Keen-eyed readers will note that my site looks a little different now. Weebly stopped updating or supporting my previous "theme" so it started to have annoying problems like the menu icon being invisible on the mobile version that most people use. This theme is working out better but will take some fine-tuning to get exactly the way I want it, or as close to exactly the way I want it as I can get without the bother of learning to code.
I am profoundly fatigued from my eternal sleep deprivation, which has robbed me of the stamina to complete the much better post I had planned for this weekend. Nonetheless, yesterday was the first truly happy day I've had since the incident that I keep going on about. The weather here in Logan, Utah was so gorgeous that it felt like a sin to not spend every moment of daylight outside, so I, limited by my unusually tired legs, took several brief walks punctuated by resting on benches and in grass. I also learned two very welcome pieces of information: that I've been accepted for graduate school here at USU, and a family matter that I suppose isn't my place to publicly announce at this time. The graduate school thing comes as no surprise because a. God has been pushing me to do it and b. honestly, if I wasn't good enough to make the cut, they'd only have like five graduate students at most. But having it confirmed gives me one fewer thing to worry about until the reality of what I've gotten myself into sinks in.
With higher brain functions and meaningful accomplishments like my Indiana Jones fan fiction off the table for the time being, I've lapsed into one of my music addiction phases. During these periods I rarely take my headphones off except to charge them, but even more so than listening to the songs I already know and love, I become obsessed with acquiring more and building playlists. The Spotify playlist I'm on now, "Gimme Some Space" - a spacelist if you will, a love letter to astronomy and science fiction and pretentious crap like the yearnings of the human heart - is, for better and worse, easier than some to expand. This list is arranged by topic rather than genre. Obviously it leans a lot toward electronic music that people associate with space but I try to make it as diverse as possible. So at any time I can search out more musical candidates by entering keywords associated with astronomy and/or science fiction, listen to each one time, and if I don't hate it then onto the list it goes. I spent more time than I'd care to admit on this pursuit yesterday.
As of this writing, without consciously setting out to do so, I've ended up so far with eleven versions of David Bowie's magnum opus "Space Oddity" - the original version and ten covers. I also have sixteen versions of Peter Schilling's unauthorized sequel "Major Tom (Coming Home)" - the original German version, two remixes of the German version, a cover of the German version, the official English version, two remixes of the English version, four covers of the English version, four remixes of one of the covers of the English version, and a French cover. I'm way more excited about this than I should be. Probably the only song on the list that outnumbers those ones is the Star Wars theme, which comes under so many different titles ("Star Wars", "Main Theme", "Main Theme from Star Wars", etc.) that I can't be bothered to quantify it scientifically. But I could do worse than to keep replicating three of the best compositions in the universe.
The major downside of these phases is that I go to bed after a day of being obsessed with music, and my brain is like a radio that I can't turn off. One song after another after another. It makes getting to sleep even more difficult than usual and as a result I'm even more fatigued today than yesterday. Of course I know this will happen and try to be responsible and limit myself, but I am weak and subject to all manner of temptations of the flesh. Especially when I'm tired. Which is always. I've loved space stuff for a very long time and I think I've latched onto this playlist because of the spirit of escapism it embodies, which is also something I wrote about in my declaration of intent when I needed some pompous academic language to explain why I should be accepted for graduate school, and it worked. Anyway, here's the playlist in case I've sufficiently piqued your curiosity.
The referendum against Utah's recent tax reform ended on Tuesday, having collected an estimated 150-170,000 signatures out of the 116,000 that were required. It would have taken some time to verify the final count, and some would have been rejected, but we were pretty dang confident we had this in the bag. Then it became moot because the Legislature was so scared by this upswelling of resistance that they repealed the tax reform altogether. Now, instead of being put on the ballot in November, it's simply ceased to exist. Of course I hope Utah will still remember in November exactly which people voted for that train wreck in the first place, and I hope this will leave a lasting impression on anyone currently in or planning to enter politics. I have to admit the referendum would have most likely been a flop without the endorsement and enthusiastic participation of the Harmon's grocery store chain, where I would happily shop if they had a location in Logan, and the conservative think tank Sutherland Institute who encouraged people to sign by running radio ads telling them not to sign.
I finished submitting the supplementary materials for my graduate school application. The requirements use all this pompous academic language, of course, and it's intimidating and it makes me feel like I'm way out of my depth when I just want to write fun science fiction stories. Realistically, though, and I'm not trying to be cocky, but realistically, I'll be very surprised if I don't get in. I think the skill exhibited in my writing sample will speak for itself, and I also know the professors giving me recommendations will speak very highly of said skill, especially the one who urged me to consider graduate school and teaching in the first place. By my estimate I was the third best writer in his class the first time around and the second best the second, but of course that's kind of subjective and when I told Stormy she was probably the best she said "No, you definitely are." I think my biggest strength is that I fill a different niche than most. Nobody else in any of my writing classes over the years has focused on fun science fiction stories.
I recently lost a substantial chunk of one of my teeth, substantial enough for me to see the sensitive core with my naked eye and touch it with my naked finger, which I only did once. I assumed the remaining chunk would have to be pulled out and I was surprisingly quick to accept that. It's way in the back where nobody would notice, and I've already learned to chew without it, and I figured this life is mercifully short and I'll get it back when I'm resurrected so whatever happens to me in the meantime doesn't matter. I was far more concerned about the cost. I just got Medicaid but it doesn't cover anything dental because the US government has decided those things aren't super important. Imagine, then, my relief when the dentist said he can repair my tooth in half an hour and it will only cost $254.84 if I pay the same day. He might have to follow up with a root canal, but there's no sense worrying about that yet.
The situation with my neighbors... hasn't changed at all, but after the initial shock, I surprisingly don't much care. Their wrongness is their own loss. It will also make my memoir that much better.
This review of my site on Webwiki, the first one from somebody who isn't me, isn't new, but I just noticed it the other day and it made me happy.
Thank you, Jason. Now I'm all like
and I hope to continue putting out the same level of quality, but no promises.
I've had a few bits and pieces of writing on this site in the form of embedded word documents and downloads that don't really work on mobile devices and would be too tiny to read comfortably if they did. I don't think search engines can go through them either. Since these are mostly unfinished pieces of crap from my middle and high school years, moving them into the twenty-first century (which my middle and high school years were already part of, but I'm speaking metaphorically, in a self-deprecating remark about my own lack of technological prowess) hasn't been a priority, but in the last few days I've been finally doing it, transplanting the text from these documents into actual web pages.
The most horrifically painful thing about some of my early writing is the godawful attempts to straight-up copy Douglas Adams' one-of-a-kind writing style. In fairness, he left us much too soon and I would be doing a legitimate service to the world by providing more works in his vein if they were of equal quality and not just pathetic knockoffs. And I guess I don't regret the experiment because I believe that it had a lasting impact on the evolution of my actual genuine writing voice. I think I can see a bit of Douglas Adams in my writing voice, but just a bit, thank goodness.
Anyway, I was skimming through this unfinished sci-fi epic "The War" as I moved the text over - I had intended to read it all straight through, but that was too painful - and this little bit stopped me in my tracks. When I wrote it as a teenager in 2008 or 9, it was just a silly attempt at humor with virtually no real-life subtext intended, but anyone reading it today would be unable to avoid what TV Tropes calls Unfortunate Implications. It's - well, I'll just let it speak for itself.
[Beginning of excerpt. The setting is a party/dance with members of many alien races present.]
“All right,” Hok announced, leaping to the nearest hovering microphone on ridiculously long gangly legs. He was a short, skinny green man with a gargantuan head and pointy ears. “All right,” he repeated, “hang on to your kramblotches, because it’s pippiks’ choice!”
There was a slight groan from some of those assembled, elicited by the fact that there was only one pippik present, a suddenly rather confused-looking Troikot.
There is a simple pattern followed by many species throughout the universe, and that is this: male, female. The reason this is followed by many species is that it’s simple, it works, and if you believe in an all-powerful Hand guiding it somewhere along the line you can imagine Him wanting to keep it consistent. For those who like to keep it even simpler, the options of hermaphrodite and null were made available. However, the Universe being the humongous place it is, some species are bound to be dissatisfied with these perfectly reasonable choices, and choose to come up with their own fancy alternatives. Pippiks, then, are only one of thousands of relatively obscure genders to be found throughout said Universe. Kramblotches, on the other hand, are completely unrelated organs found in some species for the purpose of throwing at predators.
When it comes to interstellar travel, this also brings up the problem of gender pronouns. The language of a species with its own special genders will have developed its own special pronouns, of course, but usually any being from a normal male/female/hermaphrodite/null species will not want to bother memorizing all of the pronouns for the thousands of relatively obscure genders that exist. As a result, most choose to lump them all under the “it” category. Some find this offensive, but, others argue, they should have thought of that before their species decided to create its own genders anyway.
“Ask that cute farfel over there,” whispered a Queezik.
“I don’t swing that way,” the Troikot timidly whispered back.
Hok’s keen ears picked up their exchange and he grinned in spite of himself. He knew, of course, that there was only one pippik in the room, but he was trying as best he could to be fair and tolerant of everybody. Sexism, of course, was unseemly even by this society’s standards.
[End of excerpt]
So. Much. Cringe.
I've avoided talking about all the sex and gender controversy (except that one time, which I won't apologize for) because it's surprisingly complicated and I don't want to say ignorant things. I know that chromosomes are complicated and there are several - not percentage-wise, but numerically - demonstrable exceptions to the "XY = male, XX = female" dichotomy. Externally female bodies may have only one X chromosome, or even XY chromosomes and useless internal testes in place of ovaries, to cite a simple and surprisingly common example. I do think a lot of other people don't know as much about it as they think they do either, even when citing "science" as their authority. A couple months ago in the Mormons Building Bridges group someone posted an article about a study that had allegedly found that, marriage expert Mark Gungor's hilarious routine notwithstanding, there is no difference between men's brains and women's brains. And more recently in the same group someone posted an article about a study that had allegedly found that transgender children's brains matched the gender they identified as, not their biological sex.
I may be missing something obvious, but I can't help feeling like it's fundamentally impossible for both of those claims to be true. Of course it's not my place as a non-scientist to reject either or both of them without being able to explain why, but neither is it the place of other non-scientists to imbue either of them with more authority than it actually has. Scientific truth is not established overnight by one scientist or team of scientists. A study may be interesting but means very little unless and until its results are replicated in additional studies. This often never happens. There's also the issue of news outlets and other lay people misinterpreting studies to mean what they want them to mean - for example, this happened a few years ago:
Study from BYU: We found that religious people who use pornography are more likely than non-religious people who use pornography to describe themselves as "addicted" even if they show no signs of addiction.
Almost Everyone Else: This study from BYU found that pornography addiction is a myth created by religious guilt.
These people seemed to believe they were objectively reporting the study's results, when in reality they were doing something else: making crap up. In any case, I'm going to reserve judgment on most of these issues for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, it costs nothing to be kind.
I do still consider it plausible that the vast majority of alien races would fall into something recognizably analogous to the male/female dichotomy, just as the vast majority of advanced organisms on Earth do even with chromosomal arrangements that in many cases radically differ from ours. Sexual reproduction is weird and gross but it works because, by mixing and recombining parents' DNA, it drastically boosts the genetic diversity of the species, which in turn makes it far less vulnerable to being suddenly wiped out by disease, climate change or whatever. This obviously requires at least two parents. Three, four, or a dozen would create even more diversity, but the exponential difficulty of actually pulling it off in practice would more than nullify that benefit. Of course, there may be aliens out there who aren't even made from DNA as we understand it, but that's also too complicated for me to think about right now.
Ugh, I need to get the taste of that excerpt out of my mouth, so here's another from the same scene that I don't hate.
[Beginning of excerpt.]
“Let’s go find a seat,” said Bert. They turned around and nearly bumped into the nine-foot tall hairy mass behind them. It reacted slightly less than a tombstone, but the purple snake coiled around its neck reared up and hissed at them violently.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” said Alicia, who had spilled soda all over her clothes in response. “Er, nice pet,” she said to the hairy creature, hoping to make light of it.
“How dare you speak that way of my fiancé?” demanded the snake.
[End of excerpt.]
It's a dumb joke, but I find it amusing. At least I was supportive of interracial marriage long after it was cool.
Why do I put these garbage writing samples, these "sins of my youth" as Hergé would call them, on the internet instead of burying them forever? First of all, because when I'm famous everyone will be fascinated to see how my writing has evolved. Joking but serious at the same time. Second, because despite how bad they are, they're actually not that bad. Oh sure, they're too painful for me to read, but they have their moments of brilliance and I can see in them the potential that my teachers saw and urged me to cultivate. They're better than some Legend of Zelda fan fiction I've read. Heck, they're better than some things I read from some of my undergraduate English classmates. Not singling anyone out but just being honest. And maybe some people who hold me to a lower standard than I do, who aren't personally embarrassed by the existence of this old writing, can actually enjoy it. I enjoy the Star Wars Holiday Special, which shouldn't be possible for a carbon-based life form, so it's not that far-fetched.
While I was skimming through "The War", I laughed out loud at a part where (spoiler alert) one character who's just learned English as a second language refers to puppy love as "dog lust". Maybe I'm just an idiot, but I think that's one of the funniest things I've ever written.
Look at me, persevering to bring to the world this post that nobody asked for even though my laptop battery is well and truly dead. I actually am impressed that my Asus Vivobook has lasted three and a quarter years, which is about two years longer than any of my previous laptops from three different brands, and that's even considering I spilled Tang on the keyboard in January 2018. And also, the motherboard or hard drive isn't even fried like in my last three laptops, so I should just be able to get a new battery and be good to go.
The first thing I did for Halloween was the annual North Logan Pumpkin Walk. It was a walk with a bunch of pumpkins.
Then I went to a meeting of USU's Asian Student Association where they talked about scary stories and urban legends from Asia. I saw it on Facebook and went for the scary stories and urban legends, not realizing it was a standard weekly meeting, but now I have to keep going back because they were all super nice and stuff. Okay, so the scary stories and urban legends are unsettling just to think about, which is obviously the point, but they're not real. But then we transitioned from just talking to watching YouTube videos, and then this adorable Vietnamese-American metalhead wanted to watch something about "the Hello Kitty murder", and she kind of neglected to explain that this was not an urban legend but a real life event. If you don't know what it was, I highly recommend not looking it up. It's the sort of thing that I was happier not knowing had ever happened to anyone anywhere at any time. But this girl kept a calm, pleasant smile on her face throughout the video. Sicko.
I didn't dare say this, and maybe it's a stupid thing to say now either, but I noticed right away that she looked virtually identical to the victim, at least as far as I could see from the little black and white photograph, and she's about the right age to maybe possibly have been conceived around the time the victim died, and as I said her interest in the story was a little unsettling... so I'm going to pretend I believe in reincarnation because that's cool.
Another real-life YouTube video we watched had to do with the haunting of the U.S.S. Forrestal after a horrific fire that killed 134 people. Personally, I have no problem accepting the many accounts at face value and believing that this haunting is legit. Ghosts and hauntings will probably never be scientifically verifiable but I don't think all the stories and eyewitness accounts throughout the world over the years can just be dismissed with a skeptical wave of the hand, and in this case, there are many such accounts. What makes it unsettling for me is not the persistence of life beyond the grave as such, which I accept as a basic tenet of my religion, but the way these spirits met their demise and how traumatized they must have been if they were still stuck haunting that ship for decades afterward. Burning alive or choking to death are horrible ways to die. Nowhere near as horrible as the Hello Kitty murder, which I highly recommend not looking up, but still not a joyride. And many of those sailors were probably draftees who didn't even want to be there.
Prior to the Logan Institute of Religion's "Scream Fling 2019", they solicited suggestions to update their stale music selections. The guidelines of acceptable suggestions specified no profanity, even though "Cha-Cha Slide", which has played at every LDS dance I've been to since 2007, has a swear word in it, at least according to American English and nowhere else (see a recent post on that topic). They also specified no references to immoral behavior, even though "Macarena", which has played at nearly every LDS dance I've been to since 2007, is almost entirely about immoral behavior. I suggested some songs, and then I had to go to the dance to see if they implemented any of my suggestions, which spoiler alert, they did not. They played a few of their old songs, a few fresh and catchy new songs, and a lot of forgettable crap.
For those who weren't around the last time I did so, allow me to once again list my favorite dance moves.
The "George McFly"
The "Salacious Crumb"
The "Clone Troopers"
The "Obscure Peanuts"
The "Aman Mathur"
The "Emo Phillips"
The "Wayne's World"
The "The Cheat"
The "Italian Schoolgirl"
The "Russian Riverdancer"
The "What is Love?"
Because most of the music was forgettable crap, though, and because yelling small talk at a stranger for three minutes isn't my idea of a good time, I ended up laying on a couch looking at my phone. There my friend Terrah and her sister and one of their guy friends found me and made me take a picture with them. Then we left and walked home, with Terrah's sister making judgmental comments about the slutty costumes of the girls going to the university Halloween party, and the guy friend making pervy comments about same. I hit on some guy in a bra as he passed by, and he invited me to his apartment later. But we went to Terrah's apartment and played "Truth or Dare", and then around 10:30 we decided to get food, spent about twenty minutes deciding where to eat, settled on Wendy's, and returned to Terrah's apartment, and about this time I was yawning and thinking how nice it would be to go to bed, but the consensus of everyone who wasn't me was that we should watch a horror movie, and I felt like I should stay up for that because social life. Yes, I regret it today but I'll be dead someday regardless.
I'm not really into horror movies. The only ones I've seen are "Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds", "Little Shop of Horrors", "Poltergeist", "Sleepy Hollow", "The Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein", "The Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman", and "The Star Wars Holiday Special". Perhaps it's because, as the Hello Kitty murder demonstrated, many horror movies are too realistic for comfort and not the sort of escapism I have in mind when I look for escapism. The movie we picked, "When a Stranger Calls", (2006 version), is a story that technically could have happened in real life even though it didn't. Serial killers exist, cell phones exist, and incompetent parents and law enforcement exist. Too realistic for comfort.
Yet I was pleasantly surprised to find it more unsettling than scary as such. I found myself viewing it through an objective, analytical lens as if I had seen a thousand of these movies. (Spoilers alert) Okay, so there's going to be a bunch of jump-scares that are actually false alarms, and Jill probably isn't going to die because then this movie would just be depressing and nobody would like it, and the killer is no longer scary when he reveals himself and gets angry because then you know he's no longer in control of the situation, and why are they acting like Rosa's body in the fish pond is a surprise when we all saw that coming forty-five minutes ago? Also, Hulu made us watch five to seven commercials every five to seven minutes, increasing the movie's runtime by at least fifty percent and effectively preventing the suspense from getting too suspenseful. Next time I will happily chip in three bucks to skip those.
Admittedly, it was a nice touch that the killer was literally just some random white male with no motive, backstory or name given. You only see his face briefly but you can tell he's pure evil because he has a scar. The most unsettling part by far is the very end when, despite an ostensibly happy ending, Jill is in a hospital bed with her parents and the doctors trying to calm her as she screams and thrashes around and hallucinates that he's after her again. Yay for our protagonist getting possibly lifelong PTSD. It's pretty unfair that teenage girls are always the victims in these movies. I mean, not that an adult would deserve it either, but at least with her fully developed brain she would have a better chance of processing the trauma. To say nothing of the kids, though at least they survived, unlike the original movie. But what Jill should have done is keep stabbing the guy with the fire poker once she had him down, until he was well and truly dead. Then she never would have made eye contact with him and she would probably have fewer hallucinations.
I know I keep saying "unsettled" or "unsettling". I'm not trying to be all macho by claiming that these things don't actually scare me as such. They don't, but plenty of other things do. I experience soul-crushing terror on at least a weekly basis. It's just usually instilled by more mundane things like seeing my crush at church or laying awake in bed at night and suddenly thinking in vivid detail about what it would feel like to fall out of an airplane. These other things unsettle me because they remind me how permanently uncomfortable I am living in this crapsack world of pain and injustice, but what can you do?
I want to give a completely unrelated shout-out to an old friend of mine and some guy I don't know, who recently started a podcast dedicated to Star Wars in general and Knights of the Old Republic in particular. Check out their first episode here:
USU's campus has a spot above the parking terrace where you can go and look out over a good-sized chunk of town and, if you time it right, the setting sun. Recently I was in the vicinity while the sky was turning orange, so I headed up to look. This spot is also right behind freshman housing and has a fire pit where several happened to be congregated at this time. I avoided eye contact and charted a course well around them. My being there was not problematic in itself, as this area is as public as any other part of campus and I've seen people old enough to be my grandparents come to take pictures of the sunset, but I wanted to avoid any appearances of trying to crash their party or steal their s'mores. I also had my earbuds in as usual. So it took me a minute to notice them calling out to me. As it turns out, they wanted to be my friends and offer me a s'more.
I apologetically explained that my music was really loud. (I hope to permanently damage my hearing just enough to no longer pick up the million annoying little sounds that my brain refuses to filter out like a normal person's.) They said that was fine and what was I listening to? I said Nightwish. They asked what is that? I said it's a Finnish metal band. They said take out your earbuds and let's hear it. I obliged, grateful that I had told the truth. The song, "Nemo", is an epic yet melancholy piece, as one can infer from the title, which of course is Latin for "little orange fish". It so impressed one of the freshmen that she pulled out her own phone and Shazam'd it. And in that moment I knew that notwithstanding how much of my time and potential I may have wasted that day, right here and now I had enriched someone's life in a very tangible way. Because of me she now knows that Nightwish exists. I'm not worthless after all.
And karma was swift to repay me. One of the guys asked if I had heard of a Swedish metal band called Sabaton. I hadn't, and I procrastinated looking it up for a few days because I get nervous about the unknown and my taste in music is generally superior to other people's, but I got around to it the other day and I would just like to say holy crap. It's epic. So far as I can tell, all of their songs are about World War I and/or II, and somehow despite being generations removed from those events this genre is completely appropriate for conveying the power of unprecedented war machines and the terror of ordinary soldiers going through hell. Its unrelenting speed, volume and intensity conveys a sense of all that without getting bogged down in history lessons or graphic details. And I'll just stop right there before I start to sound like I'm trying to sound like a music reviewer who knows what he's talking about, when all I'm really trying to is that I like Sabaton and my life has been enriched by the introduction. Favorite track: "Bismarck".
This past Friday a friend and occasional reader of this blog, and his wife whom I met for the first time but who already knew about me because of my blog, hosted the inaugural meeting of the Logan Music Society, "a place to listen to, present, and chat about music old and new, from far and near". For this meeting everyone was invited to "play" a song that has changed them and explain why. And since this guy is an actual musician type person, I thought maybe "play" meant "perform", and that almost dissuaded me from showing up. I can't play music, I can't read music, I can't sing without Autotune and I know very little about the official terminology and stuff. I just like listening to it and I know what I like. I did finally decide to show up to be supportive, and everyone just played their chosen songs from their phones so that was all right.
I still hesitated to share one in front of the group because me no very good speech the English extemporaneously. That's why I write. But I went for it because, you know, facing your fears and stuff, and I don't think I sounded like a complete idiot. People liked the song and somebody asked for the artist's name and wrote it down and said she was really excited. Another enriched life. Even so, I want to take this opportunity to compensate for the shortcomings of my presentation by redoing it with my superior writing skills.
Three contenders ran through my mind prior to the meeting: "Unwell" by Matchbox Twenty, "Last Man Standing" by Hammerfall, and "Dante's Prayer" by Loreena McKennitt. I nixed "Unwell" because I thought it would benefit the group more to share something they were less likely to be familiar with. Then, noting the general tone of prior selections and apparent musical leanings of the people who actually knew stuff about music, I opted for the remaining option that I thought they would like more. Of course it would have been perfectly acceptable to express my individuality and break the prevailing tone with metal, but since I didn't have a preference either way I nixed "Last Man Standing" and of course that left "Dante's Prayer".
"Dante's Prayer" is the final track off Loreena McKennitt's 1997 album "The Book of Secrets". She does Celtic New Age-y stuff and my parents were really into that, so they bought the album pretty much when it came out. I was four years old. And I absolutely adored some of the songs and I absolutely adored Loreena McKennitt herself, looking so radiant on the album cover. I decided I would marry her someday. As it turns out, she's still single, but only because her fiance died in a boating accident around the same time I was having these thoughts, which makes me feel terrible. Anyway, despite that, there was one song on the album I didn't care for, and that was this one. I remember where I was the first time I heard it. I was taking a bath when this low melancholy moaning sound unlike anything I'd heard before came over the stereo system, and I thought it was weird and creepy and unpleasant.
Obviously I don't think that anymore. The sound, as it turns out, is a Russian Orthodox chant called "Hallelujah", and even though the Russian Orthodox Church is being a jerk right now I absolutely love what they have to offer her. The sound is still weird, yes, but in such a good way. To me it's a sound that seems to freeze time itself. It's a sound that says, gently but inescapably, "Stop whatever you're doing right this instant and listen to this and become introspective." And I find myself wishing that its time-freezing power was literal and would last forever, because the time it brings me to is the time I was four years old sitting in the bathtub. When I was four years old I didn't know that life was as happy and simple as it was ever going to get. I didn't appreciate that my problems were all but nonexistent, but they were about to multiply like cockroaches. What I wouldn't give to reclaim that innocence! The bathtub part is just incidental.
Nostalgia is a double-edged sword, as depressing as it is uplifting, and I find that same tonal ambivalence in "Hallelujah" and then in the rest of the song as it segues into piano, cello (I think), violin (I think), and Loreena McKennitt's goddess voice. Granted, this may owe more to my own lack of emotional intelligence than authorial intent, but the way art works is that my interpretation is as valid as anyone else's. The lyrics speak of hope, of faith, of seeking after God when he seems the most distant, of grasping at tender mercies and persevering through the long dark night of the soul - depression, faith crisis, loss, whatever. In my favorite passage, she sings,
"I did not believe because I could not see
Though you came to me in the night
When the dawn seemed forever lost
You showed me your love in the light of the stars"
Yet I cannot bring myself to call this a cheerful song when it sounds like something to be played at a funeral. In this very same passage, Loreena/Dante laments her/his own foolishness and shortcomings, and this continues as (s)he asks God to strengthen her/his "clay feet" and "feeble heart" and "take these crumpled hopes, etched with tears". Near the end of life, perhaps, looking back with no small amount of regret and lingering heartache over the past, but acknowledging God's hand throughout, and humbly pleading with Him to remain nearby through the final stretch. Loreena's voice fades away as she repeats, as she begs, "Please remember me." She is altogether silent when the music segues flawlessly back into "Hallelujah", closing out this hymn of unparalleled beauty that simultaneously preaches hope, acknowledges pain, and diminishes neither. As I put it more simply the other night, "It makes me cry for multiple reasons." That's how I feel about it now that I don't hate it anymore.
I've just recently completed my third involuntary move this year, and it had fine well better be the last one for a good long while. It was the first time since 2012 that I had to call around to a bunch of apartments which, to recap, is slightly below "stabbing myself in the groin with an ice pick" on my list of favorite activities. So I'm very, very grateful to my friend Terrah for volunteering to make all the actual calls for me, helping me move, and giving me food after I had to spend most of the contents of my bank account on this contract. I feel as though I should grovel at her feet or follow her around like in those TV show episodes where Character A saves Character B's life and Character B tries to repay Character A by following them around and being a nuisance. She says, however, that my friendship is payment enough. Most peculiar.
I somehow ended up in a highly coveted spot that's pretty cheap but not a total craphole, in the same complex where I used to chill on the porch with the infamous Debbie. And her neighbor used to chill with us and we both liked her and were jealous of each other at the same time without knowing it, but she's long gone and he still lives here and we're friends and when I found this contract for sale, I thought that was really cool and snatched it right up without remembering to clarifiy once and for all that it was a private room. The complex has both shared and private rooms but I was specifically looking for a private room because I'd rather sleep in a dumpster than a shared room. So I got to stress about that for a couple weeks but I tried to relax and remember that whatever abuse God sees fit to subject me to is for my own good. Come to find out, it is a private room and I only have one roommate because there are only two bedrooms because the laundry room takes up the space where a third bedroom would otherwise be. I will praise and adore my God forever.
It's well worth the tradeoff of being able to hear every footstep my upstairs neighbors make, and having the view outside the living room and bedroom windows blocked by recycle and garbage bins, respectively. And I'm only a little bit upset that the second time I used the dryer, the coin slot got stuck so that I'm out fifty cents but neither I nor anyone else can actually dry clothes with it for the foreseeable future. And I do mean stuck. I mean I literally pulled on the slot with both hands while propping my feet up against the dryer door. My next thought was to whack it with a hammer, which would be therapeutic whether or not it worked, but I restrained myself. I'm only a little bit upset about that. If it never ever happens again I'll be fine.
I love this place, but it's bittersweet at the same time to leave the stake, let alone the ward, that I've been in for seven years. I wanted to leave but also I didn't want to leave. I have a lot of good memories and a lot of horrific memories associated with the Logan YSA 36th Ward and I guess what it comes down to is that I needed a change and a fresh start, for psychological reasons if nothing else. Everyone who was there when I showed up is long gone and now so am I. The vicinity I lived in was ideal for other reasons, and almost everywhere I go on a regular basis is a bit farther away now, but taking different routes to get there is nice. I've been walking to Utah State University's campus the same two ways for seven years. The first time I walked to it from this place was nothing short of exhilirating. That feeling alone convinced me, rationally or not, that better things are yet to come.
I'm even ridiculously excited about the new school year that I'm not a part of. I love the atmosphere on campus when it bustles with people and activity, and I've missed that over the summer. I like being able to go to campus when I want to be around people, and go home when I want to be alone. I'm excited for all the incoming freshmen with their whole lives ahead of them, and I hope they'll make better choices than I did and have a better experience than I did. And I love the campus itself, the trees and the grass and the buildings, even for all the painful memories I have with it and the changes it's undergone and the fact that it's not a living thing. I love it deeply just like I love this town. They've both become a part of me, and I'm sorry if I sound high or something but nostalgia really hits me hard. Maybe I do need a change and a fresh start, but there are worse places to be stuck.
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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.