So, Mormons can't drink coffee. Or tea. Nowadays, there's solutions to this conundrum (diet coke for the pep, herbal tea for the cold, Pero for the fun creamers, and so on). However, pioneers weren't so lucky. They had to be more...creative. I guess they were desperate times, but did they really need to try soaking and then drinking every conceivable plant and grain?
From a website I was scouring for ideas for the Utah Party that I may or may not be having: Barley Coffee (roasted then ground), Barley Water (just boiled and strained), Rice Water (ditto), Sage Tea, and Toast Tea (burn bread, crumble, cover in hot water).
I'm disturbed by these ideas. Also, doesn't it seem sort of wasteful to use grains for making a drink? Didn't these people have to eat flowers for a whole winter or something?
Though, if all that was waiting for you on a cold winter's night in Utah was a steaming cup of rice water, I can maybe understand why all the pioneers look so grumpy in photographs.
So, Mormons can't drink coffee. Or tea. Nowadays, there's solutions to this conundrum (diet coke for the pep, herbal tea for the cold, Pero for the fun creamers, and so on). However, pioneers weren't so lucky. They had to be more...creative. I guess they were desperate times, but did they really need to try soaking and then drinking every conceivable plant and grain?
Posted by alea at 1:48 PM
About a year ago, my sister asked me to run a 5K with her. A group from her neighborhood was doing it, since that decreased the entrance fee. I agreed, with a bit of trepidation. Exercise and me don't along much. Couple that with the fact that, prior to agreeing to this, I couldn't run more than three-quarters of a mile without wanting to die/having my lungs refuse to function and you might see why it didn't seem so keen. But, I pulled it together and got it done.
Posted by alea at 2:16 PM
Sure, you may have beaten them at two World Wars and your men may live longer than theirs, but man, when it comes to Christmas, the Germans really won, didn't they?
They gave us Christmas trees and nutcrackers and gingerbread houses. And, pretty much all the fun traditions. What, precisely, was your contribution to Christmas celebrations? Victorian ghost stories. Seriously? That's all you've got? Yeah, I know a lot of Christmas traditions don't make sense but this one in particular is sort of baffling. What, exactly, is the connection? Way to drop the ball there, John Bull.
Though, while we're on the subject: could you pass the word along to America and suggest we start doing crackers? That'd be great.
Thanks and loves,
Posted by alea at 3:45 PM
I have this friend, ke, with whom I have been known to do a little cooking. Sometimes, though, I doubt her choices. She has these crazy ideas, see. So I'm hedgy and iffy and then, when it turns out she's actually a genius, I'm amazed. I really should learn to stop doubting her.
In specific: cumin whipped cream*. It doesn't seem like that should be allowed, does it? But, it is. And it's delicious atop roasted carrots with anise. Even if roasting carrots and then chopping them into fine dice is enough to almost drive me mad. Seriously, though, savory whipped cream needs to be more plentiful in my life. I'm not entirely sure how I've managed to live this long without it.
So, uh, thanks, ke, for not listening to me when I make icky faces about your food ideas. You're the best--even if you didn't let us go to Carhenge.
*part of me want a hyphen in this string somewhere. Not sure where. Or why.
Posted by alea at 11:19 PM
the open notebook--
light fades out
making trees stand out
and my room
at the back
of the house, dark.
In the dusk
I am still
looking for it--
the language that is
a baroque obligation
at the wrist
of a prince
in a petty court.
Look, just look
at the way he shake out
the thriftless phrases,
the crystal rhetoric
of bobbined knots
a vagrant drift
to wave away an argument
or frame the hand
which, for all that, is still
in the corner
of a room,
in the dusk,
as the light was fading
lost their sight for.
Posted by alea at 1:41 PM
It's finals time. And therefore, I have lost all sense of proportion. That is to say, all my usual skills at time management and reasonable goals have flown out the window. This happens every time. Sometimes, my response is to decide at midnight that I need to start baking, and then baking for four hours straight. Another semester, I read something like 10 novels in one week, rather than doing my homework. In others, like this semester, I start watching a lot of tv (though, this time, it's tv on hulu, which is even more dangerous, since there's so much more of it. Oh my gosh, so much more of it).
The bad part, of course, is that I'm still two weeks out from the end of tests and papers. Which means it could, conceivably, get more and more absurd. My five hours of sleep a night might pare down even more. And life will be a hazy, irritating blur.
However, my loss of rationality isn't limited to the fact that I find ingenious ways to waste hours upon hours. No, I'm also adept at taking on way more than I could ever possibly accomplish. For instance, a couple of days ago I made up my to-do list for the end of the semester. Amidst things like "watch WALL-E" and "Islam faith report", I included this gem: Abstract Algebra.
Yep. My plan, apparently, is to learn all of abstract algebra in order to write my final literature and math paper. It can't be that hard, right? I mean, it's just math, after all. Totally straightforward. And, hey, the paper's only a third of my grade.
Ugh. I. am. so. screwed.
Posted by alea at 10:32 PM
Sometimes people ask me why I went back to school. In fact, they are often baffled, wondering why I'm not ready to move on to the next phase of my life. But, I have three very valid reasons now to point to:
My completely scholarly review of the first half of A mind of its own: A cultural history of the penis
Posted by alea at 6:25 PM
Ow. Ow. Ow. Owowowowowow. WHY???!?! Ow.
Posted by alea at 12:33 AM
Word crushes are completely inexplicable.* Some words just reach out and grab your heart and refuse to let go. But, like all crushes, the attraction evaporates eventually. You may have been sweet on the word despondent for months when you suddenly hear it again and realize it's just a sad that's been to finishing school. Or maybe you've spent the last year telling everyone why they need to make sure their vocabulary includes ignominious, only to become slightly embarrassed by it.
Of course, these crushes can wax and wan. Or you can just smile wistfully when you hear a word that you were enamored with and had forgotten. Like when you suddenly find yourself in the perfect situation to use quidnunc. Even still, these are former flickers of the intensity of your passion. Fond memories, nothing more. Which is sad, as it reminds me how fleeting everything really is.
But, one of the things I learn about studying languages is that you get to have all sorts of crushes. For some reason, these ones stick around longer. I still love normalerweise just as much as I did at first. Then, there's אבדוק (evdoke)† in Hebrew which will not be moved from my attentions. And, today, I hit upon my first crush in Greek. Well, my first real crush. I had a bit of a flirtation with ἐπειδή (epayday)‡, but it's not lasting. The word that's stolen my heart is ἁρπαζόμεθα (harpazohmaytha). It means “we snatch for ourselves” or “we are being snatched”. I've been saying it over and over again to myself. Fortunately, not aloud. Sadly, I doubt I'll get nearly as much use for this once and I will for either normalerweise or אבדוק, both of which are in my everyday speech. But here's the fair warning: I may start making up situations in which first person plural passive snatching is required. After all, love is a verb, isn't it? I've got to let this word know just how keen on it I am.
*What's that you say, you don't have crushes on words? What, are you some sort of normal human being that doesn't think about these things? Whatever. Words are important.
‡Since, because, when
Posted by alea at 2:50 PM
I'm pretty sure that, if Death has a taste, it might be something like the following recipe:
Sauerkraut And Clam Juice Cocktail
2 Oz. Sauerkraut Juice, cold
2 Oz. Clam Juice, cold
1 Teaspoon Grated Horse Radish
Salt to taste
What, precisely, is sauerkraut juice? And why, exactly, would anyone ever drink this?
Posted by alea at 11:18 PM
I am absurdly competitive. This might surprise some people who don't know me all that well. They're thrown off the scent by the fact that I'm almost cripplingly adverse to conflict and by the apparent lack of anything resembling drive or ambition in my life. But, put me in a game, doesn't matter what game, and I want to win. Badly. I don't cheat, but will do anything within the rules to be the one wearing the laurels at the end. And, I talk a lot of trash, even when said trash has been proven to be a totally inaccurate depiction of reality.
I have three things that save me from being the kind of win-hungry jerk you hate to play games with. First, once the game components are packed up, the emotions from the game are gone. My push to win doesn't spill over into other aspects of my life. It stays neatly on the shelf to be unpacked the next time we play. Second, I'm a good loser. I don't mope, break egg timers or come up with my lame reasons why I lost. Usually, I just make fun of myself. And lastly, I'm nothing approaching a master of games. I lose. A lot. And often. Winning is by far the exception. In fact, my sister, brother-in-law and I have a theory that it is impossible for me to win a game in their house. And we have quite a load of data to base that on. So, you see, this aggressive streak of mine is all in good fun and rarely harmful to relationships.
At any rate, my competitiveness explains why today, instead of reading the approximately 300 pages I need to polish off before Monday or even getting started on my math and literature paper that has me paralyzed or devoting as much time as I should have to planning my sister's cocktail party, I spent a half hour besting Twirl's score at Bejeweled Blitz. Of course, now I have him to accuse when I fail my classes. Since, after all, the most fun game of all is the blame game. And, I'm dashed cunning at it.
Posted by alea at 12:10 AM
I support nasal irrigation. Pretty much entirely. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with mastoiditis. This, naturally, led one doctor to ask me where in the third world I contracted it and several others to not really believe me when I told them. It's basically periodic sinus infections in the behind the ear cavities. Though, that doesn't really describe the pain brought on by it. It would sneak up on me, this pain. At its worst, I would be struck and be brought to tears. Tears! By a sinus infection.
Various remedies were undertaken to make me not burst into tears in the theatre while watching a romantic comedy (which really happened). I took large doses of antibiotics (and probably created some various super bugs of my own). I got my deviant septum repaired. I had CAT scans. I started taking absurd amounts of garlic and vitamin C at the slightest hint of infection (which was better than my previous approach, which basically consisted of moaning and cursing and hoping it'd pass soon*). None of these really worked. I mean, the antibiotics cured the infection, but after a couple of weeks. And the surgery, as far as I can tell, was sort of a wash.
But, the magic of squirting water and salt up your nose cannot be overestimated. It's great. Sort of weird at first, but the benefits (almost one-day turn-around on sinus infection), are great. There is one really unfortunate side effect, though. Turns out, the sinuses are sort of circuitous. And, they can hold water. So, after irrigating, the next two hours result in my turning my head one way and water gushing out my nostrils. And then, I bend over and more water. And not a little. I can't believe how much one cup turns out to be when it drips from your nose.
Fortunately, I do this at night. So nobody sees the Niagara that results. And, even with the awkward, unexpected drizzlings, I still get behind nasal irrigation. Everybody should do it. Everybody.
*Which is pretty much my approach to all personal problems.
Posted by alea at 4:00 PM
I am not on the top of my game today. I left the house without my wallet. Which isn't too much of a problem, except I need it to clock in so that I get paid. Moderately important. Plus, what if I need food between school or lace or lace and home? or what if I get pulled over? and so on and so on.
But, the mere forgetting of my wallet isn't what suggested to me that today might need either a fast-forward or a do-over. I rushed home instead of going to my institute class in the one flexible hour I have. I pull into my driveway and, then start frantically looking for my keys. I unzip my bag. They're not there. I unzip the larger pouch. Also not their. I feel in my pockets. I start wondering where I could have possibly put them.
Then, I realize, uh, they're in the ignition. Yeah, that's right. I'm awesome sometimes. Good thing I'm not in charge of something important. Because I'm pretty sure I'd lose it or kill it. Or both.
Posted by alea at 5:19 PM
I love being back in school. So much it takes my breath away. I mean, basically, I get to spend my days reading really cool things and then sitting around discussing them. Yes, I could do with fewer insufferable types in several of my classes (though, the line between insufferable and interesting is a hair's breadth of difference*). And yeah, I could live without the feeling that I'm a naughty ten year old which I daily experience in my Hebrew class. But overall, I can't get enough of it. I love learning that Ancient Greek lacked fricatives. Or that African-American churches were among the first to ordain females. Plus, I can't get enough of ridiculous things like hearing "that depends on your reading of both Bush and Aeneas" or "that is why you should never agree with anything".
The stories are great, but the actual content, that is what I'm learning, is much trickier. My friend Twirl asked after one of the first days of school what I learned that day. I was completely at a loss. It's not that I'm not learning anything, it's just...well, it's complicated. I mean, I could jump into a discussion of how Paul shows evidence of an afterlife where only the good survive. Or one about the nature of symbolic math. Or maybe about dageshing verbs because nuns want to disappear. The problem is that these conversations can't really just start and end like that. The things I am learning are not, sadly, sound bite worthy.
I imagine this is how all fields are when you get to near-graduation levels. But, other fields are more reality-based. That is, they map onto the world in a way that makes learning new things about them actually useful. Us humanities types, though, are ivory tower at its best. We talk about things seemingly for the mere reason of talking about them. We don't care if we can actually do anything, just that we can think about things. And, bonus points for the person who thinks the strangest.
It's nice being back in a place where my obdurate desire to find a context for every minority reading, my ability to soak up new vocabulary words like a sponge, and my skills in deconstructing are pretty much signs of absolute success. Sure, as my sister pointed out to me this weekend, I'll probably be in school until I'm in my mid-thirties, but really, why shouldn't I be? It's all I'm good at. I think I'll stick around as long as I can, thank you very much.
*and it's difficult to see a hair a midnight
Posted by alea at 5:50 PM
Look, I get that road construction is a complicated matter. These roads need fixing. Any sort of work is going to impinge on traffic. I am not, at least yet, the center of the known universe. However, don't you think you could have planned slightly better? Timed your project a bit differently? Maybe over a semester break? Or during the summer? Or not at the same time that you, or a cooperative agency*, has made 13th East into a disaster? Because, I'm not sure if you know this, but there are a lot of people who daily make a trek to the University of Utah. Y'know, that big group of buildings sort of east of downtown? The place that employees more Utahns than all but three other entities? And has about 28,000 students?
I only ask these questions because you made me late to class this morning. It had absolutely nothing to do with my sleeping in slightly and then dragging my feet to get ready. Also, if you continue said project, I may have to switch buses on the day that I ride public transit. And the thought of having to get up at 6.45 in order to catch a 7.15 bus makes me want to cry a little bit. Plus, I need that extra sleep to adequately deal with the hour-long scolding that my Hebrew class turns into.
But, since we're in this mess, please hurry.
*Who actually is responsible for non-interstate road construction? Is it the city?
Posted by alea at 4:02 PM
I'm not the kind of person who generally, as a rule, enjoys change. Usually, even something minor like my parents junking the car that I drove all through college or painting the walls of my childhood kitchen bright blue is enough to make me more than a touch despondent. These sorts of things bother me, the uneasiness and lack of consistency. If things change, it means they're not stable and, if these trivial things change so easily, what about the bigger things? I mean, it's ridiculous, obviously, to compare a hunk of metal or a design choice to anything major. I realize that, but still, there's a worry that sets up shop at the back of my head every time even a minor difference appears.
Which is why I'm even more disoriented by the last couple of months. I have undergone a dizzying number of alterations over that time period. Even the most dramatic-appearing ones (that of quitting my job or of going back to school) are just a part of what appears to be some sort of drastic life overhaul. Some things, naturally, aren't my choosing (not that I'm opposed to them, but more I didn't have the only say in the matters, if you will). But it's not the nature or even the number of changes that makes me feel uneasy this time. Rather, I'm out of sorts precisely because I'm not out of sorts. Quite the contrary: I'm remarkably happy.
I don't do content well. I do discontent and malcontent splendidly. I'm also pretty adept at unsatisfied and unfulfilled. And I can suck it up or grit my teeth with the best of them. But, to crib Michael Cunningham, against all odds and expectations life has burst open and given me pretty much everything. I should probably just, at least for this moment, allow myself to enjoy what's going on. To not fret about how it'll all fall apart, or worry about what will happen when suddenly a different set of changes sends me spiraling in a direction I never intended or even want.
I can't do that, though. I haven't the practice. And it disrupts my whole personal narrative. But, for the moment, I'm going to try. Really hard. And just accept that things can, in fact, work out for me beautifully.
Posted by alea at 2:42 PM
My maternal grandfather used to give my brother a hard time pretty regularly about the number of credit hours he was taking at university. See, my grandfather was superhuman and once did something absurd like 24 quarter hours at one go. Ok, that statistic is actually a fabrication. I have no idea how many his record was. But it was high. And anything less was a shame worth poking fun at. It's a weird way of looking at education, not really caring about what the courses were, just the sheer volume. But it's also a beautiful way of framing it, too, as a quest for lots and lots of knowledge regardless of the content.
Gramps, the only grandparent I knew, passed away just before my senior year of high school. So, he wasn't able to give me a hard time about my enrollment. Not that he'd have much room to criticize me. The lightest semester I ever had was 13 credits. But that one doesn't really count, because that was 13 credits of independent study via correspondence course. My lightest load when actually in school was 18 hours. And my last semester of BYU, I took 21 credit hours, comprised of 8 different classes. And I don't remember being all that busy. Granted, four hours were religion courses (which, by the way, were not required, but seemed interesting) and four was ASL 101, the Platonic gut course. But, still, that's a lot of hours in a classroom.
I bring all this up mostly to make myself feel like the prospect of taking 20 hours this fall is not completely crazy. Because a. I've done it before, b. it'll make Gramps proud of me and c. it means I get to take a class combining math and literature. Math and literature? I'm squealing with excitement over the prospect. Plus, they're most humanities courses. Which, if you're quirky and can write half decent you can pass without even trying. [Dear people studying real things in school, like physics or engineering or even English, you're dumb. Don't you know they'll give out degrees for watching movies? I have one of them!]
Oh, but warning's fair for the people around me: when it turns out that jumping into third year Hebrew after five years of studying the language is really short-sighted or I discover that I've lost all my writing skillz or I want to kill myself that first week in December when I'll inevitably have to write something like 150 pages worth of papers in 10 days, you're going to hear me moan about it. When you do, just start asking me funny stories for my professors and I'll feel much better. Or, alternatively, give me a list of baked goods to produce. I'm never more productive in my life than when I'm totally snowed under with coursework. And, hey, if I fail at school this time, I can always go back to being an adult, right?
Posted by alea at 9:29 AM
Things that I am generally good at:
- Fitting things I have recently read/heard into conversations
- Getting people to talk about themselves
- Selecting good presents
- Keeping myself productively occupied for 40 hours a week
- Relationships of all stripes
- Sticking with projects beyond my level of interest in them
- Being serious even when seriousness is required
Posted by alea at 9:41 AM
So, a couple of days ago, I had to call and talk to a financial aid person at the University of Utah. This conversation ensued:
financial aid guy: Have you filled out the FERPA release online?
me: No, I don't think I have.
fag: Alright, go ahead and log into your Campus Information System and you'll see a link in the middle of the screen that says FERPA. Let me know when you've found it.
me: Ok. [moments later] Found it.
fag: Great. Go ahead and enter a PIN there and then, if you want to list anyone else to give them access to your information you can. If you have, say, a parent or a wife you want to be able to call and get information.
me: That's awfully heteronormative of you. How do you know I don't have a husband?
fag: Oh, yeah, if you have a life partner, feel free to put them in there.
I proceeded to laugh and assure him that I was joking. But, I was impressed how quickly he could come up with "life partner". Though, I wonder, also, is life partner really equivalent to wife? I mean, marriage licenses aside, doesn't it seem like it would take longer for someone to become a life partner, perhaps years, rather than the minutes it takes to make someone your wife?
Also, a fair warning to all future customer service people: if you keep me waiting, I will try to make things slightly uncomfortable for you. I know, I know, it's not your fault, but it'll mostly be through jokes like this. So, really, no lasting damage.
Posted by alea at 10:18 AM
- Hire Alicia Pol for any graphic designing you might need. (I keep laughing about the Downey ones)
- Read this poem and be awed. (thanks, Annie!)
- Gain a pretty accurate insight into how I feel all the time courtesy of thelatest xkcd.
- Listen to the Not my Job with Neko Case. And laugh. Seriously, it's one of the funniest things I've ever heard.
- Read The Post-Birthday World. Sure, it's almost 550 pages long and is mostly about snooker (as in the table game), but I really want to discuss it with someone. I'm not sure it was good, but it got me thinking.
- Go see Adam. It's a limited release, but it's making the rounds now and it's amazing. I saw it at Sundance (because I'm just that hip). It's one of the best movies I've ever seen. Plus, Rose Byrne! Hugh Dancy! Amy Irving! What more could you want?
- Fall in love with the music of Blind Pilot.
- Develop some sort of life plan. Then, feel the relief that washes over you. And, hey, if it doesn't work, you can always just move to Portland, right?
Posted by alea at 11:16 AM
Flying, for some reason, makes me inexplicably crave Taco Bell. Perhaps this is my body's fond memory of landing in Denver at 10pm only to be told that my connecting flight was canceled and I would be spending the night in a hotel. Night, here, of course, was generous. The flight they got me on left Denver at 6 the next morning, so I ended up having something like four hours of sleep after being shuttled to the hotel and getting berated by the Delta customer service representative who claimed that, without a confirmation number, there was no way in the world to make sure I was booked on the early flight. But, before leaving the airport, my stomach demanded food and I ended up eating Taco Bell. Thus, perhaps, boarding a jet triggers some Pavlovian response.
I discovered this craving pattern recently on the airplane rides between Zion and Newark. I was flying out to visit some friends of mine, a married couple who have been living for the past two years in that area and are slated to move to California at the end of the summer. I know it's cliché to talk about conversations picking up right where you left them with friends, even after long periods apart. But, this too was re-discovered for me this weekend. Before the trip, I was a little bit nervous that things would be awkward or at least stilted. Compound this with my inherent panic about demanding too much of someone's hospitality and you can imagine how uptight I was when we touched down.
But, my fears were totally unfounded. The trip went smoothly. My friends and I did, in fact, pick up right where we left off. Even after over a year of not interacting in person, there's still this unbelievable comfort in each other's company. And I was overwhelmed, as I generally am, how these incredible, smart, funny, and generally awesome folks deign to put up with me.
As the trip for me was mostly to see these two, it was a rousing success. Though, it didn't hurt being adjacent to New York City and re-sampling some of things she has to offer. However, a trip based on lengthy conversations and shared jokes, doesn't offer a lot to report on what I actually did.
There is one story, however, worth sharing. As part of his role as trek pa, my friend R. had grown a beard. Apparently his ward is not so cool that he has, in fact, kept it on post-experience. On Sunday, we went to church. In priesthood opening exercises, during visitor introduction, Twirl & I (he sports a goatee and burns, me a full beard) stood up. Following us, another ward member introduced his son, who also wears a beard. He said, "This is my son, visiting from Salt Lake. As you can see the hairstyles out there are quite a bit different." So now, this ward is clearly under the impression that beards are making a comeback out west. I can just imagine the articles in style-forward, Mormon-centeric hot spots, arguing for a return to the gentility of days of Brigham with full beards on every cheek. Though, alongside ads for KneeShorts, these urgings might not make many strides. Oh, plus, there's the whole sticking point about the BYU Honor Code being, oddly, some form of starting point for appropriate displays in matters of appearance.
At any rate, the trip? I was for it. Now, when can I go somewhere again? Montreal, Atlanta, Minneapolis and Omaha, I'm looking in your direction. Any time you want to start wooing me and convince me to come see you, I'll be glad to entertain the idea.
Posted by alea at 8:52 AM
Every year, a couple of days before the 24th, the Days of '47 holds a float preview at the South Towne Expo Center. The large room is turned over to shiny, sparkly earnestness. I love going so much. You get to walk right around the floats, try to figure out what the organizers were thinking when they put Africa on the globe backwards and, based on this year's event, can even get a totally incomprehensible double-dog-headed travel pillow for free. The fact that almost everyone was carrying one around proves that people will take anything that's free, no matter how absurd.
Every year BYU puts together a float. This year they went with "Catching the Vision of Freedom" as the play on the theme "Catch the Vision". Around the float, which consisted of a giant Y and the Carillon Tower, they had words. I think they're supposed to be a comprehensive list of things one can study at BYU to reel in freedom.
- Athletics (right, this isn't something you study, so maybe I misunderstood their intent?)
Posted by alea at 10:35 AM
Alright, I know that you're trying to be tough and just having a good time, but really, do you need to be so noisy? Or run around so much? And, it's very evident you can turn the showers on. I assume, therefore, you also realize that to turn them off, you just turn the knob the other direction.
While we're discussing showering, those soap dispenser are fun, aren't they? But you know what's not fun? Stepping out of the shower clean and dry and then being caught in the crossfire of a soap fight.
I get machoismo and wanting to fit in, I sure do. But may I suggest that telling your friends, "come look now, I'm really naked," while in the shower is perhaps not the best way to be thought of as not-gay?
As for the being naked, that's sort of awkward, right? So the use of the bathroom stalls to change makes sense. But, maybe you could try to dry yourself off a bit before stepping in? I don't know if you've noticed, but the floor there has some weird low spots. And all that water you've brought in makes the whole area a sort of tide pool situation.
Oh, and that time you removed my pants from the locker while I was showering and put them in another one? Hilarious. Next time, why don't you go for the shoes, too?
Lastly, the shrieking? Can we please do without the shrieking?
Posted by alea at 8:27 AM
I usually don't spend much time thinking about my body. Well, thinking about it in a sort of aesthetic way. I spend an inordinate amount of time wondering why it doesn't work like it should. Particularly when not working like it should involves some confusing inability to consume food or inexplicable pains in very inconvenient locations. However, of late, I've been forced more to think about my body as something else.
The first suggestion of this is the number of people who have mentioned my weight. Over the past months, it's true that I've lost some heft. Nothing major, about fifteen pounds or so. And everybody, it seems, is noticing. Which is good, I suppose (even if I wasn't really working on losing weight). I totally get the impulse to compliment someone on this. But, the flip side is that it makes me wonder how fat they must have thought I was before. So, it's sort of a double-edged thing to point out, non?
Also, this morning, I got up early to renew my drivers license. Things went smoothly, until I went to sit for my picture. There were a few others in front of me, so I got to hear the guy taking them ask politely if the person would like another photo taken. He seemed willing and friendly about it. But it was a quick question that almost everyone brushed off and he let drop. Then, my turn came. And here's what happened:
"How does that look?"
"Oh, yeah, that'll work."
"Really? Are you sure? I can take another one."
"Oh, no, no, we're good."
"It's really no big deal. It'll just take a second. You sure?"
"No, I'm fi-"
"Seriously, let's just do another one, shall we?"
The gentle, amicable questioning had turned into a bullying. A sort of "man, that is a terrible picture. And trust me, I work at the DMV, I know bad pictures." So, he took another one. One that looked almost identical to me but, thankfully, was acceptable to him. Maybe, though, he just realized it wasn't going to get any better.
I'm uncomfortable having these sorts of things brought to my attention. I suppose I could always just really let myself go and then dare people to comment on it. It's one solution, at least. Or, alternatively, I could just learn to take compliments or not overthink. But, c'mon, we all know that's never going to happen.
Posted by alea at 2:31 PM
I recently took a little bit of umbrage when my friend informed me that she can't, for all my talk, imagine me being much of a jerk. At least, to someone's face. I know, this isn't the sort of thing most people spend time fretting about. After all, being told, basically, that you're nice isn't an insult. Plus, I seem to do a pretty bang up job of making people mad at me, so the "compliment" seems disingenuous at best. Plus, there's the whole issue of my being nice without its elusive complement of goodness.
I think it struck me so much, though, because there are two things I've been trying to deal with recently in my life. The first is my knack for compartmentalizing various aspects. Giving this one a room over here, shoving that one in a box, being person A at location Y and person B at site Z, etc. Which, I'm clearly not solving very rapidly, as I'll going to just ignore it to move on to the other. The second is my complaisance.*
Part of me thinks this is a virtue. It's a good thing to be willing to bend, to be flexible, to allow room for the needs and desires of others. It's a positive, not being difficult or put out when things don't go your way. Another part of me, though, the slightly more cynical part (read, most of me), is worried that I'm setting myself up for a pretty spectacular failure. Or maybe I'm already there, which would explain a lot of the collapsing in the interpersonal arena I've seen of late.
There's times and places where one should stick up for themselves, should be willing to put their desires and feelings first. It's self-preservation at its most basic level. And, apparently, I lack the drive for that.** Fortunately, most situations my pleasing nature has landed me in have diffused and defused without an inordinate amount of suffering. And, I'd like to think that when it becomes more than just a slick, sick feeling my stomach, I'd be willing to post boundaries and stop trying to please anybody else but me.
Ideally, I suppose, there'd be a balance. But I'm no good at half-measures. I'm an all-or-nothing kind of guy. Or rather, I haven't the foggiest of how one goes about making oneself less tied to the fickle whims of others with still interacting with anybody. It's so much easier, also, to just become the person that someone else is looking for. There are few things messier than finding out something about someone that makes you wonder if you should hate them for it. So, see, my not being myself means I'm saving all you that unpleasantness. Isn't that thoughtful of me? Don't you love that about me? (See, I can't help myself!)
I still need to process all this and decides where my lines should be drawn. It's a pretty major overhaul I'm considering right here. And I'm not sure the benefits outweigh the costs. But, (to crib some clichés) at the end of the day, I'll never know till I try, right? So, if I suddenly seem to be fighting really bizarre territorial and alpha dog battles with you, now you'll have a guess as to why. I probably don't mean most of it. Except when I do. The new me, I suppose, is just going to be a bit more difficult to get along with. Please advise.
*True story: I've been a bit addicted to the use of the word complaisant recently. I've replaced my usual "I'm easy" with a casual "I'm complaisant" when asked opinions. Part of it is sort of a litmus test to see if the person I'm writing to knows that I don't actually mean complacent. Most people have failed. It's like Derrida's différence v. différance, but much less clever. And, y'know, in English.
**Not too surprising, given the fact that, come the Apocalypse, I'm turning my face the wall and dying. I'm no mink, what with their exceeding tenacity of life.
Posted by alea at 12:40 PM
Hey, alea, what's this map here?
View Larger Map
Why, that's the trip my friend ke and I are planning. Sure, some people might think it's a little bit crazy to try to to visit Yellowstone (just glancingly), Little Bighorn, Devil's Tower and Mount Rushmore on one trip. But, don't worry, we've got a whole three days to make it happen in.
Um, this may kill us. I'm not too soothed by the fact that google maps clocks the driving in at 1 day, 2 hours, either. Good thing we're young and hearty, right?
Posted by alea at 9:52 PM
So, a couple of days ago, I sort of stumbled onto Ivri Lider, an Israeli pop star. What I like about him (apart from the fact that he writes about breakups and if there's a better language for sounding ugly and hateful towards someone than Hebrew, I've not heard it), is how his music seems to be entirely at odds with itself stylistically. That is the lyrics and the tone of the music are mismatched.
For example, I give you Beyaxad Mipaxad:
So, it sounds nice and peppy, right? Well, as you see, the title translates to "Together from Fear".
And the lyrics are:
We're together from fear
the mother of night below
we got out to the big garden
that your father waters before sleeping
We're together from fear
there's pictures of kids in our well-kept apartment
Two people together alone
That your mother cleaned for Shabat
We grow up and resemble our parents a little bit more
We buy a television and don't speak about everything
If only I could
Tell you about all the things you regret
And how much I wanted to give a tad more of myself
Like the kid who slept next to me
We're together from fear
What your father bought and your mother analyzed
We go traveling in Europe
We try not to fight automatic love
We're together from fear
In morning, mother puts
an empty plate on the kitchen table
We grow up and resemble our parents a little bit more
We buy a television and don't speak about everything
If only I could
Tell you about all the things I regret
And how much I wanted to give a tad more of myself
Like the kid who slept next to me
So, yeah, not exactly all that happy.
If you want more, check out this music video. Kind of beautiful, sort of haunting, and also more than a little bizarre.
Posted by alea at 4:47 PM
If somebody loved me, they could so easily show it to me.
Just buy me this.
It meets almost all my standards for kitchen gear. Firstly, it miniaturizes something. Secondly, it turns soemthing round into something square (I'm actually a touch suspicious of square tart shells. Wouldn't there be seam issues?). And, lastly, it's distinctive, which is to say completely and totally unnecessary but charming nonetheless.
Besides, I'm sure my mini-loaf pan, my tiny silicone bundt jello molds and my madeleines pan could use some more company...
Posted by alea at 9:34 AM
Yesterday was one of those days where I just felt thwarted. Sort of a collapsing of every aspect of my life all at once. My work in the morning was sluggish and unproductive. Then I taught in the afternoon, only to be ridiculously unengaging. And, for various reasons, I had a slick, sick feeling most of the day.
But then, a sister invited me over to have what may be the best cookies in the world. And a friend invited me to see Up, which was practically perfect in every way. And another friend stayed on the phone for over an hour with me, cheerleading and commiserating and planning a dinner party that includes miniature felafel. It's weird, and deeply reassuring to me, that my calls for compassion, either broadcasted loudy or sort of quiet and sideways get answered so immediately.
I was thinking yesterday a lot about this quote from Children of Men in which Theo, the main character, is being told he didn't mean for the old woman whose car he stole to die:
No, he almost groaned, I didn't mean it. I didn't mean to be a selfish son, an unloving father, a bad husband. When have I ever meant anything? Christ, what harm couldn't I do if I actually started to mean it!And yeah, while that's true, it's also amazing to sit back and think about all the good that can be done by people who mean it, too. And today's much better. I've got a to-do list and some recipe research to undertake and a reason to buy teeny tiny tart shells. All in all, I think I'm for today.
Posted by alea at 11:42 AM
In two days, my little brother will be dropped off, rather hastily, in Provo. Because the MTC is the only place more concerned about pandemic influenza than I am, his family won’t be allowed to come in. This is a plus and a minus, given the fact that Called To Serve may or may not have been crafted specifically as a kind of tear-inducing emotional torture. On the other hand, having some sort of ceremony seems almost necessary for the reality of it all to hit.
Since watching him open his mission call, I’ve been cycling through a whole series of emotions. But now, I’ve finally settled on the fact that, above all else, I’m sad. I’m really going to miss him. It’s not that I don’t realize that he’s doing a good thing. Or that serving the people of Thailand will be invaluable for him. I’m just being selfish and petty that I won’t have anybody to ask me if I’ve already watered the cats.
Or anybody to fully appreciate when the ground sloth makes his appearance in Kentucky in a couple of weeks. I’ll miss getting random texts about dulcimers and books preparing people to die. I’ll miss being reminded that I’m twenty-five years old when I act particularly childish. I’ll also miss seeing his brain implode, rapidly, when I try to explain some theological position I hold. Like all good brothers, he amuses me and infuriates me in pretty equal measure. He’s a good guy, too, something that’s become more apparent the more adult-y he’s become. It’s weird to try and imagine holidays and even weekends where he’ll be only a thought and not a physical presence.
I’m sure the two years will fly by. I mean, I’ve been out of library school for two years now and I cannot believe how short his stay at BYU felt. But still, it’s hard to think of him leaving and me having such little contact with him. He'll be missed, probably much more than he realizes.
Posted by alea at 12:24 PM
If all the world can be described mathematically, I'd like to know the equation for figuring the following out. If a student comes into the library and opens a bottle of soda whose carbonation overflows and sends sticky sugar water everywhere, what is the likelihood that this will take place while they are holding a book that was acquired by the library the very same day? Include, if possible, the cost of the book in both dollars and staff time.
Infinitesimal, I would imagine. Regardless, it happened here today. Ugh.
Posted by alea at 12:39 PM
A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated Mothers Day. This, of course, meant that roughly ninety percent of LDS sacrament meetings made reference, at some point, to the story of the stripling warrior and the faith they learned from their mothers. This is fine and well, though sort of sad that Mormons can't come up with other scriptural moms to talk about. Maybe Hannah could make an appearance? Or Rachel, if only to highlight the fact that she basically colluded with her son to dupe her husband. Maybe next year.
But there's still hope. We have Fathers Day in a month, and there's dads aplenty to talk about. Here's some examples I'd suggest for anyone asked to speak this year.
- Lot. A good dad knows that protecting men of God sometimes requires you to make some tough sacrifices. Of course, the same daughters also make some tricky decisions of their own.
- Jephthah. A good dad knows that promises to the Lord must be kept. No matter how personally painful
- Aaron. A good dad knows when you shouldn't support your kids in bad decisions. You only need to mourn for those who don't get what's coming to them.
- Noah. A good dad knows how to fairly deal out punishments.
- Isaac. A good dad doesn't play favorites, and offers all his kids the same opportunities and blessings.
- Abraham. A good dad knows that is first responsibility is to his wife, no matter how hard that is for the children.
(Actually, the story of Lot is much less horrific if you believe in Joseph Smith Translation. In that telling, the men of Sodom demand both the holy men and Lot's daughters. Lot refuses to give up either party to the wicked intentions of the men of Sodom. That is a good dad, especially since the men of Sodom right before demanding the daughters told Lot they'd treat him even worse than they were intending to treat the holy men.)
Posted by alea at 11:52 AM
Dear Alain de Botton,
I love your work. Seriously. It's shaped my thinking about some things (love, precision, philosophy). Quotes from you have made it into blog posts and facebook statuses, serious discussions and flippant conversations. And, anyone who listens to me talk for more than about three minutes will hear me praise your stuff (especially if they ask for book recommendations). I'm not lying, it's capital, all around. However, can I suggest that future editions of your novels, which deliciously track the sparking, building and ultimate crumbling of relationships, come with the following warning:
Note: please do not embark on this work of literature if you are currently embroiled in a doomed romantic situation. It will only make matters worse.That would really have made me rethink my decision to pick up On Love, what with my current mangled amorous endeavor.
Posted by alea at 5:00 PM
Since I've basically decided that I'm out of my current employment situation, by hook or by crook, come August, I'm having a devil of a time focusing. I come to work, get grumpy in about three minutes flat, then spend the day...actually this is what isn't clear to me. I have these giant eight-hour holes in my life.
I goof off a bit online, but nothing worth reporting on. I lazily catalogue the few magazines that trickle in each day. I troll job listings for positions I really want but will never apply for, and then get halfway through writing cover letters for positions I don't want, but think I could get. But, I feel sick bragging about myself and stretching my accomplishments and lose the will to continue. I mean, what could I possibly be thinking, imagining myself moving to Montana. To do technical services work. I don't think I hate myself quite that much yet.
I think I should feel more pressure to get something done. To finally create that three-year plan (though, what's the point, seeing as how I won't be here to see it actually carried out). To put together those handouts on databases (which will never be used because I'm failing at marketing). To carry out the additional duties my boss has handed me (even though I'm resentful about them and they don't make any sense). But I simply don't feel the drive. I even dressed up today in attempt to jump start my ambition, but not even a pretty paisley tie helped my mood.
I am starting to realize, though, that all this needs to change. I need to leave here with a bang, not a whimper. Because otherwise, my general sense of failure will have become self-fulfilled. And, if I'm not going to feel like hell every single weekday between now and August, I've got to develop a better attitude. If only I knew how. Or cared enough to find out.
In the meantime, I'll go back to reading this article in The New Yorker and then I'll be off to give what may be the least engaged library orientation ever. Fortunately, nobody'll notice, what with the level of fake pep I'm always astounded that I can drag up.
Posted by alea at 11:16 AM
I routinely forget that I live in a place that's, well, weird. I mean, most of the time when I think about my surroundings at all, it's about how nice the mountains are. It somehow slips my mind that Utah is, in fact, a sort of strange place to call home.
The city council of Tremonton passed, then (thankfully) quickly repealed a ruling that would require any one under 18 years of age to get permission to check out any title in the 'adult fiction' section. Because nothing will ruin our children's lives faster than providing access to such destructive influences as Dickens and Gerald Lund (that's the example provided by the Des News).
Also, a murder trial here in Utah is probably not going to have Mormons on the jury. Why? Because they believe in Blood Atonement, natch. Though, eliminating two-thirds of a state's population from the pool might be a bit dodgy, non? Also, what if you're Mormon but non-practicing? Would you make the cut?
Lastly, our very own freshman Congressman, Jason Chaffetz, is leading the charge against DC recognizing the same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. Because heaven forbid the Constitution's full faith and credit clause actually, you know, apply. That's not the surprising part. The surprising part is this comment on the Des News article: "No legislative or judicial success can take away the guilt that comes from failure to live up to the evolutionary design to have offspring with an opposite gender mate."
It may be a narrow reading of "No success can compensate for failure in the home." It may also be based on remarkably bad science. And, potentially, reduces marriage to a means of populating the earth. All that aside, I sort of want to cross-stitch it onto a throw pillow.
I still think I'm with Maurine Whipple, though. Zion is probably worth the occasional discomfort.
Posted by alea at 6:41 PM
While I'm not above stealing ideas, this one gets credit. Annie pointed us in the direction first.
Last Friday, during the dinner party, I was complaining, as is my wont, about unrequited love. This seems like such a bad set up. All that anguish, frustration and so on. To which, my friend Annie said that the whole point is that all God deals with all day is unrequited love. He sits up there, loving everybody and being ignored or spurned or whatever. So, in effect, God is the perfect boyfriend. Want proof?
- He's always willing to listen to you, even if you walk him up late at night
- He's building you a mansion
- He makes the sun rise for you. Every day.
- No matter how mean you are to Him, He takes you back, no questions, the second you're ready
- He gives you flowers. All kinds. Every year.
- He's unbelievably patient
- He thinks you're great, even when nobody else does.
Posted by alea at 3:19 PM
I freaking love General Conference. Without fail, there is a handful of talks I hear that make me want to jump up and down and say, "Yes! Yes! This is what it means to be a Mormon." I mean, sure, you have to filter out the other talks and, recently, keep reminding yourself that the continual choice of white lawyers from Utah doesn't mean that the Church isn't true. Maybe we'll be lucky this time around? Regardless, it stands to be a lovely weekend.
Also, find the lie in the following hymn we sung in church on Sunday:
We listen to a prophet’s voice and hear the Savior too.
With love he bids us do the work the Lord would have us do.
The Savior calls his chosen seer to preach the word of God,
That men might learn to find the path marked by the iron rod.
In ev’ry land, in ev’ry tongue, our prophet will be heard;
How swiftly round the world his voice reveals the gospel word!
The sacred message that he brings will witness and agree
With ev’ry prophet called of God throughout earth’s history.
Hosanna! Let our praise ascend unto the Savior’s throne;
Rejoice! The prophet has confirmed that by Him we are known.
Attend, ye earth! The prophet speaks; come listen and obey.
He is the man who holds the keys of priesthood pow’r today.
Posted by alea at 12:12 PM
This article is pretty interesting. And, also, is an example of the absurdity of evolutionary theories. To wit, "The explanation for the preference is not clear, but experts in human evolution say that that facial hair may be a signal of aggression because it boosts the apparent size of the lower jaw, emphasising the teeth as weapons."
I don't know about you, but I don't often think about using my teeth as some sort of deadly device.
Someone social-sciency should carry this out with Mormons to see if the same trends are true, what with strong social aversions to facial hair.
Posted by alea at 9:57 AM
One to four inches of snow during the morning commute is a classic April Fools joke. Props for that. Seriously, a hoot.
However, I think it's time for you to give us our spring back.
Posted by alea at 11:49 PM
It's been a while since I've been stunned by a testimony. I mean, floored, starring up at the pulpit thinking, "did they really just say that?". I have a theory about this based on the fact that, in Utah, being Mormon is normal, so we push the fringe out, whereas elsewhere being Mormon is weird, so the there's some wagon-circling out in the mission field. The fact that my current ward is in a bougie suburb probably doesn't encourage the off-kilter types to make it out for services. But, at any rate, I had a jaw-dropper today in sacrament meeting.
Church, as usual, was neither particularly thrilling nor all that soul-crushing. Testimonies weren't anything to write home about until about five minutes before the end when a monthly regular gets up. He starts talking about work, because he always seems to, and then, I may have wandered for a minute, but he says at one point, "I know it's important to keep a journal. Since what's recorded on earth is recorded in heaven, our journals will hold others accountable for the things they do."
That's right, this guy believes in a literal hit list of people who've pissed him off in his life. I'm not sure, but I think, that maybe, this runs contrary to the central Christian message, right? Oh, and this quote by Joseph:
If you do not accuse each other, God will not accuse you. If you have no accuser you will enter heaven, and if you will follow the revelations and instructions which God gives you through me, I will take you into heaven as my back load. If you will not accuse me, I will not accuse you. If you will throw a cloak of charity over my sins, I will over yours—for charity covereth a multitude of sins. What many people call sin is not sin; I do many things to break down superstition, and I will break it down.
Sigh...I love Joseph. Thankfully, in much larger proportion and depth than I am flabbergasted by members of the Church.
Posted by alea at 12:01 AM
I have some warnings that indicate my life is currently in a state that I find less than desirable. One of them is increased consumption of country music (which, I think, has to do with my finding it comforting...childhood and all that jazz). At any rate, on my way home from lace tonight, I heard an ad on a country station that was, well, weird.
It was for a boudoir photographer. It had a wife talking about how she wanted to make this anniversary special for her husband, so she got him a "coffee table book for his eyes only"*, full of photos of her in, I suppose, erotic positions. This seems odd to me. If it's your husband/lover can't he, um, see the flesh and blood version? Why would he need a book? Also, is it not pornographic if it's your wife? And, what about the concerns that he might find the airbrushed you more attractive or turn to other types of porn to get his fix? And, the ad contained reassurances that it'll boost confidence for the women. Which I'm suspicious of. Probably because I have a Puritanical view of sex, right?
And, more importantly, are country music listeners more likely to seek out this type of service? And is there a viable market for this in Utah? Deliciously, her studio is in Provo. And she claims to have a selection of fun lingerie for people to wear during her shoots (um, communal lingerie? I'm not cool with that, are you?) I wonder if she's got a bee costume of sorts. If not, I know where she can pick one up.
Her website, hilariously (to me) showcases the two sides of her business: the boudoir and the Anne Geddes-style newborns** in bows and objects. Because, you know, you may as well capitalize on both ends of your business model, right? (if you look at the galleries, can we talk about the baby's foot with the wedding rings on it, please?)
There's also part of me that's tempted to call up the photographer and ask if she'd do a boudoir shoot for me. I mean, it'd only be about 250 dollars, and sure I can find a use for photos of me in alluring poses, right?
*I'm pretty sure that "coffee table" book only works if it's the sort of book you'd put out for folks to see, am I wrong?
**Anne Geddes photos are creepy, right?
Posted by alea at 1:58 PM
I am unbelievably conflict averse. It's ridiculous. Like today, when I went to get my menus printed and the Kinko's dude printed them on white instead of off-white cardstock. Granted, I don't care that much. But still, rather than engage, I just let it go. Now, presumably, most people have a slightly more reasonable approach to problems in their life. But, I think there's enough awkwardness and discomfort out there to justify a new employment opportunity for someone with conflict skills: the breaker up.
Basically, this person would be hired by individuals wishing to cut off ties with another person. Most of their work would involve romantic mispairings, but surely could include friendships, too. You all know the sorts of situations in which this service would be invaluable. They're not when you find yourself locked in constant arguments with your partner. Or when the reasons for staying together are completely flimsy and really just a reflection of your fear of being alone. No, no, no. You call the breaker up when you have no real reason for ending things. When your reasons are amorphous: they don't make you laugh enough, they have an unnatural affection for their pets, they're not as bright as you thought, or maybe they're a practicing Wiccan. You get the idea: the insurmountable speed bumps. Or perhaps you can use their services when, after a couple of dates, you decide you're just not interested in anything more. It would be a lot less messy than just pretending to be busy for a couple of weeks and then not returning phone calls.
And, the breaker up is even more necessary when the other party has no idea how unsatisfied you are. They just go along, treating you beautifully, being complimentary, and doing nothing to molest you and the whole time you're screaming inside, "get out! get out! get out!"* As I see it, the breaker up could call up their client's significant other and say, "I represent so and so. He just wanted to let you know that he no longer desires to spend time with you. He figured this way you could both divest yourself before things got too serious. Thank you for your time."
An alternative approach, I suppose, would be to find a way to make your brain and your body agree on what's attractive and go for that. But, please, why improve when you can outsource? Maybe, though, we just need a new line of greeting cards. They could say things like, "Thanks for dinner. Do not contact me again" or "While I understand that you find me highly attractive, rest assured the feeling is not mutual" or "It's obvious we aren't going to make it as a couple. Let's cut our losses, shall we?"
Sadly, the breaker up is just an idea and doesn't exist. Which leaves me facing the fact that I'll probably have to do my own dirty work. But, if any of you want to make a few bucks...
*Granted, this may be more a feature of my belief that relationships are, generally, a trap that you either get caught in or lure someone else into.
Posted by alea at 11:28 AM
So, there's a story, almost a legend, told by long-time reference workers at the Harold B. Lee Library. It goes like this: "Do you know what the most frequently stolen item in the library used to be?" The answer, told to clearly to shock is that, back in the day, the library used to have copies of large-format photographs of the general authorities. These would regularly walk off, never to be seen again. I guess folks were desperate for that picture of Spencer W. Kimball or something...
Recently, I've been trying to find ways to curtail the amount of material loss in my library. It's been a tricky battle, given the poor design of the space, the unmanned hours of operation, and the shifty nature of kids these days. Part of this process was moving the dvds from behind the desk to the shelves, but this time with the discs pulled. Therefore, if a case walks off, we've still got the film itself. As you can imagine, this was a tedious task. It also, though, served as a chance to take a little inventory to see if anything's gone missing.
And something has. The disc for Babe: Pig in the City is gone. Yep. Of 800 titles, some very cool, very pricey and very scandoloso, we've lost an eight buck children's film. People are weird.
Posted by alea at 10:17 AM
Imagine, if you will (or can), that Braid Paisley's Online had been written by a punk rock band with more than usual teenage angst and you'll be pretty close to both the theme and mood of Dark Play, or Stories for Boys. The premise it starts with, that you can be anything you want to online, including someone else, is intriguing and is definitely ripe for discussion. And, when the play begins, you think it has promise. A young kid, Nick, bored and lonely, starts inventing online characters to pass the time. He invents one, a girl, built to suit an ad posted by Adam about falling in love. Of course, Nick ends up becoming emotionally and erotically attached to this stranger. To get his fix, he inserts himself into the half-real world as the younger brother of Adam's fictional love. And then, it spirals down from there. It's an example of dark play, in which one player knows the rules to a game and the others have no idea they're playing at all. This is the conceit at least, one that makes me suspect the playwright finds himself exceptionally clever. Epseically since the idea is shared by a drama teacher in the middle of the play itself.
By the end, the conclusions and dramatic steps that have been taken are so absurd, you'd assume you're watching farce. But there's no humor to be had here, so you're just left not feeling much of anything. I suppose it's disturbing, but the realism it lacks takes the edge off of that and you don't feel sorry for anyone involved, so there's not even pathos to be pointed to. Nor do questions hang in the air afterwards, which a play focusing on a situation like this should engender. It's a weakness of criticism to fault something for being what it wasn't intending to be, but I think we're supposed to be troubled by the both hyper-realness and irreality of the online world after seeing this play. Which we would be, if the action played out in a way that was, well, believable.
The acting, however, was uniformly excellent, even if the main actor was channelling Jess Mariano in disturbing verisimilitude. The small cast even played different roles, a nice variation on the theme that people can't be trusted to present their real self when other options exist. Though, their skills are cast against a backdrop of computer monitors hanging from the ceiling, a sure sign that this production wants to be very hip, very now. Which, along with the content about teenage sexuality, makes the play feel very edgy. Unfortunately, though, it seems like the play was put on because it was edgy, a good indicator that it'll get praise even though it's just not that good.
Overall, I don't want my ninety minutes back, or even the money I spent. To re-cast a line by Nick, though, "if this is what theatre feels like, I want to see less of it every day."
Posted by alea at 10:05 AM
This quote from Brigham vis-a-vis confessing to priesthood leaders on sexual sins, particularly self-abuse. Discuss.
But if you have stolen your neighbor's cattle, own it, and restore the property, with fourfold if it is requested. If you have taken your neighbor's spade, own it, and return it, with fourfold if he requires it. I believe in coming out and being plain and honest with that which should be made public, and in keeping to yourselves that which should be kept. If you have your weaknesses, keep them hid from your brethren as much as you can. You never hear me ask the people to tell their follies. But when we ask the brethren, as we frequently do, to speak in sacrament meetings, we wish them, if they have injured their neighbors, to confess their wrongs; but do not tell about your nonsensical conduct that nobody knows of but yourselves. Tell to the public that which belongs to the public. If you have sinned against the people, confess to them. If you have sinned against a family or a neighborhood, go to them and confess. If you have sinned against your Ward, confess to your Ward. If you have sinned against one individual, take that person by yourselves and make your confession to him. And if you have sinned against your God, or against yourselves, confess to God, and keep the matter to yourselves, for I do not want to know anything about it.
Posted by alea at 9:27 AM
So, I'm entirely uncertain why, when forced to come up with female figures from the book of Mormon, people totally forget Abish. Ok, that's a lie. I'm not entirely uncertain. I'm pretty sure it has to do with the fact that most folks aren't paying that much attention by the time they get to Alma. I mean, it's all wars and the chopping off of arms and the harlot Isabel*. What chance does a story that actually holds direct bearing on modern believers' lives actually have?
Abish is the female servant of King Lamoni's wife (talking about women in the book of Mormon is tricky, as you make use of a lot of genitives [Nephi's wife, the daughters of Jared, etc]) who sees the whole royal household collapse and then decides it makes the perfect missionary moment. When the people get together, they start thinking maybe it's actually some evil trick of Ammon's, that he's killed the whole family. Abish becomes visibly upset by their discussions. You can almost hear her scream, "No! Why don't you just believe me?" She then wakes up the queen by touching her (proof of female priesthood, anyone?). Then, everybody's up and testifying of the great things they saw and heard. In essence, Abish experiences what a lot of modern missionaries do: the complete disjunction between what they feel and what others take from the exact same situation.
Why is all of this pertinent? Because I'm entirely unsure how I feel about Real Hero Posters. For instance, the exact dates? How white the people are? But I do know that making some lame "Daughters of the Wilderness" attempt is ridiculous given the fact that we have a story of an actual female spiritual hero. Also, doesn't Enos look a little...elfin here?
*Isabel is probably the best-recognized named harlot in Mormonism (even more so than Rahab of Jericho, though her story is probably cooler. But it's probably a bad idea to get me started on Mormons' selective memory about the Old Testament). She's also one of four women in the Book of Mormon graced with a proper name. However, I have a (totally unaccepted) theory that Isabel isn't a name, but rather a title. One rendering from Hebrew would be 'Isa Ba'al (Wife/Mistress of Ba'al). Which then raises questions about how we know that Corianton's sin is sexual and not some form of idolatry.
Posted by alea at 4:09 PM
Every now and then I'm struck with this panic. Basically, it centers on the fact that someone will start seriously questioning my ability to perform my job. Maybe they'll notice how I haven't built a library website. Or that my budget tracking system is in total disarray. Or, worst yet, they'll start looking a little closer at the books I've decided we needed in our collection and it won't add up. Some titles are easily defended, like The Complete Tintin. Others are less defensible (Crunch! The History of the Potato Chip, my book of hilarious Peep poses, Stacked Decks--a history of erotic playing cards, etc, etc.).
But then, the fear subsides and I start thinking, hey, I really should just go ahead and order whatever I want. So, my next order will most certainly include this.
Posted by alea at 9:41 PM
- Bacon & Blueberry Scones. I know, who would have thought?
- Jeffrey Donovan, who really makes Burn Notice what it is (and what it is is a delightful television experience). Do you think we could somehow nominate Michael Westen's smile for some sort of acting award?
- Alain de Botton. This isn't a new thing, but anybody who can bend genres so seamlessly and then include the alternatively heartbreaking and hilarious in one book has won me over. I want to have his intellectual babies. Need proof? Take his imagined personal ad for Marcel Proust from Kiss and Tell:
GAY WRITER PARIS AREA, close to mother, asthmatic, keen on socialising, Vermeer, long sentences, Anatole France, chauffeurs, men if bearing women's names, Venice. Problems with travel, being brief, getting to bed without a kiss. At work on a big project. Send photo.Want even more?
We may be forced to identify our lovers from a cripplingly small pool of choices. In trying to explain the more inexplicable love stories, one may have to answer the question, 'Why them" with the gloomy thought, 'Did you see the others?'
- Studying the D&C in Sunday School. Hands down my favorite tome of scripture, and, for some reason, people act like they've never read half of it before. (I am less for having quotes of third-hand experiences of David O. McKay shared by the recorded voice of Hyrum W. Smith, who is not, it turns out, an apostle, but rather the founder of the Franklin-Covey company. Though, Church movies with coordinated polo shirts? Brilliant.)
- My recent trip to Chicago. Seriously, I loved every. single. minute. Turns out, I have the best friends ever. Way to go, guys.
- Having another week of work to get done all that stuff that I was supposed to be working on over the break And, lastly
- Reading a book by an author that stands to be the start of a lovely relationship with all their works. Welcome to my obsessions, Allegra Goodman.