Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Shakeress

by Kimberley Heuston

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).

Dear Children of the World,

Contrary to what Dora the Explorer would have you believe, you should never ever ride on a ferris wheel that has just been repaired by a Spanish-speaking parrot, especially if the parrot needed you to tell him where the long pieces go and where the short pieces go.

Sincerely,

Master Fob

Sidekicks


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.

Zero

Today was my last day at Fobanna. Yay!

I pray I'll never have to work retail again.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Testing

Why can I post here but not on the Foblog?

Another Untitled Post

As part of my training for my new position as an admissions application reader, I've been assessing applications from last year's batch. I came across one yesterday in which the applicant mentioned in his personal statement that he is one of few openly gay students at his high school. That struck a chord with me for the same reason David Levithan's books about openly and happily gay teenagers do--I see in these stories an opportunity missed.

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

Because Thanksgiving Can Last All Year Long

Today I am thankful for the shopping cart in the Target parking lot that kept my new $15 windshield wiper safe for the 45 minutes it took me to drive home, unload all my other purchases from the trunk, realize I didn't have the wiper, and drive back to Target. I am also thankful for my new $15 windshield wiper that, true to its extravagant pricing, actually wipes liquid off my windshield.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Shocking Statistics

The pregnancy rate among girls between 12 and 19 is more than double that of boys in the same age group.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

At What Point Does One's Life Become a Parody of Itself?

Is it when one's three-year-old daughter has to go to the emergency room because she's shoved a plastic bead up her nostril? Not that I can complain, really--I get to stay home with Little Dude while FoxyJ has the joy of making the hospital trip with the culprit.

The Runaway Runaway Bunny


...

"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

Judgment Day is Not as Tasty as I Anticipated


Mostly it tasted like hard marshmallows and mushy graham crackers. But, to be sure, the patrons of the s'morehouse learned their lesson.

Do You Believe in Magic?

I don't. I'd like to, but I really don't.

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;
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!
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.

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

If all the emails I get are true

then the Today Show really needs to get some new subject matter. I swear, they talk at least once a week about how Microsoft is paying people to forward emails.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Wide Awake

by David Levithan

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.

I don't like being teased

Last week Blogger started inviting me to switch to Beta. Only when I clicked on the link it told me I couldn't, the only explanation being a link to a default explanation that says blogs with more than a couple thousand posts can't make the switch yet. Hello? Three hundred fifty-something is not a couple thousand. At any rate, the invitation disappeared after a few days, but now it's reappeared, and it still won't let me actually do it. I'm going to be the last kid on my block using the old Blogger, and everyone will make fun of me. The jerks.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Twelve Fobs of Christmas Delayed by Facts

One of the clearest childhood Christmas memories I have is of sneaking up to someone's doorstep in the dark, dropping a package--with cutout magazine letters describing the contents thereof--on the doorstep, then ringing the doorbell and running like crazy to get back to the family car without being spotted. Nowadays you get arrested by the FBI for such behavior, but in that innocent age it was mostly overlooked. At least a couple Christmases during my formative years, my family did the twelve days of Christmas for another family, either because they were in need or just because we liked them. Starting twelve days before Christmas and every day thereafter until Christmas, we would get some kind of gift to match the day, come up with a clever line or two to decorate the brown paper grocery bag, and make the delivery each night without getting caught. I enjoyed this not so much for the warm fuzzy feeling of having done something nice as for the piped-up adrenaliney feeling of being sneaky. A couple years ago, FoxyJ and I did something similar for a family that lived upstairs from us, and I enjoyed it just as much.

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

Amazon.com Speaks Out Against Cruelty to Stockings

Bad Idea, Good Idea

Bad idea: Waking up in the middle of the night to scream at Mommy for no apparent reason.

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

Papers Due (Updated, With a List of Things to Do)

4 down, 0 to go.

To do:
  • 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.
  • Breathe.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

(Fobsvithe) On Sincerity

If I were a more sincere person, I would not be nice to people to their faces, then say rude things about them on my blog (or elsewhere)--I would be rude to them to their faces. Until I'm ready to live that higher law, though, I'm going to try harder not to say mean things about people behind their backs, even if I secretly think those things.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

King Peasant of the Hill

This morning I rode my bike up the very steep hill for the second time. I figured a Saturday morning when the hill is untrafficked and I'm underdressed for the cold weather would be a prime opportunity. I dropped to first gear and rode up the sidewalk so as not to get in the way of cars driving up, and kept going even when I wanted to get off the bike and walk. It wasn't too horribly bad.

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

Pride

Napoleon Dynamite can have his nunchuk skills. After a couple months of working at Fobanna's, I've come to take pride in my giftwrapping skills. Fobanna herself will tell customers that I do a better job than she does. (Never mind the fact that she hasn't ever said a sincere word to a customer, to my knowledge.)

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.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The True Meaning of Self-Control:

When you're having a piece of chocolate pecan pie before bed, and you don't have a glass of milk with it because you know you'll want that milk with your cereal in the morning, and the 3-minute trip to the grocery store to get more isn't worth the effort.

The Secret Equation of Happiness

Sleepy Baby=Sleepy Mommy + Sleepy Daddy=Parental Ability to Deal with Difficult Toddler During the Day=Happy Fob Family

Today will not be a Happy Fob Family day.