Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

As a celebration of our 100th post, the Expert Textperts decided that this year we are setting our resolutions here, where we may or may not actually stand accountable for them. January 1st is upon us, so we also decided it would be best to share our resolutions with anyone desperately looking for resolution ideas.

Brooke and Casey's joint resolutions:
  • Eat more awesome foods (maybe try Schwarma?).
  • Watch more movies (our Oscar prep this year has been dismal).
  • We should probably do better at FHE too.
  • Maintain our frankly laudable date-night record.
  • Finally, finally finish reading Sarah Vowel's Unfamiliar Fishes together (it's our designated "road trip" book, only we keep forgetting to bring and/or read it when we road trip, meaning our progress has been painfully slow).

Monday, December 24, 2012

An Expert Texperts Christmas

For those of us coming from a mainstream western Christian tradition, today is Christmas Eve. I've been wanting to do a Christmas post for a while now, but I couldn't settle on a single idea, so instead I'm going to offer a fruitcake-like amalgamation of all the ideas spinning in my mind.

• The best Christmas album of all time is by John Denver and the Muppets, and I defy you to say otherwise.
• "Last Christmas (I Gave You My Heart)" is not a Christmas song. Sure, it uses the word "Christmas" and allude to giving gifts, but there's a difference between setting and content. However, with lyrics so asinine and otherwise completely forgettable, I can't blame it for clinging to the one thing that keeps it on the radio.
• That being said, if a film is set in Christmas--even if it only begins or ends during the Christmas season--it is a Christmas movie.
• (From observing the in-laws): Just because your wife put Die Hard on the pile of Christmas DVDs does not necessarily mean she actually considers it a Christmas movie, much less that she's willing to watch it on Christmas eve.
• "Jingle Bell Rock" has, sadly, not lived up to it's name in recent years. Or...decades.
• Christmas lights, when properly applied, can be very classy looking. Christmas lights, when improperly applied, can have all the class of a Potterville strip club.
• Watch small children sing Christmas carols. Deliver cookies to your neighbors. Visit someone you haven't seen in months (or years). These are just a few of the many alternatives to talking about politics at the dinner table.

Well, time to get back to the relatives. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tooting the Horn

So if memory serves I might have already posted a version of my review of the film 17 Miracles . . . But whether I did or didn't, that one doesn't matter anymore. Now I have been published officially in BYU Studies. I am actually quite glad that I can fill out a citation on my CV (academic resume), that can look something like this.

Davis, Allan. "17 Miracles (film review)." BYU Studies 54, no. 4 (2012), 185-89.

So yes, I am tooting my own horn. This is my way of celebrating after finishing a week in which I wrote 70 pages of my own work while also grading 50 finals and 50 projects in the midst of holiday/end of the year parties. It was eventful, but I'm exhausted. If you would like to read my published review of the film 17 Miracles, click here. It should take you to the PDF of the document. If that link doesn't work, try this one and download the free PDF when you get there. Again, huzzah, and happy holidays.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Conflict of the Century of the Week

Anybody who follows the Mormon blogging world or just Mormon internet culture has probably seen a great disturbance of late, one of near-cataclysmic proportions. I confess, my views on the topic are good deal more in-depth than I care to get into, and I would never pretend that all the participants are somehow equally at fault or that there aren't real issues at stake. There are good, bad, and worse guys (and, obviously, girls) here. Regular readers (shut up, we have a few) can probably guess where I stand, but others have said about all there is to say at this point. Still, it's just crazy to me that on post after post and on various Facebook threads I'm seeing so much of this:

...over this:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Love One Another

This is happening.

Today the LDS Church rolled out a brand new website: Let me tell you why this is awesome. Firstly, the very first thing you see at the top of the page (under the logo) is: Love One Another. This is the only context in which this and many other topics should be discussed.

I've been pushing for a little while now (much more online than in "real life," and for that I am sorry) that the basic idea here is love. The conversation doesn't need to be about whether you leave a family member behind, or whether they leave you behind. The question for Christians should be: Do I, like Christ told me to, love this person? There are several videos on the Mormons and Gays website, one of which is called Greg. He said, "homosexuality, that may be such a huge part of how we perceive that person, in reality is just a minor part... I had better not allow a little piece of what they are to become an alienation factor."

The Mormon Newsroom article about the launch of the website quotes Elder Cook, who said,"Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach."

Scott Pilgrim for social justice!

In the end, that's all we need to do. Disregard the political, as several groups have done, and remember that we're here to emulate Christ. We need to reach out and love everyone, not only the LGBTQ community, but everyone. Love the people you hated in high school. Love your siblings that you can't seem to agree with. Love your families, friends, extended families, strangers. We could all take a lesson from the Amish people who forgave and loved the family who needed the most help.

To anyone who thinks this is a negative thing or a push to get tithes from LGBT, I say, I'm sorry you feel that way. The support community is buzzing with excitement, and I'm feeling it too.

That's all.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The 4 Most (Least) Likely Candidates for Secretary of State

With Secretary Hilary Clinton stepping down as Secretary of State in January, the Obama administration is looking at possible replacements. I understand this process can be difficult, so, I am going to help them out. I ask nothing in return except for a brief mention in a newsroom speech and a personal fleet of Predator drones.

Candidate #1: Enraged Elderly Conservative Internet Comment Writer
"What do you think, Mabel?"
"It needs more expletives, Gerald."
Pros: If we're going to heal this nation, we need our officials to begin reaching across the aisle. What better way to do that than to reach waaaaay across the aisle? I can almost see the state department press releases now: "On behaalf of "president" Barrack HUSSEIN Obummer..."
Cons: I'm almost certain there's some prophecy in the Revelation of St. John about this exact situation.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

On Facial Hair, or Shaving Ordinances

(Disclaimer: I started writing this post before I saw BCC's similarish post, so please don't get after me for intellectual infringement or anything. kthanx)

Well, it's that time of year when some guys grow out mustaches to raise money for testicular cancer (Movember), some guys finally get that rugged mountain man look they've been going for (Novembeard), and some just realize that they can skip shaving for the month in order to devote more time to studies, Netflix, etc. (No Shave November/Noshember).

As I pondered the power of November on shaving, I was thinking how great it is that any and all church leaders as well as male students here on the BYU-Idaho campus are so clean shaven. After all, a clean shave is the height of professionalism.

Right, Don?

Oh wait, what I meant to say was that a clean shave was the height of professionalism in the 1960s. Looking over the commonly shown pictures of all the LDS Presidents of the Church, you can see that David O. McKay was the first after seven presidents in a row to ditch facial hair. He became president in 1951 and held the office until his death in 1970. His change was perhaps the catalyst for the beardless LDS congregations so prevalent today.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Election Reactions Explained by GIFs

Well it's over, and by now everybody's had time to digest the election results. Liberals are satisfied but not overly confident following a narrow but solid electoral victory. Conservatives are calmly and stoically assessing how to best put forth their ideas as a loyal opposition party...haha, just kidding, everybody's losing their minds on the cusp of four more years under a centrist Democrat /Muslim communist radical president (depending on your perspective). Mine is not to judge whether the more jubilant or apocalyptic election reactions are correct; instead, I seek to describe what I've seen in the most informative and succinct manor I know: animated GIFs. So here it is, my list of of the whos and hows of the 2012 election! For best results, give it a minute to load before scrolling further.

My reaction

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Welfare and Charity, God and Government

I want to respond to line of argument I've read many times, most recently here (note: the author was good enough to comment below), about the relationship between charity and welfare, and how that ties in with the role of religion in government. Many conservatives and libertarians oppose government run welfare programs on the grounds that they force individuals to engage in "charitable" giving against their will, thus undermining the entire purpose of charity. The implication is often that supporters of government "charity" do so in lieu of their own actions, forcing a counterfeit charity on the unwilling and congratulating themselves for it. Not only does this undermine agency, the argument goes, it's downright hypocritical!

That type of argument, while cogent, misunderstands the purpose of social welfare as I see it, and also relies on potentially troublesome assumptions about the roles of God and government--assumptions that liberals are often guilty of making as well. I take seriously the injunction to "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's," which I take to mean that earthly affairs of government are separate from the affairs of God. The conflict arises from confusing or mixing the two.

Sometimes the conflict is awesome.

Friday, October 26, 2012

In Fairness: A Post About Obama

In reviewing my additions to this blog, I've realized that, where politics are concerned, I've had a habit of magnifying the faults of conservative issues while largely defending (or, at times, ignoring) those of liberal issues.  I think this has been a result of my own shifting political allegiances; as I've grown more distant from the far-right rhetoric I enjoyed as a teenager, I've taken more issue with it, and as I've developed tentative liberal beliefs I've tried to bolster them.  This is entirely self-serving and biased, of course, but I don't think I've ever been too reserved about that.

In particular, I've been quite kind to the Obama administration.  While I took great pains in pointing out what I didn't like about each of the candidates in the Republican primaries, I gave President Obama a relative tongue-bathing in our recent political roundtable.

Pictured: Journalism

Monday, October 22, 2012

Christmas Blessing (a Missionary Story)

I want to take a break from my usual routine of satire and silliness to tell my Christmas story. I know it's a little early for that sort of thing, but this actually took place in October too. It was 2006; I was a missionary serving in Charleston, South Carolina.

It was a rough time for a number of reasons. My companion was affable but mostly uninterested in missionary work, and after seven weeks of shouldering most of the workload alone and without success I was tired and frustrated. I was right in the middle of my two year service, long enough that it was hard to remember not having been a missionary, but with the end still very far away. Not that I was counting down the days: I liked many of the people we met, and Charleston was beautiful area. Still, those were long, stressful days, sometimes even depressing ones.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Political Roundup: The Highly Debatable Edition

And now, the only news that you ever need to read, from the source so unbiased we make a random number generator look like a weighted random number generator.

-After a long hiatus, election season is finally upon us, and gentlemen of good birth are turning their attention to affairs of state, with the first presidential debate held last week. Men of taste unanimously declared Msr. Willard Romney, esq, the runaway winner, citing his "superior elocution," "magnificently rounded calves," and "numerous servants" compared to "that tawdry, swarthy-looking fellow."

-The debate covered topics ranging from healthcare to tax policy, although a CNN panel of undecided voters complained that it sometimes got "a little too, you know, fact-y" and reportedly spent most of the time arguing among themselves whether Coke Zero or Diet Coke was "bubblier."

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Times They are a Changin': Missionary Edition

Day One of General Conference is over, and I think we're all convinced nothing can happen tomorrow that would top today (although Holland hasn't spoken yet...)

Meanwhile the girl next to him is texting her bishop for an interview...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Politics Done Right

Today was the day you were all waiting for - the Presidential Debate. After all this tip-toeing around, we can finally get some straight answers from the candidates. I've found some of the best clips of both Romney and the POTUS to help you make your decision this election year.

Mitt gets gritty right off the bat, "So many people are rubbing on their messy parts. It's awful, awkward, and germy." and, "I'll chop a squid and mash a pickle and make you drink it." He asks the deep questions, "Is that your underwear up there?" "You gotta ask a black boy, who did it?" and, "Are you a rapist?" He also addresses the hard hitting issues, "Old people are stinky - spike their drink." and most importantly, "Yo momma can't reach my body and touch it. It's my body, ya see?"

Friday, September 28, 2012

Gritty Reboots of Common Conference Stories

I wondered recently in the comments section of Casey's recent post what would happen if cliched conference stories weren't repeated, but rather, rebooted?

We came up with a couple of examples then and there. Casey began:

As streaks of blood obscured his vision, he saw his arm dangling by its last few sinews. The spiritual crocodile slowly approached, and he knew it would only be moments before it finally snapped his neck.
I followed it up with this:

The boy stared at the brine. He wanted--no, needed--to repeat the daily routine, the agrarian chores that were once his bane, but now, his one connection to reality. He pushed back the flood of memories--his father's sordid ties to drug peddlers and crimeland kingpins, his mother's heroin-addled madness, the murdered cop in the trunk of the family car--and laughed. It was an eerie, animalistic laugh, one more fit for an asylum than a barn.With a swift jerk of his arm, he pulled a cucumber from the salty water and whispered, "How alike we are, humans and pickles."

So, consider this post an open call for your own gritty reboots. Write 'em up, long or short, and post them in the comments section, or let us all know which stories are your favorites--or which conference stories are begging for a reboot.

I'll kick things off with a longer story. Picture it, if you will, in the voice of Boyd K. Packer.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

You're Doing it Wrong

Well folks, the day we've all been waiting for has finally arrived.

Mitt Romney finally released his tax returns, and now everyone can ditch the mud-flinging campaign strategies we're all so tired of.

Wait, what's that Democrats? You're not happy with the release of his returns? Well why not?

Turns out, everybody is just looking for a way to nitpick at the other side. I have a piece of advice for you nitpickers. I have literally picked nits out of a girl's hair for hours. It's not fun. So why do we endlessly nitpick at people we don't even like?

I'll tell you why. Maybe, just maybe, it's because nobody likes what's happening on their own side. Maybe if the Democrats were satisfied with what's happening in office at present, they wouldn't feel the need to pick apart the other side and point out what they're doing wrong. They could talk about what's going right, and in the harsh light of day, we'd have to admit that maybe the POTUS is doing the right stuff. We'd all vote Obama and Romney would have to wait another 4 years.

Of course, we all pick at what the other side does right, too... Must... not... invalidate argument... 

I do not mean to say that the Republicans are doing a great job either. If they had a candidate who they felt would win in a landslide, they might not have to rip apart the Democrats and their strategy.

Long story short, I think everyone is doing it wrong. Anyone have ideas on how to do it right?

Friday, September 21, 2012

General Conference: What are the Odds?

LDS General Conference is just a few short weeks away, and for those of you involved in the flourishing Mormon gambling community (that's a thing, right?) I thought I'd get the jump an all the other oddsmakers by presenting my official General Conference Odds, October 2012 Edition. Whether you're taking a trip to Wendover (be sure your hotel has BYU TV!) or working through the Elders Quorum bookie, this will give you the advantage over your lesser-prepared peers.

(In case you're somehow unfamiliar with betting odds, think of it as dollars earned per dollar bet. So, 10-1 means every dollar bet earns ten if you win. Smaller ratios mean better odds, and 1-1 is Even or no odds, i.e. nobody would ever bet against it)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

POTUS: Potent Political Potables (A Roundtable)

We're approaching the home stretch of the American 2012 election season, and from Cable TV to Facebook there's a lot of buzz in the air. Unfortunately, most of that buzz is like angry wasps: annoying and calculated to make you to swing your arms in wild panic. In the interest of sparking a more reasonable discussion in our tiny corner of the internet, I asked each contributor to write briefly and non-satirically about the election: What issues are important? How do we feel about the candidates? How, if at all, might we vote? My goal is an open-ended starting point for something a little more thoughtful and respectful than that your typical Facebook political rant.

Casey's Thoughts On the 2012 Elections (Warning: Moderate Cynicism ahead)

I should start by noting thanks to the wonderfully undemocratic Electoral College, my vote is effectively cast for Mitt Romney, so congratulations, I guess. But since there's no point writing without maintining the fiction that it matters, I'll set that aside. My political approach is that of an amateur wonk: I'm less concerned with how I perceive candidates' grand visions of America than on what specific policies they are likely to implement and what effects that might have.

As for my de-facto candidate, Romney and I don't really see eye-to-eye (17% on I Side With). What bothers me is how he seems to be misleading his own supporters. Conservatives right now tend to be concerned with government spending and budget deficits, for which, correctly or not, they blame Obama. Meanwhile, Romney pledges to reduce top marginal tax rates -- in other words, cut taxes for people like him -- and offset that with (unspecified) spending cuts and by eliminating (unspecified) loopholes. In practice, the only way to make that work is to eliminate middle class tax deductions or slash medicare, both of which are politically dangerous. The more likely alternative is more borrowing, more deficits, more debt. For Romney to pretend otherwise by relying on platitudes and vague proposals seems disingenuous. Meanwhile, I can best describe his foreign policy as "like Obama but with more bluster."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Libya: Terror, Murder...and Hope

Eleven years after the most devastating case of terrorism on American soil, armed rioters in Libya attacked and killed the nation's US Ambassador.

That's the tagline, anyway. That's what the soundbites and tweets say, and believe me, I've been listening and reading. When I looked into it a little deeper, though, was when the true tragedy reared its ugly head.

Following the death of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya as a nation was left on very unsturdy legs. The people had only just finished their revolution; there was no real central government any more. Blood was on the streets. Americans had a lot to say about the African nation--would it become a democracy, would it become an enclave of militant Islam, would someone else just come and fill the power vacuum? Was the revolution good, was it bad, and what did it mean for us?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Strange, Conspiracy Theory-Laden, Vaguely Biblical Pictures (with hilarious captions!)

There are many things I wish I had time to write about: politics, economics, pop culture, religion....Actually, that kind of sums up my repertoire, so, let me amend my introductory statement to be, "There are four things I wish I had time to write about." Now, I would like to talk about these things, but I would also like to pass my university classes and graduate sometime this decade, so I'm afraid that today, I'm going to shoot for something a little lower: witty picture captions.

Specifically, I want to comment upon pictures from a Facebook group I've noticed called Last Days Bible.

So far, I haven't been able to track down which non-English-speaking country the creator of this group is from, but it's not for a lack of intriguing (if contradictory) hints: for example, the accompanying blog has a news ticker...for Saudi Arabia. The author of all blog posts on the front page (and, quite possibly, all blog posts) has his or her name Chinese characters ('Traditional Han' characters, as Google Chrome tells me, when it offers to translate it for me). The supporters of the Facebook group are from all over, including a Baptist minister in Florida.

However, it's not these somewhat mysterious details that drew me in; no, I think that can best be explained by the opening text on its accompanying blog:

You have convinced me, random mish-mash of words. I wanna rapture. I no wanna left-behind.
Oh, yes. It's one of those blogs.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Political Roundup -- August 2012 (The unCONVENTIONal edition)

And now, the news in brief. For the proper effect and gravitas, please play this in the background while reading.

Missouri Representative and Senate candidate Todd Akin drew fire for claiming that pregnancy rarely occurs in situations of "legitimate rape," which he later clarified meant "forcible" rape. Despite the calls of opponents and GOP leaders to drop out of the race, Akins has persisted and recently told supporters, "We're going to carry on this campaign! We're going to fight! We're going to earn a legitimate victory over liberalism! We're going to... what? What??"

Akins' remarks had broader repercussions as the Romney campaign is likely to recall its "Ryan/Romney: Legitimate Conservatism" bumper stickers. Meanwhile, Joe Biden told a campaign rally, "We are not going anywhere! We are going to defeat the Republicans through the most legitimate and forcible campaigning ever seen! Four more years! Four more... what? What??"

Monday, August 13, 2012

History's Mysteries: Abraham Lincoln and the Undead

Warning: Spoilers! ( case you care that much about movies featuring Abe Lincoln fighting monsters)

About a week or so ago, my fiancee and I went to see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The movie, if you're not aware, is about Abraham Lincoln being a guy who hunts vampires. Hence, you know, the title. For those of you who have not seen it, I don't want to spend too much time on it, so I'll post the trailer and a few bullet points summarizing my experience.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Chick-fil-A: Where Money and Strict Conservativism Meet Substandard Chicken Sandwiches

Before I get into the tender breast meat of this blog post, let me summarize my feelings about Chick-fil-A circa one month ago:

- Why would someone build a restaurant dedicated to substandard chicken sandwiches?
- Why would they advertise them so...strangely?
If the cows are sentient, how do we know the chickens aren't also?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Agamemnon in Aulis: Please Bless Allan and His . . . Work

“It has been said that the myth is a public dream, dreams are private myths. Unfortunately we give our mythic side scant attention these days. As a result, a great deal escapes us and we no longer understand our own actions. So it remains important and salutary to speak not only of the rational and easily understood, but also of enigmatic things: the irrational and the ambiguous. To speak both privately and publicly.” 
--Mary Zimmerman, Metamorphoses

Soldiers wait on the coast. Drums no longer beat, their vigor lost to stillness. The air refuses to breathe life into the warrior’s sails. No plea will abate its silence. No sacrifice will appease its indifference. The wind obeys its god. Not like men. Men slay hosts without abandon. Futures fall to swords of desire. Death hangs across the bows of ships that will not return from Troy’s shores. And still, men—lusting after blood born of war—strike down the beasts of Artemis. Her fury matches the brightness of her brother’s light. She stays the air of glory, accepting no recompense for her slain treasure. And the Greeks wait. Enticed by promised victory, a thousand faces look on at dreams unable to launch.

In a vengeance forged by Hephaestus’ flames, Artemis extends an offer to man’s general, Agamemnon: the winds will blow and the boats will sail, but only at the price of royal blood. For Agamemnon’s eternal glory to live, his daughter Iphigenia must die. Honor. Glory. Gold. Women. Immortality. Prizes for a daughter’s heart. Agamemnon’s nation calls upon him to lead the way. If he denies them and saves her life, others will overpower him, offering them both to Artemis. War claims its victims. It will always start at home. A daughter’s tears will not beat back ambition. Agamemnon’s knife sinks into Iphigenia’s chest, but it severs the ties of families—Priam’s and his own. Iphigenia’s blood stains the altar’s stone. The winds blow. Troy falls. Agamemnon gets everything he ever wanted. What is a daughter’s life to a father’s immortality?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The False Idol of Body Image

( Cross-posted to emBody - a blog about loving our bodies )

I have worshiped plenty of false idols in my lifetime. Some of my favorites have been the false idols of Netflix, cell phone (iPhone kicked up my worship a few notches), Old Navy (don't judge me!), computer (facebook anyone?), and back in my teenage years - boys. My false idols are not unlike the false idols you worship on occasion.

I know the leaders of the LDS Church and sometimes even our parents have been pretty good steering us away from false idols, but the biggest, ugliest, and most tempting idol worship is one I'm sure at least 99% of us are guilty of worshipping over and over at some point in life. I have had little to no help from anyone in quitting this most fatal idol I worship.

It's body image.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Boys' Club, or Why Girls Can’t Blog

As a part of this heinous and almost completed semester, I am in a Child Development class. There are about 30 girls and 0 boys in it. I didn't want to sign up for it, but it's a prerequisite for a class I have to take in a couple of semesters, which class is required for my major and thereby I had to suck it up and take Child Development.

I’ve actually learned quite a lot, and my final project is a blog that will go unnoticed through the annals of the Internet, the only exceptions being my husband (my editor) and the TA, who will almost undoubtedly under-appreciate the amount of effort or the sheer number of hours I have poured into it. She will probably not even show it to my teacher who would probably love it. (For the record, I turned it in and got all 200 out of 200 points possible for the project. She didn't read a single post, which I know because not a single post had a page view when I saw the grade.)

The TA looks like this, only angrier.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rediscovering the Values of the Founding Fathers (or Foundersland: A Fantastical Journey)

Recently my wife and I had guests over for dinner. Amidst our pleasantries, one of them voiced her displeasure with a certain recent Supreme Court ruling. She opined that America had strayed too far from the vision of its founders, which is a common refrain among conservatively-inclined Americans and civil libertarians alike. I'm no expert on the matter, but I'm a reasonably-informed amateur and a fairly astute historical thinker; plus, as luck has it I've been reading Gordon S. Wood's "Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815," so America's founding has been on my mind. I started thinking...what if our country did live by the values held by the founders?

So pull out your cardboard box, gather some Higgs Bosons for fuel, and let's take a trip to a parallel dimension where the founders' intentions were never altered, where the United States of America exist as they were intended to be! (The first sign we've entered bizarro-world? The country's title is still plural!) For clarity I will dub our new dimension Foundersland.*

In Foundersland, powdered wigs wear you!

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Holocaust of Hubris

Ash is falling like snow. If you live in Utah county, you've seen it, and it's an eerie sight. The state is covered in wildfires from north to south, and the cinders are dropping on Provo like we're Lilliputians in an ashtray. And in a way, I'm probably responsible.

You see, I recently took a BYU English class and, irresponsible young adult that I am, I tried, in my own little way, to defend the rights of gay students at BYU--and, doubtless, called down this plague upon the state.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

American Political Roundup -- June 2012

It's been a while since we've done a proper political update here, so here you are with the stories that matter, what you won't hear from the mainstream me-dumb-ia (note: come up with better media perjorative).

-In an attempt to cash in on recent pop culture trends and, some analysts believe, position herself for a 2016 Presidential run, Hillary Clinton released Youtube parody video entitled "Text Me Maybe." It has recently surpassed the trailer for Twilight: New Moon in Youtube's Trending category.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What IS in a Name: Countless Caravans for a Mormon Boy

This is the final chapter in a three part series. For the previous sections, I suggest you click on the links provided for Part 1 and Part 2.

When I think about how I can harmonize these various versions of Allan—my grandfather’s kindness and his cruelty; my grandfather and me; my zealous missionary self and my uncorrelated, intellectual spirit—I am left with an understanding that this is the kind of story that has already been written and, at the same time, it is the story no one has written at all. I’m not the first person this has happened to, but it is new because it is involves me. I am reminded of one of the final lines from Tony Kushner’s remarkable epic Angels in America. The character Harper, a possibly-recovering valium addict who never made for a very good Mormon, reflects, “Nothing’s lost forever. In this world there’s a type of painful progress—longing for what we’ve left behind and dreaming ahead. At least I think that’s so.”

So I look back. I turn to the faith of my fathers, the faith that took Davis-es across foreign lands on trains. I look to the legacy of pioneers who did not know what it meant to be Mormon but created for themselves what it meant in their move. I look to the faith of prophets who proclaimed that this faith is both an inheritance we are given and a gift extended that we claim. Allan Nathan Davis is a name that comes with honor and sin, an inspiring history and mistakes in need of repentance.

I hear a voice from the dust made of the bones of my ancestors. The words of a prophet-king reverberate in my ear and settle in my heart: “I would that ye should remember also, that this is the name that I said I should give unto you [. . .] I say unto you , I would that ye should remember to retain the name written in your heart [. . .] that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called.” Allan Nathan Davis is a name complete on its own but given unto me. It is thick in legacy but mine to shape and command. Like a master gardener employed by nobility, I craft and sculpt knowing such art never fully belongs to me. The art of my name belongs to others. But it is my responsibility, my inheritance. It is my talent to add surplus to. I look back to take my step forwards.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Very Muppet Marriage

To celebrate my recent birthday (thank you--oh, stop!--do go on...) I bought myself The Muppets soundtrack from the most recent Muppet film written mostly by Jason Segel (an interesting story in and of itself). It's only $9.99 on iTunes; in other words, I couldn't resist.

As Casey and I basked in Muppet soundtrack glory, I got to thinking about Piggy and Kermit. A strange marriage from the beginning -- back before I even got the jokes they told I thought a pig and a frog getting married was hilarious, comedy gold! I began wondering about an odd aspect of their marriage: their relationship.

Now, Kermit as we all know, is the leader, but the job seems to have been thrust on him by virtue of being the Muppet all the other Muppets knew. In case you don't remember, Kermit and Fozzie started the whole mess of Muppet excitement back in 1979 ('76 if you count The Muppet Show, but for my purposes, 1979... anyway).

A bear in his natural habitat... a Studebaker!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What IS in a Name: Cruelty in the Character of Kindness

The following is a continuation of my previous post entitled "What IS in a Name: Faith of My Fathers." If you have not already read that piece, I suggest you start there and then come back to this one. If you have read it already, enjoy this, the second entry of a three part series.

If we were to stop in the ecstasy of elegy, only honoring the man and the faith of the man that shaped the name, it would be a disservice to the man and the faith. In moments of hopeful though perhaps delusional optimism, we like to think we are defined by our best attributes, our greatest triumphs, our perfect days. Mistakes are the aberrations, the exceptions to the general rule of our being. In darker days of despair, we convince ourselves that we are our failures, our errors, our defects and disorders. Occasional elevated behavior makes for miracles: phenomena which do not reflect our true natures. Often, we compromise, finding the grey between the extremes, understanding ourselves in a space created by these black and white poles.

While helpful, there is another way to think about this interaction: rather than black and white creating the grey that is us, black and white might remain undiluted in us. We are not an amalgamation or soup; we are a quixotic Mobius strip—convoluted and paradoxical, always-already within and without ourselves. Good and evil; light and dark—these are not diametrically opposed in an either/or relationship external to us but rather live within us far more intimately than the colorful black/white/grey metaphor permits us to imagine. The best in us exists within our worst traits, and our worst qualities nourish the strongest parts about ourselves.
Mobius Strip
I could balance the elegy of Allan Davis with stories of emotional explosions, cataloging instances when my grandfather did not live up to the name he himself made; but, that would perpetuate the idea that such actions were either aberrations from or fulfillments of some sort of static “Allan” identity. Instead, Allan Davis can be understood in an instance where cruelty worked under the character of kindness.

Friday, June 15, 2012

What IS in a Name: Faith of My Fathers

My name is Allan Nathan Davis. I love each root of the family tree—each line of grandparents and ancestors—that leads to me; however, I inherited all three parts of my name from my father’s father’s side of the family. Obviously, there’s the surname Davis: that’s from my dad . . . and his dad . . . and his. Then there’s my middle name Nathan—in honor of the memory of Nathan Davis, the first Mormon convert in the family. I wish I could regale you with legendary adventures or faith-promoting accounts from his life involving snow, famine, disease, or miracles, but Nathan Davis was simply not that kind of Mormon. He joined the church in the 1860s and moved to Utah after the completion of the transcontinental railroad. I am not the stuff of wagons and handcarts; we Davis-es are strictly train people.

Allan Mervin Davis, my paternal grandfather and most immediate namesake, traveled by train from Salt Lake City to Rochester, New York after finishing medical school at the University of Utah. While he moved around quite a bit, especially within Louisiana and Florida, Dr. Allan Davis never returned to Utah. And yet, because my other three grandparents were each converts to the church and all from states on the east coast, I associate my family’s long history of faith and connection to Utah primarily through Allan. He and his wife raised ten children in Florida; seven still live there, my dad included. But for some reason, I think of Utah as the land of my fathers, the seat of my past.

Like me, Allan Mervin Davis grew up in a family of three. Like me, he always wore glasses. Like me, he was restrained and studious from a young age. This set him apart from the very family he raised. In an opposites-attract sort-of-way, my grandmother was a social force, a fortuitous woman whom “outgoing” does not begin to describe. She loved sports, camping, and large social gatherings. Each of their children seemed to inherit her personality. A Davis, by definition, was engaging and rambunctious; except, of course, for the patriarch Allan Davis, a reserved man who went camping and attended sporting events as a supportive father. He preferred to play the piano and listen to recordings of symphonies at home.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Gay Lifestyle

Today in Sunday School, a class member discussed the danger of "too much tolerance" in our society with the example of a lesbian co-worker who was treated, he believed, with too much deference by his other, mostly LDS, co-workers. The point was that they ought to show love to her while, I guess, simultaneously conveying their disapproval of her activities. "Gosh, Susan, you're a great person, but you're living a life that's morally offensive. Can you help collate these reports?" The last thing we ought to do, he implied, was show approval of Ah yes, that lifestyle. The Gay Lifestyle.  The life that gay people live. The style in which the life of gay people happens. Gay people stuff. For life. In Style.

Pictured: The gay style life.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Message is Love

I don't know if you've noticed, but this whole LGBTQ thing is kind of a big deal.

Whether you like it or not, things are happening, my friends. A dear friend of mine posted a facebook status earlier today informing her friends that she will not be shopping at Target for the entire month of June because they have released a Pride line, and proceeds collected from that line in the month of June will be donated to the Family Equality Council. While I adore this friend and in no way wish to single her out, this just makes me want to go buy a few of those Harmony t-shirts.

Now, while I agree with the Church's stance about the importance of family, I do not always agree with the exact definition. I learned right around the time I was about to graduate from high school that friends are the family you choose. I have a huge, amazing, warm and loving family of all shapes and sizes, and I want them to know that I love them. So much. I don't care what anyone says about what constitutes a family. Casey and I are a family, even though there are only two of us. All my friends are my family. If you're reading this, I probably consider you family, too. My family is my family.

Although, not all families should get to do whatever they want. via

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Scattered Thoughts As I Preside Over a Relief Society Activity

I didn't ask for this. In fact, I didn't technically even agree to it, but the Bishop had my wife's number and I was working, so it was agreed-to on my behalf and it seemed churlish to back out. It's like those stories you hear about a husband being approached about a calling for his wife, as though she couldn't make her own decisions, but...backwards.... sort of. Anyway, that's how I presently find myself presiding over a Relief Society activity.

Apparently, and I never knew this, it's common to have a Melchizedek Priesthood holder at RS functions, so that the women can bask in the glory of his authority or something. Possibly it's in case someone requires an emergency blessing, though in this era of ubiquitous cell phones a quick call home (or to 911) would generally suffice. I imagine the presiding duty usually falls to a bishopric member, which I am not -- just a guy the Bishop knows. Still, I am uncomfortable with the notion that the ladies require any manly presence to do their thing. Blogging represents a way sort out my feelings and to politely disconnect myself from the proceedings as they happen. This is your show, ladies: take it away.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ghosts of Ensigns Past: February 1972

It's time for another long-awaited installment of Ghost of Ensigns Past, in the which I read and react to old issues of the church's flagship magazine. Thankfully they are easily available on the internet and I am spared the task of rummaging through stacks of them at my grandparents' house. Previously I covered the inaugural of the Ensign from January 1971, and then jumped forward to July for some Lamanite love. Today we're going another six months forward to February 1972.

Get it? Cause Star Trek had ensigns, and sometimes they died, and...forget it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

If Seminary Videos Were Awesome

Remember Seminary videos? The variable-quality, often cheesy and yet oddly endearing clips they used to show during class to illustrate a scripture or spiritual message?

Good times there. But, thought I...what if we could have videos like that...but awesome. And so I took it upon myself to find those videos, and I now present my findings to you.

Friday, May 11, 2012

McNaughton Has Done It Again!

Well folks, the satirical genius is back at the canvas and he really did it this time. Inspired by his new-found fame, this latest work Wake Up America is obviously reaching out to a younger demographic.

"The kids love this stuff, right?"
In the usual McNaughton fashion of fine detail, he includes dictators, autocrats, and David Cameron all standing behind Obama on stage. Here he is obviously poking fun at claims by the far right that Obama is in cahoots with dictators, autocrats, and...umm... David Cameron.

In the foreground, the people are all in chains, including McNaughton's famous Forgotten Man, who seems to have shrunk over time (or McNaughton learned how to paint perspective).

I think he's trying to make up for his last over-the-top painting to which Brett referred in his post on McNaughton, and Casey fixed in his.

The one thing that confuses me, however, is the rooster in the foreground hanging out next to the Forgotten Man. What are we, farmers?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Spanish Civil War

Españolito que vienes
al mundo te guarde Dios.
Una de las dos Españas
ha de helarte el corazón.

-Antonio Machado

This beautiful and sad poem (that is, this second half of it which I intend to address) was written by Antonio Machado regarding the state of Spain in the early 20th Century. My rough translation:

Baby Spaniard who is coming
to the world, God keep you.
One of the two Spains
will surely freeze your heart.

History lesson! Learning from the past! Or something!

Sunday, May 6, 2012