YALSA controversy breaks out!

Imagine for a second that a beloved writer for young adults recently won an award. But, some folks are upset because this person has frequently and insistently protested about the posting of the Ten Commandments in public buildings. Or railed against the continuing denial of same sex marriage in the United States. Or maybe the author has openly attacked all religions as delusions and adherents as narrow-minded bigots. Now, he never did these things in his books, but in other media, his position is well-known to the folks who track this sort of thing. But not well enough known that everybody who hears the author's name connects it with the politics. Do you think there'd be a conservative backlash against this author receiving the award? And what would the debate around this look like? How long would it be before the more liberal would brandish the 1st Ammendment as if that closed down the whole conversation?

Now, here's what really happened. Orson Scott Card recently won the Edwards Award, a prestiguous award handed out by School Library Journal and the Young Adult Library Service Association. Personally, I think he rightly deserves this award, as he's a skilled writer and has made many a young folk crossover, however briefly, into sci-fi. But, there's a backlash. Why, you might wonder? Because he's stridently anti-gay. I mean, hardcore. He's published articles about how we should still have sodomy laws, not to enforce them but rather to establish moral parameters. He also says that gays in America can marry, as long as they convince an opposite-sex partner to sign up with them. And so on. (see here for the SLJ article; and here for the most commonly cited opinion piece).

Now, his books are not openly homophobic and his views rarely enter his writing. They may contain coded homophobia (like the perjorative "bugger" for the aliens, if we are to believe some readers), or they may just be silent on the issue. But this raises interesting points about authorship, personal views, intellectual freedom and religion. Should we evaluate all authors based on their personal lives before granting them awards? Can only the liberal help children understand themselves? Should only the people whose politics you like be granted awards?

Personally, I don't see what the fuss is. I think this comes back to some wacky liberal version of the conservative bugbear that children aren't smart enought to sift through information. Apparently, those opposing this award seem to think that rabid teenage fans will google Card's name, find his anti-gay writing and confuse their love of his novels and style with the gospel truth, or something. I'd like to give kids more credit than that. Plus, if you call foul at things like this, don't you lose focus when you also try to draw attention to much bigger problems of anti-gay sentiment or behavior? Surely there are bigger fish to fry in this realm.

Of course, any librarian worth their salt knows that it's times like these where your intellectual freedom rubber has to hit the road: you've got to step up and defend something springing for a worldview you don't agree with. Maybe it'll help us all understand the fundamentalists who want Harry Potter out of our stacks a little bit better.

Taking the scenic route

If the recent storms to lay Zion low weren't enough to proclaim to you an impending apocalypse, consider this: on a list of GLBT films by so-called "experts" Latter Days came in third. That's right, apparently the gays have only made two better films about their plights. Though, to be fair, the highly overrated Brokeback is what took first place.

Said list is found in one of the books I recently acquired for my library. It's a sort of best of the best list by mood or time of life. And the authors were obviously told to flesh out the text. So, we not only get the standard Christmas, Easter, Graduation sorts but also a whole list for National Grandparents Day, another for Chinese New Year, a set of movies about buying a new house, and a group devoted to telling the ups and down of the Derby season. Yeah, this was published and thereafter purchased by my library. I'd be more embarrassed if I wasn't such a fiend for lists. I honestly cannot get enough. It may be pathological.

In completely unrelated news: I'm uppity about folks who use the title "professor" without having earned the distinction through the completion of a PhD and the struggle for tenure. Also, I'm as big a fan of President Hinckley as the next guy, but his death and funeral have been front page news in both the Tribune and the DesNews for the past three days and he still takes up over half the nightly news broadcast. I wonder when the death-of-a-prophet fatigue will set in.

Yeah, and then we're just a few steps from pedophilia!

It's been a while since I've posted a complaint about a church service. But yesterday's Elders Quorum was horrific. We were focusing on a talk by President Packer about how our church uses a lay ministry and that no one is better than anyone else, regardless of the calling they hold. Of course, any discussion of Mormonism's clergy, or lack thereof, frequently turns into a game of Whack-a-Pope. That is, those involved will take pot shots at how traditional Christianity runs things, back it up with quasi-scriptural notions, and then laugh at how silly those wacky professional clergies are.

Basically, the teacher asked why we have an unpaid ministry in our Church. This lead to the idea that, if you're being paid, you're much less invested, more driven by results, more likely to fudge doctrine in order to be popular and so on. This lead to one member opining that he doesn't get how other Christians can expect to get marriage advice from a celibate priest. (I mean, it's not like Mormon bishops are out of their depth dealing with, oh, spousal abuse, homosexuality, mental illness, right?) And, of course, getting paid to do God's work leads to corruption. Just look at what a mess there is in Catholicism right now! It makes me so sad that Mormons just seem to assume that all ministers are crooked, sad men who are hungry for glory and gain. And of course, the whole situation showcased the irritating habit the Saints have of making assertions about Christianity that simply aren't true. Such as the idea that Mormonism is the only Christian group without a paid ministry. Um, have these people no idea about the Quakers? And that's even a well-known group. Surely there are other models out there that profess Jesus but don't write a salary check to their leader.

What was not addressed, of course, were the liabilities of having a lay ministry. These could include having untrained men lead a group and wreck havoc, the jockeying for position caused by all being eligible, the social stratification that is caused by having certain members being lifted over others, and the abuses that are perpetuated by fallible men because they believe God is directing them. That last one is obviously not unique to Mormonism, but if you have a system where no training is required and where you're basically told, as a priesthood leader, that you have final say, it's a recipe for ecclesiastical abuse. I'm not saying the Mormon system doesn't work. It does, for the most part with few problems. And there are definite advantages to it.

The icing on this cake, though, came when one member reminded us (or informed, if there were particularly clueless members there) that the Q12 and other high-level officials are, in fact, paid for their work. The resident apologist raised his hand quickly to give the standard explanation for this: that they're paid only for their basic needs and that they'd make more money if they were still pursuing their business pursuits. He did add a disturbing bit there about how God calls successful men. But, let's get back to the traditional excuses. If these stipends are really to just support their needs, why do they get cash at all? The Church could work out a system where their needs are addressed without payments. Secondly, the argument that these men would make more in the business world is valid when the men we're discussing are in their 40s and 50s. But, to assert that men in their 70s and 80s would still be vigorously working and receiving big salaries is ridiculous, right? I mean, if you're going to make arguments, at least make them non-idiotic.

I'm beginning to wonder if now, with the passing of President Hinckley, and various other issues at play, if it's not the perfect time for me to disengage from Mormonism all together.

First Eliza Day, film-filled weekend

A while back, I was faced with the need to establish a female equivalent of Joseph Day. You see, the traditional Joseph Day celebration is pretty male-centric, so we need a day in which turnabout can take place. Which leads us to today: Eliza Day. Eliza R. Snow, Zion's Poetess, Lioness of the Lord, plural wife of both Joseph and Brigham, was born January 21, 1804. I bet if she had her say, she'd totally get behind what I'm expecting to happen in honor of her birth. Though, I suppose, we might actually want to memorialize December 5, the day she died, to make it parallel with Joseph Day. However, since I'm the one making up these holidays, pretty much whatever I want flies, eh?

So, to crib a line from Mormon history, "Brethren, go find yourself a sister and do your duty." Seriously, get on that.

In unrelated news, I was a movie freak the last couple of days. On Thursday, I saw No Country for Old Men, which I liked, maybe even loved, but still wonder why it's considered the best flick of '07. Then on Friday, I headed to the LDS Film Festival, where I was impressed by the consistently professional look of the shorts, and the enjoyableness of the feature (I'll probably post a longer review on Errand of Angels, the feature film, when I get a chance).

Saturday meant Sundance. I saw four films that day, most of them rather depressing, either because they contained references to child rape and decapitation by mailbox or because they were so freaking boring. You'd think that a film about juvenile deliquents in a Russian prison would be fascinating, right? You'd be wrong. Alone in Four Walls didn't succeed if it wanted me to feel sorry for the kids. Frustratingly, it was hard to tell if that was the director's intention. She may have wanted us to think they had it better at this prison, which was really more like a reform school than anything. Plus, way too many shots of boys cleaning in their boxer shorts.

We saw a documentary on these linguists who do field work on highly endangered languages. It was well made for the most part (it sort of fell apart style coherence-wise towards the end). Dude, though, these linguists were nerds and really reminded me of some of my former ling colleagues (and I guess, if I'm being honest, of myself, too). Sadly, this film was preceeded by a 12 minute short that may be the worst use of cinema I've ever endured. It was bad in a way that words fail. Also, if this sort of stuff is what the Cree are creating as their cultural output, maybe that's one language we can afford to lose.

Yesterday, we filed into the Eccles Center, a theater that seat over a 1000, for a screening of Sunshine Cleaning. As most of you know, I love me some quiet desperation, and here we had it in spades. Amy Adams, of course, was great, as the single mother who decides to start a biohazard cleaning company with her aimless sister. With the help of a one-armed janitorial supply store owner, the two of them really start going places. So, the quirky family drama charmer is quickly establishing itself as a genre. While this film doesn't really cut new paths, it's definitely a wonderfully acted, tightly scripted, well-shot piece of celluloid worth checking out once it gets picked up and distributed.

Today, sadly, is filled not with screens, but snow. It took me an hour to make the drive into work. I'm so done with living in a climate that has winter.

tell us how you really feel

My sister is in town, visiting from Portland. She lives in a world where, when it's cold outside, you heat your house. Sadly, for all involved, this is not the case with my parents' house. They do heat it, but only between 6am and 10pm. In the night, the temperature plunges to the very low 60s. She was discussing this with my folks yesterday when my mom said to her, "E. maybe you're just not worth it."

Apparently, my mom meant to say that my sister isn't used to the cold temperatures. Still, though, pretty crazy Freudian slip there, huh?


Obviously, I'm not the most objective person when it comes to library theft (library theft is the legalistic term that means not only not returning your stuff, but also destorying, defacing or underlining items). I mean, not only was I raised with a deep respect for authority and other people's stuff, I'm also rather timid. Plus, I've been going to libraries with what some could call an appalling regularity since I was knee high to a grasshopper, if you will. Oh, yeah, and I'm also a librarian. But, still, here's what I don't get: why would you tear a page from a book in the library, fold it in half and then leave it...inside the book itself?

This happened to me today to me in my library. (Or rather, the book on which said violence was perpetrated was discovered today). It came as a bit of a shock. As did the realization a few weeks back that a copy of Web Designer (a British periodical that costs roughly 15 bucks an issue) had gone missing. At least the book makes a little more sense. Web Designer is over-priced, cluttered and not very useful. The book, however, was photos of nudes and the page ripped was two women with their arms wrapped around each other. But, it wasn't particularly erotic or explicit, nor were the women all that attractive (again, I fail here on terms of objectivity) and you can find much better stuff on the internet with much less effort. So why tear out this page? Of this brand new book? Have you no shame, sir?

For a brief moment when I found the page and looked at it, I thought maybe it was an overzealous censor hacking away at a generic photo book removing the naughty pics. But, then I saw it's a whole book of nudes, so that can't be it. Plus, this is an art school, surely there's nary a prudish artist in the world, right?

Of course, there's also the explanation that one of the higher-ups (highers-up?) blurted out without necessarily realizing what he was saying: "Maybe the person just got really excited looking at the page." This person had another such non-thought-through comment earlier in the day when he told a visiting dignitary to our grand opening event that he'd be glad to "walk or ride them upstairs when they're done signing in". [He meant in the elevator. But still, it was awesome.]

So what do I do now? Start kicking students out when I'm not on the premises? Review the security tapes and make the jerk-off (perhaps literal here) pay? Finally get around to buying that security gate? Post threatening signs? Booby trap books? Clearly, I'll probably do none of these. Just stew for a bit and then forget about it until the next time I see the book. I wish I could end here saying I have bigger fish to fry, but really, this is pretty much the most thrilling/terrible thing that I've yet to deal with as a librarian. And I'm trying really hard to not take the damage personal.

I'll take some fries with that and the latest version of Norton Antivirus

Yesterday, I was taking a different route home from work when I passed a Burger King. On its marquee, they boldly announced "FREE WIFI NOW AVAILABLE". I'm confused. Who goes to a fast food joint with the intent to spend enough time there to use internet. Also, who was in charge of this business plan? I can only imagine the meeting:

Suit A: We'll, we've noticed a steep downturn in profits, who's got any ideas for boosting customer loyalty?
Suit B: We could make the food better.
Suit A: Don't be ridiculous. We need a gimmick, not a solution.
Suit C: What if we start offering free wireless. The kids are all about this internet-thing these days.
Suit A: Brilliant! Johnson, get on that.

What was particularly perplexing about this WiFi-Whopper union was that the Burger King in question is located in the heart of suburbia. I could sort of see this making sense in a downtown-ish area or if they were near big office parks and could maybe just steal the WiFi but pass it off as their own. But the middle of Sandy, UT across the street from a mall and surrounding by one one, but three strip malls? This is odd.

In unrelated things, the ordinance of confession=awesome. I think this is an ordinance in Mormonism, right? I mean, it's necessary for salvation, it is overseen and approved by the presiding authority, and it effects a real spiritual change. Plus, it's a sacrament in traditional Christianity and I think I could make a pretty good case that all of the sacraments are really ordinances now. It might run afoul on the grounds that it lacks exact wording, but then blessing the sick is unquestionably an ordinance but doesn't have precise form, either. [Actually, now I'm a little curious if lack of prescribed form could explain why women were granted the right to bless the sick and afflicted for so long. Maybe it's not an ordinance at all. It's decidedly not a saving one. So, maybe this is how we should readjust priesthood...as the rightful conduit of saving ordinances only with endowed women welcome to participate or officiate in non-saving ordinancy things, i.e. blessing of health and comfort, settings apart.]

Also, we have to wear name badges at work now. Supposedly this makes the campus "more secure". Problem is, there are only about 30 of us who work here, so unless we have exceptionally paranoid students, what are we being keep secure from? I'm not pleased. Mostly because I feel goofy wearing a bright red, chunky lanyard. I'll probably be subversive and replaced the branded lanyard (everything here is branded...EVERYTHING) with a discreet chain. And, of course, I'll only put it on when I'm not sitting in my office. Which means I'll have to wear it, oh, 3 minutes every work week.

cross-border fruit relations

If there's one thing I miss about my Great Canadian Experience, it is the live-and-let-live-shrug-your-shoulders-if-that's-what-makes-you-happy approach to interaction. However, if I'm allowed two things, which I think is not an unreasonable demand, number two would be FruitSource bars. For my American readers, see the promotional materials here.

These little delights are essentially fruit that has been liquefied and then pressed back into bar form by the power of pectin. Pretty much, they are jam sticks. And, as you can imagine jam stick to be, they are delicious, sticky and satisfying in a way that no American-produced natural fruit snack can compare to. And believe me, I've looked. Or rather, I've tried the various alternatives sold by a number of local health food stores and consistently been disappointed.

I've wanted to get my hands on some FruitSource for a long time and my recent, annual streak of less-than-healthy nostalgia has put this into high gear. Not high enough, though, for me to cough up 48 bucks for 30 of them, as is possible through Only in Canada. That seems too closing to gouging for me. And I'd call the Canadian import store in Provo, but I'm not sure I can justify the hour's drive south. [You read that right, Provo, UT is home to what I assume is the only Canadian import store in the US. BYU, located in that town, has more Canadian students than any other university in the States.]

I guess I have two questions here: A. does anyone know of an American product that comes near to replicating FruitSource? B. Is anyone in Canada interested in sending me some and being repaid on a cost basis?

Omaha sounds nice

When I was in college (something that was over three years ago, a fact which makes me feel old), I had this ongoing joke with my friends whenever life would get me down. I was going to flee to Kansas. Just get in my car, drive off without telling anyone where I was going and making a brand new life without any history. And why Kansas? Not only do I find the whole swath of the Midwest sort of intriguing, but nobody in their right mind would go looking for me in Kansas, or North Dakota, or Nebraska. Of course, since I've now told this plan to basically everyone in my life multiple times, I'm guessing Wichita is precisely the first place people would look for me if I went missing.

Thing is, though, in college I would never do this. I had responsibilities and demands. And, I didn't own my own car or have sufficient funds to pull off such a stunt. And I had paid money for school. But now, life is just crumbling between my fingers, I do own my own car (well, the financing folks own it technically) and, thanks to living at home and working full-time, I've got plenty of cash burning a hole in my account. Oh, and I'm not that big of a fan of my job, which lessens the trouble I'd have to just up and leaving. Now, I wouldn't just disappear into the night. I'd probably quit my job and give two weeks notice and all that jazz. But I wouldn't tell my family or friends anything. Then, one day, I'd get up like I was going to work and just keep driving east (or rather drive east, as my job is technically south of my domicile).

I'm pretty sure I won't do this; I just don't have the balls for such a move. But, it's probably pretty telling that I've daydreamt about running away once every, oh, hour for the past week. All I'm saying, I guess, is if I do fall off the face of the planet, I'm probably just in a square state, working some brainless job. Don't try to find me.

A financier ain't nothing but a banker with pretensions

Today, on the way to work, I stopped off at my favorite French-inspired bakery, Les Madeleines. And by "stopped off", I mean "went entirely out of my way specifically to buy pastries". I've been yenning for a kouing-aman for quite some time now and figured I might as well go blow some dough on over-priced dough. Trust me, I was not disappointed.

However, I also picked up some other things: an adorable single-serving of tiramisu, the titular madeleine, a cupcake, and a pastry known as a financier. However, the shop girl had some trouble when I ordered that last one. Unsure of what it was, I asked, "what's the financier?" I pronounced this word like we do in English. She looked at me blankly for a moment, then to where I was pointing and said, "Oh, you mean the [finãsie]" before telling me what it is (for the non-IPA literate, that's fee-nah-see-eh, with the second syllable being nasalized. For the IPA purists, it was actually the back vowel, but I prefer alt codes to unicode IPA representations).

Two main things here: Is it possible that she really didn't understand me? That no one has ever come in and asked for fee-nan-seers ever? This seems highly unlikely given the fact that a)it's an English word, b)we are in Utah, and c) they are known for making a big deal about how you'll never be able to pronounce their pastry names.

The second question is this: My French isn't precisely what it should be, but I'm pretty certain that you'd say that final r. I mean, it's not a verb, right, and therefore, according to the frolic rule, it's a pronounced final consonant. So, even if she did feel the need to correct me, can she at least do it right, telling me it's actually [finãnsieR]? (Please correct me if I'm wrong)

In other randomness, if you want to be amused, slightly disturbed and have your belief that Nipponitude* is way beyond our ken, do a google search for kokigami. Just make sure you're someplace where you won't be embarassed by the ideal of genital puppets.

*a shiny new quarter to the man who can provide me with the actual Japanese abstract form of Japanese-ness

An inheritance

I have recently, as the phrase goes, come into some money. Not a whole lot of money, mind, but some. What is particularly eerie about this (besides the fact that it came as a complete shock and is entirely unlike my parents to do something like this) is that just the night before, I was talking to a friend. He asked me where in the world I would go if I suddenly had a few thousand dollars to travel. Now the real answer to this question for me is Omaha and Oklahoma (a long story which is neither interesting nor charming). However, you can't say something stateside in such a situation, so I gave my number three option, which is Beijing. And then, the next day I suddenly have the funds for just such a trip. If I believed in signs and destinies and so forth, I'd probably hop aboard a plane ASAP.

The trip's not going to be taken, though. The money will, sadly, most likely go towards something I've already purchased (either my car or my two years of grad school). I feel so responsible and bland. Particularly because I make more than enough money to satisfy my debts.

However, the making of said money is making me more than slightly irritated with the knowledge that I'll be working tomorrow until 7.30pm for orientation and that I have to come in on Saturday without compensation. I'm salaried, see, so these extra hours don't mean more money, just more time. Oh, and I'm confused at textbook publishers. Apparently, they need 24 to 48 hours to get a quote out to you. Since I'm 99.9% sure that this system is automated, why can't you just call up, have them punch in ISBNs and then they can email you the quote right then? Seems like it'd make life a lot easier for those customers, like me, who have procrastinated the day of their ordering textbooks. I'm not feeling it today at work, if you know what I mean.

On a unrelated note, if I ever do something deplorable to you (and know me long enough and I will), here is what you need to do to inflict the most pain on me in return: when I own up to the despicable act (or carry it out), just get really unemotional and silent. This will tear me apart. Just file that away for later, I suppose.