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Friday 17 January 2014

I've been lucky

My principal facebook hangout group these days is Feminist Mormon Housewives, and scarcely a day goes by when someone, and often more than one person, relates how she was abused — physically or sexually or emotionally or all at once, or… or… and often by a family member, often by a parent, sometimes by a spouse.

It was the same during Midwest Pilgrims and Exponent II retreats: so many women told of their suffering betrayal and hurt and grief and violence. Being LDS doesn't seem to prevent abuse: it seems to happen among the saints at the same rate as elsewhere (and in fact, authoritarian groups such as LDS, Inc. and evangelical churches have a somewhat higher rate of abuse than other populations). I found it all mind-boggling when I first started hearing women's stories. While I guess I've come to expect such revelations when such topics are raised, the number of women who have lived through awful childhoods still astonishes me.

—And makes me grateful that I had such a normal childhood, a normal family. I got spanked, yes, and sometimes even with a belt (and in retrospect, I think it was pretty unfair of my mom — unfair mostly to my dad — to have resorted to the threat of "wait till your father gets home"), but I was never sexually abused, never beaten, never a victim of gross negligence. Surprising how rare "normality" has turned out to be among the friends of my youth.

The cycle of violence and abuse is tough to deal with. Far too many parents end up parenting according to the way they were brought up, though of course there are variations and differences, and with a lot of effort, there can be many deliberate differences. For example, my mom's parents quarreled and bickered endlessly, to the point where she was too embarrassed to ever have friends over. (And even as a small child, I did not like going over to grandma and grandpa's for that reason.) My mom was absolutely determined that she and my father would not act like that in front of us kids, and they did not. I rarely saw them disagree, and never saw them fight at all.

But there was and still is a little bit of a mean streak, I guess, in my mom. I think of how she would call my sister "the pimple farm"… to her face. I can't imagine saying something like that to anyone, much less a child of mine. —That said, Lord knows I yelled and said many things that must have scared or wounded my children, particularly when I was battling depression (sleeplessness and irritability, that was me). — Indeed, if I could go back and have a do-over, I'd yell less… and hug more. I came from a fairly undemonstrative family: although my parents — my dad in particular — were lovey-dovey with one another, we did not hug much or kiss much or cuddle or snuggle.

I wanted to be a more demonstrative mom than my mom, but I didn't succeed at that, I very much regret to say. So yeah — less yelling, more hugging, that's what I'd do if I could turn the clock back.

But to return to the original thought: I'm lucky to have grown up with good parents. Thanks, mom and dad.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Pulling down the Darth entry

Well, I just unpublished my little "dirge for Darth" piece, as I find it unworthy in several ways. As it is now a bit later than I wish it were, and I'm plumb out of ideas at this hour, I will not be putting up anything else today. I take some consolation in the thought that I published a few of my old Mormon Women's Forum pieces over on nonlynnear this afternoon, and that will simply have to do.

"This is a stub"… indeed.

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Pack books, send books

Riffing off of this story in the Deseret News about sister missionaries surviving Typhoon Haiyan: My most dangerous mission moment (apart from LTM stuff†) happened in Metz, France, during January 1978. It was P-day (preparation day — essentially our day off, when we would go to the laundromat and grocery shopping and such); Sister Blue and I had gone to Auchan, a big "hypermarché" a fair ways from our apartment in Borny, but still walkable. At least a good foot of snow was on the ground; I don't remember if the buses were running or not, but even if they were, we decided to walk back to the apartment with our groceries.

It was damned cold — quite possibly the coldest day of the coldest winter in my lifetime to that point. About half-way to our apartment, I remember coming to the harebrained conclusion that it might be fun to freak out Sister B (an ER nurse) by pretending to be suffering from hypothermia, so I sat down in the snow. But apparently I wasn't really pretending. She got me up and going again and we made it back to our place with our groceries… and then the fun began: my fingers were half-frozen and I needed to thaw them out by holding them under tepid running water.

This hurt like bloody hell, and I screamed a fair bit. Fortunately, the ordeal was over fairly quickly and I suffered no lasting damage. But I wonder what Sister B would have done if she hadn't been able to nag and cajole me to get up out of the snow and keep moving. We were in the middle of a frickin' frozen field, and it would have taken a good 10 minutes or so for her to have gotten anywhere to find help.

My other possibly dangerous situation occurred up north in Lille: my tiny comp, Sister Charette, and I (when I weighed all of 103 lbs /47 kg max, which was still heavier than Sister C) were on our bikes heading back to our high-rise apartment building. When we got to the building garage driveway, we realized that a car had been following us. We entered the garage — and to our dismay, the car followed us in. We managed to stash our bikes in the missionary stall and dashed for the door before whoever it was could get out of their car and come after us. Very unnerving. Maybe the person(s) just wanted to freak us out — which they certainly succeeded at doing, if that was their goal… but maybe their intentions were more serious than that. On the other hand, maybe they just happened to live in the same building (a thought which did not occur to us at the time, and only occurred to me now). Regardless, we were on edge for days afterwards.

My missionary dangers obviously totally pale in comparison to what the sisters experienced in the typhoon. Of all the things in the article, what surprised me the most is that the "lead sister" in the story apparently first learned about the pending hurricane from a local, rather than being contacted directly by someone in the mission.

In my day, we missionaries didn't have the internet nor even good access to telephones. If Something Bad was going to happen, the mission home was supposed to send us a coded telegram: "Pack books" meant to hunker down in one's apartment, get ready to go, and await further instructions; "send books" meant flee — I assume to the mission home? — That is Mr Mo's assumption as well. But seems to me that heading to the mission home from the far corners of our mission could have been a very dangerous endeavor, depending on the nature of the emergency. And as ATMs had not been invented yet, if one was short on cash, getting anywhere could present a problem. (We were supposed to keep enough emergency cash on hand for such contingencies, but I'm sure I'm not the only one whose monthly allowance barely covered even my basic living expenses….)

I'm told these days that various missions (perhaps all of them?) have asked the local congregations to set up safe houses for the missionaries in their area… and I guess such safe houses would be meant as gathering points (and hopefully shelter) during natural disasters as well as civil disorder. Given today's technology, it seems quite likely that some missionaries might know about impending doom long before the leadership. (Which may also be true in terms of the long-term impact of the internet on the church's truth claims as well. "Pack books," indeed.)

† There was at least one horrible moment at the LTM (language training center) when it was nothing short of miraculous that I didn't try to kill myself. Yes, I felt that wretchedly bad: never underestimate the power of a perfectionist nature coupled with impossible expectations to wreak havoc on one's self-esteem and desire to live. (Did I mention that I was chronically constipated the entire time I was there? Oh, yes, I did… and again, little wonder. "Send books," indeed.)

Monday 13 January 2014

That odd little 3x5 card entry

I've been decoding and transferring various jots and tittles that I wrote down on a small stack of 3x5 cards during my mission, mostly while I was at the Language Training Mission (LTM; this turned into the MTC — Missionary Training Center — in the fall of 1978, when I was serving in northeastern France). Anyway, one can well imagine that most of my notes were of the various LTM sacrament meeting talks, Sunday School or Relief Society lessons, or of LTM or BYU devotionals and firesides featuring various general authorities at the time. Most of these notes are in everyday English… but some are written using the phonetic Deseret alphabet.

I used the Deseret alphabet whenever I interjected a personal observation, indulged in (hyper-)religious breast-beating about my sins (both real and imagined or at least exaggerated in the rarified atmosphere of the LTM)… and when I was angry or upset or puzzled about something or someone (as illustrated in a previous blog post). As ever, writing in Deseret was a whole lot easier than decoding it (especially some 35+ years after the fact).

I came across one such (blessedly very short) note in Deseret the other day, to wit:

Dec. 11, 1977 — O Tristan Wood — come back and serve your mission.

Tristan (not his real name) was a young man in my home ward, a couple of years younger than I (in keeping with the age requirements/restrictions of the time: he would have been 19-ish, and I was 21.5 years old). I frankly do not remember the precise circumstances which would have led me to write this little plaintive private and unsent plea, but obviously Tristan went home. Did my mom write to tell me about it? Did someone else? I had entered the LTM on December 1st; had Tristan already been in the LTM for some time, or had he just arrived as well? Why did he go home? "Unrepented sins"? Homesickness?

No matter the reason, his leaving the LTM and going home would have been a big shock to our congregation ("ward" in Mormon parlance) … and doubtless to his parents in particular. There was (and still is) scarcely a greater disgrace for a young Mormon than going on a mission and getting sent home early (or in some instances deserting). And certainly the social stigma of going home early — even for completely legitimate reasons (health, significant family problems, etc.) — is shamefully still alive and well among the saints.

Well, whatever Tristan's reasons for going home… I can willingly wager that he ultimately went back out and served his mission. Why? Because he's now a stake president, and it seems pretty unlikely to me that that would be the case if he'd gone home and stayed home thereafter. (I could be wrong, but I think institutional forgiveness goes only so far.)

And this all said, I am still rather surprised that he is a stake president, given that he works for one of those awful vulture payday loan companies (which have legally bribed — I mean, donated tens of thousands of dollars to prop up politicians and legislation that will keep them as unregulated as can be in the Beehive State, among other places). It's… a little hard for my brain to reconcile Tristan's profession with his church job, but truly, "God works in mysterious ways" (insert eye-roll here).

Sunday 12 January 2014

Geh mawwiage

In a previous post, I said that the Mormon church had already done things in the political arena (to say nothing of things in other arenas) that to my mind have fully merited my resigning… were it not for my decision to wait until my parents have departed from this mortal realm. (Note poetic euphemism. We do like our euphemisms! — But I digress.)

One such set of actions and policies has to do with gay marriage. This past month has been a humdinger: a federal judge ruled that Utah's Amendment 3 to its state constitution — which categorically defines marriage as consisting of a man and a woman (ironic indeed for the former? polygamy capital of the western world) — was unconstitutional. About 1,300 gay couples went and got married, some more easily than others (I'm frankly surprised that there wasn't even more ass-holiness among the county clerks, quite honestly, but shame on those deceitful few!). Utah asked for a stay, which was ultimately granted… meaning that the marriages have stopped until such time as the Supreme Court will consider the matter, which probably won't be this year.

Then Governor Herbert — the same "moral" guy who secretly sold the Utah voter registration lists to various parties (after removing his own name and info, of course) — declared that Utah would not honor the marriages that it had legally performed for these gay couples, throwing those couples and their families once more into limbo. The US DOJ announced that these marriages would, in fact, be recognized at the federal level… and so what we have is a mess.

The Mormon church has indicated that it will not file an amicus brief.† Publicity ploy? Maybe — oh, hell, sure. The church leadership has made its position crystal-clear that gay marriage is an Awful Thing… apparently far more awful than so many true moral issues and outrages that I can scarcely begin to list them all (income inequality, environmental degradation, etc.; kiwimormon's post sums it up well). On these overarching issues — any one of which has an unquestionably deleterious impact on human life and happiness — the church is as silent as the tomb. Its "moral leadership," if it can be called such, seems to hover exclusively around issues of human sexuality, and indeed, the church has strained at this gnat for my entire life, for the most part ignoring far weightier questions about moral behavior.

Assuming the biosphere endures long enough, I think it is possible that LDS, Inc., will ultimately come to accept gay marriage… at least civilly. It's been painting itself into a tighter and tighter corner about the eternal implications, what with its reliance on the ridiculous Crock-Proc (Proclamation on the Family — "the next best thing to genuine revelation!"). So while I don't believe there is any real "eternal" reason to refuse a temple marriage to a gay couple, I don't see that happening anytime soon. (I hesitate to say "not in my lifetime," but… well.) (I have lots of things I could say about temple marriage and the whole notion of "sealings" in general, but I'll forebear at the moment.)

I fault the church because of the fundamental dishonesty with which it has conducted itself during the entire period of the gay rights movement (up to and including gay marriage). It has secretly belonged to and funded groups which have disseminated lies and misinformation, pandering to the very worst elements in society. It has cuddled up with bigots and cheats… some of whom (of the evangelical persuasion in particular) were and are more than happy to take every bit of support from LDS, Inc. … until the time when they, the faux-Christians, have the opportunity to turn their hateful efforts to annihilating the mormons — the cult they so despise.

I fault the church because of its doctrinal inconsistency, for its apparent inability to distinguish between inspiration and conservative political thought and tactics, and its for its willingness to let members believe that its leaders are receiving revelation from God when none has been forthcoming. I fault it because so many of its decisions in this area (and in far too many others) seem to have been made with utterly no consideration of that well-worn cliché, "what would Jesus do?" Instead, the church and its conservative U.S. members are working hard to portray themselves as victims. Grüß Gott.

Meanwhile, the newly-married gay couples are once again experiencing fear and uncertainty and blatant discrimination. Were it really and truly the church of Jesus Christ, the church (a) would never have opposed gay marriage in the first place (which might have rendered point "b" moot), and (b) would put pressure on the state to do the right thing by its gay constituents, rather than wasting millions on appeals that will only delay the time when justice and fairness will prevail.

It all makes me sad and ashamed. Maybe a bit of reconsideration is in order.

Update, Feb. 8: Apparently the church lied (quelle surprise) and has filed an amicus brief anyway.

Saturday 11 January 2014

Water-free West Virginia

Three hundred thousand people across nine counties in near Charleston, including Charleston itself, are without water due to chemical contamination of the water supply (the Elk River). From a practical and logistical standpoint, the biggest problem is that this contamination is such that even boiling the water won't do any good. All it can be used for is flushing toilets — not drinking, not showering, not laundry.

FEMA has trucked in 1 million liters of h2o so far… not even a gallon per person affected. This problem is bigger than what all but the most food-storage-conscious family *might* be able to handle (on a short-term basis).

To me, the worst part of the whole mess is that the coal-processing chemical company where the leak originated didn't even bother to notify WVa's water authority… it was discovered after the authority fielded complaints from people downstream. Unknown how long the leak's been happening and how many people (including unborn children) this may affect. Moreover, it's still unknown at present exactly how long it's going to take before people will have access to clean water again. Here's hoping it will be soon. And I hope the company pays the costs for trucking in water and is fined up the wazoo for negligence.

Of course, all this reminds me of my little Y2K water-storage fiasco. (No, one really cannot just stack gallon bottles of water on top of one another. Let's just leave it at that.)

I occasionally play The Survival Game in my head: which room of our Berlin flat or of our row house in Quinson would be most defensible? How long could we subsist on what we have? What of water, power, and sewer? … And so on. I'm afraid we're not very well-positioned for a zombie apocalypse, especially if the city/village grid and other infrastructure on which we so heavily rely goes off-line, as it surely would eventually.

With all of the dire climate change reports of late, the question of food and water is insinuating itself into my consciousness a little bit, but no, we're not in any real shape to do anything about stocking up, even if there are arguments for doing so. I can't see us doing a Y2K-like prep again even if we had the money. Nor do I want to follow in my youngest brother's fanatical footsteps. (To me, one significant earthquake and/or landslide, or worse yet, a wildfire, would impact all his preparations vs. The Marauding Hordes or whatever he's envisioning as the enemy he's fortifying his property against. Ah well.)

I am genuinely puzzled about what makes sense to do to prepare for the coming lean years during this time of only slightly waning fat years. It will be the third-world and then second-world countries that will first feel the brunt of crop and water failures. In past times, famine and drought (and yes, warfare, of course warfare) were catalysts for huge waves of migration. Not clear to me how "civilized" first-world countries will respond to even greater numbers and bigger waves. It will not be pretty (it never is). On verra. "Enjoy it while it lasts" (assuming that "it" is a first-world lifestyle).

…But it really seems like there ought to be something more one could do about at least some aspect of it. Hmm.

Update, Feb. 8: Nearly a full month later, the hapless 300,000 are still without potable water, with no end to the misery in sight. Their governor insists that no new regulations are necessary. Uh-huh, riiiight.

Friday 10 January 2014

Coming or going? (Mormons as Ugly Americans, and so on.)

When I'm on facebook these days — and I'm on much more than I should be — I hang out a bit on the Feminist Mormon Housewives page… with occasional forays onto The Mormon Hub and Mormon Liberals pages, too. (Yeah, fine, I'm still a junkie that way.) Unsurprisingly, I come across quite a few people who are grappling with their faith, trying to reconcile all of the same kinds of things that Mr Mo and I tried for years to reconcile about the church and logic and morality and all… until we finally couldn't stand the cognitive dissonance anymore and stopped going.

We are nonetheless still Members of Record. But just before Christmas, while I was whiling away the time on facebook, a message window popped up from a dear old friend of mine from Pittsburgh days, and lo! She wanted me to read her letter of resignation — having decided that as of 2014, she was not going to be mormon anymore.

Though I was a little surprised at the "out of the blue"-ness of the experience, I wasn't particularly surprised at her decision. — On the contrary, I'm kind of surprised that it hadn't happened earlier. Moreover, I'm a little surprised that she would be the one to leave first, given that her family has treated her… decently, despite her apostasy and all, whereas her husband's family (parents — or at least father in particular, I mean) have been just beastly towards him.

Old Friend and I chatted a little bit and I told her that I am waiting until my folks (and possibly my in-laws, too) shuffle off their mortal coils before I take that final step — one that codifies my complete disaffection, as it were. (And note: disaffection does not, and probably never will, equate to a lack of interest in Things Mormon. But my basic relationship to the church has long since shifted to a place that formal resignation will not materially affect… and I suspect I may wait for a dramatic moment to resign as a gesture of protest over yet some other new major outrageous thing LDS, Inc., does in the political arena. God knows, however, that there have been plenty of such moments over the past several years that have more than merited my resignation!)

Anyway, I am waiting. Given longevity, I may have a while to wait (and that's fine with me: I love my folks and wish them long life and good health, despite all of our serious political and religious differences). But I sure understand the impulse to officially sever all ties to the institution.

… Which brings me to the "Ugly American" part of this post. I talked to another friend of mine last night, my job broker, who has only recently discovered that she was baptized mormon… but obviously her family was never, ever active. Further, her family (parents, sibs, etc.) seem to be about as emotionally dysfunctional as it is possible to be, and she has had to cut ties with them for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is saving her own sanity. This said, the last family tie to get cut loose happened over Christmas, and involved a cousin's family living temporarily in SW Germany. Turns out that this family is openly mormon and very conservative; and yet despite knowing this, my friend voluntarily walked into a nest of criticism and judgment and sexism and condescension and just the very worst of mormon-ness (or any hypocritical pharisaical religiosity) as can be. My friend's son was confused by their (mostly the husband's) bad behavior, asking her, "Aren't they supposed to be Christians?"

Ick. But to top it off, the cousin's husband was a complete arschloch as an American expat: dissing Germany and Germans and showing nothing but contempt for the country. That attitude was prevalent in the all-American mormon xmas party to which my friend was invited (and ended up being judged and pitied by The Righteous): America is the Promised Land, which means that all other lands are inferior and the inhabitants thereof are not as worthy, etc.

…Which put me in mind of the mormon lady in Grenoble. She was the Relief Society president of the English-speaking branch during the time when I almost met her — we talked on the phone a couple of times, she left a couple of paper plates of overly-sweet cookies hanging from my gate, but we never met face to face. More important than her church position, however, was her position as president of Open House, an association for English-speaking expats. When I showed up in Grenoble, I had my choice — I could join Open House or AVF (Accueil des Villes Françaises— the French welcome wagon)… probably could have joined both, I guess, but I decided against Open House very quickly, as the members I met outside the Hydropower Elementary School (oh, just do the damned translation yourselves, people! — trying to preserve a tiny bit of anonymity here!) — anyway, the Open House moms stood around and bitched about Life in France. Constantly.

So I joined AVF. Turns out that the Relief Society/Open House president absolutely hated living in France. She lived there for upwards of seven years (maybe longer) and hated every minute of it, couldn't wait to go "home." And her hatred thereof certainly contributed to the piss-poor attitude of the members of Open House that I met during my early days in Meylan. (The leadership of Open House changed when this sour woman left, of course, and now I hear Open House is much better about helping its members integrate into local life, instead of insulating them from it and their French neighbors.)

Ugly Americanism is not at all unique to mormons, of course, and there are plenty of mormons who live abroad and get integrated nicely and all (and sometimes do so without having any real kind of proselytizing goal in mind, imagine that!)… but given the rabid conservatism that is rampant among such a large percentage of active members of the mormon church, and given that "America is the Best at Everything, facts be damned" is a central right-wing tenet… well, little wonder at the shameful and closed-minded and completely ungracious behavior that my job broker (and child) witnessed at Christmas.

Job broker, by the way, wants me to tell her when I finally do "sign out"… and she'll do so at the same time.

Thursday 9 January 2014

How I've missed you, Franconia Notch

Or perhaps not, though you seem like you must have been a nice place to visit. Among the nuggets in the latest minor paper shuffling-recording-tossing expedition was an entrance ticket to walk The Flume gorge, part of Franconia Notch State Park in New Hampshire, which we apparently saw on October 13, 1996, beginning at approximately 3 in the afternoon.

Photos of the site look vaguely familiar, and I expect we took plenty of photos of our own, despite our still being so overwhelmingly hamstrung by the use of an analog film camera and all.

Franconia was also the site of the Old Man of the Mountain, a.k.a. The Great Stone Face… before its geological demise on May 3, 2003. I expect we have a couple of photos of it, too.

I do not recall if this was the same trip during which I went rock collecting, family reluctantly in tow — more digging amongst the papers may yet reveal tell-tale motel receipts or even an entrance ticket to the quarry in question.

Is my life better for having been reminded of having seen these places? Yes, infinitely, I'm sure.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Beehive, Mia Maid, Laurel

I have related in various more-or-less public forums the True Story about marching into the bishop's office when I turned 12 and demanding that he make me a deacon. Less known is how not too long thereafter, I marched into the same bishop's office to demand that the name "Beehive" be changed to something less stupid.

I was a Beehive, as still are all 12- and 13-year-old active Mormon girls. According to LDS Inc. (I mean, lds.org), "the beehive was a symbol of harmony, cooperation, and work for the early pioneers of the Church. Beehive was also the first name by which young women were known. Beehives today learn to work together in cooperation and harmony as they strengthen their faith…" Um, OK, but it's still stupid. However, what I want to relate is how much I liked my Beehive teacher Carol, and… how apparently terrified she was of me at the beginning. This was her first real calling in our ward, and possibly her first real calling ever as a relatively new convert, and she was supposed to deal with know-it-all and highly opinionated me? But we became good friends and went to the "Know Your Religion" lecture series together and had deep discussions and all. I wrote to her while she was on her mission to Chile … and receiving back the letters I sent her (illustrated! augmented with humorous doggerel!) was a valuable gift to me. I saw Carol in 2012 while visiting my folks… but more on that another time.

Mia Maid as a 14- and 15-year-old… well, at least it's singular. Mia (pronounced like "Maya") came from MIA — Mutual Improvement Association, which is what the program was called when I was a Beehive, I think. (What to call the youth programs became something of an issue to Salt Lake, given the various permutations over the years — APYW, APYW MIA, Young Women — current name… and Aaronic Priesthood. —Insert major eye-roll here. Oh well.) I didn't like Mia Maids nearly as well, partly because of the teacher(s) who totally emphasized a lot of girly-girl things. I cannot say I wasn't interested in certain aspects of the various dating-related lessons, but I was not especially cooperative and I am sure I gave the teachers, Judy in particular, a fair bit of grief. (I was also a pretty awful home teachee during this time.)

This was also a time of Chastity Nights and chewed-gum analogies, something which I will expand on some other time. But it all struck me as perfectly normal and right when I was living through it, despite how much it makes me cringe today.

I never was really a Laurel (16- & 17-year-olds, and now we're back to yet another weird name), which at the time I kind of regretted because the teacher (Toni) was someone I admired and everyone, my sister included, had really loved her as a teacher. But not long after I turned 16, I joined the So. Calif. Mormon Choir, which held its rehearsals on Wednesday evenings — the same night as APYW-bla-bla. I tried going to the other ward's Laurel class, but there was already not a whole lot of love lost between the kids in T ward and R3 ward to begin with (fierce high school rivalries didn't help matters), and I didn't enjoy it at all. So I stopped going, and thankfully neither my parents nor anyone at church hassled me about it.

This all said, I mostly enjoyed my time in APYW, in large measure because of the YW leaders. I don't know who was in charge of what, but I remember specific people spearheading specific activities. There was Ruth ("Mama Gort" of "Gort's Warts" — where the "gort" came from, I do not know), who ferried us to our church ball games. There was Linda E, who at one point also was the coach of our basketball (and possibly also volleyball?) team(s). I don't recall that she did a whole lot of coaching per se, but she stuffed us all into her souped-up Rambler and took us to and from the games. (When I say "souped-up Rambler," I mean that her husband had put some kind of turbo-charged V8 engine into the thing, and it was her rather odd husband and Linda's delight to challenge all comers to drag race. Seriously.)

There was Bee, married to… well, he was an inconsiderate and self-centered twit back then, and while he's now apparently quite wealthy, he's still a twit (of an extreme winger variety) — anyway, in between popping out quite a few babies, Bee led the YW, assisted by her sister-in-law Dee (sister of the twit). Dee was crazy funny, crazy energetic, also married to something of a twit, also popping out babies (Bee and Dee lived in the same subsidized housing for the first several years). Dee at least, and maybe Bee as well, accompanied us to at least one girls' camp outing at Mud Flats (my favorite activity amidst huge boredom — girls' camp was a poor substitute for Girl Scouts: rolling dried cow pies down into the arroyo; no joke). I have a vivid memory of Dee driving one car (Val's VW beetle?) and Bee? driving another: we are roaring down the highway (14? 395?) and the cars are side by side trying to get close enough to pass strawberry twizzlers from one vehicle to the other. The insane exchange was a success (just staying alive was a success). Maniacal laughter all around.

I went off to college and not long thereafter came the bit o' news that Dee, after she and her husband took in a woman in her 20s who had no place to go (I don't recall all of the details)… well, Dee left her husband and ran off with the woman. (I don't know where or with whom the kiddies ended up at that juncture, though ultimately they ended up with Dee). For all I know, Dee and this woman are still together. I do know that Dee lives in Salt Lake, and so I wonder if she and the woman got married during the recent all-too-brief window when it was possible to do so. Update: Yes, they seem to still be together; marital status: unknown.

I also know that her twit brother does not think very highly of her, though there was at least a bit of reconciliation over the years (conceivably now blown to smithereens over gay marriage in Utah).

Given what a Righteous Creature I was when Dee knew me, I imagine she would view any communication from me with great suspicion. But it would be interesting indeed to see what all happened to her over the years. As indeed it would be to chat with some of the other folks. Of the various personalities I knew among the women leaders/teachers during my day, the only one I've well and truly lost track of is Linda of Rambler fame. Maybe I'll look a little harder for her. I wonder what I will find.

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Assistants. Hmm.

Mom told me that Dad has now trained someone to take his place doing the books at the free clinic. I have very mixed feelings about this. Dad is 85 and has been feeling his age for some time now, but going to the clinic to do the books several times a week has given him a real purpose for getting out of the house on a regular basis and staying active in his area of expertise. Not sure what will take its place now, and I fear this may lead to a real decline soon. Staying on the board and going in every quarter to look things over will be quite a change from his routine of well more than a decade now.

This puts me in mind of when Frederick Davis, the founding director of the So. Calif. Mormon Choir, was forcibly retired. He'd resisted taking on an assistant conductor for years, but after one particularly close call — he barely made it on time to a concert — the choir board insisted. So fine, he ended up with the very ambitious Brother RF as the assistant (of course, having a woman lead the entire choir — women having occasionally led all-women numbers — was unthinkable in the patriarchal musical scheme of things — but I digress). Anyway, it wasn't long after RF was appointed that a long-time whisper campaign of complaining seemed to escalate exponentially.

Now, it is true that Fred's hearing wasn't what it used to be and sometimes it seemed that he wasn't catching the choir singing off-key the way he used to when he was younger, but he was still a fine showman and musician. But once the campaign "took off," a lot of untoward behind-the-scenes machinations were set in place, and ultimately Fred was induced to resign. I sang in the Choir at his last performance of Handel's Messiah in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in December 1981, after which concert he was presented with a plaque and applauded and so on.

It was downright sickening how he'd been railroaded. (Kind of like "Kathleen Lindt" in my book about MML's alter-ego, "L2M," was forced out and then voted an honorary VP post on the board, which of course she turned down.) I tried singing under RF, but after a couple of rehearsals, I was done. Fortunately, I was getting married and had a good excuse for no longer participating. (I'd known RF and his wife for a long time — before I joined the Choir, even — and I couldn't be 100% sure how much of a hand in Fred's treatment he/they'd had, though I suspected… quite a bit. Better to leave gracefully.)

I cannot say that Fred declined fast afterwards, and perhaps I and others of his fans were more heartbroken and outraged than he was. In fact, it wasn't until his wife died some years later than he went downhill — essentially stopped eating. When I went to interview him, he was thin as a rail… took me to lunch and had only a small bowl of soup. He was still mostly intact at that point, but he died not too long thereafter. I was by then living abroad and could not go to his funeral; I wish I knew that his memorabilia and recordings and other musical effects were handled properly, but… I rather doubt it, alas.

Well. My dad has other things he can do to occupy his time, yes, but external expectations provide greater incentive to action than a personal to-do list (as I know too well). Here's hoping that he — and we — will not come to regret his stepping down from a position that he has filled expertly and honorably these many years.

Monday 6 January 2014

"Berlin at Midnight" (well, OK, at 9:46 pm)

Just watched Woody Allen's "Paris at Midnight." I found several things fairly annoying, but I enjoyed the overall premise. Whom would I want to go back in time to meet? What time period would I want to visit?

Dunno. I am fascinated by World War II, yes, but I don't think I'd like to live in, say, Berlin during the run-up to the war. Nor in London or Paris, particularly if I retained the knowledge of what was going to happen. And further, watching "Foyle's War" of late has served to underscore the sad fact that there were indeed some very unseemly sides to "the greatest generation."

(Aside: I am feeling a bit more understanding now that the initial surprise has worn off the discovery that my dad didn't get into the Navy until well after WWII was over — in fairness, he tried to sign up for the Army on his 17th birthday, all of two weeks before V-J day, but was rejected because of elevated albumin levels in his urine. Still, learning that he ultimately got accepted to the Navy by getting someone to pee for him, and that his motivation had a great deal to do with cashing in on the benefits of the GI bill… well. Part of me thought, and in all honesty still thinks… that his cashing in alongside people who actually risked their lives… casts his pragmatism in a disillusioning light for me. Ah well. He was born a bit too late. He served his time, unlike one of my uncles who signed up for the Army in the early 1950s and then decided he didn't like it, deserted, and then got caught and got sent to prison for a year. In short, reading my dad's autobiography has been a revelation, and not necessarily an entirely happy one — but I digress.)

I suspect the only way it would work to go back in time is for "time" to pick the right period and milieu. Otherwise the temptation to simply return to an earlier point in my own life to be with old friends, some now gone, would be too great. And there are no do-overs. Paris in the 1920s or in the 1890s would, in fact, hold some appeal as place-times to visit, but not as place-times to live on a permanent basis. Technologically slow and backwards though I am in many ways, I would find it hard to live in a world without having so much knowledge at my fingertips. —Not to mention the wonders of word processing (having lived through the Golden Age of Typewriters, a.k.a. self-correcting Selectrics and all).

Yeah, there's a bit of irony in this whole entry, given how dedicated I am to sorting through so much of the flotsam and jetsam from my and my family's past. C'est bien la vie. I wonder if I will end up learning anything truly of value from any of it once I'm done (assuming I ever get done — although I suspect if there are things to be learned, they will pop up en route rather than present themselves as part of some kind of grand finale).

Sunday 5 January 2014

Well, scrap that. (Second try.)

(I am not happy with gandi's timeout mechanism, sigh. Just lost most of an entry when I "saved" it.)

I'd started a blog post about spending a little time last night looking for someone I knew from Pittsburgh days, finding that person (and her daughters who are roughly the same age as our oldest two)… and then bla-bla-ing about my excuses for why I probably wasn't going to contact her after all. Yadda.

And then I spent a paragraph or two talking about wading once again into the nest o' papers and coming across an old check register. This seems to have been from Mr Mo's old Heart Federal account. The first entry for the register pages that I have was for May 1, 1982, and it went more and more sporadically until early May 1983, at which point I think we got rid of it. Among the jogs to memory provided: we used to share a Sprint long-distance account with one of my old BYU roommates, and I used to do work for the Pittsburgh Oratorio Society (mostly volunteer, but apparently perhaps some paid work as well). Mr Mo and I joined the POS in fall 1982, and I certainly remember discovering what an untoward combination woolen choir robes + overheated store interior + pregnancy can be (a Christmas concert at the downtown Pittsburgh Kaufman's department store… a nurse watching saw me turn red, then white, then disappear — I managed to sit down as I passed out.)

Fun times.

Also waded a bit more into my past religious excesses. "Earnest" does not begin to describe my sincere desires for overcoming faults and imperfections… especially in such a rarified location as the Language Training Mission. I've had to decipher some of my notes that I wrote in faulty Deseret (easier to write than to read, that's for sure)! One such:

Dammit — I am being ridiculously emotional about not being allowed to call home tonight — basically because it’s my time of the month — and because I’m constipated, AND because I detest not having my own way and because I am peeved at Sister H. “because” she had to be so damned self-righteous — even though it’s easy for her to say, “Oh you have to have permission to call home”— though she will be breaking the rules tomorrow because she gets to “accidentally” see her parents tomorrow. Petty, I know — damn this period ~ “monthly marauder.”

…In retrospect, I was being far too easy on Sister H, under the circumstances, and hopefully I ended up getting to call my folks anyway. (I think the real issue was that I'd tried on Christmas Day and couldn't get through.) Stupid regimentation!

Of the many, many experiences I had while at the LTM, my body remembers the chronic constipation most of all. Ghastly. Things got better pretty much instantly as soon as I left the LTM for The Mission Field. No surprises there.

Mr Mo and I will likely go off to play snooker in a few minutes, as is our wont to do most Sunday late afternoons in Berlin. It is a heavily overcast and rainy day — it has been dark for much of it. I think I will have to drink my ampoule of 100K units of vitamin D shortly to better withstand the winter.

Time for another short foray into paperdom (paper-dumb) before we head off to the pool hall.

Saturday 4 January 2014

Projects ever looming

Everything needs attention today: the papers (mine, the landlord's, family), the laundry, the reestablishment of order in the office (ha! ha!), the shopping. And so on. I will have no difficulty avoiding working on any of the (at least) five (5!) books that I have underway, and in some cases have had underway for years now (autobiographical ones in particular):

  • Back of the House (tales of my brief stint working for the Jonathan Club in LA)
  • Song of the Righteous (my time with the So. Calif. Mormon Choir)
  • Sister Mish (yeah, yeah, yeah)
  • The Accidental Principal (a.k.a. Dying School, a.k.a. Death of an American School in France)
  • Handbook on Mormon Feminism (no real working title yet, but this will do for the moment)

It is too easy to take refuge in online jigsaw puzzling. Before that, it was online Word Search. Both of these activities fed/feed into the honing of my Finder Lady skills, I tell myself, but in reality they are an obsessive-style time-sink. It isn't just that the time I waste on them is not spent on the above-mentioned writings, but it also isn't spent on pursuing German, on pursuing a job, or on creating Art, Great Art, the Best Art… or anything else. Including trying to parlay my Finder Lady skills into some kind of real activity, though I haven't a friggly notion of what that might be.

Well, I'd best get cracking and at least take a stab at the "urgent" activities. Perhaps crossing a couple of things off of that list will lead me to spend time working on the important stuff.

… And hopefully I won't solve too many jigsaw puzzles today.

Friday 3 January 2014

A daughter in Aba Doobidoo

Middle daughter Ner safely arrived in Aba Doobidoo (hat tip to my apparently dyslexic father) during the wee hours this morning (our time, 3 hours behind her time), for which I am grateful. Flight tracker was unable to fully follow her flight once it got to about the middle of Ukrainian airspace — apparently the Bermuda Triangle of the Slavic countries. In any event, she is now there in her temporary digs, hopefully resting up on this, the Muslim Sabbath (so to speak), before plunging into her new job on Sunday (Muslim workweek Monday).

I am trying to ascertain if I am envious, and if so, to what degree. When I was Ner's age, I was pregnant with… her, as it turns out, and on this particular date, I was likely still in California visiting family and friends. I probably had not yet visited the friend to whose office I brought my pregnant self with Oldest in tow; and it would be still several weeks later before this friend would be broadsided by an idiot who ran a red light while taking off a pullover sweater. Her death, coupled with several other factors, was the trigger point for a hideous episode of truly life-threatening depression that went on (and off) for several years thereafter. …But I digress.

At Ner's age, I had already had a Big International Adventure: I'd served as a full-time Mormon missionary to NE France/S Belgium (mostly the former), and then spent two weeks or so after touring around (mostly) Switzerland and Germany with my parents, initially much against my supremely devout and religious will at the time. The only city I served in that fit my dad's habitual too-ambitious itinerary was Reims, where we stayed with "my" converts, Claude and Chantal (long-since divorced in no small measure because of the "pro-family" church, ironically enough). I grant that neither Metz nor Lille — especially Lille — were interesting tourist destinations. But still.

It took nearly 20 years more before we all headed to this side of The Pond for our continuing adventure, with travel and adventure a bit constrained at the moment due to budget considerations.

OK, fine, I am a bit envious, but I think mostly because I wish I were that young again.

Thursday 2 January 2014

Day 2 of year 2014

Today we will be packing up and going back to our apartment at Arnswalderplatz. We've been at Youngest's across town because we rented our apartment to three fellows from the UK for a few days. At the time we listed, things looked pretty grim money-wise, and the few hundred euros seemed worth it. At the time. Yes.

OK, I suppose it was worth it just to have cleaned up the apartment in preparation for the renters' arrival. Um, yeah, except that everything got thrown into my office/studio (which was rendered more or less inaccessible to the renters) … in semi-orderly fashion at first, and then pell-mell and helter-skelter toward the end. It will take some time to dig it all out.

Anyway, I will take a load of stuff from Youngest's to our place right after lunch, get the renters squared away, and then enjoy Ner's presence for a couple more hours until The Car comes to take her to Tegel airport, where she will board a flight to Abu Dhabi, where her new job and Adventurous Life will begin. (Her husband will join her there in early March.) Not sure when we will be able to visit, but if all goes well, perhaps we'll spend next Christmas or New Year's at her place rather than in the New Year's Insanity Capital of the Whole Friggin' Mundo.

After that (this evening & tomorrow), life will consist mostly of dealing with business papers and such. (And dealing with the mess in the office, continued.)

I am still waiting to hear if I will be going to Grenoble.

Wednesday 1 January 2014

2014 starts with a bang!

…Literally — in the literal sense of literally, not the newly-accepted figurative sense thereof: Mr Mo, daughter Ner and I were among the enormous crowd watching the New Year's fireworks that had just begun in downtown Berlin near the Brandenburg Gate, when all at once some drunken arschloch tossed some kind of (thankfully small-ish) firework over his shoulder in our direction.

I really cannot post either my or Mr Mo's dramatic videos of the incident — at least not with the audio, given the number of expletives that escaped my lips both when the damned thing was tossed and after it went off at my feet. The result: a burn hole in one of my nicer socks, an accompanying burn on my right heel, and a secondary burn or bruise a bit higher on my right calf. (The Ner got a secondary percussive burn on her leg that did not damage her pants. Curious thing.)

Oh yeah, and happy New Year!

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Christmas musings

The pumpkin pie is out of the oven and the turkey is in, the latter destined to stew in its own juices until hopefully the meat will of its own cooked volition fall off the bones… and here I am again at this same general time of year. Usually it takes New Year's to bring me to this point, replete as it is with Good Intentions and Resolutions about blogging more regularly, blogging more devotedly, blogging-blog-blog-bla-bla-bla.

But I am here, compelled by having renewed my hosting contract with gandi, but more compelled, perhaps, by listening to hours of non-stop mostly new-to-me Christmas songs or puzzling arrangements of old songs on the radio, brought to me by "Einundneunzig vier" — FM 94.1 Berlin.† Many of the new songs have a liberal bent with which I completely agree — the "grown-up Christmas list" for Santa asking for peace on Earth and an end to poverty and loneliness. Poor troubled world, what with ice caps a-melting on the one hand and the lords (in Utah) a-leaping in their discomfort and outrage at their ban on gay marriage deemed unconstitutional on the other. (I am beyond words about my disquiet re: the former and simply basking in the irony re: the latter.)

Hearing (repeatedly) various renditions of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" has contributed to my thoughtful mood. I don't like that two out of three children (and their SOs) are not here with us, nor we with them. Skype calls later will help, but don't make up for the lack. (After one of the more poisonously political meals with nearly all of my conservative siblings — liberal brother & wife were not there — it is certainly just as well that I am/we are not having Christmas breakfast at so-and-so's before decamping to another sib's house for Christmas dinner. Sigh.)

Aside: I read Pope Francis's Christmas address. I like this guy a lot. Assuming all of the enemies he's making don't send him the way of John-Paul I in the too-near future, he may yet breathe new life into an old and corrupt institution that still has potential to do some good in the world. (Yes, I am all too aware that he hasn't quite figured out women & priesthood, married priests, etc., etc., etc., but his focus on the poor and his criticism of unfettered capitalism is very refreshing indeed. Would that LDS, Inc., were humble enough to take a leaf from him… yeah, right.) I wonder how well-received he'd be among the conservatives in my family with such a "Marxist" message were his name Monson.—But I digress.

But Christmas. We're in rather straitened circumstances this year, and gift-giving was at a solar minimum, so to speak (living in a dark northern land deserves a little credit for the metaphor). It was obviously more important to be present at The Ner's wedding, a joyous and fun event, but one which left the coffers as dry as nearly they can be. Still, we are all in tolerably decent health at present, the wolf is still a ways away from the door and hopefully will turn full tail shortly, and I cannot really complain too much about much of anything (may it be ever so). Our extended families are in largely good shape as well, including the one SIL who nearly died at Thanksgiving from choking on turkey.

2014 will be better financially, looks like, even if that means a stint working in Grenoble for me. (Haven't heard yet, but the latest signs seemed indicative of a "go" in this regard.) Mixed feelings about it, to say the least. The older I get, the less I like routine travel, the less I like living apart from Mr Mo, the less I like dealing with new and uncertain situations, even though I have reasonable confidence in my abilities and charm. —And with respect to the latter, this "charm" with which I have had the good fortune to be blessed for pretty much my entire life — once in a while I find my impatience almost overriding my willing friendliness toward new acquaintances. Hmm.

Well. No promises for regular blogging, worthy goal though it is. My ambitions today (and perhaps only for today, as in December 25, 2013) are largely confined to the wish for seeing my offspring all moving through their respective stages of life with health and happiness… and Mr Mo and all other loved ones as well.

† The oddest "Christmas" selection was Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" (which I know from the movie Shrek); maybe some non-English-speaking someone at the radio station mistook all the hallelujahs for caroling? Bizarre.

Monday 24 June 2013

Remembering Renée

Renée's funeral was this past Saturday: she had died more than a week before due to cancer, advanced age, and likely quite a few other contributing factors (diabetes?) exacerbated by morbid obesity. With respect to her obesity, my aged and aging parents were likely not the only ones who were surprised that she had lasted so long.

—And therein lies a great deal of what was so unfair in life where Renée was concerned: being fat defined her for a lot of people, and oh, how it served to define and constrain her view of herself.

Renée was the mother of one of my very best friends during high school and university. But I was aware of her far earlier than before my friend and I became such good friends: sometime after I'd been called to be the Junior Primary pianist (Primary being held on Wednesday afternoons before The Divinely-Revealed Sunday Three-Hour Block), I had occasion to go into the chapel (where Senior Primary was held). Renée was at the podium because she was the Primary president. She wore a wig (as she did most Sundays, her own hair being too disproportionately sparse to be considered fit for public appearances). She looked nice — she always had lovely facial features, a beautiful, beautiful alto speaking voice, and an infectious laugh and smile. But she was very large — and it struck me then, even as a pre-teen, that it must have been very hard to be so fat and to have to put oneself forward when one might rather not draw attention to oneself. And indeed, being Primary president was the toughest church calling she'd ever had (and perhaps ever) — I think because some children aren't shy about asking questions or making statements, and the word "fat" was used around Renée — within earshot, sometimes to her face… and her daughter told me that Renée wept after pretty much every Primary session.

I could be wrong (particularly about those years after I'd gotten married and moved away), but I don't think Renée ever served in any other leadership positions. Perhaps the pain of Primary induced her to refuse any such calls. Or perhaps the ingrained prejudice against fat people short-circuited local male leaders' inspiration to call her to any such, but so far as I know, she was never called to be in any Young Women or Relief Society presidencies (or any stake-level positions in which Mormon women are nominally "leaders").

Renée hadn't started out fat. She was never super-de-dooper slender, but had a lovely curvaceous figure according to the norms of the day (in the late 1940s, 1950s). The photos of her and her to-be and then husband were proof that she was far more pretty than her husband was handsome (not bad-looking, just not blessed with classically handsome features). Once the children arrived, however, then on came the weight, never to depart — no matter how many diets and attempts and efforts, some — perhaps all — of which were undercut by what her daughter described as chronic noshing as she cooked. (Renée was a fabulous cook — of Italian especially, and she was the leader of the church congregation's most successful building fundraising activity: making and selling pizzas.)

Her obesity took a psychological toll on her: she was often so depressed that she could not get out of bed. I don't think Renée was naturally shy, but although she was active in the church (as in attended every Sunday, or nearly so), she was less likely to show up at adult-only activities. I don't recall seeing her in any of my parents' collection of photos of various quorum dinners, dances, and so on. Her kitchen was almost always a vivid testament of her internal turmoil: even I, who have been the producer of gargantuan and long-lasting heapin' helpin's of chaos, would be hard-pressed to match the State of Things in their home most times I was over there (and I was over there a fair bit). And while they had a built-in pool (which I took advantage of whenever I could), I do not ever recall seeing Renée in the pool, ever, ever, ever — even on the hottest days. Perhaps there was no swimsuit available to accommodate her? Or perhaps she could not bear to bare so much of herself, even to her family and to close family friends.

I write this while struggling with my own self-image, upper arms a-jiggle and all, having lost a couple of kilos over the past few weeks… but wanting and needing to lose a whole lot more. How much has my roughly decade-old weight gain defined me? Constrained me? Going to the Lac d'Esparron with my younger German Quinsonnais friend Claudia last week, and actually daring to strip down to my swimsuit to get into the (frigid!!) water was pretty hard, but I did it, despite far too much (pale!) dimpled flesh. I am nowhere near as overweight as Renée was during much of her adult life, and I still perceive of myself as capable of losing weight, capable of staying active (ping-pong, Mrs Sporty). I do not think I would cloister myself as Renée so often did — but I digress.

As I have discovered via facebook, most if not all of Renée's family buys into tea-party politics. My friend went and remains much further out than all of them, to the point where she cut off nearly all ties to them (and to me) long, long ago. (I'm not sure I can find a way to gracefully ask if she went to Renée's funeral. One would hope — and yet I just saw photos of the family at the funeral, and she is not among them.) I'm told that Renée came very, very close at the same time to being sucked into the same cult that swallowed up my best friend… "and thus we see" that even intellectually gifted people (my friend and her mom among them) can end up using their intellects to build enormous and elaborate constructions atop one or more very false premises. (Yes, I know that they would say the same of me.) Beyond obesity, the other great sorrow in Renée's life was, in fact, the mind-boggling estrangement of her daughter, my best friend — and she grappled with the guilt of having gone along so far in tandem with her daughter. I don't know how much she blamed herself for my friend's transformation.

I'm glad my parents and I stopped by and saw Renée last year en route to Los Angeles. My dad wasn't interested in making the detour, but as we approached the city where she and pretty much all of her family live (except my old best friend, of course, alas), he had a change of heart and we spent a pleasant hour catching up and renewing acquaintance and all. I would have very much regretted having passed up the chance to see her, since it was pretty clear that she was on a downward trajectory. But she was her same sweet self, same lovely speaking voice (if a bit labored and breathy), same smile despite physical pain and infirmity and underlying heartache for her lost daughter. She was still grossly overweight, but illness had reduced her size a bit.

If there is a hereafter and a bodily resurrection, the teaching that one's body will be "restored to its proper frame" (cf. Alma 40:23) must lend considerable comfort to those who, like Renée, ended up carrying more flesh upon their frames than they desired, and who suffered socially, emotionally, and physically because of it.

Rest in peace, Renée.

Saturday 4 May 2013

Artist's block, sort of

I wanted to finish a combination piece today — an acrylic painting topped with a tripartite mini-sculpture. I had a particular thing I wanted to do with the painting part… and found that I couldn't really do it. I hadn't really figured out how to achieve the effect I wanted. So instead I ended up with a UUP† acrylic dystopian seascape.

While I have nothing at all against acrylic dystopian seascapes, I'm irked and bothered at my lack of technical skill that kept me from executing what I actually wanted to create. I am thinking of how best to deal with this situation — and conclude that I have to be more sanguine about experimentation and that I need to be more accepting of the high likelihood that I may not end up producing anything worth keeping or showing for a bit. I cannot say that the idea fills me with pleasure (to say the least). But short of taking formal art lessons — for which I have neither time nor money at the moment, I either have to try and fail or simply let my paints dry up (which they're already starting to do).

I foresee more acrylic dystopian scapes of some sort in my future.

† Using Up Paint

Sunday 21 April 2013

Artsy-fartsy pretentious tripe

(This probably should be cross-posted on nonlynnear, but hey.)

Last year Mr Mo and I went to "Gallery Weekend Berlin" on the last weekend in April. We ended up visiting quite a few galleries in several different locations around central Berlin ("Mitte") — many in repurposed factories. (I think I took a fair number of photos, but it seems that they were among those that didn't get backed up before my laptop was stolen, alas. I will have to ask Mr Mo if he took some.)

Anyway, what prompts this little entry is the explanatory sheet that we were given about a particular artist's work, which also came with another sheet showing thumbnails and the dimensions of the paintings on display. Gosh. About the best I can say is that I didn't despise Michael Williams' "This Means Something to My Horse" exhibit as much as I totally hate most of Cy Twombly's stuff, but it was a clear runner-up.† Here is the amazingly creative, best-face-on-it description of his work:

Michael Williams paints the uncanny, with a tendency toward the outright ludicrous. (Ludicrous — got that part right.) His colorful, large-scale paintings combine automatic (read: unplanned) drawing, images appropriated from thrift store finds and discarded pictures (!!), and an array of abstract forms and gestures, all rendered with a freely diverse range of painterly techniques. Often beginning with thin, doodle-like drawings made with an airbrush, Williams layers his canvases with glazes or denser passages of paint squeezed from the tube or slathered with a knife, creating a surreal optical disorientation and depth. (Polite way of saying 'an incoherent mess.') Williams' inventive approach to painting and his idiosyncratic visual vocabulary recall the visceral, sun-bleached narratives of Don Van Vliet or Sigmar Polke's 70s psychedelia, exploring with wit and humor the boundaries of the strange and familiar.

A hallmark of poor art for me is how much curator blathering is required to convince people that what they're seeing is truly art, instead of trusting their own crap-meters. As with Twombly's scribbles, I am amazed that anyone takes this sort of "art" seriously at all. (Fine, fine, chalk this all up to jealousy on my part. — I'd have more to be jealous about if I were actually producing more art and trying and failing to get noticed, of course.)

† OK, fine, there are a few pieces of Williams' that I actually kind of like, e.g., "Do you need it with mustard?" Here is a link to the thumbnails page for the exhibit… judge for yourself.

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