31 October 2007

To whom it may concern...

The Readers' Forum in the Daily Universe is the best thing on earth sometimes. It makes me so happy. It really does. People at this University are insane and the Readers' Forum is where all of the insane people live. It's brilliant. I love it.

Take today for example in a letter entitled "New convert's shock"

"Halloween time can be fun, no doubt (costume parties, candy, friends, etc.), but what's up with BYU's dark Halloween paraphernalia? I wonder if God's got the Celestial Kingdom decked out with scenes of dead decaying humans, witches, witch havens, magic potions, sorcery, skulls, brews and haunted skeletons? But BYU seems pretty at home with it this year.

Maybe God will even include Satan in masterminding Heaven's scariest haunted house - full of vile, sick and unimaginable horrors like "The Haunted Forest" promoted on the front-page of BYU's newspaper last week.

Isaiah 5:20-"Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good."

Think I'm taking this a little too seriously? I dare you to research the truth for yourself. Read (and here the author lists many many scriptures to prove a point)...and then if you're real brave, research Halloween's actual roots. There's nothing "light," pure or holy about it.

Imagine Brigham Young and Joseph Smith visiting the BYU Bookstore, along with its large life-size wicked witch along with her wicked paraphernalia -presumably leftover human sacrifices.

Last time I checked, God wasn't real pleased with a witch (Exodus 22:18). So either God's saints have had their head in the sand a little too long or in their Harry Potter books - one or the other.

Don't believe a word I'm saying until you prayerfully review above sources."

For full coverage of this issue please follow this link to the Daily Universe website.

Oh goodness. Just when I thought my day couldn't get worse, someone made it infinitely better. I love my school! People here are so amazing. I feel like I am standing in the center of a web of bigots and liberals and people who get offended by everything or nothing or think that a date means marriage or don't date because men are dogs or women are clingy and I love the Readers' Forum!

I think this article more or less speaks for itself, but if I were to write a response to this well meaning student who is playing on every obnoxiousness...this is what I would say:

1. Leave your new convert status out of this. It has nothing to do with your argument, and it creates a bid for sympathy that is absurd. I understand frustration from converts who don't quite understand "Mormon culture" but Halloween shouldn't be new to you in or out of the church (unless you've been making friends with that sand).

2. Quoting scripture to defend yourself in this argument is not very sound, particularly because the meanings about these scriptures and the meaning of dressing up on Halloween are completely different. Last I checked, the bookstore wasn't trying to get people involved in human sacrifice...they're just decorating. If you're going to avoid the "appearance of evil" to an extreme that far, then you'll have to lock yourself in your room and close your eyes. Calm down. And look up the context of the scriptures before you quote them. Not to mention the etymology of words.

3. I'll pull an argument as lame as most of yours: President Hinckley wore a Halloween tie at his devotional last year when he spoke on Halloween.

4. Don't pull the 'origins of Halloween' argument. It's not well researched. And if that's the argument you're going to pull, look up the origins of Christmas too. (Here's a hint: your search could start with the word Pagan).

5. I'm pretty sure Joseph Smith and Brigham Young wouldn't have freaked about some decorations. They had bigger things to worry about. Like extremists.

6. Here's another shallow argument from me: Deseret Book stocks Harry Potter books. And Halloween books.

7. Did this author try to compare BYU to the Celestial Kingdom on earth (with flaws)? Goodness...I love BYU but if this is the Celestial Kingdom then I don't have much to look forward to. Except an eternity of Police Beats and Readers' Forum articles!

8. I'm pretty sure that most kids who dress up for Halloween probably have no idea what real witchcraft is. Heck, I'm pretty sure the author doesn't know what real witchcraft is. I'm also pretty sure that most kids who dress up like ghosts/witches/vampires/sorcerers etc. don't all become devil worshipers.

All this being said, I hope you all have an excellent Halloween being evil and massacring children with cleavers. I know I will.

10 October 2007

The Mostly-Imagined Real Wanderings of a Kindred Soul Abroad

For my post-study abroad writing class we're all working on essays. My project has turned into a kind of beast but I'm rather proud of it so far. I'm taking every day of the trip and picking one moment from the day or one image of the day or one scene of the day that is particularly strong in my head and writing just that one image. I've got my journals and photos and letters from the trip for help. So far I'm about 15 days in (more than 40 to go) and I'm at 13 pages. Yes. It's going to be a beast! So what I thought I'd do is send some of these (shorter) entries out into the void. They're rather rough, but I'm hoping that in a more refined state they might actually appeal to an audience outside of myself and those who went on the trip who can appreciate it for sake of the trip. So I now present my ramblings...

27 April 2007-En-Route between Edinburgh and Glasgow

I’ve always wanted to ride on a train. Not the dinky ones at amusement parks but a real train. There’s something so much more romantic about traveling by train than by plane or by car, because no one does it any more. Trains are for Victorian “Gibson Girls” with their puffed sleeves and showy good looks and pompadour hair and students going to school for magic or something and I’m in love with this train. A little disappointed, though. I wanted my own little sliding door compartment, not an industrial bit of every day transport full of businessmen just going to work.

But I’m saved. A lady in a uniform comes down the aisle asking passengers if they want ‘anything off the trolley’ and I am put right back into my contented state. Do I want anything off the trolley?! Do I ever want anything off that trolley! This is my chance! To do something quintessentially British! In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Harry goes out to the trolley of the Hogwarts Express wanting to buy a Mars bar. Granted, he gets magical candy that tastes like bogies, but I can’t ask for everything all at once. Thus, in honor of that boy-wizard friend, I proudly hand over my 60p and munch on the English equivalent of a Milky Way. Romance has been satisfied.

I try not to stare too much at the people on the train, but it’s hard because of the family with kids next to me. There are two boys playing with some kind of fantasy card game (Pokemon? I don’t know the difference. I should, I have brothers) and another little baby just starting to blabber a few words. All three of those boys are speaking with little hobbity Scottish accents. Two days in a row my anti-tourist campaign is shattered because I can’t pretend that I’m not totally entertained by these kids and completely envious of the life they lead. A life that is more or less exactly like mine but with the coveted Scottish accent attached to it, thus making it about a trillion times cooler. Theoretically, obtaining a Scottish or English accent of some kind would be my key to casting off the burden of tourism. I look British enough thanks to my ancestors. If I don’t say anything no one will no the difference, but I bought the Mars Bar so my birds have flown on this train. I wonder if the couple thought I was foreign before I spoke.

30 April 2007-Coach to Wasdale

I have fallen in love. Madly in love. With a biscuit. Not just any biscuit, though. Oh no. This is the most incredible biscuit in the world. Biscuit, biscuit, biscuit. It’s even fun to say. Anyone in the world who has tasted Scottish shortbread would have to agree with me or be utterly insane. Shortbread is brilliant because the full flavor takes you by surprise after you suck on the little cookie morsels for a little while. There’s a splash of buttery goodness and a twist of sugar and I don’t know what else but I can’t stop eating them. It’s such a half-guilty pleasure. I think somewhere in my psyche I imagine that everyone on the coach can see how many of these little shortbread fingers I’ve eaten and they’re all criticizing me for it. Earlier I was sharing with the girls closest to me, but they’ve all had their fill by now and I’m still peckish. So when I decide I want another one I kind of duck to the side with my forehead resting on the window and my body shielding the box. Then I slowly pull the box open. The hard part is pulling the plastic cookie-tray out because that makes noise when you reach through the plastic wrapper of the plastic holder. Then, one cookie after another, I indulge my way through about a quarter of the box. That’s the amazing and terrifying part of the power of a good shortbread cookie: once you start eating them it’s hard to resist another. And another. Eight or so fingers of shortbread later, I am content.

3 May 2007-Helvelyn

Do you know what happens when a gaggle of hot, sweaty, tired girls get together and hike a mountain all day and then find a pool of deserted, inviting, seductive water in the middle of a valley? I do. Some kind of time and space warp occurs and every girl there is transformed into a desert traveler who has not seen water in years. Clothes fly everywhere, screaming ensues, water flies, and there’s giggling. Lots and lots of giggling.

Not from me. I like my clothes where they are, thanks. And I don’t like hiking wet so I’m not about to jump in clothed either. Or even partially clothed. The water is cold. And dirty. And there are probably fish somewhere in there. Leeches. The Loch Ness monster. No no . . . ground is safer. I turn away from the splashing, riotous crew of mermaids to continue on my quest towards ruining the landscape. My colored pencils are out again and having a marvelous time forgetting about depth perception and shading. I have one hand around my waist to keep my shirt firmly in place, lest some knavish sprite come and take my by surprise and toss me in with the rest of the herd.

One by one our modest group of girls starts to give in at various levels of embarrassment and nakedness. Some keep their knickers on, others opt for something less clothed. I opt for clothes. I have no desire to jump in. It isn’t even so much the naked part of all this that bothers me. I’ve been in theater for years. Dressing and undressing in front of girls (or boys) isn’t exactly new. I’m comfortable enough with myself. I don’t think I’m ugly. It’s everyone else that makes me nervous. What if they aren’t comfortable with me observing them? Everyone’s so different. Rolls here and there, in and out of their underwear, swimming in the water, only sitting on the bank . . . they’re all different kinds of druidy goddesses of the earth and if I go over there I will stare. Not to be pornographic, just to wonder at how people can be so different, I suppose. To look at their bodies and think about mine and what it means to be short with long fingers and brown hair and blue eyes and round and flat and whatever else I am.

22 May 2007-Portsmouth

There are some days on the year when I simply cannot be responsible. Today is one of those days. I am surrounded by history. Naval museums are everywhere. The HMS Victory is planted in the middle of some concrete for people to tour. I could, theoretically, learn hundreds of new facts about British Naval history . . . or I could turn into a five year old and spend the entire afternoon prancing around ships for sake of goofy pictures and end the day in a ball pit at a children’s play place in a restaurant. Which is precisely what I do.

Evelyn and I are quite giddy when we see the empty play set. “Do you think-“ “Would they kick us out-“ “Is there an age limit-“ we half run through the exhibit on ship building and knot tying to the back of the restaurant where a deserted play place stands in all of it’s welcoming glory. A kind of ghostly music is echoing off of the padded walls and plastic slides, calling me forward. Who am I to resist fate? Every sailor knows what happens when you resist fate. Ask Odysseus. I either give in to the temptation in my rightful mind or get sucked in and turn into some kind of monster. Evelyn and I look at each other. The gauntlet is dropped. We race to drop our bags and grab our cameras and rip off our shoes (not necessarily in that order). “You take pictures of me, and I’ll get pictures of you!” “Ok!” Run, run, run-up, crawl through the tube (were they always this small?), climb up the ladder (mind your head!), stop for a picture (I love being five!)! In and out and up and pause (flash), go and switch places and your turn and bury me in the balls, and take that picture again my eyes are closed and I am definitely too big for that but I’m going to try it anyway and go through those ropes and slide on that zip line and this play place is the most incredible thing I think I’ve ever seen. One day when I’m old and overly responsible I may look back on my tryst through plastic-ball world as an opportunity lost and mourn that I could have toured many grand historical monuments but . . . well never mind. I won’t regret this.

24 May 2007- Fox Inn-Lulworth Cove

It has been a long day. Up at four in the morning. Be angry about being up at such an un-godly hour. Coach to Stonehenge. Admire Stonehenge. Take pictures with Stonehenge. Coach to Stourhead. Search frantically for Pride and Prejudice filming location where Elizabeth rejects Darcy in the new movie. Take 800 pictures of (and with) Pride and Prejudice filming location in various states of emotional discomfort and longing over Darcy. Coach to Marnhull church. Walk to Tess’ Cottage. Hike to Milton Abbey. Get lost alone in Milton Abbey. Sing songs alone in Milton Abbey while everyone else is being responsible and not lost. Drive with John who has found the lost wandering me to the Inn (get lost twice. His fault, not mine). Discover that I’m sharing a room with Liz which is happy. Discover that the room we’re sharing does not involve hauling luggage up stairs which is also happy. Discover that the room we’re sharing contains several very big fluffy pillows and the room provides tea. Brilliant.

Time to tell the staff of the inn what I want for dinner so that they can have what everyone wants. The options are chicken, vegetarian lasagna, a soup and trout. Brilliant again. I am in the southern part of England, now is the perfect chance to try nice fish since I’m too cheap to buy it for dinner elsewhere! I can let the program pay for my fish! I sign up for trout.

Dinner goes well. Good food, good friends, good talk through the starters. Then the main course starts to arrive. I wait with eager anticipation and several appropriate sea-shanties running through my head until placed before me is Captain Ahab. Captain Ahab is my dinner. He (I’m assuming his gender. I’m not up on fish anatomy) is fully scaled and still in tact with eyes and scales and tail and fins.

If I had a cleaver I would be able to quote A Christmas Story. (He’s smiling at me! Chop). But Captain Ahab isn’t smiling at me. He is accusing me. I don’t have the heart to eat him while he watches. It’s a little indecent. I take some of my left over salad and put it over his eyes. May he rest in peace.

Captain Ahab is completely disgusting and without flavor in revenge.

05 October 2007

Why I think Twilight is a piece of crap, OR The blog post in which an ingnorant person analyzes love

Most of that title is for effect. I'll explain:

In the last year or so, Stephanie Meyer's book Twilight has taken the girly world over. Ask nearly anyone about it and they'll do a string of things immediately. First; they'll profess undying love for a vampire. Second; they'll say that they don't normally read vampire books but this one is different. Third; they'll demand that you read the book, and (maybe fourth), proceed to give away almost the entire plot. So here's my analysis.

I read the first two and about half of the third in the series. Plot wise, the books are fairly interesting. I'm not usually one for popular teen fiction but a few of my friends told me I had to read them, so I picked them up. I actually enjoyed most of the first one. Granted, the book isn't very well written in some respects. It could use a serious edit. By the 800th description of how beautiful the hero was I wanted to chuck something heavy at the heroine, but other than a few quibbles it wasn't so bad. I didn't regret buying it. It was a nice distraction in the pre-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows mindset I had.

Then I read New Moon (the second book in the series) and part of Eclipse (the third) and realized that nothing had really happened. The interesting part about the first book for me was that the main character (Bella) seemed to have taken a risk. But after the initial risk in the first book, none of the characters seemed to change. It was pointless. The author stopped taking chances. It was so predictable and safe. The book could have gone down a route similar to Tuck Everlasting for instance, only it would have been (or could have been) even more significant because the age of the heroine has been upped about eight years. Rather than have a ten year old decide it isn't worth it to live forever, you have an immature eighteen year old consider for about half a second what the consequences of immortality as a vampire would be. Every time she considers it she throws the thought aside because she is so in love. Only I didn't believe it. Aside from the semi-interesting plot line, I never bought the story after a while. Edward was too good. I don't care how bloody beautiful he is or how noble he is, I'd be annoyed out of my mind by him if I really knew him. Seriously? He plays the piano. He wrote her a lullaby. He half stalks her. He is so darn over protective it's absurd. He never sweats. He has a nice car. Snore. I don't want a guy that perfect. It'd be obnoxious.

Going back to the love they supposedly have for each other, I buy their love about as much as I buy the love of Romeo and Juliet. Not at all. I'm sorry. It's just a little too surface for me. Whenever they see each other there will be some mad, gasping, clinging make out session. Maybe I'm just feeling particularly 'anti-touch' at the moment because I have three engaged roommates, but whatever Edward's and Bella's relationship is, it isn't one of love. It has no substance. Nothing to really fall back on outside of that fire they have during the books. If love is glue, then they've got a lot of glue but no paper to glue together.

And you know what? I don't think love is, or should be passionate all the time. What is a book like this teaching girls about the nature of love? I've heard girls say that Edward ruined other men for them. Ugh. How disgusting and superficial. This book would, if read in a certain way, teach girls that the Beatles were right when they said 'all you need is love'.

So here's what I think about love. You can all feel free to mock me if I ever turn into the person I despise one day, but from careful self analysis and in thinking about the relationships I've observed (fictional and otherwise), I know what kind of love I'm looking for.

You know the first day you realize the seasons have changed? When you wake up one morning and see that the leaves on the trees have turned red, or you have that first snowstorm? The first day you hear birds again or the day you pull out your shorts? That's the image I have in mind. I don't think romance has to be irrational and stupid. I think love is more like Darcy puts it in Pride and Prejudice-it comes on you slowly until one day you realize it, but you're already in the middle of it. It isn't like a movie with an orchestra-it's the day you realize that spring is back. It isn't that it hasn't been coming, it's that you finally register that it's back. You see the signs coming until the day you see it for what it is. It isn't new or unfamiliar because we've all been there before. We've all loved before. I think people expect love to be something grand or unfamiliar but it isn't. There's joy in it, of course-but there is also a comfortable kind of peace. I don't want fireworks. I want the crisp air of a fall morning. Something that feels so comfortable it's like curling up on a couch in your favorite pair of sweats.