September 2006 Archives

Find a mechanically sophisticated technological bandwagon (the computer and all the gadgets and programs that go with it, as opposed to, say, the pencil) and chances are good I was late getting on it. Moreover, when I did get on it, it was probably because someone else bought me a ticket, and I probably delayed using that ticket until it was about to expire.

A case in point: learning to drive. I didn't mind the idea of learning to drive, but I wasn't dying to start asking my parents for the keys, like most of my friends. I was perfectly happy to walk most places--we lived only two blocks from my high school--provided I didn't have to carry a lot of stuff. Plus, although I didn't realize it at the time, I was related to a bunch of bad drivers and had a skewed notion of how much anxiety was necessarily involved in operating a motor vehicle: I didn't realize that if you stayed calm, paid attention, drove the speed limit and weren't aggressive about trying to occupy the same exact area another vehicle was already in, you could often avoid accidents, horn-honking, being shouted at, and getting the finger.

My Glasses


There are so many things I would really like to blog about: I want to respond to Major Steel's entry about the music he loved in college and discuss this review I read on Salon of this book I really want to read, This Is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin. I have written nothing about Sunstone except an intro to the synposis I plan eventually to write. I reallly do intend to blog about knitting some day, though knitting is for me like being in love in that I find it so rewarding that I'd rather do it than write about it. Anyway, those are among the many topics I hope to find time to write about soon, but in the meantime you're getting a picture of my new glasses (which I am wearing this very moment, having picked them up yesterday--they are less cat-eye-ish than I remembered but at least the rhinestones are really truly there) perched on the book I'm currently reading in front of the basket where I store my knitting, which is currently a sweater I'm almost finished knitting.


Feminist Carnival, Again


At the beginning of the summer I strayed from my commitment to blogging about feminism, but there at the end, when I started preparing for Sunstone, I got it back.... Anyway, the current carnival is up at Redemption Blues. I've perused some of the other very fine offerings--in particular I was struck by this post about the Stained Glass Ceiling: Rankism in Action on My Left Wing. The author, Breakingranks, neatly summarized my experience with Mormonism:

Lately, PR folk have been fond of the idea that markets are conversations. This implies a level playing field where people negotiate as equals and make fair exchanges. However, the spiritual authority hijacks the market. The spiritual authority stands on a platform and preaches to the masses. Spiritual authority is one (man's) vision imposed on all others, winning pre-eminence through guile, mass mobilization, and acts of verbal violence. The spiritual authority dictates reality, recording their vision on the world as if people were blank tapes. Perhaps spiritual authority does win in the marketplace of ideas and values, but perhaps we should ask ourselves why there should be a marketplace at all. And if there is a market, doesn't a diverse world imply niche markets of ideas instead of some beady-eyed guy shouting transcend, transcend, transcend!

Also wonderful: this post, Owning Beauty, on Basket of Eggs, about the significance of a beautiful blue dress she'd made.

One Down, a Whole Bunch More to Go


Well, I survived the first day of the semester. It was a bit iffy there for a while--for one thing, I couldn't decide what to wear, and you must find the right outfit on the first day, because the wrong one can set a miserable tone you'll never recover from. In the end I wore what is almost my uniform: a long skirt (albeit a very cool one I made at the beginning of the summer and had never taught in before), a nice top, with my hair down but pulled off my face by a scarf.

The classes themselves were reasonably successful (except for the one where I tried to lecture the first day--won't do that again any time soon). I have high hopes that it will be a decent semester, although it's clear that it will be a busy one. So if I'm not as prolific in the next few months as I have been at times in the past, well, you'll know why.

Lizzy Tudor in Film


Recently I watched two different two-part versions of the life of Elizabeth Tudor. The first was the 2005 HBO mini-series Elizabeth I, starring Helen Mirren and Jeremy Irons (both of whom I always like to watch), and the second was the 2005 Masterpiece Theatre mini-series The Virgin Queen, starring Anne-Marie Duff, a young Irish actress who was also in The Magdalene Sisters. Helen Mirren was WAY better. (I have every certainty that she deserved the Emmy she won for this role.) She is regal to begin with and the character as written for her was much wittier, wiser, more powerful. In the Duff version, there were scenes where the queen was mocked and ridiculed, and it was easily done because there was something ridiculous about her character, and something ridiculous about a 30-something woman playing a 60-something crone (and Duff's portrayal WAS a crone).



I finally get around to teaching myself to use the camera I got for Christmas, and what's the first image I post on my blog? That's right:


a picture of my cat.

Intro to my Sunstone Synopsis, Finally


Yeah, here it is: the day some of you have waited for, and others have dreaded: I'm finally gearing up to offer my report on Sunstone.

I should explain a little about what Sunstone is, since it has become obvious to me that even people with a background in Mormonism aren't quite clear on that.

Sunstone's website states that it is the "sponsor of open forums on Mormon thought and experience." The forum I attend each summer in Salt Lake is a symposium on Mormonism, not a conference. The two words are interchangeable in many regards, but General Conference in Mormonism means something special: it's a big meeting held every six months (the first Sundays in April and October) during which the faithful listen to exhortations from the brethren and reaffirm their commitment to the church by sustaining said brethren.

There's very little of that going on at Sunstone, which is probably one reason that some years ago (10? 15? anyway, before my time) the brethren issued a statement condemning alternative forums, which was, I am told, understood to be a condemnation of Sunstone in particular. Scholars who worked at church institutions were warned that their jobs and their membership could be imperiled by participation in Sunstone. As a result, attendance at the symposium declined sharply.

So you won't find too many conventionally devout Mormons delivering papers at--or even attending--Sunstone. It's not that you won't find any; they're just not the majority. Instead, Sunstone is a place where people from the fringes meet and mingle. For instance, at the plenary session one evening, the opening prayer was given by Susan D. Skoor, an ordained apostle of the Community of Christ (formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the branch started by those Mormons who did not follow Brigham Young to Utah after Joseph Smith was assassinated in Illinois--that's right, they ordain women now, and Apostle Skoor was extremely cool) and the closing prayer was given by a guy whose name I didn't catch but who freaked me out with his peremptory command that the audience stand while he prayed and who (I later learned) is a member of a fundamentalist polygamist offshoot of the church.

You ain't gonna find too many of those sorts offering prayers in mainstream Mormon functions.


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