By now this is quite old news that I kept feeling inadequate to write about. Darius Gray, black Latter-day Saint pioneer and quintessential adorable old man, spoke at this year's annual Leonard J. Arrington Mormon History Lecture. This year it was combined with the Mountain West Center’s Evans Biography Awards, so it was part of two days of USU events that also included Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Ron Coleman Paul Reeve, Max Perry Mueller, and LaShawn Williams - all, like Brother Gray, people I had heard about from my readings on LDS history and culture but never dreamed I would see in person. I hadn't heard of Rodney Frey, but he's probably important and famous too. I skipped three classes to make it to all these events and it was so worth it. These are the sort of opportunities I have to take advantage of now while I'm still in Utah.
Brother Gray spoke on "Redeeming a People: The Critical Role of Historical Examination in Moving Cultural and Moral Trajectories". In his characteristic humility, he said little about his own life even though he could have made it the entire subject of his talk. He joined the Church in December 1964, about thirteen and a half years before the priesthood and temple restriction was lifted, and he struggled with it but had a strong testimony and I just think it's a fascinating story that inspires such admiration for his faith and courage and patience. It's been recounted elsewhere, but on this occasion, when someone actually asked him what had drawn him to join a church that wouldn't let him progress, he just talked in somewhat vague terms about how God had ahold of his heart and hasn't let go of him yet. He obviously didn't want much focus on himself. His talk should be available online sooner or later but I can't seem to find it to link to at this time. I won't even try to summarize because I still feel inadequate. Anyway, I got a picture with him and he complimented my beard and was just every bit as warm and friendly as I knew he would be.
So that was the main event. Mentioning everything that happened or was said would surely bore my dear readers to tears (insert your own quip about all my posts doing that here), but I want to mention one thing. The last speaker in the two days of events was Darren Parry, chairman (or, as he gave us permission to call him because it sounds cooler, Chief) of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation and a fifth-generation Latter-day Saint, mentioned that he would read the history of the LDS pioneers settling Utah and feel constrained to exclaim, quote, "The hell? This is only half of the story!", close quote. The pioneers, he pointed out, would never have survived, let alone thrived, without the hospitality and generosity of the people who were already living here. Quote, "Who moves to Cache Valley in September?", close quote. But he says that months ago church headquarters called him and asked him to help tell the Shoshone half of the story in the upcoming second volume of "Saints". So that's cause for excitement, and if it's confidential information that's not supposed to be shared then blame him, not me.
When "Breath of the Wild" was delayed to 2017, Shigeru Miyamoto famously said, "A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad." The same principle hopefully applies to these fan films that I'm awaiting with considerable eagerness. This anticipation is one of the very few things currently motivating me to continue slogging through the sea of raw sewage that is and has been 2018 for me. After considerable delays they will, in theory, release before this year is up, but if not, I'm sure the extra wait time will be worth it. They know people's expectations are high. Unless and until Nintendo greenlights the official Legend of Zelda movie that everybody wants, the freelance work of passionate fans will have to be enough.
An original story with old and new characters.
Legacy [of Courage]
Probably the best adaptation of "Ocarina of Time" we can expect to come along for some time.
Facebook Page: Legacy: A Legend of Zelda Fan Film
Director's Website: Stephonika W. Kaye
Director's Incredible Fan Novelization That More Than Adequately Demonstrates Her Qualifications to Lead This Project: Twilight Princess Novel
Sage of Darkness
This is an old one, originally released in 2008, that I never got to see before it was pulled from YouTube. It undoubtedly will not measure up to modern standards. But it's loved by those who have seen it, and with some digital remastering and effects upgrades it's being re-uploaded one piece at a time. I'm waiting until all ten pieces are up before I watch them, but I look forward to that long-promised day.
YouTube Channel: Josh Dixon
I realize it may sound like joking at best and complaining about first-world problems at worst when I express my disappointment at running up last night against Spotify's 10,000 song playlist limit that I wasn't aware of. You may consider it absurd that I would want to have more than 10,000 songs on a playlist. The reason I want to have more than 10,000 songs on a playlist is that I like shuffling every artist and every genre into an enormous game of chance. Heavy metal and polka and New Age and Dora the Explorer back-to-back is just fine with me. Many years ago when I got my first mp3 player, I had trouble even grasping the concept of a "playlist", because why would I want to choose just some of my music? My idea of a playlist was the entire Windows Media Player library. So here's my playlist, capped at 10,000 songs unless and until Spotify changes its mind. (There's a big discussion about it here, where Spotify went from "The 1% of our customers who want that many songs don't matter" to "It's not in our plans, but it's a good idea." So there's hope.)
I started group therapy again this week, seeing as this is my last chance before I'll graduate and not be able to afford it. There's not much to say about that because, you know, confidentiality, but I wanted to mention it because there are people who think I shouldn't be open about my mental illness and I want them to know exactly what I think of that attitude. There are a lot of people who should go to therapy but don't because our society has wrongly made them feel that it's something to be embarrassed about. As a child when I had to go to a building labeled "Massena Mental Health Clinic", I felt humiliated and dirty inside, and I shouldn't have, but that's the mindset I was fed from literally everywhere. There are also a lot of people who should go to therapy but don't because their insurance doesn't cover it because our society decided long ago that only physical problems matter. Anyway, I already love my fellow group members, just as I did the last two times. I hope they love me too. It's going to be awkward if they don't.
When I was meeting with someone on campus for unrelated reasons having to do with me not being able to buy groceries because someone took all my money, and she started asking about my personal life and recommended therapy, she asked (among other things) whether I ever feel like hurting people. And I said "Yes" while thinking Duh. I highly doubt there's one human on this planet above the age of five with at least a bare minimum of mental capacity who has never wanted to hurt someone. Even on a good day when I enjoy being alive, I would bet my life that everyone from Gandhi to Mother Theresa to Pope Francis has wanted to hurt someone before. But there's this notion in our society that mentally ill people are dangerous and scary, even though the only statistically significant difference between violence from mentally ill people and other people disappears when drugs and alcohol are factored in. Gee, I wonder why mentally ill people in our society would feel the need to use drugs and alcohol. What a mystery.
I'm wondering, not for the first time, why several nobodies on the internet suddenly think it's their place to deny the medical and scientific consensus that addiction is a disease. I mean, just because people already have that attitude toward evolution, climate change, vaccines, the shape of the Earth, and 9/11 doesn't mean we need more things on that list. And their argument makes me want to claw my eyeballs out. So you see, addicts are just like non-addicts, with the same brain chemistry and education and life circumstances and social support, and the only difference is that addicts decided to start doing drugs for literally no reason because they're stupid, and this means that addiction isn't a disease because the definition of a disease apparently mentions something about "choice" in the invisible fine print somewhere, but STDs still count as diseases because reasons. That's not even a straw man - have you seen that stupid meme with the guy on the bike falling over? I hate to think how my close friend who turned to heroin because both her parents were abusing her must feel when she sees this garbage.
The fraternities on campus tried to recruit people (specifically male people) this week and I participated in as many activities as I could for the food. Now I know how to play poker. They were all real friendly, almost cultishly so, and I would be seriously considering joining up with one of them if it didn't cost five hundred dollars. That would probably be a great bargain if this were my first semester rather than my last, but it's not and it's not and also I don't currently have anywhere near five hundred dollars. I enjoyed my brief time with them except for the moment when I was at a potluck and a bunch of fraternity guys were clustered around somebody's phone watching something and I came over to see what it was and it was porn. What the crap, guys?
Barbara Res, a former construction executive on Trump Tower, recently claimed:
On this particular day, the architect had come to Donald Trump’s office to show him what the interior of the residential elevator cabs would look like. Trump looked at the panels where the buttons you push to reach a floor were located. He noticed that next to each number were some little dots.
“What’s this?” Trump asked. “Braille,” the architect replied. Trump told the architect to take it off, get rid of it. “We can’t,” the architect said, “It’s the law.” “Get rid of the (expletive) Braille. No blind people are going to live in Trump Tower. Just do it,” Trump yelled back, calling him weak.
The more the architect protested, the angrier Trump got. Donald liked to pick on this guy. As a general rule, Trump thought architects and engineers were weak as compared to construction people. And he loved to torment weak people. But did he think the architect would remove the Braille from the panels? Never.
Naturally, many people have chosen not to believe her claim because it's entirely inconsistent with the respectful, tolerant way our president has always spoken about demographics that aren't him. (That was sarcasm.) But even if there was a video of him saying these words, it wouldn't matter to most of them. It's been pretty well-demonstrated at this point that he can say whatever he wants with no real consequences, in fact sometimes to his own benefit. Yay, democracy. On a slightly related note, I've seen Braille on signs and wondered how blind people are supposed to know to put their hands there in the first place. Are they just supposed to touch every inch of every wall? That's gross.
Carla Ulbrich - Therapy Works
I have my doubts as to whether anybody actually listens to the songs that I share as a public service, so I haven't done it much this year. But here's one.
This week The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released the first volume of its four-volume history project, which can be bought as a nice paper book or read for free here. As I mentioned almost a year ago, I was invited with several others to give feedback on a sample chapter, so while school will prohibit me from reading the completed book for some time I feel good about it nonetheless. I feel these volumes will be worthwhile to believers and non-believers alike, whether as a promotion of faith or mere historical interest, because everything in them is documented with primary sources. They eschew the myths and misconceptions that Latter-day Saints have been repeating as gospel (no pun intended) for generations.
Elder Quentin L. Cook gave a devotional tonight with a couple of the Church's historians in honor of the book's release. Kate Holbrook hit the nail on the head with the first question about part of what these volumes are intended to accomplish in getting the "controversial" stuff more out there. She struck a reasonable balance that most people can't seem to be bothered with: no, the Church didn't try to hide its history, but no, it isn't helpful at all for believers to condemn you for being shocked to learn something that was mentioned in a church magazine decades ago. Also, it's President Russell M. Nelson's birthday. He's 94. My last surviving great-grandparent died a couple years ago at age 94. That makes me wary, but President Nelson seems to be in much better health. Then again, so did Elder Perry... anyway, happy birthday to our beloved prophet.
I'm twenty-five. Not particularly old, I know, but more than old enough, I thought, to be familiar with every ugly, broken, defective, and/or unholy thing about myself. But recently, in the continuing process of trying to explain why everything I say or do is wrong and nothing is ever his fault, my father gave me the unwelcome revelation that I was diagnosed well over a decade ago with something I'd never heard of called "oppositional defiant disorder". I mean "unwelcome" in the sense that the revelation that your house has burned down is unwelcome, even though you'd probably like to be aware of it. Needless to say this is an unpleasant surprise, but I believe it's almost always best to know the truth even when the truth sucks, as it frequently does. An institute teacher of mine once succinctly defined life as, "You have problems and then you die."
Of course, this may not be the truth, because the diagnosis may have been wrong. This whole time, I thought the reason I was oppositional and defiant toward my parents was because they hit me, yelled at me, and pulled my hair when I violated arbitrary social norms they hadn't taught me. (There's actually a lot I could complain about regarding my parents, but I've tried to keep it out of this space and save it for my memoir instead.) And maybe that's actually still true and the therapists pretended I was the one with a problem because they subscribed to the philosophy of, quote, "Rule one: The parent is always right. Rule two: if the parent is wrong, see rule one," close quote. And I'm not entirely convinced of the quality of the very limited options (for therapy in this case, but also literally anything else besides trees, deer, mosquitoes, and drugs) in St. Lawrence County, New York. But if the diagnosis is correct, it probably goes a long way toward explaining why I'm so critical of everyone in the world. And that's another thing that I just assumed was shaped both by my parents and the bullies I dealt with throughout my formative years.
Look, if this is actually a thing, I would never presume that it absolves me of responsibility for my actions. But contrary to what some Neanderthals continue to believe well into the twenty-first century, brain chemistry doesn't exist just to take up space. Without having a ton of expertise on the subject, the mere fact that identical twins frequently choose to wear the same colored outfits on the same day without consulting each other strongly implies that the extent to which our brain chemistry dominates each one of us is freaking scary. This is why only God can issue final judgment on people. This is why it isn't our place to say that even Adolf Hitler might not someday go to heaven. Not that I think he will, but it isn't my place to say. I'd love to see Brock Turner hanged from a lamppost, but if God decided to forgive him afterward, good for him. Judging two brains that are wired differently by the same standard and condemning one for failing to measure up to the other is incredibly asinine and harmful, and it's exactly how I was raised. But never mind that. I said I was going to save that stuff.
If all my criticism of other people has made it seem like I blame them for everything and consider myself perfect and guiltless, I'm sorry, and you should know that nothing could be further from the truth. Nobody is less forgiving of me than I am. I still hate myself for losing my sister's camera in 2009. I still hate myself for pulling all of a daddy-long-legs' limbs off longer ago than I can remember, though in my defense that idea came from the girl I was hanging out with. I still hate myself for asking my grandmother how much my Christmas present cost. I still hate myself even just for saying stupid things that had no actual consequences for myself or anybody. But I've never signed an executive order based on fearmongering lies to block terrified, impoverished, homeless refugees from finding safety in the so-called greatest country in the world, so I don't think criticizing Trump more than myself makes me that much of a hypocrite. What else am I supposed to write about? The weather? I have occasionally felt like I should apologize for being so abrasive, but I would just keep being abrasive afterward, so what's the point?
As far as me not knowing about my alleged "oppositional defiant disorder" I get that labels can be limiting and detrimental. But they're also crucial for any human to understand the world. Refusing to label an issue doesn't make it cease to exist. I don't know that it would have caused me any harm to know about this label a long time ago. It's not like I didn't already know as a child that things were wrong with me. I knew it wasn't normal to have to go to psychologists I knew it wasn't normal to have to go to a mental health clinic. I knew it wasn't normal to have to cycle through five kinds of antidepressants. When I learned about the label "Asperger's" - well, first of all, when I heard it of course I thought it was "ass burgers" and I wasn't crazy about that at all, but when I learned what it actually was and what it entailed, all I felt was relief and comfort that I wasn't the only person on the planet whose brain was wired this way. You would have thought I was, from the way other kids at school treated my existence like a crime against humanity. That's going into the memoir too.
Every human's brain, even the healthiest one, is specially evolved to prevent him or her from thinking rationally. When one is aware of this, one can try to overcome one's biases. So for example, I used to be very conservative and proactively seek out evidence for conservatism and downplay any evidence for liberalism, and this is a pretty common thing for conservatives to do and liberals to do in reverse. Conservatives/liberals seek out conservative/liberal books, websites, etc. to convince themselves of what they already believe, not to learn. I now try to recognize my confirmation bias and ignore it, and consequently I now choose my views on political issues on a case-by-case basis instead of preconceived loyalty to a certain worldview. I believe what I feel compelled by the evidence to believe, and that's why, for example, I cannot in good conscience go around saying "gun control doesn't work" while the United States is having a gun violence problem entirely unique among first-world countries. I recognize that I'm undoubtedly still wrong about many things and lack the answers for many things, but unwillingness to think about them is not the reason why.
As arrogant as I may sound, it is nonetheless a fact that if more people were this honest with themselves we wouldn't have thousands of fools bending over backwards to defend the most repugnant and indefensible things their chosen politicians say and do. We wouldn't have idiots who claim to follow Christ trying to explain that it's okay for the president of the United States to refer to African nations as "shithole countries" (pardon his French) because, come on, they actually are. Trump could literally eat a baby on live national television and he would still have supporters complaining about how the media try to make him look bad. Don't even try to pretend he wouldn't. I feel like I should apologize for making this more political than I intended, but then it's not about politics so much as basic decency, and I wouldn't be letting him off the hook if he had a D next to his name. It's funny how people call me a liberal nowadays after the countless hours I spent trashing Obama, who, for all his faults and scandals and poor decisions, had more class in his pinky finger than Trump has in his everything.
Anyway, judging by the context, which also included yet again bringing up unremembered incidents from my childhood as if they happened yesterday and define my current personality, the only reason my father bothered to mention "oppositional defiant disorder" to me after all these years was as part of his mission to invalidate the way I see the world. If anyone had mentioned it to me a lot sooner with the object of actually being helpful, I could have potentially made far more progress in life than I have so far. I'm unclear on how exactly I can be expected to address problems that I don't know exist. If I had known that something outside of my control was making me oppositional and defiant (if it is, which I'm still a bit skeptical of) I could have made a conscious effort to resist it. I could have looked at situations where I was inclined to feel oppositional and defiant, recognized that my feelings were the irrational product of a mental defect, and reacted differently. I've done this with confirmation bias and I've done this with irrational negative emotions that I've poetically compared to screaming children who just need to be ignored until they shut up.
But I'm twenty-five, and I've been trying to lead an "adult" life for seven years, and I don't really feel like starting this now after so much lost time. So we'll see.
Disclaimer: My parents are good people, I don't hate them, and as I said I try to avoid publicly discussing their shortcomings. But since this is entirely pertinent to me and my life this very week, I saw no reason to self-censor this time.
"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.