Monday, November 28, 2011

Winner! Winner!

So, I just won NaNoWriMo!  Go me!  I successfully wrote a 50,000 word novel in less than 30 days!  Hooray!

The catch?  I'm still not done with my story.  I may have - oh, let's see... carry the one... another 25% of plot to complete.  Then I will go on a massive editing spree and make everything mesh and sound coherent (which may take the rest of my life or something) and then - I might be open to having people read it and critique, which will result in more edits and meshing and blood, sweat and tears.

But dudes - I WROTE A NOVEL!! And it is an awesome feeling!

For now, WE DANCE!

(I'd like to give a special thanks to my supervisors at work for turning the other way when I was writing in my little blue notebook during down times so I could meet the 50K mark by November 30.  And with this thanks, I ask that you continue to look the other way when I start in on the climax of the story - 'cause it's gonna get GOOOOD!!  I hope...)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Doctor Who Day!

There's been plenty of chatter about the impending 50th Anniversary (and rightly so), but we all would be remiss not to observe the anniversaries between now and then.  Because today, everyone's favorite Time Lord celebrates his 48 anniversary!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I Don't Want to Live On This Planet Anymore

Since I graduated from college, I've noticed that I haven't been calling out instances of general annoyance in my day-to-day doings as much as I used to.  But something happened this week that I just have to point out.  Besides, the world has gotten away with its stupid shenanigans for way too long.

A bit of background before I launch - last Sunday, I was visiting with my family over football games and cooing over the baby niece.  Somebody (or several somebodies) brought up the "Why Are You Not Dating or Married Yet?" tirade.  I let this go on because people need their hobbies and I can't get them to shut up about it anyway.

Fast forward to Thursday - I am at work (you know, that thing where big kids go and do certain tasks and get paid money for doing them?) and the guys who bring in deliveries from other libraries came in.  They were engrossed in conversation and they were quite loud about it so it was hard to ignore.  They were more or less my age (maybe a little older - no older than early 30s).  I didn't care that they were talking.  But their conversation was a stunning example of why I just don't date.  They were discussing such wonders - like how the new Beavis and Butthead made fun of Jersey Shore (Pot, meet Kettle).  Oh - and the different nuances in how Letterman and Leno deliver their opening monologues.  Not to mention what the heck happened to Conan's show?

If that is the best my generation can offer in terms of datable material, then I will gladly take self-imposed vows of celibacy.

Now, I know what some of you will say (in the most nasally voice you can manage) - "Well, we sit through all your Doctor Who crap so why shouldn't you sit through our Beavis and Butthead stuff?"  Because, Dear Readers, this is my blog and I will write whatever I choose.  Including commentary on how stupid and inane my generation is.  When silly nonsense like 30 Rock and Glee is considered high quality entertainment, there is something wrong with the world (besides, I like Doctor Who).

Honestly, I almost want to apologize to the world for the abject stupidity of my generation.  When the braindead fools on MTV and Comedy Central can tell you what to think and how to believe, it's no wonder that marriage rates are dropping and people are actually worried about it.  There are other factors involved, but a big part of it is that both guys and girls hang out with each other, they put on this stupid brainless act that they see acted out on TV in front of each other and everyone says "I don't want to marry him/her - he/she is an idiot."

Like I said, intelligence is only one factor involved but for me, it's a biggie.  A guy had better have something more substantial to say to me than whatever asinine drivel Letterman flapped about in his monologue last night.  Until then, I'm taking my ball and going home.

Friday, November 18, 2011

I Hope No One Curses Me With Immortal Sexiness! (no, really. I hope not)

Well, folks - the end is near.  Or, at least nearer than it was 24 hours ago.  Sparklepirepalooza* Part IV has hit theaters and everyone - Twihards and Twi-haters alike - felt it.

I make no secret that I fall into the Twi-hate camp (though with less ferocity than most).  I have no desire to see "Breaking Dawn."  I did watch the trailer mostly because of my own sick curiosity and also that I am glutton for punishment (the above video is not that trailer. This video is so much better). The whole trailer revolves around Bella and Edward's wedding and honeymoon. Honestly, both Bella and Edward look about as excited about their impending marriage as I would be about seeing this movie (as in "Please don't make me do this! Please! Please! Pleeeeease!!)

But something has bothered me excessively about the Twilight franchise. Not just Edward's stalkery, controlling and abusive tendencies toward Bella. Not Jacob's character derailment just for the sake of having a cheap love triangle. Not even the *shudder* imprinting of Renesmee (and don't even get me started on that creature OR her weirdo name.  Holy crap - WHY?) All of these things have been documented extensively by Cleolinda, Mark Reads Twilight and Reasoning With Vampires and a whole host of other blogs. While these are brimming with snark, none of them have really hit on the thing that truly, truly bothers me about this series. And now is a good a time as any to explain exactly why I hate it.  My hope is that, after today, I won't have to mention it on this blog again.

It is well known that Stephenie Meyer is LDS (or Mormon, if you prefer). In the interest of full disclosure, I am LDS too. At first, I was excited about a fellow member of the LDS Church writing a popular fantasy series and be in the public mind because that would somehow work towards showing the world that, hey, we aren't as weird as you think we are. Then I read the books. And, not for the first time, I realized just why people think we're so weird (Dear World, I implore you - Please don't judge us all by Stephenie Meyer! If you want a good fantasy author that happens to be LDS, I suggest Shannon Hale, Brandon Sanderson, Jessica Day George and Ally Condie. Just for starters).

I will admit - I got caught up in the Twilight craze a bit. I read the first three books shortly before I left to serve an LDS mission in Florida and I really didn't have time to critique them with a discerning eye. I just wrote it off as a silly vampire romance for squealy teenage girls and there wasn't much harm in it. Then I left for my mission and didn't think much about it for 18 months.

For those not familiar with the life of an LDS missionary, here's some basic facts - as a missionary, you don't watch TV, listen to the radio, read books or participate in any kind of entertainment not put out by the Church. You are there to teach people about the Church and you're 100% focused on that. You write home once a week and get to call home twice a year. It's intense and grueling and extremely hard, but you also experience so much growth and spiritual maturity, so that makes it worth it for a devout member of the Church.  But you just don't know what's going on in popular culture unless someone tells you about it.  And even then, you just don't care.

I tell you this to illustrate how I perceived Twilight. While I was a missionary, "Breaking Dawn" was released and the first movie came out and Twilight-a-palooza was at a fever pitch. People were also interested to know that Stephenie Meyer was LDS. Well, of course we missionaries are going to be excited about this! Any publicity that brings the Church into the public eye is a good thing - whether it's positive or negative - because that gets people asking questions and they often come to the missionaries to ask. And missionaries LOVE being asked honest questions rather than just being yelled at to "F-off" as we go down the road. Except until we came to the part where some girl squee-ing over Twilight asked me whether I was "Team Edward" or "Team Jacob" - and I honestly had no idea what she was talking about. And no, she didn't want us to come teach her family about the gospel (sigh… onto the next house, I guess).

I returned home from my mission and could finally sit down and find out what the hoopla over Twilight was about. I watched the movie (it was crap, but most movies-from-books are), re-read the first three books (umm… okay, not the greatest) and finally read "Breaking Dawn."

And that, Dear Reader, is where I reached my breaking point (no pun intended). I still don't think I've recovered the brain cells that I lost.

It went further than crappy writing and a "What-the-Ever-Living-Hell-Was-That?" reaction. I realized how horrible Edward and Bella's relationship was and also how terrible Bella treated Jacob and how Jacob's character completely went off the rails. But worst of all - I realized that people (members of the Church included) found ways that Stephenie Meyer had supposedly incorporated Church doctrine into the narrative, mainly the doctrine of eternal marriage.

I can (almost) forgive all that other BS in these books. But when you sell a story that can be interpreted as a commentary for something I hold sacred and turn it into a pile of muck, I take issue with that.  It's even worse when it's a member of the Church doing it because that just adds fuel to the argument that Mormons are these strange psycho freaks.  Especially because there are legions of asswipes with an internet connection who don't need any excuse to take potshots at people's religious views (for the love of all that is good and decent, why are you giving them more ammunition? They don't need it!)

And it got worse - as I roamed around the internet and found reviews of Twilight (both professional and amateur), I felt even more sick as people took Bella and Edward's relationship and marriage as an excuse to malign the Church and its teachings. This is the reason I could not read through all the "Mark Reads Twilight" reviews - many of those posts were the most insulting and offensive things to me on a personal level. And the worst part is that Bella and Edward's marriage is NOT an eternal marriage. It's a gross mockery of the institution and I'm not happy that Stephenie Meyer wrote the books that way in the first place so that the movie producers could basically characterize it as True Blood for fourteen-year-olds (What else do you expect? It's vampires and teenagers - of course Hollywood's going to do that?)

I realize that not everyone believes the way I do and I don't expect them to. But I do expect people to get their facts straight - or at least make an effort to find out the truth from a reputable source (it's amazing how many people who hate the Church go anywhere except the official Church website - or even Church members - to get their facts and figures). Since there hasn't been a suitable response to the people who bring the Church into their Twilight bash-fests, this is my effort to set the record straight.

Topic #1 - Marriage and Family

The Church teaches that the family is the most important thing for anybody - whether you're a parent or a child (which, everyone is one or both of these). We are to work together as families to get through this life. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained and instituted by God.  When a marriage is performed in the temple by proper priesthood authority, a man and a woman can be sealed to each other for time and all eternity. Also, any children born to them will be sealed and they can be a family after this life. There's also provisions made for adoption and remarriage and things like that that I won't go into here. But that's the basic idea. The reason for all of this is that God is our Heavenly Father and He wants us to return to Him and we can only do that as we are sealed together as families.

The caveat to all this is that the promised blessings in the marriage ceremony - promises made in all the ordinances performed in the Church, actually - are dependant on how we as individuals live our lives. If we adhere to the commandments of God and keep our side of the promises, then God will bless us with what he's promised (most likely these blessings will come in the next life). Of course, you have people who don't live up to their end of the bargain and God will judge them accordingly.

Topic #2 - Free Agency (also - Right to Receive Personal Revelation)

Another a key component to God's plan for His children is the concept of free agency or free will. Everybody has the right to choose. In fact, that's what our purpose in life is - to make choices and to learn from those choices. Without freedom of choice, God's plan would be pretty pointless. We are here to learn what is right and what is wrong and the only way we learn from that is by experiencing consequences - which we do NOT get to choose. Also, we can counsel with God in our personal lives and have His input on how we make decisions, if we choose to include Him in the process.  This is known as receiving personal revelation.  Example - A few years ago when I was asked to serve as the president of the women's organization in my congregation, I was asked to pray about it before I said yes or no to the position.  I was entitled to revelation from God about the matter (Spoilers - I did accept the position and served for about a year).  Marriage especially is something we are counseled to pray about - if Person A says they had a dream or a vision or saw something in their morning toast that means they are supposed to marry Person B, Person B has the right to receive that same revelation. And if Person B doesn't get that revelation, they are well within their rights to tell Person A to shove off.

I bring these things up as they relate to Bella and Edward (and some of the other Twilight characters). Edward essentially strips Bella of her free will by using his "AMAZING SPARKLEPIRE* POWERS OF PERSUASION" to tell her that he is her One And Only True Love (sadly these things do happen in reality - in and out of the Church). And Bella is just dumb enough to fall for it (let's be somewhat fair here - Bella's not the poster child for fully-realized characterization, here). But Edward is a controlling stalker and certainly NOT the kind of boyfriend I would aspire to having - and certainly not the kind of man I want my younger sisters or my niece or any of my former students to meet and fall in love with. Edward (and to a lesser extent Jacob, but he's still guilty) is an abusive and emotionally controlling person and it sickens me that these are paraded out as examples of healthy relationships. While I've never really had a serious romantic relationship of my own, I'm pretty sure a breakup isn't supposed to send you into a waking-comatose state for four months and a desire to risk your life in order to hear your beloved's voice tell you how stupid you truly are.

So there's that aspect of the relationship. But going back to Church doctrine - Bella and Edward's marriage is NOT an example of an eternal marriage. Not as the Church teaches it. Again, these are my own closely-held beliefs. Nobody has to believe them just because I do. My purpose in this is to clear up some very gross misconceptions and bring in some things that don't get discussed with the respect they deserve.

Please, please, please follow me on this closely - when people say Stephenie Meyer injected eternal marriage into the "Twilight" series, that is not true at all.   Eternal marriage only comes in the next life.  Everyone living right now in in their mortal life, sent here to learn right from wrong and to choose for themselves who they are going to follow. If a couple qualifies for and chooses to be married in the temple, they make certain promises between themselves and God. The Church teaches that, once they get to the next life, God will judge them as individuals and as a couple if they have kept those promises. If they have kept their promises, God will reward them with being married for all eternity and they will have their children with them (as long as their children have kept their own promises. This goes on and one forever - I told you, this is eternity you're dealing with).  But living forever in this life is not - I repeat, NOT - how this is supposed to work.

Let me tell you, eternity is going to be a wonderful thing. True, I haven't actually seen it for myself, but I do know that as good as this life can be, heaven is going to be a zillion times better. The best part for me is that God is going to make everything fair for everyone - and He can do that because He is God. No one is going to have to fight over material things or hurt feelings because none of that is going to matter anymore. I can't really explain it very well - it's something you come to know on your own.  But it is not living forever in this world with someone who brow-beat you into marrying them.

Bottom Line - Bella and Edward aren't married for eternity. Not by a long shot. Oh, they may live forever, having forever handsome immortality sex and chomping on dead deer carcasses, but that's about all they've got. Eternal marriage is so much more than that, no matter what the romance novels say. Twilight has nothing to do with the Church beyond Stephenie Meyer's interpretation of her beliefs (which, I would like to have a long talk with her Sunday School teachers because that's not the doctrine of eternal marriage that I was taught). And the next person that says Twilight has anything to do with Church doctrine (whether they mean it as a compliment or an insult), I am going to punch them in the face.

*Credit where credit is due - "Sparklepire" was originally coined by the lovely and witty Cleolinda Jones (though I tacked on "-palooza" just for fun). She is one that has kept religious criticism out of the Twilight discussion and I give her a lot of praise for that.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Things in the Past 24 Hours That Have Made Me Happy

I've just found a bunch of random things that have brought a smile to my face and I wish to share them with you. There's nothing really specific and no set theme.  Just something to enjoy on this chilly Saturday -

1. "What About Everything?" by Carbon Leaf

The first video I found with this song was actually one by Babelcolour and was posted by Traveling the Vortex. But I discovered that BC was inspired by the one above, which was done a few years back, and it is no less impressive.  And the song itself is quite inspiring - I got 10,000 (or so) words written on my NaNoWriMo yesterday just from listening to it over and over again.  I believe I have a new theme song for myself and a new favorite group.

2. Pandora Radio

I've since quit listening to the regular radio for music because (A) They never seem to be playing songs I like and (B) They always go right to some idiotic commercial just as I'm tuning in.  And I can't stand commercials anymore (I am becoming my dad in this regard).  However, I keep missing out of fantastic new music (like Adele) because I just listen to what I have on my iPod.  For whatever reason, I'd never used Pandora before last night (even though everyone's grandmother's canary has), so I decided to give it a shot and it was brilliant (well, so far).

3. "Help Me, Doctor! You're My Only Hope!"

Untitled by ~nrrrdy on deviantART

Okay, so I unofficially gave it that title (it was one that was suggested on the Doctor Who LJ forum), but that it really funny.  I really can't say anything more than that.

4. My Niece Doing Something Amazing

Yeah, yeah, I know what you're all saying - everything these things do at four months is amazing to their relatives.  But guys, Jay-Boo is reading! (Well, really, just looking at the pictures. Or deciding which page to drool on next).  You all can be as skeptical as you want, but this is my niece and I am a librarian and I couldn't be prouder of the kid (and her parents).  And this is my new cell phone wallpaper.

5. I Hit 20K In NaNoWriMo!

I meant to mention this earlier, but I'm taking on National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short) in which I'm writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, starting with November 1 and (hopefully) finishing on or before November 30.  I was on a pretty good track until I had a couple of days where I worked eight hour shifts and I didn't get anything written.  And if you don't write at least 1,667 words a day (on average), you get behind.  Well, yesterday I had the day off because of the holiday and I sat down and wrote my little fingers off.  I found a really good plot thread to go along with and I made it past the 20,000 word mark!  I was quite pleased with myself over that one.

Happy Saturday, y'all!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank You, Veterans!

This is one of my favorite songs and it honors some of my favorite people.

All this week at work, I've noticed that the Salt Lake County Library website has one announcement in their rotating announcement thingie about November holidays. It's to let people know that we'll be closed on Veterans Day and Thanksgiving. It didn't hit me until yesterday that those two holidays are quite appropriate to put together like that.

When I was in 8th grade, I had the opportunity to visit Washington DC for a week with my school. One of the things we got to do was visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Four of the students from our group got to lay a wreath on the tomb during the Changing of the Guard ceremony. There are few places in this world so peaceful and reverent and the Tomb of the Unknowns is one of them. You just see it in the guard that's posted there and there's a great spirit that fills the place.

I will always be grateful for the men and women who have risked their lives and sacrificed for this country. That is not a trite statement or just something appropriate to commemorate the day. I have an uncle who served in Korea and an uncle who served in Vietnam and I've had many friends serve in the military. Everyone that I've met who has served has done so gladly and with a sense of honor that you just don't get anywhere else. I admire all those who can do what is asked of them and who will sacrifice for people they might not even know. It is because of of those brave souls that I can get up every morning, work in a job that I love, get an education and enjoy my life the way so many people in this world just don't get to do.

One thing my trip to Serbia taught me is how grateful I am to live in the United States. There were things about Europe that were fun and enjoyable (the tomatoes are fantastic!) But there are so many other problems they have that we just don't.  Just one example - People complain about the racism in America. Maybe some of that is true - I've never seen it firsthand. But while I was in Serbia, I did see a restaurant owner hit a young Gypsy girl just for coming into the restaurant. I've never seen anything like that happen in the States and it really bothered me. When I landed in the US, I was so happy to be home. We live in a very unique and blessed country and that is due in no small part to the soldiers who have fought and died throughout the years to keep it that way.

To all the veterans out there - it seems like a small tribute compared to what you have done, but thank you, from the bottom of my heart.