Guns, You Guys

I don’t even know how to formulate a decent argument about this, you guys. You would think I would learn what not to do by observing all the sloppy, lopsided “discussions” out there. I think I know a good argument when I see one. I try to consider opinions I disagree with; I try to understand why I disagree with certain opinions.

I recently watched this appeal by Senator Gabrielle Giffords. They gave her the floor, they let her make her powerful point in 13 sentences, but I wonder if her efforts are futile. I wonder how many people dismissed her or even the idea of her once she finished speaking.

I recently read this essay by Stephen King, which felt like a pretty even argument and a realistic perspective on what to expect with gun legislation.

I recently saw that David Mamet recently published his opinion about the gun issue. I haven’t read it yet, but I plan to, probably tonight.

ETA: I read Mamet’s essay, and it definitely provides contrast to Stephen King’s perspective.

It’s impressive that the gun conversation has lasted this long. More children have died in the meantime. It won’t be as impressive if nothing ends up getting done about it. I wish I could argue this decently; I wish more that I felt that I didn’t have to argue this. I wish I understood those who insist on doing nothing. I wish the argument could lead sooner to a real solution than to more of an argument.

I’ll quote my high school friend Brian who perfectly expresses my frustration: “It bothers me that this argument always boils down to ‘I could kill a bunch of people at a school no matter WHAT you do.'”

Of Bonds

Next Sunday is the Super Bowl. People gather together in different parts of the country to watch the top teams from the two divisions face off against each other. There’s food and laughs and yelling at the television. Sometimes there’s trash talk. Sometimes there’s betting. Many families have the tradition of watching this yearly event. It’s a big deal who gets to sing the National Anthem and who gets to perform at halftime. Often fathers and sons bond over the sport.

My brother and I watched a lot of sports when we were growing up. We learned names and stats; we executed plays with the nextdoor neighbors. When we played inside, I was the quarterback and Frank was the wide receiver. I’d throw his teddy bear toward the couch and Frank would make a diving catch and land on the couch for a touchdown.

Last year Reilly and I watched the Super Bowl at one of his friend’s house. There were burritos and other finger foods and a general lightheartedness within the group. The game went on as scheduled.

As I try to recall details from a year ago, the only thing I can remember is seeing a news ticker run at the bottom of the screen while the game continued playing. I was reading that Josh Powell had retrieved his sons from their grandfather. He locked his children and himself in their house in Washington state. He caused the house to explode, killing himself and his sons. He destroyed any knowledge of the truth of the disappearance and death of his wife, the mother of their sons.

If I think hard enough, I can remember who won the Super Bowl last year. It doesn’t matter who sang the National Anthem, who performed at halftime. Many families and friends had gathered together to enjoy each other’s company, to relish relationships. As much as I try to understand what kind of bond Scott Powell thought he had with his sons, I can’t.

I Thought the Cup Game from Girls Camp Was a Secret

From this post:

We learned a fun cup game while we waited for our turn [to eat]. Two claps, three drums to the bottom of the cup facing up, one clap, pick up the cup with the right hand and set it to the right slightly (boom); clap, pick up the cup with the right hand, bringing the cup’s mouth to the palm of the left hand, set the cup down right side up (boom), pick the cup back up and put in the left hand, bang the right palm on the table (boom), and place the cup mouth down on the table space of the person to the right. The rhythm starts over and gets faster until your cup ends back in front of you. I still remember it, obviously.

This cup game combined singing teenagers and percussion, young women and an emotional bond created through rhythm. We laughed, we sang, we got loud and laughed some more. We also happened to sound great while doing all of that. I can hear the echoes of my memories so clearly.

I’ve come across variations of this cup game, and that only means that I have to admit to watching shows like Glee and movies like Pitch Perfect. They’re the same show, you say? Maybe. Do I care? Sort of, but also sort of not.

Sometime during Christmas break, I decided to catch up on this season of Glee. One of the first songs of the premiere features Provo’s/Las Vegas’s very own Imagine Dragons and their song, “It’s Time.” And the LDS Girls Camp Cup Game, of course.

Then last weekend, per a friend’s suggestion, Reilly rented Pitch Perfect. During one scene, Anna Kendrick’s character decides to audition for a college acapella group with just her voice and a cup. Fittingly, she sings a song called, “Cups,” and it features the LDS Girls Camp Cup Game.

These shows didn’t ruin my memories of girls camp. Instead, watching how trendy the cup game has become has allowed me to fondly reminisce about 100 girls chanting and drumming, with strong voices and drinking cups, a daily ritual that didn’t even last a week, every summer for four years. Those were such good times.

The Poets I Know

My penultimate semester at BYU I took a poetry class as a complete novice. Along with the curriculum and the professor, a couple of classmates awakened me to the vast and diverse world of poetry. It blew me away, intimidated me. Our class would have weekly workshops and while they did have nice things to say about my poetry, classmates were often brutally honest and mercilessly constructive. It was hard not to feel discouraged.

I read a poem every day. Occasionally I’ll write down a tentative idea for a poem. I’ve fallen out of practice; it’s easier to read than write. It hasn’t always been that way. But it’s always been easy to write crappy poetry. Here, let me whip up a gross haiku for you right now:

vulnerable brain
months of oxidizing then
flaking rust matter

See? That took less than a minute. And not something I’d be proud to show even Stephenie Meyer.

There’s so much to love about poetry: taking it apart, slathering the language all over me, listening to it, reading poets’ advice. I support people who are good at it, who devote their lives to capturing beauty, tragedy in such a specialized way.

From my experience in the class, it seems some of the best poets also make the best academics. They think about issues from multiple and often-rare angles. With intense focus, they express themselves with clarity and power. I covet them so, so much.

But I also want to brag about my poet friends and acquaintances, because they’re brilliant.

My poetry professor, Susan Elizabeth Howe:

Imagination, as I have experienced it, can be part of and lead to spiritual growth, and imagination is the natural province of the poet.

Someone I knew as a computer person before he became a poet, Neil Aitken:

Neil Aitken is a poet of consummate grace and skill. His poems are acutely observed, unerring musically, sensual and lyrical. Filled with longing and subtle epiphanies, his poetry plumbs the depths of the human heart, and hints towards the heights of the human spirit. His writing accomplishes what Wallace Stevens suggested—that, in the best poems, “description is revelation,” for each of Aitken’s poems reveals the world anew for the reader.  — Maurya Simon

A friend I worked with at church in New York City, Javen Tanner:

. . . he thus takes up his poetic cross and wills us to follow as he forges a path through variations on these ambiguous realities to the end of preparing us for more lasting psychological and spiritual connections and consolations.

Former classmate and also a BYU soccer player, Conner Bassett:

When reading poetry out loud, you see the poem for what it is; half of the poem is the words, but the other half is the sound of it,” Bassett said. “Reading and hearing it out loud is a completely different experience.”

Another classmate, Kylan Rice. He seems to have a relatively new tumblr:

…Stop looking so
shocked at the grammy fat. Are we not
all a tapestry of garbled hearts?

I have a few other poet friends, but I’m having trouble finding stuff about them on the internet. Which usually doesn’t happen. You’ll just have to believe they’re also talented and incredible and very awesome.

Look these people up. During any time of crisis, these are some of the people you can listen to.

Quarantined Himself to the Study

Poor thing.

Yeah, that’s a bucket. Just in case.

He ate a few crackers. He ate some soup. He got ready for bed, took some medicine. Drank some water.

I prepared the futon. He got in it and under the blankets. We had family prayer, and now he will sleep.

I probably will not.

Get better, love.

Keeping Warm this Wretched Winter

When I got out of work this evening, there were actual puddles on the relatively snow-free sidewalk, evidence of molecules moving, releasing heat. Wispy clouds veiled parts of a blue sky, and the air didn’t make my teeth hurt.

Yet I looked at the forecast earlier in the day, and Saturday’s weather promises “areas of frozen fog.”

Weather, what the HELL is that? I chatted with a friend today, and she said frozen fog sounded dementoresque. She said I should catch a dementor. So that’s what I’m going to do on Saturday. I’m going to tame it and give it a clever name.

The air has been frigid these past couple of weeks. Near zero degrees. Sometimes it rises all the way up to the 20s, sometimes a warm winter front comes through and dumps two easy feet of snow, dragging a hawkish train of more bitter coldness.

I do not get along with this weather. I fight it, stand up for myself. Here’s how:

poster2

  1. Thermals under my pants. My coat isn’t quite long enough to cover all of my legs, so these help.
  2. Two pairs of socks, because there’s nothing I hate more than cold feet. I can’t sleep or work properly when my toes are frozen. I get mad at Frontrunner more easily when my toes are frozen.
  3. A wool layer is good for shielding the cold and trapping heat. I’ll wear this over a shirt, which I’ll usually wear over thermal tops. When I say I like being warm, I don’t mess around.
  4. TWO scarves. I unfold one and wear it like a cape over my shoulders. I’ll wrap the other one around my neck then over my head so that it covers my ears. I also hate when the cold pierces the insides of my ears.
  5. Another layer, usually waterproof and looser-fitting, over my pants. It helps to shield the wind that tries to wrap around my legs. In your face, winter weather!
  6. High, insulated, waterproof boots. These come just below my knees, and I pull my snowpants over them. This combination prevents my feet from getting wet. I’ve had to plow my way through foot-high snow on the sidewalk next to my work building.
  7. The coat is the final layer. I zip everything up and seal everything in. I’m ready to wait for the bus and/or the train. This picture looks like there’s an alien creature pushing through my stomach, but no, it’s other layers that keep me nice and warm.

Not pictured:

  • Gloves: Having cold hands is almost as bad as having cold feet.
  • Earmuffs: Again with the ears, but they ache if they’re cold. And then I cry.
  • Aliens keeping me warm from the inside.

The ultimate goal is to layer up so that I’m like Randy from A Christmas Story and I have to say, “I can’t put my arms down!”  and Reilly will say, “Well, put your arms down when you get to work.”

So far this system of layering has worked this winter. I haven’t yet gotten sick, and it seems that my fist just now shot out in some sort of reflexive action to find the closest wood-like surface to knock on. Bring it, January. I’m ready. Dementor, I’m coming for you.

I hope everyone else is keeping warm.

The Degree of Like

Facebook is such a great way to keep up with friends. I like being able see what my friends’ opinions are on all sorts of subjects. I can tell political stances, movie/music/book preferences, games people play. I love when people post interest pictures or clever little memes. It’s actually pretty fun getting to know people this way without actually taking off my hermit hat and making an effort to interact with them. Especially if they live far away or if you can tell by their preferences that you wouldn’t get along with certain people in person. I can appreciate a healthy and occasionally overwarm discussion, but if I had to argue with certain people every day in real life, my head would probably explode. And then I wouldn’t be able to decide if I “like” things. Which would make me sad.

I enjoy being able to use Like on just about anything my friends post. I can “like” as many comments, photos, and status updates as I want. But I also understand the power of Like. And its nonpower. I have tried to be consistent in the ways I have liked or not liked certain things on facebook, but the more I use the process, the more I can see the nuances of its influence. Maybe the following doesn’t list nuances as much as my mere whimsy.

likefb

 

 

 

  • I have read the comment/article/whatever, and I understand it.
  • I have read the comment/article/whatever, and I agree with it.
  • I have read the comment/article/whatever, and I appreciate the point of view.
  • I am acknowledging this post on my newsfeed, but I haven’t read it.
  • I don’t want to be too imposing on the conversation that involves the post, especially if the post doesn’t directly include me.
  • I do not want to participate in a conversation, but I have read the comments.
  • I’m about to unlike the post.
  • I don’t really like the post, but I don’t want you to think I’m ignoring you.
  • The post is clever, and I will most likely comment and/or share.
  • The post is beautiful.
  • The post is cerebral or literary or strikes a chord with one of my interests.
  • The post acknowledges me in some way.
  • The post made me laugh.

likeyetfb

 

 

  • I do not like the post.
  • I do not understand the post.
  • I’m feeling particularly snobby.
  • I have read too many posts, and my clicking finger is tired.
  • I missed the post.
  • I am ignoring the post and may like it later.
  • I do not want to like the post because I don’t want to have to unfollow or unlike the post later.
  • I do not want to participate in a conversation, but I have read the comments.
  • I disagree with the post.
  • I do not like the person who made the post.
  • I don’t feel close enough to the person who made the post to like the post.
  • The post is not relevant to me.
  • The post is not clever.
  • The post has something to do with genuinely liking Fifty Shades of Grey or Twilight.
  • The post is gross/crass/most likely rednecky.

The Like link has gone expanded from facebook to blogs, news sites, music sites, to just about everything on the internet. It’s a fascinating power to have and exercise, and it’s interesting to observe how people respond to what they like or don’t like. Just know if I Like or choose not to Like a post, it can have any meaning or a number of meanings at the same time. Or no meaning at all.

How do you like that?

Neighborhood Sad

This past Sunday at church, the bishop announced from the pulpit that the son of a family in the ward was playing soccer last week and suddenly collapsed. The boy’s family took him to the hospital. The bishop said if anyone spoke Spanish in the ward, the family would appreciate a visit.

Wednesday nights, I go out with the Relief Society presidency to visit women who have recently moved into the ward. We introduce ourselves to these ladies, and we welcome them to the ward and reassure them of our desire to be their friends.

Tonight, while we were getting into the Relief Society president’s car to make some visits, the second counselor reminded me of the bishop’s announcement and said she received an email saying that the boy had passed away. She also said that because the family had spent so much time at the hospital looking after their son, both of the parents lost their jobs. It’s bad enough to have bills you can’t pay for, but for that to add another layer to a pile of grief and sorrow just breaks my heart.

The boy was 11 years old. It’s so much harder to get through sadness without answers or explanation. But I guess that the family isn’t really thinking about getting through it right now so much as feeling it. Feeling helpless, alone, crushed. Feeling angry, lost, numb.

I want to do something for the family, and going to the funeral doesn’t even seem an earnest effort at anything. Donate for the funeral or to a fund until parents can find work? Make them dinner? I want to show support. There has to be something more, something demonstrative, something that really matters. I’ll have to pray and ask for inspiration, an outlet for compassion or a way stretch out a hand; I need to see how One knows exactly what this family is feeling right now would do.

This Feels Good

Today after work, I did a favor for my friend Amy and let her give me a massage. She’s a licensed massage therapist, and she really knows what she’s doing.

Amy and I met in New York City, and she has to be one the smartest people I know. She learns quickly and thoroughly, and she often offers a different perspective if you go to her with a problem and ask for advice.

Massage is not her first discipline. She knows communications/marketing and web design/consulting. As a Renaissance woman, it only makes sense that she would study and practice massage.

She lives in Salt Lake City, mere blocks from where I work. This is the recommendation I wrote on her Facebook page. I’m not sure if I did all that alliteration on purpose:

Amy is a confident, competent, and conscientious massage therapist. Her sensitivity, strength, and savvy have ensured me as one of her many loyal customers. Her massages have relaxed and revived me more than many a night’s sleep. See for yourself what Amy can do!

Amy gave the hour her full attention. She asked how I liked the pressure, the stretches; she kept the room temperature just right. She warmed the massage table with a heated blanket and had soft music playing when I entered the room. The sheets and the face cradle cover were clean. She definitely took precautions to ensure this experience would never happen to her clients.

If you’re in the Salt Lake City area and would like an amazing massage, visit Amy. Go to her website, look around, and see what she has to offer. Take advantage of her various promotions. If you’ve had a massage from Amy and think that her expertise would make a great gift, give someone a gift certificate.

She thanked me for the chance to work on me, but she actually did me the favor. I’m more relaxed, my joints are less stiff, and I feel like a new person. I can’t wait for my next massage.

It’s Easy to Judge

In front of Paris

When I first moved to New York City, I started working in the Financial District. At the end of the day, on my way to the subway, people would stand on the street corners handing out little cards or flyers. These people mostly tried to get the attention of men. I’d catch a glimpse of the flyers and saw that they advertised gentlemen’s clubs. I wasn’t naive about New York, and I wasn’t surprised about the kind of effort that went into promoting that kind of business. However, I was bothered, and there were times that I wanted to knock the flyers from the hands of one of those people, but then I realized that if they scattered onto the sidewalks and streets that anyone could read the flyers. Children and women, decent men. While it’s true that there are corrupt children and unwholesome women, I still held onto my hope that innocence still roamed the streets. I wanted to preserve that as much as I could.

Last week Reilly and I went to Las Vegas to attend a friend’s wedding. It was  my first time to Sin City, and I was excited to let as much as possible stay in Vegas. We walked a lot and looked at the shops and lights. All along the Strip, people passed out flyers for gentlemen’s clubs and peep shows, almost like how it was done in New York. The one main difference is that the people got your attention by clapping the flyers  against their hands. I avoided eye contact, but hands stretched from all directions, and it turned into a pretty challenging obstacle course.

They annoyed me at first, but I looked at how many there were, and I wondered how they were getting paid. Even women passed out the flyers, and then I wondered if that was the only way they could support families. I wondered if they considered a better way, if they had a better way, if they even had a choice. I wondered if they were able to shut off their conscience, to ignore the images on the cards they handed out. Instead of being angry at what those people were doing, I was sad. It’s a shame that they have to do that at all. It’s unfortunate that they make it happen in Vegas. It’s a tragedy that they’ll probably have to stay there.

(I’ll write a more upbeat post about Vegas one day. This has been on my mind for a while, though.)