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Archive for September, 2008

 

 

(See also my earlier grousing on this irritating subject.)

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Winston Churchill is supposed to have said, “A man who is not a liberal at 20 has no heart, but a man who is not a conservative by 40 has no brain.”  It may be apocryphal, but it certainly sounds like something he would say…and it’s true.

Case in point: several years ago, I taught a speech and debate class.  Once, to demonstrate skills such as playing devil’s advocate and spontaneously organizing an argument, I told the class that I would debate each of them in turn on any subject they chose.  They were free to pick any position they wanted on any topic, and (within the bounds of good taste), I would automatically be assigned the contrary view, which I would defend extemporaneously. 

Some kids wanted to argue that cats make better pets than dogs, or that a certain TV show was the best, but the majority of them chose social and political topics, and the vast majority of them chose to stump for liberal positions: raising the minimum wage, reparations for slavery, universal health care, protecting abortion, unlimited immigration, going to war is always bad, etc.  (more…)

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Last week I added a new link to my blogroll: the personal ads in the London Review of Books, which gets logged under humor, though I considered also putting it under language and literature.  That’s because these ads strive to break the mold, offering a zany, allusion-heavy parody of that most bland of genres, the personal ad.

You know how they go: “Fit professional SWM seeks fun-loving SWF for long walks on the beach at midnight.”  Gag me. 

When the LRB started doing these a few years ago, the submissions quickly turned into a contest to see who could write the most intellectually obscure–and the most ridiculously unattractive–personal ads.  Some of my favorites from the articles I’ve read about them:

 

  1. Romance is dead. So is my mother. Man, 42, inherited wealth.

    (more…)

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It’s embarrassing now to remember just how much and how easily I bought into the media’s manufactured worldview when I was a teenager: the shallow narcissism, the wasted opportunities, the arbitrary hostility, the one-dimensional politics, and, especially, the clearly delineated little pigeon holes into which everybody was neatly forced to fit. 

Those steroetypes are, of course, most clear at school, where the media’s control of youth culture is so blatantly displayed that you’ll quickly find plenty of teenagers actively striving to conform to their preset personalities. 

I’m now in my ninth year of teaching, but it didn’t take more than the first couple of years to completely disabuse my mind of nearly everything I had assumed before.  There are genuine rebels out there; young people who live by their own chosen rules rather than adopting the guise of some media outlet.  They’re just not the ones we’ve been trained to expect.

I could see this post turning into a series.  For now, I’ll focus on just two of our popular assumptions that have been completely obliterated by my observations so far this decade:

Jocks and cheerleaders are dumb.  (more…)

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While most of my fellow Mormons seem to be excited about John McCain’s choice of conservative Christian Sarah Palin for his VP, I’ve seen a few examples of anti-Palin sentiment on LDS blogs.

One blogger on a major site links to a speech she gave at her church, labeling it, “Sarah Palin scares me.”  Another blogger links to something similar, with the caption, “Do you really think Sarah Palin would accept us as Christians?”  And someone on another blog entirely puts up a post that includes this query: does being “pretty and popular” count as one of the “other circumstances” mentioned in the Proclamation on the Family?

So these appear to be the two concerns: that her evangelical religion is hostile to ours, and that she’s a working mom. 

Both concerns are frivolous. (more…)

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Announcing Aiden

I have two versions of this announcement prepared.  First, the sports analogy:

Team Huston held a press conference Tuesday morning to announce that they had just drafted a rookie named Aiden.  Team co-manager Jamie Huston, who wears jersey #1, said that the team was excited about this strong pick, and that they know Aiden will be an asset to the team for the duration of the franchise.  Aiden, who will wear jersey #7, tips the scales at 7 lbs, 4 oz, and measures a whopping 18 1/2 inches long.  He’ll play first string along with teammates Ashley, Andrew, Amanda, and Adam.  Eventually, team management expects that Aiden will become a leader of his own team. 

This was probably more tasteful than my other idea:

Ha ha!  Cower and quiver, pathetic mortals!  The sinister Huston global conspiracy has just added another heinous minion to its organization, a blighted creature calling itself an “Aiden.”  This “Aiden” will surely spell doom for you all!  Now that yet another of my foul spawn has been unleashed on your pitiful planet, total domination of your species is imminent!  Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha! 

Keep in mind that I haven’t slept much this week.  (more…)

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The following short essay of mine appeared in the “Living By The Scriptures” column of the LDS Church News on August 28, 2004:

 

And now, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God.  -Moroni 9:6, The Book of Mormon

The world is growing more wicked and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.  The signs of the times are clear: the Second Coming is close.

These thoughts and some discouraging experiences had let me slacken my hand in reaching out and helping to improve the world.  If the world is not going to turn around, I wondered, why bother trying?  I saw my wife and many others anxiously engaged, striving to do even the smallest good.  But I felt that I was closing my heart even more.  I was doing less service and, in my mind, focusing on physical preparation for the Second Coming.  Soon, I had to admit that I was losing charity, often not giving others the chances they deserved, judging them instead.

One morning before going to the temple with my wife, at random I came upon Moroni 9:6 in the Book of Mormon.  Mormon knew that the Nephites were doomed; he had seen them falling apart over his whole lifetime.  Now, near the very end, he was counseling his son to keep working with them, no matter how much they might reject him.  Why?  What was the point?  According to Mormon, this struggle is not just for the good of those we serve, but is crucial to our own growth as well.

Pondering this reminded me that the Savior willingly suffered for the pains of all mankind, fully knowing that only a fraction of His family would be grateful enough to take advantage of it.  If we are to become like Christ, I realized, then we must follow Him in serving mankind, even if it seems to bear no fruit.  Our salvation depends on it.

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diagram

I recently finished Tim Russert’s memoir, Big Russ & Me.  It was moving and thought provoking, as it involved so many important events of recent history, and vividly captured the mundane but surprisingly fascinating aspects of typical American life in decades not too long gone by, but decidedly alien to today. 

One quote that particularly struck me was this:

What I especially disliked was an exercise that still makes me cringe when I think of it: diagramming sentences.  “I don’t know why we have to do this,” I used to mutter under my breath.  I also complained about it to Sister Lucille, but only in private.  “Nobody will ever ask us to diagram a sentence,” I assured her.  I had no idea what adult life held in store for me, but I was pretty sure that this particular activity was not included.  And yet I have to admit that diagramming sentences made me a better reader, and, I hope, a better writer.  (133, emphasis added)

(more…)

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[NOTE: For those not familiar enough with The Simpsons to get the reference in the title of this post, please brush up here.]

Hello, I’m Troy McClure.  You might remember me from such popular Internet blogs as “This Obscure Rant About Issues Way Out Of My League Will DEFINITELY Make A Difference In Washington” and “Those Psychos At The Customer Service Desk At The Grocery Store Think They Can Refuse My Return And Not Suffer The Bad Press That’ll Drive Them Into Bankruptcy By The End Of The Week?  I’ll Show Them!”.

But I’m not here tonight to accept adulation for my overwhelming impact on the lives of the many millions who have been blessed by my own writing.  I’m here to shower such praise on the blog Gently Hew Stone, which is celebrating 138 posts of earth shattering importance.  Nice round numbers like that always beg recognition.  (more…)

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I don’t think about abortion much, and hadn’t planned on writing about it here, but what with the national discussion lately over Sarah Palin’s baby with Down syndrome and her daughter’s unwed pregnancy, it keeps coming up. 

I remember that I used to hear people say, defending abortion, that nobody would be so callous as to use it as birth control, but I haven’t heard that argument in a long time.  I think proponents must have realized that abortion, if it deserves to be legal, might as well be touted as birth control, with no stigma attached at all.  If it’s not wrong, then it’s right, which makes such positions as Hillary Clinton’s–that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare“–baffling. 

But I digress.  Without making this partisan, I’d like to relate a story that, sadly, I think sheds a lot of light on the state of abortion today.

Several years ago, during my free period at work, when teachers do their grading and planning, a senior girl popped her head in the door and asked if she could make a quick call on her cell phone.  Not wanting to be distracted from the work I was doing at my computer, I just said, “Sure,” and continued typing. 

However, my attention was yanked away from the screen when I heard her ask the other end of the line, in that very mature tone we all use when asking for information from professionals, how much an abortion would cost there.  (more…)

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In 1998, my church had an area conference, where everyone in Southern Nevada was invited to attend a massive meeting at our largest local stadium, the Thomas and Mack Center, and hear addresses from two of our highest ranking leaders: Russell M. Nelson, an Apostle, and Thomas S. Monson, then a counselor in the First Presidency to Gordon B. Hinckley.

Somehow, I got assigned to be an usher at the meeting, and was given the unglorious task of managing seating on the central section at the back of the upper level: the section of the arena furthest from the stage.  I sat, entranced, in my extreme nosebleed seat, squinting to make out the tiny figures ahead of me.

I remember the moment that made the deepest impression on me.  Elder Nelson was speaking, and in his remarks, he mentioned that he and his wife had celebrated their fifty year wedding anniversary a few years before.  He also told us that they had nine children, a total of grandchildren that must have been about fifty, and a growing generation of great grandchildren. 

But that wasn’t what touched me.  (more…)

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Gather around, children.  It’s story time.

Once upon a time, a young man was doing construction work on an island in the Pacific when the Japanese attacked and, after a long standoff that has been called the “Alamo of the Pacific,” captured everyone on the island.  Our hero spent the next three and a half years in a prisoner of war camp during World War II.

His ingenuity allowed him to survive and even flourish during those grueling years.  One day, his Japanese captors were transporting him from one coastal Chinese prison camp to another, via train, when he decided to escape.  He managed to get past defenses and slip out a window, jumping into the night.  For weeks afterward, he skirted through the wilderness, until Chinese communists captured him…and helped him get back home.  When he made it to an American base, he met a young Chinese revolutionary named Mao Zedong.  After returning to the States, he would go on to become a stake president in the LDS Church, and the mayor of North Las Vegas, as well as being awarded high honors by the government and being featured on a special on the History Channel.

This is a true story, and it’s related in Rescued By Mao(more…)

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Dear Sarah Palin

We actually met at the gym a few months ago.  Well, sort of.  I was on a treadmill and you were on CNN on a TV mounted on the wall.  The sound was turned off, so as I scanned all the screens along the wall and came across yours, my first thought was simply, “Wow, she’s really pretty.” 

I started reading the close captioned lines at the bottom of the screen and quickly caught on that this was an interview about oil.  Sadly, I can’t remember the segment in any more detail than that, but as it was about the time that gas prices spiked, I’m sure that it was about increasing drilling in Alaska, where you currently serve as governor.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that you strongly favored it (though I’ve since learned that the vast majority of Alaskans also favor it).

So you’ve been on my radar since Spring, and though WorldNetDaily ran a headline a couple of weeks ago about a couple of Web sites that were promoting you for McCain’s VP, I didn’t really think it would happen.  When I saw the news on Drudge Report on Friday afternoon, I was once again pleasantly surprised. (more…)

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