Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dinner with Peter

Met up again with Peter last night (thanks, by the way, to Lonnie for her advice to keep up contact with him). He's a little disappointed that another year is ending and the world isn't ending with it, but his vision of the Apocalypse is still strong.

The days are coming, he tells me, when restraint and righteousness have been delayed too long, when the earth runs dry and the blood in human veins runs cold, when brother will fight brother to the death over a glass of clean water, when the piece of technology children most long for is a sharp knife. In those days, he says, women will have nothing but sackcloth left to wear, will have their faces covered in ash and soot as soon as they step into the air outside. In those days, food will carry with it the taste of desolation, night will hang so thick it's hard to see the moon rise red, hearts will groan because they are too tired to break. In those days, prayers will only be whispered because of the scorn that will follow anyone who still believes in a good God.

Then comes the miracle. Cities torn asunder as primeval forests spring at once from the ground; the atmosphere aflame, burning itself free of toxins. The earth closes her wounds, swallows her scars. Adam returns to the world he once knew to meet his descendants, who are rising from their graves, whose spirits are pouring out of the Ganges into resurrected life.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Surreality: In the Blood

My grandmother's great-grandfather was a convert to Mormonism during its early days and was deeply involved in the faith. He wrote songs and gave famous sermons, but most of the family stories we told about him when I was growing up involved things like his escape from a jailor and the jailor's dog (when the dog got close, my great-great-great grandpa just yelled "Sic 'im, boy!" and pointed ahead) instead.

A year or two ago I found out my ancestor was also the first Mormon to write a piece of fiction. Two nights ago, my wife and I finally found and read it online.

The piece was written seven months before Joseph Smith was murdered, at a time when anti-Mormon sentiment was running high in many parts of the country. But the piece is gutsy, funny, surprising, and engaging while trying to introduce people to some provocative Mormon ideas in the process.

Well, done g-g-g grandpa! And may my own work be half as fun!

Monday, December 21, 2009

An Alarming Thought

I came back to graduate school last year primarily so I could have health insurance, but also with the idea that I would become a better writer. I feel like I am learning important things, but I feel (today) like I'm writing less important work.

In 2006, among other things, I wrote a play called "Maror." It's based on a true story about a Mormon couple whose two-year-old goes into an extended coma and eventually dies. The play explores what it means to believe in and experience miracles while not getting the only miracle you really want. The play asks us to consider how we can be healed from the bitterness intense suffering makes it so easy to receive. The play looks at how hard deaths in the Mormon community end in a mixture of faith and grief; the play emphasizes that faith and grief are in no way incompatible. We produced the play twice. The first time, a couple who had lost a child in a similar way told me that the play was accurate, that it brought back hard memories, but was very affirming to watch. A woman whose child was in the midst of serious health issues told me the play reached her in ways she never would have expected.

Perhaps a year after the second production, a close relative of one of the actresses ended up in the hospital in a coma and subsequently died. The actress later told me that she thought of the play often in that period, that in important ways it gave her additional resources to process her own experience.

To me, these reactions make a successful play. I am pleased to think I wrote something that helped a few audience members in their own hard times. Our scriptures tell us to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort, and I feel like I did that with that play.

In 2007, I focused almost exclusively on ten-minute plays, but also felt like I was connecting with local audiences on important, central issues from everyday life. A few times, I dealt with young married couples facing various challenges and learning (or not learning) to talk productively with each other--stories Provo university student audiences need. I explored immigration issues in a way that (I hoped) would promote dialogue instead of stifling it, would enable people to frame the issues in ways they hadn't thought of before. I spent time with political polarization but in the specific context of how the broader culture of partisanship adversely affects the Mormon community. I spent time with ideas about the unexpected sources from which people can find strength to turn their lives around.

Audiences came, interacted, left the theatre a little different. It was a good year.

In 2008, my greatest writing achievement was a piece I wrote in March called "Prodigal Son." In it, I looked at how an otherwise close father and son were divided by the son's conversion to Mormonism. The play takes seriously the values and perspectives of both father and son, reaches toward understanding and a kind of healing that can accept difference and pain. The piece won the Association for Mormon Letters' award for Best Play of the year. It made it into the anthology "The Best of Mormonism 2009" and as such will apparently be required reading in a Mormon Lit class at Utah Valley University next year. More importantly, the play resonated with my its audience and especially deeply with those who live in such situations. Like with "Maror," I was able to speak pain in an affirming way, advocating charity and love as sustaining powers through all kinds of difficulty.

And then I came back to school. I haven't written a play since.

I have done some good work over the past year and a half. As far as I can remember, I've written:
-an essay about how our modern understanding of how trauma can affect individuals well after traumatic events end can enrichen our understanding about a Book of Mormon passage in which Jesus blesses some deeply traumatized children. The essay was written between classes rather than for a class, but won me some money and got published in a BYU Essay Collection.
-a draft of a picture book telling the stories of my experience as a terrorist look-alike after 9/11 and my grandfather's experience being separated from his best friend during the Partition of India. I like it, but haven't done anything with it. I finished the draft in December 2008 and haven't touched it since January of this year.
-a cycle of very short stories (less than 300 words each) about immigrants, structured around the Jewish liturgical calendar (a story about an African refugee invokes Passover imagery, Judah Maccabee is an undocumented Mexican immigrant in the Hanukkah piece). Again, I think it's beautiful, but it's just sitting in my files now.
-"Tales of Teancum Singh Rosenberg" a fictional set of folktale fragments. I love it, and it's been published online, which is great, but it's been hard to see much fruit yet. I think the piece has the potential to deepen the way we look at things, but it's sort of weird and without being trapped in a theater in advance, not everyone seems to have the patience for it.
-"Four Side of a Rhetorical Triangle," an essay with a strong voice that explores the ways in which we think about writing. This one, I think, will be able to make it into a national literary journal and be read mostly by writers and English professors. Maybe it will change the way they think and talk about writing. Maybe it will just give them a good laugh. It may not ever find out.
-and last, but not least, my three blogs. People do read these, at least according to Google Analytics. And they probably are helping someone somewhere with something. They have certainly helped me to write, which I was finding very difficult to do.

This school output is not too bad, but when I consider that I haven't written plays, haven't run a theatre company, and haven't done nearly as much connecting with audience, I'm faced with the alarming thought that maybe I'm not doing better. Maybe my writing is doing less to serve the community I love than it did before I came back to school. Maybe this whole academic career thing is a distraction from the core of what I once managed to do in engaging with real-life issues in moving and meaningful ways.

And maybe it's time to stop for today and go clock in to the research job that puts bread on the table.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

To Blove

Love. It's a theme that has preoccupied dateless philosophers for centuries. It's a theme songwriters consistently exploit in order to make alimony payments. It's a theme connected to time-honored social institutions like mawwiage and Nora Ephron.

But has it ever been successfully explained?

I don't think so. In an impromptu song, however, I think my daughter captured the basics of what story, song, and film have been arguing is the nature of love since at least the mesozoic era (dated by most pop culture archeologists as beginning in 1980s).


Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Cartographic Conspiracy

Cartographers today, when asked to produce a map of a given country, focus almost exclusively on the territory within the recognized borders of that country—a disastrous practice which has contributed to numerous failed policies and countless deaths. Whether a nuclear war will also result from this vast cartographical oversight remains to be seen. At the very least, large warning labels ought to be legally required on such maps, something like the labels on cigarette packages, if future crises are to be averted. Better yet, current country maps would be largely replaced by a new breed of “around maps” which balance focus on the internal with careful attention to external context.

If we had been using such maps ten years ago, perhaps the Bush administration would have thought twice before occupying both Afghanistan, to the east of Iran, and Iraq, to the west of Iran, simultaneously. More relevantly, American and European negotiators today might not spend so much time scratching their heads wondering why Iran is suddenly interested in refining uranium. If current negotiators would consult maps of around Iran instead of maps of Iran, they might recognize that their time would be better spent thinking about the implications of an Iranian nuclear program than in hoping a country with hostile forces on both sides can be dissuaded from developing some sort of meaningful military deterrent to invasion.



Unfortunately, our thinking about Iran typically stops at Iran’s borders. Through a happy accident in English-language alphabetization, some hardworking government officials do consider Iran and Iraq in the same day, but Afghanistan, though equally close physically, is banished by a conspiracy between cartographers and the alphabet to a separate compartment in our consciousness.

I’ve considered suing cartographers at large for malpractice on behalf of the United States—I’m not in it for the money, mind you (although I do plan to retire off my .5% share of the multibillion dollar settlement I anticipate). I just think that someone ought to pay for what has been lost to the epidemic of myopia that has us seeing one country at a time and missing what goes on just across borders.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

November Commies

The Commie Committee talked awards today over a breakfast of waffle-scent. (It's been a tight month, budget-wise, as party members have been defecting to the Democrats. Note to Republicans: stop mixing people up with your accusations! We are the real deal, not some smooth-tongued President!)

We've invited a very special presenter this month:



Mother Teresa is, as a proponent of unearned healthcare, apparently a communist by association. She is not, to our knowledge, a fan of this blog, as she is far too busy doing good in the postmortal realm(s), but has agreed to come and visit us anyway, thinking that the nominees were ultra-needy rejects from society (we will leave it up to our readers to decide whether her assumption is correct or not).

The October nominees are:

Rachel for wanting me to do her hair
Grandpa Zorro on hybrid leftovers (and other hybrids)
Auntie S. on the good and bad twins of November 26
Kathy Cowley for her October Commie acceptance speech
a.k.a. Olivia for her comment on "An Open Letter to the Master of the Universe"
with a special joint nomination going to the first five responses to "Is Extinction Forever?"

Agnesë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu a.k.a. Mother Teresa says, "And the winner is..."



"A.k.a. Olivia!"

Monday, November 30, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays...


Sometimes, artificial storm clouds move me to deep introspection.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tales of Teancum Singh Rosenberg

The same friend who recommended Menachem Bloodaxe: Lost Legend of a Jewish Viking recently also suggested I read "Tales of Teancum Singh Rosenberg."

What my friend may not have realized is that I grew up on Teancum Singh Rosenberg stories. My mother would tell them in the mornings, over my father's oatmeal, in the afternoons, between Ducktales and Batman, and at night, as we lay in our beds, unaware that, perhaps, right outside our windows the moon was sinking. And then, after we fell asleep, she'd whisper the histories of the names in the stories into our ears, so they'd sink down into our imaginations and attach to everything, so that even today, whenever I go to pull thoughts out of my mind, something from the world of Teancum Singh Rosenberg invariably comes up with them. (For every word I speak, then--and I speak in many words--another one typically remains unspoken, the insight that must remain in the shadows for the listener's lack of cultural context.)

Perhaps that's the reason why I was so surprised to see Teancum Singh Rosenberg stories in print. I'll admit that, at many times in the past, I haven't particularly cared for the author of this particular collection, but I admire his audacity in putting these together. (Whether anyone outside the Caucajewmexdian community will read them, of course, is an entirely separate issue--but maybe in this case that's beside the point.)


A story a day keeps the Time Blower's needles away (illustration by Davey Morrison Dillard)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving made Simple

Kira explains the essentials of Thanksgiving:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Confession

So, people in my graduate program hear that I write three blogs and they assume that means I'm extremely tech-savvy.

Poor saps. I didn't get my first email account until I was a junior in high school, which for people my age (26) is something like, well, not getting an email account until you're a junior in high school. I spent years hating the internet because it tied up the phone line in our house, so I could never get a ride home when I called.

Now of course, I love the internet, because the walks I took home while not being able to call for a ride were the times when I could think long enough to become the kind of writer I am today. It's kind of like famous mathematicians from past centuries doing great work while in prison--except that most of my work isn't great, and I never actually went to prison. But I digress. Where was I?

Oh, yes. The point is that I'm hardly on the cutting edge of technology. I got my first email account when I was a junior in high school. Deep down, I still think computers are scary monsters just waiting to swallow your ideas when it's least convenient, or else mesmerize you and suck half a day out through your throat. I didn't even make my first webcam video until yesterday, and, as you will soon see, it just goes to show that the world might be a better place if I'd stuck to postcards during my junior year instead.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

October Commies

The Commie Committee has convened once again! This month we've picked a very special guest presenter:



While not technically a communist, Joe McCarthy shared a communist affinity for abuse of authority, systematic scare tactics, and grand political plans based on laundry lists. He also did more than any other American to reconcile communist sympathizers with mainstream society by giving them the hallowed glow of excessive and unfair persecution. Surprisingly, this appears to be McCarthy's first appearance on this blog.

The October nominees are:

Monday, November 23, 2009

An Open Letter to the Master of the Universe

O Lord God, Master of the Universe
Creator of the grains of the earth
of the fruits of the vine,
Creator of the bodies we work until they break
the bodies we neglect because we're too lazy or too busy to do much else
of the bodies we get all sort of strange notions about from the media--
How are You? And how are things
up there
in Your cosmic abode
and/or
in the space your presence occupies
all around us?
Anything new you'd like to tell us about?
Anything you'd like to tell us about we're also ready to receive?

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Moon Rising

I love Stephenie Meyer for many reasons. I love that she's Mormon. I love her because she wrote books about not having casual sex and made millions of dollars in the process. I love her because her books are black and white and red all over. I love her because the last line of the last full paragraph on page 197 of Twilight ("It was a colossal tribute to his face that it kept my eyes away from his body") gave my cousin Jazon a new fitness goal: to work out until it's a tribute to his chiseled body that it distracts from his perfect face. Clearly, this is literature that changes lives. And I love Stephenie Meyer for that.

Do her books have shortcomings? Sure. There's a missing comma on page 67 of New Moon, for example. Her dialogue is often coated with a distracting number of adjectives and adverbs. And the way her books progressively romanticize controlling types and stalkers is a little bit alarming. But they can be forgiven all that, because they've inspired something better:



Monday, November 16, 2009

How to Ruin Your Child's Life in Five Minutes or Less

Hairstyles.

Difficult? Yes. Doable? Theoretically.

I have thus far successfully executed the basic ponytail, basic braid, and the advanced ponytail (with two hair-thingeys, one high and another one at the neck). This morning, I had intended to tackle the augmented braid, which is essentially a basic braid plus hair clips on each side above the ears. Admittedly, this was ambitious--I had yet to work with hair clips, and she was still eating her "monkey oatmeal," which increases the risk of unexpected movements and subsequent sticky disaster--but I thought the augmented braid was still reasonable and achievable.

Kira disagreed. "I just want it down, Dad. You can just leave it."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Is Extinction Forever?


Sinclair stations know to respect the hand that
feeds them--even if it's extinct and does not,
strictly speaking, have any hands.


 I keep thinking about cars lately. The way they fly down roads at speeds no one would have once thought the human body can travel. The terrifying and exhilarating amount of momentum they generate. The way they colonize the land, making us make them asphalt rivers across our valleys, concrete palaces beside or below our busiest buildings. Who serves who, I wonder, in the relationship between the cars and us?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Why I Haven't Written in a While

I've been having this strange dream for two weeks now: it lasts all day and well into the night.

In the dream, I went to a huge party. I was deliriously happy. Like only can happen in dreams, I kept seeing people I know or who looked familiar but with the contexts all mixed up: school friends were there with distant relatives, childhood neighbors with current students, people who I know full well live thousands of miles apart standing and chatting with each other. In a similarly dream-like way, the cultural contexts for the party were all mixed up: we'd be dancing to bhangra one minute, to ABBA the next, then to something in Spanish I could almost make out before circling to the strains of Hava Nagila. I was flying, or at least floating, at one point, then Kira was floating above me--there was cake, there were old men and women falling deeper in love with the universe. We walked outside and the stars had come down out of the sky to glow in people's hands--"we" meaning me and this beautiful woman dressed in white with touches of gold, jewelry on her face and around her neck, mehndi on her skin, and my heart wrapped up in her soul. Kira left us, then, to join the night stars and we walked off past the stars, out into the darkness, past what would have been the edges of the universe if the universe had that kind of shape.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Conspiracy!

Many programs, including facebook, sometimes ask you to type "random" words to confirm your identity as a human being. Are such words, however, really random? Or are they, in actuality, evidence of facebook's intelligence--and maliciousness?

Take a quick look at Exhibit A, a photo a friend posted from a performance in Utah County:




Now look at Exhibit B, the words Facebook made me type to confirm my recent comment:



Coincidence, or conspiracy?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Commie Awards

It's time for the monthly Commie Awards (that is, the awards for the best comment of the month). In grand Commie (that is, communist) tradition, however, we'll gradually rewrite history to pretend this award has existed all along, granting it retroactively to June through August as well as September. So hold your breath, comrades (that is, readers), you could be one of the four champions to win the long-coveted Goldbergish.Blogspot.Com Commie Award!




September:

September's Award will be presented by Leon Trotsky, famous for his guest appearance on this blog, for helping dye the Communist flag red, and for completely dropping the ball and letting Stalin take the Soviet Union over and have him killed in Mexico with an ice pick.

The nominees are:

Groomellette Party

In contemporary Caucajewmexdian circles, it is customary to hold a "groomellette" party, or perhaps three such parties, prior to a wedding. While the complementary "bridellete" parties are typically reserved for women only, the Groomellette is open to men and women.

For the first of my groomellette parties, we're planning on screening a film--but it's been very difficult to choose just one. I'm down to a top three list and stuck.

The candidates at this point are:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Jewish Conspiracy to Fuel This Blog

The Daily Telegraph, a British newspaper with a commitment to truth that rivals this blog's, recently published an article suggesting that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's parents may have had a Jewish last name before moving to Tehran.

I tend to take any such explosive rumors with a coarse grain of salt. I wasn't ready to believe this one until I did some research on Mahmoud's facebook page.

I thought I'd start with the "We're Related" application. His parents and grandparents weren't there, of course (probably because facebook is godless and doesn't believe ancestors matter)--but something telling was.

Yes, Mahmoud's relatives included three descendants of Mayer Rothschild (a Jew famous for establishing the 18th century's most formidable carrier pigeon network), a great-grandson of spectacle fashionista Leon Trotsky, and an elderly nephew of cigar aficionado Bugsy Siegel.


Even in the most degrading anti-communist
propaganda posters, Trotsky's glasses themselves
manage to look cool. That's what I call style.

Does this mean Mahomud does, in fact, have Jewish roots as the Daily Telegraph's report suggests?

In a word: yes. In two words: of course.

Does that, in turn, mean that in addition to Capitalism, Communism, Comic Books, Christianity, Las Vegas, the Media (through Zach Efron), this blog, and numerous other international conspiracies, Jews are secretly responsible for contemporary Holocaust denial?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Update from the Grad Office

I am in the office I share with perhaps forty or fifty other graduate students who teach English 150.

Today, it smells strongly of waffles.

And it occurs to me, as a person who ate a granola bar for breakfast and who seldom eats lunch on Mondays and Wednesdays, that this is not, in fact, calculated torture. You see, scents are not simply waves like light and sound--smell is produced only by the presence of actual tiny particles from the source.

I am consuming, in a sense, extremely modest portions of wheat, butter, sugar, maple.

Today, a friendly colleague has unknowingly served me lunch.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

If you have to move...

...which, if you're an average American, will happen 11.7 times during your life (a statistic that suggests that the twelfth move is usually fatal), I would like to suggest the following:

DON'T PACK YOUR OWN BOOKS

Books, you see, are sort of like ghosts, except that you are the dead person (even before you move for the twelfth time). This is because every book ends up preserving some past part of you based on the time of life when you obtained it, the person who gave it to you, and the slips of paper you may have tucked in which fall fluttering out from their safe place in before to the transition of this moment.

I don't normally mind books. We live side by side, but I only consult them when I'm already thinking of them, so their pull from the present toward their past isn't so extreme.

Today, though, I found myself face to face with a playwright and a missionary, and older brother and a friend, with an Ohio Utah Germany resident I used to be. I found myself face to face with old friends, old critics, old fears and old interests.

But the rush of packing meant there was no time to deal with each ghost, to greet it respectfully and lay it to rest. And so the ghosts rose into the air, lingered around me, as I packed my many selves into tight little cardboard boxes, taping them up and preparing them to be brought to lie in wait in a new home, storing their energy to haunt me again and again--until 70% of the way into my final move I give up trying to keep one step ahead and go live in the present of those many ghosts again.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Formula for My Ignorance

Went to a meeting recently night to hear from Provo's mayoral and city council candidates. That may be all I hear about them: the more likely my vote is to affect the outcome of a race, the less likely I am to really have any idea what's going on. This may explain why I follow Iranian politics so carefully: my vote wouldn’t make a difference there even if I had one, as should be clear from the following formula:


Where K is knowledge, i is potential influence, and a an apathetic constant.

While many Americans are not bound by this formula, we tend to follow national politics far more closely than local politics in this country. Maybe it has to do with the advent of television and mass media; maybe it has to do with levels of duplicity in national politics that make it hard to differentiate from pulp fiction (and thus too popular for local events to compete); maybe it has to do with a globalized economy--or maybe we’re just lazy and those other things are only excuses. In any case, dozens of my friends wanted to know what I thought of last year’s Presidential Election; no has asked me anything about this year’s election yet.

Is our apathy about local politics greater, even, than our cynicism about national politics?

Does our loss of faith in politics correspond to a loss of faith in community?

What new myths can we find that let us keep faith in our institutions even in the face of reality?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Google Jews

I am the kind of Jew who puts the -ish in Jewish.

Since I'm a Caucajewmexdian, of course, no one really expects any better of me--which is sort of a relief. Borrowing bits and pieces of three religions (the Sikhism and Judaism of my grandfathers' families, plus my own Mormon faith) makes it a lot easier to get through life in one piece, but I'm glad I'm not responsible for living all three religions completely.

On the eve of this Yom Kippur, though, I'd like to thank Google and the inventors of the internet (who according to legend, were actually 4th century rabbis who created a primitive version of today's web on paper) for making it easier to stay in touch with my additional faiths. Thanks to Google, I always know when Yom Kippur starts (tonight) even though I don't use the old Hebrew calendar. Thanks to Google, I can usually track down copies of the prayers and sacred texts I'm interested in: often in at least three different translations. Thanks to Google, I can learn more than what my what father passed down to me from his father, even though I live in a city in Utah that probably has a Jewish population of less than 12.

Does that make Google, in some sense, my fourth religion? The idea makes me sort of uncomfortable: can "googling" be a religious verb?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Correction

On Tuesday, I said that space and time had collapsed.

Walking home from school today, I revised that opinion. Yes, being able to call home is nice. And it doesn't matter to you whether I write from home or school: you get the same information at the same time either way. But it turns out that when you're walking, 2.4 miles is still 2.4 miles. And when the sun is up in the early afternoon sky, and the weather is trying not to give up on the idea of summer--a 40 minute walk really does take 40 minutes (not the 7 minutes Google maps will estimate for you, based on its assumption that anyone checking an online map will be traveling with the aid of fermented dinosaur blood).

This problem of space staying big in spite of our technology is hardly limited to my local experience. The majority of the universe has escaped the effects of technology and globalization: light from the relatively close star Polaris (the north star) is 430 years old by the time it reaches us. Light from the furthest known galaxies in the universe reaches the Hubble telescope only after a 13 billion year trip across the cosmos.

If we knew how to send out a message that could be interpreted by any other sentient life in the universe, odds are that the world would be over before we heard back.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Collapsing Space and Time

When I was a child, someone told me that we live in days of miracle and wonder. Looking back, I can't remember if it was an ecclesiastical leader or Paul Simon who said so. I am guessing it was an ecclesiastical leader, because the way telephones collapsed space and time seemed to be part of the supporting argument (and for Mormons like me, calling people from church on the phone is an important religious duty).

You see, when contrasted with letters, which communicate primarily between the writer's past and the reader's present, a phone call really is an amazing thing. Two places can be in the same time at once! My father tells me that before I was a child this seldom happened. My mother's birth in 1959, he'd tell us, actually came before his birth in 1957, because her birthplace (Utah) was always at least ten years behind his birthplace (California) in those days. Ten to hundred year variations between places were normal back then.

My blog, and the surrounding backdrop of the internet, have changed all that. People can read my blog virtually instantly, get updated on what's happening right now, and for once Utahns and Californians can be in the same time at the same time! Time and space are thus collapsed, often into a single word.

The only people who will be left out of this new global connectedness, I think, will be people who spend their time with the ghosts of internet past (e.g. reading Johannes Gutenberg's blog) and people whose internet connections are slower than carrier pigeons.

The rest of us, though, will be able to live in a Utopian Global Village in which distinctions of space and time no longer matter. Even differences in income will become irrelevant--what difference, after all, does a wage make for people too busy responding to email to eat?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Is this blog shallow?

Wrote an experimental essay recently that included some content adapted from this blog. I used matching crayon colors for hyperlinks and shuffled the posts before putting them in an envelope for each reader. A lot of students were intrigued, but the professor didn't like it. According to him (this is a direct quote but "quote" marks make it looking like I'm mocking the statement, which I'm not-- believe me, I tried and then deleted them. Good riddance!):

The blog form is by default superficial (even when it pretends depth).

When I read that, I was struck by how perfect a marriage of author and form this blog constitutes. You see, like all blogs, I am shallow, even when I pretend depth. The blog form and I go together like wabadabbadoowaa and whatever else they sing about in Grease (or was it the Muppet Babies cartoon? My cultural memory is all out of whack).

There's only one troubling component to this. It's a mathematical fact that a negative times a negative equals a positive. Thus, if the blog form is shallow and I am shallow, this blog must be deep!

Did this blog accidentally turn deep while I wasn't looking? Or is it safely shallow, proving that my professor was wrong, and the form has a potential depth, corrected by my shallowness?

Should signs be put up to keep children from drowning? Shall I start selling stilts for my readers to get around the blog with?

Help me sort things out by commenting or voting on the poll to the right. I will defer to the wisdom of the masses on this one. (Yes, that means you.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Passive-Aggressive Pacifist

Listened to a presentation today by a passive-aggressive pacifist...he believes that fighting won't solve the world's problems, but complaining loudly to random people will.

In a way, I suppose faith in the power of loud complaining is a pillar of democracy. The trouble is that all that yelling seems to have damaged his hearing--listening, as I recall, was supposed to be democracy's second great pillar.

Nobody ever really got good at listening, though, so it was cut when Bill Clinton downsized the government. (Which was kind of him, because otherwise we may not have had the resources to fund the Cash for Clunkers program.)

In any case, I like the new one-pillar system. I find that it saves a lot of time.

What do you think?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Am I a bad driver, or did BYU beat the Sooners?

For one reason or the other, everyone was honking at me on my drive home from work tonight...

I read the news today oh boy

If by "today" you mean "last week" then yes, I read the news. A few highlights:

The Necktie: An Energy Vampire


Sheik Hasina has no patience
for impracticality

Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangaldesh, is fed up with men wasting all the electricity. She recently ordered all government employess to stop wearing ties and suit jackets and to leave their shirts untucked in an effort to decrease cooling costs in government buildings. Analysts are hoping that private sector businesses will follow the government's examples and that a "Just Say No to Ties" program will help ease Bangladesh's energy shortage woes.

The Jolly Green Giants, a U.S. environmentalist advocacy group, is pushing for similiar measures in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and throughout the southern states. If we don't act sooner, spokesperson Bruce Banner warns, the day may come when video game time is "rationed like sugar during World War Two. Which would you rather give up--a tie now or your Wii time later?"

A White Flag in Academia

When Larry Sanger proposed the idea of incorporating a wiki element as a feeder into the academically-oriented (now defunct) Nupedia project, objections were so strong that the project had to be split off under a separate domain name lest it taint the Nupedia project by association. Academics and educators have remained predominantly critical of the project in the intervening years, even as the number of wikipedia articles and readers has multiplied into the millions and wikipedia has risen to the top of Google's search results on most subjects.


Dr. Chatterjee wants to end the war between
traditional academics and Web 2.0 models
for sharing knowledge. Sheikh Hasina thinks
he should take off his tie & jacket first.

Ramesh Chatterjee, President of Rajput University, is looking to change that. He recently approved a change in campus policy that requires professors to spend at least one hour per week editing wikipedia. "We've been warning students against this long enough" he said in his subsequent message to the faculty. "The idea of a hypertext-based universal encyclopedia is so powerful, they will continue to turn to it first for information. It's time we did our part to ensure that the formal and informal students of the world get the best possible information at the place of their choice." Academic Vice President Sayed Multan added "If enough institutions follow our lead, significant portions of wikipedia will become de facto peer-reviewed. We can also increase the number of references to premier journals and research in our respective fields, showing their role in the formation of human knowledge."

The change is not without critics, however. In addition to classical concerns about the value of creating a strong dividing line between academic and popular knowledge, some have expressed concerns about the future repurcussions of institutions paying employees to edit the open encyclopedia. "Any institution paying employees to edit the world's most popular reference work is effectively buying influence" says democracy advocate Tom Lin. "Are we really comforable with putting our view of the world up for sale?"

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Conversation In My Office

Ryan: "What is wrong with you?"
Me: "I don't know, but I like it!"

Apocalyptic reminiscence

The sun shined red through the smoke of wildfires last night and a deer crossed the road in front of me on my drive home several hours later. Both are signs of impending apocalypse: deer, for example, are known to be demons (they get so desperate here in winter that one almost hit me as I was walking from Nicole's house to my car). Red suns, while less foreboding than blood red moons, are similarly bound to signify something.

The whole thing makes me miss the Club. Maybe I'll see if Peter's free for lunch later this week to catch up or something.

Or maybe I'm just being silly. Maybe it doesn't make sense to feel, in every unexpected astronomical event or cervine encounter, an impending & radical change. Maybe it doesn't make sense to miss old friends over silly little things like a few forest fires.

Maybe I won't call Peter after all.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Is Sarcasm the New Sincerity?

Had an interesting discussion with my younger brother about how flippancy and sarcasm are the dominant tone in popular and advertising culture. Wondered if that's because politicians work very hard to sound sincere, and none of us believe them anymore.

If sincerity is the new flag for b.s., is sarcasm the new sincerity?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Coming Soon! (Well, in Eight Weeks)



Check out our Ersatz Registry!

Read about Our Song!

Look at a profound thought or two from Nicole!

See Kira! See Kira jump!

...and then come to our wedding party.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

First day

Kira's favorite part of school was recess--probably the part best designed for the way a five-year-old is built to learn: by exploring everything, rather than trying to sustain focus to work towards an arbitrary goal.

I spent all day at a training meaning trying to sustain focus while being told how to work towards a number of abstract goals. And now Kira is begging me to type:

who s

(She had wanted me to tell her how to type "Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?", but after finding the 's',--"in her mind," she told me--she got distracted by the other keys. "Do we need a karma?" she asked. "No, we don't need a comma" I said. "If you need it, you have to press it" she told me. She's full of tips like that, a good teacher...if you can keep track of where she's wandered off to...)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kindergarten Eve



Kira starts kindergarten tomorrow, which may seem strange for a girl of her accomplishments. But that's just how kids are: seems like one minute they're going off to kindergarten, the minute before they're graduating.

Allow me to wax nostalgic for a few moments:

Oh, how I will miss those bygone days when Nicole was busy on her laptop as Kira typed away on her little pink toy computer! (which, for the record, is functioning better than Nicole's laptop at the moment)--Nicole trying to make an argument about the ethical value of autoethnography as a genre, Kira working on her own thesis, "about Jesus," she said.

Such is the brilliance of the women in my life. (Kira is also pretty good at the ABC song, especially when she sings it in her monster voice. And she knows a surprising number of U.S. states, even if she does constantly try to throw in Australia and Madagascar.)

In any case, here's to the school year of 2008-09, when the theses were completed and hard work rewarded with funny black robes. And here's hoping for the best for 2009-10 when Kira takes kindergarten and I try to finish my own three-letter degree.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vampioneers 1: The Everlasting Covenant

Was visiting some friends last week and noticed, nestled between Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series and Gerald Lund's The Work and the Glory saga, a book I'd never heard of before. I guess it's the first of an still-unfinished trilogy about some Welsh vampires who join the early LDS church.

I was torn between a dismissive impulse and a morbid curiosity...in my life, morbid curiosity typically trumps condescension, so I borrowed it. I've been surprised: the book so far is actually quite good. The missionaries haven't shown up yet, though, do it might get corny yet (so far all that's really happened is that the village priest is noticing something's weird in the town, and the vampires are getting nervous because apparently his grandfather came pretty close to killing them. Got a cool building/foreboding feel at this point.)

Anyway, I'll let you know if it stays good. Otherwise, consider this post notification that the world is already weirder and writers are already more desperate for attention than you probably previously thought.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Why Children Hate Math

I'm not about to join a cult like the Pythagoreans, but I'll be honest: I love math. There are several possible explanations for this:
-My Dad raised us on Raymond Smullyan books, so I always thought math was a game and not a serious subject, even if I sometimes screwed up solving problems and accidentally got prisoners eaten by tigers.
-I believe that God created the world around statistics, and that maybe statistics can do more to save lives than advances in technology (check out the war chapter in Atul Gawande's Better) .
-It is a sad fact that math classes tend to decrease students' interest in math. The last math class I took, however, was in a previous millennium. My appreciation for mathematical relationships has increased exponentially since then, as evidenced by much use of the word "exponential" to describe an emotional progression.

Because I love math, I tend to get frustrated when politicians talk about improving math education. I remember Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, for example, calling for more math teachers with master's degrees in mathematics: as if people who did well at math naturally would consequently be better teachers for those who struggle. Other politicians call for more math testing and heavier courseloads as if more math were automatically produced better math education. Sorry, folks, but that ain't the way this equation goes.

I'm also frustrated that most states still have a curriculum that is focused more on pushing as many students as possible as far toward calculus as possible, presumably on the assumption that we need better engineers to win the Cold War, as opposed to the reality that we need a general public that understand basic quantitive reasoning, are numerically literate, and don't shut down mentally and emotionally at the very sight of numbers.

It's not the politicians' fault, though. I am the reason children hate math.

I know this because I reduced my nephew-to-be to tears on Saturday night simply by counting. I wasn't even angry--I just wanted he and my daugher-to-be to put their (respective) pajamas on. And when they were slow, I started to count to five...

Braeden wept all the way up the stairs. Twenty minutes later, when he was finally getting to bed, he was still trying to tell me "I don't like it when you count because I think I'm going to get in trouble."

Now, a more casual observer might see nothing more in this incident than a nine-year-old who desperately needed to go to sleep and could have cried just as easily over not being able to find a pajama shirt he was already wearing. But a more clever, goldbergish observer can see the long-term repurcussions of such experiences. Years of counting to warn of impending punishment creates an association between numerical modes of expression and anxiety. Children subconsciously assume that too many numbers invariably lead to time-outs. No wonder they're afraid of math.

I don't know exactly how to solve this problem, and am certainly open to suggestions. My current thought is to replace the counting by naming Disney movies when children need to listen or hurry and discipline them if I reach The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I think it's quite healthy for children to develop an inexplicable fear of that.


"Choose me or your pyre / I gonna sing about Hellfire"
That Disney let this dude sing a song is way creepier than
any math I've ever known.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Unofficial Wedding Registry

Nicole and I have been discussing the subject of wedding registry of late. We both prefer the Punjabi custom in which the bride and groom sit and have money dropped on their laps by well-wishers, but trusted sources tell us that many Americans feel like cash money "is icky" and should be kept away from wedding celebrations. What could we, who already have a full set of kitchenware, possibly want enough to justify transporting across the country, however?

A few things came immediately to mind:

Nothing says "Eternal Family" quite like this Gone
With The Wind
cookie jar, available for only $89.99
from Target.




A literal take on the Shakespearean saying "If music be the food
of love, play on." Turn the knob, and the European soldier "emits
a plaintive whooping sound" while moving his left arm up and
down as the tiger roars. Then crack out the keyboard and
play Chopsticks to your heart's content. This piece is not for sale,
but could be stolen from the V&A Museum in London.




If there's one kind of cash no sane American objects
to, it's Johnny Cash. And what better way to have him
in our home than reading the Bible on a follow-along
DVD? This could make years of Family Home Evening fun.



Goats are great for lawn maintenance and as property guards,
and are known as man's fifth-best friend. They transport well
if you eat them first. (Nicole is a vegetarian, but I can take care
of that part when the time comes.)



The most technologically-advanced part
of the average American kitchen, as shown
by this diagram, is the Rotary Egg Beater.
This appears to be one of the few pieces
we're missing, and we'd really like to find
a nice vintage one. Anything before 1964
will do.

Anyway, those are a few ideas on what you could get us. We're also seeing what we can do to get officially registered here, here, and here.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rent

When medical bills come for various items related to cancer follow-up, I like to remind myself that the body is like a house for the soul, so these are basically rent payments. And I am rather large, so it only makes sense that the rent should be more than for most bodies of a similar age.

The one thing I don't understand is why bodies in worse condition invariably cost more. I mean, would you really want to pay more for a house which had had a portion amputated? How does that make sense?

Perhaps a health care reform bill will soon pass and I'll be able to work off medical bills by spending several hours a week filling out forms, or waiting on hold on the phone. That kind of sweat-equity system is appealing to me. In the current private system, the insurance people I talk to refer me to other people, who don't appear to be at work any time I think of calling and never respond to messages. As Dr. Horrible once wisely said, the status is not quo.

The best possible solution, of course, would involve insurance companies and government working together to deport all sick or damaged persons to Thailand, Singapore, and other areas with high medical standards for relatively low medical costs. But until they pool together the funds to deport me, I'll stay right here and get needles to the arm from well-paid American citizens, thank you very much.

They'll only drip a little.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Time Management

I've been feeling a decline in my productivity lately and a corresponding case of blah holding me in its all-too-familiar embrace. In order to break free from the bands of blahness, I have decided to map out how I spend my time each day. The averages for this week:

Unsettled sleeping: 8 hours (33%)
In the 19th Century: 4 hours (16%)
Talking: 3.5 hours (14%)
Lost in Space: 3 hours (12%)
Writing: 2 hours (8%)
Commuting to and from the 19th century: 1.5 hours (6%)
Kissing: 1.5 hours (6%)
Half-awake trying to escape weird dreams: 1.4 hours (6-ish%)
Doing random crap: 1.2 hours (5%)
Eating: 1 hour (4%)
Nocturnal Reading: .5 hours (2%)
Showering, brushing teeth, combing bangs: .3 hours (1%)
Singing with/to Kira: .1 hours (not enough%)

Not terribly encouraging, I'm afraid. Even gaining four hours by taking a lower-paying job in a previous century hasn't created as much free time as I'd hoped. If I burn my leisure books, stop doing random crap, and give up on my bangs, I should be able to save 1.8 hours per day, though. I'll try to update you next week on whether I meet those goals (unless I've failed and don't want to talk about it).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Important Historical Research

Since running across the Existential Adventure interactive blog a few weeks ago, I've developed an interest in the history of the Choose Your Own Adventure genre. It turns out the form has a rich history that is interwoven with multiple aspects of American History. This week's find: two intersections between the Choose Your Own Adventure form and the Civil Rights Movement.

Tool of Oppression

You may know that in several southern states, prior to victories of the civil rights movement, new voters whose grandfathers had not been registered to vote (read: African-Americans) were required to pass "literacy tests" in order to qualify. These tests were notoriously difficult: an Alabama test included questions such as "At what time of day on January 20 each four years does the term of the president of the United States end?" and "In what year did the Congress gain the right to prohibit migrations of persons to the states?"

A 1964 Mississippi test went a step further, requiring potential black voters to successfully complete a civics-based "Choose Your Own Adventure" book as "proof" of their preparedness. (Excerpt: "If you are white, turn to page 5. If you are black, turn to the page where you have to run screaming from the Ku Klux Klan...")

Redeeming the Genre's Legacy

What you may not know is that in 1990, Anne Bailey successfully co-opted the art form of the oppressor to produce the first civil-rights-movement-inspired "Choose Your Own Adventure" title, You Can Make a Difference.

In the book, Martin Luther King's ghost comes to visit you and won't go away until you can accomplish his vision of creating a poor people's coalition and ending the war in Vietnam. This may seem easy, since the Vietnam War is already over--but beware! The ghost of J. Edgar Hoover will go to great lengths to stop you. (Hint: whenever he's closing in, always choose to turn left. The same applies, incidentally, when fleeing Derek Zoolander.)

Random Tangential Meditation

Further parallels between Hoover and Zoolander are worth pondering: what might these renowned Americans have in common?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Strange Dreams (part two)

Three nights in a row now, I've woken up because of dreams.

The night between Tuesday and Wednesday, it was three dreams of fire.

The night between Wednesday and Thursday, it was a jail cell in our house, several pairs of scissors, and Kirstin with a gun.

Last night, it was a minor accident in what must have been a National Park or something followed by utter chaos.

The Wednesday-Thursday Dream

We were at Nicole's house, having a lovely time--the first floor was made up almost entirely of a massive kitchen with a long bar, and we were making sandwiches. Nicole's dad was there, except that in the dream he looked like that guy from Northern Exposure and ran a small prison cell in part of the first floor, somewhere behind the bar.


He looks harmless, but if this guy shows
up in your dream, plan on a long night.


While we were eating and laughing, the police brought a prisoner in. He looked vaguely like Temuera Morrison:



but younger, and almost eerily calm. I mean, I knew, the way you just know certain things in dreams, that he was very upset at being imprisoned, but he was also reasonably sure he would get released. And I knew, the way you know in both dreams and movies, that he would want some sort of revenge. He looked at Nicole on the way into prison and I wished her dad didn't run the prison in the house.

I don't remember exactly what happened next: we were playing a game, I think, and then we went upstairs, but the whole time I was wondering when he was going to try to break out. Time bent somehow, I guess, because by the time we got upstairs I knew it had been at least a full day he'd been in there and was starting to wonder when they were going to transfer him to the county or state prison instead of the house. Maybe that's what Nicole's dad went to check on because he wasn't there by the time I glanced out the window to see a car pull up in the alley next to the house. A girl and three guys from the prisoner's gang got out, looked around, and moved toward the wall of the prison part of downstairs. I motioned to Nicole, her sister Kirstin, and her daughter Kira to be very quiet and move toward the other side of the house so that maybe no one would realize anyone was home.

On the way, I noticed a pair of scissors and had this image of the prisoner picking them up on his way in and using them as a weapon against us. As we progressed toward the doorway into a separate room on the far side of the house, I noticed and collected three more pairs. We snuck into the room and quietly closed the door. Then Kirstin got out a gun and stood against the far wall, facing the door, ready to fire on whoever walked in.

I took the other girls and went to a corner of the room to hide. I remembered hearing once that most people aren't very good shots when they're nervous, and wondering how Kirstin would be able to do if it came to that--her nerves are such that it probably wouldn't make a difference. I'd be far more likely to shoot wildly than her. I also remembered advice, was it from my grandfather's grandfather?, that having a gun as protection against robbery often simply meant that a robbery was more likely to turn violent or fatal. Was the gun a good idea? There were five of them, after all.

We waited, and I imagined the now-free prisoner coming up the stairs, wondering if it was really happening or if they had simply left. I imagined him turning the corner, and assessing the situation before making a move for the door.

I woke up.

My first thought was that we were idiots and should have used our cell phones to quietly call 911. My second thought was that in a town where Nicole's father kept prisoners on the first floor for a little extra income, the police were not likely to want to come and face five criminals of some repute. They would probably simply wait out events and come file a report later. (This is, incidentally, how things worked when my grandfather was a child in his village in India.)

My next thought, as my mind moved further away from the half-dream world of being not quite asleep, was that the constant fear of violence is exactly what people lived through in Joseph Smith's day, and during much of the history of the world. Who are we to judge a past filled with fears we can scarcely comprehend?

Last Night

Nicole and I were driving in a minivan on a dirt road, something vaguely like this:



It must have been in a National Park or other area of interest, though, because up ahead I noticed there were empty cars pulled a little off to the side of the road on each side. For some reason, I couldn't slow down, or didn't think to slow down, and tried to drive between them without hitting either at regular speed instead. I thought I'd done fine, but Nicole said I'd grazed the one on the right and we'd have to pull over and see if we could find the driver or else leave a note.

I pulled over and we got out. We went to look at the car I'd grazed to see if there was any damage, and on the left side I'd hit, the damage appeared to be very slight. On the right side, however, there was significantly more damage. There was a long scrape and a hole on the side. The front right wheel appeared to be bent. I couldn't have caused that, I reasoned. Or could I have?

We couldn't see the driver anywhere and were about the leave a note, but then he appeared. (The best description I can give is that he looked like a worn-out, second-rate version of Tom Cruise.)


Some would argue that Tom Cruise is already
worn-out and second-rate, and maybe always
was.

He was very upset--he was sure that getting hit was show up on his accident records and raise his insurance premiums, so he wanted us to just give him cash on the spot. I wasn't about to do that, and we started to argue. I realized then that maybe our car had actually pulled and not simply grazed his, and that the damage on the right could be a result of our collision on the left. I wasn't sure I wanted to tell him that, though, but I knew I should.

While I was debating, he decided simply to drive his car and see if it would work. I was the only one who had noticed the bent wheel, and thought I should tell him about it, but hesitated because I didn't want him to blame me (probably correctly) and make me pay for it. While I hesitated, he climbed into the car and pressed the accelerator down all the way.

The car lurched forward, sped up, and then (due, no doubt, to the bent wheel), flipped over in the air and landed upside-down. The driver climbed out and stumbled away just before the car exploded. The sage brush and other parched vegetation started lapping up the flames--we had started a wildfire.

I moved toward the minivan, which, in the hole-ridden logic of dreams, had since moved back perhaps twenty feet. Nicole, thankfully, was closer and would reach it and turn around very soon so that we could escape. The dirt was somehow impeding my progress, though--I wasn't sinking, but I was still moving forward as though in quicksand or chest-deep water.

Other tourists were rushing back toward the road to escape the fire. The driver of the car I'd grazed was back on the road, too. They were shouting towards me, but in an extension of constricted feeling of water, I could barely hear them. I finally realized that they were asking how many seatbelts we had free so they would know how many could be rescued. I held up five fingers as I continued to push against the resistance toward the minivan with all my strength, and tried to figure out how to tell them all to pile in and not worry about seatbelts, as life was on the line.

Then again, what were the odds that we would make it to the car and out of the park before the flames enveloped us? They were already racing ahead of the van on the sides of the road--would we really be safe on the road? Nicole was waiting, we were all pushing forward against the horrible mud-slow feeling, and we were probably doomed.

I woke up.

What's with the fire dreams?

I did a quick search on what dreams of fire may mean, and got everything from transformation to anger to passion to alchemy to God. Friends have suggested fever, marshmallow cravings, fear of anti-itch creams, as alternatives. Adam says all bad dreams can be blamed on too much TV. Gloria said maybe the dreams are signs of the impending Apocalypse, but then again, she also said that about my evil carebear dreams.


The end of the world? Or the ultimate s'more party?

Only reader Robert S., in fact, has thus far ruled anything out. He comments that fire dreams don't seem related in any way to the physical temperature of the room.

Is there an explanation for all this insanity? Is there a way to end the pattern and sleep through the night?


This picture makes me think of
cheese--both metaphorical and
literal--more than passion. Maybe
I'm just craving quesodillas...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Mahmoud's Facebook--some updates

I've been so busy mourning Gidget, I haven't gotten around to updating anyone on the situation in Iran. Apologies to my faithful readers, although I'm sure that those of you who remember the glory days of that plagiarized, stereotype-pandering icon will understand (for those of you who don't click on links, the icon I'm describing is the Taco Bell Chihuahua, not the President of Iran. Confusing; I know. Bear with me.)

In any case, here are some highlights from


'S
Split System on facebook


July 17: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad elevates Rahim Mashaie to the office of 1st Vice President (Iran has 12 VPs) on the same day that he confirms him in the "We're Related!" application.

July 18: Intelligence Minister Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje'i writes on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's wall at 8 am Tehran time: "What makes him think he can get away with putting his pansy-in-law a heartbeat from the Presidency?" Indeed. Why would someone who had sloppily inflated his election numbers feel bold and empowered after key establishment figures declared the election "the cleanest in Iran's history"? I wonder...
The Supreme leader writes back on Mohseni-Eje'i's wall: "Consider the problems solved" and gives Mahmoud Ahmadinejad written notice that he should fire Rahim Mashaie. About an hour later, I notice that Mahmoud's gchat status has been changed to "Aretha Franklin--Respect" Coincidence?


"You cut me deep--I thought you trusted me."

July 22: Mahmoud tags all of his friends in a note: "1,000 reasons why I like Rahim Mashaei" Mohseni-Eje'i unfriends both of them.

July 23: Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei pokes Mahmoud, but no one on facebook knows what a poke even means.

July 24: Rahim Mashaie decides to comply with the Supreme Leader's order and simply resign. Mahmoud's status: "is pissed."

July 26: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fires Intelligence Minister Mohseni-Eje'i. Mahmoud Status update: "Take That, Suckas!" Mohseni-Eje'i's friend Saffar Harandi subsequently unfriends Ahmadinejad and resigns as Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance before he can be formally sacked. Mahmoud starts counting ministers--if he gets above 50% turnover he automatically needs a vote of confidence in Parliament by Iranian law (and quite frankly, he's tired of stuffing ballot boxes).


Saffar Harandi is now looking for a job, which is hard
when your old boss has tanked the whole economy


July 31: Mahmoud invites members of the group Iranian Politicians to the event "My Inauguration: August 5th, Baby!"


"A banner? 'Congrats on the Landslide' or something?
I dunno...do banners make me look old? Be honest."


August 2: Status: "Mahmoud is tired of people who won't even bother to confirm on important event invitations. Sheesh!"

August 3: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ali Khamenei's relationship status changes to "It's Complicated"

August 5: From the album "Inauguration PAR-tay!":


Someone give this man a hug, preferably before he develops nuclear weapons.

Waste Not, Get Bribed

You've heard the scary facts:
-the peoples of the industrialized world are making a collective mad dash toward peak oil, the point at which world oil production begins to decrease due to scarcity even as demand rises.
-the gasoline wasted on a single trip to Walmart with one of today's inefficient cars could be used in sixty years to operate a hyper-efficient, lightweight tractor enough to feed a family of four for a month. Since you've already used that gasoline, though, your grandchildren will probably just starve.
-for every pound of coal burned in a power plant to heat and cool the oversized houses we've been building in undesirably hot locations, four additional pounds need to be burned to generate electricity that will simply be lost as heat of the power lines on their way to their destination.
-by 2050, Frosty and his fellow snowmen will be hunted nigh unto extinction for their eyes, as American bison once were for their tongues.


A snowman gives up running (ca. 2046)

Odds are, though, that you, like most people, don't respond well to scary facts.

That's why the government has decided to bribe you instead (an interesting reversal from a longstanding tradition of government bribes going the other direction). They are now offering a complicated diagram which suggests that you could qualify for up to $4,500 toward a new car if its fuel efficiency is at least ten miles per gallon better than an old one you agreed to have smelted on the spot.

Where does the government get the money for this program? you may ask. The answer is outlined in another complicated diagram I've lost the link for. Basically, the idea is that poor Chinese factory workers invest the majority of their savings in U.S. treasury bills in the hopes of keeping the U.S. economy healthy as a market for cheap, tainted toys. The U.S. spends a portion of this money hiring bureaucrats to misfile T-bill purchaser information to prevent a future default on debts and then spends the remainder stimulating pieces of the economy, after careful consideration, more or less at random.

In my view, the "Cash for Clunkers" bill has largely vindicated random government action. Probably entirely by accident, the bill has includes far-sighted elements where energy is concerned, and has the shorter term side effect of getting some government money back to recently-obtained government automotive businesses.

The only thing I could hope for at this point is that the government followers up the "Cash for Clunkers" legislation in twenty years or so with an even more visionary "Huts for Houses" bill that enables people to trade away their McMansions for hovels and firewood.

Who knows? We might just need it.

Strange Dreams

The first time, I was in Orem Library when it started burning down. I don't know how I knew at the beginning that it was burning, or what started the fire (perhaps it was simply Spontaneous Literary Combustion), but I was doing my best to get everyone safely out. I was almost ready to leave the building myself when I realized--I'd left the family menorah in there! I couldn't let it burn. I rushed back to pick it up and started out, and then remembered I'd left my own silver menorah, and went back for it. I found it quickly, and, clutching both menorahs, tried to get out again--when I realized I'd forgotten another menorah. And then another. The flames were closing in as I was running out and I woke up in a sweat wondering what on earth I'd been doing trying to save four menorahs in this stupid fire dream and why I still felt so panicked.

Twenty minutes later, I was back asleep.

The second time was somewhere else on Center Street in Orem. My brother was showing me a childhood home, although even in the dream I couldn't remember ever having lived there. He still lived there, though. It was like a crowded tenement building: a long, thin room like a hallway was stacked with bunkbeds so tight you could barely squeeze through; maybe two dozen boys were sharing this single room. The building was owned by my grandparents. Except that, even in the dream, I knew they didn't look like my real grandparents. But there was no time to worry about that because school was about to start and I needed to help Matt move out. It was so crowded and hot, though--something had caught fire! That's when I remembered that all of Orem Center street was made up of these run-down tenements: they whole street was likely to go up in flames. We tried to force our way out of the building anyway, hoping to survive by huddling in the middle of the street.

And I woke up. Again. Terrified.

The sun was coming up now and I didn't want to fall asleep again, but my body was so tired. I thought maybe I'd read, but I couldn't wrench my eyes open to find the book. I thought I'd grab my phone but it was nowhere. My mind started looking around since my hands were out of commission and it noticed a strange thing--Hanukah menorahs were saved from a fire, when they themselves are symbols of a festival of oil and light! Oil, just like the oil under the bed and running down the walls. They are also symbols of the temporary, unsettled sense of peace you get when you run out of a burning tenement into a burning street, which is also something like writing this blog and wait, perhaps those fake grandparents were my neighbors when I was young, but oh no they couldn't be because my neighbor (in my early morning awake/asleep memory) looked more like Dallin Oaks and who had been that fake grandfather in the dream? He was bald, certainly, but shorter and with a whole different kind of expression and if I could only get a closer look...but no, he was wrapped in shadows--where was that candle? I could light it and put it on a menorah and see his face but the candle was with my phone and why wasn't the alarm ringing? And oh the candle was there, but why was it already lit and oh no the oil, and my carpet and my walls and isn't it hot in here this morning--

And I woke up. Again.

Having had a rough night.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Night the Moon Sank

The moon tonight--I'm not making this up, Nicole saw it, too, and can vouch for me--was a deep yellow when we walked out her house, yellow like you think of the Harvest moon being (though it was at half and not full and it's the summer not fall). Shone clear enough though to make it seem close, like it lived here and not-out-there-in-space, like it meant to hang right across the lake, like across the land across the lake was, in fact, a whole different world, a queendom of the moon--and not just a convenient place for cancerous sub-suburban growth to pave over.

Maybe the moon saw, in her bright yellow glory, that people had taken over her land and that's why she gave up. See--as we stood across the lake from the moon-come-to-earth, Nicole in my arms our eyes on the sky--the moon seemed to start sinking into some clouds and I know, I know you're going to tell me the moon doesn't sink into clouds, winds blow clouds not quite four-hundred-thousand miles in front of the moon's face, so the moon doesn't even notice when she's hidden from our view but I'm telling you, tonight the moon sank.

I was holding Nicole and before our very eyes the moon let herself sink down into the clouds deeper and deeper until they covered her almost completely, until there was nothing to see of her strong yellow light than what looked like a crack in the sky. Yes, the moon let herself sink down and the sky let herself crack and then the crack blacked over and there was nothing left but the night and the stars and the scarred sky and me holding Nicole and wondering what did it mean that this just happened.

Wondering if any second one by one the stars will just start to put themselves out.
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