Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Post 899, In Which I Do Not Blaspheme

Today was International Blasphemy Day. The purpose of the day is "to remind the world that religion should never again be beyond open and honest discussion." I support the principle behind the occasion--it is important to protect the right of free speech that has so often been denied by religious authorities with more power than they should have had, and it is equally important to remember that ideas are not immune to criticism simply because they are based in faith--but I have chosen not to participate. I have little respect for religion itself and not much more for most religious organizations, but I respect and love a lot of religious people. If I were to blaspheme publicly for the sake of blaspheming, I might succeed in making the statement the day is meant to make, but I would also likely offend many people I've no reason or desire to offend.

A couple of years ago a close friend of mine observed that I "care about people more than ideologies or institutions"; as this came from someone whose opinion I value very highly, I was quite flattered by her observation. I don't know that it's always true--I often let my ideologies get in the way of my concern for people--but I certainly try to make it true. Ideals are important to me, but ultimately I believe the living, breathing human being standing in front of me is far more important than whatever ideology separates us.

That said, I believe it's for the good of the world that there are also people who are willing to offend, to be in-your-face and confrontational in order to make the rest of us question our ideologies. I simply am not one of these people and couldn't be if I tried; confrontation makes me physical sick, knowing that I've offended someone makes it impossible for me to think of anything but that offense for days or weeks thereafter. If everyone in the world were so weak-kneed, we might never have any wars, but we might also never effect meaningful change. I like to think there's room in this world for both warriors and peacemakers. If it doesn't offend you, I'll stick to being the latter of the two.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Solemn Occasion

This evening FoxyJ brought my attention to the fact that 2009 marks the 75th anniversary of a very important event that forever changed the world: the invention of briefs. As you can read about in this press release (with informational video!), in 1934, the underwear company that would later become Jockey created a new style of men's underwear, inspired by French bathing suits, and then there was no turning back. We here at the Fobcave salute you, Jockey, for your outstanding contribution to humanity--especially the manity part of it.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

No Going Back

No Going Back by Jonathan Langford was a hard book for me to read. It brought me back all too vividly to my life as a teenage gay Mormon, being torn apart by my religion on one side and my sexual orientation on the other, and all the unpleasantness that entailed. Fifteen-going-on-sixteen-year-old Paul's story is hardly an exact replica of mine--Paul's is much more interesting--but he and teenage me have enough in common that immersing myself in his world was very much like taking a trip back to my youth. I haven't felt so angsty in a long time. Despite that discomfort, or more likely because of it, I found myself not wanting to put the book down. I flew through a year and a half of young Paul's life in less than three days, and would have done so quicker if not for distractions like work and sleep.

I was a little hesitant going into No Going Back because I knew it was written from an orthodox Mormon view of homosexuality--that homosexual feelings are not a sin but homosexual behavior is--and over the past several years I have come to have very strong objections to this point of view (the latter part, not the former). I was happy to find, though, that I don't mind reading fiction written from a perspective opposed to my own, so long as the author doesn't warp his presentation of reality in order to support that viewpoint. Langford's novel is, as a blurb on the back states, a "thoroughly orthodox" Mormon novel in that the main characters remain loyal to orthodox Mormon doctrine, but he places them in a world that rings true to the world I see, where other characters are just as loyal to other beliefs (including several who fall closer to my own), and none of them are portrayed two-dimensionally. Just about every character, from the protagonist to his straight best friend to his mom and the bishop and the members of the high school gay-straight alliance, breathes with the life only an author's love can infuse. I certainly don't get the sense that Langford thinks any less of his non-Mormon characters than his Mormon ones. If anyone is portrayed unsympathetically, it's the members of Paul's priests' quorum who ridicule him for being a "faggot."

An English professor of mine liked to talk about good novels being both a mirror and a window (and I'm sure he got this concept from someone else, but I don't feel like looking it up). As a former gay Mormon teenager, I can safely say that this book does a good job of providing me a mirror--perhaps too well. An added strength of the book, though, is that it does not spend all its time in Paul's head. Much of the narration is devoted to Paul's best friend, his mother, his bishop, and several other characters. I enjoyed the windows this provided me into what it might be like to be a gay kid's straight friend, or to be a gay kid's mother, and so on. And lest we think the world revolves around angsty gay teenagers, each of these characters is developed beyond his or her role in relation to Paul, so we get equally enlightening glimpses into the lives of a woman going through a mid-life crisis, a man trying to balance his various roles, a kid struggling in school. This is what good novels do--they help us better understand ourselves and others.

Every now and then I read something that reflects a part of me so accurately that I want to tell everyone I care about, "Here, read this! You will understand this part of me in ways I'm incapable of making you understand." I had that experience with Alan Rex Mitchell's Angel of the Danube, a novel I read shortly after serving an LDS mission in Europe, when all other portrayals of LDS missionary life I saw were so different from what I'd known. I had the same experience when reading the antepenultimate chapter of Robert Mayer's Superfolks, at a time when I knew few would understand, when I hardly understood my reasons for returning to a heterosexual marriage when there were untapped universes of homosexual relationships to explore. No Going Back doesn't reflect my life as it is now, but it reflects a part of my life--and based on my emotional reaction, a part I still haven't fully recovered from--in such a way that makes me want to shove it in front of everyone I know and insist they read it. I won't actually do that (I've never been very good at proselytizing), but I will say that I think the book is worth your time.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Two Sins in One Post

I know this is both (1) tasteless and, even worse, (2) obvious, but I can't not say it:

Do you think he'll come back and use Whoopi Goldberg's body to make out with Demi Moore?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Just keep your eyes on the final hour

It's 9/9/09. And 9:09 am!


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

One of those days...

You know, when you can't find your Flash bookmark so you have to use your Wonder Woman bookmark even though it's a Flash book? Yeah, one of those.