Because I read about near-death experiences recently, of course the omniscient internet brought to my attention the most recent development in that field. Four people hooked up to life support were having their brains monitored for whatever reason, and after they were taken off life support, two of their brains registered a surge of activity in the part responsible for dreams. Scientists speculate that these people were having NDEs, although they had a history of epilepsy, and nobody's ever shown a correlation between epilepsy and NDEs. The headline I looked at claimed that scientists had observed the brain activity behind NDEs for the first time, as if that were an established fact, but of course it isn't. They don't know what they actually observed. In order to know that, or at least be fairly confident, they'd have to observe something similar in the brain of someone who subsequently came back to life and reported on it. Science may sooner or later explain NDEs away as a purely neurological phenomenon, but it hasn't yet and we mustn't be premature about it. Journalists often take the nuance out of science, either out of sincere ignorance or the need to produce clickbait.
My roommate has finally moved out. He moved upstairs, meaning that he wanted to stay in this complex but not with me. The feeling is mutual. I didn't like that he left lights on he wasn't using (though I trained him by example to not do it constantly), I didn't like that he walked around without a shirt on when the weather was warm, I didn't like that he spent two hours a day in the bathroom, and I especially didn't like that he spent at least an hour a day practicing what can only be called "singing" under the most generous interpretation at the top of his lungs. It sounds more like an air raid siren. I had a friend over once and he laughed in disbelief at how bad it was. I sent a recording to another friend whom my complaints had made curious, and she wrote back, "PUT IT OUT OF ITS MISERY. WTF." Early on, at a public gathering, my roommate put me on the spot and asked if his singing annoyed me. Trying to balance tact with honesty, I said, "Only when it's really loud" (which was always). So he continued to consistently do it at the top of his lungs. Now I feel bad that I've been festering in resentment instead of asking him to stop, though, because I warned my upstairs neighbor about it, and I shouldn't have been surprised to learn that he hasn't been enjoying it either.
Recently the Temple City Sheriff's office invaded the wrong home without a warrant and illegally questioned and arrested two children who now, presumably, are traumatized for life but at least won't grow up to be bootlickers. I wrote some strong language in an online form somewhere and fully expected, based on previous interactions with law enforcement, that they would ignore me, but that the publicity would make them think twice (or at least once) about pulling such stunts in the future. I was quite surprised when someone got back to me earlier this week. Credit where it's due.
I've started wasting time on Twitter instead of reddit lately. I used to do essentially nothing on Twitter except share my blog posts, and I stayed at 38 followers for over six years. Now after a few weeks of interacting with people, I'm up to 53, so yay.
Twitter brings out the worst in people, including me, because it has almost no rules. Before Elon Musk took over, my account was suspended for wishing death on (checks notes) Vladimir Putin. And I still do and I'm not sorry. But now, I can say whatever the hell I want without fear of consequences. I've had some arguments. Even though I only follow ex-Mormons and liberal Mormons as far as Mormon stuff is concerned, I keep getting conservative Mormons in my feed, and they're pretty much the worst people in the world. Half their identity right now revolves around hating transgender people, and the other half is divided between hating apostates, hating liberals, hating scholars, hating gay people, and hating feminists. They're straight-up bullies more often than not, and because they think they're boldly standing up for truth and righteousness, they're quite incapable of attaining any self-awareness about how awful they are. Case in point:
I mean, wow. I used to have a hell of a persecution complex myself, but I don't think there was ever a point when I would have told someone "You are a demonic force and will be treated accordingly." It frightens me that people who think that way exist. Of course, guys like this think I'm a demonic force too. I try to be good. I don't set out to tear down Mormon beliefs every time I see them in my feed. I only get involved if they say something egregiously stupid and/or bigoted. And I try not to mock or insult them until they do it to me first, but that usually doesn't take very long. Personal attacks are usually their first and only response to critique of any kind. They really thought they were clever for pointing out that I had my pronouns in my bio and a Ukrainian flag next to my name. I had to block an account with the word "Christ" in its name that insisted Ukraine "isn't innocent" and basically deserves what it's getting, a claim that could be made with a little more accuracy (though it would still be victim-blaming) about the Mormons who moved into Missouri and boasted that the Lord would give them their neighbors' land. I added a Pride flag and a transgender flag to my Ukrainian flag just to bother these troglodytes, and then I added "If my flags and pronouns bother you, mission accomplished" to my bio to make sure they know that I'm bothering them on purpose, and now they don't bring that stuff up as much.
The leaders of the church don't appear to care that in a few years, people like this will be the only members they have left. Decent, intelligent, empathetic people are being alienated in droves. Of course, some of these jackasses also get alienated every time the church takes a position against bigotry or in favor of modern medicine - the other day one even confessed that he struggles with his faith and desire to attend church because a Primary teacher elsewhere on Twitter wore a rainbow pin - but overall, I think they're winning. Perhaps in fifty years, this church will make the Westboro Baptist Church look like a happy memory. Perhaps it will truly be The Church of Brigham Young, Ezra Taft Benson, and Donald J. Trump. (One of the guys I argued with had modeled his profile after Spencer W. Kimball, though. Kimball's a more nuanced figure in my book. If I meet him in the next life, I'll thank him for what he did to advance racial equality within the church, then kick him between the legs for the vile things he said about women and gay men.)
Puppy + God + Shootings
In case anyone was wondering, I switched my website to Dark Mode because my friend Marie whined about straining her eyes while reading Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men from Mars. It will take some getting used to but I think it's better for the environment or something so I'll probably keep it.
Addendum to my observation that young Latter-day Saints have become more chill about swearing: On Thursday I went to a game night where at least three people who weren't the same as the people at the fire said "Shit" and/or "Damn it" when the Exploding Kittens weren't in their favor. No one acted scandalized and no one apologized. Last night I attended the Logan YSA 7th Stake talent show. A woman did a humorous monologue and mentioned that she was "covered in shit all day" in her job as a nurse. She apologized to the stake president and bishops but argued that it was fine because it wasn't Sunday and we weren't in the chapel. Then she immediately described one of her patients as "a crazy-ass lady" and didn't apologize for that one. She was my second choice in the vote for the winners. None of my choices won anything, just like in a real election.
I finally made some small tangible impact on the world this week when I played a small part in taking down the Missouri Attorney General's Transgender Center Concerns online form. Honestly, he should have seen the deluge of fake spam complaints coming a mile away. A lot of people filed complaints about Republican politicians' wives or the Catholic priests who wear dresses and groom children. I made up a story about my little brother wearing a dress and then becoming a Marxist lesbian who wants to teach critical race theory. And it got pretty weird and crass after that so I'll leave it to your imagination. The person reading the entries probably didn't bother to read mine after he saw that my name was Ron DeSantis, though, so I should have thought that through a little better.
Yesterday I also went for a walk with my neighbor and his puppy Gizmo. I help take care of Gizmo while my neighbor is at work at least twice a week. He's a real hassle, gets on my nerves constantly, but of course I wuv him.
But anyway, I went for a walk with him and my neighbor, and as we neared the end my neighbor asked, "You're LDS, aren't you?" Not gonna lie, that was a pretty embarrassing thing to be asked by a Black person, because, you know, the entirety of the LDS Church's history with Black people. I said I used to be but I left the church last year. He was curious why. I didn't know how much he would even understand as an outsider. To summarize it I said, "A lot of stuff that built up over the years.... Stuff in the church's history that made me think it isn't what it claims to be, and its positions on social issues. It discriminated against Black people for a long time, it's been really sexist, and it's against gay rights." If I'd had more time to think I would have phrased my response a little differently because in fairness, within the second half of my short lifetime the LDS Church has started supporting most gay rights except marriage. It's come a long way since Dallin H. Oaks proposed that gay people should be barred from any form of employment where children could see them as role models.
He asked if I'd ever been baptized and when. I said when I was eight, which is standard for children born into the LDS Church. He was amazed at how young that was so I explained how the church teaches that eight is the age of accountability when children understand right and wrong enough to sin, and if they die before then, they automatically go to heaven. He thought that was nice. He said he wanted to get baptized soon, probably into the Baptists, "Because I, too, am a God-fearing man." I said I didn't know what to believe, and I'd stayed in the LDS Church longer than I should have, because I'd felt spiritual feelings and I was told that they were the Holy Ghost telling me that specific religion is true, and then I saw a video of people in all different religions apparently getting identical feelings and asserting with just as much confidence that their religions were true, so now I wonder if they're all just delusions. He said he thinks all religions are just people's best efforts to reach God and that they can all experience God in their own way. That's a nice thought. "I believe everything happens for a reason," he said.
Afterward I realized he seems to know almost nothing about the LDS Church, so my answer probably didn't mean as much to him as to someone who does. He didn't seem to realize that the LDS Church isn't just another denomination, that it claims to be the one true church restored by Joseph Smith and led by prophets who speak for God. The Baptists have certainly had their own problems with racism, but those are easier to forgive because they don't make such lofty claims. And it's harder to falsify their entire religion by pinpointing a historical event that didn't happen the way they say it did. The LDS Church's historical problems are so damning that it's now teaching the youth this crap in seminary:
There's a sneaky conflation of terms here. Of course some, even most historical details are insignificant. But without others, the so-called Restoration completely falls apart. The term "Restoration" itself is a historical claim. Allegedly Joseph Smith restored Jesus Christ's original church. Either that happened or it didn't. Likewise, either he saw Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father in the woods or he didn't, either he translated the Book of Mormon or he didn't, either he received the priesthood from heavenly messengers or he didn't, either he received the temple ceremonies by revelation or he didn't, and so on. Without these historical details, the covenants, ordinances, and doctrine are completely bogus. And the historical details of social issues play into this too. When prophets are on the wrong side of slavery, civil rights, feminism, and gay rights, that's a pretty good indication that they're not nearly as in tune with the mind and will of the Lord as they claim to be, and that the covenants, ordinances, and doctrine that come through them should consequently be treated with greater skepticism. Especially since their views on slavery, civil rights, feminism, and gay rights were doctrine until suddenly they weren't.
My neighbor is hardly alone in believing that everything happens for a reason. Life is less frightening that way. But even when I believed God was far more hands-on with his creations than I believe now, I didn't share that sentiment. How could I? In four separate incidents in the last week or so, a teenage boy, two college cheerleaders, a little girl and her parents, and a very young woman were shot by psychopaths for making simple and entirely harmless mistakes. All these shootings happened in the United States, but you already knew that. Miraculously, all of these people except for the very young woman survived. I say "miraculously" because it's a normal and appropriate figure of speech, but I don't believe any real miracles occurred at all. I think most of them got lucky and Kaylin Gillis didn't. I don't see how I could accept a God who intervened to save the others but got to Kaylin Gillis and said, "I'm sorry, I have a very important and immutable divine plan that desperately requires you to die at age twenty. This piece of shit was foreordained to shoot you and if he hadn't, I would have arranged an accident anyway. Fuck your parents, fuck your younger sisters, fuck your long-term boyfriend who wanted to spend the rest of his life with you and nobody else."
Which brings me to another issue that first occurred to me years ago when I read about an LDS woman whose boyfriend was killed in a mass shooting. It was in the United States, but you already knew that. Anyway, the LDS Church teaches that the Atonement of Jesus Christ will make everything right in the next life and fix every injustice. And that's a beautiful thing to believe. But I don't see how it could fix everything for Kaylin Gillis and her boyfriend. They wanted to be together. But Kevin Monahan took away their agency to make that choice. Agency is one of the most important things in the LDS paradigm, so why does God let people take other people's away? Why does Kevin Monahan's agency trump theirs? Now Kaylin Gillis' boyfriend could stay alone for the rest of his life and then be reunited with her in the afterlife and still be with her for eternity. But if at any point he does marry someone else, then she has to either find someone else too or join them as a polygamous wife. And actually, because of deaths and remarriages I don't see a way around the polygamy problem for eternal marriage in general, although the LDS Church could make it not sexist by letting women be sealed to multiple husbands too. In any case, their eternal destinies have been altered in a way that the Atonement may not be able to reverse.
The other most famous of these shootings, Andrew Lester vs. Ralph Yarl, is of course making waves for the racial component. Without knowing anything except that an elderly white man shot a Black teenager in the head for ringing his doorbell, I would have bet the lives of everyone I care about that the elderly white man voted for Donald Trump, but it's even better than that. According to his relatives, he's a full-blown Fox News junkie, anti-vaxxer, Stop the Steal, the whole shebang. So of course he's afraid of everything. Of course when he hears the doorbell ring his first thought is to grab his gun. Of course he's going to think that the Black person who just rang his fucking doorbell is trying to break in. Of course he's going to be scared of the size of the Black person who's shorter than me and weighs the same. This isn't me reading his mind, by the way, these are all things he told the police. Look, I've tried really really hard to be politically nuanced and avoid polarization, and I'm not saying progressives are perfect or anything, but the right-wing movement in this country is a fucking cancer. It just is. And either the movement or the country is going to die.
Daniel C. Peterson spoke at the Logan Institute of Religion on Friday. He was one of their more exciting guests in my book. I respect his scholarly work. I respect that he resigned from the Republican party and denounced Donald Trump. I respect that he defends Islam against its detractors nearly as much as he does his own church (and the detractors are often members of his own church). One curious fact that's become a running joke with him is that critics of the Church of Jesus Christ constantly portray him as evil and mean-spirited and insist that his writings are full of ad hominem attacks. I could list a few apologists of whom that actually is true, but I just don't get it in his case. I guess he's just the best at what he does and that makes them angry. He's one of my faithful-intellectual role models and it makes my day whenever I comment on his Facebook page or his blog and he likes my comment.
He talked about the official and unofficial witnesses of the Book of Mormon and plugged the film Witnesses of which he and his wife were executive producers, and which the Institute showed that evening. I watched it in the theater last summer and yelled at an old lady the third time her phone went off. After it ended, someone said to her, "That person who yelled at you, that wasn't very Christlike." Right, she disregarded the most basic well-established theater etiquette and everyone else who paid to see the movie, but I'm the rude one. Okay. Sure. /s <- Sarcasm tag because it turns out neurotypical people can't understand written sarcasm unless it's labeled as such. Anyway, other than the three times the old lady's phone went off, the movie was all right. I went home and moved on with my life and woke up in chills that night as the quote at the close of the movie, in which a newspaper reporter in 1888 describes David Whitmer's integrity and sincerity, seared into my soul. That was weird because it's not like I didn't already believe in the witnesses. I think their testimonies are pretty dang incontrovertible. But it's a good movie and I recommend it. This time, during intermission, someone behind me said she likes the humor even though it's kind of sacrilegious. She's the most sheltered person in the world if she thinks anything in this movie is sacrilegious.
I hope to get back to my usual long-winded self in time for General Conference next weekend, but at this time I don't feel like waxing all thoughtful and detailed because I haven't slept well at all this week. Lots of waking up and not getting back to sleep. I spent most of the last three days making a Spotify playlist of the eighties. I'm sure there are thousands of Spotify playlists of the 80s, but this one is going to be exactly the way I want it, including for instance more songs by Bangles and Eurythmics and "Weird Al" Yankovic than most people would be inclined to include in theirs. I typically organize playlists by topic. I have a couple by genre, but usually I prefer to shuffle all the genres together. This is my first one based on a certain time period. Although every decade has countless great songs, the eighties is my favorite by a small margin. In the future when I'm chronically sleep-deprived again and need something easy to do, I may move onto the nineties and seventies.
Oh, I almost forgot. "Marie," a former recurring character on this blog whom I'm now going to out as Elisabeth because I don't bother with pseudonyms anymore and she already found out that I was writing about her so it doesn't matter if anyone else knows it too, felt a need to send me this comment that I made once. The original post no longer shows up. It was one of those Facebook trends that everybody did, a cartoon of how God made you and what ingredients he put in. I can't help laughing at my comment now because it's so pathetic but so legitimately clever at the same time. Unlike the movie Witnesses, however, it may be just a smidge sacrilegious.
It's a month almost to the day since the nasty incident with my neighbors, and though I've put it behind me as much as possible, and though by objective measures little else has developed, of course I still remember it every day and have had plenty of time to think about it a little more. It's for my own closure more than anything and I'm sorry if it bores everyone else (insert your own quip about all my posts boring you here).
The next day, open enrollment at my apartment complex began for summer and next school year, and I went to sign up. I love my current location, and I had to move thrice last year and I would be damned if I was going to do it again so soon. If my neighbors had a problem with me then they could leave, and I've since heard that they will, though I don't know if it has anything to do with me. I also soon returned to opening my blinds for most of the day as I've always done to maximize natural light and minimize my electricity bill (though most of it is still blocked by trees and recycle bins) but now to also send the message I'm not afraid of you, I mean I am, but I won't let you intimidate me out of living my life. While sitting in my living room on a Sunday morning I've seen them look in my living room window at me before scurrying past like anxious little rodents. Like they're literally scared of me when all I ever did was be nice to them. Such idiocy is so unreal I don't even know how to feel about it.
I've been able to avoid more than occasional glimpses of them, with one notable exception. One Sunday evening I walked into the Spectrum, the basketball stadium on campus where the annual Joseph Smith Memorial Devotional was being held, and there C stood not three meters in front of me, in her campus employee uniform, facing a perpendicular direction. Terror paralyzed me for a moment that seemed like an hour, but I quickly realized that if she turned her head to the left and saw me she would probably call a SWAT team, so I bolted past her, through the crowd, at least halfway around the stadium, not slowing down when I heard some guy behind me say "Hey, there's Nick! Hey, Nick! Nick! He's got headphones on. Nick!" Of course I knew he was talking about/to me because Nick is second only to Christian on the list of things that people think my name is. I found a nice isolated seat close to the action where I could relax a little and process the unwelcome moment.
Now, I was unfairly biased the first time I saw her, as I was trying to close off my heart to the opposite sex entirely, and I thought she looked plain, homely, awkward, and forgettable. I've since come to realize that she is in fact widely regarded by humans as "cute", and I can accept that. But she's no Gal Gadot by any means. She looks like an upside-down exclamation point with glasses, hair, and possibly the worst case of Resting Bitch Face Syndrome I've ever seen. Our first encounter held not the slightest foreshadowing that soon, the slightest hint of a smile on that face would be sufficient to turn my internal organs into jelly. It was what I thought I knew of her mind and personality that transformed her into God's most beautiful creation. This, I thought, is one hell of a woman. This is one of the most mature, intelligent, genuine people I've ever met. This is someone I could have deep, intellectual conversations with for hours. It's not even an issue that she's four and a half years younger than me even though most girls that young don't appeal to me because they look and act like high school students and I'm just not into that.
And then she showed her true colors and I completely lost respect for her, along with faith in my ability to judge character at all, and I was/am embarrassed that I wasted so much emotional energy on someone so unworthy. And then I saw her up close by accident with this new frame of reference and she was still, inexplicably, God's most beautiful creation. So that added another layer of confusion and fear which I was in no position to assuage.
Another little act of bravery was attending home evening even though they're both assigned to my group, and neither of them were ever there so it was fine and for once I was glad I didn't let fear hold me back. After three weeks of going elsewhere on Sundays I decided to return to my ward altogether when it became apparent that few people had heard about the incident and those who did were on my side. Even with C's and T's garbled version of events, it seems, the general feeling from others is that they overreacted to whatever I was or wasn't doing. To their credit, I've obviously told far more people about it than they have, but not so much to their credit, my version isn't dishonest and totally irrational. So I went to church, they sat a bit in front of me with their arms around each other and I realized they make the cutest couple ever.
The final deciding factor was learning that one of their own roommates had stood up for me in a meeting, saying they had jumped the gun, that I wasn't a threat, and that they resented me for treating their dog better than they do. (Guilty as charged. I do have an unfortunate track record of being nice to dogs.) I was surprised to hear about this because, while I knew the complaint had to have come from the two of them, I just kind of assumed all five roommates were on the same page about it. The cop they sent to harass me just kept saying "Your neighbors" this and "Your neighbors" that and made it sound like I wasn't allowed to communicate with any of them at all ever. And I barely know this particular roommate, but on the rare and brief occasions when I talked to her, usually when I knocked on the door looking for someone else, she always seemed to think I was strange and have this What are you doing? kind of look on her face even though I wasn't doing anything. I assumed that when C and T announced I was a stalker she would have just been like I always knew he was sketchy. It warmed my heart very much to hear otherwise.
My friend Jen sent me cookies. She sends me cookies on my birthday but now she doesn't have to for my next three birthdays.
Another friend suggested, "That one girl (the one who saw visions) sounds like a pathological liar."
I asked, "Literally, do you think?" Because I've used the phrase "pathological liar" perhaps a bit too casually in my day, but now I was really intrigued by the possibility of a legitimate pathology here.
"Yeah," she said. "Every person I know who claimed to see visions or auras turned out to be a compulsive liar. (Not that there aren't people who can see visions, like the prophets in the Book of Mormon.) There is a hierarchy of who can have revelations for who. Like parents can have revelations for their children or the bishop for his ward. I bet she got uncomfortable with you asking questions because she couldn't keep her lies going without exposing herself. But I wasn't there and I can't read minds. That's my guess."
You know, I think she's right. I never suspected anything amiss about T's "gift" because she didn't seem to use it for her own profit or self-aggrandizement, or have any intention of usurping someone else's authority. I just thought, well, this is unusual but cool, whatever. I may seem like a colossal idiot to those who don't believe in anything like that to begin with but we'll just have to agree to disagree. Looking back I can maybe see a few inconsistencies in her claims, and how she moved the goalposts and always had a little too quick and easy answer for everything. If she could really read my aura or see the color of my heart she wouldn't have been so very, very wrong about me in the end, and if she were really as wise as she pretended (though always putting on a show of humility when I pointed it out) she wouldn't have reacted like a fifth grader. And she demonstrably did lie to me at least a couple of times and had no discernible qualms about breaking her promise to me in a heartbeat.
Part of me wants to believe that she has a toxic influence on her best friend C, that everything is her fault and that C really is at heart the kind of person I thought she was. Who knows? I never likely will. But I received more support for this hypothesis from my old friend Marie, a character whom only long-time readers of my blog will remember.
Incidentally, a couple months ago she delighted in pointing out to me that C's lovely name is a sacrilegious swear word in Quebec. If I hadn't been so blind, I would have recognized that as a massive red flag.
I've thought a bit about my story in relation to Joseph Smith's First Vision. In this event, to which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and all breakoff sects trace their founding, and which celebrates its two hundredth anniversary this year, Joseph Smith reports that at the age of fourteen he went into the woods to pray and was visited in person by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Over the years he wrote a few firsthand accounts, and a few more were written by associates who heard him talking about it. There are two main perspectives on these varying accounts. The critical perspective is that because they aren't identical in every detail, Joseph Smith must have made the story up as he went along. The faithful perspective is that he emphasized different aspects of the event at different times for different audiences. Now obviously I'm biased, but I think the critical perspective is pretty infantile, and that only one of these differences (the number of heavenly beings mentioned in the 1832 account versus the other accounts) even comes close to something that could rationally be considered a discrepancy.
I've thought about it because, though it's only been a few weeks as opposed to Joseph Smith's twelve years, I've told my story to several people and I haven't told it the same way each time. I haven't consciously adjusted the story for my different audiences but of course in each case finite constraint on people's attention spans and I have to select what strike me as important, representative details. I've often just started with a simple statement like "My neighbors thought I was stalking them and called the police" or "I had to go to the hospital for being suicidal" and let the ensuing comments and questions guide my additional exposition. I've even gone back to my original post - which was already too long - and, through the power vested in me by George Walton Lucas Jr., revised a few word choices and added details that I didn't include the first time around. There are still more I could add but I don't want it to become so long and rambling that nobody on the planet cares to read it.
Does that make me dishonest? Of course not. All it means is that it was a really big, emotionally impactful event and that I can't think of or include everything all at once, let alone every time, nor would anybody actually want me to. The First Vision was much bigger and much more emotionally impactful, albeit in an altogether more positive way. That's not even taking into account how memories are reconstructed from scratch every time we access them based on our current perspectives and emotions, or the obvious evolution in how Joseph Smith would have viewed the event's significance as his life continued and more events followed. I only hope that the significance of this event for me will turn out to be more than God giving me the finger. Listen to a very long but well worth it historians' podcast on the historical context of the First Vision.
And speaking of church history, Saints Volume 2 is out now and I'm a few chapters in and I intend to binge-read the rest as fast as possible.
Spider-Man & Friends
"'Normal' American men are homophobic, afraid of close friendships with other men. The moment we begin to feel warmly toward another man, the 'homosexual' panic button gets pressed. It makes us nervous to see French or Italian men strolling down the street arm in arm. Must be queer! From a cross-cultural perspective it is we who are odd; close male friendship is the norm in most societies and is usually considered a more important source of intimacy than romantic relationships... We need same-sex friends because there are types of validation and acceptance that we receive only from our gender-mates. There is much about our experience as men that can only be shared with, and understood by, other men. There are stories we can tell only to those who have wrestled in the dark with the same demons and been wounded by the same angels. Only men understand the secret fears that go with the territory of masculinity." - Sam Keen, Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man, 174-75
"I know you're not comfortable hanging out with guys because you don't want people to think you're gay, but really, hanging out with girls all the time is what will make people think that." - Kami Wilson, personal conversation
This partially explains why I consciously chose to bring a guy friend to my work's movie night. The other reasons are that he's been nice to me so I wanted to be nice to him, and I wanted to make sure it didn't end up being misconstrued as a date despite following that formula to the letter besides the gender thing. But whether because of how our culture has evolved in just a few years or increased confidence on my part, I no longer care one iota whether people think I'm gay. As awful as this may be, sometimes I almost wish they did because I feel like they'd pay more attention to me. I decided, in fact, that if anyone that night asked about that guy, I would introduce him as my boyfriend. I knew he would have gotten a kick out of that. Sadly, no one did because they only cared about themselves.
The movie was "Spider-Man: Homecoming". It was only the second Marvel movie I've ever seen, the first being "Thor: Dark World", and I liked it much better. I mean, the other one had Natalie Portman in it, so that was a few hundred points in its favor, but it wasn't nearly as funny or easy to follow. Of course I was still lost on a few things in this one because it's interconnected with all the other ones but after the first ten minutes or so it was self-contained enough. Unfortunately, I can't take movies very seriously anymore since binge-watching CinemaSins, so I often catch myself thinking things like "That's racist." "Roll credits." and "Sixty-six seconds of ------- logos." Since I've already betrayed my ignorance, I feel no further shame in asking, does Spider-Man have super strength in addition to his climbing and web shooting abilities? I ask because I felt like every bone in his body should have been broken a few times over by the end. If he does have super strength, that seems like kind of a cop-out because that's not a spider power. Spiders can, like all bugs, fall or be thrown insane distances without injury, but that's because their small size results in ten times greater air resistance than driving force. So it wouldn't work for Peter, is what I'm saying.
Then yesterday I went on my own initiative to see "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie" because it's in the cheap theater now. I read all the books as a kid and have skimmed through them a bit as an adult encountering them again at work, and they really are more clever and sophisticated than one would expect. Dav Pilkey is a legitimately funny writer who apparently just stoops to lowbrow humor to trick kids into reading. His ploy has worked magnificently. And ironically, because this movie has no sexual content (unless I just didn't notice it because I'm so innocent), it's far more appropriate for children than any other Dreamworks movie I can think of. Seriously, if I had kids I wouldn't let them watch most of that garbage. Also, the theme song is by "Weird Al" Yankovic, my favorite artist of all time, so I think I have to buy the soundtrack just for that. He also did a parody of "Piano Man" about the first Spider-Man movie back in 2002, which I've never seen and don't need to thanks to his plot summary.
I haven't seen "Wonder Woman" either. Shame on me. I just don't watch a lot of movies. In a case of truth being stranger than fiction, her current status as a feminist icon is not an ironic re-contextualization, but faithful to her origins. I don't remember if I read it somewhere or it just seemed like a no-brainer, but I had assumed that the males who created her in 1941 did so as fanservice for male comic book readers. Nope! She was a feminist icon all along! Except that the psychologist who created her had a strange way of expressing it by having her getting constantly tied up (which previously I assumed was part of the aforementioned fanservice). I feel like some psychologists need psychologists. Then in the 1970s she became a "real" feminist as she still remains today. I just learned all of this just now while undergoing the thorough research that is the hallmark of every blog post I write.
This is so obvious I'm sure it's been suggested many times before, but the superhero I really want to see is Captain Canada. A superhero who drives a bulletproof Zamboni, uses a curling broom as a bo staff, and apologizes whenever he hits a villain. I can say these things because I'm practically half-Canadian after breathing their air, drinking their water and watching their broadcasting corporation during my formative years. His arch-nemesis would be Captain Quebec, his jerkface brother who has always grown up in his shadow and takes great pains to demonstrate his independence and differentiate himself. He's petty and callous and amoral and often says bad words in French that the MPAA just lets slide because they're in French. I can say these things because one of my best friends is Quebecois and she finds it funny.
Yes, Marie still exists even though I haven't mentioned her in a while. I should have written about how, a couple months ago, she was rear-ended by an idiot teenager, which totaled her car and exacerbated her scoliosis. She's been in near-constant severe pain since then, facing significant medical expenses and losing money from missed work. And here, despite being petty and callous and amoral in most of my conversations with her, she has shown her true colors. If this had happened to me, I would be consumed with rage 24/7. But she's just shrugged it off and kept chugging like a champ. Wow. So the other night she was tormenting me as I kept making stupid spelling mistakes for some reason. The first two were "mayke" (make) and "messager" (message) and they are not included in the following screenshots because that part of the conversation is classified. But I share these screenshots to teach myself humility.
Mackenzie finally read the last post about her and gave me the only feedback that really matters. Until she mentioned it, I assumed she had opted for a "don't ask, don't tell" and just hoped she wasn't upset. I never know when she's going to be upset.
"Kid", she called me, even though we're basically the same age.
the great Luke Ski - Peter Parker
Because it's catchy.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.