Let’s change America, but respectfully, how?

Man. Wow, this broaches so many subjects. First of all, he never specifically says he’s addressing America, but he makes some implications. The main thesis of it is that the American economic and political systems propagate environmental destruction, taking advantage of laborers, and the military-industrial complex. A friend of mine said these all are valid points. The way America has been and is going is not self-sustaining or fruitful. The news and entertainment media speak a narrative that limelights trivial or distracting things and ignore substantive things. The Democratic versus Republican dichotomy is a false representation between black and white, when the reality is that politics isn’t even just a spectrum of left and right, but also has upwards and downwards depth. The battle between Republicans and Democrats isn’t between anarchy and tyranny, but between tyranny and tyranny. Both want ultimate control in their own way, and complete suppression of the other ways.
Honestly, the video wants us to all have an agricultural economy, without economic giants, and without technology or chemicals, and without large armies. And I would love to live in the 1700s or 1800s! But even then there were environmental rapes, unwarranted war, labor abuses, and people living in squalor. The only solutions are to have a well-educated people with empathy. (By no means do I advocate free education, and on the contrary I think that if privatized and it weren’t funded by taxes, childhood and higher education would be much cheaper!) I’ve said this to quite a few friends, but the Constitution was designed for a small republic about the size of the original thirteen colonies, and the US is so diverse that it has roughly eleven distinct cultures. The United States needs to be divided, and the people should be able to create their own charters like the Constitution but with their alterations.
The guy makes a lot of great points, but what are his solutions? If it’s socialism then he is wrong because that robs a person of their drive to work. Complete anarchy—which in its truest form is optimistic that everyone can get along without rules and is founded on mutual respect—is really the next thing to consider, as it leads you to ask why we need government. (Anarchy is also a recipe for villages to act clannish and start an arms race, which comes down to who has the biggest stick. Some would argue that’s fine.) IMO, protecting life, liberty, and property are all that it should do. BUT, in a capitalist society, the environment really is at the whims of the entrepreneur, and takes a raping. National parks are a great start in preserving the most unique places in a region, but can a private-business owner do it just as well? It’s an experiment that unfortunately has great risk since our greatest national treasures are at stake. I would like to see it tested. I’m beginning to think that a necessary role of government is to protect the environment, BUT WITH SOUND NON-BIASED SCIENCE.
In a nutshell, this guy wants socialism and environmentalism, but I want to know HOW he wants to achieve it.

I’m a mentor? F***. I mean, fooey.

So I guess for the past decade I’ve been old enough to give advice, and hang out with kids and teens and it somehow be counted as meaningful. How I’m qualified for that, I doubt, but by the will of some pagan gods it’s happening. And impossibly so, I’ve amassed a small congress of youth who hold me to this standard. [What could I do to break this trust and free myself? Hmm.] Nevertheless, I have a short list of advice that I’ll scrawl down, much in the way of the “Advice for My Unborn Son/Daughter,” things.

  • Join and stay in the Boy/Girl Scouts. Be a youth 2.0, as they will make you. You want to learn how to appreciate your environment, your community, and your resourcefulness? Be a friggin’ Scout! I know less about the Girl Scouts, but if it’s anything like the Boy Scouts of America, then you will basically be the smartest kid on your block. You will be like an Army Ranger junior, knowing how to lash a rope with some timber and fashion a fort, be accurate with a rifle and a shotgun, as well as be a governor’s task force in a state of emergency. And on top of those, you’ll know how to assemble a team of volunteers for a neighborhood project. As a Scout, I learned about government, environmental science, archery, economics, whittling, cinematography, swimming, first aide, wilderness survival, emergency preparedness, and even healthy family life. It’s like college for kids. Be a Scout!
  • Study world religions. You can’t know a thing without studying its counterpart. Many other faiths have beautiful principles to take away, like Buddhism’s non-attachment. Expand your world-view. Appreciate diversity.
  • Savings! My pops taught me to take ten percent of my pay and give it to charity, and then save ten percent for my future. Good advice I never took. —Well, the second part anyway. I had a college class that taught if a twenty-year old put away one hundred dollars a month, they would have a million dollars by the time they retire (the math could be a little inaccurate, but it’s close). Do that for yourself! It’s easier than it sounds.
  • Do big things, and don’t let your perceived inadequacy or complacency stop you. I am effectively Uncle Rico from  Napoleon Dynamite, because I can’t stop regretting when I changed my mind to play football my senior year of high school. I saw what football did to mature my friends and build their confidence. I wanted that, and told a few of them I was going to join. Gradually I started to realize how much time it would demand, and gradually more guys—not even friends—on the team heard the rumor and gave me props to tell me how excited they were. The commitment grew, and I got cold feet. I changed my mind because it was going to be my last summer vacation ever. So, my junior year ended, and I anticipated big adventure to fill those three months. And it turned out to be the most lame summer vacation ever. My friends were working, or dating, or playing football. Don’t chicken out on anything. As of right now, I’m terrified of going to Airborne school to become a paratrooper, but I want to say I did it, and want that badge of bad-a**ery on my chest. Hold me to it, Interwebs! Do big things!
  • Always do the right thing. When all else is lost, and all your friends turn on you, and you are backed into a corner, all you will have left is your integrity record. People may say you’re the dumbest person they’ve ever met, but, boy, could you be counted on. You’ve got nothing if you don’t have integrity.
  • Have the bravery to live a life true to yourself, not one others expect of you. Some things have to be done just for yourself, despite anyone else. Since I was a teen, I thought it would be noble to be a soldier. More than once I asked my Air Force-captain-retired dad what he would do if I joined the Army, and each time he said, “Break your legs to stop your from enlisting.” Coming from my scrawny and non-violent pops, this was actually scary! But I had a church mission and college, so I didn’t have time to join (despite a tempting war conveniently waged at my legal independence’s onset). So, I went on my mission, and started school. Within two years, I had a gut feeling to do ROTC. It was strong, like few things I’ve felt before. I called my dad to ask his thoughts, and he threatened to stop paying for my housing. That killed it. I couldn’t finish school without his help. I was devastated. It wasn’t until seven years later that a drill sergeant pointed out that Army would have paid my school housing! Sometimes you have to do things for yourself.
  • Fight. Do it while you’re young and the consequences are light. Yes, school suspension sucks, but it’s better than getting fired from your job or pressed with charges as an adult on top of losing your first brawl. Lots of people say that violence isn’t the answer, but time and time again I’ve seen that some people don’t give you respect until they see you’ve got teeth. Sucker-punch that prick who picks on you for your hand-me-downs. Learn how to scrap when you’re a kid so you can be confident that you can as an adult. I have an orange belt in karate (novice, but far along enough to say I’m not a quitter [my sensei got transferred]), but even though I know I can handle myself, that first real fight makes me shake when I think it’s about to happen. Don’t let that be you. Earn confidence via experience.
  • Get higher education. Do it through three routes. The first is the easiest to explain: when you go to a four year university, get your associate’s degree in case you can’t finish! Wisdom, muhafugga. Ask someone who couldn’t finish school but was one semester away. They’ll wish they had something to show for their debt, and an associate’s would be. The second choice is to go to a small community college before a university. You’ll get an associate’s, like the first route, but you’ll have an easier time getting accepted into the university you want when they see you’re willing to put in the work for just that. Student retention all the way through graduation isn’t as high as you’d think it would be, so acceptance boards value those that can commit. Third choice: learn a trade before getting a bachelor’s. Either through vocational training or apprenticeship, you need something to fall back on if your degree isn’t wanted by the economy. Diversify your portfolio.
  • Have guts. In my life, I’ve been taught the lesson that tomorrow doesn’t wait for anyone. Go big, or go home. The world may be inherited by the meek, but not the pushovers. Have goals, write them, and do them. This blog is a goal of mine. Many people can tell you that I am a voracious goal-setter. I thrive on self-improvement and stretching my limits. Do the same for yourself. Also, be that guy, that girl, who said what everybody else was thinking (but have tact and timing). Stand up for what’s right. Have guts.
  • Learn persuasion. I love the principle of motivating people. I suck at it, but I chase it. If you can move people to a cause, you have the world at your fingertips.
  • Don’t get caught up in what MTV News and the White House tell you. Regardless of what faction is in power or who owns the network, investigate the counterpoint. Research totalitarian governments like Pol Pot’s and Stalin’s, and you will begin to appreciate a small government that leaves the people to their own devices unless it involves the protection of life, liberty, property, or the pursuit of happiness. And above all with politics, you can’t force people to be good. That was the Devil’s plan before the War in Heaven. And like Ian Malcolm says in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” If people want something bad enough, they will bend space and time to get it. Necessity is the mother of invention.
  • Go to Church, and keep your covenants. Despite my current misgivings about its governance, I don’t think a person can be harmed by being a faithful Latter-day Saint. The product of the LDS factory is magnificent. We have a culture of excellence, to reach beyond mediocrity; we encourage higher education, self-reliance, familial responsibility, self-sacrifice and duty, scholasticism, philanthropy, teamwork, preparedness, self-control, ingenuity, independence, and perfecting one’s character. If religion weren’t a main factor in this, it would be the world’s greatest fraternity/sorority! But because religion is a part of it, I would argue that it is one of the world’s greatest religions, despite its hurdles. Nothing will make you a more well-rounded adult and even teen than the Mormon church. Shoot, it’s common knowledge  that the FBI and CIA recruit at Brigham Young University. That says enough for me. Further advice on religion:
  1. Read the entire Book of Mormon. Don’t ride on your parent’s testimony. Your salvation is your responsibility, and you don’t know jack about our faith if you don’t read its cornerstone.
  2. Read the New Testament. You don’t understand Christianity until you do. Jesus is referenced somewhat every three point five verses in the BoM, but he only makes a personal appearance for like five chapters. Read about his life in the Holy Land, and read what Paul said about him. Because of Paul’s letters, I gained a testimony of an enduring apostasy, and that the Gospel needed to be restored. 
  3. Read Jesus The Christ, by Talmage. That’s it. Good luck. Get a dictionary.
  4. Memorize the Scripture Masteries. Whether you become a full-time missionary or not, there is nothing like having solid doctrinal concepts verbatim at the call of your memory.

That’s all I’ve got right now. You’ll see more added as time passes. But I don’t want this to be a tome, if it were printed. Brevity is actionability.

    Deceive the very elect

    First, I should avoid hubris and be clear that I do not imagine myself to be the very elect (Luke 24:24), but I would have never considered myself to ever doubt the Church. I have reason to suspect that few others would have imagined such. I would consider that I was stalwart, and bold, and nigh unshakable. My testimony of Joseph Smith as a prophet and the impetus for Christ’s gospel restoration was adamant. As a teen, I identified with Joseph. If God could use a fourteen year old boy to be the harbinger of such a spiritual revolution, why couldn’t He use me? I was an earnest seeker of truth, I had faith, I was free from egregious sins. And The Book of Mormon? I leaned all of my testimony on that. I doubted none of it. I was raised from toddlerhood that you could read it, pray to Heavenly Father to know if it is true, and like James 1:5 exhorts, and as it exhorted Joseph Smith, could know it’s truth or falsehood. As a sixteen-year old kid, in a period of self-discovery and of alienating familiar things to understand them and myself, I refused to be a sheep that inherited my parent’s testimony, as is possible with religion; despite personally having two complete sets of scriptures, one even with my name engraved on it, I took a missionary edition of The Book of Mormon, so to not be attached, and read it. I started with a skeptical eye, but soon found the story, not even the doctrine, just the plot, enthralling. The doctrine only enhanced the experience. I found the love of God, and the power of families, and the importance in record keeping. But more importantly, I connected the dots and the synapses I had been taught since birth. I created a picture, and it fit the measurements and details I had been told were included in it. My family tradition and culture made sense. I took the challenge to kneel, and pray, and ask. My answer was unique, and not what I had expected nor heard others share: “You already know it’s true.” Unsatisfied for its simplicity and lack of drama, I continued to kneel, and asked again. No further answer was given, and thus I understood none was needed. I had mine, and I should press forward with the same clarity and boldness. And I have.

    Where I doubt, is because of the aforementioned issues with historical veracity, and with the hard-and-fast concept that doctrine does not change and is eternal (which is at odds with the concept of continuing revelation), and the flawed opinions and even prophecies of prophets (research polygamy, the Adam-God theory, the much debated forbiddeness of R-rated films, and also the early leaders’ stance on African-American’s possession of the priesthood), I feel is it reasonable to question the counsel of current or any general Church leader. If these things are shakey, why would I think everything else is infallible? I must therefore question everything. But I do not make the fatal mistake of forgetting my past spiritual experiences. As a youth and teen, I felt the hand of God much in my life. As a professional missionary, which I was from ages twenty to twenty-two, I had a plethora of instances where I knew God more, and felt He truly is my Father in Heaven, and that He cared for me accordingly, as my dad, here on earth, does. I even was impressed that He has a sense of humor, enough to share inside jokes. I love my Father Etherial, and believe in Him still. But I must explore as if it were possible He doesn’t exist, so I can understand how He does exist. I have to question the authenticity of all things, in order to gain an appreciation of them. And I do not fool myself that I will come out retaining belief in the same things. A metamorphosis is in order. 

    A dear friend suggested, 3 Nephi 18:15, and I’m grateful for it. Many in a faith crisis would take offense at the assumption that one is not praying for deliverance from deception, but I prefer to believe in my homie’s good intentions. He cares for me, and the application is valid. I do pray for guidance, and that I will stay in the Church. But I am open to more enlightenment than I used to be.

    Silver lining

    Today was the best day I’ve had in the real Army, since graduating Advanced Individual Training. And while not also the worst day, it did have stark contrast with prior events. 

    So, we’re in a Field Training Exercise, and today I’m told to shadow soldiers in the signal company, who are Satellite Communcations Operators/Maintainers, like myself. Forgive me for not saying so much earlier, but since I got to my first real-Army unit, this being my elevendy first days since then, I have not touched a satellite antenna. I have likely done no more than two hours of satellite related work. Wtf. 

    The brigade needs me to have an E-5’s level of experience in my field when I, although am an E-4—thanks to my degree—have the experience of an E-1. Somehow, I was slotted here. Thus, I am tasked with the said modicum of relevant work, and then am available for manual labor with whomever else needs it. On an optimistic note, I have cross-trained often.

    But, in assisting the soldiers of my own Military Occupational Speciality, the starved synapses in my brain fired off in a spectacular rate. I was even able to generate ideas that even a section leader hadn’t thought. “How’d you know to do that?” ‘That’s all I did for eight months at AIT.’ I guess a forced reading of every word in the Technical Manual helped.

    The soldiers I was with were MOS 25s, and Sierras—as they are called—are very particular breed. They typify as being book smart, into Dungeons & Dragons and anime, socially awkward, but never boring. Nerds. Interestingly so, I met many pagans and Wiccans in AIT. Few cultural or historical references go above their heads. When I got to AIT, I was struck by how similar these people were to me! While not sharing every interest (I actually had to get more nerdy to find a common pastime—Magic: The Gathering), I enjoyed finding myself in similar company. I can further that point by saying I’ve never met a more vulgar crowd than the kids I was with at Basic. Few of them I would want to meet my wife. Having said all that, being in the company of Sierras today was a huge nostalgic thrill. I even realized that antenna equipment puts off a certain scent that I’d forgot about in its absence.

    After finishing my training with them, I went back to my unit at brigade. Having remembered sweet, I could more accurately define saltiness, and homie, did it make me salty. I realized that I am a soldier without an MOS; that I am purposeless; that I know enough about another MOS to get by, but not enough to be certified; that I am wasting my unit’s time since they need someone more experienced and likewise my own time is wasted since I’m not using my vocational skills. Also, I’ve found that not many soldiers have the patience for a noob. Learning only through experience without the ability to ask questions is a painful and frustrating thing. I regret coming into the military as an E-4 since everyone expects me to have two or more years of time under my belt. (But I can’t complain about the pay.) I can tell some soldiers think I’m being disrespectful but the fact is that I don’t even know enough about Army culture to pass off as an E-4. I don’t recommend my route to anyone joining the military. 

    The purpose of this is that finding purpose makes all the difference. (Cliché, I know, but principles hit harder when you discover them yourself.) I’m told that before the year is out, I’ll move to the signal company and again get to be a Sierra. Halle-freaking-lujah! My people! It’s been a rough period, and I couldn’t do it without some fatherly  leaders, but I’m chalking this up to “learning.” The past year and change has been categorized that way, and I think fortune is coming my way.

    Gun safety taught like we teach sex ed.

    Mass shooting have become commonplace. It didn’t take long for me to get there, since the media and politicians want to politicize them (which, as an opportunist, myself, I don’t blame them). And the debate pretty much goes from “We need laws to protect our kids from gun nuts!” to “We need guns to protect ourselves from government nuts!” Here are a few bullet points on the matter:

    • Unfortunately, the anti-gun and pro-gun data are both problematic and at a draw. Anyone who has taken a math 101 course knows that statistics shroud so much since the compilers’ definitions of what constitute a “yes” and a “no” can be fudged. For one example, the above anti-gun data says there is a mass shooting almost every day, but they include gang violence and drive-bys—those aren’t at all on the same level as Columbine. For another example, anyone that is looking for pro-safety evidence or pro-self defense evidence can find it, but so can someone with the opposite goal. It’s exhausting.
    • Some argue that if we pass more laws on guns then we would have less violence, but meth is illegal and it’s usage is spreading like cancer, right? That sounds reductive, but it’s not; it’s just pithy.
    • Suicide has nothing to do with the issue, and we shouldn’t take something so personal and use it when it comes to mass violence. Getting rid of guns will not stop people from committing suicide. It will only make them try other efforts. This argument is insensitive and crudely simplifies the complexity of suicide.
    • Guns are to blame for rampage shootings just as much as spoons are to blame for obesity. I can eat my feelings when I’m angry just as much as pop off a round.
    • Some say that it’s the mentally ill that should just be prevented from getting guns, but mental health evaluations for gun ownership will not work, and it bothers the heck out of me that conservatives are leaning on this “solution” so heavily; all it will do is drive too much power to the medical field, create a hypersensitivity to “mental illness” and over-diagnose it, forbid good people from defending themselves, and miss crimes of passion that can’t be foreseen via a scheduled doctors appointment.

    It’s a fact that innocent people get harmed by good people trying to protect themselves, even if we exclude stray bullets and bystanders, and mass violence doesn’t help the guns rights argument. So, I’ve got a couple of solutions, some that conflict and would have to be chosen between, but that I think will help. Bear with me.

    The Second Amendment was written to protect citizens again tyrannical governments. It shouldn’t be taken away. I believe it was made with the intent to empower citizens to have the same strength as armies, which I think is a great idea; yet, it was written when you had to prime a weapon for a whole minute before you could fire. If we applied that Revolutionary War logic to even the Civil War, all citizens should be able to have fully automatic weapons. If we apply it to World War II, citizens should have nukes. Obviously, enabling citizens to do mass damage is not a good idea. Many think that it’s a bad idea to even have semi-automatics that just chamber a single round after one is fired (which is about one per second, and the faster you shoot, the less accurate you get). So what should be the compromise? It’s hard to say. I think that the shear number of firearms we have as Americans, which is about eight for every ten people, is enough to scare off any tyrant or invading force. But what do we do about mass shootings?

    • Part of the problem with rampage shooters is that anywhere people gather is bait. Some are random, like the Batman gunman, and some are very specific, like the Oregon college shooter who shot other students for their religion. So, two-fold the solution goes: privatize the crap out of education—liquidate the Department of Education and leave kids to be homeschooled, community schooled, or charter schooled. Not only would they be divided from crowds, remove the anonymity of large classes, but parents would elect what kind of security their kids would have. Higher education should follow suit, and employ roving security guards on their campi.
    • People are very divided about guns, and thus some have no respective skill or acumen. Many times, mass shootings take place where people are unarmed, and some of the people in the area, or any area for that matter, would like to be concealed/open carrying, but don’t because they don’t know a thing about firearms. I think the public would be safer not just with more people who have been armed, but with more people who understand weapons. Why couldn’t firearms safety be required in school just like STEM or liberal arts subjects? A conflict resolution discipline that advances in complexity with each grade, which covers verbal resolution, hand-to-hand, weapons-based, and even geo-political. I mean, I don’t like federalized education, but if homeschool and charter schools didn’t work, maybe this? How can we compel everyone to do this? This is wrong to force people to learn about something they may fundamentally disagree! We already do it with sexual education. Many people, conservative or liberal, don’t like that their kids are taught sexuality but still send their kids to school. And can you argue that a kid taught about sex and chooses to abstain is worse off than a kid who isn’t but sees much about it in the media? I think the same applies to kids and guns. Yes, this could very well be like the DARE program, and just make kids curious, and yes, this will be propagandized like sex ed, and I’m sure that similarly parents will have to redirect and correct their children. But it’s better than a culture of fear towards guns.
    • A DMV like process for firearms. Cool your jets: I don’t mean that you have to have a license to own, I mean that you have to have a certification, and that’s it. It would be like Selective Service, and you just to have to pass the test and then go on your merry way. It would be open to anyone six years old and up. Just like driving a car, which is way more common and dangerous than a firearm, you would need to study or take a course, and then pass a written exam as well as a physical test. I don’t think this is far off from Sweden compulsory military servitude, since they train all their citizens and then allow them to keep their issued firearms in their home. The difference would be that US citizens wouldn’t be issued anything, they would just be trained. You don’t have to have a gun, you just need to know how to use one.

    I’m rushed to finish this. I’ll likely edit it later. Forgive the typos and grammatical errors.

    For my own benefit and yours, here are more links to relevant articles.

    I recently saw a pithy epithet: “Armed sheep aren’t sheepdogs. They’re sheep with guns.” Unfortunately, it’s unattributed.

    Halloween flicks

    So last night Emily and I watched Trick ‘r Treat, and I was pleasantly surprised that it was much like Cabin In The WoodsI’m not well versed in Horror Comedy, but I’ll say that out of these and the third I’ve seen (Hansel and Gretel Get Baked) I like them. It’s easy to imagine how badly they can go, and thus, keeping your expectations low, you can be impressed. The genre is good, but what I liked best about these two was how dedicated they are to the Halloween mythos.

    First let me say what I liked about Cabin In The Woods. It’s been almost three years since I’ve seen it, but I remember beginning it in mind of my brother-in-law’s endorsement that it was one of the scariest movies he’s seen, and gradually getting the sense that A) it was intended to be a wink at the horror genre, and B) Seth is a big pansy. Later, I found out that directors/writers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard said they wanted to galvanize the genre, and recapture it from Eli Roth’s torture porn. Despite my expectations being completely wrong (or possibly because of that) I was awed! They payed homage to the 80s films that feature doomed camping trips, violent hillbillies, doomed sexual encounters, drug use, zombies, and fatalist endings. But, as if they wanted to make use of every horror monster ever and plumb ran out of screen time, they inject a scary smorgasbord into the last third of the film and quickly brought it to a-whole-nother level of demons, werewolves, merfolk, unicorns, killer clowns, giant insects, and basically anything that’s ever been scary. It treated each of these with such reverence and intention to be true to myth, and successfully reached into every sub-genre of horror. I know I’m making it sounds like the horror end-all-be-all, but just watch it. It’s close. And Trick ‘r Treat takes it one step further.

    Trick ‘r Treat appreciates the 80s and Halloween themes: psycho neighbors, date rape, poisoned candy, the adolescent pranks-gone-too-far; and many will find that attractive—but Trick ‘r Treat goes further and also pays creedence to the ancient autumn tradition Samhain (pronounced /ˈsɑːwɪn/ sah-win or /ˈsaʊ.ɪn/ sow-in), which is from what Halloween (or Hallows Evening, or All Hallows Eve) stems. This is my bag! This is my jam! I love the holidays more when there is a sense of credible tradition—something that’s older than me, or you, or grandparents, or even countries. Thanksgiving is better when it’s Puritan, and both Christmas and Halloween are better when they’re Victorian, but Halloween is even better when it’s couched in Antiquity*. (I’ll let you read up on the origins via the hyperlinks instead of dole them out here, and rather come to my point about the movie.) This film doesn’t just have a line of dialogue about Samhain, it makes it a plot point: “Keep the traditions and they will protect you;” or otherwise stated, “Be a dick about Halloween and you’ll get your comeuppance.” Which reminds me—.

    I can’t get enough of the Halloween-dedicated movie. It seeks the cultured soul to focus on something other than murderers, zombies, and the like. To make a historical and religious tradition the central focus of a script is different and trickier than one you can just fabricate. You’ve got to play by the rules. There are facts you have to play with. Granted, you can creatively-license away the crap out of a much loved genre that has hard and fast rules, but those kinds of works never become cult classics. Halloween is hardly explored, and needs to be done more often. Everyone has watched the iconic Tim Burton film so often that it has become trite in its cult-classic status (you know what I’m talking about without me even mentioning it—it’s that ubiquitous). We need more films like this. It’s not hard to watch Bram Stoker’s Dracula or The Conjuring to gather a more serious and grown-up feel to the season, but it’s better when the dots are fully connected.

    As a final note, I highly recommend this podcast episode (also available in iTunes) to get a better understanding of the Celtic Halloween. Heather Teysko has done a great job of compiling a survey history. This History Channel link has good video and text explanation, if you don’t have time for a podcast.

    * Try that with Christmas and Yule negate the Jesus right out of it.**

    ** I believe in Christ, and still celebrate His birth. Regardless of the erroneous hallmark of December 25, rather than the correct April 6, I apply to the Mormon belief that the date is irrelevant as long as we celebrate the coming of the Messiah.

    Eh? Eh? Jeaux leike?

    Trying something new. Hoping for something more brown-leather with notes of paper and ink; but not too serious.

    On prayer

    In my spiritual exploration of late, I’ve come to realize and take understanding of an agnostic/atheist perspective: you feel more in control when there is no god; when there isn’t a puppet master, you work harder, and take ownership of your actions. The Christian adage goes, “Pray as if everything depended on Him, but work as if everything depended on you.” I’ve liked that since I heard it in high school, but not till now did I understand it. God, should be an afterthought—and I don’t mean that in a disrespectful or heretical sense—I mean that you should put as much effort as you can will, as much sweat and blood that can be mustered, and then consider in what God can have a hand. Of course, prayer should be done in anticipation of an event, and grace can be requested during; but I’ve yet to understand that for myself as much as prayer after [And I do mean for myself. In no way are these exhortations for anyone else. I philosophize and muse for my own benefit, and publish them for the same]. 

    I have found that in my life I give credit to God enough for it to be a fault (again, here me out). When things go right, He, of course, is due; when things go wrong, He also, improperly, is due; I could have boosted my own effort instead of calling the circumstances His design. Instead of working half-heartedly, and expecting His intervention for my benefit, I could work as if He’s not there at all, and it is up to me to make the best out of the materials I have as well as their consequences. Some would call the first credo faith, but I find that a weak and crutch-like definition. Faith should embolden you, and give you cause to embark further, not go half mass. Possibly. I don’t know. I’m still exploring.

    None of this is concrete. I’m confident that a god exists and that He is parental in nature. I feel so because I’ve felt cared for so. I’ve felt—what I can agree is God’s messenger—the Holy Ghost, testify of Joseph Smith’s role in the restoring of the true gospel of Christ. I can say I’ve felt a significance when I talk about repentance and Heavenly Father’s forgiveness. Those are a few things I feel concrete about. And I’m still exploring what traditional Mormonism means for me.

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    If I’m fishing for anything, it’s not sympathy.

    The following is a series of unfinished posts that I meant to publish, but, for the most part, was interrupted or couldn’t figure out how to voice in a less “poor me” way. The short end of it is that I can’t. They’re journal entries. They’re very hopeless, and I felt alone when I was writing them. All of them were written while I was in Advanced Individual Training [and none of them were to blame on the system or the Army]. The biggest reason for me feeling so down was that I was surrounded by peers who were  younger, and didn’t think that my achievements distinguished me at all, thus treated me as if I were on their level. Needless to say, I didn’t feel like that way; my maturity level and humor wasn’t the same, and I was more strictly obedient. This sounds egotistical, I know. Here’s the convex part of it: the ins and outs of my Military Occupational Specialty aren’t that hard, but I struggled with much of it. The more I struggled, the more I didn’t feel I could do it, and the more questions I asked, and the tighter I would hang on to minutia so that I could see the whole picture. This drove my classmates nuts. The more I screwed up, the more I tried to not, and the more tense I became. Some people react well to stress, but not this guy; especially when it’s academia. But I can hustle when it comes to doing physical readiness training, or scaling a cargo net, or hucking a frag grenade. Words I can also do. But math and technical stuff and theory? Friggin’ electronics? That’s not my bag; not my forté.

    Hence why I’ve written a ton of material simply to help me feel better. When I write, I feel like I’m breathing. It’s what I need to do. And I don’t write only for myself. I write to be read. By whom? Gosh, I hope it’s by people who can relate. You. I hope you can relate.

    Some of these are composed with the pretense that the previous entries were not published, and may seem disjointed.

    I publish simply as a set of journal entries; not to entertain, but simply because its theraputic. I contemplated deleting them since they weren’t really appropriate for the Web, but if that, why write them? For that question, I publish them.

    Rut

    [Originally written November 25, 2015]

    What to do when you find out you’re generally not a good person? What when you see that people complain against you for problems you’ve heard before but thought you’d outgrown? What, when you finally understand that at your age you won’t likely ever grow out of them? How to fix these traits when you don’t see any other way of being? Isn’t that why anyone is why they are—they make the changes they can, and would change for the better if only they knew how?

    I miss the days of high school, when a new year would start and a new wardrobe would be all that you needed to be cool. All you needed was steez and you’d have social standing. Yes, that’s a cop-out and only for a rather cheap representation of respect, when instead respect could be earned through character and hard work—as we all know that nothing worth having isn’t easy to get. Yet it seems that no matter how hard I try, how much of a decent human being I try to be, I never quite make it. I miss when so much effort wasn’t needed to be likable. I’ve tried hard to gain charisma, but it seems someone always has a problem with something I do. You can’t please everyone, they say. And for anyone who tries to, that person will just be—I forget the rest of the platitude, but it’s not “happy”. I’m told I should have thicker skin, but it’s not happening. No matter the endurance I put up or the degree of trial I have, I’m still resilient to resiliency. (The thought makes me laugh.)

    I feel bad for the people around me that have to endure me. I feel like I should just continually move so that I’m not a drain on anyone’s patience. I feel especially bad for my wife. She says she loves me, but what kind of spell have I cast on her to make her immune to my eccentricities? I know she’s not immune, because if you bring any of them up to her she’ll laugh and sigh like a tired but true friend. She’s very much aware of them. But why does she stay? Why, when people that have known me for a few weeks can’t stand me, and she’s been with me for years?

    I’m self-aware that voicing these concerns inherently pleads for advocacy, or sympathy, and I don’t want that. I don’t want to be understood, or babied. I just want to be told how to fix it in an actionable way.

    Deteriorant metamorphosis: decay

    [Originally written April 5, 2015]

    Man, I miss who I was.

    This is the first time I’ve written since Basic, which was last October. I’ve tried writing once since then but the draft is still floating there in the cloud, undeveloped and unpublished. But I haven’t been inspired to write and share my thoughts with the world since; not to pontificate. Actually, I don’t know if I have believed in myself to do so. Writing is cathartic for me, and I publish because I feel like I have something I want people to hear, or that people will want to hear, or something I just want to get off my chest. I don’t think I’ve felt any of those things in a long time. Sure, there’s stuff I’ve wanted to get off my chest, but I haven’t felt significant enough to put it in the global view. Actually, now that I think about it, I haven’t written since entering MEPS.

    I wish I had. Coming out of basic was such a milestone for me. The weekend pass I got with my wife before Advanced Individual Training was one of the most epic times I’ve had in years, and she was the most gorgeous she’s ever been to me. [Even in the photos we took she still looks like her skin in glowing]. But even if I had written I still don’t know what I would have written about, since BCT was really trying and I definitely felt like there were some effed up things that happened then, but I didn’t want to complain or jeopardize my career by writing about them. In hindsight, they weren’t that bad. Could have been worse. But I definitely felt reborn after it. I should have written.

    I also felt neutered. Or that my identity had been robbed of me. Before, I had felt like I was a mature, responsible, clever adult, but going through Basic brought me down to my peers’s eighteen-year-old level instead of applauded me for being where I was.

    Untitled

    [Originally written April 20, 2015]

    I can’t wait to be recognized for my achievements, and to be given respect for my character and for what I can do. I relish for when I am treated as if I have something to say, instead of something laughable.

    Every day feels like middle school again, and I dread coming to class because I know I’ll be sidelined and not taken seriously. I feel like I just have to submit to this state, since standing up for myself will only make my classmates call me overreactive, or weak, or that I can’t take a joke. Although I’ll admit I don’t have very thick skin, and my expectation for respect has likely brought this upon myself, I still don’t enjoy it, and I want to hit someone over it. Not just anyone—I don’t mean to harm a stranger; just that I’d like to break my fist off in someone’s mouth, probably the two guys that sit in the back of the classroom. But I can’t. My employer takes that too seriously, despite them not before. Ten years ago it would have been encouraged. Today it would mean jail time. That’s why I’m going to tell my kids to get into fights while they’re young and it doesn’t mean anything. When you’re an adult it means you can’t get a job, but when you’re a kid it means that you get a surprise school vacation. Sometimes violence is the answer, since some scum bags don’t listen to reason.

    It’s irritating that my peers are ten years younger than me, and the same age as kids I used to teach as a substitute. “Oh really, you little brat hole? Neat. Explain your disdain for authority and your elders to the principle.” I just can’t wait to be these schmucks’s sergeant. Right now, despite outranking them, I know just as much as they about the Army, and so I’ve got no claim here. But once we’re out of TRADOC, I’ll be an NCO-in-training. Thirty-seven more days of suckage, and then I’ll be in a much better position than they. Every dog has his day, and mine will be here soon.

    The sociodynamics of being disliked

    [Originally written May 20, 2015)

    For a really long time, even as a teenager, I’ve wanted to write a paper on what it’s like to be disliked. And by that I don’t mean things like “it sucks,” or “nobody likes me, boo hoo.” But because I’ve gone through cycles of being popular and extremely unpopular, I thought it would be insightful for me to share my insights on how my abilities are different when I am disliked than from a person who is liked very much by their peers. And here I will chronicle them.

    • A liked person could say the exact same thing as someone who is disliked and get an extremely different reaction from it. For example something that would be deemed extremely humorous, witty, and sarcastic from a liked person would be moronic and shallow from a person who is disliked. For example, “You shot the wrong team!” ‘Well, look whose talking: at least I shot someone.’
    • A liked person will get vastly different praise for an accomplishment than a disliked person. A feat will seem amazing on one hand and a fluke on the other.
    • A liked person’s shortcomings are laughed-off, but the shortcomings of a disliked person are magnified and rubbed in their face. This hardly helps to improve the abilities of the latter.
    • Resolving confrontation between said dichotomous individuals or groups is dicey. Reporting to the lowest situational authority makes things worse, increasing antagonism outside the view of authorities (and we all know that higher-ups can’t chaperone us constantly). Thus, one is faced with having to solve one’s own problems, even though any course of action can be problematic. The aforementioned option of narcing can make you seem weak to the higher-ups, and they may ask why you were too weak to handle it yourself. And a fist fight between a bully and the bullied is assault, and is punishable by law, or even more immediately consequential, would likely result in a dogpile on the bullied. Any way you cut it, you are creating great risks for yourself.
    • If you have a physical defects like a speech impediment or are unattractive, you must be entirely perfect elsewhere, because when you screw up people will amplify your fault 10 times more than they would anybody else who didn’t have a defect. For some reason your defect makes the ability to dislike you so much the greater
    • If you tell a story with a comedic exaggeration, they will not see the exaggeration, but instead apply their lense to your story and use it as evidence of your foolishness. In short, everything you would do—even if done in the same way the charismatic peer would have done it—only validates their gossip.
    • Playfulness can seem rude, or if perceived in the extreme, like assault. While the same person can josh with their friend in a particular way, if they were to josh with someone they are trying to be friends with in the same manner, they could start a fist fight.

    The complexities of struggling

    [Originally written June 8, 2015]

    I want to be a hero.

    I want to be somebody that others are proud of and want to be around, to whom others are drawn.

    I want to change the world, I want to be president, I want to earn the Medal of Honor.

    But the fact is that I’m not and likely will not. I’m somewhere between being capable of all that and the neurologically and socially retarded Norman’s from Yes Man (2008), blissfully ignorant of the embarrassment I rack upon peers. Sometimes people think I’m funny—intentionally and cleverly funny—which I aim to be; but eventually that wears and people come to see my frank humor as me just being an ignorant a-hole.

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    [descriptive inadequacy for the soberness and subject of this post]

    I’m struggling with my faith. As many of you know, I’m a Mormon. I won’t bog this piece down with an explanation of the doctrine I believe, because despite my impulse to be a missionary (like I’d done professionally for two years), and to share all my church has to offer, that’s not the focus I have in writing this. You’re free to investigate it for yourself—in fact I encourage you to, because much of what my church does have to offer is fantastic and unique to itself, scarce to be found elsewhere. But, I must admit that lately I have a conflict of conviction. 
    The contemporary SCOTUS decision on gay marriage is partial for this, yet in a very indirect way. Weeks before, my wife and I had been talking about the lack of equality in our church’s administration and procedures. The doctrine isn’t sexist, but the way that things are executed can come off that way. Not much can be done without the supervision of a male, and that’s a relatively recent development, i.e., post-World War II. And since then, during the Seventies, an event referred to as Correlation has tightened the leash on many things on the Church—and although I used to argue that one of the main goals of it was to simplify the gospel instead of encourage members to get lost in deep doctrine and things that don’t rectify our salvation (albeit are way cool), it also sanitized much of our history from further publications, and took away much independence from the auxiliary arms, such as our women’s organization, the Relief Society. My wife introduced me to these things through Facebook groups she’d been frequenting and blogs (Feminist Mormon Housewives, Rational Faiths [and it should be noted that not all of the things posted we agree with, and we aren’t nearly as progressive as some patrons and posters]), and some of it I’d heard and answered in my own way without much internal hubbub, but some I realized is a legitimate form of inequality and confusion with historical precedent. In fact, the doctrinal waffling is my major grievance. Since our spring General Conference, these sentiments had slowly been building; and not until the SCOTUS ruling did I see that a surprising significant number of my friends had been agitated with similar things as I (or just the Church members reaction to it). One of my friends publicly announced his departure from the Church, and it was unmistakably linked to the late event. It seemed to me that for he and others it was the boiling point, and demanded he of himself to step away. A few weeks earlier, a married couple whom I had come to know through a libertarian discussion group decided that they needed to take a break from the Church; not as permanently as my aforementioned friend. Aside from them, I’d seen other friends post their veiled struggles, and I began to see that my wife and I aren’t alone. Kate Kelly was the epitome of Mormon discontent, and word was spreading that other bloggers (even those of a lesser popularity, male and female) were being excommunicated. Mind you, Kelly and others have counseled their readers to stay in the Church, and to not lose their testimonies. The disciplinary action taken against them isn’t in accord with why excommunication is supposed to be used: refusal to renounce and desist grievous sins or preaching false doctrine. And excommunication isn’t supposed to be a punishment; its intended to sever the member from covenants that hold them accountable and which reap spiritual consequences until they feel they want to recommit themselves to them and be re-baptized. Having questions isn’t ground for this. Rabble rousing for the sake of insurrection or to cause harm is one thing, and arguably warrants getting exed, but that’s not what these people were doing. Members of my Church have a history of being prejudiced against, and of being lynched, and of even legislation written for their extermination (some of these because of malcontent former Mormons), so there is a small understanding for suspicion; but that was almost 200 years ago! Needless to say, when bloggers and friends were getting called into their clergies’ offices, we all got nervous. I’m still nervous. Emily comments enough on these sites that I’m concerned she’ll get the worst end of it. Also, within the members of FMH‘s Facebook group, someone has been acting as a mole and reporting some to their respective bishops. I feel like I’m crazy saying something so similar to a movie script’s page. Is it really this serious? It’s the effing LDS Inquisition!

    I love my gospel, and I love my church; I believe in The Book of Mormon with all my heart, and it is the core of my religious conviction. I still want to come to the chapel weekly and take the emblems of the Messiah and renew my covenants to always remember Him, keep His commandments, and take upon His name and act like his disciple. Yet, I feel hoodwinked by the system, and find in myself a resistance to immerse myself in my new congregation which into we’ve moved. I want to stay in the Church. It is my childhood home and culture. I began tapping this out on my phone as I sat in sacrament meeting and was literally partaking of the bread and water, and have been fat-thumbing and editing it for the entire three-hour block, through Sunday School and the auxiliary meeting. It’s—taken a lot of thought.

    Please do not confuse this for anything more than a journal entry. I make no claims against anyone, only report my observation.

    Sometimes you just have to not care that someone’s feelings will get hurt.

    http://www.collegehumor.com/video/6963028/the-social-consequences-of-everything

    I didn’t make this video, but I’ve been in too many committees and see this every time. Political correctness is the downfall of the American empire. College Humor can drop the mic and walk away. 

    2014 in review

    The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for my blog. Since I haven’t posted anything in 6 months, it’s sort of limited.

    Here’s an excerpt:

    A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 25 trips to carry that many people.

    Click here to see the complete report.

    Beaxbs

    (Painting credit: Susannah Martin)

    First portion written 20141125

    It’s about time I started blogging again. I’ve been graduated from Basic Combat Training since 2014Oct09, for which I sing God’s praises all day long that it’s over (hands down, worst experience of my life—but not for the usual BCT reasons; if I’m lucky, or we’re lucky, I’ll get into it another time). Now I’m at Advanced Individual Training, and life is exponentially better. My peers within my Military Occupational Speciality are so much smarter and more courteous than those m**********rs in Basic! A good three-quarters of my company I’d pop in the mowf if I saw them again. I’ve never met a group of people more base and crass than they. N-e-v-e-r. But there were some really cool cats that I want to give a shout-out to: Levisky, Khan, and Creecy. My boys.

    But this entry isn’t about BCT or how much of a cesspool the youngest part of Generation Y is; it’s about boobs. And butts. And bellies. And beauty.

    I saw this mother’s manifesto—“Why I Want My Sons To See Me Naked”—on Facebook, and the title struck me just like it definitely struck you. “Wow,” I thought. “What hippy, liberal thought is this going to be?” But it wasn’t. I mean, maybe it is. I don’t really think there’s a black and white partisanship like CNN and Fox, or even MSNBC want you to think; I think there’s common sense that almost everyone can agree on, and then there’s degrees of agenda from all sides. This is more about repairing—nay, executing damage control on our youth. Like really little youth; tykes, if you will.

    *              *               *

    The following written 20160314

    Generation X’s kids are already displaying abhorrent behavior compared to what is healthy. It’s no far cry that the Millennial generation’s children will have a more horrendous view of sexuality. You’ve got booty calls more accessible than ever via Tinder and the like, and you’ve got omnipresent porn. I won’t make the argument that porn is either wholesale good or wholesale bad for society, since others have done both for me. But I think the following anecdote is telling.

    In the end of summer 2015, my Stake President (a regional authority over several Mormon congregations) had an unprecedented discussion-based lesson with the adults in each of the congregations: he wanted to talk about sex. He brought several quotes and citations from Church authorities and scholars on the subject, and wasn’t unprepared. Yet, because he was trying to not offend, his message was very confusing. (Ironically, people were still offended despite the indecipherable message.)  Some people raised their hands and tried offering commentary that supported what they thought he was driving at, and the discussion would veer in those directions for a minute, but I don’t think any of those were what he really wanted. Mind you, he didn’t get weird or show us diagrams or talk about righteous/evil positions; he just kept on talking about sex’s narrative in our homes. And kept on bringing up what our kids think about sex. Yet, not even when I raised my hand and asked if he simply wanted us to have frank conversations with our children about sex, and to break the Puritan habit of not talking about sex at all until one evening’s dinner when Jaxon brings up something he heard at school, causing mother to choke on her lentils, did our Stake President say that was even it. And I can’t possibly think why else a regional authority would think it would be so important to interrupt normal congregational curriculum to address sex if it weren’t for that! Albeit, out of all of the orienteering questions and comments people had, I feel like that was on the closest track. It felt like, at least, a Frontage Road, even if it weren’t the highway he was trying to get us on.

    Whether you think it’s appropriate for an ecclesiastical leader to talk to his or her flock about sex, it’s noteworthy that he thought there was a threat enough for him to address it. And I don’t think this is just a Christian thing to be ashamed of our bodies. I indeed know of a heinous streak of them that avoid all subjects of sexuality, a la Mama Boucher from The Waterboy, giving their kids a terrifying intimacy complex that emerges in their teens and, God forbid, on their honeymoon; but even out of the small sample of friends I polled, they said varying ages of when too old is too old. Some said eight-years old. Some said two. One of them backed-up his decided age because “that’s when you start remembering stuff, and I don’t want to scar her!” You’re not going to scar her if she’s not taught to think it damaging. 

    Yeah, it’s a little weird that I’m a male and sharing this concept of being naked around your kids to ground them in normal anatomical expectations, but it seems true. As a child did I want to see my mom naked? Oh, f*** no! But I think that, while maturing, had the body not been so shunned and our narrative not so Puritanical, I would be a more rounded person and more sober about my view on womens’ bodies. Boys need all the help they can get, because with toxic messages on feminine worth spreading into mainstream, future couples have no chance. I don’t even need to broach the subject of girls needing help. 

    Should I forget before I end, the male body is a handsome thing, and likewise amazing in its respective masculinity and perfection of existence. Fathers should thus be just as open with their kids.

      
    Now, I hope you’ve read the article and especially watched the video at the end, since she makes many good clarifying statements in it. I particularly liked that she wasn’t flaunting herself in front of her kids, and how her husband is fine with himself changing in front of them too. I don’t have kids, and I’m the youngest in the family, but even I know that kids will barge in when they need/want you. I can’t imagine what kind of morbid schema it would instill if a parent were to shout and scold a kid when this happens during a compromising moment. To say the least, when the kid will think the body is taboo. While neither the author nor I are advocating for anyone to be skeezy with their body, I do think a more European understanding of nudity is in order. When I lived in Germany as a kid, it was everywhere. Soap commercials, camping grounds, everywhere. Once, my dad caught me enjoying a make-shift slide out of a muddy hill in our backyard, and he had no qualms about stripping off my muddy clothes in front of the neighbor kids, because nobody cared. It’s just not a big deal. It’s a body. It’s sexy for like, I don’t know, a tenth of our lives—at best. Every other moment it’s functional, with scars, and pimples, and sweat.

    Take this artist, Susannah Martin. She paints dope art for the sake of normalizing the human body—in art! You would think that art is even a safe place, but she thinks that even in that medium women are portrayed unrealistically. Check out some of her work.

    I’m fully aware that some people think this is a measure of pedophilalia, and want to call CPS, but honestly, get over yourself. Call the cops, but report all of Europe first, then press charges on me. This isn’t about taking advantage of kids; it’s about helping them identify what’s healthy and what’s not when they’re teens and adults. I don’t want my daughters crying in front of a mirror any more than my grandmother did. 

    On that point, my Pops said that in his tenure in the military, he saw the locker room showers get more, and more private. They used to have communal showers, and poles with like ten shower heads around it. Dudes were showering at close-proximity to other dudes, and it was no big deal. But in the locker rooms I use, we’ve got individual stalls with shower curtains. Don’t get me wrong, I love privacy! But I think it’s indicative of our culture and how far we’ve drifted since The Greatest Generation was making decisions. I venture to guess that military showers started changing when “Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell” came out, and private showers became even more common when homosexuals could openly serve in the military. To me, if you’re gay and looking at my fun zone, just don’t make it obvious, don’t make it a habit, and don’t comment. Other than that, I’m fine sharing a locker room with homosexuals. And the worry of unwanted advances happening in the locker room is  ridiculous, because in the Army we spend like one day a month in a class on how to not rape or sexually harass someon. One. Day. A month. If a soldier really wants to aggress on you, that means they really don’t care about having to register in every neighborhood they live in and being prohibited from living next to playgrounds for the rest of his or her life. If you’re a civilian it’s a lot more complicated, but in that case I advise learning some basic self-defense and carrying pepper spray. If you aren’t sure what sexual assault or sexual harassment look like, breathe and watch this video

    Okay, back to center. 

    I fully accept that in the next few years when I have tykes, I’m going to have to eat my words and do this myself. And it’s going to be horrifying for all parties involved. Again, back in Germany, my mad prankster dad, blew our minds when he sat us down for a family council and announced that we were selling our clothes and moving to a nudist colony. I think that moment is clinical proof that a four-year old can have anxiety. He thought it was funny as hell. And I’m going to have to be the one effectively fulfilling this prophecy, at least partially. Okay, hardly. Emily and I are just not going to be Nancys about non-sexual nudity in front of our future kids.

    And I think they’ll be better for it.

    Interracial marriage: I married a #Ginger

    This article presents an interesting dialogue that I think many Americans need to have. (Firstly, I will address the close-minded that revile the source news firm I cited: I get my news from several outlets, and the international ones always have something that the US doesn’t report on, even the propagandized ones.)

    My mother-in-law shared this with me, and remarked how remarkable it is that no one has brought attention to the difficulties of being a white blonde in America. Wait—no, I’m not kidding. Ever heard a dumb-blonde joke? Hush, yes you have. And I can tell you’re smiling as you think of your favorite one. They’re funny right? Yeah, even I’ll admit it in lieu of my mother-in-law. She’d probably laugh at them too. Because she knows it’s a stereotype, a caricature, one that doesn’t apply to her. Do you know who created it? Marilyn Monroe. And she wasn’t even that kind of gal. Look at a photo of her taken before she got big, and you can see intelligence beyond her dumb-blonde bit. Very few women actually fit this stereotype naturally. It’s an unfair one.

    My mother-in-law continued,

    OR WORSE….being a blonde woman living in Hawaii….not a day goes by I don’t experience prejudice and discrimination because I’m white and blonde…not Asian, black, Hawaiian, islander, Filipino, Japanese….basically any other race except white, and my dad is Spanish so technically I’m mixed…but no one cares…I’m blonde…a woman…white….in Hawaii…three strikes…you’re out!

    And you know what? I’ll be a post-modernist for a second: the Hawaiians have reasons to be mad at white folk. One of which is that they were a sovereign kingdom which we conquered through sleight-of-hand. And a secessionist movement is alive there. But is racism cool? We all know the answer. My mother-in-law, whom I’ll henceforth refer to as MIL, since hyphenating is tiresome, should not be prejudiced.

    Let’s bring this back to gingers (but keep this example in mind). My wife is a bodacious redhead, and even before I married her the pseudo-ginger-hating sort of got on my nerves. I’ve never seen that South Park episode, and, from the description, it sounds funny, and even good satire. But, like the article points out, I don’t think common people get the point of the episode, and rather created a cultural irony in deriding redheads. I get that it’s mostly light-hearted, but do we need it? I mean [and you’ll see that this is a very exploratory conversation for me: I’m pulled in several directions] after all that some Americans have suffered under cultural and even codified racism, do we need to arbitrarily create a class to pick on? We’ve already done that once.

    And I think this writer has a good point: ginger jokes mock real racism. But I disagree with him about white supremacy. No, I am not a white supremacist. I think the bull crap that happens when white males are told to “check your privilege” is evidence that there is reverse racism at the service of a long overdone and outworked Affirmative Action system, but I’m no racist. In fact, it irks me when I’m called a racist when I make an observation, comical or intellectual, about something concerning non-whites. It doesn’t matter what it is: crime, ghettos, driving, rice, what have you—since I’m not brown or black, my ability to speak on such things is revoked because I “don’t understand what it’s like.” That is racism. That is a lack of critical thinking. Didn’t the great MLK struggle for us to judge a person, not by the color of their skin, but by the content or their character? We have that ability now! It’s 2014! It’s the future! But the race pimps won’t stop. The race pimps agitate things, and prod us to be indignant about mole hills. There’s another reason for you to not ginger hate: the race pimps already find enough people for us to despise. To add pseudo-hate to more pseudo-hate is just nonsense.

    We have a problem in America, and it’s apparent to our neighbors. We are overly race aware. A friend of mine who was studying abroad from England, and happened to have Chinese ancestry, noticed that even in of the friendliest places in the world, even BYU-Idaho, that people often asked her where her family is from on the assumption that she’d consider herself Chinese over English. She said back home she’s simply a person. I have another English friend to corroborate her own experiences to that analysis.

    And why? Why after a hundred and fifty-four years since our nation came to civil bloodshed seemingly over racism do we still remind each other of a bad past? Is it because forty acres and mule weren’t properly given out as reparations, and it shouldn’t be forgot? Is it because Asian cars are outperforming our homemade cars, and we’re bitter? I reject any explanation like this. For one reason, they’re silly; for another, I think Americans are better than that. Yet, for reasons like the Treyvon Martin fiasco and the demand for hate-crime prosecution when no evidence existed, and CNN editing the 911 call to push that point further, or even the non-racist but more recent fury over Facebook hunting photos, Americans also scare me! What are we doing? We’re reactionary, and we let the media push us into it! We are better than this. I read a quote that I can’t attribute to anyone because I forget the origin, but it is “There are two types of people: those that walk into a room and turn the TV on, and those that walk in and turn the TV off.” I won’t make the claim that we used to be the latter, since the Founders were terrified of pure democracy because of an uneducated public. But I will say that we are more capable that we are doing. We can critically think. We can be skeptical. We can examine. We can read!

    Maybe I’m getting myself worked up. Maybe I’m just a mad white guy who doesn’t understand how good I’ve got it. Maybe I’m just envious and want a scholarship for a trait I can’t control. But I guess you’ll tell me that in the comments. And please do.

    #Haskell: life is cruel to the old

    Forgive me of a proper intro, but I’ve been meaning to pen this for years: the most cruel part of getting older is seeing the failures and wastefulness of your youthhood peers

    Ron Haskell I knew. I know. I still know him. He’s not a savage, or deviant, or a killer bred from the womb. He was one of the funniest guys I knew as a kid. He was friendly, and always smiled. He made you feel good. I’ve heard he sometimes picked on others, but what kid hasn’t? I can’t verify he or anyone in his family did, but when he dated one of my sisters, he was kind to me, and tried to gain my respect, while honoring my budding instinct to protect the household and the family from potential threats. (I was sixteen, and thought I was a man. This is that age when a boy stares other boys or even men—strangers—in the eyes, waiting for them to break contact, so as to establish virility and pack order. Ron never threatened me or my sis. He played along.) Ron was like a Chris Farley of Eagle River—even if he was trapped in a Philip-Seymour-Hoffman body. But had some surfer in him. His statement, that he was “Chill as a cucumber,” as he surrendered, is iconic of him. Fun-loving and jovial, he made an impression on many that is hard to forget.

    Ron, I believe, is no different from any of us. You can see by his recent photos that he had some demons; that he was stressed (and I don’t say from external sources—all of this could be his own fault), and wasn’t taking care of his self. But if you look at the photo where he’s clean shaven, he looks like he did when I was growing up. He looks like any other suspect getting a mug shot, but he looks less villainous. He looks benign.

    He executed four people, from toddler age to adulthood. He held his wife by the hair and twice punched her in the face. He duct-taped his mom to a chair and choked her out. He did heinous things! But my point is that he isn’t far from any of us. We all have tipping points. We may, like him, take a while to tip. We may become monsters. We may push away all those that would help us as they witnessed the transformation. We are all human.

    And that is potentially a frightening thing.

    What do we do about it? What law can we pass to protect ourselves? What conventions can we create that will stop this? Not a darn thing. The only thing that will save us from future crime—any crime—is a foundation of family relationships that are healthy, reliable, wholesome, and altruistic. We can’t stop violence through any other means. I know family life is frustrating. I’ve been around and heard my fair share of tragedy. But real relationships of love transcend helplessness, and it’s known that helplessness drives crime. Who knows why Ron felt this way. The most dangerous man is the one at the end of his rope.

    It’s sad it all went down like this. I wish it didn’t, because the family, even if they were all degenerates or petty jerks, didn’t deserve it. The niece-in-law that survived: she’ll be the next Elizabeth Smart, and people will laud her for living a normal life with so much trauma. Hopefully my optimism isn’t foolish, and she makes it that far. I wish this didn’t happen because Ron had potential. His mother, father, and siblings don’t deserve this, and all he put them through in recent years. I won’t go as far to say that he doesn’t deserve this, that he shouldn’t be meted out justice, because a crime unpunished is arguably a crime worse than the deed. But I will give him credit that no other shooter has: he turned himself in. [Correction: allowed himself to be taken in, and didn’t go through with suicide.] Maybe it was fear of the afterlife that stopped him, but whatever it was, I’m glad that the survivors will get justice.

    If I may be selfish and return this to focus on me, I again say that one of the hardest parts of life is seeing the world grow uglier, and at the hands of those you love.

    Update: I just found out a friend knew the victims well, so the sympathy doesn’t go to me. It didn’t go to me before. It’s a crime, and should be punished accordingly, with restitution brought to the survivors. I’m saddened by what Ron did, but I want to memorialize that he wasn’t always a monster. He, like all of us can, snapped. He was good. Keep yourself good.

    May the remaining family on both sides feel that justice is met.

    Update: there are a few details that I left out in this piece. http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20140711/man-accused-executing-texas-family-was-voted-prom-king-class-clown-alaska

    Update: I thought this accurate.

    No change in human institutions can resolve the contradictions of human needs.

    Tyrants are not only feared, they are often loved. States do not act only to protect their interest; they are also vehicles for myths, fantasies and mass psychosis.

    Theories of rational choice assume human beings have reasonable goals, if people seem to behave irrationally it is because they are frustrated. The implication of this benignly reductive analysis is that if the causes of frustration could be removed, harmony will follow. But not all reasonable objectives are compatible, and rational choices can lead to horribly destructive conflicts.

    John Gray, Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia

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    Espresso Encounter with Philip Seymour Hoffman

    Great prose about two bygone legends that’s well worth readings.

    Five.

    1.

    “You’ll absolutely die when you hear what happened today at the café,” my then-girlfriend said, poking her head around the kitchen door to watch me struggle to cut the ribs off the entire bunch of dinosaur kale with a dull knife.

    “Mmmhh?,” I responded.

    “Well, we were listening to that Judy Garland album you put on the store iPod,” she said, stepping into view in the door frame. Her jeans were dusted dark brown where she wiped her hands after each shot of espresso, and she smelled like work in that way I loved: salt and coffee and warm milk. “Philip Seymour Hoffman came in, ordered a couple iced lattes for him and Mimi, and was standing by the bar waiting for me to finish making them.” She came up beside me and gently took the knife from my hands, easily dispensing with the ribs and cutting the kale…

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    My dad’s gay, #ProudWhopper

    Rainbow wrapper or not, it’s still my good ol’ burger 🙂 #ProudWhopper (https://instagram.com/p/qAXUYjHKoB/)

    Some of you have heard that Burger King made a big splash in the gay pond by releasing a new burger called the Proud Burger. Actually, it’s not new at all. In fact that’s part of the whole deal. Watch: http://bit.ly/1rkn6AF

    You see, I dig this kind of gay support. And that’s pretty weird for me, or my discourse communities, or any of my demographics: I’m a white, semi-socially-conservative, Christian. Shoot, let’s go out and say it—I’m Mormon! Which is a way confusing state to be in during this open-minded millennium. And I don’t mean that to be it’s hard living in the future when my values are so Old Testament (they’re not actually—they’re very Doctrine and Covenants). I mean that I subscribe to a faith that believes that homosexual love is fundamentally wrong, and my dad is gay.

    He came out in 2000. It was after school had started but before the snow had hit the ground. I came home from shenanigans with friends—and mind you, this was shaping out to be the best school year, or even year of my life: I used to be a nerdy Timothy McVey-esque looking kid, with a thick record of failed comedy routines and zero charisma; I scowled because I thought it made me look tough, and although I knew it didn’t, anything was better than looking vulnerable; this new school year presented popularity, confidence, and optimism, and all due to a wardrobe change and contact lenses [if any of you readers are young, like under-fifteen-years-old young, understand that youngsters are shallow fiends]—thus, my ship had finally sailed into calm waters. I walked into the front door, and saw my dad ironing (probably his jeans, now that I think about it). He stopped and said he had something to talk to me about. I posted and asked what I did wrong. He dismissed that I had, and asked me to come to the garage with him. Knowing that something heavy, and something boat-rocking was coming, I recoiled and yelled no! My dad remained calm and yet became more pleading and empathetic, and my sister, who had been silently watching TV behind me, demanded “Andy, go!” I knew it was inevitable. As dramatic as this all sounds, it indeed happened like this. I crap you not.

    As we sat into our seats in the “sea-foam green” Mercury Mystique, he opened up the confession by telling me that life doesn’t always go as planned sometimes, that sometimes it’s just not fair. He went through several effectual synonymic versions of this, and I think somewhere in there he said that sometimes we don’t love who we want to love. And somewhere in there—I began to cry. “Do you know what I mean, son?” Yes, I sobbed. I didn’t know how, but I understood that he felt attracted to men. And, you’ll hate this, but I don’t think I could have come to that conclusion on my Freshman-own; I think the Holy Ghost illuminated that for me. It was clear as day, even though his analogies weren’t. Yes, I’m making a Christian assertion in the middle of a pro-gay manifesto, but—I’m a Mormon. What would I be doing if I was hiding?

    Anyways.

    At this point, I’m blubbering. My hero, my idol, my male figurehead was just then exploding who I thought he was with his gay grenade. We all associate homosexuality with a blurring of the gender paradigm, and even if you say you don’t—alright, that’s cute, but tell the truth, you. And to a young teenage self, who probably fit more stereotypes that he’d been learning in the last three years of sex-ed than he knew, this concept of fatherly masculinity was being destroyed. My future I imagined with him was now a question. His role as a priesthood holder in the home was odd-ened. Would he get a boyfriend and wear women’s clothes?

    “I’m still your father. And I still love you.”

    Then all was well in the cosmos. He was my dad! My mike-foxtrotting dad! He was familiar again. I hugged him for all I was worth, and sputtered out that I loved him too. This is still all that matters.

    If you must know, my dad was excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; but not because the counsel members on his court were homo-haters or close-minded. One told me, when I was nineteen, that they begged him to stay in the Church, and it was he that asked to be removed. From my dad, I heard that people were gossiping about him, and he felt unwelcome. From others, I ascertained that was true, but it was a minority of the congregation that was doing so. Many of the leaders were my dad’s friends, and pleaded for him to keep his membership while they tried to help him however they could. You see, in the Church, homosexuals can have all privileges and offices that heteros can, as long as they do not have sexual relations with their own gender. I’ve heard of a congregational head, a bishop, that was gay. As long as he kept man-things tucked away, he was safe. It’s considered like any temptation: adultery, gambling, pornography, substance abuse, what have you. We all have vices, and we all have thresholds. The prophets and apostles of the Church have recently said that they do not know why homosexuality happens—whether it’s genetic or situational—but that God has commanded against it. Like any of the guilty pleasures I’ve listed, it must be resisted, because it likewise has heavy consequences. I’m not preaching, or hoping you’ll see the light and ask me to baptize you. I’m just ‘splainin’.

    My dad came-out almost fifteen years ago. Weird. And there have been consequences. He forfeited his temple admittance along with his membership, so he couldn’t see me or my older sister married for eternity in the temple. Yet, he certainly made a point of being there. He still supports us. He still paid for 80% of my mission. He still paid for tuition at a Church school (go Vikings). He still loves me. And he’s still my dad.

    This gay-burger thing. I don’t really care all that much. Yes, it’s dumb how the left wants to keep it local and just a San Fran thing, when they made a huge, national deal out of the Chik-fil-A thing. Hypocritical. But the message is right: “We are all the same inside.” How can you go wrong with that? Wrap someone in a rainbow towel and they’re different? No. We’re all human, we all want to be accepted. We all are the metaphorical X-men just wanting to be accepted by society, and to be happy doin’ ah thang without Congress getting involved. And that’s exactly where I stand on the issue: take marriage out of Congress’s hands, and keep it in the field; the reception hall; even the chapel, if you have to. Marriage is definitely something different than what it used to be. And I can’t fight that. But I can fight improper government.

    Inside, we’re still same.

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