Sunday, August 28, 2005

Six Degrees of Foberation OR How I Know the People You Know

I just discovered, thanks to Foxy J, that Theric has started a blog. Several weeks ago, in fact. I would gripe that he failed to mention this to me, but he has posted on my blog several times with his fully linked blogger identity and has, in fact, mentioned to me that he was in the process of figuring out how he intended to make his very own impact on the blog world, so it's my fault for not figuring it out sooner.

Somewhere, among the comments to a post or two he made on his blog, there's a conversation between Theric and Singing Cicada about whether or not they know each other, given that they seem to know the same people. I am mentioned in said conversation. *blush* And elsewhere, or perhaps in the same place, Theric comments on how the Internet has cut down the six degrees separating everyone in the world to two or three degrees. That got me thinking, and has inspired me to tell the following [long] story:

Several years ago, I worked at the Morris Center with Melyngoch (who as far as I know doesn't yet have a blog despite all her friends' collective insistence that she start one). I could tell you all sorts of embarrassing things about Melyngoch, but if you know her she's probably already told you and if you don't you don't care.

Also several years ago, I took a Creative Writing class from Dean Hughes. Theric was in that class. As it turns out, at that time Theric's wife, Lady Steed, was working in the same office as my wife, Foxy J. So it was natural that the four of us started hanging out. Then one day Theric and I decided to form a writing group. I invited Melyngoch, but she declined for hectic life reasons. Zippergut Queen, whom I knew from a writing conference, accepted the invitation, and the Friends of [Master Fob] was born. (It's a wonder we didn't call ourselves FOMF instead of FOB.)

A few months later, Melyngoch decided her life was de-hectified enough that she could now be a full-time Fob. Then, one day, she said, "MF, you and Tolkien Boy should meet. You have a lot in common." A year and a couple misdirected emails later, I met Tolkien Boy and we quickly became good friends.

Shortly after that, TB invited me to a St. Patrick's Day wake at Singing Cicada's house, where I met, besides Cicada, Ambrosia, Bawb, Jersey Jobber (who may or may not get a new tag now that he's no longer jobbing in Jersey), Cicada's Brother Number Something, and Brother's Date That Night. There were other people, I'm sure, but either they were unimportant or I've forgotten them. At any rate, I found TB's friends delightful--particularly Cicada's performance poetry.

Then came the Great Blog Explosion this summer (at least that's when I became aware of it), and suddenly I could follow links to get to know (sort of) my friends' friends' friends' friends. For example, there's Eleka Nahmen, who has spent the summer working at the same place my wife did seven years ago and I finally met in person last week. And there's Texas Mama, who appears to be an acquaintance of Cicada and also appears to have been in Madrid at more or less the time both Foxy and I were there as missionaries. And then there's Miss Nemesis, whose blog I happened upon by linkhopping from Cicada's page (I'm beginning to wonder if really Cicada is at the center of the universe), then later discovered while conversing with Theric that he also knows her, from his time at the Y.

Which is really where all this six-degrees-type pondering began, and which leads me to believe that the thing that cuts those six degrees down to two or three is not the Internet, but BYU. The Internet only makes us aware of the phenomenon.

Moral of the story: byuck* around on the internet long enough, and you might end up fobbing.

*The term "byuck," I believe, is trademarked by Thmazing Theric. I use it by implied consent, implied only because I'm his friend.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


I have survived my first two days as a part-time instructor at UVSC. More than survived, in fact: I enjoy it. A lot. And there's a distinct possibility that my students enjoy me as well. (Which is, of course, my number one goal--to be liked.)

It was really random chance that got me this job--first the fact that I (unjustly) didn't get the full-time position I've applied for four times now at the library; then the encouragement of the girl who did get the position, who because of her new full-time status at the library would no longer be teaching part-time at UVSC, leaving them even more desperate than they already were; and finally the fact that I was going out of town when they wanted to interview me and, due to said desperation, they went ahead and hired me without an interview. (Not that I wouldn't have gotten the job if I had to do an interview, just that this was a much more pleasant way to get the job.)

Taking everything into consideration, this seems almost heaven-sent. I refuse to believe that my bosses were inspired by God to not give me a position for which I am not only more than qualified but in fact the most qualified applicant, but, the way I see it, God is good at making lemonade. Especially if you're willing to drink it.

The kind of scary thing about liking the lemonade so much is that I fear I'll have to go back to school to get a doctorate so I can do the professor thing full-time. I've been pretty decided for the last couple years that if I did any school beyond my master's, it would be an online MLS program, not a four- to six-year PhD program. Argh.

Well, we're only two days into it. If I'm patient, maybe by the end of the semester I'll hate teaching.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Becoming Jacob

When I was fifteen I read A Separate Peace. I identified with Gene, the mediocre kid caught in the shadow of his best friend Finny, for whom everything seemed to work out without much effort. I was the kid with all the problems. No matter what I did, I was destined to fail. God had cursed me.

Friday night (and going into Saturday morning) I listened to Jacob Have I Loved while driving across northern Nevada and the salt flats of Utah. It's about Louise, the older of two twins who lives forever in the shadow of her sister. Everybody loves Caroline while everyone forgets Louise. Surprisingly, I didn't relate to Louise.

At one point in the book Louise realizes that she is Esau to Caroline's Jacob. "Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated," says God, and Louise comes to the conclusion that it doesn't matter what she does because it's God who has determined her fate. Shortly thereafter, in a heated exchange, Louise tells her mother to leave her alone while secretly telling herself that if her mother does leave her alone, it will be proof of the fact that she is unloved by God, her mother, and all of humanity. The mother, thinking she's doing what Louise wants, leaves her.

It's easy to come to a conclusion and then find (or create) evidence to support that conclusion. I do it all the time. At some point in the last ten years, though, I decided that that conclusion would not be that God hates me, but that he loves me.

There's a lot of evidence to support this theory: I have a great job and am about to start another great job; I've been able to complete a master's degree; I live in a nice place; I love my family; I have a wonderful daughter and a great wife. It's tempting, often, to point out all the things that prove I am Jacob in appearance but Esau in reality: my bosses refuse to promote me despite the fact that I'm overqualified for higher positions; my master's degree is in English, which is all but useless in the real world; the nice place I live in is in Utah; and so on.

But I choose not to. At least today. Today, I'm Jacob. And it's okay.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Spiritual Thought of the Day

If we're all children of God, then no one's a bastard. Because God's married, right?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Under where?

I observed today that I am equally uncomfortable in the men's and women's underwear sections in Target (and presumably any other store), though for different reasons. In one case it's that I really don't want to look at the packaging pictures of barely-dressed perfectly-bodied models and I worry that people will think I am looking, and in the other it's that I do want to look but I feel guilty for wanting and don't want people to know I'm looking. It's really rather silly.

That is all. I have no transcendental conclusion to arrive at or thought-provoking point to make.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

EQ Lesson Part II

I decided to teach a lesson on fatherhood, as that is something that has been on my mind a lot lately.

It all started when I clicked a link on Hotmail a couple weeks ago about working dads. "I am a working dad," I thought. "And who ever talks about working dads? Everyone makes a big deal about working mothers, but, hey, I have angst too!" And as it turns out, I'm not alone. The article mentions a book, Working Fathers, which the Orem Library is now adding to its collection, and I found another at the library called Father Courage: What Happens When Men Put Family First. I haven't read the former yet, but the latter is excellent. The author talks about men who, in the wake of the feminist revolution, are saying, "If women can be mothers and work, then by golly, so can I." (Except for the part of being a mother that requires that one be a woman, which leads these men--save the few who can afford the expensive operation--to settle for being fathers and working.)

The books talk about the challenges men who want to be more actively involved with their kids face, whether it be from their bosses putting pressure on them to spend more time at work (which I don't relate to because my immediate supervisors are quite happy to give me sick leave when my daughter is in the hospital and my higher-up supervisors--the ones who make hiring decisions--are quite determined to keep me as a part-time assistant librarian, thus ensuring I have a lot of time to spend with S-Boogie) or the simple challenge of getting past our own stereotypes of what fathers do or don't do. I do relate to this second one. I've found, for instance, that despite my best intentions, I let myself slip into the mindset of "I'm the man, and I go to work every day, so it's all right if I don't spend as much time with my daughter as I should or if I let my wife do all the housework." By default Foxy J is the one who knows when S-Boogie's doctor's appointments are and when she needs to take medicine and when we need to buy more diapers. It bugs me, but more often than not I'm too lazy to do things I know J will do if I don't.

So instead I read books about how to be a good father in hopes that once I've got it figured out I'll magically change. As my friend Thmazing points out about falling short of our visions of perfect fathering, though, "even at, oh, 70%, it beats not fathering."

At any rate, we didn't talk about any of this stuff in my lesson today. But it went well. All six quorum members present participated, and we had a good discussion about what it takes to be a good father. And bringing home the bacon was pretty low on that list. So among my many shortcomings, I will worry the least about the fact that I bring home very little bacon.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Music and Politics

Yesterday a good friend and I were in my car with my music playing. The song was "Stay Human" by Michael Franti and Spearhead, a left-wing political hip-hop group. Said good friend, we'll call him Tuberculosis Boy, looks at the CD player and laughs. "I just love political music," he says. Which led into an argument about the purpose of political music and, more generally, political art. Okay, I'll admit, on TBB's side it was a calm, rational discussion. I was arguing. I tend to get passionate and defensive about my music.

TBB wondered if political music had ever done any good. I pointed out that the music of the sixties drove the peace movement, which certainly had an impact on American politics and culture. He agreed that that was the case, but then said that today's political music tends to just complain without offering solutions.

He might be right. I don't know. The artist in question, Michael Franti, points out that you can't bomb the world into peace and that television is the drug of the nation, but he doesn't offer many solutions more specific than the vague ideas that everyone deserves music and it's not about who you love but do you love. Franti does benefit concerts to help victims of bombings and he tours in Iraq and Palestine to bring music to people downtrodden by war, but he doesn't come out and say, "This is how George W. should resolve the huge mess we've made in Iraq."

I'm not sure TBB's assumption that responsible political art needs to offer answers, though. I believe there is value in asking questions, in drawing people's attention to the problems of the world. I also think there's personal value in expressing all sorts of emotion through art, including the emotion of pissedoffedness at incompetent commanders in chief who use their power poorly.

Part of the value I find in Michael Franti specifically is that he asks questions that go deeper than pop politics. As opposed to the play Saturday's Voyeur that I saw last week, whose sole purpose was to villify conservative Mormons while lauding the virtues of liberalism, Franti manages to look at his own hipocrisy. On the same album in which he compares then-California-governor Pete Wilson to Hitler, Franti stops thinking about music and politics for a moment to muse about "what an asshole I can be."

So in conclusion, Michael Franti is good. George W. is bad. And Tuberculosis Boy is well-intentioned, but wrong.