Thus far I have been updating just on Sundays, but I decided to shake things up a little so that neither of my fans gets too complacent.
A week ago began the three day long event known as Summerfest, when the LDS Tabernacle lawn is occupied by scores of booths of people hawking their products, mostly of the artistic variety, along with lots of food and live music. I look around but never buy anything because it isn't cheap. I think most of them are targeted toward moderately wealthy people who can afford to blow a wad on attractive but useless things. Anyway, it occurred to me as I was looking through this time that while many of the booths were quite impressive on their own merits, very few of them particularly stood out when they were all crowded together like this. And this makes any artist's task more difficult. It isn't just about your own talents, but about whether you can out-compete other talented people.
I realized that the principle extends to people in general. Everyone is unique and special, but taken together as a population, very few people are particularly memorable except to their own families and friends. There's a very limited capacity for fame and/or fortune, and one person's share of them will always come at the expense of others'. That's just how it is. I also realized that this could apply to Marie's scores of suitors. Each is a unique and special person who tries to woo her by buying her dinner, flowers, jewelry, and whatever. But she just yawns and says, "You bore me. Off with your head." (paraphrase)
Actually, I did get an inside glimpse of her rejection process, as one of her suitors texted her while we were Skyping. It was fascinating from a sociological perspective. She alternated between expressing anxiety and regret over the necessity of crushing his heart, and reveling in it. After the initial exchange he asked if there was any particular reason so that he could improve himself. I was stunned. The poor guy probably doesn't even realize that daring to ask such a thing makes him a horrible person because it means he feels entitled and think she's obligated to like him etc. etc. (sarcasm) But really, wouldn't it be nice if people could ask that question without being demonized? Maybe some people just have one little thing that keeps screwing them over, and it would be simple enough to fix except that they're totally oblivious to it because no one has ever told them because it isn't socially acceptable for them to ask. (Marie herself wasn't complaining about that, though, so I'm mocking society, not her.)
She told him there was just no chemistry. He said, "I'm just a guy, and not that bright. I thought there was some chemistry. How am I supposed to know?" Her initial thought was "Because I just told you", but she asked me to come up with a better answer. I had trouble with that because the only honest answer I could think of was "You can't. Sorry." But I found a way to massage the words and make it more palatable. This was urgent, apparently, because he was making a bet with his friend that he wouldn't use his phone for a week, and it started at midnight. With an evil smile she said she should wait until after midnight to respond, so that he would be compelled to look at it and lose the bet. But she wasn't quite cruel enough to go through with that. I was happy to see that deep down inside, beneath her callous maneating exterior, she actually did have compassion and concern for someone else's feelings. At least, I thought so until she smiled again and said, "I'll see him in church on Sunday. Should I look at him and smile? Guys hate that. They always get so red and turn away. Heh heh." I shuddered at this display of pure unmitigated evil.
I realized that there's a way to verify whether or not Marie is a figment of my twisted imagination. If no one else but me can see the following pictures, then... that's not good.
First: here she is being rude to me. These aren't the worst examples, of course, but just the most recent ones, as I didn't have the time or patience to search back through all our conversations.
I tolerate this treatment because I presume it has something to do with her being a French speaker. But while I don't protest, I still point it out sometimes.
For my birthday a couple days ago, she briefly let down her facade and acted nice. Note how she transitions flawlessly between two languages.
That warmed my heart, to finally have confirmation that she didn't just see me as a pest. But by the next day, she was already back to her usual self.
Before I forget, I need to mention something that I kept forgetting to mention. A few weeks ago I read an article about how a bunch of women were protesting for the right to go topless. They cited a precedent in the 1930s where men protested for the right to go topless, and within a year it went from an arrestable offense to no big deal. And you know what? I think it actually makes sense that either everyone or no one should be allowed to go topless, largely because women's breasts have been unfairly sexualized by Western culture. (They're designed to feed babies, for crying out loud.) However, I actually lean more in the "no one" direction. I don't particularly want to see bare chested people of either sex in public. But no one asks me what I want.
In any case, though, I agree with the people who said that this is a petty and cowardly battle to choose while so many far worse injustices are carried out against women throughout the world - such as gendercide, sex trafficking, female genital mutilation, and even just the general objectification and unrealistic standards of beauty that somehow persist even though everyone and their dog claims to oppose them. In other words, some people need to get their freaking priorities straight.
Last night and today I commented a few times on a Facebook thread started by an anti-vaxxer. After two serious and blunt comments I made a 100% sarcastic one which she was apparently stupid enough to like. I wasn't surprised. For anyone who is unaware, let me recap: I have zero respect for these people who endanger other people's lives with their stupidity. Sorry not sorry.
This song was in my head today at work so here it is, but without the actual video because that's inappropriate. Most of the lyrics are nonsensical (at least to me) but since childhood I have loved this refrain: "What in the world can make a brown-eyed girl turn blue, when everything I'll ever do I'll do for you." Maybe I've interpreted it completely wrong, but it always seemed to be asking, "Why would you ever feel bad about yourself or want to change, when I love you just the way you are?" (And in the bargain it has a double meaning of "blue", either meaning that she's just sad or that she wants to change her eye color.) Also, his promise to her is a far more realistic and sincere variation of "I'd do anything for you." Because - anything? Really?
Roxette - The Look
Here's a little gem I recently encountered in my web surfing: "Anti-mormon literature is simply church history and doctrine which is laid bare and exposed for all to see. It is absolutely theological pornography - because it has not been covered up, concealed or overlaid with distorting obfuscation." (emphasis in original)
Of course, I rolled my eyes just a little at that. For starters, the last time I read an anti-Mormon book or website that was "simply church history and doctrine" was - well, never. Not only do all of them offer plenty of very one-sided and usually misleading commentary along with their historical/doctrinal excerpts, several also take the liberty of insulting the reader's intelligence by bolding, capitalizing, and/or underlining the bits that they want you to find most offensive (usually not bothering to specify "emphasis added").
But beyond that, even, there is the simple and unavoidable fact that objective history does not exist. Anyone who claims to be objective about it is either ignorant or trying to deceive those who are. So to claim that anti-Mormon literature is "simply church history" is absurd. It has an agenda to tear down the Church, and that agenda informs which parts it presents and how it presents them. The Church, of course, has an opposite agenda to build itself up, and is equally biased in its own way. But there are so many events which can be viewed either through a cynical or faith-promoting lens. To some they are dealbreakers, while others are hardly fazed. But there is no "smoking gun" that unequivocally proves or disproves the Church's validity.
But of course, this exemplifies the arrogance of many of the Church's critics, especially those who used to be members of it. Anyone who interprets the facts in a different context than them is considered to be stupid and/or delusional. Their perspective is the only perspective, the "objective" perspective, the one where the facts speak for themselves. Professor Bill Hamblin observed, "There are a number of reasons – limitations of human reason, human fallibility, opposing paradigms, ambiguities of evidence – why intelligent people of good will can disagree about complicated and controversial matters. But not on the 'Recovery [from Mormonism]' board. Here all intelligent, right-thinking, and honest people agree with absolute certitude that Mormonism is not simply false, but so manifestly absurd that anyone who believes in it is a liar or an idiot."
So no, anti-Mormonism is not "simply church history". Neither is a church history manual printed by the Church, which makes no secret of trying to point out God's hand in past events. Neither is a paper written by an actual historian, Mormon or not, which has some sort of thesis to demonstrate regardless of whether it takes a stand on the Church's truth claims per se.
As I research and begin to start writing on my next book, I think a little bit about such issues as they apply to the Roman Catholic Church, which of necessity will be featured heavily in a story that takes place in fourteenth-century Europe. My belief, or bias, is that the Roman Catholic Church is the apostate (not intended pejoratively) descendant of original Christianity, and subject to some degree of divine guidance but not at the same level as the LDS Church. I believe it has been run throughout history by some very good men and some very bad ones, and some in between (and here I'm referring to everyone in leadership positions, not just Popes).
I want the story to reflect that. I will try to to neither idolize nor demonize it. If and when I do have to portray something less than savory, I will try to be fair about it. Context is a big deal. For example, the infamous incident of the Catholic Church vs. Galileo was not the clear-cut case of religion squelching science that modern zealots (e.g. our education system) make it out to be. The Catholic Church has generally been very pro-science, including through the so-called Dark Ages. In more recent times, just to name the first things that come to mind, high-ranking Catholics founded the modern science of genetics and came up with the Big Bang theory (the real one, not the TV show), and as an institution it has come out in support of the validity of evolution and man-made climate change. (I added "the validity of" to avoid implying that the Catholic Church is a fan of climate change.)
I was talking last night with a very intelligent and respectful atheist friend who is up visiting. He said it's possible to believe in evolution and God, but you have to discount the entire first book of Genesis. And I said you just can't take it literally, and he said if religion isn't literal then it doesn't make sense to him, or something like that. I didn't articulate myself very well because I can only do that in writing. I think this really goes back to the advice of Canadian apologist Paul Copan that one shouldn't read the Bible "literally", but literarily (which according to spell check is not a real word.) Meaning that the Bible was written by different authors in different times and different places, and understanding their different mindsets is crucial to understanding their message.
Genesis, as I understand it, was never meant to be a scientifically accurate description of how everything came to be, but a broad overview with far more emphasis on why it came to be. I don't think it's "wrong". I just think it doesn't answer the questions that some people, far removed from ancient Hebrew culture, want to make it answer. And I think the whole how-vs.-why dichotomy is so basic that I tire of saying it, but I'll probably continue to do so because it still gets treated as a novel concept.
My friend criticized the argument from design. As should be obvious to anyone who is familiar with my writing, I agreed with him there. However, I do think it's perfectly valid to look at the beauty of nature and feel inspired that it must have a purpose and that there must be a God. The prophet Alma wrote that "all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator." He placed this evidence alongside that of the prophets and the scriptures. In those latter cases. we are not expected to take anyone's word for it but to receive spiritual confirmation of their truth. I think the same applies to "the earth" etc.
So that feeling is perfectly valid to my way of thinking. What isn't valid, as my friend said and I agreed, is trying to support it scientifically. Science can't say whether there's a purpose to anything, and it does not leave permanent, inexplicable gaps for one to say "God did it". Irreducible complexity has been debunked in every case where it was proposed. To say that the human eyeball, for example, is too complex to have evolved through mutation and natural selection, is untrue and invalid.
My friend explained the reasons why he doesn't believe in God, and then criticized my religion in particular - I say "criticized" because technically that's what it was, but it didn't seem like it because he was so respectful as always. He has no interest in de-converting anyone but simply likes to make his point of view understood and to have thoughtful discussion about it. He brought up some interesting points that I couldn't answer off the top of my head. I'm still thinking about them.
I will say that my belief in God is unshakable, and this is because my own integrity will not allow me to disregard or dismiss my countless spiritual experiences just because of what some other person says. To him, of course, spiritual experiences are too subjective and unreliable and he doesn't think they're valid, but I'm not capable of sharing that view. It wouldn't be honest of me. I know he's being honest too. We're both being honest, but the world just looks a little differently to each of us. So anyway, the things he said didn't faze me. But that doesn't mean I just disregard or dismiss them either. I'm confident that there are answers - not set in stone, of course, since this is mostly philosophical stuff that can't be peer reviewed or anything, but answers that allow a plausible foundation for faith to continue. So I'll keep thinking about them and if I happen to come up with something profound I'll share it here so the whole world can see how wise I am.
Ironically, it was moving to Utah and encountering all the Mormons that led to his loss of faith. When he started learning about the Church, he thought it seemed really unbelievable. Then he looked inward and wondered what made his beliefs any more believable than ours. And then he became an atheist. But he is still very open-minded and humble about things. He thinks the difference between an atheist and agnostic is mere semantics, because he can't prove that there isn't a God.
Now Marie is finally on the map because I persuaded her to visit the site on her computer just once. The Calgary dot is hers. Talking with her is a great deal of fun but now that she reads my blog I have to be very careful about what I say about her. Granted, I've already embarrassed myself with her enough times that a few more wouldn't be a big deal.
Besides the bits of French I've picked up from her, I've figured out some of her other phrases from context:
"Hahaha." -> My sense of humor has low standards.
"Oh my." -> I am complacently amused.
"..." -> I can't believe how dumb you are.
She's quite rude to me sometimes, actually. But it's okay. If she was really annoyed at me she would just stop talking to me, so obviously she's just teasing. Right? Right? I am kind of annoying, though. I said that she and I are like Shrek and Donkey, respectively. She said "Hahaha I can see that."
I just remembered that today is Fathers' Day. I have a great father, particularly considering that I was kind of a demon child. Except for sometimes, like when I wrote this:
I'm not big on public displays of sentimentality, so that's all for now.
Here is a beautiful song that I rediscovered yesterday:
Monty Python - I'm So Worried
As I was Skyping the other day with my Quebecois friend, who shall from now on be referred to on this blog as "Marie", she began a sentence with "On your blog -" and right then my heart jumped into my throat.
Of course, it isn't as if I hadn't considered the possibility that she would read it. I am aware that things written on the internet do not exist in a vacuum. One incident a couple years ago drove that point home for me. Our campus newspaper ran a letter to the editor complaining about how society portrays men as lazy, stupid, sex-crazed oafs. I commented on the online version of the letter, agreeing with it, and then one of my friends chimed in with his opinion that it wasn't really a problem because even the Church teaches that women are superior to men (which I don't think it does, but I can see how some people might interpret the constant "daughters of God are so amazing" spiel that way). And then some charming girl that neither of us had ever met before, who didn't even go to our school, interjected her own thoughtful commentary on the issue.
As much as I appreciated her input, I didn't think Abercrombie & Fitch would be thrilled about their employees representing them in this way, so I let them know about it. One of their guys confirmed my suspicion and promised to look into it. Strangely, she never returned to continue the discussion. And now a few years later I'm not sure if I actually did the right thing. I wonder how my life could have turned out differently if I had taken advantage of her wisdom.
So anyway, I was well aware that Marie could potentially read my blog with as much ease as anyone else. But I didn't actually think that she would. I said as much to her. She said, "Well, you asked me to like your page, and I wasn't going to just like your page and not read the stuff you were putting on it. That would be rude."
Rude? That was what I expected most people to do.
So anyway, what she actually said to begin with, which my heart leaped into my throat after three words of, was "On your blog, you said that my English is flawless." And she disagrees with that characterization. But she's wrong.
Of course, she does all her internet stuff on a mobile device, so her current city does not appear on my little map which doesn't appear on mobile devices. Maybe some of you think I just made her up because I'm so lonely. Maybe I did but I don't even realize it. That could be awkward when she comes to visit.
She said it's okay that I write about her on my blog since I don't use her name. But now you have a clue; you know that it isn't "Marie", unless it is and I just did that to throw you off. She said she likes that my blog is so "random and all over the place".
Speaking of Tintin, the comic books are set to undergo a new English translation by veteran Tintinologist Michael Farr. The article explains: "The work of translating the entire series was a monumental labour of love. It is difficult to fathom the atmosphere, the spirit and the multi-faceted humour that suffuse the thousands of frames and speech bubbles of The Adventures of Tintin... Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner accomplished their mission with flying colours. But we all know how fast the world evolves and how life moves on; the same thing goes for language and literature. The Adventures of Tintin have also not escaped the flow of time."
Now, with all due respect to Mssr. Farr and the others involved, I think this is almost as dumb an idea as the short-lived attempt to update the pop culture references in the "Animorphs" books. Why should Tintin escape the flow of time? (Insert your own quip about how he never ages here.) Why does a story written in the 1930s, the 1970s or somewhere in between need to sound like it was written in the 2010s? Tintin adventures are timeless in the sense that they can be enjoyed by a person of any age living in any era, but they also have a certain charm that comes from being rooted in, strangely enough, the time period they were written in. (Granted, for an English speaker like me some of this charm also comes from the British culture grafted in by the translators.)
No, people in real life don't talk like they do in the Tintin books. And no, I didn't at first understand all the references to things like "Lord Nelson's column" or recognize the song excerpts that characters occasionally sing. But you know what? That never once bothered me. Anyway, even with the language updated, the artwork will still reflect decades past. Is that a "problem" too? Having said that, I don't mind if they go ahead with a new translation. I think it's totally unnecessary but its existence won't detract from the current one, just like George Lucas didn't retroactively "destroy your childhood" by what he did while you were an adult.
Speaking of movies, I'm beyond stoked to see "Jurassic World" and think I will do so on my birthday. That will also mark ten years since I went to see "Revenge of the Sith" on my birthday. I can't believe it's been so long. I still remember what felt like interminable suspense as to what would happen in it, other than the obvious details of course. Marie likes Star Wars but has only seen the first four (chronological) movies. She loves Jar Jar Binks. To be honest, I loved him when I was a kid and I still don't mind him. I understand the hate but I'm just not feeling it myself.
While we were Skyping I shared this with her. It made her laugh, because Canadians are good sports about that sort of thing.
"Weird Al" Yankovic - Canadian Idiot
Right before publishing this, I accidentally x'd out of it and thought it was gone forever. But somehow here it is anyway. Merci beaucoup a Dieu.
So, I found out the reason that not all visitors get added to my little map, either on the old site location or this one here, is that the map itself doesn't show up on the mobile version. I was a little upset to learn that. I wanted to map everyone who ever came here and now that simple little goal is irreversibly ruined. These companies are so asinine sometimes. Maybe I would be better off just hiring someone to design what I want from scratch with no limitations.
Speaking of asinine things, I came across this little gem in my newsfeed, from a group called "God in Science" where brain cells go to die:
"The situation today is like the old story of the little Dutch boy who put his finger in the dyke to stem the flow of water. There are hundreds of thousands of scientists circling the globe, all with their fingers and toes stuck in the holes in evolution theory in a futile effort to stop it from crumbling, but all the while the impetus of scientific discovery is pushing a wave that will surge over the top. When the proponents of evolution are so scared that their pet theory will lose power and thereby lesson their control on the indoctrination centers (so called "schools") and in turn children will then be educated instead of being indoctrinated into the silly debunked religion of evolution....they will do what ever they can to retain their grip on the indoctrination of children all over the world....
"Anything goes for the evo....truth is not a matter to consider. Their silly science fiction will do. The Gospel sets people free.... The religion of evolution is a tool of the Devil that puts the religious adherents of evolution in bondage. The religion of evolution has been debunked and is nothing more than a debunked religious philosophy. Science has demonstrated this numerous times....yet they refuse the truth of science and embrace the frauds and deceptions of neo darwinism."
Wow. What a shame that all those scientists hate God more than they would love to be famous and admired forever for revolutionizing biology and exposing the evolution scam. And aside from that utterly sarcastic remark, I will refrain from commenting further on this because it's so stupid as to carry its own refutation.
I just had to correct myself because I spelled "it's" with an apostrophe. The Internet has made me stupid, too. Though to be fair I've also seen this error in real life, "professional" venues that should know better. I don't understand how a native speaker of English gets those two different words mixed up. Except for me just now, but that was because they've messed with my head.
If you're not a native speaker of English, I have more patience with you. English is a very asinine language. (That's one of my recent favorite words.) That's why I'm so impressed by my new Quebecois friend, whom I've chatted and/or Skyped with every day since I met her. Her English is flawless, which is good because I hardly know any French other than some basic words and a few phrases like "Je ne suis pas une femme. Je suis un homme." (Just in case.) When reading French, I can figure out a lot of words' meanings based on their similarity to Spanish, but I don't know how to actually pronounce them because the rules there are a bit more asinine than Spanish.
We went over some colors, numbers, basic expressions and stuff. I actually forgot a couple of the words I already knew and thus missed an opportunity to impress her, which was a little upsetting. Then the next night she had a wedding to go to, and I assume that's why she sent me this afterward, saying "Here, something to study":
I said, "Sometimes love is too strong a word. Como se dice [yes, that's Spanish] 'I have a crush on you'?"
She said, "We don't have words for that. You have to say 'I'm in love with you'."
I was like, "Woah, you guys are intense."
The next time we Skyped she asked what are the first three things I notice in a girl. That was a weird question because I don't tend to hone in on specific traits in a girl, and if I do it depends on certain factors like what her best features are and what direction she's facing the first time I see her. The first three things I notice are probably (within a couple seconds) 1. that she's a person, 2. that she's female, and 3. whether I'm attracted to her. But once that's out of the way I'll usually pay most attention to her face, so the answer I gave to this question was "eyes, mouth, hair". Because ears and noses are nice, but not quite as much so.
"Very nice," she said. "What's the fourth thing?"
Here are my thoughts on the Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner story about which I know virtually nothing: 1. I don't pay much attention to the news. 2. I don't care what people do in (what should be) their personal lives. 3. Love everyone. 4. I don't pay much attention to the news. When I'm a celebrity, I'll tell people to live their own lives and not worry about what I'm doing. To quote Eva Peron, "Don't cry for me Argentina, for I am ordinary, unimportant, and not deserving of such attention - unless we all are; I think we all are." Well, not Eva Peron exactly, but the Broadway paraphrase.
Because my finished novel, "Space Girls", is too long for a first-time author to publish, I need to write a shorter one first. I think I'll make it about fourteenth-century peasants in a fictional city, just recovering from the Black Death, who have to forge an alliance with dragons to fight off an alien invasion. Yay? Nay? It's hard to come up with original ideas, and this is vaguely similar to a really great book called "The High Crusade" by Poul Anderson, but I think different enough to justify doing. I've actually wanted to do a fantasy novel since long before I started "Space Girls", but never got past a few chapters. This sci-fi angle may be what's needed to spice it up enough to hold my interest.
Once again, it's too hot. And we're supposed to have a drought this summer despite the record-breaking rains of May. Dang it. Water is delicious, isn't it? People say it doesn't even have a flavor, but sometimes it's the most delicious thing I can imagine.
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
C. Randall Nicholson
This is where I occasionally rant about life, the universe, and/or everything. I'm a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate me without guilt, but I'm also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual.