Saturday, October 25, 2008

Banality and a Possible Remedy??

Stacey (pseudonym for a Chicana student at my work, thick accent): Why haven't you been at work in so long?

Me: I was in a play!

Stacey: You were playing?

Me: No, I was in a play.

Stacey: [dubiously] Ohhhh.

Me: Do you know what that is? A play?

Stacey: [blank look]

Me: Como un drama.

Stacey: [realization dawning] Oh you mean like with puppets! Only with like, people.

Yeah, folks. That's me. The King Friday of the human beings.

Which, actually might not be too far off the mark, since my friend Brett, who suffers from pupaphobia (Yeah, that's the real word for the fear of puppets) was so disturbed by the picture of me in my "Seussical" Grinch costume that he asked me to remove it from my Facebook profile. I figure I tricked him into watching "Labyrinth" with me, I can oblige him this once.

But I open this post with that conversation primarily to introduce the idea of saying really dumb things. I'm not talking about dumb like what Stacey said, but more dumb like when the fly on the wall is wishing he were anyone else. Do you ever have that experience? You have a captive but not especially captivated audience, and you start to realize there's not really a great ending to this story in sight? Well, my friends, I think I may have found a solution. Check out how much this story I related yesterday was improved by the new technique I like to call "Unexpected Self-Deprecatory BSing" (USDB), and note that the (*) marks the point in the story when I realized how predictable and boring the story was, even to me:

Me: Someone left a box of donuts in my ethics classroom from the previous class today, so I ate one, and soon everyone had taken one. Mine wasn't great, but I'm on this new poverty diet where I lose weight by only eating what I can afford, so I can't turn down free food these days. Anyway, the class weird girl took a bite of hers and then immediately chucked it into the garbage, saying "Yuck! This is gross!" I was so annoyed that she would just throw food away like that. And this is in my ETHICS class, where we're always talking* about how hungry I am, because it's the class right before lunch.

Instead of the bored nods while they waited for me to finish whatever trite thing I was saying so they could say "yeah" and start immediately in on their one-upper stories, I received a peal of laughter from the roommates. Boring story averted. It only worked because a) it made me look like a jerk, and b) in their minds, they had already begun to tune me out, sure as they were that I was going to say what I had actually originally intended to say: that it's a shame to waste food like that when there are so many starving brown children in the world.

Another conversation made me laugh tonight.

America (my roommate's girlfriend, not the entire country, the way Bernie Mac used to talk to all of us): What should I be for Halloween? I have a long black dress.

Chandler (another roommate, famous for his interminable pauses in not-especially scintillating sentences; no seriously, we once clocked him at 9 seconds mid-phrase): Oh, you could totally wear the dress and put a red hourglass on your abdomen, and tell everyone* you're a super hero named, like, "The Hourglass" or something.

I actually thought he was serious for a moment on that one.

All I'm trying to say is, please, friends. Watch for the signs that I am disinterested in your story, so you know when to apply the USDB technique. The signs include, but are not limited to:

1. I leave the room, but mumble "keep going."
2. I fall asleep.
3. I pretend to fall asleep (more common than, but indistinguishable from, #2)
4. You are telling me about a dream you or anyone else had.
5. You started the story with many people listening, but suddenly I am the only one still listening.
6. I start laughing at inappropriate times, and when pressed explain that I was laughing at something someone else said, at a different time.
7. You find you are talking about your pets.
8. I pretend to have lost my signal, even if it's an in-person conversation, and not via cell phone technology.
9. I suddenly offer you food, gum, karaoke, a breath-holding contest, or anything else to otherwise occupy use of your mouth.
10. I start another, better, story, and then when you stop me, I say, "Oh, it was hard to tell if you were finished."
11. You are Mr. Samson, my U.S. History teacher.

Again, if you sense any of the above conditions, that is the perfect time to implement the USDB technique, which also, I just noticed, incidentally stands for "Unforeseeable Suicide for the Deliverance from Banality." Weird.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

K, Time for some Joseph Smith

So, yeah. We're on the question of unquestioned obedience. And also the fallibility of ecclesiastical leaders. So I offer up some more quotes, which, together with the one in the post below, should hopefully generate some interesting discussion.

First, Joseph Smith on blind obedience.

“We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark that they would do anything they were told to do by those who preside over them [even] if they knew it was wrong; but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself, should not claim a rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly. A man of God would despise the idea. Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the saints were told do by their presidents they should do it without any questions. When Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their hearts to do wrong themselves.” (Joseph Smith, Millennial Star, Vol 14, Number 38, pages 593-595).

Note that he doesn't say that it's wrong for leaders to tell us what we should do. It's just wrong for them to tell us not to question them. Questioning is fine, then, and necessary if we are to decide for ourselves whether a commandment is "wrong."

Next, everybody else on the abililty of the prophet to lead us astray.

Always keep your eye on the President of the church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, even if it is wrong, and you do it, the lord will bless you for it but you don't need to worry. The lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.
[LDS President Marion G. Romney (of the first presidency), quoting LDS President (and prophet) Heber J. Grant "Conference Report" Oct. 1960 p. 78 ]

"The Lord Almighty leads this Church, and he will never suffer you to be led astray if you are found doing your duty. You may go home and sleep as sweetly as a babe in its mother's arms, as to any danger of your leaders leading you astray, for if they should try to do so the Lord would quickly sweep them from the earth."
[Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 9, p. 289, 1862.]

"The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray."
President Wilford Woodruff (considered scripture as it is canonized at the end of the D&C)

First of all, I believe the things said by our latter-day prophets. Not because I'm told to, but again, because I pray about these things. More on that in a minute.

Now, I know these latter quotes may seem to conflict with the first one. But I choose to view them as a double assurance. I sure do love the idea that anything the prophet tells me to do, I'll be safe in doing. I also love the idea that with each individual principle, I should still be thinking for myself.

Maybe it makes more sense to me than I can convey to others, but I really believe in questioning AND obeying. Joseph Smith condemns those who obey without question. But we're also in trouble if we don't obey at all. How do we reconcile those thoughts?

My personal solution is to pray for the ability to obey, to align my will with the Lord's and the prophet's when new commandment comes down. My approach to the church's counsel on Proposition 8 is exemplary of my general attitude toward new commandments. I don't go in with the question of whether to believe. I go in knowing I need to (I won't be led astray, right?) asking for the ability to do so. I still need to know for myself. I believe religious crazies come about in two ways. One is they listen to someone else and don't think for themselves. The other is they listen to some inner voice and ignore reason. We are taught in 2 Corinthians that "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." Two witnesses include a) the prophet and b) the Holy Ghost. If we listen to just one of these sources, we're in danger of becoming a religious extremist. I know this doesn't help those who feel they have earnestly sought the will of the Lord and felt inspired in ways contrary to the teachings of the prophets, but I have never had a problem, when earnestly trying, to reconcile my feelings with the direction from the prophets. It sometimes takes some mighty prayer, but it has always worked for me.

The nice thing about these two quotes is that Joseph Smith specifically mentioned that it's wrong to obey a leader (he doesn't specify what kind of leader, other than to say "president," which is a whole 'nother discussion) when one KNOWS that it is wrong. We are also told that we will never be wrong to obey the prophet or the twelve apostles acting as a whole. For that reason, I will always obey, even if I don't understand. I say "understand," and not "agree," for a reason. I will be sure that I feel something is right before I obey it. I need to know it comes from God. But I don't need to know WHY. I'm fine with that coming later.

I also think it's important to note that I read a lot of arguments against the church's recent stance that include the doctrine that the church is perfect, but its members are not. That, to mean, means that we might some time catch our prophet in a sin, and our testimonies should not be shaken if we do. It does NOT mean that the prophet will issue a commandment or direction that is not aligned with God's will.

Anyway, I hope these posts help people to understand my perspective, and maybe figure out where to look for some of their own answers. I find myself talking about prophets and gays and politics in about 90% of my discussions these days. I'm not trying to be super persuasive here, but rather to explicate my thought processes. I firmly believe that I can be a faithful Latter Day Saint, obey the prophet, and think for myself. I hope that in the very least, people will recognize that my own obedience to dictates from the "brethren" does not come with no price or cost.

Love you all.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Or, In President Hinckley's Words

I understand that there are many people who view the church as less of an all-encompassing authority than I do. I guess you can feel that the church is the best thing for your life, even if you don't agree with all its teachings. But not me. I can't rationally believe in PART of an institution that tells me I need to believe in ALL of it. I'm an all-or-nothing kind of guy.

Which is why I have felt so befuddled lately by all the invitations to sign a petition against the church's stance on proposition 8, to visit, or even to fast for Prop 8 to be defeated. I can't fathom using a tenet of my religion to fight against, well, my religion. Maybe it would be different if it if it seemed less cut and dry to me, as I'm sure it does to my friends who send me these invitations.

Anyway, today a guy I kinda know posted this on his Facebook page, and I love it. It's what I've been trying to say, only he does it with much more gravitas and holy authority than I could, and I invite everyone to read it. Talk to you later!

From a talk entitled "Loyalty," given by President Gordon B. Hinckley during the priesthood session of the April 2003 General Conference.

"Now may I say a word concerning loyalty to the Church.

We see much indifference. There are those who say, “The Church won’t dictate to me how to think about this, that, or the other, or how to live my life.”

No, I reply, the Church will not dictate to any man how he should think or what he should do. The Church will point out the way and invite every member to live the gospel and enjoy the blessings that come of such living. The Church will not dictate to any man, but it will counsel, it will persuade, it will urge, and it will expect loyalty from those who profess membership therein.

When I was a university student, I said to my father on one occasion that I felt the General Authorities had overstepped their prerogatives when they advocated a certain thing. He was a very wise and good man. He said, “The President of the Church has instructed us, and I sustain him as prophet, seer, and revelator and intend to follow his counsel.”

I have now served in the general councils of this Church for 45 years. I have served as an Assistant to the Twelve, as a member of the Twelve, as a Counselor in the First Presidency, and now for eight years as President. I want to give you my testimony that although I have sat in literally thousands of meetings where Church policies and programs have been discussed, I have never been in one where the guidance of the Lord was not sought nor where there was any desire on the part of anyone present to advocate or do anything which would be injurious or coercive to anyone.

The book of Revelation declares: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15–16).

I make you a promise, my dear brethren, that while I am serving in my present responsibility I will never consent to nor advocate any policy, any program, any doctrine which will be otherwise than beneficial to the membership of this, the Lord’s Church.

This is His work. He established it. He has revealed its doctrine. He has outlined its practices. He created its government. It is His work and His kingdom, and He has said, “They who are not for me are against me” (2 Ne. 10:16).

In 1933 there was a movement in the United States to overturn the law which prohibited commerce in alcoholic beverages. When it came to a vote, Utah was the deciding state.

I was on a mission, working in London, England, when I read the newspaper headlines that screamed, “Utah Kills Prohibition.”

President Heber J. Grant, then President of this Church, had pleaded with our people against voting to nullify Prohibition. It broke his heart when so many members of the Church in this state disregarded his counsel.

On this occasion I am not going to talk about the good or bad of Prohibition but rather of uncompromising loyalty to the Church.

How grateful, my brethren, I feel, how profoundly grateful for the tremendous faith of so many Latter-day Saints who, when facing a major decision on which the Church has taken a stand, align themselves with that position. And I am especially grateful to be able to say that among those who are loyal are men and women of achievement, of accomplishment, of education, of influence, of strength—highly intelligent and capable individuals.

Each of us has to face the matter—either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.

Thank you, my dear brethren, you men of great strength and great fidelity and great faith and great loyalty.

Finally, loyalty to God our Eternal Father and His Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Every man in this Church is entitled to the knowledge that God is our Eternal Father and His Beloved Son is our Redeemer. The Savior gave the key by which we may have such knowledge. He declared, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).

Pray to your Heavenly Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and always, under all circumstances, by the very nature of your lives show your loyalty and your love . . .

Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
Now is the time to show.
We ask it fearlessly:
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
(“Who’s on the Lord’s Side?” Hymns, no. 260)"

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Preparation H

Well, that's what my roommate Evan is calling Proposition 8, the amendment to the California State Constitution that would define marriage as between a man and a woman, effectively ending the current state of legalized gay marriage there.

Now, I'm a faithful, somewhat liberal, gay Californian Latter Day Saint living in Utah. Not that that fact lends my thoughts on this matter any more validity than anyone else's. Just that I want people to know where I'm coming from. I am aware that the word "gay" connotes entire lifestyle choices to many readers here, so I will clarify: I am attracted almost solely to other men, but I also believe the Church when it says that to act on homosexual desires is wrong. Many would call me naive in my attempts to remain faithful to my religion, but I am insulted by the notion that people (particularly homosexuals in this instance) are incapable of controlling their impulses and living by a higher moral law. I am very tolerant of others' making the choices from which I intend to abstain. I also know many people sneer at the idea of tolerance because a degree of disapproval inheres therein, but I can think of no other word for how I feel about it. I try to live by a double standard when it comes to ethics and morals: I am very permissive with others, while trying to maintain a behavioral stricture for myself.

I struggled with the Prop 8 issue the moment I heard about the letter from the First Presidency to the members in California. I was disappointed that this issue received so much more attention than other recent moves from the church intended to reach out to its homosexual population, such as the pamphlet entitled "God Loveth His Children," which can be read in the church website. I also wish the government would stay out of the marriage issue altogether, and was saddened to see that the Church was supporting a constitutional amendment that would only serve to further enmesh the legal apparatus with the issue of marriage. I also have many friends (a brother and a best friend included) who are living active gay lifestyles. I love these guys. My best friend is dating a wonderful guy right now, and I would love to see them happy together forever. I also have a very strong sense of live-and-let-live morality; do whatever you want, as long as your actions don't impinge upon my own liberties. And the issue of gay marriage feels like one of those times when it couldn't hurt the church to allow the gays to change the label of something they already have.

A few feeble reasons have been presented. The case of the Catholic Church choosing to discontinue their adoption agency in Massachusetts after the judicial decree that they place children with gay couples is evidence that maybe at least some of the Church leaders' warnings are not merely slippery-slope scare tactics, but rooted in verifiable past experience. The Church's claim that marriage is ordained of God could be expressing a claim that marriage is not a societal contract between people, but rather something older, immutable, and God-given.

Still, these are claims that pale in comparison with the apparent (or perceived?) effects on the homosexual people of disallowing marriage between two members of the same sex. Furthermore, these claims are not ones that could be made to persuade someone in any secular light. To me, the obvious choice is to allow gay marriage.

However, I am cognizant of the fact that I have not attained the longest view on any earthly matters. I do have a testimony of a living prophet (and that testimony has been reinforced recently due to my soul-searching on this issue). It is strange to me that the church is taking such a strong stance on what appears to be a political issue. My political views are sharply contrasted with the commandments I've been given from the church. But I have to remember the watchtower metaphor: the man up in the tower shouts warnings and instruction to the people below, and the wise heed his words because they know he knows something they don't.

For me, it all boils down to this quote from President Harold B. Lee:

"The power of Satan will increase; we see it in evidence on every hand. …

"Now the only safety we have as members of this church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church in that day when the Church was organized. We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through his prophet, 'as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; … as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.' (D&C 21:4–5.) There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that 'the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name's glory.' (D&C 21:6.)" (in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 152; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, 126).

The promises made in that quote are powerful, and they're what I truly want out of this life. I really do believe these words from one of our latter-day prophets.

I do worry that people will read a quote like this and become myrmidons. That sort of unquestioned loyalty is what leads to the worst of inhumane atrocities. So let me be clear that I would never obey a commandment with which I disagree. But I will appeal directly to God to ascertain that a new commandment is indeed from Him. That's what our leaders have counseled us to do (indeed, it's the counsel that led to the first vision in the first place): to appeal directly to the source of all wisdom. One can receive a second witness of the prophet's words through the Holy Ghost.

That's the invitation I'll be making to my friends who are pondering what to do and on which side of the line to pitch their tents. The invitation to not just go out and vote based solely on political ideologies or visceral reactions to sensational pleas and anecdotes. Nor do I want people to vacantly follow the instruction of any leader or activist. I would have people take all of those things into account and ask God in humble prayer (being willing to have a change of heart if the answer is contrary to the one expected) what their responsibilities are vis-a-vis Proposition 8. If you happen to get a different answer from mine, I will support you in your decision, knowing that you (like I am) are choosing to act on your conscience in the best way you know how.

When I did that, I received an answer that I can't rightly defend to other people using the usual logic and rhetoric. But when people ask me how I can possibly defend such a notion, I can view it as an opportunity to bear my testimony of a living prophet, whose purpose is to be the mouthpiece for God and help set a common course for people in a time when so many divergent paths are viewed as the right one.

In fine, I don't urge you to vote yes on 8, but I urge you to turn the question directly to your God and act accordingly. Whatever decision you make, I love and respect you, and I hope the best for you and for all of us.


[edit: Thanks for all the comments! I've left a response to each down at comment number 23 or so. I appreciate the discussion!]

Monday, October 06, 2008


So I'm in the Scera production of Seussical in Orem (Go see it! Runs through the 13th!). And I'm the Grinch. My costume comprises a red vest, red Superman boots, a green feauxhawk wig, and a tinselly green onesie. There is one other element of the costume that most will never have occasion to see.

After the first dress rehearsal, the costume lady clutched my arm and discreetly asked me if I had any "support," because I was going to need it. A few minutes later, my friend Shelley pulled me aside to tell me that the choreographer had asked her to talk to me about needing some "support" down there. Then the lighting guy slipped me a little note saying I might consider some "support." So, I got the picture. I guess the scene where all the Whos and I make a Christmas toast and then I do a special little Christmas jig was a little disconcerting. Thanks everyone, for the message! I went straight to Walmart and purchased a jock strap/cup contraption.

It took a while to figure out how to get the cup into the jock strap (I'm making assumptions about the distinctions between those two things, so sorry all you athletes if I'm getting the "support" terminology all wrong). Turns out the athletic support apparatus is super uncomfortable and is trying to perform a pre-conception abortion. I hated it. A few nights into the show, I experimented and found that leaving the cup out still afforded me enough support to not have to worry about the floppage factor. Or maybe we just have the emperor's new clothes factor here, and nobody's telling me. At any rate, I got used to having no cup on, and it just sat in a bag on a shelf during the shows.

Until that fateful day that I forgot the jock strap part. What to do!? This is a kids show! But then the Grinch had an idea, an awful idea. The Grinch had a wonderful, awful idea! I got some gaffers tape, and fashioned a sort of tape harness to hold the cup to the outside of my normal underwear. Problem solved!

This new arrangement was far more uncomfortable than before, but I was thinking of the children. Not my own, future children, obviously, but the ones in the front row of the audience. But there was an unforeseen benefit. You see, there is a "special needs" boy in our cast whom we'll call "John." For some reason someone had given him a large wooden stick, which he was thrashing about like a staff. And as soon as I walked into the room, he inadvertently hit me very hard in the crotchular area. I doubled over in reflexive pain, but then straightened up, realizing that my progeny were spared. It was the Holy Spirit that made me forget my jock strap that night, asserts one of my roommates. We're calling it "The Miracle of the Athletic Support and the Retard with the Stick." I have an e-mail in to the Vatican.

Moments later, I was approached by a Who named Devi who is a kind and shy married woman. She touched my arm, leaned in, and whispered, almost conspiratorially, "I have a question for you about the whole 'cup' situation." Her husband was standing within sight behind her.

My eyebrows went up. "Okaaaay...."

She leaned in closer. "Do you want me to bring out an extra cup for you, or do you just want to steal the Mayor's during the toast?"

Oh. Props. Right.

Well, hope you all have a wonderful day.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Well, folks, it's finally here. The online version of the movie my friends and I worked so hard on last spring. Please, if you like it, link to it, e-mail people the link to it, send us feedback at The goal is to try to get a writing deal for a sitcom for the Sci-fi channel. Maybe I'm shooting too high, but we'll see where this goes. Also, if you'd like a DVD copy, we'll make you one (with extras!) for $5 once we get that system set up. Pre-order by e-mailing us a request at Hope you enjoy! Also, we loaded up a pretty big version because we didn't want to cut down very much on the video quality, so depending on your internet connection, you might need to wait for it to load a bit. You can also try them at their youtube locations here, here, and here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Little Blog Help, Anyone?

I did something bad, and now all of my posts on my Confessions Blog feature my full name. So I've hidden the blog away, but I'm hoping there's someone out there who can maybe help me out with this? It's a technical computery kind of a problem, and I could always go through and just post them all over again from scratch, but I'm not really looking forward to that, because there are like 138 of them. Anyway, if you'd be willing to help, let me know!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

New Old Blog

I have decided to go back and do a more readable version of this blog. I'm starting at the beginning, editing type-os, adding new perspectives on old stories, slipping pictures in there for illustration's sake. I'm leaving out the lists and the self-references, changing people's names to their real names where I can remember who I was talking about, and trying to increase the over-all enjoyability of the blog for people who are not me. This blog will stay here, but I will be directing people to the other one in the future. You can find it at "The brainy poet corner" is an anagram for "Robert Anthony Pierce," as I've previously hinted. Anyway, I just finished souping up the first two posts on it, the first of which is a combination of the two oldest posts on this blog that really tell one humorous story, and the second of which is an extensively re-worked retelling of why I quit my once-upon-a-time job at Tahitian Noni International. I hope you enjoy then either for the first time, or thaht you enjoy the improvements.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

The R List

So, Oprah's magazine, "O," contains a list called the "O List," which is full of the latest things that Oprah thinks are neat. I have decided not to let Oprah tell me how to live my life. So here's the R List: Whoever invented this website is a genius. You get to play a game that teaches you vocabulary, and every time you get a word right, the site donates 20 grains of rice to the World Food Foundation or something. The money comes from advertisers whose banner ads at the botton of the page are refreshed every time you get a new word. Splendiferous (a word I actually learned from Oprah)!

collages I don't know why I never collaged in school, but lately collages are my new thing. Eventually, I will have an entirely collaged wall in my room.

Tina Fey Basically anything this woman does is magical to me. Just recently saw "Baby Mama," which was brilliant. Also loving her in 30 Rock on NBC these days.

Kroger brand Lemongrass and Basil hand soap Seriously, I never knew my hands could smell so good. Also it kinda a little bit makes me crave spaghetti. Hmmmm.

Astro City Comics I know you think comic books are for nerds. Well, you're right. But if you're a nerd, check these out. They just might change your life. And I'd be happy to lend them to you.

Dolly Parton "I hope that people can see that beneath the wigs there's a brain, and behind the boobs there's a heart." That's probably not an exact quote from her, but close enough. I know she's an old-lady country singer, but her songs are witty, catchy (see: Nine to Five), and sometimes downright inspiring (see: Travelin' Thru). I'm just going to say it: I have a testimony of Dolly Parton. Amen.

Scentsy Candles Kinda gay, I know, but my friend Haylee sells them, and they actually smell precisely like the things like which they're supposed to smell.

Barbecuing And not just to make up for the candles. I really love a good barbecued cheeseburger or chicken, and come to find out, it's easier than it looks!

Taking children away from polygamists Yeah, I'm all for it. You can't just start a community where you give birth over and over and then swap all your teenage daughters as wives with all of your old cronies in exchange for their teenage daughters for your own wives. That's wrong. And while some people are boycotting anything from Texas, i fully intend to buy MORE of whatever it is Texas produces in order to show my support of a difficult decision. So the question is, what exactly do I buy? Pace Picante Sauce? A t-shirt that says "Don't mess with Texas?" An armadillo? Working on it....

And on an opposite note:

Gone, Baby, Gone Overlook the fact that it was directed by Ben Affleck (he does have an Oscar, and not for his acting), and ignore the language, and you'll see a really great movie that probes some really hard themes.

Moab What a great little town in Southern Utah. This is where you go to see all the arches and canyonlands, and it's beautiful. Glade, Greg, and I took a trip down there, stayed at the Lazy Lizard hostel, took a crepuscular hike through a verdant canyon, watched the dawn warm the glowing red underbelly of Mesa Arch, and had our breaths taken by Delicate Arch. The ruddy terrain left us all in sanguine spirits.

Glade for President Or at least for National Alternate Delegate for the Republican Party. Check out the video Wills, Evan and I helped him make. I'm so proud of our little Glade!

And that's about all I have.

Things that have NOT made the R list include vegetarianism, gardening, and the fact that it is snowing and it is May and i still live in Utah. That's not really very much to complain about, given all the things that are working so efficiently at making me happy lately.

Until next time, smurferinos,


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

LIght Bulbs

So I heard a new light bulb joke today, and so mostly for the benefit of Glade, here it is:

How many Bush Administration officials does it take to change a light bulb?

(scroll down)
None. There is nothing wrong with the light bulb; its conditions are improving every day. Any report of its lack of incandescence is a delusional spin by the liberal media. That light bulb has served honorably and anything you say about its going out undermines the lighting effect. Why do you hate freedom?

That's all for today, kids. Love ya!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Snoop News

Seriously, you should check this out.

Friday, March 28, 2008

A New Post!

I basically need this picture so I can link to it elsewhere. It all has to do with my obsession for Lost. This is going to be the mother of all (recent) blog posts because I promised you the story of the Valentine's Day Surprise, plus I just finished an eight-page sociology paper that I want to share with you all. And besides, it's been a heck of a while. But first, for your reading pleasure, I'll also include a transcript of a conversation that went down in my film class the other day and had me rollin'.

Girl [interrupting teacher]: Wait a minute! Didn't you say we were going to have a special guest this week!?
Teacher: Oh, you mean like we had the other week when we talked to a real cinematographer who worked on the set of CSI?
Girl: No! I mean, didn't you say you were going to have someone in here to observe your teaching, and we were supposed to make really good comments and make you look good?
Teacher [turning to the gentleman sitting next to her]: Heh heh, yeah, I kinda prepped them that you were coming last week, kind of as a joke, and kind of so they would be prepared.


Girl: Oh. This is a really great class.


So a few days before Valentine's Day this year, I decided to make some enchiladas (I make really good sour-cream-based enchiladas, based loosely on my mother's recipe). As I was at the supermarket purchasing the ingredients, mostly on a caprice I decided to buy some red food coloring and make special Valentine's enchiladas. Valentine's Day Surprise, I would call it. As I mixed tons of food coloring in with the filling, my roommates expressed their disapproval. I can't blame them; It really did look more like a Jell-o salad than anything one would want in his spicy Mexican food. But if I think something is funny enough, you can't stop me from doing it.

The Valentine's Day Surprise was a huge success! Meaning that I thought it was delicious AND hilarious, while no one else would really touch it. Over the next couple of days I ate tons of that stuff, as well as making other special Valentine's treats, like Valentine's coconut juice, Valentine's milk, etc. Man, I think I am funny.

Of course, none of that was at the forefront of my mind on February 14th when I was staring, in complete shock, at the bloody stool in the toilet in the college's men's room. My thoughts went kinda like this:

"Oh. Crap. I am broken. How far up my digestive tract am I bleeding? That is so much blood! Aaaaaaa! Do I need to take this to a doctor? How am I going to get that out of there!? Maybe there is a plastic bag in here like lining the trash or something. But then what? Do I go to the rest of my classes? Can I just carry that thing around with me in my backpack? Surely people will smell that, even through a plastic bag. Maybe I should call one of my roommates. Should I even be standing up? What could have caused this!?"

At which point I remembered the Valentine's Day.


In case you are trying to call me, don't. My phone's battery died. And then I broke it. And then I lost it. It's pretty much the Rasputin of phones. And if you left me a message at any point in the last three weeks, I don't hate you (probably); I just never got it. Some day when I have recovered from the financial crisis I like to call "tuition," I will get a new phone.

Finally, here is the paper I wrote today. It's mostly a book report for my sociology class. I find this stuff to be terribly interesting.

Analysis of “Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism”

Michael LaFeber was wise to chooses Michael Jordan and the Nike Corporation as his subjects for his book, “Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism.” First of all, because attaching the name “Michael Jordan” to the title of his book (and subsequently telling Jordan’s life story throughout) was guaranteed to sell more copies of the book, thus getting his message about a new global economy to more people. Secondly, because Jordan’s story really does align well with the history of this new economy. Jordan’s career falls somewhere between example and metaphor of American culture and technology and their effect on the world. Finally, this book is about power. It is about a powerful man, who represents a powerful nation. The central argument of the book seems to be that America’s ability to change the world is massive, and that we as American citizens must now wield that power responsibly.

The first chapter of the book (pp. 27-48) is all about basketball. This chapter details the history of basketball, its inclusion of blacks in professional leagues, and the beginnings of capitalist endeavors to make a profit from the sport. Also discussed is the subject of Michael Jordan’s home life in North Carolina and his college years of playing basketball. LaFeber uses this chapter to set the stage for the broader economic and political topics that will be discussed later, as well as to ease the reader into a long-range sociological way of thinking about things that we 21st-century Americans take for granted.

Chapter two contains an interesting section entitled “Enter the Transnational Corporation.” Here we are introduced to Nike, a company that is American, but somehow has more than half of its employees, as well as more than half of its sales, abroad. (p. 55) The idea of a corporation dealing internationally is not a new one, LaFeber informs us, but the idea of the new transnational corporations of the 1980s differed from that of their predecessors in a few major ways. These new corporations no longer relied primarily on American markets while dabbling in foreign markets, they traded less in goods than in ideas and designs and knowledge, they relied extensively on foreign labor, they committed huge amounts of capital to overseas advertising, and most importantly, they were able to transcend national barriers and therefore were immune to many of the governmental restrictions formerly placed upon corporations. (pp. 54-56)

Later in this chapter we learn of the history and impact of satellite communication technology on the world. Wealthy and powerful men such as Walter Murdoch and Ted Turner created enormous cable networks that would cross international lines that could bring the same news and entertainment (and naturally advertisement) to people all around the world (p. 71). Turner, we learn, banned the word “foreign” from his broadcasts on all stations, preferring to think of his network as global instead (p. 72). The fact that satellite television preceded the internet might help to explain the idea that America’s culture became so pervasive on the world scene; after all, the most important difference between the two is that the internet allows two-way communication, whereas satellite television allowed what America was broadcasting to be seen by the world without allowing for a response from the world back to America. According to a statistic from the book, 80 percent of European television programs came from the United States, whereas only one percent of American shows originated somewhere besides the U.S. (p 110).

The one-way nature of this exchange is supported by more statistics in chapter three. Here, LaFeber concedes that Europe and Japan did indeed supply the American market with many of their goods (mostly in the form of electronics, vehicles, and high fashion), but he is quick to point out that “(t)he $2 billion or so of high-fashion exports into the United States were dwarfed by the many billions of revenue generated overseas by Nike, McDonald’s, and Disney.” (p. 81, emphasis added)

LaFeber interweaves these facts about the early effects of huge American corporations on the world (along with the first intimations we see of resistance from a foreign nation, France) with stories of Michael Jordan’s growing athletic success and national stardom.

Michael Jordan and the head of Nike, Phil Knight, both benefited enormously from the new global communications and economy that were in place by the 1990s. Knight had found that it was lucrative for him to move his business to where there were fewer regulations imposed on employers. The first Nikes were manufactured in Japan in the 1960s, but with the boom in communications technology on the 1970s and 80s, Knight saw that “production could be done nearly anywhere.” (p. 103) As Japan became more successful and started endowing its workers with more rights, LaFeber reasons, it became more profitable for Knight to move production of his merchandise to other Asian countries, starting in Korea, Indonesia, and Viet Nam, and landing eventually in China. (p. 104). A Reebok official referred to this constant movement (in which his company also engaged) as “chasing wages around the globe,” and admitted that “[t]here has to be a better way.” (p. 155)

Sadly, these new Asian sources of labor were beneficial to Nike precisely because they exploited the workers. According to U.S. women’s groups, the “Indonesian, Vietnamese, and Chinese workers… suffer from inadequate wages, corporal punishment, forced overtime, and/or sexual harassment.” (p. 144) 90 percent of the workers in Vietnam were “women who worked twelve-hour days [and many] reportedly fainted from exhaustion and malnutrition (p. 148). Adding to the ethical problems of manufacturing in impoverished China was the 1989 killing by the communist Chinese government of “large numbers” of dissenters, which caused Congress to restrict trade with the nation. Fortunately for Nike and other transnational corporations, President Bush vetoed this restriction. (p. 105)

Not only did new communications technology supply new, cheaper sources of labor, but it also provided entirely new pools of consumers. Unfortunately, many of these target groups were unable to afford the products with which advertising aimed at them tantalized them. Reports surfaced of inner-city children selling drugs or even killing each other in order to obtain the Michael Jordan Nikes they had no licit means of acquiring (p. 91).

At the same time as these more negative aspects of the Nike company were coming to light, Michael Jordan experienced a succession of setbacks to his image. He was at the center of scandals that focused on his gambling, his association with shady characters, and his refusal to wear Adidas paraphernalia in front of the world at the Olympics (pp. 96-101). As Jordan felt his privacy diminishing, and in the wake of his father’s murder, he retired briefly from the National Basketball association (pp. 121). In the interim, he played professional baseball, though his statistics weren’t very impressive.

During all of this (the exploitation of Asian laborers, the advertising targeted at poor black audiences to whom Nike nor Jordan reached out, and Jordan’s personal tragedies and shortcomings), the media and technologies that had once elevated Jordan and Nike to their global statuses turned on them. LaFeber describes a “Faustian bargain” that they had made with the media: they had put themselves under the world’s microscope in order to make money, but were stuck under the microscope when there were certain aspects of their existence that they would prefer to have remained unexamined (p. 115). Sales of Nike products, as well as sales of other Jordan-endorsed products, continued to climb, but Jordan and Nike had to pay “a price for being dependent on the new media.” (p. 153)

As Nike and Jordan grew rich off of other countries, those countries began to show signs of change. Sneakers hit the runways in Paris fashion shows (p. 109), South African street gangs “called themselves ‘The Young Americans’ and the ‘JFKs,’” (p. 138) while McDonald’s (another Jordan endorsement) shut down German, Austrian, and Swiss street vendors (p.140) and reached the point where it was feeding “one percent of the world’s population each day.” (p. 156). This cultural influence America and its corporations was having on the world is what is called “soft power,” soft because it’s consensual and not a forced influence like military might or political maneuvering (p. 109). One is not to believe that the word “soft” implies that the power is weak; American soft power had a very real effect on other nations, “not only chang[ing] buying habits in a society, but modify[ing] the composition of the society itself.” (p. 157)

This could be a good thing. One could cite the new existence of a small middle class in China as an example if U.S. democracy beginning to have a positive influence in a foreign market. The fact that American goods were not forced upon other nations, but rather traded (p. 156), highlights a major difference between this new “cultural imperialism” and the old traditional “imperialism” against which the Americans fought in the Revolutionary War.

The problem, as the world saw it, is the same as with capitalism here in the United States: he who has more capital begins with an advantage (p. 164). And on the global scale, this means the U.S. The United States had the upper hand on capital and the new technology because at the end of the Cold War, it had “adjusted to the post 1970’s technology and Communism had not.” (p.162).

The final chapter of the book focuses on the effects of the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11th, 2001, on the global economy. Interestingly, the terrorists, who were fighting against the overreaching arm of American cultural, economic, and military influence, were able to accumulate power and perform their terrorist acts only by using the very communications technologies that had been used to spread that American influence in the first place (pp. 166, 181). Osama bin Laden was, in a way, the anti-Jordan, while his shadowy terrorist alliances became the anti-Nike. Bin Laden used his popularity in the Islamic world and the power of satellite television to sell people on his political ideals, while Al Qaeda took advantage of the same border-blurring transnationalism that Nike and other American Corporations had been enjoying for a few decades now (p. 173).

Also interesting is the way in which America’s vision of a peacefully globalized economy was hobbled at the same time Jordan’s career was ended due to knee injuries (p. 171). The spread of the American economy into other countries had flourished at the exact time that Jordan’s career and fame had, and in 2001 and 2002, both felt the effects of having driven too hard and too fast.

America by this point was so engrained in the cultures and economies around the world that when it suffered from a major technology crash during the years on either side of the terrorist attacks, it ended up hurting other countries (those which relied upon American purchasing power to pay for the goods they produced) even more (p. 172). The American government’s reaction to the terrorist attacks had similarly devastating effects overseas. For example, new government sanctions against immigration “prevented the movement of cheap, or highly specialized, labor from one country to another.” (p.173)

The September 11th attacks had other sociological effects on the world, as well. The American government hired an advertiser to try to sell American democratic and capitalistic values to Islamic nations (p. 182). It also began to attempt to censor the news media with regard to the war in Afghanistan that ensued after September 11th (p. 183).

LaFeber points out that not all of the effects of the new globalization are negative. One huge benefit appears to be the fact that as women in developing nations are made more aware of international issues, they have slowed their birth rate, leading analysts to believe that the once-impending crisis of an ever-expanding population has now been averted, as it looks like the world’s population might level off at 9 billion, instead of passing the 10 billion mark and continuing indefinitely. (p. 184). LaFeber claims that due to the new technology, “women were watching satellite television, [and] learning about small families and contraceptive devices from western television programs….” (p. 184) U.S. expansion and profits,” he asserts, “were neither naturally good nor naturally evil.” (p 186)

The book ends on an embittered note, contrasting Jordan, who has unprecedented international clout but has never taken a public political or social stance, with black baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson, who in the 1940s inspired blacks across national lines with message of human rights (p. 188). LaFeber’s message here is clear: A powerful entity, such as Michael Jordan, or, through metaphor, The United States of America (which in actuality means each of us, the American people) has a responsibility to make sure that its considerable power, which is by nature neutral, is used responsibly. Jordan and Nike could have reached out to the inner-city youth, to the impoverished blacks of America, or to the practically enslaved workers in Nike’s overseas factories. The same technology that has created such an imbalance in the world market has also been used to educate and liberate people and to do an incredible amount of good. But if we Americans are not careful and respectful with the enormous influence this book proves we indeed wield, we have the potential to do an incredible amount of harm.

P.S. Thanks for all the feedback on the previous post! I love you guys! You inspire me to write more often.

P.P.S. I kinda came out to my entire Sunday School/bishopric & wives dating panel on Sunday. It was... great? More next time? Maybe.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

God's Country

Evan and I got the same e-mail, only with our names switched, on Myspace from the train we worked on over the summer. Someone has made a profile for it, apparently. The e-mail wasn't very nice, and I'm guessing someone saw our blog posts. It said:

It sounds like you had an experience on board the train. Could it be that you really weren't a server or could it be that you were scared to go out on the train without Evan. Oh my bad, you are Mormon and could not possibly be gay. And we know if you had those kind of feelings you can go to school to learn how not to be gay.
Such a shame you and you 'friends' find it necessary to trash the vehicle that allowed you to make as much money as you did. Good riddance to you and your kind and if you ever get the yen to come back to Alaska, DON'T! We don't like opinionated, rude, or weak people up in here in God's Country.

KARMA IS A BITCH..............................

All Aboard!

Well, anyone who remembers my days as a writer for the 100 Hour board knows that I don't take that kind of attitude without responding tenfold. I really did try to tone it down, but that one sure got my hackles up. Here, then is my response:

I have to make some assumptions about your meaning here because some of your statements lack lucidity. Could it be that I wasn't really a server? I assume you mean that maybe I wasn't cut out to be a server. Because I definitely was a server on that train. And I for sure was a very successful server in the job I had before I ever went to Alaska. Yes, I could have put up with more crap from you and made more money than YOU could make elsewhere, but I actually have open doors in my life. You go ahead and keep that job. You're just like a guest on Jerry Springe who is going to go back home to her abusive husband because in all actuality she's probably too white-trash to get a decent man. Me? I'm outta there. Why put up with all that crap when I could be making as much money in a decent working environment? Now don't think I wasn't making a lot of money up there. It's just that so much of it was being taken by dishonest management. That was coupled with the fact that I had to pay hundreds of dollars in order to provide a doctor's note before returning to work, even though I never once called in sick to work. Your office mismanaged so many things it just wasn't worth it to me to even try. I worked my butt off to make the customers happy in that job, and my customers loved me. My fellow servers gave me positive feedback. My managers had (and still have, obviously) no idea who I am or what I am capable of or what I am worth.

Your ad hominem attack on my religion surely doesn't hold the kick for me that you seem to hope it would. You seem to try to insult me by calling me gay, and then you turn around and insult me for being Mormon because of Mormons' stances on gays. Sounds like you had a negative experience with Mormons or homosexuality or both somewhere along the way, and for that I'm sorry. But most of the Mormons and gays I know (which is more than you know in both categories) are good and happy people who are just trying to do the best they can. I don't know about this school you're talking about to teach gays to be straight, but it sounds to me like no wilder a claim than the idea that people could come up to Alaska for the summer and have a good time earning lots of money on the McKinley Explorer.

Interesting that you don't say who you are. Your name on Myspace is "All," and I'm guessing your last name is "Aboard." Cute. I'm guessing you're in management, because you are actually defending that God-awful company. It says you're a panhandler, so I'm guessing you actually live in Alaska. It says you're 99 years old, so that points to Lorelle, but on the other hand, you sound a bit drunk, so maybe it's Kim. If this is Matt, I'm sorry. I felt you were the only person in management at that company who did a good job, and my attacks on the company were never meant to be aimed at you. Then again, it says you are fat and male, which makes me think of that one fat guy who worked in the office and was engaged to the little chirpy but sweet girl. I think it was John, maybe? Yeah, I could see John using words like "yen" and using sarcasm as a primary defense mechanism. It's probably better for you that I never find out which one you are, because for an employer to say those things about Mormons and homosexuals is clearly illegal.

Anyway, I've moved on with my life. Sorry you're stuck up there and this misery has to continue to be your existence, but I'm actually in a really good place right now. I love my job and I'm going to school and the other day in class when the teacher brought up having to work for incompetents, it actually took me a few minutes before my Holland America experience came to mind. I take that as a good sign.

I haven't enumerated my reasons for not sticking with the job here in this e-mail, because I am assuming you already saw my blog post. However, in case you missed it, here it is:

You don't like opinionated, rude, or weak people in Alaska? No wonder you all seemed to hate each other. I don't even know if it's worth it to point out that that last statement of yours was opinionated AND rude, because you seem to have very weak reasoning powers.

I don't understand why you would say "Karma's a bitch" to someone who has moved on and is infinitely happier than he was when you knew him. That statement would seem to apply more to someone who is miserable and treats others like crap who is stuck returning year after year to a miserable job that treats him like crap. If Karma is such a bitch, maybe it should get a job as a manager at the McKinley Explorer after Lorelle keels over or Kim gets thrown in the drunk tank. Neither of which will happen too soon.

--Robbie Pierce

Next time: My Valentine's Day surprise!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


One of the eskimos at work has to write a list of everything that pisses her off. I told her I'd do the same, so here goes, in no particular order:

1. Ann Coulter
2. People throwing snowballs at me
3. Holland America cruiselines
4. Deaf culture
5. That particular aspect of Mormon culture that leads us to believe that men are responsible for women's righteousness
6. cops
7. dollar coins
8. cheating in board games
9. uses different parts of speech in a list
10. pregnant women drinking
11. racism (when you're not joking)
12. potato bugs (the Jerusalem Cricket)

Well, that's about it. I guess I'm not a very angry person. At least not compared to the girls at work. Oh, speaking of which,

13. getting kicked in the nuts by a stupid angry girl right before she rips my shirt.