Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Reflections of a College Graduate

When my parents dropped me off at the airport in Chicago back in January of 2005, I had no idea what I was in for. All I knew was that I was starting a shiny, new adventure at BYU-Idaho in which I would have no parents and few responsibilities.

While I was mostly right about my "no parents" assumption, I was very, very wrong about the responsibilities. Suddenly I had to meet new people, attend classes, do homework, and feed myself three times a day. Feeding myself was especially a struggle due to the strange hours kept by the Galley (BYU-I's old cafeteria).

Classes weren't much better. That first semester, my grades were so low that I was later able to petition to have the semester removed from my transcript.

I've learned a lot in the years since that fateful drop-off at Chicago Midway, and I'd like to share some of my insights. Even if you take nothing from this, at least I'll remember what I've been through.

1. A boy's maturity level can be determined by whether he knows any of the girls in his contact list.

I met a boy my first year who "collected" girls' numbers at the beginning of each semester, and if they never called him to hang out, they would be deleted after a month or two.

"Who is 'Girl from BK'?" "Oh, you can delete her, I never caught her name anyway."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Facilitated Communication and the Spirit (redux)

There's been a lack of activity on the blog lately, for the simple reason that we are slackers. So in lieu of original content here's a repost of something Brett wrote in the blog's early days, before a lot of current readers would have known we existed. I also inserted a clarifying comment Brett left on the original as the second to last paragraph, because I believe it rounds out an already beautiful post. If we ever were to compile our best posts into a book (which would be really hard on the ones that use gifs), this might be chapter one. Enjoy!

In 1993, Frontline News produced a news documentary called "Prisoners of Silence." In this documentary, Frontline investigated a process called "facilitated communication," a method developed to help otherwise silent autistic children communicate with the world around them.


Autism is usually expressed with withdrawal, lack of imaginative capabilities, and, if profound enough, mental retardation and a complete lack of speech. Facilitated Communication is an idea that was developed to help people with profound autism be able to communicate. It basically consists of a specially-trained clinician who holds the autistic person's hand or arm and helps guide his or her index finger onto a little keyboard.

All of a sudden, these previously mute persons who had long been assumed to be entirely low-functioning were writing grammatically correct sentences, short stories, and poems. The Frontline program showed a few examples, including the following verse.

Am I a slave or am I free..
Am I trapped or can I be seen..
As an easy and rational spirit..
Am I in hell or am I in heaven.
As may be imagined, this gained a lot of press.

But facilitated communication had a darker side. All of a sudden, facilitated messages started cropping up all over stating that autistic children had been sexually abused by their parents. Warrants were issued for parents' arrest. Children were placed in foster care. Families were torn apart.

And it was all bogus.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Comics and Hermeneutics: Making Sense of Superheroes

I have a confession: I like superhero comics. Luckily geeks dominate pop culture nowadays, so that's not such an embarrassing admission any more. Still, to be honest I don't actually read a lot of comics. I'm much more interested in reading about them, and in watching the many fan-produced videos analyzing and dissecting them, especially MovieBob's. There's just something about comics I find fascinating in spite of, or maybe because of, the over-the-top artwork, the absurd characters and of course, the mind-bending complexity.


Any newcomer to comics must come to grips with that complexity immediately. If you're looking to get into the X-Men, Marvel.com maintains a handy list of all the active comics as best I can figure: All-New X-Men, First X-Men, Ultimate X-Men, Weapon-X: First Class, Wolverine, Wolverine & the X-Men, X-Factor, X-Men, X-Men Legacy, X-Men: Phoenix - Warsong, X-Treme X-Men, and possibly a few others. What about Batman? D.C. recently rebooted its entire lineup to make its universe more accessible, and Wikipedia lists...let's see... eleven ongoing Batman titles. The situation is the same for every mainstream hero, and that's not even mentioning the half-century of back stories to grapple with.