Friday, June 26, 2015

Sorry, Mormons. It's Not About You.

For most of my gentle readers today is a day to celebrate the nationwide legalization of same sex marriage. It is also a day to mourn the loss of the Reverend Clementa Pickney and the other innocent victims who died in the mass shooting in Charleston. - A chilling combination that reminds us that progressive Supreme Court decisions are only a small step in the march toward equality and acceptance.

But for many believing Mormons, today's events will provide yet another opportunity to cry persecution. Take, for example, a recent op-ed in the Mormon-owned Deseret News that called the recent shootings in Charleston an assault on the "right to worship freely."

Can't say I'm surprised. I'm well acquainted with the Mormon penchant for making everything about them. The train of logic goes something like this:
The white supremacist, Dylann Roof, was really out to persecute religious people. In fact, he could just as likely have charged into an LDS chapel and blown away a bunch of white people. - In fact, Roof mistakenly believed that the members of the bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were Mormons! - In fact, a group of LDS missionaries were set to, CONDUCT that bible study when they were prompted to stay away!! OR an angel (a really really white one) blocked their path and warned them away!!! OR one of the 3 Nephites called the Elders aside to help him change some Mormon guy's tire!!!! 
Suffice to say I wouldn't want to be at a Mormon potluck tonight, listening to the inevitable cries of persecution. (The death of their traditional marriages, perhaps?)

Instead, on this historic day, I invite my gentle readers to check out Elder: A Mormon Love Story.

And tonight Mark and I will raise our Friday night cocktails to the proud display of the rainbow flag at the San Francisco city hall and the removal of the Confederate flag at the South Carolina state capitol.

Sorry, Mormons. It's not about you.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Wouldn't It Be Nice - If I Hadn't Gone to BYU...

Last weekend I had the pleasure of seeing the new biopic about Brian Wilson, Love and Mercy. It's a sensitive and fascinating examination of the former Beach Boys' sheer genius and fragile emotional state. While the story shifts back and forth in time, its focus is Wilson's recording of Pet Sounds, the 1966 album that continues to rank at #2 on Rolling Stone's list of the greatest albums of all time - #1 is Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band which the Beatles released the following year, and drew heavily on Pet Sounds in its influence.

I grew up in Southern California and listened to the Beach Boys as a child. Like many people my age and older, their music is permanently stamped in my psyche. Even today, whenever I hear one of their classic tunes, the warm Southern California breeze, the hot sand beneath my feet, and the sweet smell of the ocean stirs in my memory. Good vibrations.

However, thanks to a certain deranged chucklehead at BYU, one Beach Boys song inadvertently conjures a foul memory.

In the late 1970's I was taking education classes to qualify for my teaching credential. Among the requirements were a series of single credit courses, lasting about six weeks, on topics pertinent to secondary school teachers. Many of these mini-classes were taught by young profs who had recently come from teaching in public schools and were exceptionally enthusiastic about their subject. So, when I signed up for a class about drawing on popular culture to assist in lesson preparation, I expected to learn some fresh, new ideas.

On the first day, my seven or so classmates and I were greeted by a roly-poly gent somewhere in his 60's. He sat on a metal folding chair that could barely accommodate his girth. Next to him was a portable record player - one of those numbers that could be carried like a suitcase and then opened with the turntable on the bottom and the speaker in the lid. He promised to, by way of example, demonstrate the evil, pernicious messages that were being fed to our children through today's popular music.

There was a certain whimsey to the whole experience. Bear in mind this was around 1978. The big acts of the day were the Bee Gees, Rod Stewart, the Commodores, Elton John, ELO, the Village People, Supertramp, etc. But Professor Chucklehead, convinced he was on the cutting edge, spent our class time dissecting songs that were at least a decade or two old, by artists whom the current rising generation would never listen to, unless it was to humor their parents or some other tiresome grown-ups in their lives.

I exchanged pained winces and stifled snickers with my fellow classmates as Chucklehead interpreted the underlying meaning of tunes like "Under the Boardwalk" - I know what those Drifters really want you to do under there - "We'll Sing in the Sunshine" - catchy finger-popper, but an obvious vehicle for free love - and even "Wake Up Little Susie" by the Everly Brothers - what, indeed, will they tell their friends when they say "ooh-la-la?"

Ironically, during this same semester, one of my housemates had taken to doing her living room aerobics routine to David Bowie's "Suffragette City."

The class started out as merely amusing. That is, until Professor Chucklehead went after one of my favorite songs of all time, "Wouldn't it Be Nice." The first track on Brian Wilson's Pet Sounds, it is both complex in its musicality and innocent in its message, much like Brian himself. (Tony Asher wrote the lyrics.) I won't go into what Chucklehead had to say about it, as I would rather my gentle readers remember it as the artist intended: a sweet and soulful tribute to adolescent longing.

You know it seems the more we talk about it 
It only makes it worse to live without it
But let's talk about it...

I highly recommend Love and Mercy. It left a profound impression on me, enough of one that I might even be able to, once and for all, bury the memory of Professor Chucklehead. And god only knows, I could do without him.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Destined for Destruction, and Proud of It!

A couple of years ago Mark and I were eating dinner at the Applebee's in Bountiful, Utah. The booth next to us was filled with bouncy Mormon teenagers enjoying ice-cream sundaes. A young lady in the group announced that she had been accepted into a summer program in Los Angeles. Then, when some others in the party voiced concern, she replied loudly, "Don't worry. Only San Francisco is going to fall into the ocean!"

We had to smile. It had been some time since we'd entertained this apocalyptic forecast from our former doomsday cult. Of course, in our day, it wasn't just SF, but the entire state that was destined to fall into the ocean. Why single out San Francisco? Well, there was the whole hippie/free love thing, followed by the whole gay thing, followed by ... what? The whole techie thing? Are algorithms a tool of Satan? Worldly knowledge, I suppose.

I must say, as a native Angeleno I am offended by this exclusion. I beg your pardon, but L.A. has totally earned its part in God's final Big One, thank you very much! Where do you think He got the script?

For those of you who have not had the good fortune to be members of the one and only true church, it's not just hippies, gays, and software engineers whom the Mormons have destined to perish in the wake of Jesus' return, it's everyone who isn't dedicating all of his time, talent and resources to the LDS Church. - People who enjoy iced tea or cocktails on a lazy Sunday afternoon. People who are obsessed with truth and scientific fact. People who pick out their own underwear. - That would include not only the state of California, but also the Pacific Northwest, the entire Atlantic Coast, and most points in between.

I admit that falling into the ocean isn't a pleasant prospect. But we've all got to go sometime. And if my options are ... plunging to my death on a lazy Sunday afternoon, cocktail in hand, in the underwear of my choice vs. enduring to the end, painfully sober, and left to exist on a diet of powdered milk, nitrogen packed wheat and dehydrated pear flakes ... I'll take the whole plunging to my death scenario.

I'm guessing there are even some folks in Bountiful, Utah who might agree with me. The bar at the Applebee's was surprisingly busy when Mark and I dined there a couple of years ago.