I've averaged maybe four hours of sleep a night in the last week and a half, and it's nearly turned me into a vegetable. Consequently, I spent most of my time on Spotify working on a hobby that requires little brainpower. The only thing I'm more obsessed with than listening to music is curating music. If I had a choice, I would put all my songs on one playlist so I could shuffle them all together regardless of artist or genre or theme, but I discovered years ago that Spotify has a 10,000 song per playlist limit that it never warned me about, so I've had to live with that and make a bunch of playlists based on artist or genre or theme. A few months ago I made my first one based on chronology because I just love the eighties so much. It brought me great pleasure but also frequent disappointments when I couldn't add a song from 1979 or 1990. I was very strict about following my rules. The only time I broke my rules was when I added L.B. Rayne's songs from the 2000s and 2010s, and I did that because they're not only pastiches of 80s music but also claimed to have been made in the 80s as proposed theme songs for 80s movies, so I'm just playing along with the joke.
A couple weeks ago I caved and made a 90s playlist. And then, to make a long story that's of little interest to anyone except me short, I ended up with ten chronological playlists. Unfortunately they created a feedback loop with my insomnia. I spent a lot of time on them throughout the day because I was too tired to read books or write books, but then when I went to bed my brain acted like a radio cycling through one station after another, and that didn't help anything. Here they all are in case of the unlikely eventuality that anyone besides my neighbor Mandy is really impressed with my taste in music and wants to stoke my ego by following any or all of them. And also to artificially make this post longer so I don't have to write very much.
The 10s: Music's Tenth Best Decade
The 20s: Music's Ninth Best Decade
The 30s: Music's Eighth Best Decade
The 40s: Music's Seventh Best Decade
The 50s: Music's Sixth Best Decade
The 60s: Music's Fifth Decade
The 70s: Music's Fourth Best Decade
The 80s: Music's Best Decade
The 90s: Music's Second Best Decade
The 00s: Music's Third Best Decade
The 10s: Another Decade of Music
The title of the last one is kind of serious and kind of a joke that doesn't really work if you don't see the playlists in the correct order, which you won't unless you read this post or use my Spotify account on the desktop app where I've arranged them into the correct order. On the one hand, I pay zero attention to the current radio hits and I could probably only name five of them from the last five years if my life depended on it. Ed Sheeran is a decent artist for sure, but I'm baffled and slightly depressed that he's the highest-streamed artist in the world out of all the artists in the world. On the other hand, the 10s witnessed a veritable explosion of opportunities for regular people with internet access to make music and make it accessible all over the world without all the bother of record deals and expensive recording studios. Many of them are very good, and most of those will never get the recognition they deserve, but in previous decades their creative genius wouldn't likely have seen the light of day at all. Songs are published in more genres, cultures, and languages than ever before in history even while globalization and commercial interests make most "mainstream" music sound the same. (Although I proactively seek it out, the lack of diversity is why I rank each decade of music preceding the 80s progressively lower.) So from that perspective, the 10s and every succeeding decade actually are and will be the best decade for music, or rather they would be if they were also the 80s, which sadly they are not.
I got into Italo-disco because it's an ancestor of spacesynth, a genre of usually space-themed music that all sounds the same but in a good way. Italo-disco itself sounds a bit more diverse. I think all these tracks are Italo-disco, but I don't know much about music genres, I just know what I like, so sue me if I'm a little off.
Charlie - Spacer Woman
A classic in the venerable "love from outer space" theme.
Crazy Gang - Every Sunday
This song is either about being abused by clergy or just being bored at church, I'm not sure which. Maybe it's deliberately open to interpretation.
Damian - The Time Warp
An even more upbeat cover of the song from Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Italian Boys - Forever Lovers
I have nothing to say about this one but it's catchy.
Kano - Another Life
I have nothing to say about this one but it's catchy.
Kano - Cosmic Voyager
I like any piece of media with a reference to outer space in the title.
Koto - Dragon's Legend
Based on the infamously challenging Don Bluth-animated 1983 video game Dragon's Lair.
Koto - Star Wars
The most danceable version of this theme I've ever heard. The entire album "Koto Plays Sci-Fi Themes" is great but I had to exercise some restraint.
Ottawan - Haut les Mains (Donne-moi ton couer)
An English version also exists, but obviously Italo-disco should be in French.
RADAR - China Darling
I suppose the title alone is politically incorrect by today's standards, but there's nothing racist in the song.
Radiorama - Aliens
The lyrics are in such broken English that I'm not sure what's going on, but I think the aliens in this case are supposed to be scary.
Radiorama - Vampires
Again, the English is broken, but it's more clear this time that the vampires are supposed to be scary, especially because they're vampires.
Robert Barre - Neanderthal Man
If Neanderthals were alive today, they would listen to this kind of music and be overqualified to run for political office.
Wish Key - Orient Express
Last but by no means least, this one has really grown on me. I especially love how the male and female vocals blend.
If you somehow haven't yet seen the first photographs from the James Webb Space Telescope, I'm here to fix that for you. But also, if you're on a mobile device, get on something with a bigger screen. The bigger the better. I'll wait.
Galaxy cluster SMACS 0723. The twinkly white lights are nearby stars; all the other lights are distant galaxies. To quote NASA: "This slice of the vast universe covers a patch of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground." If that doesn't blow your mind, check to make sure you have a pulse.
After seeing photographs like these, people of culture and taste are frequently reminded of Calvin and Hobbes.
Of course, these pictures provoke all kinds of philosophical, spiritual, and/or theological reactions. Many are in awe at the scope and grandeur of God's creation. Joseph Smith trended on Twitter for a little bit because he taught that God created "worlds without number" and his followers see this as evidence that he was a prophet. Of course, he also taught that "the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God" and there is as yet no indication that any of these worlds is inhabited, but Calvin and Hobbes has an answer for that.
Predictably, I observed rather different reactions from ex-Mormons and other atheists who opine that these pictures prove God doesn't exist because the universe is so big and humans are so insignificant. I saw snarky comments like "God created all this, but he's still watching you masturbate." So obviously people will read into massive distant celestial objects whatever implications they feel like reading into massive distant celestial objects. I was struck, though, by how old this particular line of thinking is. People in biblical times knew very little of modern science, but they were not oblivious to the fact that the universe is bigger than Earth.
When I consider your heavens,
To an extent I can relate to the snarky comments, because I have become quite convinced that God cares a lot less about some things than Latter-day Saints and other Christians think he does, and that Latter-day Saints and other Christians know a lot less about him than they think they do - but still I believe that the higher power who orchestrated everything in the James Webb Space Telescope photographs is omniscient and omnibenevolent to be as intimately aware of my life as he is every atom, and as concerned about my life as he is about the fate of solar systems. On the one hand, I just resonate with the idea of Alma 30:44, 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." And with this idea, I do not look for a "God of the gaps" in the things that science can't yet explain, but rather I see him in everything that science can explain. I resonate with the God described in Joseph Smith in Doctrine and Covenants 88:41 who "is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever."
Personal philosophical inclinations aside, I believe that this Creator exists and cares about me first and foremost because I believe I've communicated with Him and that He's responded to me and guided me at several points in my life. And I was going to write a whole post on that subject this week but then these photographs came out and I wanted to focus on them instead because they're freaking awesome.
A million billion planets and they're spinning out in space
Regardless of the differing perspectives we bring to these photographs, everyone except the QAnons who think they're fake should be able to agree that they give us a healthy dose of perspective and remind us that we aren't such a big screaming deal. Maybe if Putin spent more time looking at pictures like this, he would realize the futility of trying to make himself important by invading a tiny little country and committing war crimes. That's kind of a tangent but I wanted to bring it up because I feel like most Americans have forgotten that Ukraine is still under attack and Putin still needs to die.
I've had a reddit account since I don't know when, but until the last few weeks I only used it once in a great while to speak up when I saw something egregiously stupid, so I ended up with negative "karma" from people downvoting my comments. But I got into the positive a few weeks ago and, as the designers obviously intended, it gave me a bit of a dopamine rush. Haha, I thought, I hope I don't get addicted to this feeling. Of course I did. Anyway, the other day I saw that bestselling fantasy author and Latter-day Saint Brandon Sanderson had done an AMA (Ask Me Anything) and I was very impressed with his most popular response to the most popular question, so I'm going to pass it along here and save myself some actual writing for today. The question was asked by someone calling themself RattusRattus:
How do you feel about the fact that queer people are treated better in your novels than on the campus you teach at? How do you reconcile donating to a church that promotes purity culture, homophobia, and anti-Semitism with writing books for the general public?
BYU is pretty awful to queer people. In the 1960s and 70s it conducted witch hunts against closeted gay students with the object of forcing them to undergo conversion therapy (which didn't and doesn't work) or leave the school. A couple years ago it removed a ban on "homosexual behavior" from its Honor Code mid-semester, then for two weeks told confused gay students that yes, they were now allowed to date and hold hands and kiss just like straight students do, before the church commissioner of education who apparently had been asleep for two weeks told them that no, they still can't. Many students felt that they had been tricked into coming out of the closet. Hence the semi-regular protests since then. Ignorant people often ask why they go to BYU in the first place, and the answers include but are not limited to family pressure, the cheap tuition for members of the church that owns it, and the fact that people in their late teens and early twenties are often still figuring out their sexuality in the first place. An entire tax-exempt charity, the OUT Foundation, exists just to help LGBTQ+ students escape from BYU. So anyway, Brandon responded in a livestream that was subsequently transcribed thus:
Thank you for a bold but not insulting phrasing of that question. So the church’s general stance on LGBTQ people is not where I, as a liberal member of the church, would like it to be. That being said, I have faith in the church, I have had spiritual experiences, confirming to me that this is where God wants me and that God is real.
This gives me so much to think about. I've recently become even more convinced by the movie Lightyear that neutral or positive portrayals of LGBTQ+ characters in media are essential. I thought the movie was pretty mediocre, but these people having aneurysms because two women in it love each other can get bent. Disney has produced scores upon scores of movies where men and women kiss each other (or men kiss unconscious women, or whatever). One same-sex couple is not "forcing their lifestyle down your throat." It is not "grooming your children." It frightens me that some grown adults in this day and age still believe their children will turn gay if they ever see anyone being gay. For heaven's sake, see a therapist if you're that insecure in your sexuality. I grew up with heterosexuality constantly being shoved in my face by all the straight people who flaunt their lifestyles without a second thought, and I still thought sex was gross from the moment I learned what it was. What these media portrayals actually strive to accomplish is to demonstrate that LGBTQ+ people are just normal people with the same hopes and dreams as anyone else, thus reducing prejudice and making LGBTQ+ children (and adults) hate themselves less. No one can make me believe that isn't a worthy goal.
As an aspiring author myself, obviously not worthy to even mention myself in the same post as Brandon Sanderson, I never had much of an agenda to do this. My as-yet-unpublished novel references the same-sex relationships of a couple of very minor characters for no other reason than to acknowledge that this is a fact of the world now and in 2153 when it takes place. Just recently when I revised it yet again, I realized that my protagonist is a little bit bisexual. She's mostly into men but she flirts with women just because she can. I never planned for her to flirt with women. I don't even know how to flirt with women. She just went ahead and did it. Similarly, in a story that I wrote for a graduate school class and then incorporated into my thesis, the protagonist and her best friend developed a camaraderie that seemed like a bit more than just best friends, and the professor pointed it out, so I went ahead and made them lovers and barely had to change anything. It was neither essential to the story nor agenda-driven. It just happened because the characters wanted it to happen. So maybe I'll just continue along those lines in my writing career if I ever have one.
Brandon's response went over well. HandOfMaradonny said:
I'm just super impressed you answered and didn't ignore.
Brandon later responded directly to the original asker of the question:
Honestly, I'm really glad you asked this one.
Wow. Brandon Sanderson wants to wrestle with difficult ideas, difficult questions, and his own internal inconsistencies. A mind after my own heart. I think I'm in love.
RIP Brandi Weaver
I went to a small school where everyone in grades 7-12 knew everyone else's first and last name. When Kyle Cootware died in a four-wheeler accident in 2009, everyone mourned. A palpable gloom engulfed the entire school building. College hasn't been like that. Through the years I read in the news that a student I never heard of had died in a bike accident, and that a couple of students I recognized but never met had died by suicide, and that someone a couple blocks from my apartment had been murdered by her ex-boyfriend. But there wasn't the same sense of community and the same universal mourning. So anyway, I didn't know Brandi Weaver particularly well and I'm afraid I don't have a lot to say about her, but I did know her a little and it is a bit jarring and sobering that she's suddenly gone from natural causes at such a young age. I think I was in ninth grade when I sat at the same lunch table as her. It's been so long that I don't even remember, but I remember that she was always nice to me. She was one of those older girls who treated me like I was super cool even though I was the biggest dork. She smiled and joked a lot and just seemed to have a great attitude toward life. My condolences to her family and especially to her fiancé and children.
The first real crack in my lifetime of "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints isn't sexist" conditioning came not from any critical source, but from the section on "Mothers' Employment Outside the Home" in the Eternal Marriage Student Manual. I was raised to believe that anything in the church that seems sexist to modern sensibilities is really just misunderstood. But after being in college for too long, some of these quotes that I'd probably already heard growing up really rubbed me the wrong way, and then this line in particular from Spencer W. Kimball jumped out as unequivocally, unapologetically, and undeniably sexist: "No career approaches in importance that of wife, homemaker, mother - cooking meals, washing dishes, making beds for one’s precious husband and children." Translation: Women have the most important divine role, which is to perform household chores for men and children. To be perfectly frank: barf. And from then on I couldn't stop seeing all the sexism that I'd been taught not to see.
In February of last year I linked to this manual section in a blog post about how the church's teachings (aka doctrine) on women have evolved. Within a month, the entire section had quietly disappeared from the church's website. Coincidence? Probably, but you can't prove it. And that wasn't worth making a whole other post about, but yesterday a reddit post brought to my attention some more recent and more subtle deletions from the manual, and I just have to talk about them.
Elder Spencer W. Kimball
“Boys seldom criticize a girl for using too little makeup. Sometimes they say, ‘She’s a nice girl, but I wish she’d dress up, and she uses too much makeup.’ To be overdressed, to be gaudily dressed, to be dressed to look sexy, to be overdecorated is bad taste, to say the least. The young woman is smart who can don just enough powder and lipstick to convince the fellows it isn’t makeup at all, but the ‘real you.’...
“Young men should keep their faces shaved, their hair combed, their haircuts reasonably conservative, their nails cleaned. Overtight, suggestive pants brand young men as vulgar. Young people can be smart and personable, dignified and attractive by finding an area somewhere less than the extremes and still in good style” (“Save the Youth of Zion,” Improvement Era, Sept. 1965, 761).
This quote is arguably a bit sexist - it reminds me of M. Russell Ballard's "Put on a little lipstick now and then and look a little charming" comment that may or may not have been blown out of proportion a few years ago - but it has the rare distinction of being more nitpicky about men's dress and grooming than women's, so I appreciate that. I assume it was just removed because dress and grooming standards have changed since 1965 (except at BYU) and it comes across as obnoxiously Pharasaical (like BYU). A lot of women like men with beards. Also, I know it's perfectly normal for women to wear just a little bit of makeup and for men to erroneously believe that they aren't wearing any, but Elder Kimball's phrasing here seems to encourage deception, so that's kind of funny.
Women's Divine Roles and Responsibilities
President Ezra Taft Benson
“It is divinely ordained what a woman should do.... The divine work of women involves companionship, homemaking, and motherhood” (“In His Steps,” 64).
“Brethren of the priesthood, I continue to emphasize the importance of mothers staying home to nurture, care for, and train their children in the principles of righteousness” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1987, 60; or Ensign, Nov. 1987, 49; see also To the Fathers in Israel, 3–4).
See To the Mothers in Zion, on pages 352–57.
“A mother’s role is also God-ordained. Mothers are to conceive, bear, nourish, love, and train. They are to be helpmates, and are to counsel with their husbands” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1984, 6; or Ensign, May 1984, 6).
“It is divinely ordained what a woman should do, but a man must seek out his work. The divine work of women involves companionship, homemaking, and motherhood. It is well if skills in these three areas can first be learned in the parents’ home and then be supplemented at school if the need or desire presents itself” (“In His Steps,” 64).
“There are voices in our midst which would attempt to convince you that these home-centered truths are not applicable to our present-day conditions. If you listen and heed, you will be lured away from your principal obligations.
“Beguiling voices in the world cry out for ‘alternative life-styles’ for women. They maintain that some women are better suited for careers than for marriage and motherhood.
“These individuals spread their discontent by the propaganda that there are more exciting and selffulfilling roles for women than homemaking. Some even have been bold to suggest that the Church move away from the ‘Mormon woman stereotype’ of homemaking and rearing children. They also say it is wise to limit your family so you can have more time for personal goals and self-fulfillment” (“The Honored Place of Woman,” Ensign, Nov. 1981, 105).
It's self-explanatory that this was removed for the same reason as the entire section on "Mothers' Employment Outside the Home." I'll just examine a few lines that stand out to me.
"It is divinely ordained what a woman should do, but a man must seek out his work." Translation: women have a one-size-fits-all role, while men are free to seek out roles that fit their individual talents, interests, and personalities. They may, of course, still end up stuck in crappy jobs that they hate in order to support their families, but not for lack of trying. And this really gets at the heart of why "complementary" or "separate but equal" gender roles are not equal at all and never have been.
"These individuals spread their discontent by the propaganda that there are more exciting and self-fulfilling roles for women than homemaking." Translation: if a woman doesn't feel sufficiently contented or fulfilled by menial household chores that her husband could just as easily do, she's been deceived by propaganda. She couldn't have possibly reached that conclusion on her own, and even if she did, she's not smart enough to know what's good for her.
"Some even have been bold to suggest that the Church move away from the 'Mormon woman stereotype' of homemaking and rearing children." Please read this in Owen Lars' voice: Like the Church moved away from the 'Mormon woman stereotype' of homemaking and rearing children by showcasing career women in its "I'm a Mormon" ad campaign?
Benson's anti-feminist masterwork speech referenced here, "To the Mothers in Zion," remains in the manual despite all these other deletions. That's a bit of an oversight, which I brought to someone's attention with the online feedback form in March.
President Spencer W. Kimball
“Tomorrow when I repeat the phrases that will bind you for eternity, I shall say the same impressive words that the Lord said to that handsome youth and his lovely bride in the Garden of Eden: ‘Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.’ ...
“... You came to get for yourself a mortal body that could become perfected, immortalized, and you understood that you were to act in partnership with God in providing bodies for other spirits. . . . And so you will not postpone parenthood. There will be rationalists who will name to you numerous reasons for postponement. Of course, it will be harder to get your college degrees or your financial start with a family, but strength like yours will be undaunted in the face of difficult obstacles. Have your family as the Lord intended. Of course it is expensive, but you will find a way, and besides, it is often those children who grow up with responsibility and hardships who carry on the world’s work” (“John and Mary, Beginning Life Together,” New Era, June 1975, 8).
“Supreme happiness in marriage is governed considerably by a primary factor—that of the bearing and rearing of children. Too many young people set their minds, determining they will not marry or have children until they are more secure, until the military service period is over; until the college degree is secured; until the occupation is more well-defined; until the debts are paid; or until it is more convenient. They have forgotten that the first commandment is to ‘be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.’ (Genesis 1:28.) And so brides continue their employment and husbands encourage it, and contraceptives are used to prevent conception. Relatives and friends and even mothers sometimes encourage birth control for their young newlyweds. But the excuses are many, mostly weak. The wife is not robust; the family budget will not feed extra mouths; or the expense of the doctor, hospital, and other incidentals is too great; it will disturb social life; it would prevent two salaries; and so abnormal living prevents the birth of children. The Church cannot approve nor condone the measures which so greatly limit the family” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 328–29).
This section already omitted many quotes that straight-up denounce birth control as evil, because they don't jive with the church's current position that it's a personal decision. So Kimball's quote made the cut the first time around but now it crosses the line. Why? Probably because it pressures couples to have children that they can't afford or otherwise aren't ready to take care of, which is just plain terrible for everyone involved. I'm particularly disgusted that he, a man, considered "The wife is not robust" to be a "weak excuse" for not popping out as many babies as possible. This flat-out contradicts a far more reasonable David O. McKay quote on the preceding page: “In all this, however, the mother’s health should be guarded. In the realm of wifehood, the woman should reign supreme." (Then why does she need so many men to tell her how to do it?)
Looking at this and the earlier deleted Kimball quote, though, I am impressed that the manual made a distinction between "Elder" Kimball and "President" Kimball. Usually when an apostle becomes president of the church, subsequent publications attribute all of his quotes to President So-and-So regardless of when he made them, which is lazy and misleading.
Wayward Children Born Under the Covenant
The Prophet Joseph Smith
“When a seal is put upon the father and mother, it secures their posterity, so that they cannot be lost, but will be saved by virtue of the covenant of their father and mother” (in History of the Church, 5:530).
It's surprising to see anything from Joseph Smith deleted. He's had a better track record than most of his successors. And I don't know why this quote was problematic. I could see the church maybe wanting to move away from the implication that temple sealings remove children's agency, but the subsequent Brigham Young quote implies that far more strongly. Maybe the Joseph Smith quote encourages complacency by focusing on the ordinance (dead works) and not on the parents' actual efforts and worthiness? Maybe recent scholarship has cast doubt on its accuracy? That's all I've got.
I'm grateful for these deletions, except for the last one, which I don't care about one way or another. I just wish the church actually announced or drew attention to them in some way. Yes, I realize it's awkward to explain why quotes from prophets, seers, and revelators are no longer acceptable for publication, but when the church just quietly discontinues old teachings without correcting or superseding them, people who were previously taught those things continue to teach them anyway. Case in point: last year, in a fifth Sunday lesson in a YSA ward in a college town, my sixty-something bishop was very adamant that God wants all women to be full-time homemakers, and told those present to only use their college educations to be better mothers, not to have careers, and that anyone who disagreed (like me) was deceived by the world's lies. Mostly I was pissed off and incredulous that he had failed to notice the shift in the church's position over the last thirty years, but I also felt a little sorry for him when I complained to the stake president (who agreed with me) about him teaching the same thing that the prophets taught when he was our age. With regard to this manual specifically, many institute teachers probably use a paper copy and will never notice the online revisions unless somebody tells them.
But speaking of sexism, thanks to the recent states' rights free-for-all opened up by the repeal of Roe v. Wade, a ten-year-old rape victim from Ohio had to travel to Indiana to get an abortion. I hope God is warming up a spot in hell for every politician who thinks it's even an option to force a ten-year-old rape victim to endure pregancy and childbirth. (I argued with a family member who claims that pro-choicers don't care about her at all, that they're just using her as a pawn for their agenda to murder babies, as if liberals don't denounce rape literally all the time.) But I guess I can take some comfort in knowing that Utah, despite ranking as the second most sexist state in the nation and being a near-constant political embarrassment, will never be that bad... right?
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, 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.