May 2009 Archives

Story, Wikipedia, Story


Eight or nine years ago I submitted an essay to Sunstone that began "One day my companion Sister Knight and I met a 'weird funky lady,' as I described her in my journal, who tried to explain to me her adoration of some reincarnated Buddhist monk." It did not begin "One day when I was a Mormon missionary, my assigned working partner or companion (to use the term we employed for said assigned working partners) Sister Knight and I met a 'weird funky lady,' as I described her in my journal (which I kept because doing so was a religious commandment I was obligated to obey because angels might some day quote from my journal if I said something inspiring), who tried to explain to me her adoration of some reincarnated Buddhist monk, a conversations many Mormon missionaries wouldn't have had because they generally talked to rather than listened to other people about religion."

It's a good thing the essay didn't begin with the second sentence I offer above, because that sentence sucks. But if I had submitted that particularly essay to a mainstream secular journal whose readers weren't necessarily familiar with Mormonism, I would have felt obligated to provide lots of background and context--maybe not in the first sentence, but certainly SOMEWHERE in the essay. Whereas I knew that as soon as a Mormon audience was informed that I had a companion named Sister Knight, readers would assume, correctly, that I was a woman somewhere in my 20s who had elected to serve a mission.

Despite or perhaps because of their self-proclaimed and cherished status as a peculiar people, Mormons hate to be misunderstood. As a result, when they talk about their religion, they explain A LOT. Sometimes--perhaps usually--they explain TO EXCESS.

Two groups especially prone to excessive explanations are missionaries and Mormon writers.

Big Soft Ginger Cookies

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A friend and I recently discussed our fondness for big soft cookies. My favorite big soft cookie is the chocolate chocolate chip cookie I've already shared the recipe for, but these are good too. They're more like gingerbread than gingersnaps. They're not something I make very often, but from time to time, they really hit the spot.

2 & 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
3/4 cups butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup sugar for rolling

Combine dry ingredients; set aside. Cream butter and sugar well; add egg and molasses. Stir in dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. You can chill the dough for a couple of hours if you want. Otherwise, shape into 1&1/2 inch balls and roll in sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet about 2&1/2 inches apart. Bake at 350F for ten minutes (twelve if you chilled the dough) or until light brown and still puffy. Do not overcook. Let stand for two minutes before transferring to a wire rack. They're especially good with milk.

Parking for Pleasure

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I wrote last time that one reason I like SLC is all the green space. Parks abound, and are usually well maintained. One of the biggest park is Liberty Park, which comprises several city blocks and contains an aviary, a museum of folk art, and this cool water feature that is a miniature version of Jordan River and its tributaries, complete with canyons and labels and stuff so you can learn geography at the same time you're splashing around keeping cool in the summer. It's a totally great place to hang out with friends or entertain kids.

Liberty Park is many people's favorite park, but it's not mine. I much prefer Memory Grove, home to all sorts of memorials--mostly to veterans of various wars, though my favorite is a memorial a guy put up to his wife. (If you do work on memory or memorializations, you've got to check out this place.) It's mere blocks from downtown, and right at the mouth of City Creek Canyon, so you can be out of the city in just a 40-minute walk. Plus it's not called City Creek for nothing-there's really a creek.

But even Memory Grove is not my favorite park--at least, not right now.

Dong Bu Dong?


As I've mentioned before, I love living in Salt Lake City. Along with Iowa City, it's one of the most liberal, left-leaning places I've ever lived in my life; along with Tucson, it's one of the most geographically beautiful spots I've been lucky enough to call home. It's well planned (kudos to Brothers Joseph and Brigham for that), well maintained, clean, diverse, prosperous, interesting. It has a truly magnificent library that is always packed because I and countless others use it all the time; it has really great public transportation that I hardly ever use because it's so easy to walk in this city and I prefer that to riding the bus or figuring out train schedules. It has a vibrant arts scene, lots of green space, a fascinating graveyard, and plenty of fascinating architecture. It even has a violin making school!

OK, it also has a bunch of homophobic Mormons and the headquarters of the Mormon church, but all of that is remarkably easy to ignore, because as I said, the city itself is really liberal, and that affects life in the city itself (I'm NOT talking about the rest of the state) more than the Mormon church does. And some Mormons here do really great things for the city, the state, and perhaps even the world.

More Important Virtues


Gay men are not known for being "nice," which might be one reason I like them. In fact, two of my favorite statements about niceness come from gay men. In "Disappointed," Morrissey sings

Don't talk to me
about people who are nice
for I have spent my whole life
in ruins
because of people who are nice

And in Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim, the witch tells the townspeople

You're so nice
You're not good
You're not bad
You're just nice
I'm not good
I'm not nice
I'm just right

I have long had a problem with niceness myself, not because there is anything wrong with it in and of itself, but because it is too often a shoddy substitute for more important virtues.

So, the season finale of Dollhouse was Friday night. I watched it. I didn't hate it as much as I hated a lot of the other episodes, but I didn't like it. The characters all remain so repellent, and the smidgen of feminism spouted by Echo ("superior people don't carve up women" or some such thing) is too little late. And Topher continues to be a nasty, horrible, vacuous suck of television screen time.

This guy is supposed to be some technological genius uber-nerd, and he doesn't even practice basic freaked-out geek data safety. If you have really super-duper important data, you don't just back it up; you back it up A BUNCH OF TIMES and you store the backups in different locations, ideally as far away from each other as possible, so that if the one in Saskatchewan is destroyed by an avalanche and the one is LA is stolen during a burglary and a third in a safety deposit box in Chicago destroyed when the building is gutted by fire, you'll still have the fourth backup you stashed at the back of the walk-in safe at your mother's business in rural Arizona. (This is what I did with various drafts of my dissertation, except for the Saskatchewan location--that was too hard to swing.)

Not Topher! He makes one original and one backup, and he leaves them both in the same place. This bit of stupidity makes possible an important plot point--Alpha destroys the original "wedge" that contains Caroline's really identity and steals the backup, which means Caroline could cease to exist if someone just drops (gasp!) a black plastic computer whatsit. But it also means that Topher is an idiot, not a genius.

Drown It in a Bathtub, Already


Lately I've heard a number of liberal pundits and commentators prattle on in what I suppose could be genuine alarm over the state of the Republican party. Its weakness, incoherence and lack of leadership are a threat to our democracy, they tell me. Two viable parties are absolutely necessary to the health of our democracy! Something must be done to save the Republican party, for the sake of the entire union!

So, OK, I believe that a vibrant democracy requires at least two vibrant, viable parties. Fine. But where is it written that one of those parties has to be the Republican party?


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This page is an archive of entries from May 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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