June 2009 Archives

Here's something productive and fecund that announces a healthy belief in growth and wise self-confidence: an essay in The Nation about how hip, cool, progressive and all-round AWESOME SLC is.

Lisa Duggan, professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University writes that

Last fall I lived in Salt Lake City. As a leftist and New York City dyke, I had expected to find a conservative city and a quietly assimilationist gay community. Instead, I was repeatedly blown away by the progressive politics and outright queerness of the capital city, which is about 40 percent Mormon.

Duggan notes that SLC "is home to a floridly queer and unusually politically unified LGBT community" and discusses why it was a great place to spend the aftermath of the passing of California's Prop 8.

Please check it out.

The Vamp Ass Buffy Really Kicks


Rebecca was good enough to send me the link to this Buffy/Edward mashup, which I cannot stop watching--it's so satisfying! I posted it on my Facebook page (I should admit that I've gotten over my earlier Facebook ambivalence and now really enjoy it), as did half a dozen of my friends. But those of you who aren't on Facebook deserve to see this too, so here it is, in case you've somehow missed it so far.

Bore vs. Gore


A few days ago Rebecca left a comment on my post about True Blood that brought me up short: she mentioned that she found the show kinda boring.

Yeah, I thought, she has a point. It is kinda boring. I could tell I was kinda bored because I would get up and walk into the kitchen without pausing the dvd player so I wouldn't miss anything. Occasionally, I would fast forward through something extra tedious.

It just didn't seem like a big deal. In grad school you get really used to reading and watching boring stuff all the way to the end. It got to where if something was merely boring, instead of, say, boring and misogynist, or boring and irrelevant, or boring and riddles with errors of grammar and logic, I was grateful.

Bore me, in other words, just a little bit, and I'll go along for the ride. Bore me AND offend me, and I'm gone.

Which is what happened with True Blood. It moved from being just kinda boring to being kinda boring AND horrifically violent and gory and mean-spirited. All but a few moments of Episode Ten depicted the characters being completely HORRIBLE to each other. I fast-forwarded through more than I ever had before, and at the end, I felt I'd been assaulted. I was heartsick and nauseated, and I needed a bath as much as the characters who ended up drenched in blood--and I mean drenched in blood, having taking a blood shower, with it saturating hair, face, nostrils and clothes.

The Priesthood is Magic


Here's the basic process of how you get a PhD at an American university:

1. You graduate from high school or get a GED.

2. You graduate from college with decent grades.

3. You take the GRE.

4. You apply to universities and get accepted somewhere.

5. You do coursework for a few years.

6. You pass your comprehensive exams.

7. You do a lot of research and write a prospectus for a dissertation.

8. You write the dissertation.

9. You defend the dissertation.

10. You get a diploma.

It generally takes somewhere from four to fourteen years, and you change considerably over the process--supposedly you mature and your ideas become more complex, and you also get poorer and more cynical and tired of living without decent insurance. But after that, you're considered an expert in something--not necessarily something important or relevant to your life in general, but something. You even have a title to demonstrate that.

In other words, you have to earn the degree, and there are tests and requirements to help ensure that people do. And while some PhDs are more prestigious than others, the power or relevance of any is greatly limited outside of certain contexts. Having a PhD in art history doesn't help you make wise decisions about retirement investments. Plus, most people don't really give a shit that you decided to go to school forever.

Here's how you get the priesthood in the Mormon church, which supposedly is this great power that can affect almost every aspect of the priesthood holder's life:

1. You're born male.

Stunted and Misshapen by the Priesthood


The concern I closed my last entry with was this:

I began to wonder if it was the fact that I DIDN'T have the priesthood, and therefore DIDN'T have a certain respect for it, that has made me willing and able to call these guys by their first names. I wonder if men respect the authority of the priesthood more because they have it.

In 2002, Sunstone published an essay of mine in which I recount standing up in a zone conference and saying to my second (as opposed to my much cooler first) mission president, when he got Melchizedek on our asses and started issuing punitive, brutal directives, "President ___________, why are you doing this? This is stupid. It's wrong."

This was analogous to a private standing up during a briefing by a colonel about a military mission and saying, "Why are you commanding us to do these backasswards things? This is stupid. It's wrong."

In other words, it was a big fucking deal. Now, to my mission president's credit, although he responded by shutting down the meeting in order to shut me and everyone else up, he also admitted right then and there that I was RIGHT, and he never said another word about the horrible policies he had once wanted to institute.

We discussed the incident later, when I apologized. As I wrote in the essay,

Men with First Names and Sweaty Palms


In John R's account of the conversation with the stake president in which said SP informed him of his impending excommunication, John wrote

This is the first time I've stood toe-to-toe with a Mormon leader and felt like his complete equal in every way. It's liberating to not feel beholden to Church authority and priesthood power.

In her discussion of John's post, chanson responded to this statement by writing

This jumps out at me because it's so alien to my own experience. Have other former believers felt like John has here? The last time the church leaders held any power over me, it was at BYU, where they had power to do real things to me, like expel me and withhold my transcripts, not just woo-stuff like withholding the keys to the Celestial Kingdom, etc. And before that, church leaders had authority over me because they were grown-ups and I was a kid. To me, John's statement would be like me being surprised that high school teachers are now my peers, when once they were so intimidating.

in a comment, I stated that I was nonplussed by John's statement. First of all, John has the priesthood (at least currently, whether he chooses to exercise it or not); he is the equal of certain church leaders in ways that I as a woman never would have been in their eyes. (Note: after I had drafted this entry and was finding all the links for comments and so forth, John responded to that, stating, "even if I (supposedly) held the priesthood, a) I was never comfortable with it, and b) in the Church I was still placed firmly in hierarchical relationships with other men.")

In this entry I'm going to provide all of what I said in that comment on Main Street Plaza, plus a little extra stuff, mostly as background and because I want a record of it here, but really this is all preliminary stuff to get to a discussion about gender and the priesthood.

Anyway. I certainly felt that I was the equal if not the superior of a great many Mormon leaders throughout my life.

Vampires and the Names of Women Who Love Them


Here's the thing: I don't like vampires. I'm not interested in stories or movies about vampires. I have, nonetheless, developed a habit of paying attention to shows about women who are in love with vampires, having been sucked (har!) into the genre because Buffy the Vampire Slayer was so good.

I understand that Season II of True Blood starts tonight. If I had HBO I would probably watch it. I'm about half way through Season I on dvd, and I like it well enough to keep going. Before starting the show, I read Dead Until Dark, the first novel in Charlaine Harris's series about southern vampires, also known as the Sookie Stackhouse books.

I admit I paid attention to True Blood only because I felt obligated to do so, given that I write about Buffy and that I'm going to write about the loathsome Twilight series. But it's... interesting. I'm interested. Dead Until Dark was about 50 million times better than Twilight, on every level: better prose, stronger character development, more realistic attraction between the main characters, and WAY more compelling supporting characters. (Though one of the nice things the TV show has done is make those supporting characters even more compelling--I didn't realize how much the story needed more from Tara and Lafayette until I saw more of them.)

True Blood isn't as good as Buffy, at least not so far, but it sure as hell doesn't suck. (Well, OK, it sucks in the vampire way. It doesn't suck in the bad way, of, you know, sucking something besides blood from a jugular vein.) But despite the fact that both shows focus on pretty young blonde human females with supernatural abilities who fall in love with vampires over a century old, they're so different that they're hard to compare.

I started to provide some background and analysis of TB, but also started worrying about spoilers, since I know I have quite a few readers in Europe where the show has yet to air, and besides, if you really want to know about the show, there are websites that already contain more information can I could provide. So I'm just going to make a few non-spoiler observations.

Torture and the Temple


There's an entry I've been meaning to write for a long time, about the links between Mormonism and torture in the Bush administration, but luckily I found that someone had already done it, and done it quite well. In the April 2008 issue of Sunstone, Boyd Peterson has an excellent essay entitled "Mormonism and Torture--Paradoxes and First Principles." I didn't read it when it came out because the magazine arrived when I busy getting my house ready to sell, and I stuck magazines in boxes rather than read them.

I am glad I finally got around to correcting that oversight. I highly recommend this essay if, for some reason, you missed it like me. My only complaint with it is that it makes no mention of the ways torture is enabled by the temple ceremony.

Now, Sunstone has a strict policy of not discussing the details of the temple, which isn't all that remarkable, since when you go through the temple, you make a vow never to discuss it. There was, however, an article in the most recent issue about how Mormons might make the temple seem less weird and more respectable to people who will never understand what's going on in there. The article is seriously whacked. It enraged me as few things have lately, and I seriously considered both A) posting an angry rant about it and B) writing a letter to the editor of Sunstone about all the failings in the article, but then I decided I had better things to do than explain to the pompous Mormon man who wrote that delusional piece of shit just how clueless he is about the reasons why people REALLY dislike the temple.

But then John R posted something on his blog about how he's probably going to be exed for a previous blog entry about the gruesome death threats made in the temple.

In a comment, John illustrated how he felt about the vow of silence he made in the temple with this analogy:

It was drilled into me from infancy that you only wear your nicest clothes on Sunday, and as soon as you get home from church you take them off and hang them up neatly, so they remain your nicest clothes. I absorbed the training thoroughly; I take really good care of my clothes, and they last me years if not decades.

But the training to save things for special was not limited to clothes. Other things were way too special to use every day. You didn't use the good silver to eat spaghetti on Tuesday, for instance--solid sterling was just for Sunday. The china, however, wasn't even just for Sunday--it was just for company or holidays.

Saving-for-special should even extended to perishable items, I was taught. Really expensive European cocoa, for instance, had to be saved, for years if necessary, until an appropriate occasion to cook with it came along. No matter that after so many years at the back of the cupboard being special it had passed from specialness to inferiority of flavor and texture; at least it hadn't been wasted and diluted through consumption on some frivolous occasion.



D-Day is one of those incredibly easy dates to remember: 6/6/44. (Plus it's conveniently the same both for Americans, who do this illogical thing of going Month/Day/Year, and Europeans, who go Day/Month/Year, smallest measure to largest.) I always do remember it, not only because it's easy, but because (as I mention every so often) I have this thing for military history.

I choke up over D-Day. I am vehemently opposed to wars of aggression like the US's nasty war in Iraq, but the heroic assault by the Allied Forces on the shores of Nazi-occupied France--that gets me where I live. I honor and admire the sacrifice that happened on those beaches in Normandy 65 years ago today. Particularly since it was barely the beginning of the end: eleven months would pass before Germany's unconditional surrender and V-E Day proclaimed on May 8, 1945.

I always observe D-Day, which isn't to say that I celebrate it; I just, well, watch it. I watch its approach on the calendar; I watch its hours pass; I watch night fall and I note that fact that when I wake up the next day, D-Day is over, even though the invasion of those beaches in Normandy would not be completed, in some cases, for days.

The US Army has a website commemorating D-Day, and of course there are books and movies devoted to D-Day as well. I think I might watch The Longest Day this afternoon.


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