Thursday, November 29, 2007

dessert days of parties past

I am up late because I should be going over a last minute oral presentation that I have to give for a group project in one of my classes tomorrow. I had to take part of it over, because unfortunately, one of the younger members of our group wasn't performing up to par. However, instead of going over the power point presentation, I have been reading my journal circa 1999 and reading old emails and trying to remember what it was like to be 21 and irrational so I will gain greater sympathy for this member of our group. It isn't working. Although I was 21 and entirely irrational and entirely incapable of reading between the lines, I also possessed something else at that time that I now lack for all of the rationality that I have gained in that interim. That something was this wonderfully sensing nature, that I lost at some point in time in my life when I stopped trying to feel things too deeply. In fact, I had to stop reading my journal because it was more insightful than anything that I have written in the past couple of years. This is another lesson of why people should think twice before they go to law school. You may gain the ability to organize a well-reasoned argument, but you may lose the ability to intuit the way you once could as well as lose the ability to find meaning in the most seemingly absurd of events. I am not sure that the trade off is entirely worth it. I mean, I may be able to prove my point in the most reasonable of terms, but what is the point if you don't feel things as you once did?

A couple of Fridays ago, on PBS as a part of Bill Moyers' show, they played an interview that he had done with Desmond Tutu several years ago. I watched it and thought of how Tutu's book, No Future without Forgiveness, came out at just the right time in my life - November of 1999 after sustaining what was a pretty significant heartbreak in a most unexpected way. After seeing this old interview, I pulled the book out of one of my box of books in the basement and scanned the passages that I underlined at that time, to remind me of the good that human beings are capable of. I was so earnest and sincere at that time. Fortunately, I haven't sustained any heartbreaks in quite the same way lately (nor do I hope that I ever will again, thank you David James), but I feel like I need some other Desmond Tutu moment. Just something that I read to be the exact right thing to help me back into that sensitive state of mind where I once existed. I haven't had a book moment like that since perhaps the Erich Fromm phase of 2002. And I have read many, many books since then.

It is just these days, sometimes I can say something that seems entirely rational, but that can make everyone in the room think I am the most frightfully nasty person ever. Sometime since 2002, some strange phenomenon intervened that interferred with my ability to sense other people's feelings as well. Perhaps I just stopped trying, for the sake of an excuse to persist in crafting this expectation of a perfectly rational world around me. Maybe it is the political climate of the country since 2002; Bush's rhetoric about trying to create, through military means, the world that he views as best has affected my own personal interactions in an unconscious way that I would not have predicted from all of my rants against that precise foreign policy approach.

Maybe I just stopped reading that 8 year old journal because it reminded me that I used to feel so much about so many things in the world around me, that frankly, I have tuned out because I have become rooted in this practical existence. But reading it, I just realized how much I wanted to write like that again, but I need to feel like that again, first.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

November 27 is here.

It is the day that officially allow myself to begin listening to Christmas music (as it is the day after my sister's birthday). This really didn't mean much in years past, but since the release of Sufjan Stevens' Christmas Collection, November 27 is officially one of my favorite days.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

It is a blue day

Today was a good sports day.

BYU beat Utah in football to win the Mountain West. However, North Carolina beat BYU in basketball to win the Las Vegas Invitational Tournament. All is right with the world.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thankful

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I have been thinking of some things for which I am thankful. One of those things is not that I am spending the Friday after Thanksgiving working on a very annoying legal research assignment. However, in engaging in some failproof procrastination, I was reminded of something in my life of which I am quite thankful, by running across an article on Yahoo about evangelicals and Mitt Romney that ultimately led me to this so called devotional who wrote that voting for Mitt Romney for President is the equivalent of casting a vote for the Prince of Darkness. Now this isn't because of any policy position or anything particularly evil in deed that Romney has done in his life. Nope. It is based solely on Mitt Romney's faith, which happens to be a faith which I also share. Wow. There is so much in that article that I don't even know where to begin. But here are a few highlights written by this pastor:

"I have been warning you for years now about this cult born out of the pits of hell and responsible for sending millions of souls to eternal damnation. For the nearly 200 years this cult has been in existence they have strived for mainstream acceptance. They are the most devious of all the cults since they have always tried to portray themselves as "just another Christian group" when in fact, they are no more Christian than a Muslim is! Their deception starts with their name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Sounds like a Christian church doesn't it?"

I always want to ask people who think of my chosen faith as a cult, what exactly is the qualification of a cult versues an actual religious denomination? Also, what qualifies upstate New York as "the pits of hell"? I mean, I guess upstate gets alot of snow in the winter, and that doesn't sound so heavenly to me, but hell, really?

"Knowing the satanic nature of the Mormon cult and the fact they have worldwide resources in the tens of billions, literally thousands of non profit and for profit corporations they control, it would be pocket change for them to funnel money and/or services to those Christian leaders who support Romney for President. Having been embarrassed when their ties to Moon's cult became public, I have no doubt that those who are in bed with Romney have been very careful to insure that however they are being rewarded for their support, it will be virtually impossible to discover.
Of course, the other component to those who are supporting Romney is power. Sadly, many evangelical leaders are also smitten with being "near the throne." Many of these men and women are willing to compromise the Truth in exchange for political power. They are willing to ignore the fact this hideous cult is leading millions to hell in order to be part of Romney's team. These leaders are nor driven by the Gospel but by political power!"


Well, now this guy is making allegations that our tithing money is being used to reward evangelicals who are supporting Romney's candidacy, because obviously, my church is financially supporting Romney's candidacy. Wow. Not only is this a conspiracy theory that even seems to insane for Oliver Stone to concoct, but if that were true, then that would mean that all Mormons are on a single-handed mission to make Mitt Romney president. Well, I am sorry to contradict this theory, but I am a Mormon who not only isn't supporting the Romney bid for the White House, but who also breathes a sigh of relief every Sunday before election day when we hear the statement read from the First Presidency that affirms the church's political neutrality. If only every other church had the same position, then perhaps we wouldn't have to listen to so-called men of God proclaim their political positions under the banner of religion. Of course, I am not so confident that other leaders necessarily want to encourage their flock to think for themselves, though.

The person who runs this so-called LivePrayer.com website really doesn't dignify a comment about this (after all, he also showed his complete lack of dignity by another so-called devotional that Govenor Romney show him his underwear, oh and then he directed another devotion to Ann Romney to tell her about how Mormonism doesn't understand the role of women). I keep trying to remind myself of this week's Sunday School lesson on the book of James and his counsel regarding controlling our tongues and being slow to wrath, because "pure religion" is accompanied by bridled tongues.

After all, this Jim Keller, who manages this LivePrayer.com shows what his real intent is on every page of his website:

"***TO GIVE A GIFT TO LIVEPRAYER, you can use your major credit card on our secure server at: www.liveprayer.com under the "Donation" link, you can give using your PayPal account using my email address: bkeller@liveprayer.com , or you can mail your gift to:
Liveprayer 6660 46th Ave. North St. Petersburg, Fl 33709
All gifts to Liveprayer are 100% tax deductible. "

It makes me upset to read such horrible things about my beliefs, but only for a brief moment. First of all, the concept of hell that Mr. Keller believes in isn't actually one that I find comforting at all. The plan of salvation that I believe in, after all, isn't based solely on faith, but actually on the concept that we as human beings are capable of doing great good in this world. My faith looks for good in the actions of others, because I believe that any good gift is actually a gift from God. I actually end up feeling even happier and luckier than I did before. Not only am I lucky to be able to believe in a Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ with whom I can have a personal relationship, but I am also not afraid of giving other people the right to worship, or not worship, God how they choose. My faith doesn't have to rely on spreading fear and telling other people that you know what they believe better than they do. I feel lucky that I do believe that Gordon B. Hinckley is a prophet. I have never heard anything hateful or vengeful coming out of his mouth. True religion and pure religion isn't based upon such things. If you have to yell to be heard, then chances are, what you have to say probably isn't very powerful.

There are times in my life when I have felt ashamed, and even apologetic for the things that I claimed to believe. While being the first to acknowledge that I do not have all of the answers, nor am I anywhere close to perfect, what I do have now is a calmness and reassurance about what I believe. I still don't know how to talk about it with others. I don't want to offend anyone, nor do I wish to set myself up as someone else's punching bag for fun. But if I hear someone spreading false information about my faith, I certainly won't say nothing. I know how much happiness has come to me as I have learned and grown in my faith.

How can anyone, who hasn't felt what I have felt, tell me that I am wrong, that I made it all up?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I am not a Husky.

Last night, David was so proud of me. For one evening, I actually played the part of a good fiancee and suspended my own personal biases and cheered for Utah's basketball the team. The weird part is that it wasn't that difficult. Apparently, I have alot of animosity towards the University of Washington, even though this is the school that I currently am attending. Last night at the Preseason NIT tournament game that we attended, I screamed, probably for the only time in my life, "Go Utes," and actually meant it.

Background: I have hated the University of Utah basketball team since 1998 when they beat North Carolina in the Final Four. When it comes to basketball teams, I don't forgive and forget.

When I went to the game, I thought that I would be apathetic as to who would win the game. I thought, either way I wouldn't really care because both teams were mediocre and irrelevant. However, I hadn't been sitting in my seat for longer than five minutes, when I realized how much I was going to cheer for Utah. As the game progressed, the reasons for this unexpected situation became clearer:

1. The Washington Student Section - These kids modeled themselves on the Cameron Crazies, as if someone had videotaped what those Duke morons do throughout the entire game, and the Husky student section did the exact same obnoxious activities. If you are going to be ridiculous and obnoxious, at least get your own schtick.

2. The Other Washington Fans - It is so unsurprising that UW is a school with no basketball tradition. Their fans are complete idiots. They booed the ref for making all sorts of obvious, fundamental calls. Sorry fans, it actually is called offensive goaltending to hit the ball in when it is sitting on the rim; Oh, and if your player slides across the floor (and hence travels) and ends up on the sideline, and then is subsequently bumped into by a Utah player, it isn't a foul if your player is out of bounds. Carrying the ball is still illegal. Everytime a Washington player gets called for a foul, it isn't the worst call ever made in the history of sports. My view is this - of you are going to have any credibility when it comes to booing the actual bad calls, you can't boo everytime the whistle blows and it goes against your team.

3. Cheering against UW seems to be the only outlet that I have right now for airing my grievances about a few very terrible professors that I have at UW that I am just shocked ever were permitted to become professors. I take my education seriously, and I just get so frustrated with lazy, poor teaching that it engenders in me this irrational hatred for your university's stupid basketball team.

Utah ended up losing, which was easy enough to get over (particularly because North Carolina survived a scare to beat Davidson in their season opener earlier in the day, and nothing about basketball can piss me off too much on a day that North Carolina wins), and I told David that he should remember the occasion when I actually cheered for Utah.

A note on Point #3: I am actually looking forward to Winter Quarter, because I will have two professors, that I hear are actually good teachers. The downside to this is that the two professors that I will have for my three classes Winter Quarter are both Duke grads. Yes, in the middle of college basketball season, my academic fate will be controlled by two Duke grads. This has me worried. My mom has already told me that I need to keep my mouth shut. I don't know what is wrong with me, but I haven't found the button that I can push that keeps me from shooting my mouth off. Its really bad.

Note: There is another occasion upon which I might cheer for Utah - if they ever play Duke.

But back to this whole concern with my lack of control over my mouth, I don't know why, but this has gotten worse lately. I like to think that I used to be a nice person, but maybe I just lacked self-awareness before. Now, I feel like these ridiculous things come out of my mouth all of the time because I see flaws everywhere. Perhaps if I wasn't so much of a perfectionist I wouldn't expect a perfectly well-ordered world around me, and get so frustrated when my expectations are not met. It is certainly the downside of being an idealist (and the same reason I don't buy into Barack Obama's candidacy, I just think that its necessarily a realistic way to approach the world).

This post has gone so far afield from my original thoughts about basketball. Basketball season just has this unintended effect of making me accutely introspective.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Gastroenteritis and other Childhood Pursuits

Last night on what was probably the last Curb Your Enthusiasm ever, Larry stated at the Gastroenterologist's office, "I am not an inventor. I am an improver." Amen, Larry. Amen. I particularly liked that Larry ended up with Vivica A. Fox who finally was able to out curse Susie in a curse off.

I also read a book this weekend that I couldn't put down, The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic - and How It Changed Modern Science, Cities, and the Modern World, by Steven Johnson. If anyone else was a kid like me who was obsessed with infectuous diseases, then this may be a good book for you. It puts a fascinating cholera epidemic in an interesting historical context, and you are guaranteed never to think about modern plumbing and sewage disposal systems the same way. On days when I think I don't have anything to be grateful for, all I need to think about is how lucky I am not to have a cesspool of human filth in my basement.

For a look at what is emerging in the area of infectious disease, why not take a look at what's new on the CDC's Emerging Infectious Disease page? Or take a look at the International Society for Infectious Disease page where you can get updates about worldwide outbreaks emailed to you.

On a related note, my favorite other site to check from my childhood career ambitions is the USGS World Earthquakes Map where you can spot out seismic activity all over the world. It makes me want to watch the National Geographic movie, "Born of Fire" right now!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Swell

I am a fan of the movie Once. So last night, I was really excited to see The Swell Season, at the Moore Theater. The Swell Season, of course, is Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova accompanied by a bassist, violinst, and a cellist. They are even more charming in person than they are in their film. However, something about their music is so weighty, that I feel like I will still have the sensation of someone sitting upon my chest days from now. Perhaps it is because of Glen Hansard's voice; perhaps it is the cello; perhaps it is that their music conjures up ghosts (more of the Irish and not Scottish variety); perhaps it is that Marketa is Czech and it inevitably reminds me of the Czech writer, Milan Kundera, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and the whole dichotomy of weight versus lightness. But now that I am older I do believe that it is quite possible to feel weight and lightness all in the same moment, although I am not entirely sure whether that is a good or bad thing.

Monday, November 05, 2007

What I am least looking forward to about college basketball season:

The phrase, now used as a word, "stick-to-it-tive-ness".

What annoying commentator first coined that expression?

Other than that, I can't wait to see the Tarheels play my old wannabe alma mater Davidson next Wednesday night! I am counting down the days.

Television Symbiosis

A couple of weeks ago I wrote on my blog about how sad Curb Your Enthusiasm has become and how excited I was that My So-Called Life was being re-released on DVD. In a weird convergence of my prior television post, Winnie Holzman guest starred as Cheryl's therapist on last night's episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Winnie Holzman, of course, is the creator of My So-Called Life, who sometimes appeared in the series as the school guidance counselor, Ms. Kryzanowski.



Apparently my blogs have predictive power for the future.