Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Bob Ross Russ Rose

"Gay is the new pink."

A girl said that in my dream last night, regarding the new positive regard (and even trendiness) which popular society holds for homosexuals. I don't know if that's as funny when it's not a dream, but it sure cracked me up.

I got a job. Los Hermanos again. I start Monday or so, I think. I'm really glad I don't have to wait to take the server test. So soon I'll be back serving tables, which I absolutely love.

Seriously, fans of music, check out pandora.com. The folks there did something they call the Music Genome project. They took music and analyzed it for its different attributes, and put all the information into a huge database. Then they created Pandora, which is designed to help you to find new music that you will like because of its similarities to what you already like. You go there and you type in the name of a song or a band that you like and it will begin streaming music like a radio station. It's truly amazing. I love almost everything that comes up. And if you dislike something, you just tell it and it will skip it. On Sunday I typed in Mormon Tabernacle Choir and was delighted when it started playing hymns, spirituals, and folk sings all morning. And the rest of the week I just type in a song that fits my current mood and they will play tons of music in that exact same mood. I know pandora.com is true with all the fiber in my beans.

I talked to the Bish about the Rose sitch. He was surprised to hear an old familiar name. He said that he and Rose and my previous bishop had had a special meeting once and confronted her with her roommates' allegations that she was a man. She was unable to refute the claims, but they were unable to prove it, and as she vehemently denied the charges, they let the matter go. The bishop was most interested in the tangible evidence I'd brought (namely, a photocopy of her driver license and her immigration papers), and asked if he could keep them to bring them to the stake president, who'd reportedly been right in the thick of the whole scandal when Rose was living here. So I don't need to worry about it any more, and Bish said the evidence was exactly what they'd been waiting for. So we'll see what happens next. There will doubtless be a mess, but hopefully I'll be a few steps removed from it. D and Wiggle are afraid that if Rose is confronted with the evidence, she may put two and two together and come blaming them, since it was their basement where the documents were stored when Heather Angela Hawks rifled through the boxes and scanned everything.

N is moving here this week. I am so friggin' excited. Lad is coming in two days as well. Wiggle and I are going to see Guster in Section 6, row 1, seats 17 and 18, when they come to town on March 30. Woo-hoo.

24 was SO good last night. SO good. Jack Bauer is the man.

And my little brother Rusty got photoshop, and this is his new picture, which I think is hilarious. This kid had the Bob Ross painting instruction kit when we were little and LOVED to watch the show. I know he's white, but really, he's my full brother. Promise.

Oh, and happy Valentine's day, I guess. This seems like a non-event to me, more than ever this year. Oh well. I have been invited to do things with two different Connies, which is SUPER weird because that's my mom's name, and I am named after my dad. I don't know if I'd be comfortable with either, so I haven't responded yet. We'll see what happens.


Saturday, February 11, 2006

A Toast

Well, thanks everyone for that little discussion. And now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

I'd like to propose a toast. Lots of things make me happy, so here's to them.

To n, on her decision to move back to Utah for the sole purpose of being closer to me.

To Wiggle, and to 3:00 a.m. spur-of-the-moment trips to Park City.

To Mario and Silvia, the couple we brought into the church in Chile, upon the recent news that they got sealed in the temple.

To Jonathan and Topsie, whose wedding in fourteen days should prove to be the first happy one I've been affiliated with since my brother's.

To Jessica, for bringing me grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup and chocolate money when I was in the depths of my illness.

To Pandora.com, for being the best music website I have ever seen.

To Hero, on his brand new engagement.

To a certain string-puller who got me eleven straight weeks of efy this summer so I won't have to pay rent. Yeah, that's supposed to remain a secret.

To the Lad, whose visit to Utah grows closer with each passing day.

To an anonymous goat on Myspace who informed me that Guster is coming and that tickets go on sale today.

To my cold, which is a great excuse for having not been out on a date this weekend.

To all the rest of my friends, for good times, lively discussions, and interesting stories.

Love you all.

I leave you with a little game I like to play called Gaydar. See if you can guess which of these two guys is a homosexual. I'll post the answer tomorrow. Enjoy.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Heathen, the Hamster, and the Rose Revisited

This was going to be a comment on the last post, but it got wayyy too long. It's probably even too long for a regular post, but Oh, well. If you feel you've had enough of the last post, then you will probably want to skip this one. But I'd also love to hear which side you take on the matter. Please be sure to read Pinetree's comment on the previous post, Masquerade, before commenting on this one. It's a good comment.

I'm glad my blog has caused some good discussion, but I'm afraid I must whole-heartedly disagree with you guys, Pinetree and Mustard. I'm not talking about judging whether a person is a good or a bad person. I'm simply talking about telling somebody, "I think that what you are doing is a mistake, and you might not be able to see it as such."

It happens all the time. Just last night I came very close to going on a (literally) last-minute road trip to California. It was 4:00 a.m. and some friends told me they were headed to San Francisco and had room for me to come along. In the end I didn't go, not because I thought it was a bad idea, but because I didn't have any impartial person around to tell me whether it made sense to go. Some people need that all the time, and I believe everybody needs it from time to time. In the case of the girl with the pink hair, I'm not passing judgment on her character when I tell her the pink mohawk is out of line. Am I passing judgment on her hair? Sure. Is it my place? No, it WOULDN'T be. Except that now that all of the relief society has lied to her, she's going to need to hear it straight up. And with this girl, if the bishop were the only one to say something, she'd think he was crazy. "The relief society all loved it." As it was, she thought I was crazy because I was the ONLY person who answered her questions about it with the honest truth. This girl was always asking why nobody respected her or treated her like a grown-up, but she was unwilling to hear that her mohawk and other inappropriate fashion statements were injuring her image. She believed that if people judged her based on her hair, that was a flaw in their character, not hers. I agree, but I also think that to cope in such a flawed world, we need to make certain sacrifices of our own personal liberties IF we want certain reactions (like respect) from the general populace. She really would need to hear the same message from many different people. I knew her better than anybody else at the time. I'm not just some random guy making this assessment.

In the case of Hamster and his wife, I think it's important to note that I was probably the ONLY person at the wedding with closer ties to Hamster than to his wife. Everyone else was on her side, if you had to draw the line that way, and I'm sure almost everybody in attendance was ignorant of the circumstances that made this wedding so terrible. Which were that the kid has totally unresolved and even unexamined homosexual tendencies, he had been having sex with his roommate during his courtship of the bride, and the two seemed to be rushing the wedding to both legitimize their physical relationship and to magically cure the groom of his affections toward men. I was NOT opposed to the marriage on the grounds that both are ugly and they will eventually produce frightening offspring. I mentioned their physical appearance to help illustrate the full tragedy of the situation, i.e. the bitter notion that they seemed to be settling for each other rather than just being two young people caught up in the throes of lust or any other such romantic ideal that might make the readership a tad more sympathetic and falsely understanding of where these two are coming from. Of course, the ideal would be that they could both work out these issues and approach the marriage from the position where both recognize the incredible struggle up against which they're putting themselves. But from conversations I've had with them, it really did feel like they were both blithely entering into some sort of panacean marriage: take one wedding ceremony, apply two sprinkles of the Atonement, consummate vigorously, and you can overcome whatever comes your way, so no need to actually change your lifestyle before jumping into all of this.

Am I saying either is a bad person? Absolutely not. I love these kids. Am I saying they made a terrible, terrible decision? Yes. Absolutely. No doubt in my mind. Is it my place to say this to them? Maybe not. But then whose? The bishop's? Do I really believe he'd been granted all the information I have? No. I came to this wedding as the only friend Hamster had, the only one on his side of the camp who really understood where he was coming from and what his likely motivations were in getting married. And I didn't say anything. I'm not saying I should have stopped it. I'm just saying SOMEone should have been that kid to call the emperor out on being naked in the street. Someone should have at least given Hamster something to gnaw on, something to get his wheels turning so he could come at this problem more perspicaciously, having mulled over the costs and making a sound decision to move forward.

Everyone seems much more naturally opposed to Rose's wedding. Why? Because it's making a mockery of marriage? Because her fiancé might be entering into this marriage completely unaware of what he's getting himself into? I submit that Hamster's case was the same on both counts. okay, so Rose's wedding is also in the temple, whereas Hamster's wasn't but I bet people would still be strongly opposed to Rose's wedding were it a temporal one.

Now, I don't think that I should be the one to pull Rose aside and explain to him(?) that to receive the blessings of the temple he'll need to go back to being a man and get rebaptized and whatever else will be required of him. I'm just not that close with Rose, and that is a very touchy subject that is bound to cause more harm than good. Which is why I'm going to the bishop. And if he won't talk to Rose's current bishop, then maybe I will.

Again, this has nothing to do with judging between good and evil. I don't believe that Rose is a bad person. I believe that Rose is a confused, scared young man who probably has almost worthy dreams of becoming a typical LDS housewife, and is willing to do whatever it takes to reach that goal.

Poor Rose.

In all of these cases, I don't believe that it's my place to decide what sort of punishment should be doled out. But I do believe that it is among the duties of a friend to offer advice. That doesn't always have to be the green light. A real friend will tell you when to hit the brakes, when you're going too far. You'd expect the good friend to pull you aside and tell you when you were about to go outside with your fly down, when you are too drunk to drive home, when you're about to rush into a marriage that you think will cure your homosexuality....

I stand by what I said in the post. Ideally we wouldn't have to be Paula OR Simon; we could each be creatures of balanced niceness and helpfulness, but in a valley so inundated with unhelpful but nice Paulas, I'll do my part to bringing balance and be a helpful Simon. Being a friend is not about saying what people want to hear. Like you did with your comment, Pinetree. It's made me reconsider, and though I haven't come to agree with you, I'm glad you felt close enough to tell me what you think.

There was a woman on American Idol a few weeks back who had quit her job to come on the show. And then she was awful. Simon told her she was awful, and then called her boss and personally asked the manager to rehire the lady, telling her the woman was very personable and a great salesperson, but she was a very terrible singer. That's what I'm talking about here with the Simon thing. Not deciding she's a bad person. Just that she's a bad singer. And my question is this: Why didn't ANY of her friends ever tell her she wasn't that good at singing? WHY!? What kind of friend lets you quit your job like that? That's a very bad friend.

I think I can do better than that.

Pinetree, while I disagree with your points, I'm glad we can even have these discussions. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but I don't do middle so well, so for now I'm sticking to my extreme side, until I can find a way to get extreme balance. Love ya much.

--Snappy Smurf

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


"Paper faces on parade/ Masquerade/ Hide your face so the world will never find you."

Last Saturday, my new friend Snake and I went to a masquerade. We got masks at the local costume shop, and I wore my camel-colored leisure suit and my Guido wig, as well. I don't think I knew anyone there besides Snake, but we just danced and pretended we were the most interesting people in the room, and we had a good time. It was a bit freaky, all the masks and color and movement. Like the masquerade on Labyrinth, except without David Bowie sexually singing to a 15-year old girl with sleeves on her princess dress that would prevent her from drowning should she fall unconscious into a lake.

Earlier that morning, Wiggle, Blueshorts, and I went to a different kind of... well, let me back up a bit:

My friend (we'll call him "Hamster" to protect his true identity) had just recently moved to Utah from back home. I knew him in my singles' ward there in California. I had recently learned from a mutual acquaintance that Hamster a) had moved to Provo and b) also deals with Same-Sex Attraction (i.e. he likes boys).

I thought this was pretty funny. I called him up and hung out with him a few times. We met up again at Evergreen, actually, and we played games and caught up and laughed about our mutual plights. During Christmas break, I went with Hamster to his roommate's parents' house in West Valley. Things were great. During our time there, Hamster announced that he was dating his roommate's old high school friend, whom we'll call Gladys because I feel like it. The roommate (Roo) was a bit disturbed by the situation, but seemed to be in good spirits. Indeed, they made an odd couple, as the lady was taller and of a much more substantial girth than the fellow. She pretty much equals three of him.

The following week was a momentous one. During the first few days of their boyfriend-girlfriendhood, Hamster and his roommate Roo got it on. Yes, friends, they crossed that bold line between "appropriate levels of physical attraction between roommates" and "sex."

This was most unfortunate and unsettling for me, because Hamster actually kinda resembles a rodent, and I was really grossed out by the notion. Hamster told Gladys immediately the next morning about what had happened between him and his roommate, and she was forgiving.

Later that week, Hamster reported to me that his girlfriend was feeling bad because he and she had "gone too far" the previous night. The next day they were engaged for this coming April.

A week or so later, the wedding was pushed up to last Saturday. I got my wedding invitation through Myspace: "Come if you want. If not, we're still doing it."

Doing what? one has to wonder....

Anyway, I rounded up the troops and Wiggle and Blushorts and I headed to the wedding. We were a bit curious as to whether the debacle would still be going on, since we hadn't actually heard anything since the Myspace invitation. But when we got to the Orem Institute of Religion, the ceremony was in full swing, and one of their mothers was up there saying how proud she was of the two.

Then the bishop got up and offered generic advice that I'd heard countless times in marriage prep at institute. Then they had the ceremony. The bride was dressed in cream. The bottom of the dress puffed way out, which made her torso look like the fake bride atop a huge delicious champagne-colored wedding cake. Also, I hadn't had breakfast before I went.

The bishop told them to take each other by the right hand, but I think the bride heard "Take his hand with your right hand," because she grabbed his left and pulled him over to where they were to stand.

The ceremony itself was interesting because we were all leaning forward in our pews, wondering whether anyone would object or whether we'd all have to forever hold our peace.

Well, they skipped that part of the ceremony, which is lucky, because I don't think I'd be allowed to rail on the wedding if they'd said it. We all tensed up again when it came time for them to say "I do," but I was pretty sure he wouldn't back out at the last second, because she could totally beat him up. They were pronounced mammal and wife, and the bride leaned all the way in and kissed him. That kiss, to me, was a foreshadow of the remainder of their marriage, with her constantly putting in the effort and keeping up appearances and strong-arming her way through dismal months or maybe even years until finally she realizes she is suffocating and pulls away.

After the ceremony, they were allowed to say words from the pulpit. Gladys went first, and announced that she was glad that her newly acquired husband didn't have car insurance. She explained in a forward and engaging way that shortly after Hamster had moved here, he had crashed his car into someone else's car. She told us that Hamster had needed a ride to court, and explicated the miracle that occurred when the judge gave him a lower fine than those which he'd given all the other violators present that morning. After that, they'd gone to Taco Bell, and that was their first date. The hand of the Lord, she said, had been in everything they'd done that led them to this point. Good thing Jesus took away that kid's insurance, huh? And I'm not even going to touch the fact that the bride wasn't in white. She ended by saying to the audience, "I love him more than I've ever loved anything else." It's really sad because when I look at this kid, I think, there's something not quite human about this kid. He really looks like someone took a man and started turning him into a naked mole rat and then just stopped part of the way through the transformation. And then she had to go and say "anyTHING." Not "anyONE."

So then the groom spoke. The little fellow looked so happy up there. There was more joy in him than his tiny frame could contain. He kept saying "these past few weeks," as an awkward reminder to everyone that the couple had only been dating for a month and engaged for a little under three weeks. When he was done speaking, there was another all-her kiss, and then there was a closing prayer and it was all over. All over.

We talked to some of the other guests at the wedding. Everyone was dressed in their best Sunday smiles. We were all very polite and very "supportive." I don't know what it really means to be "supportive," but I've decided that in the church it means to show up, smile, and not mention the fact that somebody is making a very stupid and huge mistake with his or her life.

Wiggle wondered aloud on the way home whether any of Gladys' friends had even once pulled her aside and said, "Look, I think what you are doing might be a Very Terrible Mistake."

At any rate, they are married now. May they find peace and happiness and monogamy.

I do realize that today's post is a tad more sardonic and potentially hurtful than my normal posts. But there's this phenomenon I've recognized here. I call it "the Provo Effect," and I used to think it was the greatest thing since Cap'n Crunch. But now I'm starting to wonder.

Here in Provo, you see, it doesn't matter what you do. As long as you act like you're supposed to be doing whatever it is you're doing, everyone else will act like that as well. If you just walk into a stranger's apartment, drink out of his milk carton, and change the channel on the TV, he will say "Hey, what's up?" and act as though he's the crazy one for either not remembering you or being offended by what you are doing. And seriously, you can get away with it. And yes, I do know this firsthand.

So naturally, when I moved to Provo, I took full advantage of this phenomenon. I would knock on random doors and ask the girls inside for dinner, and they would whip something up, or give me the leftover pie from last night. I came to realize that the film Ocean's 11 wasn't exaggerating when it had the Mormon Twins tell Saul, the old con artist, "I think you should try Provo. I think you could do very well there."

But soon I started to see the downside. Have you ever watched American Idol during the tryout phase, and been like, "Why on EARTH do these wretched people think they can sing?" Well, the answer is, the Provo effect. Nobody is going to be the one to tell you that you can't sing, especially if you always sing with "self confidence" (a subject for a different rant). If you're a terrible singer but you sing all the time, and then you go up to your boss and say, "I'm quitting my job and I'm going to go make a fortune on American Idol," your boss is going to say, "Oh! I think you'll do great!" because first, nobody, even bosses, likes to be the one to tell you that what you are doing is not okay with the rest of the world, and second, at least now the office will be quiet enough to hear the Muzak playing overhead.

The world hates Simon Cowell, but really it should hate all the Paula Abduls out there who only hinder people's progression by never giving them the feedback that they need. In the name of being "nice," we are being dishonest, and it has to stop.

One day Heather Angela Hicks (she was still heather Angela Hawks back then) got a pink mohawk and spiked it up all crazy for church. I had been telling Heather from the moment she got the mohawk that I thought it looked terrible and trashy. And it really did. But after church, she was pleased to report that several of the sisters in the relief society had complimented her on her nice new mohawk. That's when it hit me. The Provo Effect was exactly the same thing as the Emperor's New Clothes Syndrome. And we're letting our emperors parade around naked!

Maybe all the people who have a proper sense of decency assume that the rest of us do, too. Let me assure you, though, that there are plenty of us who check the propriety of our actions against the reactions of those around us, like a sort of prosthetic conscience. Your failure to react genuinely does us a great disservice. Not that I'm trying to lay the blame for my own misdeeds on someone else. It's just that I think people care about what everyone thinks a little more than any of us lets on, and so it's time for us all to feel responsible for the opinions we share.

Instead of, "Oh, I like your hair," you can say, "Oh, I notice you got a new mohawk. Not something I would ever wear to church, but if it helps your sense of self worth, then I suppose it's a good thing." That comment, after about fifty repetitions from various members of the relief society, is going to send a message about the ridiculousness of the stupid haircut.

Hamster's wedding was the nadir of this effect. The event was the real masquerade of the day, with all of the guests hiding their true faces and feelings and putting on a facade of grotesquely exaggerated smiles. As long as nobody at the party shows his true face, nobody can be held responsible for the resulting tragedy, right?

Now, Hamster's wedding scared me for another reason, as well. Here he seems to have found what we all seem to be looking for (on paper, at least): a girl who proclaims to believe in the gospel and forgiveness and repentance and who is willing to overlook our shortcomings and marry us anyway. But any closer look will reveal that that is merely the facade; it's the lie hamster is telling himself. These two young people are in absolute denial about their future. They seem to believe in an impossible life in which they can merely divorce themselves from their feelings and breezily forgive away any trespasses against them.

Recent studies have shown that a large percentage of gay-straight marriages fail. Psychologists maintain that the only chance such a relationship really stands is through an incredible amount of communication between husband and wife. Well, Hamster and Gladys do seem to be able to communicate with each other. She was well aware of his indiscretions when they united in matrimony. My fear is that neither is really communicating with himself. Hamster is a fool to think that marriage will be his Pool of Bethesda. An optimistic, pathetic fool, whom I pity and understand, but a fool nonetheless. And Gladys is likewise a fool to think she can strong-arm him from place to place in the marriage, just as she did at the wedding, for the rest of their lives. She is going to squish the li'l fellow.

I hope that the mere fact that I can recognize the flaws in their thinking will prevent my making a similar mistake. I hope that someday I will find a virtuous woman who does have the capacity to love me and forgive me through all of my shortcomings, but at the same time will have a sense of her own worth and who will hold me to a higher standard of behavior rather than just continue to increase her tolerance of my misdeeds.

I wish that were the end of the post, but there's always another chapter to my stories, as Pinetree can attest after his on-campus run-in with (and run-off without) the Latina chick whose roommate had tried to get me to set the two up.

All that aside, though, I got an e-mail from Rose today. You remember Rose, right? The transvestite from my ward who got baptized while I was at efy? Click here for the story. Click here for her Myspace, including more pics if you log in. Well, she's getting married in April. To the boy she was dating right after her baptism several months ago. And she says she's saving me a spot in the temple. Of course, this puts me in the rather uncomfortable position of possibly being the only one to attend the wedding who knows that she is, in actuality, a "he." So I have set another appointment with the Bishop and I will be taking him the evidence that Heather Angela Hicks was smart enough to photocopy, and I will ask him what he thinks I should do.

This could easily be another wedding where I sit there with my mouth shut and say nothing. Just watch the embers fall and sit there, smugly reassured that I'm not the one responsible for the fire. But maybe it's time to be Simon, not Paula, and to call the disaster where I see it.

Sharkbite asked why I even attended Hamster's wedding at all. I told him that if there's a train wreck on the side of the road, you can't just drive by and not turn your head to look. Then again, I'm starting to realize that sometimes an emperor can parade by naked, and you really can just clamp your mouth shut and pretend not to see. Not everyone in the crowd believed the tailors and their nonsense about not being fit for our station, I've learned. Half of us are just clenching our teeth, hoping some kid will say what we aren't willing to stick our necks out to say ourselves. Oh, well. The first resplendent ruler, in all his glorious déshabillé, is gone, the next approaches, and all I can do is hope that at the end of the parade, there is Santa, and he's throwing candy.