If you're stuck at home tonight because of the you-know-what, here's something to keep you entertained for a little while. Note that "The Monster Mash", "Spooky Scary Skeletons", "This is Halloween", and "Thriller", though all excellent songs, have been excluded from this list on account of being way too overplayed.
Erica Silverman - Big Pumpkin
If your kindergarten teacher didn't play/read this for you, you had a deprived childhood and may be entitled to financial compensation. Don't quote me on that.
Erutan - Come Little Children
A full length version of the song sung by Sarah Jessica Parker in the cult classic "Hocus Pocus". It's a silly movie, but what really ruins my suspension of disbelief is a straight teenage boy running away from Sarah Jessica Parker.
Sierra Games Staff - Consumite Furore
Creepy Latin singing from the intro to the gory and highly controversial 1995 computer game "Phantasmagorica", which, as every article about the game is obligated to point out, was banned in Australia.
Chorus Girls - Don't Feed the Plants
This original ending to the dark comedy musical "Little Shop of Horrors", replaced because of test audiences' negative reaction but now widely regarded as superior to the happy version, ranks as one of the most expensive deleted scenes of all time.
Iced Earth - Dracula
Rather sacrilegious, except that Dracula's rebellion against God is driven by the abhorrent false doctrine that his girlfriend has been damned for eternity for killing herself, so really, with the information available to him, he isn't wrong to respond as he does.
Rob Zombie - Dragula
Not really scary so much as too epic not to include. ("Epic" is professional music critic terminology for songs with loud electric guitars.)
The Key of Awesome - Emo Vampire
Believe it or not, there was a time when the Twilight series was cool, at least if you were a girl between the ages of twelve and fifty. My mother was possessed by it, and when I first met my friend Rachel at Youth Conference, her name tag identified her only as "Edward's Girlfriend". The backlash was inevitable.
The Living Tombstone - Grim Grinning Ghosts
A better cover of this song has never been found. I say that as one who watched on older version at the beginning of Disney's "Boo Busters" and "Witcheroo" VHS tapes (ask your parents what those were) and had a huge crush on live action Maleficent.
Information Society feat. Ayria - Heffalumps and Woozles
I found the original sequence quite unnerving as a child. As an adult, I find this cover both unnerving and lots of fun to dance to in private.
Hex Girls - Hex Girl
From "Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost" (1999). Nowadays, this song is problematic because it promotes a double standard about consent, but we can still appreciate it as long as we recognize its historical context. It turns out this video also includes "Earth, Wind, Fire and Air" so that's a bonus track.
Debs & Errol - If I were an Undead Crawler
Parody of Barenaked Ladies' "If I had $1,000,000". Are zombies overrated? Yes. Is this song underrated? Heck yes.
Baha Men - It's Spooky in Here (Digimon Halloween Song)
You've probably never heard this, because it's from a CD called "Rhythm and Boos" that came in boxes of Count Chocula, Boo Berry and/or Franken Berry cereal in 2001. Some of my students weren't even born then. That's scary.
"Weird Al" Yankovic - Jurassic Park
Not that I've seen a lot of horror movies, or plan to, but I find "Jurassic Park" scarier than any horror movie I've seen. The Tyrannosaurus rex in particular always stops my heart. As a creature both fantastical and real, it's scarier than either a made-up monster or a random human serial killer. This music video is ironically much gorier than the actual movie, but it's all played for laughs, and the song's ending is unironically beautiful.
Judas Priest - Night Crawler
Personally my favorite Judas Priest song. And as dark and creepy as it is, it has a happy ending, or at least as happy of an ending as one could reasonably expect under the circumstances!
Jonathan Coulton - Re: Your Brains
The song that introduced me to the genius of Jonathan Coulton, and still his best work IMHO (though his music and lyrics for the Portal anthem "Still Alive" comes in close). Even my freshman year roommate playing it twenty times in a row failed to make me hate it.
Ozzy Osbourne - Scary Little Green Men
Even with his advanced age and ill health, the wizard of Ozz managed to release a killer album this year, which features this gem that beats out his other Halloween classic "Balk at the Moan" for a spot on this list. Aliens > werewolves.
Rammstein - Spieluhr
The gist of this song is that a small child wants to be left alone, so it [sic] pretends to be dead, and gets buried with a music box in its hand, and then the music box and the child's singing can be heard from beneath the earth.
Meco - Werewolf (Loose in London)
Even though werewolves < aliens, they still deserve some recognition. And so does Meco. Despite scoring a number one hit in 1977 with his disco cover of the Star Wars and cantina band themes, he's fallen into almost total obscurity, which isn't fair.
Hap Palmer - Witches' Brew
Once upon a time, one of my Primary teachers had us sing this in Primary. I liked it better than most of the boring church songs we did.
Because I find rituals comforting, I habitually listen to both of these entire soundtracks on Halloween.
Jonne Valtonen - Alien Incident
This 1996 point-and-click game ("Muukalaisten yö" or "Night of the Aliens" in the original Finnish) actually takes place on Halloween, so it's appropriate that the aliens look like Casper the Friendly Ghost. Its rather strange music has really grown on me. I converted and uploaded the music files from the free Abandonia download, though there is additional music in the game that I don't know how to find and wasn't patient enough to record directly.
Alain Goraguer - La Planète Sauvage
This bizarre animated 1973 French-Czech co-production isn't a horror film as such, but the soundtrack is creepy and unearthly enough.
Me: My ex-neighbors who sent the police after me were really dumb and immature.
This girl's roommates: Hold our root beer.
Also Me: Police officers are the least qualified people on the planet to deal with mental health crises.
This landlord: Hold my root beer too.
I say root beer because this happened in one of the highest-percentage Latter-day Saint cities in the world. I don't know for a fact that the roommates and/or landlord are Latter-day Saints (nor, in any case, do I consider their actions an indictment of the majority of Latter-day Saints, who are as outraged as any normal person), but I'd bet a few bucks on it. Also, in making these comparisons I'm still not letting the police off the hook for their impressive track record of murdering mentally ill or disabled people. But this is a new, special kind of evil that just blows my mind.
Ventana Student Housing seems like kind of a sketchy establishment to begin with. Its Facebook page has 65 likes and has posted once this year, twice last year, and zero times in 2018 or 2017. The pretentious legalese bullcrap in this eviction notice, though standard procedure, is somewhat undermined by the landlord's illiteracy ("other tenant's", "recklessly endangerment", "undo stress"). There are some complaints in Google reviews about the management's greed, apathy and insensitivity, and of course every apartment complex has a few negative reviews from disgruntled ex-tenants but these particular ones seem very credible right about now. And management have not issued a statement on their side of the story. Their response to inquiries from the media and everyone else has been nothing, zero, zip, zilch, nada. They won't even answer the phone. It's almost as if they realize how rightfully screwed they are and just want to implode in peace.
I wasn't planning on taking time out of my day to contribute to making their lives hell, but I consider it time well spent. All appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, I don't want to be someone who insults people and/or swears all the time, but this is one instance where I have no regrets and would do it again.
Mine is at the bottom. Yes, I liked my own question because someone had to do it. In fairness, someone named Lilly responding to one such question claimed that the girl's roommates had actually offered her help multiple times, that she had talked to a police officer (you know, one of those incredible mental health experts), and that she had threatened one of her roommates. I told Lilly that I'm not buying it because none of that is mentioned or even hinted at in the eviction notice, which explicitly gives "vocaliz[ing] suicidal tendencies" as the sole reason for breach of contract, nor has Ventana Student Housing bothered to mention this alleged side of the story to anyone despite having more than ample opportunity to do so. Lilly also claimed that this girl "just wants attention", a common accusation against suicidal people, which seems quite incongruous with her choice to remain anonymous. Both Lilly's response and my response to her response have been removed.
I also sent Ventana Student Housing this message through ventanaapt.com:
"Hi, I checked a website and it said you don't have any vacancies, but I know you just evicted a student for having the audacity to open up about her struggle with suicidal thoughts, so you do have a spot open, right? Could I come look at it soon? Full disclosure: I have had suicidal thoughts before, like 9.3 million other adults in the United States every year, but if they come up again I promise to keep them to myself. Worst case scenario, I'll just kill myself instead of asking for help, so you don't have to take your precious time writing an eviction notice. Thanks!
"Sarcasm aside, I hope you sick [redacted]s know that you more than deserve every bit of the public relations nightmare you're currently experiencing. The pleasure of watching your sick twisted excuse for a company crash and burn won't erase the hell you put your tenant through or the long-term trauma you inflicted on her with your colossal middle finger to everyone who's ever been depressed, but it's all I can do for now. I wish I could sue you on her behalf since it's unclear whether she's going to. You know as well as I do that you would lose in a heartbeat. I suppose I just have to be patient and content myself with knowing that someday you'll stand accountable before God, who's undoubtedly even more pissed at you than I am.
"With overwhelming contempt and disgust,
I was frustrated that the victim is undecided on pursuing legal action, but I later read that the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is going to regardless, so that's nice. I hope Ventana Student Housing gets sued out of existence. The automated form said someone would get back to me soon, but I don't think they will.
The stigma that mentally ill, even suicidal people face in this country remains alive and well despite nobody in 2020 having any excuse not to know better. The stigma needs to die. So many of us pay lip service to the idea of accepting people for who they are and encouraging them to seek help when necessary, when what we actually want is for them to keep it to themselves and suffer in silence because popular culture bombards us with the lie that mentally ill people by definition are dangerous and scary. Now this girl is traumatized and will be terrified to ever ask for help again, as will others who don't want to go through what she did. But would the world have taken notice, would the world have become as outraged, if her roommates and/or landlord had found some more typical and less blatantly illegal ways to mistreat her after they learned of her problem?
Ventana means window. Eyes are windows to the soul. Yet Ventana Student Housing has no soul, and my prayer is that soon it won't have a business either.
RIP Richard Tenace
On a completely unrelated topic, I feel compelled to note the passing of Richard Tenace from my childhood congregation in Potsdam, New York, on October 13. I wasn't super close with him but his death came as quite a shock to me, as it did to everyone else, because he was only in his early fifties and exercised more than most people. He was a magician, mentalist, clown, wrestler, author, and landlord, but not the evil kind. I first met him at a delightful magic/mentalism show he performed at SUNY Potsdam. I thought it was very clever how he deliberately flubbed a simple card trick at the beginning of the show to increase the tension at the end when screwing up his final trick would have ostensibly been fatal. Shortly afterward he became a member of the Potsdam branch presidency, and if I understand correctly, he was the main driving force behind the congregation's participation in the Ministerial Association of Potsdam. He was a big advocate of interfaith gatherings and service projects while some branch members who will remain anonymous were kind of furious about having a Muslim read the Koran from our pulpit.
There was a lot of festering political tension in that branch. Brother Tenace was solidly in the liberal "faction" and my family was solidly not. One evening I got into a bit of an argument on Facebook with him about something Glenn Beck had said about some firefighters who had let a house burn to the ground with dogs inside because the family hadn't paid the tax to support the fire department. He said something like, "Here we see the conservative mindset in action: if someone can't afford something, they deserve to suffer." I said something like, "Actually, the conservative mindset is that if someone can't afford something, it's not the government's place to force other people to buy it for them." And things continued for a bit but he deleted his initial comment, acknowledged that it had been somewhat contentious, and tried to smooth things over and explain his viewpoint less abrasively. And then that evening I was at the church for activities and he was there and he made a remark to someone about how awesome I was, like we hadn't just been arguing, and I thought that was real classy.
In more recent years, of course, I drifted further to the left and found myself agreeing with most of his political posts. But he also balanced those out with memes and things that were just funny and lighthearted. And photos from his workouts. He took staying in shape very seriously, which, again, makes his sudden death all the more shocking. It goes without saying that he will be missed.
So speaking of arguments, you know where I wish it was more acceptable to express disagreement? Church settings like Sunday School, institute classes, and Come Follow Me groups. Of course, there's no rule as such within my faith tradition against vocal disagreement, but there is a general attitude of let's all get along and not cause any "contention" that could drive away the Spirit. Sometimes this means that one person says something that everyone else in the room knows is insane bullcrap, but they all just kind of smile and nod and try to move on as quickly as possible. I was in an Elders' Quorum class once where a guy asserted that homosexuality used to be good because it prevented overpopulation, but now we don't have to worry about overpopulation because we can go to other planets, so now homosexuality is bad. The teacher just kind of smiled and nodded and tried to move on as quickly as possible. You have to pick your battles. I didn't like that guy until he gave me a candy bar and then I felt guilty for not liking him.
I experienced this myself when I filled in to teach a Sunday School lesson and a lady who was there for some reason despite being too old for a YSA ward made some comment, I don't remember precisely what, about the need to turn to God instead of the internet for knowledge. I personally get a little exasperated at people belittling "the internet" as if the source medium itself somehow invalidates the accumulated knowledge of humankind found therein. Yeah, it also enables the proliferation of lots of stupid made-up crap, but if you have a few brain cells and some common sense, you can usually tell what's what and find the internet a mind-blowingly useful tool for gathering information. So trying to constructively build off this lady's comment, I agreed and noted that the Holy Ghost can help us find sources and discern which are reliable. No, she insisted, we need to rely only on God, not manmade sources. The slightly manic look in her eyes advised me that pushing the issue would be futile. For the record, though, I think what she said was idiotic. I see little or no reason why God should tell you anything via direct personal revelation that you could find out yourself with a Google search.
Before the you-know-what canceled everything, I participated in and sometimes led a Come Follow Me group in the stake that I'm not even a part of anymore. And I enjoyed it but there are a few times I wish I could have critiqued what was being said. I could have, I suppose, but it would have ruined the illusory atmosphere of everyone agreeing with everything anyone in the group said because we're all part of the same church and that means we believe the same things. So I'm going to go on record with my disagreements here instead.
1. We were talking once about how death is just a step in the Plan of Salvation and not something to be sad about because we'll all be resurrected someday. The people in our group over sixty talked about how they weren't sad at all when their parents died at ripe old ages after living full lives. Everyone seemed to regard those examples as representative and sufficient proof of the point at hand. My parents (and grandparents for that matter) are still alive, so instead I thought of, but didn't mention, a friend of mine whose twenty-something brother was crushed to death in a workplace accident a couple years ago, leaving behind two very young children who probably won't even remember him. Everyone in this friend's ward tried to tell her it was okay because she'll be with him again someday. She found this so insensitive that she stopped going to church.
It's okay for death to be sad. Some deaths, in fact probably an overwhelming majority when the circumstances of most of the world's population is considered, are untimely, unpleasant and unfair. And knowing that you'll be with someone again at some unspecified future date doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't miss them here and now. Remember when Lazarus died in the Bible and, quote, "Jesus wept", close quote? Even though Jesus knew full well that Lazarus was going to be resurrected someday? And even though in this instance Jesus brought him back to life maybe five minutes later at most? He validated Lazarus' sister's mourning by mourning with her. He acknowledged that no matter who you are or what you know, death is meant to be sad.
2. The guy leading the discussion mentioned an incident here in Utah a few years ago where a teenage girl was shot in the head and left in a ditch by two teenage boys. She survived and made a remarkable recovery from her severe injuries. Most people regard this as an inspiring story. But this guy said that in court, when the boys asked for forgiveness, both the girl and her father were like "I hate you and I hope you're never happy again." How awful, the guy said, that now these boys have to live with that for the rest of their lives. What I said was nothing. What I wanted to say was "Are you -----ing me?"
Yes, we're supposed to forgive everyone, but that doesn't mean everyone deserves to be forgiven. If she had forgiven them, it would have made an inspiring and faith-promoting story precisely because they were scum and didn't deserve it. But because she didn't, I'm supposed to feel sorry for them? I'm supposed to feel bad that they have to live with the guilt of being attempted murderers? Maybe they could have avoided that by, I don't know, not shooting someone in the head? In fairness, I don't think they should have to live with that for long either because I think they should have been fed to wolves. But that's beside the point. Anyway, I know he didn't relate this story to be judgmental, but still I think it's out of line to bring up someone else's failure or refusal to forgive something that any normal person would find really really hard to forgive. It's not my concern or my problem. God will deal with everyone involved as He sees fit.
3. Any time someone says something like "I love science, but..." I brace for them to follow up with something stupid that makes a liar out of them. In this case, though, I was pleasantly surprised at first. The girl talking made a legitimate point about the built-in limits of scientific knowledge and the dangers of scientism (though she didn't use that term). And she made a legitimate point about the uncertainty principle limiting how much we can know about the universe whether in principle or practice. But then she went full-on god of the gaps. She said her faith is strengthened by how much we don't know, and scientists still can't explain dark matter so that proves God exists. She lamented that scientists refuse to let God be part of science or taught in schools even though they can't prove He doesn't exist. I'm paraphrasing from memory but that was basically it. I mentally decided that I would never try to date her.
One of the senior missionaries chimed in, "So we didn't evolve from pond scum?"
Everyone else: *chuckle at those silly scientists who are so dumb they think we evolved from pond scum*
Okay, first of all, we know a lot more than we used to and we're going to know a lot more in the future than we do now, exponentially more in fact, so basing her testimony even in part on what we don't know at this current moment in time is stupid. Maybe scientists will figure out dark matter and maybe they won't, but how awkward will she feel if they do? Does she assume dark matter is by its very nature inexplicable in terms of the physical world? Does she think it's just magic?
Henry Drummond explained why this way of thinking is stupid more eloquently than I could, so I'll just let him take it from here: "There are reverent minds who ceaselessly scan the fields of Nature and the books of Science in search of gaps - gaps which they will fill up with God. As if God lived in the gaps? What view of Nature or of Truth is theirs whose interest in Science is not in what it can explain but in what it cannot, whose quest is ignorance not knowledge, whose daily dread is that the cloud may lift, and who, as darkness melts from this field or from that, begin to tremble for the place of His abode? What needs altering in such finely jealous souls is at once their view of Nature and of God. Nature is God's writing, and can only tell the truth; God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all."
On top of that, she contradicted her own legitimate points. As she pointed out, science has limits and can't explain purely spiritual things or the meaning of life. Why, then, does she think it should incorporate God directly into its theories? To plug the gaps, right, but you can't have it both ways. As she pointed out, they can't prove He doesn't exist, and that's precisely why they avoid the question altogether. Science deals with things that can be falsified. It tests them over and over again until they're proven wrong. If the theory of evolution by natural selection is not true, that can be demonstrated (though of course, no matter how much creationists try to pretend, it has not been). If God's existence is not true, that cannot be demonstrated. If scientists searched every molecule of the observable universe (which they can't) and failed to find Him, they still couldn't be sure He wasn't hiding in another galaxy too distant to reach, or another plane of existence untouchable by our human senses and instruments altogether. Keeping God out of the laboratories and schools isn't an attack on religion, it's just the way legitimate science has to be done. If He didn't want that to be the case He wouldn't have gone the whole "faith" route.
Of course, my overall experience in this Come Follow Me group has been quite positive and I hope for it to resume in the near future, but that's not nearly as interesting to blog about.
To say that Hitler's Nazis killed eleven million people doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of how evil they were. Murder is bad and all, but in my view, there are many, many things worse than death, and the Nazis did most of them to people. I assume most people have learned at some point in detail about the atrocities of the Holocaust, yet it seems to me that in American popular culture we typically represent Nazis as one-dimensional stock villains who just want to take over the world for vague unspecified evil reasons. This glaring discrepancy is why Steven Spielberg could no longer use Nazis as Indiana Jones villains after making "Schindler's List", and in recent days has also caused me some discomfort as I'm revisiting an Indiana Jones fan fiction based on a rejected screenplay that I started over a decade ago. The truth is awkward. I don't believe all my suffering in the past decade, considerable though it is, would measure up to even a week in a Nazi concentration camp.
And of course, the Nazis' atrocities against the Jews should never ever ever be downplayed, but they do tend to get all the attention, with other persecuted groups who together constituted their other five million victims all but forgotten from our collective memory. This week an excellent op-ed appeared called "Why Nazi Atrocities Against Gay Men Must Never Be Forgotten". (Specifically men, yes, as the author briefly notes that "they viewed lesbianism as a temporary condition so they suffered less", and I in turn note an interesting parallel to what I've read about medieval views of homosexuality, in which female same-sex crimes were given much more leniency because women were stupid and emotional and less responsible for their actions. Yay for misogyny?) Ironically, given how little attention this subject has received, the first time I heard the word "homosexuals" (though I'd already been called "faggot" several times a day for a few years by that point) was in sixth grade when a teacher listed off groups of people that the Nazis persecuted.
Alan Keele likewise noted in his review "Mormons and Nazis", "While visiting in 2007 the Villa Wannsee, outside Berlin, site of the infamous planning meetings for the 'Final Solution to the Jewish Problem' presided over by Adolf Eichmann, I was intrigued – and, frankly, shocked – to learn from a display there that from within Germany proper – not counting places outside its borders like Poland with much larger Jewish populations – the Nazis actually murdered more homosexuals even than Jews.
"I am convinced that the sobering fact of the existence and extent of such homicidal Nazi homophobia, if more widely known and better understood among Mormons today, could have an important tempering effect on current thinking about how disciples of the Prince of Peace should speak about and behave toward members of the LGBT community, especially recalling how homophobia was falsely viewed in the Third Reich as a lofty moral position, the taking of a righteous religious stand against sinful monsters portrayed by Fascist hate-mongers as an imminent danger to society....
"This is by no means an abstract concern. I have witnessed several things, some quite recently, that both shocked and horrified me. In my High Priests’ meeting in early 1994, a retired Seminary and Institute teacher, a man I very much admire, a war hero seriously wounded during the Battle of the Bulge, worked himself into a rage over the fact that President Clinton had invited gays to march in his inaugural parade. Growing more angry by the moment, he opined that gays should not be allowed to take employment or find housing. When someone asked him how he expected them to live, he finally sputtered that all queers should probably be taken out and shot."
In fairness, taking them out and shooting them would be much nicer than what the Nazis actually did to them.
An older but very educational article that also came to my attention outlined "In Germany’s extermination program for black Africans, a template for the Holocaust". Besides showing how the "Final Solution" for Jews and others directly evolved from Germany's genocide against black Africans in what is now Namibia, it explores the intertwining with eugenics and the civil rights movement in the United States. The concept of exterminating "undesirable" types of people really was born in the United States from brilliant minds like Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, but it was mostly about not letting them reproduce, and Germany watched these developments with interest and decided to improve on them by adding unspeakable torture and mass murder. When the United States saw that, they were all like "Woah, guys, we're as racist as the next country, probably more so in fact, but too much is too much." It forced more than a little bit of soul-searching.
Tangent: The United States' history of forced sterilizations is not ancient history. The article notes that in North Carolina they "continued into the 1970s, long after Hitler fell", but I also remember less than seven years ago when doctors in California were exposed for sterilizing at least 148 women in prison between 2006 and 2010. I was immersed in right-wing Facebook pages and news sources at this time and I remember well that this was pretty much the only thing California ever did that they agreed with. Typical comments from self-proclaimed conservatives ran along the lines of "I don't see the problem here!" and "They should sterilize the men too!" A self-proclaimed conservative myself, it nonetheless made me sick. There are few times when it's okay to compare people to Hitler, but this was one of them.
Hitler said a few nasty things about black people in his book. But the Nazis themselves, unlike their predecessors in Namibia, never got around to an orchestrated campaign against black people because there weren't very many in Germany or nearby. They had a relatively low number of young mixed-race people in the Rhineland (descended from black French troops) whom they sterilized in 1937, and as horrible as that is, it remains one of the least of their atrocities. And when black American athlete Jesse Owens totally humiliated them in the 1936 Olympics, they were nonetheless PR-savvy enough to treat him better than the United States did. Though by no means oblivious to the Nazis' animosity toward him, he famously opined, "Hitler didn’t snub me; it was our president who snubbed me. The president didn’t even send a telegram." If the Nazis had won World War II, though - which was never much of a risk given Hitler's incompetence at military strategy, but if they had somehow, it wouldn't have been long before they swept over Africa and added a few tens of millions more mutilated corpses to their resume.
This actually has some relevance to my aforementioned fan fiction which, as per the screenplay it's based on, has Nazis as the villains and takes place in black Africa in 1937. Back in tenth grade or so I made a point of playing up the racism aspect that the screenplay completely ignores (and adding a bit of American racism as well, because they don't deserve to get off the hook either, though the protagonist himself is canonically established as way ahead of his time on racial equality). But revisiting it now, I still feel uncomfortable because that still doesn't come close to adequately conveying how evil Hitler and his ilk truly were. It's even putting a bit of a damper on my longtime love for the Indiana Jones franchise.
It bears repeating that if there is no God and no afterlife, Hitler and his Nazis won, and their victims lost in a very big, very permanent way.
This weekend was the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I'm tired of explaining what that is twice a year, so from now on I won't. As usual I will fixate on a few details instead of attempting to summarize the whole thing.
I didn't much care about the changes to the Young Men's program, which will have approximately zero effect on my life, nor would I have cared about the corresponding changes to the Young Women's program - except for my hope that they would dispense with the longstanding age-based class names, "Beehives", "Mia Maids", and "Laurels". From the time I was a teenager, I thought those names sounded stupid. But after learning their historical significance and the reasoning behind them, I just thought they sounded stupid. Really, just because a name made sense in Utah in 1950 doesn't mean we need to hold onto it forever. For zark's sake, the "Mia" in "Mia Maids" stands for "Mutual Improvement Association" which literally hasn't been a thing since before the current Young Women's parents were in Young Women. So I watched the women's session, or to be more precise, listened to the women's session while playing "Plants vs. Zombies", just to see if these stupid names would be relegated to the dustbin of history where they belong.
Yes, I could have just waited until after to find out, but I wanted the pleasure of witnessing this long overdue moment firsthand. And also feeling the Spirit and stuff. I was not disappointed. Although, now that the archaic term "Mutual" is being entirely jettisoned as well with respect to both the Young Men and Young Women programs, the Mutual dating app (which I wrote about at greater length here) may need to be renamed as well to retain its significance to future generations. I recommend "The App for the Assistance of Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Marrying and Procreating Within the Boundaries of the Lord's Divine Law of Chastity". It's not catchy, but every word is important.
My karmic reward for watching an extra session for such a petty reason came swiftly. President Nelson said some words and then he started talking about temples and I was like Wait, this is the way he starts talking before he announces new temples, but he does that at the end of the Sunday afternoon session, so surely he wouldn't oh who am I kidding, of course he would troll us like this just because he can and at that moment the WiFi freaked out and the audio inexplicably cut in to the late Elder Perry talking about the joy of keeping the commandments with soft inspirational music in the background, and I frantically refreshed the page while breaking a commandment or two in my frantic verbal outburst, and then President Nelson was back and he was blurry and his lips weren't synchronized with his voice but that was fine, at least I could hear him, but wait, was this a rerun of the temple announcements from April, because it sounded kind of similar, but no wait, it was fresh and he totally trolled us and I would have been pissed if I had missed that session or that fragment of the session.
What follows are my very professional and spiritual analyses of those temple announcements. With this batch compared to the last one, there seemed to be a bit of a shift back toward building temples where the number of members and stakes justifies it, as opposed to prioritizing convenience for members in far-flung locations even if they be few. But of course both elements are still at play.
Cobán, Guatemala - I expected this one, but not for a few more years since it's kind of out in the jungle, but then, with the way some recent announcements have gone, I expected the unexpected which means I expected everywhere and nowhere at once. Cobán, Reykjavik, Mars, it's all fair game for President Nelson, isn't it?
Bacolod, Philippines - It would seem that the Philippines has somewhat improved upon its historically abysmal activity and retention rates, with stake growth on the increase and five of its seven current or future temples announced in the last decade.
Bentonville, Arkansas - Arkansas is one of the states in the United States without a temple, and the Rogers area is one of the few areas in the United States more than two hundred miles away from one. So it's been on people's lists for years and gotten really annoying. Bentonville should be close enough to shut them up.
Freetown, Sierra Leone - How can the Church have a faith-promoting independent film based on a true story named after this city, but not a temple? It's about time that situation was rectified. By the way, notwithstanding its imdb rating, I recommend the film. "God's Army" it ain't but on the plus side, "The Singles Ward" it ain't either. And it's not a comedy but because it's set in West Africa it has a few moments that are actually funny without an insider knowledge of Provo culture that most people neither have nor desire.
McAllen, Texas - I'm surprised all the Saints in Texas didn't apostatize after they were told to stop bringing their guns to church. Miracles do happen in this day and age. It may serve several members in northeastern Mexico as well, but then again it may not, because owing to policies and politicians who will not be discussed here at this time, traveling across the border has become an absurdly arduous and time-consuming process. Even for Americans!
Orem, Utah - This, in case I've failed to mention it before, is the city where I was born. Unless I'm mistaken we moved before my first birthday; in any case, I don't remember it one bit, and since it's basically Provo I've never had the slightest desire to go back and see it ever. Still, yay for getting a temple in the city where I was born. Especially since getting one in the town where I grew up is about as likely as Mars.
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea - This is one of those locations where a few years ago people were bragging about the dramatic growth of the Church, and then it just kind of fizzled out overnight. (See also: Madagascar.) Still, membership numbers more than warrant a temple even without taking into account their poverty and the long distances to their nearest ones in Australia and New Zealand.
Taylorsville, Utah - ANOTHER TEMPLE IN UTAH!!!!!!! HOW VERY EXCITING!!!!!!! I CAN BARELY CONTAIN MY EXCITEMENT FOR ANOTHER TEMPLE IN UTAH!!!!!!!1
Of course, I'm not one of those "uTaH dOeSn'T nEeD mOrE tEmPlEs" folks, because my intellect is capable of grasping the concept that buildings have a finite capacity and sometimes can get too full.
My favorite talk was by Elder Peter M. Johnson. An African-American from New York City, his voice has a cadence not quite like anything I've heard in General Conference before, and it riveted me to his every word so that I got more out of his talk than most. He could have read a phone book and I would have paid attention. This also would have given phone books a reason to exist. The missionaries seated near me who appeared to have fallen asleep might not agree, but to each their own. So, you know, go ahead and watch it if you haven't.
With only a few minutes remaining in the final session, I felt somewhat alarmed that nobody, as far as I could notice, had remembered to utter the words "this historic conference". But President Nelson slipped them into his talk and put me at ease. That man never lets me down.
In closing, I would like to change subjects completely and note the passing of actress Diahann Carroll. I read this little book of comics once that I could have sworn was written by Charles Schultz, but it had a multiracial cast and almost exclusively focused on race issues, but I can't find out anything about it now, but anyway in one comic this little black boy was like, "I'm very disappointed in this book 'Black Beauty'. I thought it was going to be about Diahann Carroll." And all these years later I still think that's one of the funniest things ever.
Dihann Carroll will be remembered as the first black woman to win a Tony award (back when the Tony awards had standards, no less) and the first black woman to star in a non-stereotypical television role (I guess we're not counting Lieutenant Uhura? idk, I'm just going by what Wikipedia says), but to me, she will mostly be remembered a. for the aforementioned comic, and b. for her guest role in "The Star Wars Holiday Special" as singing Wookiee porn. I don't know how else to describe it. Between her dialogue and Chewbacca's father's horrific reaction to it, one marvels that this scene was allowed on television in 1978 or ever. And then one realizes, oh, of course, by that point in the Special the censorship people reviewing it had slipped into a coma. As for why it, and the entire Special, was written and filmed in the first place, one can only hypothesize that the creators couldn't find real drugs and drank gasoline instead. Even so. She was the first black character with a speaking role in Star Wars (since James Earl Jones technically played a white guy), and still the only one with a singing role that I'm aware of, and that's worth remembering.
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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.