saint who stuck it through is a hero, even if they were left behind, even if they, like Hosea, spent half their time rounding up stray cattle.

Until October 8, 1847, that is, when Hosea Stout and 15 other men and 111 rounds of ammunition (enough to "enable" them to "make a good defence if occasion had required") headed West to intercept the returning pioneers. The weather moved from "the best of weather . . . warm and dry" on the 9th to "wet and cold" on the 11th to "pleasant . . . again" on the 12th to a "Very cold night & a hard white frost" on the 13th. On the fourteenth they met a small company who had been sent ahead by Brigham Young to get buffalo meat for the returning pioneers. They had abandoned that task however and just kept going. And when Brigham Young sent a rider up, asking them to return after the main body had been attacked and lost 80 horses to the Sioux, they did not but continued their return to Iowa.

 Hosea and the men with him felt "joy, anger & supprise" upon hearing this story and that "night was the most sad and gloomy time which we had. Not knowing where the Twelve and those with them were or what had become of them. Perhap they were broke down, & robbed of all their animals"

He worried they might still be clear back in Laramie, and imagine if that had been so! 16 men less than a week from Winter Quarters in mid October with a company to rescue on the other side of the plains! Dire!

While in this melancholy mood Bishop Calkins took me out aside and said that he felt like he wanted to speak in toungs which he said was an uncommon thing for him and if it was right & any one here who could interpret he would be glad to speak.

I spoke to the company about who all were anxious to hear him. Saying if there was any intelligence for us in toungs there would be an interpretation also. 

He spoke some time vehemently. Levi Nickerson only understood enough to know that it was relative to our situation and those we were in pursuit & that all was well.

Bishop Calkins then gave us the interpretation which in substance was that our mission was of God, whose eyes & the eyes of angels were over us for our good.

That the Lord had turned away our enemies from us & we had not been seen

For us to press on & be faithfull and our eyes should see those who we sought and we all should return to our homes in peace.

We all felt the force of what was said & agreed to try and do better if we could & press on untill we met them if we had to go to the valley.

This was a very singular circumstance for there was not one of us who was given to enthusiastic notions of this sort which is so common with some brethren But now we all felt an assurance that we would realize what had been spoken.

Two days after this spiritual reassurance  they chased their first buffalo and saw their first prairie dog town—30 times the size of Albany. And the day after those wonders, they found what they were looking for: the pioneers, returning from the valley, straggled out in a long line of three or four miles in length.

We marched fast, passing many who did not know us until we met the Twelve when we halted & every man ran to greet his friends.

It is useless for me to attempt to describe this meeting. The whole of us was in a perfect extacy of joy & gladness. They were worn down with fatigue and hunger with many an anxious thought on home and the welfare of their families & the church. Many of their animals had to be lifted up every time they laid down.

As for us, we only had one feeling now. All our anxiety & care was gone. In the midst of our brethren all our care and responsibility was gone we gave ourselves to the enjoyment of meeting & being with them. All was well & we had only to tell them that we was ready to assist them to anything we had.

The President said it was more joy more satisfaction to meet us than a company of angels for they heard from their families & we from the valley.

I suppose we can find plenty of lessons in this story, but the one I see plainly is that we don't need heroes. We just need each other. We are God's gift to each other. We as Saints can hold together and serve together and through the sustenance of the Spirit, we can accomplish great things.

In the name of . . . . . . 


2010-07-22

Sixth 5books
(includes a preliminary review of the Kindle and reasons why I'm finishing fewer books of late)

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030) Servant of a Dark God by John Brown, finished July 21


Holy smokes.

I had known I was finishing way way way fewer books this year, but I had no idea it's been over a month since I last finished one. Insane.

And so before we get to Brown's book, a bit of italicized speculating on why I am finishing fewer books this year.

First, I'm not reading as much comics. Not because I'm not reading comics --- in fact, I've never been deeper into comics (more on this in a future post) --- but I'm not reading booklength comics.

Second, I'm borrowing Recession Cone's Kindle. This might sound like it would lead to more reading, but there are a couple things you don't know. A) I'm driving to work rather than walking these past five weeks. B) Lady Steed won't let me carry the Kindle with me. She thinks it'll get me mugged. C) Between the books RC had on it and the one's I've added, when I have the Kindle, I haven't made a decision about what I'm going to read in the same way I have when I've picked up a book.

Third, I am, to pick a couple tired metaphors, spread thin, stretched thin lately. I have multiple writing and editing projects I'm in the middle of (eg, the comics thing mentioned above, Monsters and Mormons, more more more) and so I haven't been reading for readings' sake much of late.

Fourth, uncertainty about our future is making my brain leak and I'mm having a hard time concentrating on books. Never imagined such a thing was possible.


Before we get into Servant of a Dark God (because I haven't delayed this enough already), the Kindle.

Reading Servant isn't giving it a fair shake because it's a pdf I received (but didn't get read in time) for the Whitney Awards last year. I've been anxious to read it and the Kindle finally gave me that chance.

Even with the pdf cramping the Kindle's style, it was still fine to read on. My main complaint is that the contrast isn't stark enough. When reading in bed, if Lady Steed got between the Kindle and the lamp, I couldn't easily read anymore.

(It won't surprise you, given what I said in italics, that I have also been reading other books on the Kindle. I promised RC I wouldn't buy any books, but that doesn't stop my from reading in Kindle's native format with the books he'd already purchased, notably Rogue CloneRogue Clone by Steven Kent. [Interestingly, both writers are Mormon and both have badguyish peoples (in the sense of a race or nationality) with nearly identical names: Mogat and Mokad. Isn't that interesting?] So I can vouch for the better experience it is reading something other than a pdf on the Kindle.)

Being not much of a gadget fiddler, I haven't screwed around much with the Kindle's settings and bookmarks, etc. I suppose I should. I'm trying to get excited about that. But I'm really more interested in using it to read. Which it's reasonably dandy at. I think I read with less retention on the Kindle since I can't flip pages back and forth with the ease I do in books, but whether or not that's a problem is too soon to say.

Anyway. John Brown's book.

Well written high fantasy. I don't read much high fantasy these days so when I say something like UTTERLY ORIGINAL! I might be wrong, but I thought it was. I had a couple beefs (eg, the protag's age seemed to change over the course of the book), but for a first novel, I was mostly impressed. Excellent world, excellent concepts, excellent action, excellent fun.

Another thing I found striking was that while the whole book was one cohesive tale, after it ended, with a deft turn, Brown revealed how it can also be viewed as a book-one in a series (which it is, natch: here's a pdf of its first three [unreleased] chapters).

Any other questions?

estimate close to a month



===========================================================



029) Drink Me, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog by James Goldberg, finished June 9


Well. If I had known you could get through a masters thesis navelgazing I might have done so ten years ago.

Having been in conversation with the author and (see book #28) reading a couple of his plays, I followed a link to one of his blogs and found his thesis in which he talks about his blogs (1 2 3). The paper is imminently readable although, as per its chapter four, I did skim several sections of it.

Rather than "reviewing" the book, I am, in response to all the self-quoting James did, I am now going to link to blog posts I have written which, in some way, respond to parts of his paper, thus continuing the conversation.

In America, "pissed" doesn't mean drunk (in which I overdo the linkery)

That much delayed Sunstone story, the horrifying one that I hope my students don’t hear (in which I, ah, am really really truthful)

What a way to start the month.... (more thonesty)

Post #300 in which we celebrate me by sharing humorous facts (in which I outnavelgaze the best of them and am simultaneously hilarious, a feat never before accomplished)

The Sin of Saint Onan (in which I sully another blog by being thobnoxious in my discussion of blogs as ephemera)

Okay. That's enough. Some good ones, a bad one. Should do it.

Your turn.


couple hours



===========================================================



028) Out of the Mount (tentative title) edited by Davey Morrison, finished June 8


Because I'm involved in the publication of this book, everything I say may be fairly interpreted as puffery. But with that introduction, this is a great collection dealing with Mormon issues like faith, doubt, following, agency, love. Great stuff.

After you read your copy, come back with your five favorites. It'll be hard to choose I assure you, but here are mine:

"On Being a Priest" by Eric & Mary Emma Heaps
"Book of Mormon Story" by James Goldberg
"Gaia" by Eric Samuelsen
"Prodigal Son" by James Goldberg
"Little Happy Secrets" by Melissa Leilani Larson

Although I can look at that list and be totally satisfied, it still left out plenty of excellent work.

I love reading short plays and you should too, daddyo. Buy your own copy this September.

a week



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027) Madman Boogaloo! by Mike Allred, Mike Baron, Bernie Mireault, Steve Rude; finished June 2


Like most crossovers, this isn’t that great. (Sorry.) It’s really just an opportunity for creators to cross-pollinate their audiences. So how did these crossovers affect me, as a Madman fan?

The Nexus story did not sell me on the characters. In part because I don’t dig future superheroes, but also because Nexus isn’t my friend.

The Jam, like Nexus, is a not-my-friend character trapped in a subpar story, but this character I’m left interested in. I would read more Jam.

ggtt

under two weeks, but only, at most, forty minutes of reading



===========================================================



026) The Education of Robert Nifkin by Daniel Pinkwater, finished May 22


Do you know Daniel Pinkwater? You should. His YA novels are delirious warpings of reality that boggle the mind. Which is what makes this book so hard to grasp.

See, this book is firmly in the school of realism yet, at the same time, it contains elements and characters so heightened into absurdity that calling this book realism is blatant lying. Yet, for all its wackiness, this still feels like a realistic look at 1950s Chicago high-school life.

What I find most charming about this book is its first page:

St. Leon's College
Parnassus on Hudson, New York


Admission Application, Page 4

64. Characterize, in essay form, your high-school ex-
perience. You may use additional sheets of paper
as needed.


Then the next 164 pages are his answer to that question.

So, the question begged is this: Will he be admitted?

I do not know. I cannot even hope to guess.


four days



Previously in 2010 . . . . :





025) True Grit by Charles Portis, finished May 21
024) Old Man's War by John Scalzi, finished May 15
023) Pandora's Nightmare: Horror Unleashed, finished May 13
022) Anthem by Ayn Rand, finished May 11
021) Look! It's Jesus!: Amazing Holy Visions in Everyday Life by Harry Choron and Sandra Choron, finished May 9
020) Travels in the Scriptorium: A Novel by Paul Auster, finished May 5
019) Suburban Folklore by Steven Walters, finished May 4
018) The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall, finished April 30
017) Gracie: A Love Story by George Burns by George Burns, finished April 20
016) The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley, finished April 15
015) Dispensation: Latter-Day Fiction edited by Angela Hallstrom, finished March 24
014) The Best American Comics 2009 edited by Charles Burns, finished March 22
013) Icon: A Hero's Welcome by Dwayne McDuffie and MD Bright, finished March 17 012) There's Treasure Everywhere by Bill Watterson, finished March 15
011) Static Shock: Rebirth of the Cool. Finished right at midnight between March 13 and 14
010) Teen Titans: Year One by Amy Wolfram et al, finished March 7
009) The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, Book One by Bill Watterson, finished March 6
008) Apparition & Late Fictions: A Novella and Stories by Thomas Lynch, finished March 5
007) Stone Rabbit #1: BC Mambo by Erik Craddock, finished March 2
006) The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larsen, finished February 23
005) Missile Mouse 2 by Jake Parker (MS POLICY), finished February 5
004) Heroes of the Fallen by David J. West, finished February 4
003) Still Life in Milford by Thomas Lynch, finished January 19
002) Rapunzel's Revenge by Hales Shannon Dean and Nathan, finished January 16
001) Mormoniana by Mormon Artists Group, finished January 13

2010-07-20

Normally, if I only give myself 15 minutes to drive to work, I'll be late

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Today I went from asleep to school in 12 minutes.

#donttrythisathome

Beautiful spam!

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It's been a while since I posted a spam letter, but the new religious version of the Nigerian businessman trope seems to have reached its apotheosis, so I had to share:

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

From Mrs. Sheila Johnson
reply-to sheilajohn64@aol.com
date Sun, Jul 18, 2010 at 10:43 AM
subject God Bless You !!

Dear Beloved in Christ,

It is by the grace of God that I received Christ, having known the truth,I had no choice than to do what is lawful and right in the sight of God for eternal life and in the sight of man for witness of God & his mercies and glory upon my life.

I am Mrs.Sheila Johnson the wife of Mr Harold Johnson, my husband worked with the Chevron/Texaco in Kenya for twenty years before he died in the year 2007.

We were married for ten years without a child. My Husband died after a brief illness that lasted for only four days.

Before his death we were both born again Christians.

Since his death I decided not to re-marry or get a child outside my matrimonial home which the Bible is against.When my late husband was alive he deposited the sum of US$3.5M. (Three Million Five Hundred Thousand U.S.Dollars), with a Bank in Europe.Presently,this money is still with the Bank and the management just wrote me as the beneficiary to come forward to sign for the release of this money or rather issue a letter of authorization to somebody to receive it on my behalf if I can not come over.

Presently, I'm in a hospital in Kenya where I have been undergoing treatment for esophageal cancer.I have since lost my ability to talk and my doctors have told me that I have only a few weeks to live. It is my last wish to see this money distributed to charity organizations anywhere in the World.Because relatives and friends have plundered so much of my wealth since my illness, I cannot live with the agony of entrusting this huge responsibility to any of them.

Please, I beg you in the name of God to help me Stand and collect the Funds from the Bank.

I want a person that is God fearing that will use this money to fund churches,orphanages and widows propagating the word of God and to ensure that the house of God is maintained.

The Bible made us to understand that blessed is the hand that giveth.I took this decision because I don't have any child that will inherit this money and my husband's relatives are not Christians and I don't want my husband's hard earned money to be misused by unbelievers. I don't want a situation where this money will be used in an ungodly manner.

Hence the reason for taking this bold decision, I am not afraid of death hence I know where I am going and I know that I am going to be in the bosom of the Lord.

Exodus{14 VS14}says that the lord will fight my case and I shall hold my peace. I don't need any telephone communication in this regard because of my soundless voice and presence of my husband's relatives around me always. I don't want them to know about this development. With God all things are possible.

As soon as I receive your reply I shall give you the contact of my attorney who is in Europe as he will be the one to assist you in laying claims for this funds.

Kindly send your reply to my private email address which is as follows:
sheilajohn64@aol.com

Your Sister in Christ,
Mrs.Sheila Johnson.

2010-07-19

I haven't even seen Inception yet and already it has changed the way I dream

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Last night I was escorted through my dreams by the cast of Inception and I looked for hints and proof that I was in my dreams or out of my dreams etc. It did not make for refreshing sleep.

Not sure if seeing the movie will help or hurt.

2010-07-18

This svithe is (also) totally gay

(actually, it's probably more gay than the original one)
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I'm writing this before Church but I rather doubt that anything will happen during, say, from 10:20-10:30 that will make me change anything. But more on that in a moment.

Two Tuesdays ago, our ward cohosted a meeting at our building with the Coalition of Welcoming Congregations, group that "brings together religious leaders, LGBT people of faith and their allies from a wide range of religious traditions in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area to form a progressive, effective and media-savvy voice on matters relating to sexuality and religion, homophobia, and the enfranchisement of LGBT people within society as a whole" (a little wordy, but that's how they describe themselves and I'm all for letting people describe themselves). I didn't make it to the meeting, sadly, but I hear it was well attended (75-100 people) and a happy and healthy discourse was held. Which makes me very happy. With all the unpleasant rhetoric spinning around in all directions, it's nice to hear that people can still be civil and then eat cookies afterward and have a dandy time getting to know each other and finding common ground (which two things are generally the same thing). This is a large part of the Mormon tradition and it would be nice if our PR better reflected that.

To read an account of the meeting from someone who, you know, was actually there, try Carol Lynn Pearson's

Which brings us to the last ten minutes of tomorrow's sacrament meeting. Our stake's newest high councilor is coming to speak. I've met him only once, but he seems like a very cool guy. He's also openly gay and has some of the speech mannerisms and gestures of one of my very favorite gay Mormons* (I hate the words I'm using --- I sound as bad as white people who collect black friends).

For all I know, he may well be the only HIV-positive openly gay man who doesn't mind speaking about his "sordid past" who is serving as a high councilor in the entire LDS Church anywhere in the world. Frankly, I would not be surprised if that is the case.

(And forgetting for a moment that I like the guy, maybe we should consider the awesome weight he bears in being a symbol. And a variable symbol at that. I imagine he gets as much hate flung on him as love.)

I'm not interested in making large How Things Should Be-type proclamations, nor am I much interested in predicting the future.

But I will say that we Saints are commanded to be bearers of Christ's love. And I am happy to see examples of that love all around me.

And I don't care if that's totally gay.


last week's svithe

2010-07-14

Twenty Minutes Till Ten Years

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The twenty minutes is how long I have till summer school's over for the day. Following that moment (and the requisite drive home), we will move into full Tenth Anniversary Mode.

Lady Steed and I were married ten years ago today in the Oakland Temple. Photos of us then reveal a couple of very very young people. Deleriously young.

Today we are ten. So we're going to pop two hundred dollars on dinner and four hundred dollars on a chair so I guess we're finally grownups.

Or would be, if we could afford such extravagance.

But after this night thrusts us into bankrupcy, we will still have each other.

And we'll do just fine.

I love you, Lady Steed.

2010-07-09

One thing on Johannes Mehserle and Oscar Grant

.

Mehserle claims that he thought he was pulling aiming and shooting his taser.

If tasers and guns are really that identical, that a trained police officer can grab the wrong one in the heat of the moment and not know the difference, then that puts everyone in danger and must be fixed.

2010-07-08

Independence Day has come and gone

.

And, as you undoubtedly know, that means less than a month remains until Coast Guard Day, the day on which decent human beings traditionally give me gifts. Ever since the Obama guy started encroaching on my Coast Guard Day turf, things have been a little sparse around here, but I have faith that the gift-giving will pick back up soon.

For those of you looking for suggestions as to what Thutopians like to receive on their personalized armed-services holiday, I have taken the liberty of scouring my Amazon wishlist for ideas.

1. Any book by Tom Holt. Because Tolkers says he's the same as me and that makes me very very nervous.

2. Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon. Because no one had the good sense to give it to me for Father's Day. Not even me. And I would have, had I thought of it.

3. David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism. Because I don't read nearly enough nonfiction and I've heard much too much about how awesome this book is.

4. The Complete Essex County or The Complete Bone. Because both these comics are awesome and neither of them have I finished reading.

Written In Chalk5. Written In Chalk. Let me explain. It's a Buddy and Julie Miller album. With Kershisnik cover art. It's the best of visual and the best of aural having a baby.

6. Jukebox by Cat Power. Hard to narrow things down to just one hot indie chick, you know?

7. United States Coast Guard Flag. Just to help us all remember those other guys whose day I stole.

2010-07-07

Music, Crappy

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I don't know if you know this, but AM music stations still exist. I was just listening to one this afternoon and it was playing "Cracklin' Rosie." Sound quality was crappy, but awesome song, right?

Then, as another powerline faded and befuzzed the song, I thought of those kids I mock who walk around with their cellphone speakers cranked up. Crappy quality speakers blaring crappy quality mp3s.

But is their crappy music more or less crappy then AM radio under a powerline while antenna's sitting unscrewed in the garage?

I don't feel that I can judge objectively, but I suspect neither more crappy nor less crappy.

Just different crappy.

2010-07-04

The Adultery Svithe

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This week in most Mormon adult Sunday Schools worldwide the topic is David and Bathsheba. Which, as a story, I am so over. It's kinda been done to death, imho, so I'm not anxious to dig back in to it.

But it comes at a time when I am becoming increasingly aware that in America generally, probably the world generally, probably history generally, adultery has been constant and common. Given the data I've seen lately, I would suspect that the majority of marriages throughout history have been tainted by adultery at least once.

Now, I'm not saying this to give you permission to find a David or a Bathsheba of your very own, but simply as an observation of likely fact.

I suppose it's not that surprising. Humans are mostly animals after all, and like all animals our ultimate priority is propagation by any means necessary. And so all sorts of seed gets sown in all sorts of fields. C'est la vie.

But what's the lesson to be drawn if you (as, I suspect, is true of the vast majority of married couples both now and historically) desire to remain true?

Here's an obvious one: Don't assume your own unassailable morality. (That's pretty much good advice in any situation.)

Here's another: Don't suppose that the world at large is anxious to help you meet your goals (another generalizable notion).

Or, to state them both positively, With Work You May Be Good and Find Your Resources For Good Within.

And that's without bringing the divine explicitly into the equation.

Any way, have a good week. Don't screw around on your spouse.

Love, Theric.