Writing Dilemma #344
Scenario: Character A is in love with Character B because I wanted to have love in my story because love is lovely, but that isn’t a good enough reason. It needs to be real and natural. I realize this after watching "Romancing the Stone" and pondering how the romance between the protagonists seemed to spring out of nowhere just because it's what a heteronormative audience expects to happen.
Solution: Character C notices that Character A is in love with Character B and asks him why. Character A discusses some of Character B's traits that he finds attractive.
New Scenario: Character A praises Character B's sense of humor. However, since I am the author and write the dialogue for both characters, this is really me praising my own sense of humor, which is immodest and unbecoming.
Solution: Character C responds, "She [Character B] isn't nearly as funny as she thinks she is." For good measure, Character D chimes in, "Neither is Character A, so it’s all good."
Of course, Character B is oblivious to the whole situation, which is probably the most realistic part. They say to write what you know. It’s nothing spectacular, but I promise it's a better love story than "Attack of the Clones" (as also are many other things including but not limited to the "Twilight" saga, amoebic mitosis, and a broken carburetor).
Addendum to last week's comments on serio-comic writing: do you know why I write serio-comic stuff instead of serio-serio stuff? Simply put, because I start from the premise that neither humanity nor life itself deserve to be taken seriously. Humanity is a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot, yet with stupidity and depravity as boundless as the universe. And of course life itself deserves to be mocked for everything it's done to me. I will deny it the satisfaction of seeing me crumble, at least permanently.
Case in point for the former proposition - I heard on the radio just a few days ago about a nine year old boy in Florida who wrote a love letter to a girl in his class, saying things like "I like your eyes because they sparkle like diamonds." That is so sweet! I was never that sweet when I was nine years old. A normal, non-sociopathic human being hearing this story should be like:
But nope, instead he's facing sexual harassment charges.
Sexual harassment charges.
For a $%&# nine year old.
For writing a $%&# love letter.
You can't make this stuff up. I heard about this on a classic hits station rather than a news station per se, so the lady reporting it made no attempt to pretend to be unbiased or hide her incredulity. She was like, "Can you say STU-PID? Cause that's what this is!" Stupid is a compliment for something like this. But in fairness, the stupid school administrators were probably just trying to prepare him for the stupidity of the stupid, stupid, stupid real world, where people will expect him to take initiative in this sort of thing while simultaneously waiting with baited breath to jump on his throat for doing something "wrong", as they have done here. Would it be harassment if the girl had written the note? Would it be harassment if she had reciprocated his feelings? Was he supposed to psychically know what she would think of it beforehand? American society has its head so far up its whatchamacallit that it would be able to see the cavity where its heart used to be, if it wasn't blind.
News from another country that also has its share of societal problems but is also quite dear to me. On August 21, Matthew Martinich of the LDS Church Growth blog reported, "I just received word that the Church has approved the organization of a second stake in India. The new stake will be organized from the Bangalore India District on November 15th. Missionaries report that the Rajahmundry India District has almost reached the minimum criteria to become a stake. With multiple stakes in the country, prospects appear more likely for the Church to announce a temple for India within the foreseeable future as the closest operating temple is located in Hong Kong."
After this had circulated on Facebook for a bit (you're welcome), the India Bangalore mission president commented, "Today I read several posts announcing that a new stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be created in Bangalore on Nov 15. Unfortunately, as well meaning as these posts are, they are premature. The leadership of the Church has not approved a new stake. There is NO announcement that it will happen on 15 Nov. These posts are based on assumptions. Please wait until there is an official announcement from Church leaders before posting the information. President David Berrett"
When this was brought to Martinich's attention in the blog comments, he said, "I obtained this information from two missionaries serving in the India Bangalore Mission. I will keep this post up for now. If it becomes clear that the stake has not been officially approved, then I will remove the post and explain the situation to our readers. I have had previous instances of mission presidents contacting me who have even denied that no [sic] new stake or district will be organized, yet one or two months later these units are in fact organized."
On November 15th, the Bengaluru India Stake was indeed organized from the Bangalore India District. How does that work, I wonder? A lucky prediction by the missionaries, or what?
I can hardly believe it’s been a year since my friend Cece invited me to go Black Friday shopping with her. That was my first time ever Black Friday shopping, and it lasted about eight hours, if I recall correctly, and I feel very nostalgic about it now that I realize it was so long ago - not in geological, let alone astronomical time, of course, but it seems like a long time to me and that’s all that matters. The first place we went was Hasting’s. Only in Utah can you walk into a secular book/movie/music/video game store and be treated to a dance remix of "Popcorn Popping" over the speaker system. I bought that CD ("Called to Dance!" by Reverence, if you’re curious) some time later and gifted it to my family when I went home recently. Somehow I persuaded my mother to let us listen to it on the way to church. "This seems just a little bit wrong," she mused, but she didn’t turn it off.
Back to Cece and me - after Hasting's we went to the mall. There I had the privilege of holding her purse while she tried on clothes, and that was a first too. I’d heard about that sort of thing but never gotten to experience it myself. She looked fabulous in everything she tried on, and wanted me to help her decide what to get, as if I knew anything about that sort of thing. We also went into a perfume and shampoo and lotion store that smelled really nice, and I tried some free samples but didn’t feel that they matched my aura. We mostly did girly stuff like that but toward the end I went to "Fun Unlimited" - the mall’s more expensive and less organized version of Hasting's, I suppose - where I got my first Miami Sound Machine and Queensrÿche and Beyoncé CDs. As she was looking through the racks with me she commented on one pop star (I don't even remember who it was), "Wow, she looks so perfect," and then pantomimed shooting her in the face. Cece has apparently never seen a mirror. She says weird stuff sometimes, like "Sorry my makeup looks horrible," and I'm just like, "Shut up. You don't know what you're talking about."
Unable to decide on Arby’s or Carl’s Jr. for lunch, we got curly fries at the former and burgers at the latter (or maybe the other way around, I don’t remember). I offered to cover it but she declined because "This isn’t a date or anything." It was good to have that clarified. But as we were eating, the conversation shifted very quickly from "So how have you been?" to "Life is really hard, isn’t it? But just think how good it will feel to stand before God someday and tell Him that you never killed yourself." Not even once? Later in the day she decided that I needed a new wardrobe, and bought me two T-shirts, a pair of jeans, a package of socks and a pair of sneakers. I told her she didn’t need to do that just because she was concerned about me killing myself, but she insisted because "What are friends for?" Obviously I need more friends like that.
Nothing that exciting happened this year on Black Friday, though, because she was out of town, and for a time I was concerned that nothing would happen for Thanksgiving either. The initial plan was to catch a ride with a friend to my grandparents’ house, and from there to my great-grandfather’s house. This time last year he was able to get out of the house and do his own stuff, but no more. Alas, the day before I was going to leave, he was taken to the hospital, and my grandparents had to go see him right then and there. I don't know what's going on but he is in his nineties and has already been preceded in death by his wife and two of his children, so whether he recovers or not it will be for the best. Personally I hope I never live to be that frail. My friend offered to let me just come to her house, and I considered it because she’s one of the few people in the world I wouldn’t feel awkward with during a three hour car ride and I had been looking forward to it, but her family didn’t know me and they would have to find a place for me to sleep so I opted out.
I would just go to the bishop’s home, as I had heard that it was open for this purpose. I knew the second counselor had made a similar offer but with the caveat that he was going to his mother-in-law’s home and her husband had died a few weeks ago, so I didn’t want to intrude on that. Alas, I had been misinformed and the bishop was going out of town, but he said that maybe the first counselor/my boss was having people over. And indeed he may have been planning on it, until his basement was flooded with eight inches of water by an idiot neighbor trying to make an ice rink. It was one of the nice basements, too, that actually has carpets and rooms full of stuff like any other part of the house. Goodbye books and magazines and records and VHS tapes and a bunch of other stuff. I remember opening a back issue of the Ensign at their house to an article called "A Note to the ‘Good Girls'" and realizing that I was friends with the author on Facebook. Anyway, the situation was crazy, but they went to his wife's brother/my co-worker's house and took me with them, and I ate a lot of delicious stuff and brought a book so I didn't have to make friends with a bunch of strangers, and it was great.
My "Walking on Icy Sidewalks in Logan" song. Seriously, it comes into my head every time.
Sesame Street - Walk Like a Penguin
While watching "A New Hope" with the neighbors last week, I started spouting off trivia. I don’t even know why, but it was definitely not an attempt to impress my ex-crush. People were impressed, though. I always knew that not having any friends in middle school would pay off someday. But I was being a know-it-all and annoying myself, so I mostly shut myself up, but when someone asked me what the monster chess game was called and I said it was called dejarik he said "Let’s play a new game - 'Stump Chris'." No, I’ll be humble! I thought. You don’t have to humble me! We were watching the Blu-Ray version which I hadn’t seen before, yet the hokey blaster and lightsaber effects, and the garbage mattes around some of the ships, and various other teensy gaffes, still had not been fixed or improved. But the infamous Greedo scene had undergone its third butchering, I mean edit. Good thing George Lucas had his priorities straight. J. J. Abrams could make himself the most popular guy in the world just by changing it back.
But the enhanced visual quality may account for the fact that, despite having seen this film scores of times, I noticed for the first time a couple of black guys in Mos Eisley. The first black people in Star Wars. Of course, I already knew, as some of you do, that Billy Dee Williams wasn’t the first one anyway, nor was he even the first one with a speaking role. Oh no. That honor went to the lovely Diahann Carroll, and if you knew that then you already know why she probably hasn’t been too eager to claim her bragging rights. She appears in a scene of the impossibly bad "The Star Wars Holiday Special" (which everyone should watch as a tradition this time of year) where she sings a song to Chewbacca’s father, Itchy [sic], after having a brief... conversation with him. There are so many things I could say about it but I’m going to just let it speak for itself. I actually kind of like the song. They must have written it while sober and then drank gasoline while writing the scene to go around it.
The Mind Evaporator, including Diahann Carroll - This Minute
I'm slightly disappointed that the next one will be rated PG-13, because the Star Wars saga is supposed to have a broad appeal including families and almost all ages. I know Episode III was rated PG-13 but I don't think it should become a habit. Oh well. There's still plenty of hype left in me. This song would be perfect for it if "George Lucas" were changed to "J. J. Abrams" and "1998" [sic] to "2015". Then it wouldn’t rhyme, but rhyming isn’t everything.
Ultimate Fakebook - Far Far Away
Someone posted on Facebook yesterday another piece of the sparse photographic evidence that I exist. I'll let you guess which one I am. I'm sure you won't be able to because I fit in so well.
Here is a very slightly revised version of a poem that I already shared, and here is a very slightly revised version of the second story I wrote and said I might share at some point after I revised it. It's a good experience to get feedback from my classmates, but I find that most of the suggestions are almost useless because they contradict each other. If someone thinks a part is confusing or doesn't work, someone else is sure to chime in that it was their favorite part and should stay exactly as it is, or vice versa. It seems that my niche is something called "serio-comic". The word "serio" makes me think of "serial" as in "serial killer", so I equate the phrase with dark humor, which in my case it often is. But I don't feel like I can call myself a serio-comic writer because the word "comic" seems to imply a value judgment that my work is funny. That isn't my place to say. I may say, at least, that I attempt to be a serio-comic writer and you may judge for yourself whether I succeed and to what degree.
Some of my classmates are more talented/skilled at writing than me, but I think my style is more unique, so hopefully we can all be equally successful and be friends instead of having to compete and sabotage each other. Success doesn't necessarily boil down to only talent and skill anyway. "50 Shades of Grey" is literally Twilight fan-fiction and the excerpts that I've seen read like a not-particularly-talented teenager wrote them, but it succeeded by appealing to a huge niche of lonely, depraved, misogynistic Americans. (Many or most of them were women, which makes their misogyny all the more disturbing.) "Jurassic Park" manages to be an exciting and worthwhile read even though most of the characters, notwithstanding their extensive backstories, are two-dimensional exposition machines. This weakness is more than compensated for by the inclusion of scientific jargon and real live dinosaurs. I hope that doesn't sound like mockery because I really do love that novel. Because dinosaurs.
I hate terrorists as much as anyone. I'm pretty sure even Gandhi would agree that ISIS/Daesh needs to be wiped off the face of the planet. And that's exactly why the people who are running away from them need our help and support. Let them in, already.
I took the "official" Love Languages test recently. Love languages, to me, exemplify very well how humans have unnecessarily complicated their mating process beyond that of any other species. It's probably nature's way of trying to get rid of us so we'll stop trying to get rid of it. The results explained, "The highest score indicates your primary love language (the highest score is 12). It’s not uncommon to have two high scores, although one language does have a slight edge for most people. That just means two languages are important to you." I got a three-way tie.
Physical Touch: 9
Words of Affirmation: 9
Quality Time: 9
Acts of Service: 3
Gift Giving: 0
"You're Divergent (0 . 0)" said my friend Rachel when I announced the results on Facebook. I'm not sure what that means, but I like it, because I think it makes me sound like a morally ambiguous crusader for justice with powers he doesn't fully understand or control. In any case, the results make sense to me because really, those three tied items are all better together; nearly inseparable, even. They're like spaghetti. Quality time is the noodles, words of affirmation are the sauce, and touching is the meatballs. I guess acts of service are the Parmesan cheese and gift giving is the air that gets ignored and taken for granted because it isn't part of the meal notwithstanding it contributes to keeping me alive. I think "Touching is the Meatballs" is a good name for a band or at least an album.
"Again, may I speak frankly? The track that leads to an accurate chronology passes through the terrain called dating!" - Elder Robert D. Hales to BYU archaeology students, 11/15/2015*
* This is not a real quote. Please do not circulate this as a real quote. Thank you.
I used to do scripture study in Spanish with this friend who shall be referred to as "Bonnie" who used to be in my ward, but she got busy and it stopped happening although she promised someday it would happen again, and I had decided after a while that if she ever texted me again I would respond "Who's this?" But then the time came and I couldn't bring myself to do it. I had somehow accidentally become a better person during the interim. So we started doing it again. Recently, when I came over she was hurrying around putting on makeup and stuff because as soon as we were done she was going to go to a football game, already in progress, where her friend who shall be referred to as "Clyde" was waiting for her. She told me about him and how she liked him and stuff, and she was all nervous and flustered and it was fascinating because I had never seen a woman behave this way before.
"I just want him to like me," she said, seeming so vulnerable and innocent that I marveled.
She told me about how they'd hung out and stuff and she wanted him to ask her out and she didn't know why he hadn't asked her out. If she wanted advice, she was talking to the wrong person. I could think of several reasons why I don't ask girls out very often, but I'm not normal and I assumed that Clyde wasn't like me because she was interested in him, but on the other hand I've been surprised sometimes to find out the similarities that normal people have with me. Instead of offering advice that would almost certainly be wrong I tried to help her figure it out herself. "Why don't you ask him out?" I asked, assuming she would be terrified at the prospect, and then perhaps realize how he might be feeling.
Her eyes bugged out. "No," she said. "Guys ask girls out."
"Why?" I said, and though it must have sounded like a rhetorical question, I was actually just wondering if she would recite one of the stupid made-up baloney reasons or if she actually knew the real reason. I discovered the real reason quite by accident in a textbook called "Animal Behavior".
She didn't know the real reason, though she kind of skirted around it. I could have pressed the issue by going "But why?" to her mostly valid assertions, but we would have gotten off the subject. I bit back almost all of my cynical comments because this was about her infatuation and I didn't want to turn it into a treatise on why dating sucks. At least she didn't use the stupid hunting/chase metaphor. I wonder if the people who use that metaphor are aware that most hunters actually kill and eat their prey without consent. The prey isn't running away because it thinks this is all some silly, fun game; it's running away because it doesn't want to be digested. Most animals can tell the differences between mating and hunting and never confuse the two. Come to think of it, the "fish and the sea" metaphor is kind of absurd too, for the same reason. Fish don't want to get caught and when they do get caught it's because they're stupid.
Since learning the reason behind this status quo I stopped resenting it nearly as much, but it still needs to go, and Bonnie's situation is a prime example of why. By going along with it, she became something to be acted upon rather than something to act. She was robbed of the power to proactively pursue what she wanted, and instead reduced to hoping that it would be offered to her. Instead of making real choices she is only able to accept or decline whatever happens to come her way. Theoretically she can influence the outcome by dropping hints, but everyone and their dog knows that doesn't actually work in real life. The whole thing makes me very sad.
I suggested that maybe he thinks she just want to be friends. She said they had been flirting. I asked what that entailed, because maybe he didn't know that it was flirting. She said they had been holding hands. I said that seemed pretty conclusive, but still...
We did our scripture study and then started off toward campus, her to the game and I to the library, and then Clyde texted her to inform her that there was no point in her coming because there was only like twenty seconds left, and she hoped that he would ask her to do something else, but he didn't, and over the next couple weeks he continued to not ask her out, and who knows why? Life is cruel for everyone.
Why Pickup Lines are Sometimes Okay
The next comic is not included here because it edges into PG-13 territory, but it ends with Johnny keeled over on the floor with a puddle of badly animated blood as Skip says, "What part of 'pickup lines don't work' are you having issues with?"
When I was in ninth grade I had a crush on a senior in my study hall. Two other seniors in the study hall, one of whom was her cousin, urged me to go up to her and say, "Are you a parking ticket? Cause you've got 'fine' written all over you." I refused to do it because I enjoyed being alive. In hindsight, I regret that. What's the worst that could have happened? Incidentally, I was also corresponding via email (I feel old) with this guy who had already graduated and thought I was cool for some inexplicable reason, and I told mentioned her he was like "Dude, aren't you WAY the ---- out of her league?" And that was one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me, but I couldn't appreciate it or agree with it because that would be extremely rude. Sigh.
That really has nothing to do with anything. This does. When I was a senior myself, I was visiting my grandmother's ward around the holiday season and learned this gem: "Can I take your picture? I need to show Santa what I want for Christmas." Enthralled, I went back to school and said this to practically every girl I saw. I wasn't worried at all. Everyone knew that this was completely out of character for me and therefore not serious, and they just laughed or rolled their eyes or whatever. But then I said it to a girl I had never met before at all. I don't remember why. I think she was in ninth grade, and she looked shy, so I became confident at her expense or something. I said it, and she started blushing and laughing uncontrollably, so I said another line, and another, and another. I don't remember what they all were, but I'm sure one of them must have been "Are you a parking ticket? Cause you've got 'fine' written all over you."
We became moderately good friends, which by my standards made us practically BFFs. She was one of the four people that I really missed and bothered to stay in touch with after graduating. "Tee hee, you used to stalk me," she recalled once as we were texting. I must have said something to the effect of not knowing what she was talking about, but she was like, "It was adorable. It made me feel special." Okay, cool. After my first semester of college she said she wanted to see me when I came home for Christmas, but I didn't think she was serious because the other people who had said that never got back to me when I tried to arrange it. So I was just like whatever, and as I was waiting for the plane to take off to go back to Utah (I almost just wrote "to go home" which says a lot, I suppose) I was just like "Sorry we never got to meet up." To my surprise, she was actually disappointed and upset about it.
In 2013 we once again failed to meet up. This year, at the end of August, it finally happened. It was probably our last chance because she was leaving the area and so, as it now turns out, is my family, so I really have no reason to ever go back there again. We met up at the library, she was like "What do you want to do?" and I didn't know what to say because there is nothing to do around there. So she took me for a drive. I felt guilty about producing carbon emissions for no reason, but she said it was therapeutic for her so I suppose it was justified. We drove along roads and through towns that I hadn't known existed (for the good reason that there's nothing to do there and no reason to visit them). A couple of things really stood out during our long conversation. First, that she really, really, really, really, really, really likes plants. I like them too, because I like being able to breathe and also sometimes they're pretty, but she's obsessed. Good for her. I'm glad that other people are obsessed with the things I find mind-numbingly dull. Isn't it great how we were all created differently so that we can all work together and... yeah, okay.
Second, that she really hated high school and I was one of a very few people who was nice to her.
And that's why pickup lines are sometimes okay.
Tangerine Kitty - Dumb Ways to Die
Even though everyone is already familiar with this lovely tune, I wanted to share it because I first heard/saw it at Thanksgiving three years ago (thank you, Aunt Amanda), and now I think of it whenever this time of year rolls around. It's like my Thanksgiving carol.
"Do you want to talk about it?" she asks.
Yes, I think, but I can't. It would make you feel bad and besides, I promised myself that I would never use you as a crutch.
"Come on, let's talk about it. What are you thinking?"
I can't tell you. I have to suppress this. I don't want you to feel my pain too.
She draws some of it out of me anyway. Now she's repeating my words back to me like a therapist. "Your dreams have been shattered... You've hit a wall and can go no further."
"Is there anything I can do for you?"
Can you make this just be a nightmare, and wake me up from it? No? Crud. Well, the next best thing would be to get me something hot and yummy to eat, but I can't ask you to do that.
"I don't want you to lose sleep over this or anything."
Heh. I know I will, but honestly, after the usual routine of losing sleep for no discernible reason it's almost refreshing to know why for a change.
I did lose some sleep, incidentally, but it wasn't too awful. I corralled my emotions into a cage of logic and evidence and told them to pipe down. They just yipped and whined at me for a while and then gave up. Alas, as I was sleeping they evidently found a weak spot in the cage, because I woke up in the middle of the night with emotions bursting out of my chest like the xenomorph in the "Alien" films. That was literally the analogy that came to my sleep-addled mind while it was happening, even though I made up the cage bit just now.
In times of distress I usually draw inward into a self-destructive cycle instead of turning outward to God. God seldom assuages my pain as I would like, and I guess that makes sense. Would you be a loving parent if you went along with your child begging you not to vaccinate him because the needles hurt? But this time, for whatever reason, I just cried out in my mind, God, remove this cup from me. It is more than I can bear. I don't remember whether I said please or not. I remember that I thought of the Savior, whose words I had just paraphrased, and that He had concluded saying "Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done", and that I really ought to be humble and do the same. But I didn't want to. I am not the Savior; I am just a weak, frail mortal fool and I couldn't stand it for a moment longer.
Of course, whether I said "thy will be done" or not was ultimately irrelevant because God does His will with or without my permission. He's got some nerve, hasn't He? But this time, to my immense relief, He did as I asked. The storm was calmed. I relaxed and went back to sleep.
Our second discussion brings us to the same place. "What do you want me to do?" she asks. "What do you want me to do?"
Is this a serious question? Should I answer honestly? I want you to kiss me.
The worst part about watching some of my current aspirations implode in a manner of seconds is not being able to take a break from life and recuperate for a while. I still have to study and do homework and go to work and lie to everyone who says "How are you." Why can't I just have a universal remote that lets me pause things for a while? Is that too much to ask for? Well, actually, I would also use that remote to rewind and fix all my mistakes (I'd need several spare batteries for that), fast-forward through all the bad parts (I'd need several spare batteries for that), and mute all the annoying people and sounds (let's just assume that since this is a magical remote anyway it also has an unlimited power supply).
Speaking of remotes, let's talk about movies, just because.
I grew up believing, as many Mormons did, that the the LDS Church has an official prohibition against watching R-rated movies. In actuality, there isn't really. That would be kind of silly since the vast majority of the world doesn't use that rating system, and it would also convince the faithful that every PG-13 movie must be just fine and dandy to watch. So I could in theory find an R-rated movie that I felt was worth watching, and watch it, but I never have and likely never will since I'm used to avoiding them and don't even watch movies all that often anyway. But a few months ago, right before school started, I watched one without even realizing it, until I looked it up on imdb afterward and had a bit of a surprise. I watched the movie on somebody's laptop on the bus ride from the airport after my trip home, and it ended just as we got to the transit center, so that was convenient.
The movie was called "Lucy". I'm still not even sure why it was rated R, but whatever. Maybe because the violence was too realistic. When Lucy the innocent bystander who just happened to get involved with a sleazeball gets captured by a drug lord and watches him kill people, she doesn't take it in stride and make wisecracks like protagonists are supposed to do. She cries and hyperventilates and throws up. Which I think is actually a good thing because it's closer to how a real person would react, and therefore less desensitizing for the audience, though it's probably too late for that. The movie itself was okay, not great, and probably not worth watching more than once, largely because my suspension of disbelief was ruined by the plot literally revolving around the stupid "You only use 10% of your brain" myth. Because we all know that after most head injuries the doctor says, "Good news! You only damaged part of the 90% of your brain that you don't use!"
In my World Sacred Literature class, the teacher had to leave for surgery for a couple days, so we watched this movie about the Trojan War. The Greeks want to go chase after Helen of Troy, but they can't because there's no wind to blow their ships. The oracle tells King Agamemnon that the only way to get wind is to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia. And from there, a half hour plot stretches over two hours as he makes his decision and then vacillates back and forth about it and gets into arguments with his wife and brother. The movie was entirely in Greek, which was a nice touch, except that the white subtitles were poorly animated and often difficult to read against the white robes or white boulders.
The girl next to me, who responded curtly and then ignored me when I tried to talk to her at the beginning of the semester, was suddenly talking to me and laughing at things I said that weren't even funny. At one point the camera panned rapidly across the masts of several Greek ships and I remarked, "I think they're just showing the same ships over and over." She laughed. Why is that funny? I wondered. If she had telepathic powers, she might have responded, It isn't really, but this movie is so dull that I've drastically lowered my entertainment standards as a survival mechanism.
Shortly before Halloween I attended a 25 or Better activity, as I often do despite not being 25 or better. Maybe it's just me, but I always get the vibe that most people there are just waiting to die. Among other things the film "Hocus Pocus" was being shown, and I watched it for the second time (the first time being Halloween of last year). The guy next to me kept giggling like an insane cartoon character at every other line, regardless of whether it was funny or not. I wanted to kick him in the head. I also couldn't shake the thought that if I were Max, I wouldn't at all mind being captured by Sarah Jessica Parker. I'm sorry.
Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost
I hadn't seen this in about fifteen years, since it was new, so I was happy to be able to watch it while doing laundry at a friend's house. Some of it was vaguely familiar; much of it hardly remembered at all. I didn't notice when I was a kid that much of the animation seems inspired by/ripped off of anime, perhaps attempting to piggyback on the then-current Pokémon craze. The main thing that had stayed vividly in my mind were my crushes, the Hex Girls, but since I had looked them up on YouTube in the intervening time I already knew that their music was just as awesome now as when I was little.
The Hex Girls - I'm a Hex Girl / Earth, Wind, Fire and Air
Some friends/neighbors decided to watch one Star Wars movie per week until the new one is released, and invited me to join. We've watched the first two so far. As I may have mentioned elsewhere, before George Lucas sold his franchise to Disney and abandoned his plans to re-release them all in 3D, I took a friend that I was kind of in love with to see "The Phantom Menace" and it was the closest thing to a date I'd ever been on, marred only by the fact that I already knew she was a lesbian. I thought back to that as I watched it again with these people. I was feeling stressed, and that reminded me that I'd been feeling stressed back then too, and I had decided to just shut off everything else in my brain except Star Wars and pretend I didn't have any problems for two hours. I don't even remember what I was stressed about, but considering that the next two months were hell, it was validated in one way or another.
I still remember when "The Phantom Menace" came out because I first heard about Star Wars through the Lego sets that were being released at the time, and I thought at first that Star Wars was a Lego movie. There was this Lego minifig named Chewbacca and I thought "Hey, he has the same name as Emily's [my cousin's] cat!" My parents went to go watch it in the theater and I wanted to go with them but they wouldn't let me because they thought it would be too scary. They were probably right. When I did see it on VHS (!) a year or so later, they tried to explain how the movies were made out of order, but I didn't understand and I thought this was a remake of the first episode. I thought that Jar Jar Binks was a comic genius, and for that reason I still don't hate him. And now that I know he's basically the main villain of the entire saga, "The Phantom Menace" has become a much darker film. In any case, I enjoyed it. I can't deny that the prequel films are more flawed than the originals, but they have their own magic and their special moments too, and I grew up with them and I just like to be able to relax and enjoy them without regard for the haters.
What every church dance needs to spice it up a little...
Auralnauts - Dance of the Fates
"Attack of the Clones" is more of a mixed bag. A couple of the so-called romance scenes are so painful to watch that I skip them. Still, the action sequences are phenomenal. This time around the girls who had come for the first movie also brought their roommate, who happened to be my ex-crush, and we shared a couch and a blanket and I wished that she was still my crush because then it would have been so exciting. They also brought brownies. She said that she had made them, but then one of the others claimed to have made them. I mentioned this to my ex-crush. She was like, "Well, it was my mix." I was like, "Ah, so she baked it but you bought the mix." She was like, "Well, I took it from my mom's house when she wasn't looking." Maybe it's good that she's not my crush anymore. I don't need that kind of bad influence in my life.
Someone wanted to know who provided the voice of Dexter Jettster, Obi-Wan's four-armed friend. Thinking back to an article I read in "Star Wars Adventures" eleven or twelve years ago, I guessed that it was Rob Coleman. My ex-crush said, "If you're right, I'll be so impressed." I wanted to be right. But then someone looked it up and the correct answer was Ron Falk. Too late, I remembered the article more clearly, and remembered that Ron Falk was the other guy in it and that Rob Coleman was the animation director. Opportunity = lost. I wanted to skip the painful scenes, but I wasn't in charge of the remote, so I just joined with everyone else in mocking them. I normally don't talk during movies but since I had seen it a hundred times it was fair game.
Afterward, I was too restless to go straight to bed, so I took a brief walk of just a couple blocks, during which yet another imbecilic Utah driver managed to nearly kill me, this time by speeding around a corner with zero regard to the stop sign posted there. Then, to my astonishment, she pulled into the driveway just a short way ahead. I couldn't believe it; here, finally, was an opportunity to yell at one of these idiots in person. God must be so proud that I didn't even swear or insult her when I did so. I was just like, "Hey, thanks for almost running me over! There's a stop sign there, you know!" She just kind of mumbled "Sorry" as she hurried to her front door, apparently afraid. Oops. I didn't want to make her afraid. I only wanted to get the point across loudly so that she wouldn't go out and kill some other poor soul whose guardian angel is less competent than mine. I found that my anger was directed toward the vehicle itself, and that I was tempted to come back and take a baseball bat to it or something. In the end I opted not to because I didn't want to get arrested. And, um, because I'm such a good Christian, of course.
In my World Sacred Literature class this past week, we watched a film that was only tangentially related to the course material but much better than "Iphigenia". It's called "The Mission" and stars both Robert de Niro and the guy who provides the voice for Simba's uncle Scar, in a true story about a 1750 South American border dispute between Spain and Portugal that jeopardizes whether the natives in the area can be legally enslaved or not. The local Jesuit priests want to persuade the Catholic Church's mediating representative to let them keep protecting the natives under the asylum of their mission. Or something like that. I didn't understand it a hundred percent but I thought it was good anyway.
On Thursday when we watched the second half of the movie, I wasn't in a great mood and didn't really enjoy it, but that was just as well because it was supposed to be tragic. There was a battle, and when the first guy got shot a few seconds into it I thought about how much it must suck to be the first guy who gets shot. Maybe you're thinking, All right, let's do this! We're gonna fight this battle and I'm gonna be brave and strong and support the cause and one for all and all for one! Then a few seconds into it, before you've had a chance to do anything, you're dead and you can't do anything and that's all there is to it. Perhaps your last thought is something along the lines of Hey, wait! I wasn't ready! Let me do that over! I'll do better this time! A good metaphor for life itself in that regard.
And how did [SPOILER ALERT] the protagonists feel right before they died, when they realized they had lost? When Robert de Niro's character realized that his clever plan to blow up the bridge had been foiled, a moment before he was filled with lead, what went through his mind? Maybe something like Wait, it isn't supposed to be like this! This isn't supposed to happen. We're the good guys. Again, a good metaphor for life. I was shocked and devastated too, but sometimes that's the awkward thing about true stories.
Last night I went to an institute dance where they were showing "Inside Out". I poked my head in for a moment and was riveted almost immediately. I missed the first twenty minutes, so when they started it over I stayed to watch those, and then stayed to watch the rest of the movie again. Then the dance was over. I have no regrets. I've felt like Pixar jumped the shark a while ago, but this was a phenomenal movie, hilarious and exciting and ingenious and with such a rare yet deep and true and bittersweet message. I wonder if perhaps, when I'm famous, someone will make a film about the inside of my head. All the characters would be running around in confusion and horror screaming things like "Who designed this thing, a rhesus monkey on acid?"
"Evita" is a stellar musical and I love every single song in it. This one seems particularly poignant sometimes, for although the suitcase and picture aspects of the chorus have never applied to me, most of the lyrics are spot on, especially in verses one, two, and three, aka all of them. I think all of us are a little bit like an early twentieth century Argentinian dictator's wife sometimes.
Madonna - Another Suitcase in Another Hall
I figured out why I've grown weary of writing posts. I'm not actually quite as narcissistic as I seem, and I'm tired of being all me this and I that. I just want my work to be in the spotlight while I hide safely in the shadows collecting royalty checks and fan mail.
This wins the prize for "Stupidest Thing I've Read All Week": "Telling black people they should be 'respectful' to avoid getting shot by police is like telling women they should dress 'appropriately' to avoid getting raped." Wow. Just wow. Heaven forbid we tell people they should be respectful. What a gross violation of their inalienable rights as Americans to do whatever they want with no consequences. After all, cops are obligated to take whatever crap the ungrateful brats they serve and protect dish out at them. They never get attacked or killed in the line of duty, and if they did then that's just their job anyway, so they need to just chillax and not worry about defending themselves.
But in all seriousness, if you mess around with a police officer doing his job just because you're a jackass, you voluntarily forfeit your right to not get shot. This isn't to say that deadly force is always justified or that police brutality doesn't exist, but just to dismiss the absurdity of the original premise. And you know, white people get killed by police too, but that doesn't generate any outrage because it doesn't fit the "police are racist" narrative. Maybe it does happen to black people proportionately more often, but maybe if society treated them like any other human beings instead of pretending it's still the 1960s and they can't accomplish anything without being patronized, they wouldn't be raised in the kind of culture that leads to that kind of thing. And finally, whoever trivialized rape by attempting to put this petty little complaint on par with it should be embarrassed.
Addendum: Hi, it's me from five years in the future. I will leave the preceding two paragraphs intact because they represented my thinking at the time, but I hereby disavow and apologize for almost everything in them. Systemic racism is a much bigger problem than I believed, police brutality is a much bigger problem than I believed, and telling black people they should be "respectful" to avoid getting shot by police is exactly like telling women they should dress "appropriately" to avoid getting raped. If you can't handle being disrespected without shooting someone, don't be a police officer. I'm the one who should be embarrassed that I ever wrote those ignorant and repugnant paragraphs, and I am, but at least I was honest enough to grow up and adjust my views.
In other news, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made a couple of changes to Handbook 1 regarding same-sex couples and their children. John Dehlin, who was excommunicated earlier this year for "asking questions" (and not, as a reasonable person might assume, for trivial things like publicly belittling anyone who believes in the historicity of the Book of Mormon and stating that he considers the concept of the Atonement to be repugnant) got hold of the relevant excerpts from someone in his secret combination, I mean network, and leaked them, prompting hurt, confusion, and widespread outrage.
Anyone sincerely wondering about the rationale behind the changes would be well served to actually listen and think instead of jumping to conclusions. Here, Church Spokesman Michael Otterson interviews Apostle D. Todd Christofferson, who explains it. He was probably chosen to do so because he has a gay brother, Tom (who explains here why his spiritual journey recently led him to abandon his same-sex relationship and return to the Church), which would make him particularly sensitive to multiple sides of the issues. See also: The 9 Facebook Myths About the Church's New LGBT Policy
Elder Christofferson Provides Context on Handbook Changes
I don't blame anyone for being troubled or confused by the changes, but many of the reactions I've seen are disgusting. Why is it that most of the people who accuse other people of hate are among the most hateful people I've ever encountered? To the non-Mormons who are outraged, I say, this has nothing to do with you. If you don't like it then don't join the Church. I could go on but I'm sure by next week you'll have forgotten all about it and found something else to feign righteous indignation about. To the Mormons who are outraged, did you even bother to ask God whether He approved this policy change before you made up your mind that He didn't? It seems to me the height of arrogance to presume that you already know God's will because it must be the same as yours.
To everyone, Mormon or not, who insists on attributing this to hate, hate, nothing but hate, I say as respectfully as possible, get a clue. Do you think the leaders of the Church are braindead? Do you think they were unaware of the backlash they would cause? Do you think they insisted on doing it anyway because their hatred of gay people outweighs their desire for people to like and join the Church? How absurd. The Church's critics so often want to have their cake and eat it too; in their minds the Church is a fraud only interested in baptizing converts and bilking them out of tithing money, yet at the same time it takes unpopular stances on social issues and risks alienating those prospective converts along with current members. And the leaders are apparently intelligent enough to keep the fraud going after all this time but too stupid to realize or care when they're working against their own best interests. That makes perfect sense!
The other thing that annoyed me was all the Mormon youths I saw denying that the news was even true because it wasn't on lds.org. I only wish that were a straw man characterization. Some gems: "Until further legitimate documentation is provided, which is first and foremost always on lds.org first, I conclude this to be a hoax, and have made my own conclusion that KUTV is not a reliable source of information (never have) because of a lack of true sources to support the message in the articles. In other words, shut your blasphemous pie-hole, and thank you." "No sources, random website. Please stop posting third-party websites and start using common sense." "I don't give a flying dipwad if you know a bishop. Until Top comes out publicly with this information, it's false. Doctrine is doctrine, and it doesn't make any sense, nor has it ever made sense, to withhold doctrine from the public." "Kids these days. Believing anything on the internet they see. I have no pity on you for failing to find truth. Keep listening to what you wish. As for me, I'm not going to listen to your pissant attempts to belittle."
Actually, those are all from the same guy. Oy.
You know, as I said a few weeks ago, a certain breed of skepticism is healthy. I wouldn't fault fault anyone for waiting until the Church officially said something before they fully accepted the news. But to flat-out reject it right away just because they don't like it and it isn't on lds.org isn't skepticism, it's just irrational and wrong. Maybe this kind of attitude and inability to handle the truth is one reason, as hinted at by Elder Oaks, why we needed to use a sanitized version of church history in most venues until recently. Marvin Perkins related, "As an exuberant new member of the Church, I was in a conversation with someone, trying to share the Gospel. As we spoke, he pointed out what he said was a fault of Joseph Smith. In my inexperience, I defended Brother Joseph with denial - 'impossible... couldn't be.' My new-member mind was saying that the Church was true, so what this man was saying couldn't be. I'd later find out that his claim was true. Now it didn't bother me as much to find out that Joseph was human and had faults as it did that my credibility with this man was shot because I was willing to defend something in total ignorance. I had not studied the issue he'd presented, yet I was willing to speak out on it. Once my credibility was gone, I felt I had little chance at helping him want to know more about the Church."
It seems to me that growing up, we always put Joseph Smith on a pedestal and acted like he was perfect even though we would adamantly deny doing so. Now, it seems the pendulum has swung the other way and we're attempting to compensate by constantly saying, "Joseph Smith was imperfect, Joseph Smith had flaws, Joseph Smith made mistakes", and so on. I find both extremes annoying and I hope that they'll balance out in a few years. Why can't we just treat Joseph Smith as a person? Why can't we just be candid about his flaws whenever it's relevant, without going out of our way to mention them just to prove that we acknowledge that they exist? If we just treat him as a person, we don't need to explain that he had flaws because it goes without saying. Granted, many Mormons are comfortable with the abstract intellectual notion that Joseph Smith was generically "flawed", but become hurt and uncomfortable when they encounter any actual specific examples. That's a shame.
Bracelets (whom you should remember because I've mentioned her before; if you've forgotten, suffice it to say that she is not a relative of Dora the Explorer's monkey friend but rather a girl from one of my classes whom I have granted this pseudonym as a tribute to one of her fashion proclivities) is the very archetype of a classy lady. Last week I asked her out, which was a big deal considering how much I hate dating. I don't think I've ever gone into much detail here about how much I hate dating, because I wouldn't know how to do so without it sounding like a pity party. Suffice it to say for now, then, that I hate it. Nonetheless, sometimes I experience a lapse in memory and judgment and attempt to do it anyway.
The ugly storm clouds on the morning of the planned thing indicated to me that it was probably going to be ruined. I was somewhat annoyed that they couldn't have come the day before or waited another day, but clouds are difficult to reason with. They're airheads. I considered praying, but realized how selfish it would be to ask God to subvert the natural weather patterns of this season just for me. It could have all kinds of bad environmental ramifications. Anyway, my prediction proved partially correct when she asked if we could postpone the thing, but she suggested we could walk around campus instead, and thought that would only be like twenty minutes because she's always super busy and virtually impossible to schedule time with, but it ended up being closer to two hours and we did a lot of talking and that's primarily what I wanted to do anyway so it was great.
I'm not accustomed to having deep discussions in person. I do have one close friend, "Quincy", that I engage in such discussions over the phone, but she usually does at least ninety percent of the talking. At other times I do it via Facebook or other textual mediums. So articulating myself was difficult at times and I stumbled over my words so often that if she didn't know better she would have thought I had a speech impediment. In writing, not only do I have time to form my thoughts, but I can change, rearrange, and delete words to my satisfaction before sending them out to be scrutinized. In speaking I don't have that luxury. Ah well.
Bracelets is a very impressive individual but, in order to keep this post a reasonable length and hopefully not say more than I should say, I will narrow my recollection down to three of the things that impressed me the most that evening (in no particular order).
1. Her phone beeped like seven times in two minutes. I thought someone was harassing her, but then realized that she just has a lot more friends than me. It beeped a few more times over the course of our time together, but she didn't take it out while we were talking or even when there was a lull in the conversation. For that, I mentally made her an honorary member of Gryffindor and awarded her a billion points.
2. She gave an impassioned spiel about how she knows what she wants and she's not going to settle for less. I was so proud to hear that, since I already know that some of what she wants, though perfectly reasonable, is very difficult to find these days in our degenerated society, and it had occurred to me to mention to her that she should hold out for it and not settle for less, but obviously I don't need to because she's already on top of things.
3. She gave an impassioned spiel about the importance of honesty and how it's important to know the truth even when the truth sucks. I wanted to applaud, because this touches on one of the things I hate the most about dating, where dishonesty is not only accepted but expected. The lies of which I have been on the receiving end were mostly intended to spare my feelings; but by insulting my intelligence and betraying my trust they had the opposite effect. After one particularly brutal occasion, as I was breaking down in tears to my bishop, he mused, "Our society gives women a free pass to lie for their convenience." And I was kind of stunned that he would say such a thing. I thought, Whoa, dude, you'd better not talk like that if you ever want to become a General Authority. You're supposed to pretend that women are perfect little angels who can do no wrong.
So anyway, honesty is very important to me and, though perfectly reasonable, very difficult to find these days in our degenerated society. And overall I just had a great time. I had been trying for over a month to do something with Bracelets, but she was always busy, and after a while it had gotten discouraging. But that evening, it was all worth it.
This week's song - not that I'm obligated to provide a song every week, but this week's song - is by Erasure who, thanks to the popularity of "Robot Unicorn Attack", are known by everybody and their dog for "Always". I found the CD with that song, and another one by them, at Hasting's for 97 cents each. So I purchased them both and on the one that doesn't have "Always" I was blown away on the second track by this gem. The video is really weird, as you can probably guess by looking at the preview.
Erasure - Blue Savannah Song
I do think, in all modesty, that this post is much better than last week's. My plan to lower the bar worked.
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"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.