Wednesday, June 29, 2011

NY Legislature Endorses Same Sex Marriage Bill

Last week it became legal in New York for all, gay and straight alike, to marry. This was another instance of legislators taking it upon themselves to award same sex couples the legal to right to marry in the eyes of the state. Want some reading?
Now for some excerpts. From George Weigel, who talks about this from the moral relativity angle:
But the analogy simply doesn’t work. Legally enforced segregation involved the same kind of coercive state power that the proponents of gay marriage now wish to deploy on behalf of their cause. Something natural and obvious — “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” — was being denied by the state in its efforts to maintain segregated public facilities and to deny full citizenship rights to African Americans. Once the American people came to see that these arrangements, however hallowed by custom (and prejudice), were, in fact, unnatural and not obvious, the law was changed.

What the gay lobby proposes in the matter of marriage is precisely the opposite of this. Marriage, as both religious and secular thinkers have acknowledged for millennia, is a social institution that is older than the state and that precedes the state. The task of a just state is to recognize and support this older, prior social institution; it is not to attempt its redefinition. To do the latter involves indulging the totalitarian temptation that lurks within all modern states: the temptation to remanufacture reality. The American civil-rights movement was a call to recognize moral reality; the call for gay marriage is a call to reinvent reality to fit an agenda of personal willfulness. The gay-marriage movement is thus not the heir of the civil-rights movement; it is the heir of Bull Connor and others who tried to impose their false idea of moral reality on others by coercive state power.

A humane society will find ample room in the law for accommodating a variety of human relationships in matters of custodial care, hospital visiting rights, and inheritance. But there is nothing humane about the long march toward the dictatorship of relativism, nor will there be anything humane about the destination of that march, should it be reached. The viciousness visited upon Archbishop Dolan and other defenders of marriage rightly understood during the weeks before the vote in Albany is yet another testimony to the totalitarian impulse that lurks beneath the gay marriage movement.
What's interesting about the NY situation is that Republican politicians all backed out of the way to let this happen. This could have been sent as a referendum to the voters of New York, and it's possible, maybe even likely that they would have voted it down, as has been the case in every other state where it has been put to a vote.

There is also some interesting evidence that maybe this isn't something that same-sex marriage proponents are really that excited about; not so much that they're really interested in the institution of marriage itself, but just a validation of their lifestyle. Mona Charen notes in her article:

Supporters of gay marriage (most prominently the New York Times, which reported New York’s legalization of such unions last week with about as much hoopla as it did the Japanese surrender in 1945) are ecstatic.

Actually, the first sentence of this column might be misleading. While it might seem, from the intense activism on the subject, that gays are impatient to reach the altar, it may not be true. Surveys in countries that have legalized gay marriage have found comparatively small numbers of homosexuals seeking marriage (between 2 and 5 percent in Belgium, and between 2 and 6 percent in Holland). It’s quite possible that legalizing same-sex marriage is sought mostly for symbolic reasons — as a sort of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval on homosexuality. (Just by the way, the funniest sign at a recent Obama speech was held by a gay-marriage advocate irritated by the president’s claim that his views on the subject are “evolving.” The sign read, “Just Evolve Already.”) 
 And then the editors make reference to the article by Katherine Franke. She writes:

While many in our community have worked hard to secure the right of same-sex couples to marry, others of us have been working equally hard to develop alternatives to marriage. For us, domestic partnerships and civil unions aren’t a consolation prize made available to lesbian and gay couples because we are barred from legally marrying. Rather, they have offered us an opportunity to order our lives in ways that have given us greater freedom than can be found in the one-size-fits-all rules of marriage.

It’s not that we’re antimarriage; rather, we think marriage ought to be one choice in a menu of options by which relationships can be recognized and gain security. Like New York City’s mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, who has been in a relationship for over 10 years without marrying, one can be an ardent supporter of marriage rights for same-sex couples while also recognizing that serious, committed relationships can be formed outside of marriage.

Here’s why I’m worried: Winning the right to marry is one thing; being forced to marry is quite another.

How’s that? If the rollout of marriage equality in other states, like Massachusetts, is any guide, lesbian and gay people who have obtained health and other benefits for their domestic partners will be required by both public and private employers to marry their partners in order to keep those rights. In other words, “winning” the right to marry may mean “losing” the rights we have now as domestic partners, as we’ll be folded into the all-or-nothing world of marriage.

Of course, this means we’ll be treated just as straight people are now. But this moment provides an opportunity to reconsider whether we ought to force people to marry — whether they be gay or straight — to have their committed relationships recognized and valued. 

Doesn't that thinking seem convoluted? Is marriage about permanence, monogamy, and exclusivity? It seems from Franke's point of view, marriage is restrictive and not all that advantageous. Is this the reason why in other countries that have embraced same-sex marriage, those people seem to rarely engage in the practice themselves, because the institution no longer holds that meaning?

In his interview, George makes this point:
As Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson, and I argue in our Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy article, once one buys into the ideology of sexual liberalism, the reality that has traditionally been denominated as “marriage” loses all intelligibility. That is true whether one regards oneself politically as a liberal or a conservative. For people who have absorbed the central premises of sexual liberation (whether formally and explicitly, as liberals tend to do, or merely implicitly as those conservatives who have gone in for it tend to do), marriage simply cannot function as the central principle or standard of rectitude in sexual conduct, as it has in Western philosophy, theology, and law for centuries. The idea that sexual intercourse (the behavioral component of reproduction) consummates and actualizes marriage as a one-flesh union of sexually complementary spouses naturally ordered to the good of procreation loses its force and even its sense. The moral belief that sex belongs in (and only in) marriage, where it is of unitive as well as procreative significance, and where the unitive and procreative dimensions are intrinsically connected (though not in a mere relationship of means to end), begins to seem baseless — the sort of thing that can be believed, if at all, only on the authority of revealed religion. As a result, to the extent that one is in the grip of sexual-liberationist ideology, one will find no reason of moral principle why people oughtn’t to engage in sexual relations prior to marriage, cohabit in non-marital sexual partnerships, form same-sex sexual partnerships, or confine their sexual partnerships to two persons, rather than three or more in polyamorous sexual ensembles.

The editors at NRO go on to note:
Though they supported its passage, you see, Franke and her partner will not seek a marriage license under the new law. They fear that in practice it might force them to be legally married in order to hold on to shared employment benefits and social respectability. They want to keep their domestic partnership, which gives them “greater freedom” than “the one-size-fits-all rules of marriage”—the freedom to form relationships that “far exceed, and often improve on, the narrow, legal definition of marriage.”

Franke leaves out just how these relationships “far exceed” marriage, perhaps not trusting her readers to see them as improvements after all. But then the Times had already divulged the empirically supported “open secret” about how often partners in same-sex civil marriages expressly reject sexual exclusivity.

For years, we were told that same-sex marriage was necessary for meeting couples’ concrete needs. Then, that it could and should be used to make same-sex couples live by marital norms. More recently, that relationship recognition was necessary for equal personal dignity. Now Katherine Franke, on the day that same-sex marriage passes in New York, tells us that that was all wrong.
That point in there, that same-sex couples are rarely exclusive, is one that is not often brought up, but is a fact born out by research (this post I wrote here in the run up to Prop 8 has some of those numbers, which are quite astounding). It really puts a damper on the argument that these couples just want the same lives that heterosexual couples have.

Not really going anywhere with this. Just thought those were some interesting points.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I Do Love Utah

It's funny when I try and have this conversation with people. I begin by saying something like, "you know, as an undergrad, I just hated living here. I was always so sour about it, the weather, the people, whatever, and I couldn't wait to get out," and then the other person chimes in and I never really get a chance to explain that however strongly I may have felt that before, I don't feel that way anymore. I was talking to a single friend about this some months ago and I did manage to get to the part where I say I do like it here, and then he responded with, "well, it's more enjoyable when you're married." Screeeeeeeech!

No. That's not the reason. That feels like such a cop-out response. There really are some great things about being here. It's affordable, the weather is comparatively mild to much of the country, and really, there are some great things about living among so many people share similar values (although for my own reasons I'd like to raise my kids apart from a Church culture, which is a lot like why I think people should travel abroad to experience different places, it just broadens you as a person).

My favorite things about Utah, however, really have so much more to do with its geographical elements. The snow here is an obvious draw for many people, but in the last year I just haven't been able to get enough of the warm weather aspects. Amy and I have been golfing for our past two FHEs and it's just wonderful, even if it was above 90 degrees yesterday. My newfound love for troping is obvious, but I wanted to give a shout-out to Southern Utah and canyoneering.

Rappel into Great Cathedral in Pinecreek
My dad grew up playing around in the rain forest as a kid. Some of my favorite times with him were just listening to his stories about playing in there, getting lost and not finding his way out for a couple of days, building tree forts and the like. And even though he has plenty of love for the outdoors, camping was just never something we did as a family. But the nice part is that I had member friends and some of my first experiences with the Church were scouting trips.

We went to Southern Utah and mountain biked in Moab, camped and hiked the Narrows in Zion, and had a lot of fun. We did a few other trips in the ensuing years, but nothing consistent.

Luckily for me I married someone who has such a great appreciation for camping and the outdoors. You know the funny thing about Amy? One of her stipulations about getting married was that I had to promise her we would go camping at least once a year. (What's mine you ask? Baseball. She had to come to love baseball.) At our current rate, we already have the next 5 years covered, maybe more.

We met up with a couple of our friends down in Zion this past weekend and it was only a 24 hour trip, but it was so much fun. Our friends, Jessica and Andrew, got some passes to go to Keyhole, and it just so happened that we were camped next to a couple of Andrew's buddies who had two extra passes to Pinecreek. There were several rappels in each canyon and a good amount of still, murky, foul-smelling water to wade through. So great. Later that night after we had arrived home, I felt the similar swaying motions from the rappels like you sometimes do when you've gone to an amusement park for the day.

Now I have my very own harness and a good base level to my outdoor equipment. I'm excited to explore some different areas of Utah, do some stuff up in the Uintahs, and to just keep on getting out.

It's beautiful here. I'm glad I finally figured that out.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Do you have $100k I Can Borrow?

Or if you're looking for early Christmas presents, this is on my list:

I also like this video from the same guy:

Saying Sorry

I read a pretty cool article this morning by Chuck Colson, former council to President Nixon during the Watergate scandal. You can read the article here. He went to prison for a time, found God, then went on a crusade to help other prisoners find religion.

And now some excerpts. He brings up an interesting point here about how the secularization of society brings about a moral relativity that negates the need for seeking and expressing forgiveness:
The ability to forgive is one of the most powerful forces for good in any society. It can reconcile the most grievous altercations, which are an ever-present reality in a fallen world. Forgiveness brings about shalom — the biblical term for concord and harmony — between people who have the greatest differences imaginable and can transform institutions and even warring nations.

America is rightly known for its forgiving nature. The land of second chances, we like to say. What other nation in history has simultaneously fought major world wars against two mighty military powers — Japan and Germany — eventually conquered its attackers, and then turned right around to rebuild the very countries it fought?

And yet in recent years, Americans have become a deeply cynical and unforgiving people. A 1988 Gallup poll revealed that 50 percent of Americans do not believe that they could forgive others; another revealed that “forgiveness is something virtually all Americans aspire to” (94 percent) but “is not something we frequently offer.” Only 48 percent acknowledged attempting to forgive others. And yet, as Melissa Healy, in the Los Angeles Times article “The Science of Forgiveness” noted a few years ago, a refusal to forgive those who have harmed us can increase the risk of heart attacks and depression.

How and why did we reach this tragic place?

Some saw this sad state of affairs coming. In 1973, psychiatrist Karl Menninger wrote a popular book titled Whatever Happened to Sin? Good question. What happened is that sin has become the most politically incorrect subject we can possibly raise in polite company, because it involves being judgmental.

But a society that doesn’t take sin seriously has difficulty taking forgiveness seriously: After all, if nobody does anything wrong, there’s nothing to forgive.
[Emphasis mine] I think he makes a really good point there. In a world where morality is relative, the standards for right and wrong become hazy, leaving many things up to question.

Here is an example of forgiveness that he mentions in the article:

For instance, many years ago, a young woman named Dee Dee Washington sat in a car waiting for her boyfriend, a young man who, unbeknownst to Dee Dee, was purchasing drugs. The boyfriend got into an altercation with the drug dealer, whose name was Ron Flowers. Racing from the scene, Ron pulled out a gun and shot Dee Dee as she waited in the car. She died of her wounds, and Flowers was convicted of her murder.

For 14 years, Ron denied killing Dee Dee. But then he became involved in Prison Fellowship’s ministry. In our Inner-Change Freedom Initiative (IFI), offenders are confronted with the harm they have done to their victims and the families of victims.

Ron finally admitted to the murder. He then wrote to Dee Dee’s mother, Anna Washington, expressing deep remorse for his crime. Every year of Ron’s sentence, Mrs. Washington had written to the parole board urging them to deny him parole. However, the week Ron confessed, Mrs. Washington felt an overwhelming conviction that she should meet with the man who killed her daughter.

When the visit was arranged, a repentant Ron told Mrs. Washington how he had come to kill her precious daughter, and he asked to be forgiven. Mrs. Washington took his hands in hers. “I forgive you,” she said.

I attended Ron’s graduation service in the prison. As he was walking toward me to receive his certificate I saw out of the corner of my eye a tall, handsome, African American woman stand up in the crowd and come toward us. She threw her arms around Ron and announced, “I am the mother of the young girl that Ron murdered.” She proceeded to tell the stunned crowd the story, and ended by declaring, “This young man is my adopted son.”

After his release, Mrs. Washington helped Ron Flowers adjust to life back in the community, invited him over for dinner, and even attended his wedding. This beautiful ending to a tragic story could only happen through God’s grace. Only he can bring about such reconciliation and healing.

I think it's in forgiveness where people do things that are extraordinary, seemingly superhuman.

Just thought that was interesting. Have a good weekend, y'all!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Center of the Universe

When you're single, the subject of dating, or the lack thereof, is the center of your universe. A high percentage, upwards of 80-90%, of your energy, attention, and time goes towards dating when you are not married. I've got a pretty healthy list of different blogs that I subscribe to and a good amount of them belong to my single friends, and so many of the topics are about what's wrong with guys (most personal blogs belong to women), why nobody knows how to date, or not wanting to be defined as being single.

It's kind of a funny time for me (and Amy, probably). We're recently married, and it's as happy as can be, but we're not consumed with talk about any one thing in particular. We don't have kids so we don't gravitate towards those kinds of discussions, but we're also married so there is no concern about our relationship status because it simply is - we are married. That is it. There's no question about our commitment to each other and where we are going in the future.

What strikes me as funny is that being on this side of things, or between things, I've just kind of forgotten how consuming it is to be single. When you're single, you're concerned with where you could move because of the social scene that is available to you. You worry about your roommates and whether they're involved, either with someone, or with the local social scene (ward). You go to activities and parties and gatherings because you want to make friends and be noticed and be impressionable without being overbearing. For the insecure, you make decisions to make you appear favorable because you're compensating for those areas you think you lack. Your conversation revolves either around why you're not dating, what's wrong with the opposite sex, why you're hesitant to commit or why he or she won't commit to you, and you come up with endless amounts of theories and entire methods of analysis and new approaches to philosophy that attempt to coherently and rationally explain everything in its current state. "Why I am single and nothing works out for me." Your prayers plead for opportunities to meet people, to feel safe with someone, and to meet a person with whom you'll finally click and where things will eventually fall into place. Even your family and friends might pray for that too.

It's completely consuming. And then you get married. Then it's just not anymore. You get home and you play a round of 9 holes for your FHE activity and decide that you'll read from Exodus that night. You'll work on your contribution for your mother-in-law's birthday. Or watch TV in bed together. Or plan your next vacation. Or just look forward to the weekend and just hanging out together and with your friends.

It's the most wonderful thing in the world.

Anyway, I read a talk this afternoon that I thought was really insightful. The Uses of Adversity. Here are a few paragraphs:
I commend the gospel with all of its auxiliaries and the temple to you, but I do not want you to believe for one minute that if you keep all the commandments and live as close to the Lord as you can and do everything right and fight off the entire priests quorum one by one and wait chastely for your missionary to return and pay your tithing and attend your meetings, accept calls from the bishop, and have a temple marriage, I do not want you to believe that bad things will not happen to you. And when that happens, I do not want you to say that God was not true. Or, to say, 'They promised me in Primary, they promised me when I was a Mia Maid, they promised me from the pulpit that if I were very, very good, I would be blessed. But the boy I want doesn't know I exist, or the missionary I've waited for and kept chaste so we both could go to the temple turned out to be a flake,' or far worse things than any of the above. Sad things—children who are sick or developmentally handicapped, husbands who are not faithful, illnesses that can cripple, or violence, betrayals, hurts, deaths, losses—when those things happen, do not say God is not keeping his promises to me. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not insurance against pain. It is resource in event of pain, and when that pain comes (and it will come because we came here on earth to have pain among other things), when it comes, rejoice that you have resource to deal with your pain.

Now, I do not want to suggest for a moment, nor do I believe, that God visits us with all that pain. I think that may occur in individual cases, but I think we fought a war in heaven for the privilege of coming to a place that was unjust. That was the idea of coming to earth—that it was unjust, that there would be pain and grief and sorrow. As Eve so eloquently said, it is better that we should suffer. Now, her perspective may not be shared by all. But, I am persuaded that she had rare insight, more than her husband, into the necessity of pain, although none of us welcome it.

This is the main thrust of this essay:
So I do not want you to think that I believe anything good about pain. I hate pain. I hate injustice. I hate loss. I hate all the things we all hate. None of us love those things. Nor, as I say, do I think God takes pleasure in the pain that comes to us. But, we came to a world where we are not protected from those things. I want to talk to you not in behalf of pain—heaven forbid—nor do I think that all pain is for the best. I'm certain that's not true. I'm certain pain destroys and embitters far more often than it ennobles. I'm sure injustice is destructive of good things in the world far more often than people rise above it. I'm certain that in this unjust awful world, there are far more victims that do not profit from their experience than those who do. So I do not want you to think I'm saying that pain is good for you. Pain is terrible.

I want to talk rather about when pain unbidden and unwanted and unjustly comes—to you or to those that you love or to these eleven-year-old girls as they get along in their lives. I want to discuss how to encounter that pain in such a way that it does not destroy you, how to find profit in that awful and unrewarding experience. I want to share with you some stories, mostly not my own, although I'm in all of them, but the pain is mainly someone else's. Some of the pain is my own. All of it is real, and all of it taught me. What I want is not to lecture to you or to sermonize you, but to share with you some lessons I have learned through pain, my own and others', that are valuable to me and, in the end, to share with you what I think I have learned from those incremental experiences.

If you have 20 or so minutes, I highly recommend you give a good go of it. He gives a great qualified and insightful voice into adversity. It's also very real adversity he speaks of - abuse, tragedy, etc.

In a lot of ways, I think I have been spared a lot of pain in my life. In just about every way I can imagine, I have had a relatively easy go of things. Life for me is not just good, but "great" coupled with every superlative you could ever think of. I have many moments of wonder about why I should be so blessed when others are not, but my hope is that I can lay up in store for those times when the coffers of blessings begin to empty. I think that essay does a lot to help reorient back to that kind of perspective.

I guess I'm linking the topic of dating to adversity because...well, it should be obvious. Dating is a great treatise in adversity.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

At Last: Troping

So down in Mona (where is Mona, you ask? Why it's just past the lavender farms if you're heading south down the I-15, but before you get to Nephi) there is a pond of pure exquisiteness. This little town is devoid of any real attraction that would ever bring anyone but Mona residents within its city boundaries. It boasts a population of 850 citizens that is 98% white, which is crazy to me.

But yeah. Nothing there worth going to see, except for this one thing...

Troping. Some guys we know coined the term which is this - TRee-rOPE-swINGING. I have been wanting to go and visit this place ever since I first heard about it, which was a year or two ago. It is at least my new favorite thing in 2011. I am in love with it. There is this lake/pond down there, with trees that are strong enough to bear the weight of some pretty large men which hang out perfectly over this blissful oasis.

On Saturday when we went it was a very pleasant 82 degrees. The water is a little brisk, but not even as cold as most of the lakes up here. Our friends have even gone to the extent of naming the two trees where troping happens, Ruth and Maryland. We spent our whole afternoon with Maryland, awash in her cool shade while she lifted us to fits of joy that usually demand a cost of admission. These guys also bring with them their own ropes which are fashioned out of webbing and a ski rope handle.

Doesn't just the sight of it take your breath away? Anyway, it's a place where dreams come true. Ever since we went on Saturday I really can't stop thinking about it. I'm totally serious when I say I'm obsessed. I would go everyday if I could. You know how I get kind of fanatical about certain things that I really love it? That's me and troping right now. For more pictures and a video, visit Amy's blog.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Conan Speaks!

Is there a more gracious person than Conan O'Brien? I posted about his sign-off from NBC and I really appreciated how he handled his situation with so much class. I just loved how he handled that whole thing even though he totally got the raw end of the deal.

Anyway, he was asked to give the commencement speech to the graduating class at Dartmouth college this year. (Here is the text of his speech.) He is self-effacing and very funny throughout the first 16-17 minutes or so. In spite of earlier protests against Bush Sr., he gives the elder statesman some very complimentary remarks which I just love. What's really cool, though, is how thoughtful and personal his comments were to those students. Here's an excerpt I'd like to direct you towards:

Yes, you parents must be patient because it is indeed a grim job market out there. And one of the reasons it's so tough finding work is that aging baby boomers refuse to leave their jobs. Trust me on this. Even when they promise you for five years that they are going to leave—and say it on television—I mean you can go on YouTube right now and watch the guy do it, there is no guarantee they won't come back. Of course I'm speaking generally. 
But enough. This is not a time for grim prognostications or negativity. No, I came here today because, believe it or not, I actually do have something real to tell you.
Eleven years ago I gave an address to a graduating class at Harvard. I have not spoken at a graduation since because I thought I had nothing left to say. But then 2010 came. And now I'm here, three thousand miles from my home, because I learned a hard but profound lesson last year and I'd like to share it with you. In 2000, I told graduates "Don't be afraid to fail." Well now I'm here to tell you that, though you should not fear failure, you should do your very best to avoid it. Nietzsche famously said "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger." But what he failed to stress is that it almost kills you. Disappointment stings and, for driven, successful people like yourselves it is disorienting. What Nietzsche should have said is "Whatever doesn't kill you, makes you watch a lot of Cartoon Network and drink mid-price Chardonnay at 11 in the morning."
Now, by definition, Commencement speakers at an Ivy League college are considered successful. But a little over a year ago, I experienced a profound and very public disappointment. I did not get what I wanted, and I left a system that had nurtured and helped define me for the better part of 17 years. I went from being in the center of the grid to not only off the grid, but underneath the coffee table that the grid sits on, lost in the shag carpeting that is underneath the coffee table supporting the grid. It was the making of a career disaster, and a terrible analogy.
But then something spectacular happened. Fogbound, with no compass, and adrift, I started trying things. I grew a strange, cinnamon beard. I dove into the world of social media. I started tweeting my comedy. I threw together a national tour. I played the guitar. I did stand-up, wore a skin-tight blue leather suit, recorded an album, made a documentary, and frightened my friends and family. Ultimately, I abandoned all preconceived perceptions of my career path and stature and took a job on basic cable with a network most famous for showing reruns, along with sitcoms created by a tall, black man who dresses like an old, black woman. I did a lot of silly, unconventional, spontaneous and seemingly irrational things and guess what: with the exception of the blue leather suit, it was the most satisfying and fascinating year of my professional life. To this day I still don't understand exactly what happened, but I have never had more fun, been more challenged—and this is important—had more conviction about what I was doing.

I just think it's so cool how much he insight he gives about how much he was able to grow from what is probably his greatest disappointment. I think Conan just jumped into the short list of people I'd like to meet someday. He just seems awesome. And here's the video if you're interested in watching any of it. He's really funny throughout. You'll be glad you read/watched it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Face to Face, Strung Out at The Complex

I really hate the venue. It's really one of the crappiest that I've ever been to. The building itself has no appeal. The acoustics are terrible. The speakers hang from well out in front of the stage so if you're close to the front, you can't really hear the music very well. It's just what you'd expect to have if you set up a stage inside of a warehouse that had no embellishments inside of it. The parking is nice though. Anyway...

Face to Face was headlining this tour, so Strung Out got a pretty short set which was a little heartbreaking for me. Strung Out leaned most heavily on Twisted By Design and An American Paradox, but playing most of the songs that you'd expect at their shows. Jason Cruz is still the coolest lead man ever. He came out with his American Choppers cut-off tee, black hair hanging just over his bandana, complete with a handlebar mustache. It was a sweet look. The highlight of their set for me was when they were playing one of their old songs off Support Your Troops and they broke into Pantera's song Walk. I just kept laughing, and they only got through "Re! Spect! Walk!" before Jason yelled "psych!" and broke back into their own song. They closed with Matchbook like they do every show that I've ever been to which is now either approaching or has surpassed 20 shows. One of their guitars didn't play for about half their set which is especially sad considering how big a component of their music that is.

The last, and only, time I saw Face to Face was at a New Year's Eve show back in 1998 (1999) where Strung Out also opened for them. I loved them before then, but that's where a band really makes its mark on you - just how good they are when they're actually performing live.

They are every bit as good as I remember them from when I was 18. They played a few new songs, which were actually still good, but they relied heavily on their old stuff which was really what everyone wanted. Some of the high lights included just about EVERYTHING that is featured on their live album. I especially loved Don't Turn Away, A-Ok, and I Won't Lie Down. Trever Keith is a really fun front man. I also forgot just how complicated their bass lines are. Just really good stuff all around. I thought that I had heard just about every song that I wanted when they finished, but they came out for an encore and finished up with Not For Free (?).

I thought it was weird when there wasn't a pit for Strung Out, but it got pretty good for Face to Face so I jumped in for a few songs. Utah will never match the energy of a Southern California show, but the crowd was still pretty amped for this one by the time Face to Face came out. (At home, when you go to a show, it's a whole-body experience. Getting to the front means constantly pushing on the guy in front of you so you don't get crushed by the crowd trying to fight their way through you to the stage. This results in pretty tired arms by the end of the night.

Anyway, it really was such a good time. Going to a live show is really one of the things that I just live for. Strung Out opened up with Too Close to See and I just couldn't stop grinning as they were playing. Not only because the live version of the song is much better than the original, but just because it's so fun to hear your favorite bands play your favorite songs live.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Weekly Roundup

Our summer is quickly becoming very, very busy. This past week I ended up saying goodbye to a friend of mine that is going back to his real life in New York. In just short of a year, he has seen the dissolution of his marriage, ended up taking a leave of absence from work, came back to Utah for a few months, and is now returning to everything that is facing him out there. I won't get into more details than that it has been a very trying experience for him. What's been amazing to me has been witnessing his progression from very low-lows back to a level that is contented and quite accepting, especially given his circumstances.

I've loved having him back here for my own selfish reasons of just enjoying the rekindling of that old friendship. He was ushered out this week by the arrival of the Reids as they all came to celebrate the marriage of their father's second marriage.

It was a mostly understated and nice event. The kids came with all their kidlets and we played more games than anyone can really handle. We ate many meals out and my favorite part was the further development of mine and Amy's relationship with Dave's kids. We didn't get to see some of the other quasi-nieces and nephews as I would have liked, but it seems like Amy and I are pretty grounded into Mason's consciousness, and I couldn't be happier about that.

What's so amazing about all of this is witnessing firsthand the devastation that divorce brings, combined with the reasons that initiated the divorce in the first place. It devastates a person and is just about one of the most traumatic events that could ever happen in a person's life. However, in spite of how soul-crushing and heart-breaking the experience can be, people find ways to bounce back, and I have to attribute that to the healing and peace that the Atonement brings. The miracle of the Atonement includes not only the miracle of forgiveness, but the miracle of binding of the broken-hearted.

What's more is that I've also been a witness to a lot of success stories from my close friends and family to my new family that now includes the Waltons. The marriages and families of these people have the blueprints in them of everything that I yearn for in my own life, and the wonderful part about all of it is that it becomes available through temple covenants and faithfulness to each and the gospel.

And that was this past week. Now back to work, running, and everything other responsibility that I have been neglecting.

Something reminded me of this SNL clip this week, so just thought I'd share. Love this one:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


SNL has a pretty funny skit where Seth Meyers questions all these things stupid that people do.

I had a few "really" moments this past week:

  • Last week at work I was talking with my coworker in our cubes and then the HR guy for the finances department came over and asked us to keep it down. At first I didn't even realize what he was talking about, thinking instead he meant for us not to put anything on top of the high shelves, then realizing he meant our volume. It was just weird, though, because the guy was obviously uncomfortable doing it, but I didn't even think we were very loud and I was just surprised that the person couldn't just come over and say something him-/herself. That person decided he/she had to email the HR director to come talk to us, really?
  • Dropped off some things at DI last week. We pulled up behind a trailer and this person was just unloading a trailer-load of crap and clearly unusable items. With every item you could see the worker pick it up, look at it questioningly, and then move it over to a pile that had been pretty clearly designated "garbage" pile. Really? You're going to go through all of your too-big-to-toss-in-the-garbage items and take them to DI and make them deal with your crap, really? It was just so disrespectful. I couldn't believe it.
  • In my old bishopric there was one councilor who I really thought was pretty great. He always seemed very friendly with everyone and even though I always wanted to engage him more in conversation and get to know him better, I never got the feeling that he wanted to engage me any further. Once we got married, he didn't attend our reception or acknowledge anything really about our wedding, I kind of thought that would be the end of that association. But then I got a text yesterday that said, "Hey Chris, I work for Brother So and So doing financial advising and right now I'm helping people be better insured, how would you feel about reviewing your policy?" Really? You're not going to personally engage me in any way while I'm in the ward, but then you're going to pass my number along to some guy so that he can try and pitch me on your business? Really? Really not cool.

Just kinda funny the things that happen. This one isn't a "really" clip, but I just thought it was really funny. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Adventure Running

This season of running has been interesting for me. For the first time ever, I decided to run with a carrying case for some Gatorade instead of stashing it somewhere along my route. I've been running with less planning, which has meant having to occasionally do some long laps (6 mile loops) or just running based on my time. A contributing factor has just been not knowing where good places to run 20 miles are by my houses so then I just kind of pick a far away point and try and run to it. And I have to admit, it's been really nice.

I've been stressing less over where and the length of distance that I'm running for, and that's resulted in just taking in scenery in and concentrate on making the distance on my long runs. If I'm feeling good, then I'll just go ahead and try and reach a farther point. It's been really nice. The results have been good, mostly in the fact that I haven't missed any of my long runs.

For previous marathons, there have been at least a couple weeks that I'll really scale back on and I'll cut out a few long runs. Although I have cut out some of my shorter ones, I haven't missed anything long, even if that has meant running on a weeknight or in middle of the day when it's been probably too warm to go out running for a couple of hours.

All of this means that I'm on pace for hitting all of my runs, even a little ahead of schedule, for the Deseret News next month. I shifted to a different training schedule which required jumping up in mileage for several consecutive weeks, but the payoff is that I've already got a 20-miler under my belt (last week), and I have seven weeks to get a few more in.

Elisha (Amy's sister-in-law, so I guess we're in-law-in-laws, or, a real runner, was asking me last night if I've trained at all for speed. No. Only in the most basic forms. Sometimes I'll push the pace on a short run or through in some more hills, but I don't do anything like track times or run real intervals.

I think for this marathon I'm just using it to get into shape and I'm halfway considering picking up another one sometime in September or October, and maybe seeing if I can pick up some more speed in one of those ones. I dunno.

The world is my oyster right now and I've been having more fun training for this marathon than I have for any of the others. I dare say, this is actually something that is getting pretty easy to do, and I might even make a real, whole-hearted attempt to improve my times. We'll see.

And that's what you get.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Interesting Things

I was listening to some talk radio yesterday, Michael Medved specifically. I had kind of forgotten how much I used to like listening to that stuff. I really miss the sports shows, but I do miss listening to Michael Medved, Hugh Hewitt, and Rush, among others.

Anyway, Medved was talking about a recent Gallup survey that asked what people estimated to be the percentage of gay people in the total population. Before I tell you or link you to anything, what's your guess? 25%? 10%? 5%?


You can see the findings yourself here. I was really surprised at how high the estimates were. Americans estimate that 25% of the population is self-identified as homosexual. Really? 25%? 1 out of 4 people? I just couldn't believe that.

While in San Fran this past weekend, I actually thought a little bit about how openly liberal that city is, but if you're just walking the streets and seeing families and such, it looks pretty much like any other city. I don't remember seeing any obvious gay couples. For the most part, it was just your typical families like anywhere else. Not anything like the numbers that people are estimating.

One popular number that people throw out is 10%. Wrong. That figure was popularized by Alfred Kinsey who did his sex research mostly on prison populations, i.e. a skewed population to begin with. The figures I've heard based on actual research is more in the range of 3-5%, but there was actually a recent study that puts the figure at 1.4%. (For that info, go here for a Medved article about it. For the actual findings, go here.) What's also surprising is that this >2% figure is actually one that is supported by gay advocates (here for that reference).

So what are the implications? Well, it goes to show how loud the voice is that belongs to same-sex advocates for one. More loosely, it also illustrates the weight that they carry in bearing on public perception.

Also read this article recently by Jeff Jacoby. He talks about the ban on circumcision in San Francisco (here for that one). A lot of the reason behind that is the work done by a group who equates circumcision to female genital mutilation, which it is very clearly not at all related.

What's most interesting about that restriction is this fact: In a city wherein we find the largest voice advocating the rights of individuals who number less than 2% of the entire population, we also see a ban on a centuries (millennia, actually) old practice of religious ceremony that also affects a group that numbers less than 2% of the population, Jews. While calling the disagreeing portion of society bigoted for rejecting same-sex marriage, they project their own prejudices on a similarly sized population. Ironic.