27 November 2010

I cleaned my room.

I cleaned my room and it felt great. In fact I want to record the fact that I am writing this sitting at my desk. That hasn’t happened since I moved into this house. This is momentous. I have a cup of Swiss Miss on the desk next to me and also a pen holder that is actually a drill bit holder I got at D.I. My life is great.

When you clean up you find old stuff. Like your parents’ copy of The Power and the Glory and about a dozen other books you pilfered eight years ago (including Kafka’s The Trial-- that stuff is nutty). And old notebooks. Last time I went through this exercise, months ago, I found a spiral-bound steno notebook from high school I used to draw in, but it still had some empty pages so I started using them for To Do lists and provisional plans and things. (Pretty much what I use paper for is To Do lists, and pretty much I write them during sacrament meeting.) Today I found it buried beneath a stack of papers again and it was all full except for one empty page. So I tore it out along with a couple other pages with things that were still relevant to me on them, and threw the notebook away. And I know I have a worrying tendency toward nostalgia; that’s why I consciously decided I didn’t need anything in there anymore so there was no reason to hold onto it.

Still, I couldn’t keep back the slightest twinge of sadness. This thing has my handwriting in it; it has pages full of things I was thinking about and planning and worried about forgetting, many of which I actually did, eventually. It is, in its way, a record: proof that I lived and thought during the time it represents. Sometimes it’s nice for me to have proof of that. And there’s something cool about having it in this very ad hoc form, apart from my transcripts and class notes and correspondence and (neglected) journal. Looking at these artifacts of former lives, riddled with angst and uncertainty, helps me to see progress in my self-- I’m normally pretty confident that I’m now slightly less angsty and uncertain. So it’s the tiniest bit hard to let go of that tangible reminder that I actually am moving forward. But I can’t keep everything. Moving forward entails cleaning up, organizing, and throwing away. I’m okay with that. And that in itself is progress, right?

05 November 2010


Last night I went to the cowboy poetry festival of Heber, Utah, and saw such luminaries as Sourdough Slim, Doris Daley, and the Sons of the San Joaquin. The BYU Philharmonic, including Annie, was there too. In jeans. We sat right next to Kory's wife. Her name is Carolyn. She's from Montana. She's cool.

The BYU Operators told me that a postman called them today to ask how to deliver a 2100-pound package to the Crabtree building. Also Fidel Castro's daughter called to tell BYU she'd be in the area in January and would like to speak at the university. So if that happens: you heard it here first.

My life is beautiful.

13 October 2010


Yes, I know.  I know!  The world doesn’t need any more self-reflexive blog diatribes on the excesses of information and communication, and anyway, Nature would have a hard time finding a less-qualified spokesman than yours truly.

And I like the twitters and the tumblrs and the readers and the texts and autotunes and awards shows and earbuds and the myriad twinkling accoutrements of the post-whateverist land I live alongside and choose to inhabit and which my grandfather would grumble about.  I like that stuff.  And I’m not going to say It’s Dumb or It’s Fake because mostly it’s just People, and of course most of them are dumb and most of them are fake, but that’s nothing new, and dumb people have had radio shows and written pamphlets and carved hieroglyphs and talked, I’m pretty sure, since the world’s had them in it, and you just have to love them for it.  We’re all pretty dumb to each other most of the time.

And I guess I’m just talking about wanting to remember how dumb we are, and proud and happy and insignificant and beautiful, by examining an anthill maybe, or walking at night, or smelling things.  I can see why Grandpa grumbled.  There’s a lot to miss.  There’s a lot that’s pretty unambiguously real.  And I’m not saying I want to throw my computer into the river.  Or give up TV or hamburgers.  I’m not trying to be pious.  I guess I’m just thinking a little more about balance, and about appreciating what underwrites all this.  Which ultimately is not even Nature.  But I think Nature is a little step towards it. So's People.

28 September 2010

Baby Quails.

This is how I fall in love with Salt Lake City on a Saturday:

Drive through the Avenues to the home workshop of a violin-maker who specializes in bows. Learn about the minute differences between Siberian stallion and Argentine mare hair.

Eat meat pies, plum bars, and eclairs from Mrs. Backer’s Pastry Shop while strolling down S Temple to the Presbyterian church and the Cathedral.

Climb Ensign Peak. Look at the the whole tree-carpeted valley. Watch the airplanes take off and land. See the baby quails on the trail.

Check out the Capitol Hill Ward meetinghouse. It looks like a Disney castle.

Hang out on the ample, shady lawn of the Capitol in late afternoon.

Drive through the neighborhoods of narrow streets and steep hills and old houses, pretty as any in Boston or Seattle.

Drink a Cherry Crush.

Eat an absurdly tasty reuben at Ruth’s Diner in Emigration Canyon. 1960 Corvette in the parking lot.

20 September 2010

Wake up; we're here.

All it took was me getting up in the morning, going running, listening to Wilco, and seeing the moms bringing their kids to school to bring tears to my eyes.  That was Friday.  Today it was the driveway in a neighborhood south of Seven Peaks with handprints and names in the walkway and "Concrete is strong.  Family is stronger."  You'd think it was that time of the month, or something.  I don't know.  There's a lot of beauty around.

15 June 2010

Isaiah 55:2. Wipe that smirk off your face.

I've always been reluctant to get very much use out of this thing, the blog, because I'm afraid I'll just come out whiny.  Advance apologies if my fears prove well-founded.

I need to do this because I suffer from a rare disease that causes my sense of self to diminish to dangerous levels if I don't emit words.  And since my journal got stolen last month and I haven't yet begun to replace it, this is where I do my exercises.  I said I suffered from a rare disease-- I was joking, and I probably shouldn't be joking because there are probably people who really do have diseases like that.  Furthermore, it's probably abundantly clear to everyone that this disease, if we're serious about calling it that, is actually not rare at all.

I was going to write a lot this summer.  Instead so far I've just played rock and roll.  Which has its own rewards.  One of the main rewards is being in a band called Casanova Frankenstein.
Come see us play this Friday, 18 June, at 8:00 pm, at 184 E. 500 N.  With my friends The Brocks.


13 June 2010

I made it home safely.

In case you are wondering what happened in the last few days of our trip, now that we've been back for a month, we just wrote about them.


27 May 2010

Ghost in the machine.

I've heard the MSN "new message" sound come through my headphones seven times in the last ten minutes, and no one's chatting me.

Either me or the computer is insane.

22 April 2010

Gone. Going.

Until further notice, I'll be in Europe with Annie and Nate.

Come with us.

15 April 2010


     "Glory be to God for dappled things," wrote Hopkins.  I love this phrase, this word.  Glory is one of the most beautiful concepts and least understood ideas in English-- at least I don't understand it.  But parable-like, it yields upon closer attention, revealing layer after layer of meaning to the dedicated searcher.  On one level, "glory" seems to signify a particular flavor of brightness or shininess associated with divinity, as when the glory of the Lord abode on mount Sinai in Exodus or shone round about the shepherds in Luke.  Isaiah prophesied, "And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together."  Maybe it's that word "revealed," but I feel this must refer to more than mere physical light.  Glory also seems to connote spiritual enlightenment: Jeremiah said, "let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord."  In the New Testament especially, "seeing the glory of God" seems to accompany a greater understanding about God's nature.  Jesus salved Martha's doubt by reminding her, "Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?"  The miracle that followed wasn't characterized by heavenly radiance, but by evidence of God's power and love.  Jesus talked a lot about glory in his intercessory prayer:
    And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. 
    And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 
    Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
Jesus' use of the word "glory" here resists easy categorization--it's clearly not just "glow".  Jesus had the same glory as the Father, and gave that same glory to the apostles in order that they might "be one." Jesus had previously told his apostles that he and his Father shared the same goals and values and attributes, and in that sense they were "one," while still occupying separate roles as distinct individuals.  So as near as I can tell, God's glory is, in a sense, his essence.  Jesus wanted his disciples to behold it--to perceive it, to incorporate it--just as God conferred it to his son, through love: for he loved Jesus before the foundation of the world, and what is God's essence if not love?  It's what defines his fullest and truest and realest self; perhaps God is glorious because he knows that and lives it, purely and naturally.  If so, glory is not a trait reserved exclusively for gods.  The Proverbs teach that "The wise shall inherit glory" and that "the hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness," suggesting that glory comes with sincere experience, increasing as we come to know, and become, our best selves.  Paul seemed to agree that mortality is a process of learning how to see more clearly and enact more fully our truest nature:  "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."  In other words, we as individuals are at our most glorious when we understand best who we are and who made us, following the example of him who most completely comprehends his own divine nature-- Chríst.  

     "What I do is me; for that I came."  The scriptures are charged with the grandeur of God, his glory made manifest through his works.  "The heavens declare the glory of God;" exulted the psalmist, "and the firmament sheweth his handywork."  Hopkins too had a deep admiration for nature's involuntary, whole-souled, existential song of praise to its creator; his invented term "inscape" characterizes the individual identity which every member of creation enacts or "selves," expressing through action its essential being, and which ultimately constitutes the fingerprint of the divine.  This looks to me like glory at its best.  Each tiny detail of God's creation-- fresh firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings-- exhibits such loveliness in its being and elicits such joy in Hopkins (and me) as to defy interpretation as anything but a distilled, concentrated expression of God's love: dearest freshness, deep down things.  "The voice of the Lord maketh the hinds to calve, and discovereth the forests: and in his temple doth every one speak of his glory," says the psalmist, clearly possessing a Hopkinsian appreciation for nature's beauty as the hallmark of divine design.

     But God's glory is most fully displayed, for both Hopkins and scripture, in his crowning creation: nature's clearest-selvéd spark Man.  In Isaiah the Lord said, "for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him."  His deepest glory, it seems, is to see us deal out that being indoors each one dwells, acting in his eye according to our godly inscape, and recognizing those clear-selvéd sparks in us as divine.  God told Moses, "This is my work and my glory-- to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."  This is a remarkable thing, an incomprehensible thing; for if glory is inscape, then God's work and his self, his pure being, is to see us become like him.  The absurdity of this proposal, the radicalness of this posited transformation, is so enormous as to leave me speechless, so I'll quote Hopkins:
    In a flash, at a trumpet crash, 
    I am all at once what Christ is, ' since he was what I am, and 
    this Jack, joke, poor potsherd, ' patch, matchwood, immortal diamond, 
    Is immortal diamond.
     What of that Jack, joke, poor potsherd?  God's glory is to see us become immortal diamond, but we matchwood mortals can't always stand God's glory.  Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation when the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.  The Lord told him on another occasion, "no man can behold all my glory, and afterwards remain in the flesh on the earth."  And in the days of early Mormonism, God told the saints "ye are not yet pure; ye can not yet bear my glory."  Geologically, the wanwood leafmeal of decayed carbon matter only becomes immortal diamond through heat and pressure over thousands of years; the process of being made pure to bear God's glory can be in itself excruciating, at least for Hopkins (and me).  His terrible sonnets evoke the fell world-sorrow of mortal man yearning toward an unreachable divine, made not less but rather more painful by the certainty of God's glory.  "Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend," Hopkins cries, "how wouldst thou worst, I wonder, than thou dost, defeat, thwart me?"
    But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me 
    Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan 
    with darksome devouring eyes my bruisèd bones? and fan, 
    O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee? 
     "That my chaff might fly; my grain like, sheer and clear."  Hopkins knows.  And he knows God knows.  The pain of separation serves to refine and mold us into our most completely inscaped selves.  "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment," wrote Paul, "worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."  In another letter, Paul even suggested there is beauty and wisdom in suffering itself: "Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory."  And who understands this dark side of Glory better than Jesus himself?  "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things," he asked his disciples, "and to enter into his glory?"  It was that conversation that made their heart burn within them-- only after the preceding days had brought much gall and heartburn in the fell of dark, not day.

     "Glory be to God," Hopkins wrote, "for dappled things."  There could be no things more dappled than us who he fathers-forth-- more swift and also slow; sweet and also sour; adazzle, and also painfully dim.  And yet we are his glory, his being, his self-- because he loves us.  And in a way perhaps only any parent can understand, somehow his glorious love is no less for our dimness, our darkness, our fellness, our blindness.  He loves us-- for Christ plays in ten thousand places, lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his to the Father through the features of men's faces.  But he also loves us even when we do not reck his rod.  And when we breed not one work that wakes.  And when selfyeast of spirit sours our dull dough.  And when we wrestle with him, our God (my God!) for years.  He loves our blear.  He loves our smear.  He loves our smudge.  He loves our smell.
    Praise him.

01 April 2010

Baby steps.

After a year and a half of my patient tutelage, my phone has finally, suddenly learned how to spell 9428 as WHAT (not WGAT) and 9268 as WANT  (not WBNT). 

Miracles happen.

Up next: NEXT (not MEXT).

28 March 2010

Vampire Weekend.

I went to see Vampire Weekend, and loved it.  The guys didn't act pretentious.  They didn't seem to want to rub anything in our faces.  They talked about the beautiful architecture in Salt Lake City as they introduced their song about architecture (Mansard Roof), and they mentioned two of the universities close by, BYU and Utah, as they dedicated the next song (Campus) to all the students in the audience.  You know, reaching out to the locals, knowing something about us.  And if the lead singer strapped on a Rickenbacker guitar just to play it for about 8 bars on my least favorite of their songs (Giving up the Gun), well, can you blame him?  Rickenbackers are gorgeous.

I went to see Vampire Weekend with the guy who introduced me to Vampire Weekend, my cousin's husband Robbie, and two of his brothers.  The highlight of the show came when he was telling us he went on a walk with his oldest daughter.  When he asked her if she wanted him to carry her, she said, "No, I'm strong.  I'm fast.  I'm big.  I'm everything you are, except you're a dad, and I'm a child.  Did you know child comes from children?  When there's more than one you say children but when there's only one you child.  Or their name.  My name is Lydia."  And Robbie said, "You are the coolest three-year-old in the world."

24 March 2010

The easy part.

The rampant obstructionism of the Palestine/Israel peace process by extremists on both sides is cynical, xenophobic, and morally reprehensible.

But moral outrage is the wrong focus for the debate.  So are partisan politics and religious conviction.  The best chance Americans have to help bring peace to the region is to address the Middle East conflict as a fundamental matter of our national security.

The fight over the Holy Land, understandably, evokes deep-seated emotions.  Both Israelis and Palestinians have been charged with war crimes, and both sides have argued convincingly that the other poses an existential threat to their nationhood.  Supporters of both sides in America tend to invoke provocative imagery, from apartheid to the Bible, to evangelize their position.  The danger of such hysterical argumentation is that it draws attention away from the most immediate effect of the conflict on the average American: people hate Americans because of it.  The lack of resolution over a prospective Palestinian state is a cankerous source of anti-American sentiment in the Middle East.  That makes it a potent recruiting tool for those working in the violence industry to lure unemployed young men with no avenues for political expression into the business of killing Americans.

This perspective is finally starting to gain some cultural momentum, thanks in part to General David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, who testified before Congress on March 16th:
"The [Israeli/Palestininan] conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the [Mideast] and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas."

In other words, the first front in the war on terror is the diplomatic one between Israel and Palestine.  Over the course of the last decade, American forces have gotten wiser about the way they prosecute the war on terror, and while there's certainly a long way to go, it's encouraging to see phrases like "shock and awe" give way to "hearts and minds."  Everyone seems to agree by now that military force will have no lasting effect against terrorism until the source of anti-American grievances that cause it are removed.  

Of course there is more to mere pragmatism in the resolution of the Middle East conflict.  Justice, morality, and history all play their part.  But the same people who make impassioned, idealistic pleas built on these emotional appeals are often the people who have the most to gain by prolonging the conflict.  The moderate majority of both Israelis and Palestinians want nothing more than peace.  And as General Petraeus put it, it's in the interests of Americans to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

Barack Obama seems to understand this better than any American president in recent history.  But even as he rightly condemned Israel's recent announcement of more Jewish settlements to be built in Palestinian East Jersusalem, Congress welcomed Prime Minister Netanyahu with both arms on his recent trip to the United States.  Ultimately, for American diplomatic pressure to have any teeth, it must carry the weight of not only the president, but of Congress-- and of the American people who elect Congress.  Obama performed a Herculean task in bringing health care reform back from the dead, largely through a combination of selling it directly to the electorate and negotiating with Congress.  With that monkey now off his back, he can devote more political capital to the establishment of a Palestinian state, another of his foremost stated goals.  But it will require convincing Americans that Palestine is important enough to write their Congressmen about, much like he did with the health care reform bill.  And that will require showing Americans that peace in Palestine is a matter of American national security.

It must be recognized that the creation of a Palestinian state is not the ultimate solution to terrorism, either.  In the end, terrorism will only be contained (if never fully eradicated) when Muslim countries, and indeed all poor countries, become transparent, open societies where people have prospects for education, employment, and free expression.  Seen in this context, peace between Israel and Palestine looks like the easy part.

22 February 2010

It must be beautiful.

It must be beautiful to be a commentator for the Winter Olympics, because you can say whatever you want, and no one knows enough to tell whether or not you're totally making it all up.

27 January 2010


Every night, as I drive home on dark and empty roads listening to the BBC on the radio, I crave a McDonald's spicy chicken sandwhich.  Every night.

24 January 2010

Raise your hand if this sounds familiar. Please, raise your hand.

I just realized I forgot to cancel my free trial of Amazon Prime before a month was up, costing me seventy-nine big ones.


- I now can get free 2-day shipping on all my Amazon purchases for a year.  

- The amount I saved by buying books online rather than the bookstore is still more than $79.

- $79, if you think about it, is really a pretty small price to pay to learn my lesson: cancel free trials in a timely manner.  I'm positive I won't have to relearn that lesson ever again.  Right?

- The pioneers had to pay annual fees of up to three or four times what we do nowadays for their Amazon Prime memberships.

- I beat "Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time" with my friends at the Nickelcade.  We blew up the Technodrome.