Sunday, December 31, 2006
So I read this book a couple months ago and have been meaning to mention it here so I can add it to my official list, but the truth is that I read it as speed reading practice, so I'm not sure I caught enough of it to properly review it. I will say, though, that Kimberley Heuston is a great writer and a nice person (she and I were in the same writing group for about a week and she said good things about my writing, so obviously she has good taste), and Tolkien Boy is an excellent speed reading teacher (he and I are also in the same writing group--well, it's a different one from the one I was in with Kimberley, but it's the same as--I mean--we're in the same--you get it).
by Dan Danko, Tom Mason, and Barry Gott
In a very nice email David Levithan sent me in response to my not-so nice review of his latest book, he pointed out that I am a good ten years older than the intended audience (note to self: heed your own advice). Keeping that in mind, I found Sidekicks to be a fun and clever read, so long as I reminded myself that I am at least fifteen years older than its intended audience. Speedy, a fourteen-year-old kid able to run about 85 miles per hour, plays sidekick to Pumpkin Pete, a superhero with a pumpkin head and not much else in the way of superpowers. Speedy is also a member of the Sidekicks, a group of, well, sidekicks. The story plays with superheroes, sidekicks, and supervillains in a humorous if not entirely original way. I enjoyed it.
As I worked on a writing project last night and thought back to my teenaged obsession with superheroes, as well as a discussion on Santorio's blog a few weeks ago, I realized that Batman was the epitome of both of my strongest teenage desires: for man-as-father-figure and for man-as-sexual-object. I envied Robin as much for his role as Batman's adopted son as I did for whatever homoerotic connotations there were to their relationship. This week I read a recent Batman story in which Bruce Wayne offers to legally adopt the latest Robin, Tim Drake. Tim, overwhelmed by the recent loss of not only his father but also his best friend and his girlfriend, falls into Bruce and the two hug. (I might point out that the two are both dressed in tights at this point.) I read this and noted that it was a nice moment, a touching end to the story. I did not, however, obsess over the scene or ache to put myself in Robin's boots.
I think I've managed to grow up over the last ten years, at least a little bit.
Friday, December 29, 2006
I'm not sure that, even if I had not had my own religious conflict and internalized homophobia to deal with, I could have been openly gay in my high school. Hawaii is a rather liberal and accepting place, but high school is high school. Even the popular kids who everyone knew were gay didn't actually come out until after graduation; my status as a geeky white kid would not have been helped by openness about my orientation. Still, though, the thought of growing up as a teenager in a world where I could have been as comfortable with my sexuality as straight kids are is appealing. Not that any teenager is comfortable with his or her sexuality, but, for example, dating could have been the normally traumatic experience it is for most teens instead of the uniquely traumatic experience it was for me as I tried desperately to fit into the role expected of a straight Mormon boy.
It would be propagandistic of me to say I have no regrets about the life I've chosen for myself. Of course I have regrets. Who doesn't? Looking at my life holistically, I am happy with who I am, but that doesn't mean I don't ache a little every time I see two men holding hands or read about a seventeen-year-old boy resting his head on his boyfriend's chest. Despite the ache, though, and regardless of the happiness I experience as a heterosexually-married husband and father, I'm happy for the kid who felt comfortable enough with himself to be openly gay in high school and to talk about it in his admissions application. I hope he can experience the happiness I do and avoid some of the ache.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
"If you become a little boy and run into a house," said the mother bunny, "I will become your mother and catch you in my arms."
"If you become my mother and catch me in your arms," said the bunny, "I will become a little plush toy owned by a three-year-old and she'll leave me in a parking lot somewhere in Seattle and her mommy and daddy won't be able to find me ever again."
"If you become a plush toy," began the mother bunny, but then she stopped because she really had nothing to say to that.
Monday, December 25, 2006
It's easy enough for me to believe that a child was born in a stable two thousand years ago, that many believed he was the fulfillment of ancient prophecies, that he taught many profound and beautiful things as a child and later as an adult, and that eventually he was killed because of those things he taught. All of this jibes with my personal experience with the world. I can even believe in things this child-man taught about a God who loves us and speaks to us through whisperings of his holy Spirit, because these things do not contradict the world as I know it, and in fact many of my experiences suggest such a reality.
On the other hand, it's much harder for me to believe, in the way that I believe water is composed of atoms we call hydrogen and oxygen, that this child-man was born to a virgin mother, that he walked on water and turned water to wine, and that three days after he was killed he literally rose from the dead. I've seen with my own eyes and read well-documented accounts of small miracles of the type that do not blatantly defy the laws of the universe as we understand them but rather stretch our understanding of serendipity and coincidence--a well-timed phone call in answer to a prayer, or an unexplainable feeling that leads to a better decision than could have been made based on logic alone--but I've yet to see any miracles so bold in their disregard for physics, chemistry, and biology as those described in the Bible seem to be. Call me faithless (and perhaps I am), but I have a hard time conceptualizing a reality that is so far removed from the reality I know.
There is a fifth verse to "O Little Town of Bethlehem" that I have never noticed before a couple weeks ago as I listened to Jewel sing it:
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;I was simultaneously struck by the beauty of the image--Christ's mortal birth as a metaphor for his birth in our hearts as he cleanses us of sin--and by the awareness of my uncertainty--do I really believe not only in Jesus as a historical figure but in Christ as a past and present reality? As most questions of this nature tend to be with me, this one remains unanswered.
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!
A couple years ago, when I still felt a need to defend the Mormon faith to my atheist brother, I made an argument along the lines of "Well, if you live the gospel and it all ends up being a lie, then you live a good life, you're happy because of your beliefs, and then you die and it doesn't matter. But if you don't live it and it does end up being true, then you're screwed. Logically, you're better off living your life as if the gospel were true." He didn't agree with my logic. Life should not be about covering your bases, but about pursuing some objective standard of truth. I had to agree with him--truth is a better principle than fear of consequences.
I'm beginning to wonder, though, if our slight differences in perspective aren't related to our respective choices of academic discipline. My brother loves great literature, but he is a scientist at heart. I, meanwhile, am a humanist currently masquerading as a social scientist. Truth is important to me, but I tend to define it more fluidly. I am a writer and reader primarily of fiction--the truths that matter most to me are embedded in intricate lies, but I find them valuable nonetheless. Beautiful, even.
So I pray, along with Jewel and anyone else who makes it to the fifth verse of "O Little Town of Bethlehem," that Christ descend to me, cast out my sin, enter in, be born in me today. I don't know whether I'm praying to a physical being who literally was born to a virgin, performed miracles, died, and was resurrected, or to an idea, a beautiful story that has been told and retold so many times that it sounds true. Perhaps this is somewhat Campbellesque of me, but I think when you're talking about a myth of this proportion, the lines between reality and fiction are blurred and it ceases to matter. And the pragmatist in me persists: If my belief in a Christ--whether that being be fiction or reality--makes me a better person, as I hope it does, then does it really matter?
I suppose I do believe in magic--the sort of magic that takes the story of a virgin birth that may or may not have happened two thousand years ago, and turns it into something real, something that really will make a difference in who I am today. If nothing else, I hope for that kind of magic.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Friday, December 15, 2006
When I first heard about Wide Awake, I immediately put it on my Amazon.com wishlist. I really really liked Levithan's Boy Meets Boy, and the premise of this novel was just plain intriguing: some time in the not-too-distant future, the first gay Jewish president is elected, and it's all thanks to the Jesus Revolution. See, after the Reign of Terror--in which Americans were convinced to fear everything and everyone--and the Greater Depression, a bunch of Christian churches started to ask, "What would Jesus really do?" and they decided that he would love everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, social status, or politics. So gradually the American political climate changes until we get to the present, where the first gay Jewish president has been elected. Except there are still those who cling to old prejudices, one of them being the governor of Kansas, who demands a recall of his state's ballots, therefore putting the president-elect's electoral status in jeopardy.
So I liked the book's premise as much as I knew I would--particularly the way Levithan plays with the intermingling of politics and religion. The problem is that this seems to be the extent of Levithan's unique slant on the topic. A review I read a couple months ago praised Levithan for writing a novel about politics without using the words "Republican," "Democrat," "Conservative," or "Liberal," but regardless of what words he uses, it's clear that this book is talking about Conservatives and Liberals, and the heavily overstated moral of the story is that Liberals are Good and Conservatives are Bad. Which is nice, but thank you very much, I already tend to believe that and I'm not interested in reading fiction that does nothing but pander to my prejudices. I appreciate that you're working so hard to challenge traditional notions of sexuality, Mr. Levithan, but how about doing something to challenge traditional notions of politics beyond flipping the Good Guy and Bad Guy roles (if it can even be argued that you're doing that)? Like, maybe, just perhaps, it's not quite so black-and-white?
The one redeeming moment of this book comes when the main characters are on a bus to Kansas and the fifty-something adults (corresponding more or less to my generation, thirty years from now) stand up and start singing Lauryn Hill's "Everything is Everything." A beautiful moment that almost made the rest of the simplistic-politics-over-story read worth it.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
So this year, when Tolkien Boy challenged Foblog contributors to post Christmasy things for our fellow Fobs, and upon counting I realized that there are 12 Fobs besides me, I decided that I must go against TB's plea not to and create the Twelve Fobs of Christmas. As I got ready to do so, though, I came up against a nagging question I've had for years--does the Twelve Days of Christmas start on the 13th and go to the 24th, or does it go from the 14th to the 25th?
Rather than randomly decide on one or the other, I decided to look it up. After some in-depth research of the type that only an experienced information professional such as myself could perform, I found that the Twelve Days does not start on the 13th or the 14th. Rather, the Twelve Days of Christmas run from the night of the 25th through the night of January 5th, otherwise known as (duh) Twelfth Night. January 6th, then, is Epiphany, or as I and other people who've lived in Spain know it, Dia de los Reyes.
It troubles me to no end to know that all those years my family was doing it wrong. But alas, there's nothing I can do now but press forward in the light of the truth. So, now that I am no longer deceived (you might say I've had an epiphany), you can watch for my oh-so-clever ode to my fellow Fobs to appear nightly on the Foblog between December 25th and January 5th. And to all the rest of you who aren't official Fobs, well, I'm sure I love you too.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Good idea: Waking up in the middle of the night to tell Daddy you have to go potty. (Hurray for S-Boogie!)
Monday, December 11, 2006
- Write something to have fobbed by Thursday night.
- Write our Christmas letter. (By the way, if you didn't get a Christmas letter from us last year and you would like one this year, email me your address. Theric complained last year that my posting the Christmas letter on my blog made the print version anticlimactic, so I'm going to have to figure out something to make snail mail worth the wait--maybe I'll just post teasers here.)
- Get together with Tolkien Boy (standing in for SkyeJ) to have our family picture taken.
- Spend countless hours, as is the tradition, trying to get the letter and envelopes to print.
- Get a tree.
- Decorate the tree.
- Teach high school kids how to use a college library.
- Buy presents.
- Read the library books I've had checked out but didn't have time to read during the quarter.
- Make gingerbread houses.
- Teach S-Boogie not to use our toothbrushes to spread lotion on her face.
- Teach Little Dude that life is not so horrible when you have a full tummy.
- Get trained in how to judge high school kids who want to be college kids.
- Sell lots and lots of fancy dishes and pink scented soap.
- Make cookies and deliver them to our friends.
- Write each of the 12 Fobs of Christmas.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Saturday, December 09, 2006
It's been half an hour now and I can almost breathe again and the nauseous feeling is beginning to fade.
Friday, December 08, 2006
I don't take pride, however, in the gender stereotypes Fobanna promotes. She frequently tells me how glad she is that I work here so I can do things like turn the stereo on, and that obviously I don't know how to clean the wax out of a votive holder because that's a woman thing. Tonight she was talking to a customer who was looking for something to bring to a work party gift exchange.
Fobanna: Are your coworkers women or men?
Customer: Well, I work at a pilate studio, so all the men I work with are gay.
Fobanna: Oh, then we don't have to worry--anything in the store will be perfect!
Because attraction to men and love for pink scented soaps and fancy flatware are intrinsically linked.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
In all fairness to us mere mortals, superheroes' willingness to turn to their information professionals may have something to do with the fact that their information professionals are the best on the planet (perhaps in the universe). Take, for example, Barbara Gordon aka Oracle (formerly known as Batgirl)--Babs is the information professional's information professional. A former librarian, Oracle can find whatever you're looking for, whether that be the owner of a set of fingerprints, blueprints for a rare museum exhibit, or the Joker's credit history. Not only does she maintain her own databases of names, powers, contact information, and shoe size of virtually every superhero and villain, but she routinely hacks into databases of the CIA, FBI, and even that giant among information concealers, Wal-Mart itself, all to meet the information needs of her patrons in the superhero community. That is dedication. Worried that your information needs aren't as important as those of Batman and the Justice League? Never fear--Oracle has been known to help such second- and third-tier superheroes as Huntress, Black Canary, Elongated Man, and Aztek the Ultimate Man. Like any good information professional, she does not discriminate based on her personal biases or values. Unless you're a supervillain, in which case you'll want to contact her villainous counterpart, the Calculator.
What then can we learn from the information behavior of superheroes? Yes, we would do well to follow their example in consulting with our information professionals when seeking information, but perhaps the greater lesson to be learned is from superinformation professionals such as Barbara Gordon. When our non-super information professionals measure up to her superstandards, then our non-super information seekers will know, like the superheroes who inspire them, where they can turn for information.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Maybe Jay-Z has it right, though--it's not so much that hip hop is growing up as America is simply refusing to grow up. 30 is the new 20. I can't really compare because I wasn't alive fifty years ago, but I can't help feeling that I'm less of an adult than 27-year-olds were a generation or two ago. Yes, I'm married and I have children, which forces me into more adult roles than some of my unmarried peers take on, but at the same time I'm very concerned with adolescent obsessions like music stars and superheroes, I'm working in poor-paying part-time jobs (the only time I've had a 9 to 5 was the summer before I got married, when I worked for Provo Parks), I'm still more worried about looking cool than I care to admit, and I'm still in school. In my case, it seems education is to blame--the fact that success in the 21st century requires several years of college education lenghtens the purgatory of adolescence in which people are neither children nor adults. In 1906, a librarian would likely be running his own library by 27, not jumping through hoops to get a degree. (Though I'll admit, in 2006 a librarian could have his or her MLIS by 24 if the detours I've taken are avoided.)
In the case of people who don't get married at 22 (read: most people besides me), the extension of adolescence seems to come from a combination of changing expectations (most people nowadays don't get married and start a family before entering their thirties) and unchanging social definitions (perhaps not quite as much as in Utah Valley, but even in Seattle there seems to be some sense that adulthood equals marriage and parenthood). The result is a lot of 37-year-olds like Jay-Z, who may be mocked by younger rappers for wearing Birkenstocks, but still devotes a lot of energy to proving that he's cooler than anyone else and encouraging "strippers and aerobics strippercisers to bounce their asses." I don't know whether the problem is in the changing expectations or the unchanging social definitions, or even if it's a problem at all. I'm living proof that getting married and having kids does not equal growing up.
All I know is that I'd better not be selling fancy dishes to old ladies for barely more than minimum wage when I'm 37.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Saturday, November 25, 2006
So thank you, Brozy and BAWB, for blogging about yourselves instead of Paris Hilton. And congratulations on tying the knot (assuming you did, because this will be sort of awkward if you didn't).
Thursday, November 23, 2006
I feel a little like I've cut off a limb. I started reading comics with Batman #476 in 1992 and have been filling up boxes ever since. Over the past few years, I've been cutting down on my boxed collection by selling sets on eBay and then replacing them with trade paperback editions, which can be stored nicely on a bookshelf. Over the past year I've mostly stopped buying the monthly issues except about five a month (compared to the thirty a month I used to get), and have restricted my collected edition buying to when I have an Amazon.com gift certificate from our Amazon.com credit card.
Yesterday I decided to finally list the 1250 or so comic books sitting in the kitchen entrance on Craigslist (as a set, not individually--heavens no), and this morning a guy who runs an online comic shop came by and bought them. I did save a box full of my favorites, and I still have a bookcase full of graphic novels and trade paperback collections, plus I think I still have a box hidden somewhere in my mom's place in Hawaii, so it's not like I've cut myself off from comics forever. I'm even going to continue getting the five comics a month I've been getting. But still, those six boxes the man with the long black and red hair took away this morning in his station wagon had nearly fifteen years of memories in them: Superman's wedding, Green Arrow's funeral (don't worry, he got better), Robin's first date, and the time Green Lantern went crazy and destroyed the universe (it got better too). Every time the Justice League of America, the Teen Titans, and the Legion of Superheroes broke up and got back together again are now fleeting images in my mind, no longer waiting in a long white box for me to find and relive.
At least I can walk into my kitchen without knocking the phone off the wall. And maybe we'll use the money to get Little Dude a Jumperoo, and when I see him playing in it I can imagine he's a superhero, leaping over tall buildings in a single bound for my amusement.
Every single one of us.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
FoxyJ has ultra-super-fabuloso parents. Earth Sign Mama, for example, responded to my whining last week by offering to get me my Christmas present a month early. Today my Extreme All Weather Chelsea Boots from Land's End arrived in the mail.
Unfortunately, I had told ESM that I wear size 12, because I usually do, but when I tried on my new boots this afternoon it was clear right away that they were too big. When I walked in them my heels lifted away from the soles with each step. My first impulse, because I am fundamentally lazy, was to say, "Meh, I'll get used to it. It's too much trouble to make an exchange." FoxyJ, though, being the wise person she is, told me that it would be stupid to wear boots that are too big for me simply because it's a bit of a hassle to exchange them. Furthermore, it would be a waste of a generous gift to not ensure that it is the best it can be.
Once I got past my laziness, the problem became my impatience. I had new boots and I wanted to wear them right now (it is no coincidence that those are my daughter's two favorite words). To my delight, the paper inside the shoe box explained that Land's End products can be returned or exchanged at any Sears. Perhaps I could not wear my new boots right now, but at least I could tonight, as soon as I had a chance to drive to Sears.
This plan was thwarted once I got hold of all the local Sears shoe departments and found that none of them have size 11.5 black Extreme All Weather Chelsea Boots in stock. I was tempted again to just keep the size 12s. Perhaps I could simply put some kind of insert into the boot to make it fit better... But no. I've done that too many times and regretted it later. I once received the wrong CD from an Amazon Marketplace seller, and didn't bother to do anything about it--I'm still annoyed at myself about that one.
So, as it turns out, you can teach an old fob new tricks. I called Land's End, and my size 11.5 boots are on their way. I just have to drop the size 12 ones off at a Sears next time I'm out, and wait a few more days to have dry feet.
And while I wait, I have the Simpsons Season Eight, which also arrived in the mail today (and was bought with birthday money from Earth Sign Mama and Cool Guy), to keep me company.
And that, my friends, is why I don't suck, and you don't suck, and nobody sucks. Let's all hug.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
*Note to teacher: This is not to say that I threw together a b.s. paper in no time. I've been researching all week, as you will surely see from the quality of the paper.
**Note to employer: This is not to say that I did not drop what I was doing each and every time a patron came within a hundred feet of the information desk, or even thought a question in my general direction, because I did.
***Note to T.D. Wilson: This is not to say that I take credit for your ultra-cool meta-model of information behavior models; I just take credit for mapping Ellis's and Meho & Tibbo's models onto yours.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
The all-knowing Absent-minded Secretary informs us that today is Married to a Scorpio Day. This is appropriate, because FoxyJ married a scorpio four years and three hundred sixty-three days ago today. According to the Search Your Love horoscope compatibility page, Tauruses and Scorpios make okay couples:
TAURUS - SCORPIO: They have the same strong sexual appetite. Besides, nobody feels a need for romance outside the liaison. Taurus may be obstinate while irritated, and Scorpio in anger will frighten all the signs. Compatibility horoscope Taurus expects a stormy relationship; marriage is possible only if both partners show extreme patience to each other.(I know that I can trust this site because they speak so grammatically.)
There are many reasons that FoxyJ deserves her nym, but for today all you need to know is that she's patient enough to be married to a Scorpio.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Before you know it, he'll be in college.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
I read this book over my first weekend in Seattle, and I wish I could remember more about it now to review it, but what I do remember is this: If Tolkien Boy were to write a novel about a teenage boy trying desperately to deny the fact that he's gay and in the process landing in some outlandishly funny situations, and Tolkien Boy were to solicit the occasional quirky input of Theric in writing said novel, the result would look something like David LaRochelle's Absolutely, Positively Not...
And that is about the highest praise I can give a book.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
As I was trying to figure out how to end this post, S-Boogie came in the room to announce that her diaper had leaked. This has been happening lately when we forget to have her go to the potty before naptime, because Pull-Ups don't absorb as much as regular diapers do. Luckily, though, that was not the case today. Her diaper was indeed wet, but nothing had escaped. And maybe that's my answer--I need to start wearing diapers on my feet.
Monday, November 13, 2006
2. I also realized this weekend that I'd let an assignment that had been due on Friday slip by. It's a stupid little assignment that would have taken me twenty minutes to do, but it's worth 5% of my grade in the class. I don't care much about grades, but I'm annoyed at my irresponsibility. And believe me, I am not going to be the student who expects the professor to make an exception for me because I'm stupid when he makes it clear in the syllabus that he does not accept late assignments.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
I would not call myself a feminist, as I am not educated enough in the history and theories of the movement(s) to deserve the title, but I would not hesitate to call myself a wannabe feminist, insofar as feminism strives for gender equality. In the name of gender equality, then, I'm all for women and men having their own last names.
At the same time, though, I see the practical and symbolic advantage of two married partners sharing the same last name. On the practical side, you have the ease of only having to remember one name for the entire family, and the space-saving considerations on post cards. And let's not forget the children: if the first generation has to deal with two last names (Fob-J), the second will have to deal with four (Fob-J-Steed-Thmazing) and the third with eight, and so on. As for the symbolic advantage of having a single name, there's something to be said for family unity, for two individuals becoming one flesh.
The problem is that tradition asks that the one flesh represented by that single last name be that of the husband's, which is clearly unfair. Perhaps the solution is to take the wife's name as the family name. But how is that any better? Replacing one unfair binary (male over female) with another (female over male) is not progress; it's revenge.
I like the course taken by Silly Marie's brother and sister-in-law, who have each taken the other's last name, making a hyphenated family name. But then this takes us back to the problem of that great-great-grandkid with sixteen last names (thirty-two when she marries).
There's always the example of Theric and Lady Steed, who have merged their blogonyms to create a single fictional surname, Thteed, but that is not always practical in reality, and then there's the issue of genealogical continuity and extended family unity. On the other hand, it's not like I feel any less connected to my sisters who have a different last name, either by birth or marriage, than to my brother who shares my last name.
Ultimately, a name is a name is a name. I care less about what you call yourself than about who you are. Which, I believe, is what FoxyJ was thinking when she decided to take my last name. If you're concerned about her identity being consumed in mine, take a look at her blog, where she has talked about being the wife of a gay man in maybe eight to ten posts out of 276, compared to my blog, where I talk about being a married gay man in about one out of every eight posts. FoxyJ's identity is defined not by her husband's identity but by her interest in books, current events, and social criticism; her struggle with the conflicting demands of academia and motherhood; by a capacity for strong emotion and the intellectual capability to step back from those emotions and analyze them critically; and by the love she has for the people in her life. Call her FoxyJ Fob, Jessie Christensen, or Faye Frome; she's the same person. If either of our identities has been radically altered by our marriage, it's mine, and it's for the better.
And it's nice to know that, should we ever decide that it was a bad idea to put our name out on the internet and on Fox13 News and in the Salt Lake Tribune, we can always fall back on hers. So if Master Fob mysteriously drops off the map some day, don't dismay; just look for Master J at the Jcave.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Fobanna's dishware is listed in several magazines around the country, and we often get calls from those ads. This morning I had the most interesting message on the phone:
"Um, I am calling about the magazine, December twenty... whatever, two-oh-six, page ninety-one, you are disgusting. The page is full of disgusting. You are enemy of the country. Goodbye."
Again, this is dishware we're talking about.
Friday, November 10, 2006
All this talk about gender equality has inspired me to effect an historic change: no longer will the Honorary Fobs Who Have Yet to Attend a Blog Party be treated as second-class citizens, placed lower on the blogroll than those Who Have Attended. No more will there be artificial walls built among Honorary Fobs. No more will the Haves look down and spit upon the Have Yets. Let freedom ring!
In other news, Gay Mormon Fobs will continue in their role as second-class citizens, placed lower on the blogroll than Honorary Fobs.
In the process of rearranging, I did a bit of cleaning up. Basically, if you haven't commented in more than a month, I took you off--there's no room for lurkers on my sidebar. If you'd like to get back on, by all means, comment. You don't even have to say anything intelligent. Heaven knows I don't.
On the other hand, if you don't want to be linked on my sidebar and you are, please do let me know and I'll remove you at once.
--Your fair and just self-proclaimed Master
If the Angry Feminist (who happens to have long hair but is not Melyngoch) who declared conclusively that FoxyJ's taking of my last name is a sign of giving up her (Foxy's, not AF's or Mel's) identity to patriarchal society (i.e. me) were to get to know the semi-fictional blog world I've created, she'd have a heyday with my consumption of others' identities. Not only do my wife and children bear my blogonym (the Fob family), but so do my parents, siblings, and even my in-laws (Fobs by blood or marriage); my writing group (official Fobs); my friends, ranging from close personal friends to internet friends to people who might have commented on my blog a couple times to people who maybe just came to a party I threw because a mutual friend invited them (honorary Fobs); random people who happen to share a couple characteristics with me (gay Mormon Fobs); our apartment (the Fobcave); our car (the Fobmobile); and even a few vehicles and tools which have no counterparts in reality (such as the Fobwing and the Fobarang).*
A few years ago I wrote a paper combining feminist and post-colonialist theories to accuse Batman of colonizing his young female protege by dubbing her Batgirl. Basically, he stripped her of her own identity and gave her his. He branded her as an extension of him. Notice that he doesn't do this, for example, with Robin, who maintains his unique identity (albeit forever billed after Batman and...).
I am reminded of the wise words of Lauryn Hill:
Now don't you understand, man, universal lawI'm sorry, Batman, for calling you an imperialist woman-hater. Will you forgive me?
What you throw out comes back to you, star
Never underestimate those who you scar
Cause karma, karma, karma comes back to you hard
*I say this all somewhat jokingly, but I am rather disturbed by my apparent desire to remake everyone and everything in my image.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
As you can see, the evidence is conclusive: Melyngoch has long hair because she is pandering to the desires of domineering straight men. She has no other motivation than to subjugate herself to Man's lust. The idea that she would grow her hair long as a simple matter of preference is ridiculous! Ha! I scoff at your ridicularity. There is simply no other logical explanation for Melyngoch's long hair except that she is a naively hopeful backwards Mormon hick who allows her identity to be determined by the oppressive traditions of a phallogocentric patriarchy. She should be ashamed of herself. I know I am. Hang your long-haired head in shame, Melyngoch, hang it low. I pity the pathetic victim you are.
Surely you can see why I'm furious. Did FoxyJ ask me if I wanted to share my identity with her? No. This is why I'm going to have my revenge. I'm going to take her last name. Ha! I bet she and her fellow defenders of matriarchy didn't see that one coming. Serves them right.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
It was hugely intimidating to read these pieces that had been presented to me as opposing mine (and therefore opposing me, right?), especially when I saw the credentials attached to the authors. I recognized both Marybeth and Ron as co-editors of Peculiar People, and it was clear from Marybeth's essay that she was a marriage and family therapist. Oh, and Ron had a PhD. Meanwhile, here I was, a 25-year-old master's student at BYU. Thanks, Levi, for pitting me against my peers.
So I read Ron's response expecting a confrontation, and that's what I saw. Sure, he was attacking me politely, but he was still attacking me. Then I got to Marybeth's response, and was happy to find that she was clearly not attacking me. In fact, she made several points that I had come to on my own in the months since writing "Getting Out." I decided that I would take Levi up on the invitation to write a response to the responses. It would give me a chance to give an update on the thoughts I'd had over the past year, in the context of the good points both Marybeth and Ron had made, and also to snarkily respond to Ron's points that I perceived as attacks.
I wrote "Staying In" and felt pretty darn good about it. I had gone up against experienced professionals and held my ground.
When the four-piece, three-person dialogue was published in September of 2005, I was happy to hear from people who told me that they liked my parts, and mostly they liked Marybeth's because mostly she was very nice to me, but as for Ron... what was he doing throwing these doom-prophesying statistics at me? Believe me, there were plenty of people who didn't have this opinion, but for the most part the ones who talked to me directly did. My friends, like me, saw Ron as my enemy. I was smug in my perceived victory.
Then, one day, I got an email from Ron. He said more or less, "Hey, it was great to dialogue with you in Dialogue. Wouldn't it be great to continue the conversation via email?" And I thought, Hey, why not? I'm a mature, open-minded person. I'm happy to talk to anybody, even my enemy.
So we talked. We emailed back and forth, arguing the details of gay Mormon politics and morality. For a long time I was very defensive. I was suspicious of Ron and his intentions. I felt like he was trying to convince me of the error of my ways, that I should give up on my marriage because obviously we had no chance of surviving in the long run. It took me several months, in fact, to see that Ron's intention was exactly what he'd said it was--to have a dialogue. Ron didn't see me as his enemy just because we had slightly differing viewpoints.
Slowly, I've given up my defensiveness and allowed Ron to become my friend. He even came to my last blog party (and brought Marybeth with him), and guess what? He's a genuinely nice guy. I'm not as good a friend to him as he is to me because I'm generally not good at getting back to emails in a timely manner, and because I'm not as devoted to the cause of gay Mormondom as he is. While I am focused on the individual (namely me), Ron is concerned with large groups of people. He advocates for homosexual Latter-day Saints with LDS General Authorities and regularly speaks to groups such as Family Fellowship and fhefamily. He spends his time trying to understand the plights of gay Mormons everywhere, while I am worrying about how to get more people to read my blog and how to justify spending ten bucks on the new Roots album (I already have solved that latter problem, in case you're concerned).
In short, I don't agree with everything Ron says, but I count him as an ally and a friend. He is certainly not my enemy, and I'm glad I can say that, because who needs enemies? I would like to be the kind of person who doesn't have enemies, and I do try, but my tendency toward sarcasm can get in the way of that goal. As much as I give -L- a hard time for being "less than polite" when dealing with naysayers, I can get pretty snarky myself. This may get me a good laugh or two (and perhaps a few groans), but it's not the best way to win friends. I'm not going to convince people to listen to what I have to say by making fun of them.
This is not an apology for my sarcasm because at the moment any such apology would not be sincere. Nor is it a vow of repentance, as that would be equally insincere. I just want to say that I'm glad that there are people like Ron in the world who aren't interested in making enemies, and I hope that, despite my shortcomings, I can be counted among those people.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Are you sure you're gay?
Well, I'm not officially licensed, but nine out of ten attendees say I throw a great Oscar party. This translates to a 5.2 on the ever-trusty Kinsey scale.
Why not live your life for you and not what others expect of you?
Indeed, why not? Oh, wait, you mean why not live my life according to what you expect of me? Hm. Interesting idea.
After a great deal of serious thought, I've decided against it.
How do you expect your marriage to survive when statistics show that mixed-orientation marriages all fail?
Let's take a moment and think about how these "statistics" are calculated. See, in order to do a survey, you need willing participants. Who's more likely to participate in a survey on the success of mixed-orientation marriages--the gay guy who has left his wife and come out of the closet, or the gay guy who has quietly been living his life for the last thirty years, happily married? Have you noticed how many currently married gay men are willing to attach their names and faces to their situation? Do you honestly think anyone has a realistic idea of how many gay men are quietly, happily married to straight women? (This is not even counting the gay women who are happily married to straight men, who I suspect have a higher success rate.)
Do you have sex?
Foxy and I have joked about putting a counter on our blogs, but being as how that would be a mockery of something personal and sacred to us, we decided against it. This much I will say: We have two children, each conceived the old-fashioned way. And believe me, you just don't make children this perfect on the first try; in each case, we practiced quite a bit before the actual making was done.
Do you live in Orem so that you can be around narrow-minded people like you?
Actually, we live in Seattle so that we can be around narrow-minded people like us. As it turns out, narrow-minded people are everywhere--even Pennsylvania.
At any rate, I spent most of the night composing six of the most incredible blog posts ever known to Woman, Man, or Other. Seven including this one. Assuming that these posts end up half as amazing on screen as they were in my head at 2:30 this morning, you, my dear readers, are in for a treat. If I were you I'd start holding my breath right about... now.
Monday, November 06, 2006
Me: No, Sophie, don't throw the blocks. Just set them in the bucket.
[Sophie giggles and throws another block, which ricochets off the bucket rim and hits me in the face]
Me: Sophie. Look at me.
Me: Do NOT throw the blocks.
[Sophie picks up a block, swings backward as if preparing to launch, and smiles]
Me: NO. If you throw another block, you're going to timeout.
Sophie: Okay. [She drops the block in the bucket]
Meanwhile, I'm thinking, I am not going to get angry. There's no reason to get angry. Getting angry won't teach her anything except that Daddy is angry. Stay calm, Ben, and reason with her.
The problem is that it is impossible to reason with a toddler. The logic I value so much, that shapes every decision I make, means nothing to her. Reasoning with her is like reasoning with a brick wall.
Me: Okay, Sophie come here now. We need to pick up these blocks.
[Sophie lies on the floor, kicking her legs in the air]
Me: Sophie, listen to me. Come here right now.
Sophie: I'm coming.
Me: It doesn't look like you're coming. Stand up and come here.
[Sophie stays on her back and begins to wiggle--very sloooowly--toward me]
Me: [Honestly concerned that we will not finish cleaning up by midnight at this rate, but also aware that I am now allowing it to become a control issue, which is not the best parenting technique] Sophie, stand up on your feet and come here RIGHT NOW.
Sophie: I'm am coming! [Continues to wiggle in my direction]
Me: Okay. Fine. Now pick up these blocks and put them in the bucket. And don't--
[Sophie picks up a block and throws it at the bucket]
Me: [Picking her up, not very gently, and sitting her on the timeout chair, not very gently] WHAT did I TELL you?! Do NOT throw the BLOCKS! You are in timeout for three minutes!
I think I acted as best I could, but what I don't like is how angry I allowed myself to get. Timeout is the method of discipline Jessie and I have decided is best, and I hope that eventually some kind of lesson will sink in, but I don't foresee my yelling at Sophie having any longterm positive effect. In fact, probably the opposite--both for her and for me. I don't like that, despite my best efforts to stand back and say, It's okay, she's only three, she's learning, you can't expect her to behave like a rational adult, I still failed to maintain any appearance of myself as the rational adult. I don't like that something so small and insignificant can have such a great impact on my emotional state.
In a very parallel way, I've been dealing for the last week and a half with some woman who doesn't know me, and shouldn't even matter to me, but manages to make me literally shake with anger. When I first happened upon her criticism of my writing, which crosses over into slander of my character, I tried to reason with her, but came up against much the same brick wall that I experience with Sophie. She simply isn't interested in having a rational dialogue with me. Rather, she's interested in insulting me. Last Tuesday morning, once I got to the point where I could think of nothing but this woman's venomous attacks and I couldn't focus on my life because I was too angry, I decided I would just stay away from her blog. Still, though, I've spent the last week thinking of this woman's false accusations and how I want to tell her how wrong she is. Tonight I briefly checked back in on her blog to read a comment a friend had written in my defense, and then found myself, for the next hour, unable to even hold a dinner fork steady.
The obvious lesson here is that I should not go places that I know will make me angry. But the more important thing I'd like to figure out is how to deal with that anger when it does come up, as it unavoidably will. Perhaps precisely because I am so unused to being angry, I don't know what to do when I am.
One good thing Sophie is teaching me is not to hold onto emotions for too long. Sophie can be screaming and crying and kicking you in one moment, then giggling and kissing and telling you she loves you in the next. Tonight, after her timeout--which more than anything, gave me a few moments to regain my composure--she gave me a big hug, we talked about why she had gone to timeout, and then she proceeded to pick up all her blocks and set them gently in the bucket. Where I had been furious with her a few minutes earlier, now she had me smiling and laughing. If only anger were always so easily resolved.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
I am Ben Christensen, and I am a self-identified gay man who has chosen to marry and stay married to a woman. Our choice to get married had something to do with our upbringing in the Mormon faith, which teaches that homosexual behavior is a sin. Ultimately, though, Jessie and I made the decision to marry and to stay married of our own free will and conscience, free of coercion or pressure from the Mormon church. Leaders of the church, in fact, have stressed that marriage should not be seen as a cure for homosexual attraction. I wholeheartedly agree with them on this point. In other words, if you're looking for someone to tell your gay son that he should just marry a woman and everything will be all right, I'm not that person. I believe that those kinds of decisions can only be made by the individual following his or her own conscience; just as I ask that people respect Jessie's and my decision to be married, I respect the decision of my gay friends who have chosen celibacy or same-sex relationships as their road to happiness.
You will notice that this blog is not called the Gaycave and my Blogger ID is not Master Gay (Fobcave and Master Fob are actually references to my writing group, the Friends of Ben). This blog is not about a married gay Mormon, but rather about a man who, among other things, is married, gay, and Mormon. As my wife recently pointed out, part of our point in being public about this detail of our marriage is to show that we are normal people living normal lives. I feel that a blog in which I only write about being gay, then, would defeat that purpose.
However, I'm guessing that if you came looking for this blog because you saw me and Jessie on Fox 13 News, it's not that you were saying, "Gee, I bet that Ben Christensen is a good writer; I'd like to read more about his obsession with Lauryn Hill or his adventures as a Library and Information Science student." For those of you who are looking for information about being gay, Mormon, and married, first I would suggest the essays I wrote for Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, then a few posts I have written on the topic since then. After that, you may want to check out some of the blogs linked in my sidebar under the heading "Gay Mormon Fobs." Here you will find a broad spectrum of experiences and opinions that will give you a fuller view of the gay Mormon picture than I could by myself.
Friday, November 03, 2006
(You'll notice that right now it looks just like this one--in fact it redirects to this one--but you may want to change your bookmark, as new and exciting things will be coming soon. Well, sooner or later.)
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Ten Good Things that Have Happened (or Will Happen) to Me This Week, Whether I Deserved Them or Not, in No Particular Order
- I have been offered the job I interviewed for last week. This is a good thing because it means that next quarter my tuition will be paid, my family will be insured, and I will have more than enough money to pay the rent.
- I have been informed that, even though both jobs are for departments of the same greater institution, I will be able to keep my current job at the library while I have the other job. This is good because it means I will continue to gain valuable experience in an academic library, I will make a little more money, and I will still have a job come spring when the temporary admissions application reading position ends.
- I have been invited to interview for a student librarian job with Seattle Public Library. This is good because it would pay well and would ensure that I can pay the rent through the rest of my graduate education, pretty much. Except I'm not sure I want three jobs next quarter.
- Yesterday FoxyJ had a good day. I count this as a good thing that happened to me not, he says self-consciously, because I count my wife as an extension of me or as my property or any such nonsense, but because I feel happy when I see her happy.
- Tolkien Boy went to the gym with me yesterday. The fact that this is a frequent occurrence does not make it any less good. And I had a particularly good time yesterday.
- Melyngoch, as you know, wrote me a nice email yesterday. This is good because I was having a very crappy morning that literally turned around the moment I read this email.
- This morning I got another, somewhat similar (though not quite so passionate), nice email from a "periodic lurker" of my blog. This is good because I like people who like me.
- Tomorrow FoxyJ is throwing me a birthday party. This is good because I like FoxyJ, and I like my friends.
- When I entered class yesterday wearing my Superman t-shirt under my unbuttoned dress shirt, as I have done for the last five Halloweens, a friend of mine hummed the theme song from Superman. This is good because I like attention.
- According to FoxyJ's aunt, Fox 13 is showing blurbs with footage of me and S-Boogie carving our pumpkin. Apparently the pumpkin-carving special will be on this Sunday's Fox 13 News at Nine. This is good because I like publicity and I am indiscriminate as to how I get it.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Monday, October 30, 2006
This morning I took a look at Jack, still sitting in the same spot I put him on Thursday night--in our heated apartment--and noticed there seemed to be cobwebs in his eyes. "Oh, how very Halloweeny of you, Jack," I said. "Is there a spider living in you already?" And then I looked closer and realized, of course, that it was mold. Which is also Halloweeny, I guess, but in a gross sort of way.
Moral of the story: pumpkins, like kids, should be kept outside.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Working at the library on Sundays has led to two realizations:
1. I kind of sort of miss church. The main reason I told FoxyJ I'd attend church with her as long as she wants to keep going is so that she is not stuck in the position of having to deal alone with two children during sacrament meeting, but I'm finding there is value to attending church services even if I don't necessarily subscribe to all the tenets of LDS doctrine. Yesterday as I read an essay by Molly Welker on why she attends Sunstone symposiums (symposia?) despite the fact that she left the Mormon church years ago, I was surprised to find that many of her reasons for attending Sunstone are my reasons for attending church. She says:
That's what Sunstone offers me: a forum where I can work to identify and embrace the elements of my religious training that help me live with greater spiritual awareness and maturity, which, admittedly, is something you can do at Church. But Sunstone also offers me a forum where I can ask if there have been elements of my training as a Mormon that get in the way of spiritual maturity, which is something you really can't do at Church. For me, it's about deciding, as consciously and deliberately as possible, what I want to keep and what I want to lose--and in order to do that, it helps to be around people who recognize some value in Mormonism to begin with, who don't think religion as a whole and Mormonism in particular are a waste of time.Except in my case, I do find that church is a place I can ask if there are elements of my Mormon training that get in the way of spiritual maturity. I just keep the asking to myself. For the past year I have found myself somewhat distanced from the crowd in church meetings, which takes away from the sense of community I once enjoyed, but it also gives me a cognitive distance that allows me to consider for myself which principles I agree with and which ones I don't. It's easier to build an individual belief system around the framework of an existing group belief system, removing pieces here and adding pieces there, than it would be to start from scratch. As I've been figuring out what I believe over the past year, continuing to attend church has helped me avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
2. I think I believe in the principle of the Sabbath. Working seven days a week (well, working five and going to school the other two, which is in effect the same thing) is too much. I enjoy having a day off to spend with my family. The weekend rotation at the library is such that I'll be off a couple Sundays in November, then all the Sundays in December. I'm going to see what I can do about avoiding the Sunday part of the rotation next quarter. And if I don't want to work on Sundays, it only seems fair of me not to require it of others, so I'm going to make a greater effort to avoid shopping or other activities that make people work on Sundays. Of course, if I don't work Sundays next quarter, then I am asking my coworkers to do so, so maybe I'll have to rethink this. Hm.
3. This realization has nothing to do with working on Sundays, but it is another Mormon principle I'm finding that I agree with. Coffee is the nastiest-tasting beverage on the face of the planet. Why on earth do people drink the stuff voluntarily?
*I'm always nervous to use this word, because no doubt someone will point out that the situation I'm referring to is in fact not ironic in the correct sense of the term; if such be the case, rest assured that, like Alanis Morrisette, I am using the term ironically ironically. Isn't it ironic?
Friday, October 27, 2006
I would like to say that this is a moral decision based on my belief in transparency and honesty, but really it's an economic decision. After a discussion with Th. this evening about how our blogs relate to our writing careers, I've decided that if I want my blog to be a more serious writing endeavor, and I eventually want potential readers and editors and publishers to connect my blog to my name, I'm going to have to actually put it on here.
So this is it. The kid gloves are off. Henceforth, all posts will be serious literary works. No more references to rubber pants, He-Man, or poop. Expect to see here only high-brow, high-culture, high-caliber, high-faluting (notice the preservation of the terminating velarized nasal) essays on such important subjects as world peace, global warming, and international basketweaving. Also expect to see many repetitions of the phrase "Ben Christensen is a sexy beast," so as to lead Googlers searching for those terms here.
And the scary nighttime shot:
Boo! (Sorry if I scared you.)
Oh, and the interview went well, I think.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
I interviewed for a job today in which I would be evaluating undergraduate admissions applications for a large state-run university (I'm self-conscious of the publicness of my blog at the moment, and trying to be careful here). A large portion of the interview was devoted to my feelings on diversity. It's a good thing, as far as this job goes, that I could honestly say that I enjoy being surrounded by people from diverse backgrounds, and that, in fact, I feel more at home in Seattle than I did in Orem because of the diversity here. I was glad, too, that the interviewers seemed to agree with my feeling that diversity means a lot more than racial diversity--the fact that students at the anonymous university in question come from diverse parts of the country, having had diverse life experiences, and representing diverse religions (an interviewer's comment, not mine, and I'm pretty sure she was not just referring to the Church of Satan) makes the student body diverse.
I enjoy diversity and I believe that a person's unique perspective on life, which may very well be related to that person's cultural background, should be one of the factors considered in working to create a student body that promotes a well-rounded learning experience for all involved. Despite my wildheaded liberalness, though, I have my reservations. Of the two practice applications they had me evaluate, the first was a girl who had a 3.9 GPA, good test scores, and lots of extracurricular involvement, including active membership in the NAACP. She also wrote a great essay. If I were making admissions decisions (and, to be clear, even if I get this job I will not be making decisions, just recommendations), she would be accepted in an instant. The second, though, was a guy who had a 2.7 GPA, okay test scores, and an awkward essay about moving to the U.S. from Hong Kong. For fear I would be considered a Euro-centric bigot if I said I didn't think this guy should be admitted, I said it would be a tough decision. I pointed out that he did take a lot of honors and AP classes, even though he didn't do too well in them, which shows that he is a hard worker, unafraid of a challenge. Honestly, though, I had a lot of friends in high school with traditional Chinese parents, and I suspect it's more likely that he took honors and AP classes because his parents forced him to. They might have even chosen his entire class schedule for him. And, you know, for every Chinese immigrant applicant who took hard classes in high school and didn't do well, there are a dozen Chinese immigrant applicants who took hard classes in high school and got a 4.0. And can write a decent essay even though English is their second language.
But then, maybe I'm misjudging my interviewers. Maybe my honest answer is the one they were looking for.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
This weekend marked a milestone: the first two papers I had to write in a year and a half. The first was due Sunday at midnight and I turned it in about 2:30pm, and the other was due today at 5:00pm and I finished it last night. I was not so much worried about writing the papers--I've written enough papers in my life to ensure that I will never forget how to--as I was about finding the time to do so, in addition to the two jobs, the two regular classes, and the distance class. Oh yeah, and the two children and the wife, too. Somehow, we are managing to do everything and still get a decent amount of sleep, and managing to ward off mental illness, thanks to a good neighbor giving Foxy J a reason to go to bed early and an excuse to escape from the little bloodsucking vampire children (and I use the term affectionately) a few hours a week. Sometimes mere survival is a miracle.