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Published: 2009-08-06T09:42:05-07:00


My Own 13 Articles of Faith


About ten days ago, I was trying to come up with something interesting to write as my Facebook status. "What do I believe?" I asked myself. "What do I want people to know about what's going on with me?" And what came to mind was this:

Holly believes in being honest, true, courageous, benevolent, and in doing good to lots of human beings. She believes some things, hopes for a lot of things, has endured many things, and hope she doesn't have to endure too many more. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy, she seeks after these things.

In case you don't know, this is a personalization of the 13th Article of Faith, which I and all other Mormon kids were expected to memorize in Primary when we were in fifth grade. I still remember it, 35 years later. It was always my favorite, for so many reasons: first, it has a nice cadence--even as a fifth grader I cared about that. Also I could actually get behinds its sentiments. I wasn't so big, at age 10, in proclaiming my certainty about the spiritual necessity of the atonement, but I was interested in seeking after things virtuous, lovely, of good report and praiseworthy.

Not only did I and other fifth graders have to memorize all 13 Articles of Faith, we had to learn the story of why they were written: someone asked Joseph Smith what Mormons actually believe, so he wrote up a list of 13 basic tenets and belief.

Although I remember the 13th AoF pretty clear, I had gotten fuzzy on some of the other 12. I looked them up, and realized I was seriously not on board with most of them. So I decided to personalize every last one of them, and create my own 13 Articles of Faith. It was both challenging and rewarding to try to codify my beliefs and opinions. I tried not to be flip. I tried to phrase things so that they would wear well, so that I wouldn't have to clarify them right away. They may or may not be a perfect and accurate summation of my opinions and beliefs 40 years from now, but they'll do for today.

A Facebook Quiz Worth Taking


So many quizzes on Facebook are just plain DUMB. I'll answer two or three questions, then get to one like "What is your favorite outfit?" with one of the answer choices being "I never where a shirt," and that's it, I'm done.

This quiz, I actually found interesting. I had to think before answering and the results make sense, which is to say, no one who really knows me will be surprised that I am a far left social libertarian.

My Political Views
I am a far-left social libertarian
Left: 8.27, Libertarian: 4.2
Political Spectrum Quiz

Telling Senators All About God's Will


If there's anything I enjoy, it's coopting Mormon discourse and using it for my own ends. Especially rewarding is turning heated rhetoric on old white guys who have deployed it as a weapon against any who defy them. Which is why I so enjoyed sending the letter below to Senator Orrin Hatch:

Dear Senator Hatch:

Eight Miles Wide


This totally made me smile.

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Criminal Gila Monsters Riding Tractors and Eating Artichokes


OK, I am COMPLETELY recovered from my previous skepticism of Facebook and now embrace it wholeheartedly, and here's why: a discussion of tractors, gila monsters and criminals.

In a discussion of hair in high school yearbook photos, one of my friends gloated over the truly huge hair sported at his high school, adding, "Go Tractors!"

Tractors? Did I read that right, I wondered? Tractors? I had to make sure. "Your mascot was the tractor?" I asked.

Turns out my friend went to Fordson High School in Dearborn, Michigan. FHS was started with a generous gift from Fordson Tractor Company--hence the name. But apparently the unique, interesting mascot has been a source of embarrassment rather than pride. I couldn't find an image of the mascot on my own, though someone was good enough to provide a link to this picture.

I'm a fan of funky mascots. Everyone knows about the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slug, and yeah, that's cool, but there are even BETTER mascots out there.

You might want to put a bid on this one tonight, ladies and gentlemen, because we are talking to Phil Collins's people


I think I have suffered irreparable psychological harm after looking at these photos of very strange tattoos: someone actually had Bald Britney permanently etched on their body. And the one of Patrick Swazye as the SNL Chippendales dancer/centaur will haunt me forever. In other words, you MUST check these out.

Sunday So Far


Here's what I've done so far today:

1. Woke up and got out of bed at 5:30 a.m., which is about 90 minutes earlier than I usually get up. However, it's also three hours later than I got up yesterday, so I was happy. Furthermore, even though I tossed and turned last night, even though I was bedeviled by strange dreams and woke up often, it was a chemical-free night. That's right: no sleep-inducers, not herbal, not prescription, not OTC--not even liquid! I try to vary what I take during a really bad stretch of insomnia so I don't become too dependent on any one thing, and a really bad stretch of insomnia is what I've dealt with for the past few weeks. But I hope that after last night, it has broken--I hope, anyway. I HATE being awake in the middle of the night and exhausted during the day.

2. Read this really awesome piece in the NY Times magazine about our interactions with whales. It was moving and interesting and profound, and after reading it, I thought, "Well! No matter what happens during the rest of the day, at least I've read this, and that will salvage this entire day, and overall, I will count today as a good day." Ha!

3. Went for a nice long walk while the humidity wasn't grossly intense and the temperature uncomfortably high and the sky overcast and gloomy. Which was another reason I figured today would be a good day.

4. Tried to feed my cat, who had most of her teeth removed on Tuesday.

Darling Lily


Something that surprises me is how surprised other people are to learn that I have been a devoted fan of Lily Allen for several years now. OK, I acknowledged months ago that my music collection is dominated by earnest British dudes, but what, I'm not allowed to have nuances and layers?

"I just thought you'd find her a bit...young. And frivolous," one friend said. "I thought I'd be able to convince you eventually that you'd like her, but I never imagined you would've discovered her and grown to like her on your own," another told me.

But I did. I was intrigued by the reviews I read of her first album, Alright, Still--it kept showing up in all these "Top Ten Albums of 2006" lists. So when it was finally released in the US, I bought it, 'cause what the hell else was I going to do with twelve dollars and change?

And I LOVED it. OK, there were a couple of totally stinky songs on it that frankly I prefer not to think about. But overall, the album was so...cheerfully foul-tempered. So seriously frivolous. So innocently filthy. I loved the contradictions.

I would have said that NO ONE could ever improve on the way the Smiths would match really poppy, happy, upbeat music with totally dark lyrics, but Lily is pretty good at it in her own way. "Alfie" is my favorite song on the first album, an aggressively happy, boppy song sung to and about her little brother, Alfie, who sits in his room all day smoking and doing drugs. It has this really annoying grammatical redundancy (my mon frere), but I can forgive that, 'cause I just love the song SO MUCH.

Even East Coast Super Lefties Think SLC Is WAY Cool


I don't have anything important to say about either Farrah Fawcett or Michael Jackson. I'm sorry they died painful deaths after lots of suffering and I'm especially sorry that through a series of tragic, weird circumstances, Michael Jackson's prodigious and astonishing talent was squandered on things like scary, inappropriate (if not morally culpable) interactions with children, and the intentional destruction of his face.

He really was the man in the mirror: the person who embodied and reflected our culture's destructive, misguided desire for a sort of false, impossible and caricature-like "beauty," which actually kills rather than encourages creativity, even in the most talented. This "beauty" is barren and sterile and it screams of self-loathing.

It's very, very sad.

But here's something productive and fecund that announces a healthy belief in growth and wise self-confidence: an essay in The Nation about how hip, cool, progressive and all-round AWESOME SLC is.

Lisa Duggan, professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University writes that

Last fall I lived in Salt Lake City. As a leftist and New York City dyke, I had expected to find a conservative city and a quietly assimilationist gay community. Instead, I was repeatedly blown away by the progressive politics and outright queerness of the capital city, which is about 40 percent Mormon.

Duggan notes that SLC "is home to a floridly queer and unusually politically unified LGBT community" and discusses why it was a great place to spend the aftermath of the passing of California's Prop 8.

Please check it out.

The Vamp Ass Buffy Really Kicks


Rebecca was good enough to send me the link to this Buffy/Edward mashup, which I cannot stop watching--it's so satisfying! I posted it on my Facebook page (I should admit that I've gotten over my earlier Facebook ambivalence and now really enjoy it), as did half a dozen of my friends. But those of you who aren't on Facebook deserve to see this too, so here it is, in case you've somehow missed it so far.

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Bore vs. Gore


A few days ago Rebecca left a comment on my post about True Blood that brought me up short: she mentioned that she found the show kinda boring.

Yeah, I thought, she has a point. It is kinda boring. I could tell I was kinda bored because I would get up and walk into the kitchen without pausing the dvd player so I wouldn't miss anything. Occasionally, I would fast forward through something extra tedious.

It just didn't seem like a big deal. In grad school you get really used to reading and watching boring stuff all the way to the end. It got to where if something was merely boring, instead of, say, boring and misogynist, or boring and irrelevant, or boring and riddles with errors of grammar and logic, I was grateful.

Bore me, in other words, just a little bit, and I'll go along for the ride. Bore me AND offend me, and I'm gone.

Which is what happened with True Blood. It moved from being just kinda boring to being kinda boring AND horrifically violent and gory and mean-spirited. All but a few moments of Episode Ten depicted the characters being completely HORRIBLE to each other. I fast-forwarded through more than I ever had before, and at the end, I felt I'd been assaulted. I was heartsick and nauseated, and I needed a bath as much as the characters who ended up drenched in blood--and I mean drenched in blood, having taking a blood shower, with it saturating hair, face, nostrils and clothes.

The Priesthood is Magic


Here's the basic process of how you get a PhD at an American university:

1. You graduate from high school or get a GED.

2. You graduate from college with decent grades.

3. You take the GRE.

4. You apply to universities and get accepted somewhere.

5. You do coursework for a few years.

6. You pass your comprehensive exams.

7. You do a lot of research and write a prospectus for a dissertation.

8. You write the dissertation.

9. You defend the dissertation.

10. You get a diploma.

It generally takes somewhere from four to fourteen years, and you change considerably over the process--supposedly you mature and your ideas become more complex, and you also get poorer and more cynical and tired of living without decent insurance. But after that, you're considered an expert in something--not necessarily something important or relevant to your life in general, but something. You even have a title to demonstrate that.

In other words, you have to earn the degree, and there are tests and requirements to help ensure that people do. And while some PhDs are more prestigious than others, the power or relevance of any is greatly limited outside of certain contexts. Having a PhD in art history doesn't help you make wise decisions about retirement investments. Plus, most people don't really give a shit that you decided to go to school forever.

Here's how you get the priesthood in the Mormon church, which supposedly is this great power that can affect almost every aspect of the priesthood holder's life:

1. You're born male.

Stunted and Misshapen by the Priesthood


The concern I closed my last entry with was this:

I began to wonder if it was the fact that I DIDN'T have the priesthood, and therefore DIDN'T have a certain respect for it, that has made me willing and able to call these guys by their first names. I wonder if men respect the authority of the priesthood more because they have it.

In 2002, Sunstone published an essay of mine in which I recount standing up in a zone conference and saying to my second (as opposed to my much cooler first) mission president, when he got Melchizedek on our asses and started issuing punitive, brutal directives, "President ___________, why are you doing this? This is stupid. It's wrong."

This was analogous to a private standing up during a briefing by a colonel about a military mission and saying, "Why are you commanding us to do these backasswards things? This is stupid. It's wrong."

In other words, it was a big fucking deal. Now, to my mission president's credit, although he responded by shutting down the meeting in order to shut me and everyone else up, he also admitted right then and there that I was RIGHT, and he never said another word about the horrible policies he had once wanted to institute.

We discussed the incident later, when I apologized. As I wrote in the essay,

Men with First Names and Sweaty Palms


In John R's account of the conversation with the stake president in which said SP informed him of his impending excommunication, John wrote

This is the first time I've stood toe-to-toe with a Mormon leader and felt like his complete equal in every way. It's liberating to not feel beholden to Church authority and priesthood power.

In her discussion of John's post, chanson responded to this statement by writing

This jumps out at me because it's so alien to my own experience. Have other former believers felt like John has here? The last time the church leaders held any power over me, it was at BYU, where they had power to do real things to me, like expel me and withhold my transcripts, not just woo-stuff like withholding the keys to the Celestial Kingdom, etc. And before that, church leaders had authority over me because they were grown-ups and I was a kid. To me, John's statement would be like me being surprised that high school teachers are now my peers, when once they were so intimidating.

in a comment, I stated that I was nonplussed by John's statement. First of all, John has the priesthood (at least currently, whether he chooses to exercise it or not); he is the equal of certain church leaders in ways that I as a woman never would have been in their eyes. (Note: after I had drafted this entry and was finding all the links for comments and so forth, John responded to that, stating, "even if I (supposedly) held the priesthood, a) I was never comfortable with it, and b) in the Church I was still placed firmly in hierarchical relationships with other men.")

In this entry I'm going to provide all of what I said in that comment on Main Street Plaza, plus a little extra stuff, mostly as background and because I want a record of it here, but really this is all preliminary stuff to get to a discussion about gender and the priesthood.

Anyway. I certainly felt that I was the equal if not the superior of a great many Mormon leaders throughout my life.

Vampires and the Names of Women Who Love Them


Here's the thing: I don't like vampires. I'm not interested in stories or movies about vampires. I have, nonetheless, developed a habit of paying attention to shows about women who are in love with vampires, having been sucked (har!) into the genre because Buffy the Vampire Slayer was so good.

I understand that Season II of True Blood starts tonight. If I had HBO I would probably watch it. I'm about half way through Season I on dvd, and I like it well enough to keep going. Before starting the show, I read Dead Until Dark, the first novel in Charlaine Harris's series about southern vampires, also known as the Sookie Stackhouse books.

I admit I paid attention to True Blood only because I felt obligated to do so, given that I write about Buffy and that I'm going to write about the loathsome Twilight series. But it's... interesting. I'm interested. Dead Until Dark was about 50 million times better than Twilight, on every level: better prose, stronger character development, more realistic attraction between the main characters, and WAY more compelling supporting characters. (Though one of the nice things the TV show has done is make those supporting characters even more compelling--I didn't realize how much the story needed more from Tara and Lafayette until I saw more of them.)

True Blood isn't as good as Buffy, at least not so far, but it sure as hell doesn't suck. (Well, OK, it sucks in the vampire way. It doesn't suck in the bad way, of, you know, sucking something besides blood from a jugular vein.) But despite the fact that both shows focus on pretty young blonde human females with supernatural abilities who fall in love with vampires over a century old, they're so different that they're hard to compare.

I started to provide some background and analysis of TB, but also started worrying about spoilers, since I know I have quite a few readers in Europe where the show has yet to air, and besides, if you really want to know about the show, there are websites that already contain more information can I could provide. So I'm just going to make a few non-spoiler observations.