Politics as Usual
I have never been a fan of Obama, but I've grown more and more disgusted with Republicans who feel compelled to disagree with everything he says or does just because he's a Democrat. I am particularly disgusted today that people have taken issue with him visiting Japan and expressing condolences for the atomic bombings. Contrary to popular misrepresentation, he never apologized for what the United States did, but merely expressed condolences - including to some survivors who were actually there - which most non-sociopaths would consider to be a decent gesture. I'm disgusted that anyone has a problem with that. I'm disgusted that some Americans can't afford to have an ounce of compassion for non-Americans because they're too busy worshiping themselves. Maybe the bombings probably prevented an all-out nuclear war by demonstrating the consequences of nuclear weapons, and maybe they saved millions of lives, but that doesn't invalidate the tragedy or the undeserved effects on Japanese innocents. And those who feel that bombing civilians is never justified have a perfectly valid opinion too.
The worst of it, though, is that if George Bush or any other Republican had given the same speech while he was in office, few if any of these complainers would have complained. Just like they didn't care when several Republican presidents were photographed putting their feet up on the Resolute desk, but when Obama did it they started a chain email full of self-righteous indignation.
An acquaintance invited me to her sister's mission farewell, with food afterward, so I went and upon getting there discovered that I hadn't read carefully enough and that it was actually a farewell for both of them. They're leaving on the same day next month, with her sister going to the Scotland/Ireland Mission and her to the Adriatic North Mission, Slovenia Mission Region. I kind of pity them both for going to such secular nations where the Church's growth is so stagnant, but I'm sure they'll have a great time anyway. Either one or both of them is evidently pretty popular because the chapel was as packed as a stake conference. Among the people I recognized was Logan Library director Robert Shupe, guardian of knowledge and entertainment. After sacrament meeting I patiently waited forty minutes or so for everyone else to get through congratulating her, and then I did so, and she was like "Wanna come eat with us?" and I thought Duh; I didn't come here for Sunday school.
So I ate and then when I left she wanted a picture of us, and some old lady chose that moment to come over and start asking her questions, so she got in the picture too. And there was also a photobomber. I was proud of this moment because usually when I have to put my arm around someone, I instinctively curl my hand into a fist to minimize the amount of me that's actually touching them, because that kind of intimacy makes me feel super vulnerable and awkward; but this time I had my fingers spread out on her back like a normal person, so I thought that apparently somewhere along the line I'd made a huge leap of progress in that regard without trying or realizing it. But then I actually saw the picture and realized I was leaning way away from her. Urgh. Baby steps.
For context, I really wanted to also post a 2011 picture of me with my arm around a Hard Rock Café waitress named Amber where my hand is clearly curled into a fist, but whichever of my friends had taken the picture has evidently deactivated her Facebook or blocked me, so I can't get to it anymore, and that really upsets me.
Since Brooke's departure, the visits to the old people have grown smaller and less organized, but still a faithful cadre of us has continued to go. Last week I felt a need for some solitude and so I went earlier by myself. Just a short time ago I never would have dared go by myself. For at least three years I've wanted to visit old people but never dared because I was afraid of potential awkwardness with them being unable to hear me and me being unable to understand them. I went to see Charlotte and her roommate Kathy and their other friend whose name escapes me, and sure enough, Charlotte had trouble hearing me and I had trouble understanding their other friend, but it wasn't even a big deal. That day, Charlotte seemed to be giving a lot of thought to her own mortality. "When you get to be a hundred, you might as well just die," she told me, "but you don't die until you die, you know?"
I was eating dinner with them, and Kathy asked if I wanted food too, and I shrugged, which meant Yes, I always want food, my friends are probably going to show up here soon and I don't want them to see me eating free food meant for old people and think I'm the worst person in the world. (The last time someone offered me food at a different old people's home, I was about to accept before the guy with me said "Nah, we're good", but only because I was hungry enough to eat a bowl of cockroaches.) "That means yes, doesn't it?" Kathy said. And a waitress came by and asked if I wanted anything and I just had to shrug again and say, "They want me to." So she said "We'll get you a guest tray" and I thought Wait, a 'guest tray'? So this is like a normal thing around here? That changes everything. Charlotte didn't eat anything except a cup of hot chocolate, and she made me get one for myself too, and it was the best hot chocolate I've ever tasted. She never eats anything. I don't know how she's still alive.
"Modern Romance" Addendum
This is a continuation of my musings on "Modern Romance" by Aziz Ansari, which I cut short last week because the post was getting too long to hold anyone's interest (insert your own quip about none of my posts holding anyone's interest here). Ansari is an Indian and in the book he mentions that his parents had an arranged marriage and that it suited them just fine. Arranged marriages have their share of advantages and for the most part I don't think they're as bad as Americans might be prone to think, and that they just represent a different philosophy wherein marriage represents the beginning of a love affair rather than the end, but one time I said all this to an Indian in an attempt to show off my cultural sensitivity and he was just like "Eh, it isn't that great." It's interesting how old and new beliefs and practices are colliding in Indian culture. I had a couple of other Indian friends who married each other the Western non-arranged way, but the guy was like, "Man, I'm just lucky. If you'd gotten here first, she would've been all yours. But there's multiple lives, man. You can have her in the next one."
Arranged marriage seems barbaric to many modern sensibilities because it mostly removes choice from the equation, and modern sensibilities love choice. This, however, leads to another problem mentioned in the book, where so many options are available that one becomes paralyzed by indecision. I've often had this problem with myriad things, which is why I often procrastinate my decisions until the last minute when my only choice is to scramble and stop everything from imploding. It's not always fun but it's worked out for me so far. That's how I ended up in an apartment complex with all those Indians, and they were/are some of my favorite people ever. Anyway, I hate decisions where there's no clear "good, better, best" because all the options are just "different" and I don't have many particular preferences one way or another. In dating, I just want someone who's honest and kind and female, and beyond that I don't even have a preference for something so basic and huge as introvert vs. extrovert. It's much easier to avoid choosing altogether.
Tinder, which is also discussed in the book as one of the "modern" parts of "modern romance", has such a taboo against it that for the longest time I thought it was a porn site. Almost everyone who admits to having a Tinder feels the need to preface it with a disclaimer about how they never imagined getting one, aren't really the type to get one, just got one for the laughs or out of curiosity, etcetera. They're afraid of being seen as desperate and shallow. In the book, Ansari argues that it isn't really shallow because swiping right on the people you find attractive isn't really that different from just approaching the people you find attractive in real life, which is what everyone does. I would counter-argue that this is still shallow, but no more so than standard human interactions which are shallow to begin with. But it's evolution's fault so that's okay.
The book cites brain scans demonstrating the difference between passionate and companionate love and that the former inevitably dies after twelve to eighteen months, hopefully to be superseded by the latter. People who refuse to acknowledge this or think they'll somehow be an exception are setting themselves up for a rough time. It sounds all fine and dandy to me in theory, but when my dad said one time that being married is like having another sister, that was a really really really really really really big turn-off. I have enough sisters. I have three real sisters and one imaginary sister that I made up as a joke because whenever we got in the van to go somewhere my parents counted us to make sure we were all there, and I thought Come on, there's only four of us, we're not that hard to keep track of, so I started saying, "We forgot Rachel!" and it caught on. I love my four sisters, but if I wanted another sibling I would ask for a brother because I don't have any of those.
This has nothing to do with the book, but since it's related to the topic, in my institute class a couple weeks ago someone remarked, "My dad always says we should remember that marriage isn't just between two people, but it involves the community, and you have obligations to the community. In response my brain played the clip of R. J. Fletcher in "UHF" saying, "The community? Let me tell you something. This community means about as much to me as a festering bowl of dog snot!"
Oh yes, did I ever mention that recently I watched "Napoleon Dynamite" for the first time? My parents rented it once and then watched it without me, and I was upset, and they said I hadn't missed anything because it was stupid. They were right. But I do have to admire the eponymous protagonist for shamelessly being a nerd who's not even the cool kind of nerd that people brag about being. And I admire the movie's brutal honesty about his unattractiveness. Instead of a lame "Napoleon overcomes his insecurities and gathers the confidence to take the initiative to ask a girl out and then when she gets to know him she comes to like him for who he is" plot thread, it has a far more realistic "Napoleon asks a girl out and her mom makes her say yes and the prospect fills her with such dread that it makes her feel physically ill" plot thread. And then it's okay because he never clues into it and breaks down crying afterward, at least not on screen.
I couldn't believe he was such a nerd as to draw a picture of her and give it to her. How could he not know how weird and creepy that is? I thought only I had ever done things like that. One time I drew a picture of my then-new friend Quincy for her birthday. I copied it from an actual photograph of her wearing a dress and sitting in a tree, but I took the liberty of adding a magic wand, a tiara, and a pair of massive butterfly/fairy wings. The guys at the lunch table saw me drawing it and said, "That's creepy." And I said "No it isn't, she'll like it." And she did, because she's the most empathetic and understanding person in the world. But she still acknowledged years later that it was weird. A year or so later, I had mostly grown out of this but I got bored in biology lab and I thought a more rushed and casual picture would be all right. That girl seemed less than enthused when I showed her, though. And I unexpectedly found it in my closet the other day, which is why I found this roundabout way to bring it up so I could show you.
I also watched a James Bond movie for the first time ever (though I had read a couple of the books) when a friend happened to come across me out walking after home evening and take me to his house where he had been planning on watching it by himself. It was decent. I was impressed that he tried to skip the risqué bits - I say "tried" because he just fast-forwarded them and I think that made them worse, but I was impressed with the effort. The main flaw in this movie was the forced love story. James Bond's reputation as a shameless womanizer was well-known even to me, and this alleged love interest was the third woman he had seduced in this movie alone, with no visible chemistry or explanation as to why this time was special. It was obvious that the scriptwriters just threw in a love story because it's illegal have a heterosexual male and heterosexual female character share an adventure without falling in love. When the villain tried to convince her that she didn't really mean anything to Bond, I was confused, because I had been thinking the same thing all along.
The second worst flaw was the missed opportunity in this exchange -
Bond: I gave your father my word!
Madeleine: And why should I trust you?
This is where he should have said, "Because my word is my... bond."
The Mormon Section
I mentioned a couple weeks ago that in 2015 the LDS Church had its lowest growth rate since 1937. I ought to have mentioned that this is just in terms of percentage of raw numbers and that the actual retention of active membership, based on the increasing number of new stake creations, seems to be improving from recent years. Granted, this in turn is possible because retention has long been so abysmal to begin with; somewhere between twenty and thirty percent in most countries (while Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists both achieve closer to one hundred). After the famous mission age change it took less than a minute for my amazement to be replaced by concern that we would just be baptizing thousands more people who would stop coming to church or even self-identifying as Mormon within a month. That was the last thing we needed. It's been pleasing to note the increased attention and dedication to real conversions and reactivations. The Church has created 38 stakes and 11 districts so far this year, compared to 17 stakes and 11 districts by the same time last year.
Jeesh - Starkiller Bass
I interrupt my planned sequence of alien invasion songs to plug this fresh release by Jeesh, a British artist who mashes up audio clips into music kind of like Pogo, except that his stuff is free.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.