Last weekend would have been a nice little stake conference if not for just a couple things: the guy behind me who bumped or jiggled my chair at least eighty times, and the departure of President Fjeldsted (pronounced with a silent j and a silent d) from the Stake Presidency. So just like a sacrament meeting five years ago almost to the day when he stopped being my bishop, this stake conference left me sitting here like
Except without a beautiful princess who's secretly my sister to comfort me despite having recently experienced her own loss of colossally greater magnitude that hardly anybody seems to care about. My life is so empty.
I first met Brother Fjeldsted in September 2012 after a summer of insomnia-induced inactivity from church. My faith was never lost, but it wasn't strong enough to get me out of bed for nine a.m. church after five hours of sleep. When fall semester rolled around, though, I knew I needed the emotional anchor of regular church attendance back in my life, and I also realized that I was an idiot because I could have just gone to another congregation that met in the afternoon. So I did. I went to another ward and I met a couple of really nice people who made me feel much more comfortable than I did in either of my previous YSA wards, and I knew I was at home, and then I met with the bishop one evening and informed him that I wasn't technically part of his ward and he said I needed to go to my real ward because he had no priesthood jurisdiction over the block where I lived. He brought me to the stake presidency, who reiterated what he said and added, "If we let people ward-hop, everyone would just go wherever the cutest girls are."
The stake presidency brought me to my real bishop, Bishop Fjeldsted, who conveniently was just waiting in his office. I was not in a good mood. I thought this business of something as trivial as my address being the determining factor of where I belonged spiritually made little or no sense, but I kept that to myself. I figured I would just sit out this meeting with this guy and then go inactive again.
Since I was already not in a good mood, I put up walls before the conversation even started. I figured this guy would want to know why I hadn't been to church for a while and why, for that matter, I wasn't off somewhere else on a mission like I was supposed to be at nineteen, and I tried to forestall those unwelcome inquiries by somewhat petulantly explaining those things before he could ask. But Bishop Fjeldsted, a meek, unassuming man with a huge smile, didn't care about them. He disregarded them altogether and simply expressed his happiness and gratitude for me being here. Somehow by the end of the meeting I was willing to come back, at nine a.m. on Sunday.
Bishop Fjeldsted recommended I get to know Peter, the Elders Quorum president. I resisted that idea because I wasn't keen on being friends with someone who was assigned to be my friend. But Peter was so persistent that eventually his genuine goodness won me over. This post isn't about him. I should write a post about him at some point. Both of these great men, in any case, became people I could confide in. Peter was a peer, but Bishop Fjeldsted was the first "adult" figure in my life that I could share personal things with and not regret it. He turned out to be from New York and have an Aspie child, so in some ways he was probably better prepared to understand me than I could have dreamed of. I grew to love him and the 36th Ward almost immediately. Not bad for arbitrary geography.
(Since then, I became aware of others who attended my ward despite not living in its boundaries or, in the case of one 37-year-old woman, its targeted age demographic. Years later when I informed a high councillor that I was temporarily defecting to the 35th Ward, he said, quote, "Just go wherever the cutest girls are. That's what I would do." Close quote.)
Bishop Fjeldsted and Peter were there to support me through probably the worst period of my life, when I almost lost my faith, starved to death, got evicted, and/or killed myself on more than one occasion. They helped plenty with my temporal struggles in their church capacities, but also dispensed plenty of advice and priesthood blessings for the emotional ones that seemed even more hopeless. In particular, a couple of quotes from Bishop Fjeldsted will stick with me forever. In one sacrament meeting he said, "Pride has no intrinsic value, but we're willing to sacrifice everything for it." And that blew my freaking mind. On another occasion, as I cried in his office, he mused, "Our society gives women a free pass to lie for their convenience." And that little observation is why he'll never become a General Authority despite being fully qualified.
Of course I felt cheated when he was pulled into the stake presidency. I had built up this relationship with him over a year and a half, and now I was expected to just transfer it over to this new Bishop I'd never even met? It didn't work like that. I had to start over building a relationship from scratch with the new guy, until they replaced him too. I'm not crazy about this system. I'm sure bishops appreciate being let go after a few years, though. Except when they get immediately transferred into the stake presidency.
But as a member of the stake presidency, President Fjeldsted still said hi and asked how things were going whenever he saw me, not in the fake way that everyone else does, but as an actual question looking for an honest answer. I still sought his advice a couple times. When I was running myself ragged doing chores and errands almost every day for a friend with Lyme disease that hardly anyone seemed to care about, he told me that I shouldn't overexert myself because she wasn't my responsibility. At the time his advice seemed callous. Now, however, I wish I had internalized it and followed it when a "friend" from high school who hadn't spoken to me for nine years decided to start asking for my money, because if I had told her where she could go after the first couple times, I could have saved myself from months of hell. I'll never make that mistake again. Anyway.
So last weekend I said goodbye to him and his wife, and they reminisced about how long they've known me, and he said to stay in touch, and he said "I'm proud of how you've handled everything." And nobody's ever said that to me in my life. I thought I would have to wait until I pass to the other side and fall into Jesus' arms to hear that. Sometimes it feels like my mistakes and shortcomings are all that matter to anyone else. So that was cool.
Speaking of death, I dreamed the other night that I went back to New York and found my dog Milo living alone in the woods. I took him to the Kellers' place to play with their dogs, as I often did. But even before I woke up I realized I was dreaming because Milo has been dead for some time and that just took all the fun out of it. In my dream, I almost cried a couple times. I was never able to muster more than a couple tears for him in real life, though I tried. I wanted to experience the normal, healthy emotions of grief. But I had already resigned myself to the fact that he would die much too early and I would have to slog through God knows how many more years of this mortality crap before I can rejoin him. I had this exchange with Bracelets the other day, in fact, after she read through the acknowledgements and blurbs of my book draft that she promised to feedback:
I generally think about the hereafter it in terms of my dog because no humans who were particularly close to me have ever died. My church tends to emphasize the whole "eternal families" thing, but so far I'm much more interested in its additional teaching that animals also have spirits and will be resurrected into eternal bliss. And that makes sense because a heaven without dogs is a poor excuse for a heaven. Maybe I dreamed about Milo because Easter was approaching, or maybe it's just a coincidence, but I've decided to make it meaningful for me regardless.
Also, have a picture of me and him because it seems appropriate. This was taken in high school, so the better part of a decade ago. My grotesquely long arms are a little bit less grotesquely long now.
Not this past week but the week before USU did their "Mental Health is No Joke" week, which I always think has something to do with comedy because it reminds me of the time they invited a pair of comedians, one with a severe stutter and the other with Tourettes, whose routines largely consisted of poking fun at themselves. So you know, when I see this title I expect there to be some kind of mental health awareness comedy night that finishes up with "Seriously though, mental health is no joke." But the title really is to be taken at face value in this case. Although I'm not enrolled, I made time to attend one of the evening events after it was brought to my attention.
Called "Light the Night", its focal point was lighting sparklers, but this was preceded by a guest speaker who shared her experiences with mental illness and therapy. As soon as she started listing off her disorders, I knew depression would be on the list. I'm not sure if it's even possible to have any mental illness without depression attached as a free bonus. It seems that the slightest deviation in any way from neurotypicality automatically disrupts serotonin levels or something. She described depression as like being at the bottom of a pool with cinderblocks on your chest, which was apt. Anyway, she had a whole string of issues that I don't remember in entirety, and she shared her story about coming to recognize that she had them and going through hell and eventually getting the help she needed. Then there was a musical number by The Octaves and then we held a moment of silence in honor of everyone who has struggled with mental illness. Let me tell you, that really made me feel good. It felt almost as if everyone was kneeling in reverence at my feet, but without actually doing it, which would have been very uncomfortable.
The main purposes of USU's mental health events are to raise awareness of its counseling resources and to decrease the stigma against mental illness, which exists in the first place because a defining trait of being human is to seek out reasons to be prejudiced against other humans to feel better about yourself. In this enlightened age, most criteria for prejudice are no longer acceptable to use except for politics and religion, but this stigma persists despite lip service to the contrary. It is perpetuated by movies like "Madagascar 3" with one-dimensional villains whose sole motivation is being "crazy". It is perpetuated by anti-vaxxers who would rather have dead children than autistic ones. It is perpetuated by gun rights supporters who, approximately 2.7 seconds after every mass shooting, rush to blame anything except guns and often point fingers at mental illness even though mentally ill people are far more often the victims of violence than the perpetrators. It is perpetuated by people who pride themselves on tolerance and love for all but instinctively give a cold shoulder to anyone who manifests a socially unacceptable form of weirdness.
I don't look to be victimized and offended by every little thing. I'm not a spokesperson for all mentally ill people, of course, but I for one don't feel offended in the slightest when people call each other "crazy", "nuts", "mad", "insane", "crackpot", "loony", "loopy", "daft", "barmy", "troppo", "screwy", "cray-cray", "delusional", "demented", "deranged", "psychotic", "lunatic", etc. by way of insults, good-natured or otherwise. (I'm sure I've done it myself without a second thought.) As a writer I think mental illness is actually a great motivation for fictional villains, if they're portrayed as tragic characters and their rationales actually make sense from a certain point of view. And I don't at all mind characters like Crazy Dave in the fantastic game "Plants vs. Zombies". He's harmlessly eccentric and a great help to the player.
Now the rest of this post will be almost entirely about me because I'm somewhat more familiar with that topic than most. I have been very open online about some of my mental health issues (most notably here, here, and here), and apparently some well-meaning people have managed to be 180 degrees wrong about my intentions in doing so. My parents recently gave me an unsolicited spiel about how I'm putting limits on myself and victimizing myself and labeling myself and defining myself by my autism/Aspergers and broadcasting it to the world. Because you're not supposed to talk about mental illness, don'cha know. You're supposed to keep it to yourself and pretend that everything is fine and normal and peachy. Talk to a therapist, by all means, but no one else wants to hear about it ever. And mental issues, unlike physical ones, are just kind of vague and intangible and not really real unless you put labels on them. So don't put labels on them! Simple!
Look, with or without me saying anything, people will and do notice that I'm "different" and act accordingly. My default state (which they seem to be advocating for) was not knowing or caring that I was different, and as a result I was bullied from kindergarten to fifth grade until I learned to stay quiet. Thereafter I was the disproportionately frequent target of the friendly mockery that males bond with, and reactions ranging from amusement to incredulity at my social faux pas. I've had enough of being rejected and ignored and shunned and talked about behind my back to last five lifetimes. Don't get me wrong, the majority of people are nice or at least civil to me, but many of them speak to me like I'm a child. A few months ago some people called the cops on me because they thought I was acting weird and might need help as I was minding my own business and swinging in a public park on a Saturday afternoon. I go weeks at a time without being contacted by anyone for anything and if I had a nickel for every ignored text, email, and Facebook message sent by me, I could feed Africa for a year. And dating... don't get me started on dating. Let's skip that part.
I don't wish to complain or dwell on this stuff, or blow it out of proportion, but I bring it up all at once now merely as my response to the nonsense that people will just assume I'm normal until I announce otherwise. So my actual purpose for being so open about my mental illness is and always has been to reduce the stigma and ignorance around it and to offer comfort and hope to anyone with a similar condition. I only want to make life better for myself and other people. I'm sorry if that hasn't been as obvious as I thought it was. I don't know what impact, if any, my site has had in that regard thus far, but at my previous job I talked in person with two coworkers who had teenage Aspie sons and they both told me that I gave them relief and hope for those sons having decent futures. That was one of the few experiences that made that horrible job worth it. Also, I see no reason not to define myself by something that filters and/or molds my entire worldview and personality and every thought that ever enters into my mind.
My parents first tried to tell me that I'm not autistic because I didn't act the way they think autistic people should act. First of all, "[i]f you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism," said Dr. Stephen Shore. Second, I'm not the one who decided to reclassify Aspergers as "autism spectrum disorder". In fact, I rather resented it for a while because it brought an increase in stigma. If you have an objection bring it up with the people who did that. They then switched tacks and told me my case and other problems are mild, as if I've ever claimed or tried to insinuate that they're the worst. This was actually an issue both times in group therapy, where I felt guilty about even mentioning my problems after it became obvious that everyone else's were more severe. And after a while of me being silent they prodded me to open up, and I told them that, and they unanimously felt that it's not a contest and you don't need to have worse problems than everyone else before you're allowed to speak about them.
My parents' spiel concluded with an exhortation to stop holding myself back, because "There are people with no legs who run marathons!" Good for them. I have no desire to run a marathon and don't understand people who do. As far as the principle involved, though, I agree and it's too bad I'm not striving for any great ambitions of my own like becoming a bestselling author... oh wait. Besides which, though I'm not familiar with their methodology, I'm almost positive that people with no legs don't run marathons by ignoring the fact that they have no legs, or by hoping no one will notice. "Confidence" divorced from reality does not get them over the finish line. It's never gotten me any good results either. It just caused me to be blindsided when the bad results hit me.
I have a positive attitude though, I promise, and here it is: I wouldn't give up my mental illness because it's just the price I have to pay for having my eyes open. This may sound really narcissistic but I don't care because it's true. Lacking an instinctive understanding of social norms and cues, and having to examine them through logic and psychology and evolution instead of taking them for granted, makes it clear how very, very stupid society truly is, and how very, very stupid many of the things normal people do every day without thinking truly are. I don't mean the stupid mistakes during lapses of judgment that we all make, but the stupid things like saying "How are you?" when what you really mean is "Hi" and you're not interested in a real answer. Also, literally everything about modern dating; again, don't get me started. So in order to truly fit in and be comfortable, I would have to be blind, and I wouldn't know I was blind so I wouldn't mind it, but from this vantage point I have no desire to make that trade. Jiddu Krishnamurti taught, "It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."
But that's not even the full extent of my positive attitude! I also believe that this makes me a much better writer than I otherwise would be. Because of the worldview I just mentioned, and because of the unique voice it gives me, and because I seek it out as an escape from this planet and an outlet for emotions that can't be expressed in other ways. (Of course, it took plenty of practice and experience to turn this into a strength instead of a weakness. As recently as my senior year of high school, the dialogue in my stories was so far from the way real people talk that Cleverbot probably wouldn't recognize it as English.) How many of history's great writers, or great artists of any genre for that matter, have had perfect lives and been perfectly comfortable in society and with their fellow humans? Probably zero. Whether this exchange turns out to be worth it, though, largely depends on whether I get anything out of it before I die.
Also, this meme - and this one definitely doesn't apply to me much of the time because I'm frequently inconsiderate, disrespectful and/or selfish, but I think it holds true in general given that society is mostly constructed and run by fake and shallow people, so this meme always makes me smile. Years ago I included it (uncensored) in my Powerpoint on Aspergers for Honors English 2010, and all my classmates got a kick out of it too.
Napoleon XIV - They're Coming to Take Me Away
Maybe sharing this song makes me a hypocrite, but I like dark humor. Not despite, but because of my own struggles with depression and suicide, for example, I find Marvin the Paranoid Android absolutely hilarious. While this song would be completely unacceptable if it were made in 2017, I can laugh it off as a relic of the Dark Ages - specifically, 1966. This portrayal of asylums and "treatment" of mentally ill people not so long ago is more accurate than we'd care to think, and the perpetuation of that image long after improvements started to be made has scared many people away from seeking help. So, to recap, this is satire, and it's in poor taste, but I think that's okay because it's old. Anyway, if you disagree don't watch it.
Don't forget that tomorrow is Easter! Celebrate with all the special people in your life! (That's a Lego Movie paraphrase)
Early Monday morning I was awakened by what I later realized must have been a snow plow, but in my sleep-fogged condition assumed to be the beginnings of an earthquake or a terrorist attack. After a second I figured the former was more likely. I thought, Maybe I should get out of bed and find somewhere safe...
Maybe I should say a prayer for all the people who will be affected...
Do I have food storage? Well, sure, that box of food that expired in 2012. That will have to do...
You never know when "the day before" is "the day before"...
Because "It won't happen to us" isn't an emergency plan.
I fell back asleep and woke up to a bunch of unwelcome snow. The previous day (Easter) had been nearly sixty degrees. And since I had woken up at that stupid hour, my stupid brain decided I would want to do so the next two nights, too, just because.
I spent last Easter alone, but the year before that and the year before that I got invited to dinner somewhere, and the year before that I don't remember, so I was curious what would happen this year. If I did receive an invitation, I didn't expect it to come at the hands of someone I had just met and barely knew, but that's what happened. Let's call her... I don't know... Mackenzie. I met her at Debbie's ward prayers, and overheard her friend teasing her about whatever, so I was just going to smile at her as I passed but then somehow I got caught in a tractor beam and ended up talking for ten minutes or so. She was much more interesting to talk to than most people are. I think I might have accidentally flirted with her, but if so it doesn't seem to have caused any problems.
I wish I could remember how we ended up discussing the psychology of serial killers. "I went on a date with this psychology major once," she said, "and we went to this park he found on Google Maps, and it turned out to be cemetery, so that was creepy – but anyway, he started telling me about serial killers and how their minds are just a total incomprehensible mess – but you disagree, though?” By this time, I was realizing much to my chagrin that my opinion on the psychology of serial killers and other “crazy” bad guys was informed not by actual knowledge but by what makes for compelling literature. It's no fun to write about a serial killer who's just so insane that no one can identify with him. You need to give a solid internal logic behind his motivations, so reasonable seeming that the reader questions their own sanity. But that might not be how it is in real life and I wouldn't know, so I tried to back down from the discussion.
Dinner was really good, and was captured for posterity. I brought those oranges. Nobody took one until afterward when I was packing them up and somebody took one out of pity. I didn't have a lot of options for "breakfast food" to bring since this had been sprung on me on such short notice and I don't shop on Sundays. All my bags of cereal were nearly empty and I couldn't bring milk because I drink straight from the jug. While waiting for dinner to start, I volunteered to help but there was nothing for me to do, so I was assigned to color in a coloring book. It was a Strawberry Shortcake coloring book and it got that theme song stuck in my head for the rest of the day - or rather, it got the two lines I remember stuck in my head for the rest of the day. "That girl's so sweet, just like her name! Straw-ba-baw-baw-ba-berry Shortcake!"
Mackenzie herself, in the lower left, was accidentally excluded from the photograph, an egregious oversight that prevented it from coming anywhere near its full potential. Top row, left to right: don't know, don't know, don't know, don't know, don't know, don't know. Middle row, left to right: me, don't know, Bob (not real name). Bottom row: Mackenzie (not real name)'s hair, don't know, don't know, don't know, don't know. Bottom outlier: Jenna (not real name).
Let's pretend that many readers have written in to accuse me of selfishness for wanting to become friends with Afton so that I could play with her dog. That wasn't the only reason, of course, but let me explain something to you imaginary people. Dogs are the best friends ever. Take care of a dog and be nice to it, and it will love you. It doesn't care one iota how much of a weirdo or loser you are by human standards. Their love and affection is conditional on a couple of reasonable things and nothing else. And I have been deprived of this for the better part of five years. I can't own a dog in my apartment and none of my peers can own dogs in their apartments. I have to take what I can get whenever I can get it. The prospect of one of my peers owning a dog that I could visit and pet and scratch and walk with and run with and feed and throw sticks and balls for and develop a close personal relationship with is beyond tantalizing. I miss my dog in New York more than I can say and I dread the thought that he's probably going to die a long time before I do. If I go to heaven, he'll be the first person I look for. "Hello, Jesus," I would say. "Where's Milo?"
Another Spiritual Lesson from Bionicle
The basic premise of Bionicle is that the heroes known as the Toa Mata have a quest to awaken the Great Spirit, Mata Nui, who was cast into a deep sleep by his jealous brother Makuta. Somewhere along the line it is discovered that Mata Nui is not merely asleep but is, in fact, dying. This would devastate the entire universe and basically be the worst possible thing ever, so the Toa Inika go on their own little quest to save his life. He ends up dying for a few moments but one of them sacrifices his own life energy to bring him back. In another story, however, Takanuva travels to an alternate universe where this hero hesitated a moment too long and failed to sacrifice himself, so that Mata Nui's death became permanent. The hero was disgraced, there were huge cataclysms all over the place and most of the islands were destroyed and a lot of people died.
But the survivors didn't give up. Previously warring races all came together and established a new society of peaceful coexistence on the one remaining island. They built onto it so there was more room for everyone. And though they faced a lot of challenges, they were still going strong a thousand years or so later when Takanuva stumbled onto them. The takeaway from all of this, which is probably a lot more poignant to someone actually familiar with the stories and not just my paltry attempt to summarize and articulate them here, is to keep moving forward even if the worst possible and most devastating and demoralizing thing happens, and that a tragedy with even the most unmistakable sense of finality doesn't have to be final as long as you're still breathing.
The Mormon Section
General Conference is going on today and tomorrow (duh). So I was watching it today, and during the sustaining vote the dissenters yelled out again, and everyone in the room was talking derisively about them, when Mackenzie spoke up, so quietly that maybe no one else heard her, and said "We can be nice to them even though we disagree. We don't need to call them fools. They just don't understand."
I was stupefied. Who are you? I thought. In a good way, I mean.
Anyway, I'll probably share my thoughts on the conference a week from today when everyone else has moved on with their lives. I hope there will be some temple announcements tomorrow. Did I ever mention that I missed the temple announcements a year ago, after eagerly waiting two years for them, because my computer was being stupid? And now it's dead. That'll teach it.
Shahrukh Khan - Maahi Ve
Two Easters ago Chelsea from Vermont invited me to Easter dinner, a much smaller and more intimate affair with only four of us, and I believe it was later that day that we were in her room listening to peaceful music as we made wedding decorations for someone or other. That was when she asked me, "Why did you like Jean so much?" and I was about to say "Because she's so nice" but before I could speak Chelsea continued, "She wasn't very nice to you." And that just blew my mind and I couldn't speak. Anyway, I introduced her to some new music and vice versa. I showed her the Bollywood song "Salaam-E-Ishq" that I once danced to in the campus Diwali festival, and then she showed me this one which, impossibly, is even better. In the unlikely event that I ever have a wedding reception, my only demand is that this song be a part of it, "cultural appropriation" be damned.
Daffy the Commando
It's always awkward when American World War II propaganda cartoons ended up being extremely racist. Fortunately, this is not one of those, unless you consider pseudo-German words and phrases to be racist, which I don't think most people would because racism has recently been redefined via circular logic so that it can only apply to non-white people. I have enjoyed this cartoon for years but only recently connected the dots between the date of its release and the cute little jab at Mussolini. Can you spot it?
For reasons unclear to me, ISIS has threatened to cut out the tongues of anyone who calls them "Daesh". I've about had it up to my eyeballs with Daesh. My initial reaction on hearing about yet another terrorist attack - the latest being in a soccer stadium in Baghdad - is "Holy crap, give it a rest already." I am tired of the spineless, murdering scumsuckers of Daesh committing their spineless, scumsucking murders with virtual impunity. In the recent past I referred to Daesh as a filth-borne disease, but really, that's unfair to diseases, which have no minds and are only doing what they've evolved to do. What excuse does Daesh have, other than having chosen to be monsters? Daesh, collectively, is the lowest form of life on planet Earth. I have decided this week that if God were to grant me any one desire of my soul, it would be to wipe Daesh into oblivion. But that won't happen, because part of the purpose in life is that scumsuckers like Daesh get to make their choices and create opposition for actual humans. Daesh Daesh Daesh Daesh Daesh.
Last Monday I found myself faced with a dilemma - should I go to the stake dance which would probably be, not to put too fine a point on it, lame, or to the showing of a movie that was kind of decent but kind of mediocre? The former was the scheduled home evening activity, the latter held on campus in the HPER pool and billed as a "Flick N' Float" (they should have just called it a "Dive-in Movie"). The former would possibly be attended by people I knew and cared about, the latter would more likely be a bunch of strangers. The former would probably just have cookies or something, the latter was guaranteed to have pizza. But then I remembered that I don't like the Marketplace's pizza. So the dance it was. That was the right decision because they had not only cookies but also cheese puff balls. A banner on one wall said "March Madness" so that you would know it was supposed to be March Madness themed. Apparently that's some sports term or something, but it only makes me think of hares in heat.
Then Debbie showed up, so I knew as long as I stayed near her it wouldn't be lame after all. At one point an old person with a camera gestured for her and her friends to pose for a picture, and I wasn't sure if I was included in that or if it was a ladies only thing, so I hesitated a bit before jumping in and trying to look somewhat human. Left to right: Me, Debbie, one of Debbie's friends, one of Debbie's other friends.
Me: May I post it on my blog if I blur your faces?
Debbie: Don't blur our faces unless you can't stand the sight of them, haha, then do what you must. *wink*
Me: I like your face a lot.
I talked to a girl who was sitting in the corner by herself because she had just moved here from Texas and didn't know anybody. She didn't have a Texas accent so I said, "You don't have a Texas accent" and she said "That's because I'm from the city." Then later on she said "You don't have a New York accent" and I was like "Oh" and she said "That was a counterattack" and I was like "Oh" and she said "Because you said I don't have a Texas accent" and I was like "Oh." Then a slow song came on so I asked her to dance, and she said "I haven't danced in five years" and I said "You haven't been to a dance or anything in five years?" and she said "No, I'm antisocial" and that was so attractive. But she sure seemed pretty determined to lead. "Dancing is kind of like creative writing," she said. "You're writing your story." What the heck does that mean? Then she had to go, and I was super confident and I asked for her number and she gave me one, and I Googled it to make sure it wasn't a rejection hotline and ended up at a classified ad she had taken out recently so I knew it was actually legit. I was hoping we would become really good friends so that I could play with the dog she mentioned having. But then I texted her the next day and she never responded. Insert flippant remark to pretend that didn't hurt at all.
The next day the caucuses to one or the other of which all Mormons in Utah have been exhorted to go were held. Running slightly late, I was at the crosswalk when a girl rode up on her scooter and asked if I knew how to get there. I said yes and when my directions confused her I asked if she just wanted to follow me and she said sure. I had been heading for the transit center to take the bus, but because she had slowed me down we missed the buses, and that was just fine with me because it was in that direction anyway. We talked on the way there and then we were split up because we lived in different precincts but I asked if she wanted to meet up again afterward and she said sure. Then I went and waited in line for an hour to go to a twenty-minute meeting in an obscenely hot and crowded classroom. We met up afterward and before we could really start talking again someone else came along and offered her a ride, and she accepted it because "I'm wary about the dark", which was obviously a polite way of saying "I'm concerned about getting raped", which is obviously legit albeit tragic. I got a number from her too, though I don't know whether this one was accurate, but in either case I never got a response from that one either. Insert flippant remark to pretend that didn't hurt at all.
I've never understood why unwarranted confidence is considered a virtue. If I had never tried, I would have had a much happier week. But perhaps I can help others. 22 year old Muslim police officer and Computer Science bachelors' student from Pakistan seeks American wife to facilitate his immigration to the United States. If interested, please contact him via Facebook. This is not a joke.
I don't like being in a class called "Literary Analysis" because it makes me feel pretentious, as in, "Oh yes, I am just on my way to Literary Analysis, which is where literary analysts such as myself go to analyze literature." I just want to enjoy stories and poems. I couldn't care less if the giant insect biting down on the key represents his masculinity. Well, I'm being forced to be extremely pretentious by a very strange assignment we're doing now. Using Amanda Holzer's "Love and Other Catastrophes - A Mix Tape" as an archetype, we each had to rewrite Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis as a playlist and then write an essay about the playlist, referring to ourselves, as the authors, in third person. And then bring it to the writing center for feedback so total strangers can see how pretentious we are.
Recently someone asked, "How do you come up with character names?" Even though none of you asked, meaning that you presumably don't care, I decided to share my answer here so that all aspiring writers can benefit from it. And the answer is... I just think. I have no special process. Sorry. Many of the names I come up with are alien names, so I just make up stuff that sounds alien to me. Sometimes I toy with something a little to make it sound better. One time I named a character "Hamsor" after Homsar from Homestar Runner. Once in a while, as I'm lying in bed - I say "in bed" even though I sleep on the couch every night by choice - a name pops into my mind unbidden and I have to get up and write it down because I won't remember it in the morning. That's how I got "Deeth Gorseeta", which I think sounds cool, and if you disagree you can just keep your negativity to yourself. But there's no special process.
Picking people names is about the same thing other than the obvious fact that I don't make them up altogether. It's important to make sure that none of the major characters have similar names that could be confusing. It's often best if none of them even start with the same letter. The only time that creating a character name really involved a drawn-out process was for my major protagonist in Space Girls (working title), Jane Padgett. I knew I wanted to use the name Jane because it's so simple yet lovely, but I wasn't sure what last name I wanted to go with it. This was back in high school and literally what I did was look at the other students - not just my classmates, but all the students, since it was such a small school that everyone knew virtually everyone else's name - throughout the day and test out their last names with it. I ended up using one of my sister's best friend's last names. She still doesn't know. The name of her partner, Lillis Hawker, was just lifted wholesale from a passing acquaintance. She still doesn't know unless she happens to have read the letter I wrote her and never sent.
Recently a friend vented at me about her father being a misogynistic cretin and finished, "I figured I could vent at you since you're kind of a feminist." I instinctively bristled at that because I don't like having labels attached to me and there are a lot of prominent self-proclaimed feminists that I would be embarrassed to be associated with. I suppose it was meant as a compliment, but if so, I don't know that I deserve it. I don't seem passionate enough to wear that label. Here's me talking to a "real" feminist...
I am acutely aware that women are capable of cruelty and evil. Nonetheless, when was the last time one of them started a war or a genocide? I suppose that's because they've been oppressed and not had many leadership opportunities throughout history, but once they get a chance they'll start wars and genocides just as well as men. I suppose I shouldn't be flippant about this but I'm not really joking. And I could have explained the anti-sexiness thing better if I hadn't been in a rush to respond so she didn't think I was hesitant.
I couldn't go into more detail about what they look like and why because you're not supposed to immediately know, when reading the book, which of them are the villains in the first place, and also because in one case it would spoil a later subplot.
See, I'm not particularly good at being a feminist. But I like female villains a lot. I think that "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull", for all its flaws, has the second best villain of all the movies, and not because of the "sexy" angle but because she has class and cunning and sword-fighting skills and creepy mental powers that are criminally underdeveloped in the film but fleshed out in the novelization. The only better Indiana Jones villain in my opinion is René Belloq, and he's French, so yeah. And yes, I reactivated my Facebook profile for a while but that was just so I could get the picture with me and Debbie and the others, because I knew you would like it. You're welcome.
Just one of the major problems with creationist logic is their unfounded belief that if they point out a fatal flaw in the evidence for evolution, then that evidence will all magically disappear and creationism will take evolution's place with no questions asked. So, for example, they like to point out gaps in the fossil record and conveniently ignore the fact that according to their worldview, there shouldn't even be a fossil record. The more I see it the less patience I have with it and the less respect I have for them.
The Mormon Section
Elder Mason Wells, injured in the Brussels bombing by Daesh, has now reached exponentially more people on his mission than he could have dreamed of.
I, like everyone else, am grateful that the missionaries survived the Brussels bombing by Daesh. I am grateful that the Church monitors their condition and reports it to the world to show that it cares about its missionaries. And I have shared some articles about them that the mainstream news picked up because everyone loves this story. But I hope everyone remembers that they are no more important than any of the other victims, living or dead or deprived. If you're going to pray for them then I think you should pray for all the victims.
The Russian Orthodox Church makes a big deal about Easter, and I wish that Russians had been among the converts immigrating to Utah in the nineteenth century so that we - referring both to Mormons and Americans in general - would too. If we treated Easter the way we treat Christmas, there would have been all kinds of decorations and carols and excitement leading up to this day. I didn't even know Easter was this weekend until last week, and while that is my own responsibility to keep track of, I never could have similarly forgotten about Christmas. Easter feels like almost an afterthought around here, and that's a shame. I suppose it's because we don't get as many or as big presents.
Rebecca St. James - Hope's Song
I was going to showcase "The Escapist" by Nightwish, which I've listened to about seventy times this week, but then I thought Why don't I share an Easter song so as to become part of the solution rather than part of the problem? This is my favorite Easter song ever - not that there are a lot to choose from, but still.
There will be no cartoon section this week because this post is too long already.
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- 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."
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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.