Wednesday, March 31, 2010

oh, never mind, whatever

BELMONT, NH—Stating that she wasn't in the best place right now, and that things have been sort of you know, Belmont resident Megan Slota announced Thursday that sometimes she just feels….

Due to a general sense of…well, it's hard to explain, the 28-year-old dental hygienist reported that she just needed to work some stuff out, and that she would probably be a little I don't know for a couple weeks or so.

"It's not anybody's fault, honestly," said Slota, standing in her kitchen and holding a mug of tea with both hands. "Sometimes I just get like this where it's like I'm not, I guess, whatever. We don't have to get into it right now."
Added Slota, "I'm really, like, argh, I don't know."

After that thing with Dave on Thursday, people were concerned that Slota was in a weird place, which she initially denied. But Slota later admitted that she was just taking some time to figure things out and needed a little space, but it's not like she wanted people to leave her alone or anything like that.

"I had a really good talk with Debra," Slota said. "She's such a good friend. It's good to know I have someone like her. It's just a crazy time right now. And I've been really busy with work, too, so that hasn't helped."

While admitting that it must suck to have to deal with her lately, Slota said that she appreciates everyone's patience while she sorts all of this stuff out. Sources close to the sort of spacey, sort of—oh gosh, what would you even call it—distracted woman confirm that it's always the same this time of year, because of her dad.

"I worry about Megan," longtime friend Alex Polson said. "Times like this, she can get a little strange. Not strange strange, but still kind of strange where you're like, 'Huh?' But you know what? She's tough. She'll get through all this and be back to her old self in no time."

Though she's been kind of blah lately, especially at the family thing where she had to be on her best behavior, friends and coworkers have been understanding about what's going on with her, and want to let her know they're there if she needs help moving, or needs someone to go shopping with her, or just wants to hang out and not talk about the thing that happened with Samantha last week.

"You know, it's like when you're just," Slota said. "You feel one way but then you're also sort of, I don't know, maybe it's just one of those things. And you don't want to force it, right? I feel like you just have to accept it sometimes, I guess."
"It is what it is," she added.

Regardless of the thing that's, oh, whatever, it'll pass eventually, Slota maintained that she's forging ahead and taking things one day at a time.

Dr. Andrei Robinson, author of the book It's, Well, I'm Not Sure How To Describe It, Really, says that Slota's condition is not uncommon. "As a therapist, I'm seeing more and more patients with problems and conditions related to Ms. Slota's," Dr. Robinson said. "But ultimately, there's not a lot I can do for them. It's just another facet of this, whatever it is. You can't understand the, you know, well, anything, really. It's all too much sometimes, but it's her deal. She's got to work through it. We've all been there, right?"

"I don't know," Dr. Robinson added. "Does that make sense?"

Thursday, March 25, 2010

more from MOBA

This single painting planted the seed that grew into the Museum of Bad Art. The motion, the chair, the sway of her breast, the subtle hues of the sky, the expression on her face--every detail combines to create this transcendent and compelling portrait, every detail cries out "masterpiece."
--MOBA catalogue

from a talk

I am reminded of a wonderful day when God sent a personal message to me. One Sunday years ago, in that dim world somewhere between winter and spring, I hit one of the lowest ebbs of my life. Trials had piled upon me like waves of the sea, not allowing me to catch breath before the next one came, toppling me to the sand and filling my mouth with seawater so that I felt I was drowning.

I couldn’t see a front on my life that hadn’t been assaulted with what seemed like insurmountable difficulty. Even close friends had started to say that surely enough must be enough. Then, just when I felt I had all I could ever handle, something more happened, the worst yet, and whatever bit of life and hope I had mustered seemed to be ebbing away. The future looked grim; I was frightened, my sense of hope dried up like a moth on the window frame.

In that state I walked into Sunday School and sat on a vacant chair next to our friend Don Van Slooten, one of the world’s true gentlemen. Nothing outward gave away my state of mind. I had no sagging shoulders or drooping face. To the casual observer, I was just another person in the class, but inside I was sinking, sinking.

The bell rang, the class members began to leave, and unbidden Don turned and began telling me a story. He did not know why the memory came to him, why he started telling me this event from long ago. Yet, as soon as he started talking, I knew.

God sometimes answers your pleas for help in invisible ways, like a silent hand upon your shoulder, a waft of light across your heart, a moment of sudden clarity. It is subtle. Sometimes, however, his interventions are direct and tangible and so evident you can remember it years later. The blessing for me that day was as direct and obvious as if God had sent an angel. In fact, I knew he had.

This is the story Don told me. In 1963, he had been a young mission president in the Netherlands and on one busy morning at 7:45, he received a frantic call from an elder who said that his companion, Elder Mel Springer, had quite suddenly, early in the morning while his companion showered, packed his bags and left their boarding house. The elder had no clue where Elder Springer had gone, only that he had been discouraged lately and wanted to go home. He had taken one bicycle and locked up the other, so his companion could not follow him.

Immediately, Don cancelled his interviews for the day, jumped in his car and drove from one train station to another, asking everyone if they had seen a young missionary who had purchased a ticket. Nobody had. Next, praying fervently, he tried the airport and then the police station, his worry growing. At the same time, his two assistants went to the train station in Utrecht. “Had somebody, anybody seen a young man in a white shirt with a missionary badge purchase a ticket?”

At last, somebody remembered. They had seen him. He had purchased a ticket to Paris. “Did the train have any stops along the way?” the assistants asked. “Oh yes. One in Rotterdam.”

The assistants drove break neck to Rotterdam and—though it was like finding a needle in a haystack--they found Elder Springer in the station there on a stop between trains. Back in the mission office talking to President Van Slooten, Elder Springer broke into tears. He was so discouraged. The Netherlands was a difficult place to preach the gospel. The people didn’t respond. Other problems were mounting in his heart.

Don considered Elder Springer one of the finest missionaries that he had. He had never shown any indication before of despair. What’s more, Don had a special affinity for him. He knew that his mother was a widow with three sons —and his father’s dying wish was that all of them would serve missions. His mother was supporting him on this mission by working in a factory.

It would be a terrible emotional burden for Elder Springer to go home with his mission unfinished, one that he might carry his whole life.

If there was any way to change Elder Springer’s mind, President Van Slooten wanted to do it. Don invited the young elder to ride with him to Arnheim where he needed to visit a family. It gave them a chance to talk for miles of highway, and as Don drove he had a prayer in his heart. For quite some time as the odometer marked off the miles, Don did not make any headway with the sad young man. “I just kept finding another road to turn on even if we had to crisscross the country several times so we could continue to talk, hoping that I could talk him into staying.” Finally, after pouring his heart out, Elder Springer agreed to stay.

Not long after, when he was out tracting, Elder Springer and his companion decided to knock on one more door at the end of long day. To his surprise he was greeted by an African woman whose hair was tied back in a bright bandana. It was Priscilla Sampson-Davis, who was living in Holland since her husband was working with Philips Electronics Company. Elder Springer noted that her colorful dress was a contrast to the usual garb of the people in the country, but he greeted her in Dutch and began giving her a “door approach”.

She interrupted in perfect English, saying that she was interested in their message, but she had little time since she was leaving for Ghana the next morning. They gave her a discussion on the Book of Mormon with flannel strips, and then she said she had a great desire to read the book. Since they didn’t have an English copy with them, they rushed back to their apartment and got one for her. Elder Springer said, “When I gave her the book, I slipped in my missionary card that had the Articles of Faith printed on the back.”

About a month later to his delight, Elder Springer received a letter from Priscilla in Ghana, asking for more copies of the Book of Mormon. He had not supposed that this copy would take any more root than all the others he had given away, but she had read it, loved it and wanted more! These were for the principal of the high school where she worked and two of her friends. He gladly sent the books and included a pamphlet on the Prophet Joseph Smith. Now the letters kept coming from other Ghanaians, all addressed to Elder Springer. Friends and their friends wanted more of this precious gospel information. Finally, Elder Springer was receiving so many requests for information that when Elder Mark E. Peterson visited the mission, he volunteered the International Mission of the Church to take over the job to save the young missionary the expense.

Remember, this was 1963 and missionaries would not be coming to Ghana until 1978. When they arrived, they found a people prepared, in fact, 10 congregations already spontaneously meeting on their own and ready for baptism. Those stirrings toward the gospel had begun almost mysteriously in the early sixties. They had in large part begun from one Elder Springer who mailed copies of the Book of Mormon to Ghana.

In the Sunday School room that morning listening to Don’s story, I started to cry and so did he. Our ward members emptied out; we could hear the lessons from Priesthood and Relief Society meetings begin and then end. Someone in leaving had flipped off the light, so the room was dim, but oh, such light began to burst upon my soul.

“I always felt,” Don said, “that Satan had tried to discourage Elder Springer so he would not be there to give that Book of Mormon to Priscilla Sampson-Davis. Look at all that came from it.”
--Maurine Proctor

these things happen

About a year after that experience, I had another that convinced me that listening to the subtle stirrings of the still small voice is a matter of life and death—and very vital and real. I was waiting outside the gymnasium at the old Jordan High School. I was a sophomore at the time. As I sat there, a young women that I didn’t know well at all came and sat beside me. Without thinking and without hesitating, I turned to her and said: “I know that this will sound strange, but I have a message for you. God wants you to stop thinking about suicide.” Her eyes became great big and her mouth dropped in stunned surprise. She gasped, “How did you know?” In truth, I was also stunned that I had just said what I did. This young lady was a very pretty senior to whom I don’t remember having spoken previously. If I had thought about it before speaking, I would never have opened my mouth. I would have been completely intimidated. On any other day, I would have been too self-conscious to open my mouth. She explained to me that she had laid out on her bed stand an entire bottle of sleeping pills that she planned to go home to take right after the assembly we were about to attend.

The next morning she ran out of the building to meet me as I approached the school steps. She ran up to me and hugged me, crying. I’ll never forget what she said as she sobbed: “I didn’t know that God cared about me. Thank you.” To this day I’m stunned that somehow I knew God had a message for that marvelous young lady. We became friends after that experience. But the truth is that I don’t know how I knew—I just did.
--Blake T. Ostler, theologian

more interesting observations from Bro. Bushman


Behold, that which you hear is as the voice of one crying in the wilderness–in the wilderness, because you cannot see him–my voice, because my voice is Spirit; my Spirit is truth; truth abideth and hath no end; and if it be in you it shall abound. (Doctrine and Covenants 88:66)

I was born in Salt Lake City to parents who had been married in the temple. I am a fifth-generation Mormon on both my mother’s and father’s sides. I had ancestors who knew Joseph Smith in Nauvoo. All of my immediate ancestors were in Utah before the railroad was completed in 1869. By the official definition, that makes them all pioneers. I have never wandered even for a few months from church activity. I have held many positions in our basically lay-run church from scoutmaster to bishop, stake president, and patriarch. You could say that I was born Mormon and will likely die Mormon.

Why then am I always interrogating my own faith? I am always asking why I believe. What do my beliefs mean? How can they be explained and justified? I have sympathy for questioners because I am a questioner too. Settled as faith is in my own life, I understand why people doubt. I see in questioning something deeply religious as well as deeply human. A Doctrine and Covenants scripture speaks of “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” and then goes on to explain itself: “in the wilderness because you cannot see him.” That is the human plight. We live in a wilderness where we cannot see God. We must believe in him in his absence. The scripture goes on to further explicate itself by explaining “my voice, because my voice is Spirit” [88:66]. We live in a wilderness and listen for the voice of a person we cannot see, coming not by sound waves to our ears but as a spirit voice. If that is our situation, as it truly seems to be, how can we not sympathize with bewildered questioners? Under those circumstances, I too question God.

My answers to my own questions are partially philosophical but mostly practical. During my first semester in the School of Religion at Claremont Graduate University, one of my new colleagues invited me to lunch. We had barely given our orders when he asked quite kindly: how is it that you believe in Mormonism? He did not elaborate but I could imagine him thinking of our belief in angels, revelation to ordinary men, gold plates and ancient records, and all the other extraordinary parts of Mormon history and religion. As a Catholic theologian and philosopher of religion, he probably was looking for an answer along the lines a Thomist would give–something reasoned and philosophical. Not stopping to think, I told him I remained a Mormon because when I followed my religion I became the kind of man I want to be. No philosophy, no evidence, nothing elaborate. Simply the personal reality that my religion helps me get better. That’s what it comes down to in the crunch. The scripture verse explains what will happen when you listen to the spirit speaking in the wilderness: “My Spirit is truth; truth abideth and hath no end; and if it be in you it shall abound.” For me that promise becomes a simple matter of fact: when I hearken to the spirit, truth seems to abound in me as the verse promises. By that I mean not just truth as propositions about the world but truth as in the true and highest way to live.

Staying in that practical vein, I sometimes tote up a few specifics about the church. What makes it work? While I am a constant inquirer, I like being a Mormon. I like its gritty, down-to-earth feel, and when I stop to think about it, lots of good things come to mind. Here are a few from a recent list.

1. I like what I call the basic discipline. By that I refer to the commandments Mormons are taught to live by. We don’t drink alcohol or smoke or drink tea and coffee. We stay away from extramarital sex. We pay tithing, exacting from ourselves ten percent of our income for use by the church. We give freely of our time to church work, as much as twenty hours a week for bishops. When I explained all this to a group of students at Columbia, one responded, “Ugh, you don’t have much fun.” But think of all the misery the world would be spared if no one got drunk, if no one cheated on wives or husbands, if no one smoked. Think of all the good that would be brought about if everyone gave ten percent of his or her income to charitable causes. We would live in a happier, saner, healthier, more orderly and elevating world if everyone lived like Mormons. I want all my children to follow this basic discipline for their own good here and now, apart from any eternal benefits, and so far as I can tell, the Mormons do better than anyone in making this discipline stick. Children are much more likely to adopt these good habits when everyone in the congregation lives by the rules. The whole village teaches the kids how to live clean and upright lives. For me, that is a big plus.

2. Mormon theology casts life as a time of learning. We are here to gain experience, Joseph Smith was told. Mormons hold to the standard Christian idea of a Fall and Redemption through Christ; the great object of life is indeed to cross the cavernous gulf that separates us from God. But we are put in this situation for a good reason: to learn about good and evil in a fallen world. In the long run we will be much better off for having struggled with evil. God has not cast us aside because he is furious with our rebellious behavior. The fall was fortunate. It introduced us into a phase of existence where we can become as the gods, knowing good and evil. This frame of mind goes back to a time before earth life when God came among the spirits and offered to be their God and to teach them how to attain eternal life—that is, a life like His. Mormons think of God as their ally, teaching and cheering them on as they struggle to make the best of their lives in this fallen state. The atonement of Christ enables us with his grace to battle with sin and eventually return to the divine presence. I like this because even in moments of despair we can understand our agonies as part of a plan of learning. Mormons rarely blame God for the evil in the world. We knew beforehand from our instruction as spirits that life would be hard and extremely risky. But we chose to come here anyway, and we have the faith that, by placing our trust in God and helping one another, we can pull through. I think that is about as good as you can do by way of explanation for what Mircea Eliade has called the horror of history.

3. Going back to the scripture about “my voice is Spirit,” Mormon theology instills a belief in heavenly guidance. Mormons take very seriously scriptures about “the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father” (John 16:26). We believe that anyone who will open his or her mind and heart can hear the voice of the spirit and learn from it. Mormons teach their little children to “listen to the Spirit.” In all our church callings, in making life decisions, in seeking to comprehend, in choosing good over evil, we listen to that inner voice. Experienced Mormons are almost always listening with a “third ear” for promptings about how best to proceed. Mormon theology generously extends this good spirit to people everywhere—to the whole world, for that matter. The spirit of Christ, we believe, bathes all of his creation and all who will pause to listen can receive its inspiration for any good cause—for art, for invention, for good works, for peace-making, for scholarly inquiry, for just management of a family or a corporation. The spirit of Christ—his voice—can be heard by all who will listen. Again from personal experience, I find this doctrine works and I recommend it to everyone. Creative and good people act under this principle anyway, as their accounts amply testify, but this doctrine recommends that quite ordinary people seek the same intuitive guidance for their lives. In the church it leads to the idea that our brothers and sisters can speak under inspiration; our bishops can give us righteous counsel; Sunday School teachers can be guides to our children; in a sense we can all be God-speakers to one another. A revelation to Joseph Smith before the Church came into existence sums up the doctrine:

And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good–yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, and to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy. (Doctrine and Covenants 11:12-13)

4. In my experience, Mormons know better than anyone how to work together for good causes. A bishop can make a few phone calls to members of the ward and turn out scores of people to clean the chapel, help with a flood emergency, paint a house, help at a shelter. At Claremont Graduate University, where I teach, the Mormon students have formed an association, and they get the same results. Put on a party, arrange a lecture, hold a conference—they can do it because they have been habituated from their youth up to working together. The absence of a paid clergy strengthens the cooperative impulse. Every Mormon knows the bishop is working day and night without pay for ward members. The least they can do is reciprocate. From the time they are teenagers, Mormon children are called to hold positions as class leaders or home teachers. They grow up knowing cooperative ventures are a basic part of life. Their effectiveness is more than habit. It results from a kind of simple selflessness. You don’t engage in church service to promote yourself. The idea is to get a job done, not to buck for an advancement or an increase in salary. You try to overcome obstacles and solve problems. I believe that because Mormons know what it means to work for the good of the order, they can be useful in many settings, not just at church. Because of their willingness and selflessness, they can be useful in advancing good causes in schools and universities, businesses and sports teams, and virtually every other site where people try to work together.

5. Coming at last to something slightly more philosophical, I admire the empiricism of Mormon belief. By that I mean that it is open to empirical testing, using concrete evidence. I once gave a talk to a group of evangelicals about confirming one’s beliefs by a spiritual witness. I thought we could make common cause in arguing for the validity of “self evidence”—that is, evidence about reality coming from within the self, such as the testimony of the Spirit of God. Some in the room, though, would have none of this. They insisted that their faith was grounded in reason and evidence. It was, they said, “falsifiable”—that is, you could devise an empirical test to prove their beliefs true or false. The example one of them gave (a famous one, I later learned) was that if someone discovered the bones of Jesus, proving his body had never been resurrected, this believer would give up his Christian faith. I was so surprised that I had no answer to give on the spot, but I began to wonder if Christian archeologists were diligently searching for the bones of Jesus, and, if the bones were supposedly discovered, how would they determine that they were authentically his? I realized afterwards that the bones business was not a research agenda. It was an example of what falsifiability meant. Actually digging to locate the bones—that is, to really put the Resurrection to an empirical test—was not the point. All that mattered was the theoretical possibility. I contrasted this with the massive scholarly endeavor to prove or disprove the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Hundreds of books and articles have been written arguing one way or the other. Scores of scholars labor away on the question. The issue is hotly debated. Tons of evidence are brought to bear. As with so many historical questions, a definitive answer may never emerge, but the search is not merely a theoretical possibility. It fuels a scholarly industry. Mormons are in the anomalous position of saying that a spiritual testimony, not empirical proof, undergirds their faith, while all the while furiously working to dig up evidence in support of the Book of Mormon. This is practical empiricism as contrasted to the theoretical empiricism of the bones of Jesus argument. I do not anticipate a conclusive, open-and-shut case in favor of the Book of Mormon, but I like the willingness of Mormon scholars to pursue the question. They are actively putting their faith on the line. They take the risk of failing. I admire their courage, and furthermore their arguments must be taken seriously.

A list like this can be expanded. Items doubtless will be added and subtracted as the years go by. This list and all future such lists are a product of my incessant self-questioning. What does my faith mean? What do I truly believe, and how can I explain it? Over time, these inquiries will doubtless lead to new prospects and broader perspectives. In my case, the interrogation all goes on under an umbrella of faith. I am looking to support what I know in my heart is good and true. Others may have had their confidence shaken and don’t know which way to turn—towards faith or away from it. I cannot say that they must swim toward the shore where I stand, or perish; the truth is that we have to find our own footing in our search for understanding. I can only say that Mormonism has served me well and that I believe most people would be better off if they followed the Mormon way.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Political scientist Elvin Lim carried out a semantic study of the all presidential inaugural addresses and state of the union addresses. He offers many illustrative comparisons between presidential rhetoric of past and present times. William Henry Harrison, in his fatal inaugural address [he died from a cold caught from standing in the rain], likened liberty to "the sovereign balm for every injury which our institutions may receive." George H. W. Bush, is his inaugural address, likened it to a kite. "Freedom is like a beautiful kite that can go higher and higher with the breeze," he proclaimed. We may only be a president or two away from hearing liberty compared to a chocolate fudge sundae.
--from We Are Doomed

state of the union

On the podium the president offers up preposterously grandiose assurances of protection, provision, and moral guidance from his government, these declarations of benevolent omnipotence punctuated by standing ovations and cheers from legislators after each declarative clause.

Included in the audience in recent years have been citizens, or foreign visitors, who represent some quality the president will call on us to admire and emulate--selflessness, achievement, or support for U.S. ideals abroad. (The model citizens in these displays are known collectively as "Lenny Skutniks" after the first of them, showcased during President Reagan's 1982 address. Skutnik had performed a heroic rescue in January that year when a plane crashed in the Potomac River. You even hear political wonks use this as a verb: "Karzai's going to be Lenny Skutniked this year...")
--John Derbyshire

If you had been living in Jesus’s time and had heard Him teaching, would you have been one of His followers? To be an honest taker of this test, I think you have to try to forget that you have read the Gospels and that Jesus has been a “big name” for two thousand years. You have to imagine instead that you are walking past the local courthouse and you come upon a crowd listening to a man named Joe Green or Green Joe, depending on judgments whispered among the listeners on the fringe. You too stop to listen, and you soon realize that Joe Green is saying something utterly scandalous, utterly unexpectable from the premises of modern society. He is saying: “Don’t resist evil. If somebody slaps your right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too. Love your enemies. “When people curse you, you must bless them. When people hate you, you must treat them kindly. When people mistrust you, you must pray for them. This is the way you must act if you want to be children of God.”
Well, you know how happily that would be received, not only in the White House and the Capitol, but among most of your neighbors. And then suppose this Joe Green looks at you over the heads of the crowd, calls you by name, and says, “I want to come to dinner at your house.”
I suppose that you, like me, hope very much that you would say, “Come ahead.” But I suppose also that you, like me, had better not be too sure. You will remember that in Jesus’s lifetime even His most intimate friends could hardly be described as overconfident.
--Wendell Berry

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

detroit, detroit, that toddlin town

Detroit is dying. It is the first metropolis in the United States to be facing extinction. We have never seen anything like this in American history. It is happening
under our noses, but the media refuse to discuss it. To do so would be politically incorrect.

Two factors tell us that Detroit is dying. The first is the departure of 900,000 people -- over half the city's population--since 1950. It peaked at 1.8 million in 1950. It is down to about 900,000 today.

In 1994, the median sales price of a house in Detroit was about $41,000. The housing bubble pushed it up to about $98,000 in 2003. In March 2009, the price was $13,600. Today, the price is $7,000. There has never been a collapse of residential real estate values of this magnitude in peacetime history,anywhere.

We are unfamiliar with anything like this. The media are silent. The Powers That Be are not interested in reporting on this, because readers might ask the obvious question: "How did this happen?" Obvious questions tend to lead to obvious answers.

There is no surge of buyers to take advantage of fabulously low prices in Detroit. Can you imagine buying a home for cash for $13,600 in 2009--a house that had sold for $98,000 six years earlier--and losing half your money? It's incredible.

This is the sign of a dying city. This does not happen in a normal environment. Even with the mania created by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, in conjunction with Alan Greenspan's Federal Reserve, nothing like this has happened anywhere else. Yet the city planners, the Federal government's subsidy defenders, and the welfare state aficionados are all discreetly silent about Detroit.

The city funds its schools with property taxes. Property taxes have collapsed as sources of revenue. Last week, the school board announced the closing of one-quarter of Detroit's schools. The city is out of money. This is collapse. The American public does not perceive what is happening in Detroit.

The rate of illegitimacy is in the 80% range. That social phenomenon represents a moral collapse, but the participants were all educated by the tax-funded schools.

The media pundits cannot decide, so they simply ignore the collapse. "Detroit? Never heard of it." The lesson of Detroit is this: the experts do not see a collapse coming. They assume that next year will be like today, give or take 3%. They do not believe that anything as complex as a city can collapse. So, they believe that things will continue, as they always have. Taxes need not be cut. Spending need not be cut. Schools should be allowed to educate. Tax-funded welfare programs should be increased. When it comes to tax evenues, "there's always more where that came from."

And then, overnight, the system collapses. The assumptions were wrong.
--Gary North

Monday, March 22, 2010

A startling work, and one of the largest crayon on canvas pieces that most people can ever hope to see. The bulging leg muscles, the black shoes, the white socks, the pink toga, all help to make this one of the most popular pieces in the MOBA collection.
--MOBA Catalogue, see below.

This disturbing work "makes an offer you can't refuse". The chilling, matter-of-fact manner in which the subject presents the severed head to us is a poignant reminder of just how numb we have become. The understated violence implicit in the scene speaks volumes on our own desensitization, our society's reflexive use of force, and the artist's inability to deal with the hindquarters of the animal.
--from the catalogue of the Museum of Bad Art

Thursday, March 18, 2010

expert in the unlovely

Writings about Le Corbusier often begin with an encomium to his importance, something like: “He was the most important architect of the twentieth century.” Friend and foe would agree with this judgment, but importance is, of course, morally and aesthetically ambiguous. After all, Lenin was one of the most important politicians of the twentieth century, but it was his influence on history, not his merits, that made him so: likewise Le Corbusier.

At [a photographic exhibition of Le Corbusier's works], I fell to talking with two elegantly coiffed ladies of the kind who spend their afternoons in exhibitions. “Marvelous, don’t you think?” one said to me, to which I replied: “Monstrous.” Both opened their eyes wide, as if I had denied Allah’s existence in Mecca. If most architects revered Le Corbusier, who were we laymen, the mere human backdrop to his buildings, who know nothing of the problems of building construction, to criticize him? Warming to my theme, I spoke of the horrors of Le Corbusier’s favorite material, reinforced concrete, which does not age gracefully but instead crumbles, stains, and decays. A single one of his buildings, or one inspired by him, could ruin the harmony of an entire townscape, I insisted. A Corbusian building is incompatible with anything except itself.

* * * * *

The most sincere, because unconscious, tribute to Le Corbusier comes from the scrawlers of graffiti. If you approach the results of their activities epidemiologically, so to speak, you will soon notice that, where good architecture is within reach of Corbusian architecture, they tend to deface only the Corbusian surfaces and buildings. As if by instinct, these uneducated slum denizens have accurately apprehended what so many architects have expended a huge intellectual effort to avoid apprehending: that Le Corbusier was the enemy of mankind.

--Theodore Dalrymple

Fess Parker, Tennessee mountaintop Mensch, RIP

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the centre of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, or spurious isolation in a special world....This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud....It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, though it is a race dedicated to many absurdities and one which makes terrible mistakes; yet, with all that, God Himself gloried in becoming a member of the human race. A member of the human race! To think that such a commonplace realization should suddenly seem like news that one holds the winning ticket in a cosmic sweepstakes....There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun....There are no strangers....The gate of heaven is everywhere.

--Thomas Merton

recollections from a life

One experience seems so incredible that I can hardly believe it myself. We were living at the home of a cousin of Ernest's, way up in the Ensign Ward somewhere, up across from the State Capitol. Ernest [her husband] was really in a lot of pain [he was dying of cancer]; he was having a lot at that time. The family had gone away for Thanksgiving vacation, and we were there alone. I knew not a person, not anybody to call. A knock came to the door. I answered it and a man said, "Is there trouble in this house?" "Yes," I said. "Come in." He didn't have to look twice to see as he came in--Ernest was on a bed just across the room. He asked me if I'd like to have him administered to, and I said, "Yes, oh yes, yes." I got the oil, and he gave Ernest a blessing. He was relieved, and sank into sleep

The man stayed there a while, and we talked. He said he came from below Twenty-seventh South, and that he had felt impressed to catch a bus, and he came up Main Street to wherever the bus changed and got on another bus. And then he had to walk a block and a half to where we were. he'd never seen me, but he was directed to this place. he wasn't a large man; he was kind of a spare man, more slender. And he had a heavy, heavy kind of iron grey hair that he had parted in the middle, but he wasn't an old man. He'd lost the sight of one eye. He was a convert; very, very wonderful. He was full of the spirit, and after his blessing, Ern went to sleep and slept all night long, the first night's sleep he'd had in a long time. This man was very real; he wasn't any apparition. He was flesh and blood. And I never saw him again, and I never heard of him again.

I thought at the time, how wonderful, how wonderful. Could he be one of the three Nephites? I wondered. But the three Nephites would surely have had both eyes. And he seemed so earthy. He looked more like a farmer.
--Juanita Brooks

riding herd

One day Dad said to me, "My girl, if you follow this tendency to criticize, I'm afraid you will talk yourself out of the Church. I'd hate to see you do that. I'm a cowboy, and I've learned that if I ride in the herd, I am lost-totally helpless. One who rides counter to it is trampled and killed. One who only trails behind means little, because he leaves all responsibility to others. It is the cowboy who rides the edge of the herd, who sings and calls and makes himself heard who helps direct the course. Happy sounds are generally better than cursing, but there are times when he must maybe swear a little and swing a whip or lariat to round in a stray or turn the leaders. So don't lose yourself, and don't ride away and desert the outfit. Ride the edge of the herd and be alert, but know your directions, and call out loud and clear. Chances are, you won't make any difference, but on the other hand, you just might."

--Juanita Brooks

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How then shall we come unto Christ so that everything will be different from what it could possibly be otherwise? By sacrificing all taking of offense. By giving up criticism, impatience, and contempt, for they accuse the sisters and brothers for whom Christ died. By forswearing vulgarity and pornography, which diminish both the user and the used. By putting aside, in short, every practice that bears the image of murder, obliteration of souls, discord, and death. By giving these practices their true name, violence, and abhorring even their first appearance. By renouncing war in every form and proclaiming peace (see D&C 98:16).

This requires us to look upon interruption and frustration and insubordination and disrespect and scorn and even abuse--all the treatment from others that we must renounce for ourselves--as opportunities for choosing good over evil. Do not love and do good only to those who will reciprocate, the Savior taught; it takes no particular righteousness to do that (see Luke 6:32­33). Listen attentively to the teacher whose lectures may be a little dry. Read with particular care the papers of students who struggle to write. Befriend the one who feels different, lost, or lonely. Embrace the child who seems to resist you. Take seriously the ad vice of parents who have trouble following that advice themselves. Invite to dinner those who lack the graciousness or the means to invite you back. Even "love your enemies, do good to them which hate you" (Luke 6:27). Like the Father, let your warming sun and nourishing rain fall on the just and unjust alike. Jesus intimated that this kind of love is who we really are--the very perfection, completeness, and fullness we came here to attain (see Matthew 5:45­48). And anything less--judging others and withholding our favor from them--capitulates to Satan. After all, it is with us as it was with the Redeemer: Satan does not need to overpower us in order to win the war. He only needs to get us to adopt his way of fighting it.

--C. Terry Warner