Monthly Archives: January 2012

and so my needs are great

1/31/12

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the “Y Mountain” in Provo, as seen from my Grandma’s old place

Let’s get a few things straight about this Mormon thing before we go back to talking about sex, grammar, and half-baked grand unifying theories of pop culture. I’ve spent the last day hearing variations on the following themes:

• I’m a bigot for singling out a particular group’s belief system

• If you substitute “Judaism” for “Mormonism” in the article, it would never have been published

• They had the same worries about JFK and his Catholicism, and he turned out fine

• I’m actually just shilling for Obama’s reelection

• The New York Times is a liberal rag that’ll print anything to get its weak-kneed readership into a lather.

Indulge me in a thought experiment. In many ways, I’ve never understood why we can’t be honest with our feelings concerning religion. Besides “not hurting the feelings of the ones you love,” I don’t get why expressing an opinion about a belief system is verboten. Here’s the Wikipedia definition of bigotry:

…persons hostile to those of differing sex, race, ethnicity, religious belief or spirituality, nationality, language, sexual orientation, and age…

To me, bigotry is intolerance of a trait you had no control over. That fits every item in the list except one: religion. While you can’t help being raised in a certain religion, you eventually advance to an age where continuing that faith is a choice. In a free country, you have the right to practice a certain religion, and I have a right to have an opinion about it.

Obviously, in the real world, it isn’t so simple – Judaism is a different case, because the religion and the ethnicity are so intertwined, and because recent history (the last 75 years) begs prudence and sensitivity. And honestly, if you’re the kind of guy who endlessly talks shit about everybody’s faith, you’re going to stop being invited to parties. (cue shot of my mailbox covered with cobwebs)

But I hold fast to the idea in the abstract: it is okay to have an opinion about religion. And further, some religions are different than others. Some, viewed through the lens of history, through the language of their leaders, and the politics they affected, cause more concern than others. And a Mormon placed in the most powerful position in the world causes me concern.

I wasn’t around in 1960 when the same issues were allegedly brought up about JFK and his Catholicism, but there are some important differences. During the election, both Jackie Kennedy and JFK himself expressed how he wasn’t a particularly good Catholic (something we now know to be, um, accurate) and he made an outright promise to the nation that no church would affect his decision-making process.

Besides, Catholicism was changing (Vatican II was gurgling in the upper chambers) and the very nature of “being Catholic” was – and is – completely different from the essence of modern Mormonism. In short, you could be kinda Catholic, and you could kinda think the Pope was infallible, but let’s be honest: there was plenty of wiggle room.

There is no wiggle room in the LDS Church. It’s binary; you either have your “temple recommend” or you don’t. You’ve either been sealed to the post-existence, or you haven’t. You either believe the church President is a living Prophet with a divine link to God… or you’re lapsing into Jack-Mormonhood.

Mitt Romney, as we’ve now learned, has affirmed that he is not a pick-n-choose Mormon, but a full adherent to the faith. Line upon line, precept upon precept, Romney has said he “would seek the guidance of Providence in making decisions”. If you think that doesn’t mean consulting with church elders, one in particular, I don’t know what to say.

I want someone to ask Romney point-blank: Which document would you foremost uphold in your Presidency – the Constitution or the Book of Mormon? I guarantee you he will not answer.

That may not bother you. That’s awesome. It bothers me, however. Go ahead and say that’s just me “shilling for Obama” if it makes you feel better. If chalking it up to pure cynical politics allows you to disregard the argument, go for it.

Would I trust a President Perry not to carpet-bomb Iran for some nutty evangelical reason? Would I trust President Lieberman to prioritize New York City’s interests over Israel’s? Would I trust President Harry Reid to keep church elders out of our business? No, no and no. That’s my opinion, something the Constitution allows for.

As for the usual complaints about the New York Times from all you conservatives out there, please, for the love of God, give it a rest. Your arguments are based on anecdotal bias, false equivalency, and a desire to disregard any information you don’t agree with by impugning the source.

When progressives fault Fox News, they do it by pointing out factual errors – or in the case of “The Daily Show”, by consistently showing how the pundits contradict themselves. When conservatives fault the New York Times, they blame the fact that it’s the New York Times.

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rocking the NYT 1990-style

Sometimes I wish I understood religion in an emotional way. While I’ll always opt for the opiate of music, dialogue, stories and science for my version of religious ecstasy, I do occasionally long for the comfort of belonging and believing. This shortcoming has always led me to being impolitic and vaguely Aspergian when it came to faith. You true believers scare me sometimes, and I don’t want you running the country, but I salute you and your spirit all the same.

tuesdays with moroni

1/30/12

Now for a big, warm, sloppy welcome to those of you who just came here from the link on today’s New York Times piece! To recap, five of us discuss why Americans are going to have a tough time swallowing Mitt Romney’s adherence to Mormonism. For my part, I enjoy sneaking into the NYT every few years or so, whether it’s about Harry Potter-induced headaches or American Coastopia secessionism.

I try my damndest to walk on eggshells whenever the subject of Mormons comes up. Yes, I’ve made fun of my cousins’ hair and my family’s picnic fixins, but I’m always mindful that they rescued my summers when I was a friendless 12-year-old spaz, and fed us when our family fell apart. To paraphrase Morrissey, I’m older now and a clever swine, but they were the only ones who ever stood by me.

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a representative sample, reunion-style

But just because I loved my Auntie Donna, doesn’t mean I’d want her to be President of the United States. I’m sure there’s a vaguely liberal Mormon hiding out in Ogden or American Fork, but the vast majority have political views slightly to the right of Henry VIII.

I can take the o’erwhelming daddy-is-God patriarchy, mostly because my own Mormon forebears were fiercely strong pioneer women who pulled their families across the American West with the force of their jaws. Tangle with my Grandma Klea or my Aunt Marilyn at your peril.

The Church’s mind-befogging take on homosexuality is a different matter. It was one thing when they kept to themselves (and forced thousands of gay Mormon men to marry early, lie back and think of Salt Lake City), but when they meddled with Prop 8 in California, they crossed the line. Sure, the true shame lies in any voting Californian willing to take relationship advice from the octogenarians running the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but it was a dealbreaker that forced a chasm between my agnostic nuclear family and the rest of our brood.

I know for a fact that certain relatives of mine actively campaigned for Prop 8 because their bishops told them to. Other relatives wondered why some of my brothers weren’t coming to the family reunion, thinking the Prop 8 thing was no big deal either way. They will probably never understand why that piece of legislation was so devastating – ironic, given that early Mormon history saw them harassed, imprisoned, shot, and run out of every town east of the Rockies.

But even the Church’s rampant homophobia comes from a relatively innocent place: if the essential core of your belief system revolves around a husband, wife and family meeting in the afterlife in a perfect divine form, then The Gays™ end up being totally confusing. It doesn’t “work”, as it were.

I fear a Mitt Romney presidency, but not for the same reasons as others. The NYTimes debate hints at the typical jitters: the otherness of LDS, the secret rituals, the rumored polygamy (and I’ll go ahead and add the funny undergarments, the “getting your own planet when you die” canard, and the Osmonds). But anyone looking to Mormonism for some kind of dangerous spiritual ecstasy will be sorely disappointed; in practice, it’s actually quite boring.

That’s what led my mom and I away from the Temple – we were proto-A.D.D. sufferers, fagged out of our skulls with boredom. The churches themselves have none of the iconographic wizardry of your average Catholic abbey, none of the sweeping grandeur. We’re not allowed to go inside the big temples in Westwood or Salt Lake, but I can bet the whole interior is done in early-60s split-level ranch wood paneling.

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Sunday School room at the ward in LA – not exactly “The Wedding at Cana”

As for the “crazy beliefs” of the LDS church… the seeing-rocks, the magic hat and the posthumous baptism shenanigans are no different than any other Christian totem – they’re just younger.

No… what I fear most is the leader of the Church sending down a dictum to a Mormon president. Something crazy, destructive, messianic, and sickening. Mitt Romney says his presidential decisions won’t be influenced by the Church, which means he’s either lying, or he’s not Mormon. EVERY Mormon follows the edict of the Living Prophet, currently the 84-year-old Thomas S. Monson. The Prophet is the direct line to God himself.

If Monson has a “divine revelation” and tells Romney, that’s lights out. Refusing Monson is exactly the same thing as refusing the Heavenly Father. Past revelations have run the gamut from maybe we shouldn’t have so many wives (1890) to maybe we should let black people be priests (1978), but there is NO TELLING what kind of fever dream Thomas S. Monson might have after a late Mexican dinner.

I’m not saying these things out of bigotry, or to redeem my cold, black jack-Mormon anger. I campaigned for Obama, and he’s a big ol’ Christian. I will defend, as best I can, my Mormon relatives from any cruel invective – because, like them, I value family above all else. But please… keep those crazy tabernacle codgers away from the Bomb.

set pants to vibrate

1/29/12

Hi, it’s me. I don’t wanna be all “take the magic away” or anything, but… are we gonna have sex?

I mean, I’m COMPLETELY COOL if we’re not. And I’m not, like, trying to “own” you or anything, but I’ve been reading my psychology homework, you know? And this one study said “people who ask for what they want are 41% happier.” Or something. It’s not like I memorized it, but I’m pretty sure it was 41 percent.

We’ve been hanging out since Thanksgiving (well, a couple of days longer than that, if you count that thing on the bus) and I’m usually just, like, all about “lettin’ it come to me” and “keepin’ it free and easy”, right?

For one reason or another, keepin’ it free and easy has not led to your vagina. And I say that with respect, because I respect that it is closely guarded. I also say that with respect because my textbook says respect can lead to intimacy. With you, and… you know, your parts.

Sometimes I’m like “don’t play the game, man, just be SUPER HONEST and REAL!” and sometimes I’m like “the GAME is PART of it, dude… we’re all just crazy creatures on this spinning blue marble!”

I feel like I can be honest with you, because I’ve told you a lot of really deep stuff. And then you’ve told me a lot of really deep stuff back. And we’ve been hanging out since before Thanksgiving!

So I think it’d be totally boss to take this to the next level. Which I kinda suppose means down a level. Meaning I would be seeing your breasts, both of which I respect.

No pressure! Seriously, no pressure. I can SO TOTALLY PRETEND that we never talked about this and go back to before I said anything. Like completely back to normal. Back to, y’know, when I was still wondering if we were going to have sex.

Oh man, they’re making us turn off our cell phones. Calculus sucks. BYE!

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give gosh your glory glory

1/26/12

As a little piece of personal interest, here is today’s a-propos-of-nothing question…

What time do you set your alarm for, in the morning?

And what time are you actually going to sleep at night?

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elogium interruptus

1/25/12

Ten Sentences That Are Never Finished:

1. “Why I oughta-”

2. “For the love of-”

3. “C’mere, you little-”

4. “I have half a mind to-”

5. “If you do that ONE MORE TIME-”

6. “And now, pictures from our trip to-”

7. “You probably shouldn’t grab its tail like th-”

8. “Oh god, I think I’m com-”

9. “Look, y’all, I’ve done this a hundred times befo-”

10. “The one think I really like about Dook University is…”

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THANK YOU. Thank you VERY MUCH

swansworth st. billingtits hoggfarthing-picklesdale

1/22/12

Looks like Tessa’s article on HuffPo brought out some of the crazies, some of the crazies-masquerading-as-rational, and even the rational types who are somehow made crazy by this topic. My wife may disown my take on her thesis, but to me it’s simple: if you live in a world where you are expected to take your husband’s last name, you live in a sexist world.

Moreover, a world that naturally assumes that any children you have will automatically bear the father’s last name… well, that’s sexist too. Even if the mother fought the power and still goes by her maiden name. Those facts are simple, but the real question is this: does this particular sexism actually bother you?

To put it another way: you are allowed to determine if something pisses you off or not. You are also allowed to ignore certain slightly-imperfect aspects of our society. You are also allowed to change your last name if you want to, or if you don’t care one way or the other. What you cannot ignore is this – a culture than constantly discards the mother’s name is teaching your kids something about gender equality.

Often, mothers don’t just lose one name, they lose two – their maiden name, and then their original middle name (when it’s supplanted by the maiden name). Guys, put yourself in that position. Imagine getting married and contemplate taking your wife’s name, and losing your middle name for good. My guess is that 99.999% of you contemplate it with an odd feeling of sickness, as though the mere suggestion were disturbingly unnatural.

Of course, the comments on Tessa’s article were best when unintentionally funny, like this one:

“Like just about everything else these days this is yet another thing to tamper with. Sometimes it is nice to stick with the way its always been done if only for that reason alone. Not everything has to be changed all the time.”

Yes indeed. Like slavery, stoning, and thalidomide.

Another one, carefully throwing baby out with bathwater:

“I can’t believe the first thing the author and many other ‘hyphenating’ women feel is that taking your husband’s name is patriarchal and sexist. Anything and everything is offensive if that is how you choose to view it.”

Well, actually, no. Just the thing the article is about. The one you were responding to at.

And here’s yet another genera, the “voice of authority” looming oe’r us all:

“The custom of children receiving the father’s last name is a question of paternity. The mother is incapable of denying her role since she carries the child in her womb for nine months but the father may not even realize he has a child… If he gives his name to the child it means he has accepted his responsibilities as a father… A couple could just as easily take the wife’s last name but that requires you come up with a rationale as to why that option is better than the standard approach.”

First of all, in the age of DNA, paternity is no longer in question, nor is “giving” your name to a child. Secondly, Tessa’s article is not asking anybody to take the wife’s last name, she was discussing why we hyphenated Lucy’s.

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Ian Richard Williams, Lucy Kent Blake-Williams and Tessa Ellen Valentine Blake enjoy Catalina Island, summer 2011

Maybe I’m in the minority, but I had no problem discarding the notion that I needed Tessa to bear my name, or that Lucy had to use it exclusively. I honestly could not care less. Then again, I always chafed at the “ownership” tradition of marriage, such as the use of highly-visible wedding rings and codified childrearing roles within the relationship. It seemed like a relic from the 12th century.

Does that make me Johnny McEqualPants, an emasculated sparrow boy, snorting in asthmatic disdain at the barbarians who forced their wives to kowtow to their will? Or is it just luck that I happened not to give a shit? I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure about this: whether or not you care, whether or not you kept your name or didn’t, if kids take the man’s name 95% of the time, that says something.

You may have a sentimental fondness for everyone in your family having the same name. You may simply like the tradition. You can even think it’s a little unfair and be okay with it in this instance. But if the husbands were to honestly tell you how they’d feel about taking your name as the “JUST MARRIED” car drives away, that painful unease has a definition: sexism.

programmed by fellows with compassion and vision II

1/19/12

I am a self-admitted homer; I think my friends and family are awesome, and try to trumpet their achievements as loudly as possible. Do I do this in order to bathe in some kind of reflected glory? Yes. Does that mean I’m an insecure twat whose momma didn’t pay enough attention to him? Yes. Yes, it does.

Still, you can’t deny the following amazing bits of culture:

1. Gideon Productions’ off-Broadway play ADVANCE MAN.

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My brother Sean, my sister-in-law Jordana and longtime inner-circle-sage playwright Mac Rogers have a psychological sci-fi thriller running at The Secret Theater right now, and it’s going gangbusters. Here’s what NYTheater had to say:

“Jordana Williams’ direction is nothing short of fantastic.”

“Sean Williams is brilliant-”

“After seeing the first marvelous show in Mac Rogers’ Honeycomb Trilogy, I am eagerly awaiting the next two in the series…”

And here’s Broadway World: “I don’t want to give away too much of the excellently rendered plot, but the play is fascinating, suspenseful, and gripping…”

Culture Capitol: “…a perfect entertainment to ring in 2012.”

It’s Backstage magazine’s Critic’s Pick, Flavorpill’s editor’s pick, and this reviewer on Vimeo spends his whole video on it.

New Yorkers or people soon to be in New York – it runs until January 29. Buy tickets here.

2. THE OBAMAS by Jodi Kantor.

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Our old friend Jodi covered Obama for the New York Times during his 2008 campaign, and then pulled off a rarity – got a great book deal on a complicated subject that is actually making the publisher money. It couldn’t happen to a nicer person (along with her husband Ron and her daughter, who helped make Lucy’s dinosaur pictures for the Jartacular!)

Yes, there’s controversy. It won’t please everybody. Jodi may not get a holiday card from Michelle Obama. But it’s a massive achievement.

3. People You May Know by Greg Humphreys.

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My old roomie, who many of you know, love, and have danced to, has a new album out, and it is STRONG. The first few tracks show a Tin Pan Alley jazz side we haven’t seen from the Home Phries before, and the rest is vintage Greg. His voice is aging the opposite of normal – heading into a new clarity, gettin’ better every song.

Get it here or here.

4. Strangers – hosted by Lea Thau on KCRW.

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The former curator of the decades-excellent spoken word series The Moth has a new show on KCRW, and if Lea’s doing it, it’s going to be riveting. It’s about “the strangers we meet, the strangers we become, and the ‘strangeness’ we might overcome” and you need to add it to your podcasts.

5. Duke Sucks: A Completely Evenhanded, Unbiased Investigation into the Most Evil Team on Planet Earth” by Reed Tucker and Andy Bagwell.

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Sure, Will Blythe wrote a beautiful tome about the Carolina-Dook rivalry that remains on display wherever I happen to live, but a true down-and-dirty detailed analysis about exactly why Klown Kollege of Durham is so loathsome? It’s one of those ideas you can’t believe didn’t exist already.

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either Andy dunks it, or I block him, dependin’ on who’s tellin’ the story, 1991

Reed and Andy – purveyors of the spot-on Tar Heel Bred, Tar Heel Dead podcast – break it down for you fellas, and it’s just oh-so-satisfying. Oh yeah, and some dude you know might have written the foreword. Buy it here so you can get it when it drops next week.

6. Will Hyphenated Last Names Ever Be Cool? by Tessa Ellen Valentine Blake.

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Yes, the wife is back on the Huffington Post and got the cover story again!

The subject therein is worthy of a whole other blog, so I’ll leave it for now, but if you like her style – AND YOU SHOULD, SPORTS FANS – please click the red button with a heart logo that says “FAN” next to her name, won’t you?

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suffice to say I already have a heart logo for her

and we are the dreamers of dreams

1/18/12

Okay, this is the kind of thing that drives me quailshit bonkers. A very nice-seeming girl put together an excellent video comprised of one second from each day in 2011. Called “This is What Madeline Did”, it’s a great look into the life of a current twentysomething makin’ it work in LA:

2011 from hey_rabbit on Vimeo.

It was picked up by Gizmodo, and what happens? Inevitably, the first comment is some moaning dick who ensnarks his response with smug disdain: “Must be nice to have no obligations. My video would be shots from work and home for over 300 of those 365 seconds.”

Arguing about anonymous comments on the internet is like complaining about the food in jail, but statements like this absolutely enrage me. I feel like I’ve spent my life having to defend myself against self-made bootstrap-pullers who take the moral high ground because people like me don’t have “real jobs”.

First off, this girl does work as a post-production assistant (hence the constant traffic shots) and a TV logger, which I only know because she felt like she had to deflect the job question on the original Vimeo page. She was nice about it, (even saying “now I should get back to work” to keep up appearances) but I won’t be.

*AHEM* Dear everybody whose first reaction to this video is wondering why she doesn’t appear to be gainfully employed: LICK BAT NUTS. Hating your job doesn’t qualify you for sainthood, doesn’t lend authenticity to your social critique, and in fact, calls your choice-making into question. If you are lucky enough to be making comments on the internet, you probably had a myriad of options, and if you picked poorly, you’ve only yourself to blame.

You can have a suck-ass day job and still have a big enough life to create a video like this one – you just need a little energy and imagination. For that matter, artists need to exist in this world as well, and they work furiously hard at their craft, even if they don’t moisten a miserable work chair at 9am like you do.

And furthermore, WHY DO YOU CARE? Even if the video was made by a flibbertigibbet will-‘o-the-wisp who never worked an honest day in her life, the video was still inspiring. Why does everyone spend half their time battling for status over everyone else?

Fix your life, know your limitations, or slouch towards Bethlehem; choose one. The rest is either sour grapes or gravy.

keep profanity alive

1/17/12

I know many of you – myself included – look at “online protests” and immediately think “oh fuck off, I’m at work, my lumbar region is whack, I just want something to take my mind off my gruel, so shove your high-minded principles up your ass and GET BACK TO ENTERTAINING ME!!!”

Being a guttersniping old sop who was a kid in the 1970s, I totally get it, but today’s blog will be purposely not written to protest the sickening legislation that is SOPA and PIPA. Wikipedia, Reddit, and many other sites are going black today for the same reason. Read this or this for more information if you don’t get what the fuss is about.

Seriously, having Congress in charge of what we can and can’t do on the internet is like letting a passel of opossums do your estate planning. Contact your congressperson!

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