Tag Archives: love

A (humorous) meditation on death, loss, and fatherhood at two in the morning

It sounded like a cross between gagging for air and a forced, scratchy cry. My wife and I immediately jumped out of bed, sprinting towards the baby’s room. We flung upon the door and snapped on the lights. My wife pulls my son out of the crib. Normally a heavy sleeper, he is completely motionless.

“No no no no no no no no no no no no no no,” we stammer continually. I force my finger into his mouth, trying to detect any sign of breath. His eyes flicker open and he cries once, more out of annoyance than anything else.

“Oh, thank God,” I say, breathing in deeply. He wriggles in my wife’s arms, elated that both of his parents wanted to play so badly, they had waken him up (rather than the other way around).

“Want to stay up a bit with him, just to make sure he’s okay?” my wife asks. I nod. We take him back to our room, where he crawls over us, clapping and laughing.

I have had several brushes with death before. Once, while swimming in the ocean, a massive wave overpowered me, and the undertow dragged me across the sand, holding me under the water and unwilling to let go. I finally popped up for air and staggered to shore, bruised and cut. Another time, while hiking up a waterfall, I watched my friend lose his grip and slide uncontrollably towards the bottom. We watched helplessly until he thankfully caught hold of a root sticking out of the waterfall’s rocky face, from which he climbed back to safety. Another time, I collapsed while hiking up a hill towards a Buddhist temple in Korea. My mind realized as my whole body contracted into a ball, tingling and unable to breathe, that perhaps I might die. I was oddly at peace, but remembered that I had just started dating my first girlfriend (and future wife) two weeks ago, and she would be furious that I died while away and that maybe I should fight for life instead of giving up. Lucky for the both of us, I was spared.

This brush of death (or the perception thereof) was something wholly different, a completely new monster. I have rarely felt such a mind-numbing, awful terror that gripped my brain and heart and lungs with so much ferocity. At the birth of my son, I wondered if I would ever be one of those parents who would jump into a burning building to save his child. The thought seemed so foreign, so difficult to comprehend. At that moment; I got my answer. I would have done anything to hear my son cry again, even take my own life. There was no question.

I contemplate this new feeling, equal parts awe-inspiring and terrifying. My wife and I are silent as my son climbs on our legs and arms, a solemn assembly of parents who had just experienced (if only briefly) our new, absolutely worst nightmare.

Then we heard the sound again, loudly, outside of our window. We looked at each other.

“A cat!” we hissed together. Relief floods into our faces, then embarrassment. My son giggles, as if to gently laugh at us. The clock reads 2 a.m. I’m just glad it’s the weekend, because (as predicted) my son decided to stay up for two more hours before going back to bed.

“Oh, my son,” I whisper into his hair as I hold him close. “I’m so glad you’re okay. You have no idea. But seriously. You need to go back to bed.” He patted my cheek condescendingly, then crawled away to play with a ball of yarn.

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The test

There’s a famous metric called the Bedchel Test (or the Betchel Test, or the Bechel Test, depending on your mood). Named after cartoonist Alison Bechdel, who first proposed it, it involves a very simple metric that a surprising amount of movies (even the most critically acclaimed ones) fail.

In order to pass the Bechdel Test, a movie must have:

(1) two female characters

(2) who have a conversation

(3) that is not about men.

The Bechdel Test is no good for judging a movie’s actual quality at an individual scale, but it displays a very systemic problem in the movie industry as a whole, mainly in their depiction of female characters.

Conversely, I proposed a similar test to my wife concerning love songs. In order to pass this test, which I have just tautologically named “The Test,” a love song must pass this simple metric:

(1) The love interest must be a woman who has one characteristic praised by the singer

(2) that is not based on physical beauty, appearance, or sexual attraction.

I do not command a large library of love songs in my head (I find the vast majority of them nauseating), but at the moment, the only song I can think of right now that passes the test is Cake’s Short Skirt, Long Jacket. It does detail her ability to cut through red tape and her financial assets, not just her physical assets.

I have noticed a lot of love songs that detail a woman’s ability to spend money, but this is never (as far as I know) praised.

Can anyone else think of a love song that passes the test?

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There She Is!

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I am posting the five act story There She Is!, a series of music videos that detail the travails of difficult love. This is quite possibly the most whimsical, heart wrenching, and emotionally satisfying love story I have ever experienced in my entire life (and I say this with absolute sincerity). At the very least, it is the only love story where, at the conclusion, I wept like a child whilst sitting in front of the computer.

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Great music you may or may not have listened to, Vol. 3 – Valentine’s Day edition

When I got married, I suddenly became much less concerned about love songs that dealt with unrequited love or emo love or the lack of love or being burned by love, etcetera ad nauseum. Instead, I suddenly found myself looking for love songs that are positive about love. And sadly, this is really hard to come by.

The biggest danger about love is becoming completely engrossed in the romantic idealism of love. You either end up with really ridiculously sappy lyrics, or you end up with some really cheesy, overly manufactured melody. In other words, it’s really easy to complain about love. But to sing about how love is actually kinda cool? That, apparently, is really difficult to do.

In honor of the fast approaching Valentine’s Day, here are some love songs that are lovey dovey, but don’t suck.

1. I’m Your Moon, by Jonathan Coulton

This song chokes me up every single time I hear it. Jonathan Coulton’s more famous for his incredibly whimsical and nerd/geek culture-friendly songs that deal with the idea of loneliness. Deviating from his usual theme, I’m Your Moon is a love song from Charon to Pluto, and though it deals with the perennial theme of loneliness and isolation, along with it is a passionate plea and promise that sends chills up my spine every time I hear it.

2. The Bird and the Worm by Owl City

My cousin, upon hearing about my love for Owl City, grew dismayed. “Owl City is music for like, peppy middle school girls.” She’s right; Owl City perhaps doesn’t really break a lot of new ground, and Adam Young (the creator) has been accused of copying Ben Gibbard’s style (of Death Cab for Cutie fame). But there’s something infectiously optimistic and just happy about his music. The Bird and the Worm is an unabashed love song — but it doesn’t lay it on thick, and the intoxicating puppy love it describes feels genuine for this jaded romantic.

3. Tus Ojos by Belanova

I’ve posted this song on my blog before, and it deserves posting again. This song is fun and catchy, and it also has the benefit of being a love song (and a pretty ethereal one, too).

4. Fall Into Love by Rabbit!

I’ve posted this song on my blog before as well, and again, it deserves re-posting. It’s lyrics read like a classic, stereotypical love song — but the song itself is whimsical and fun. A lot of times, love is portrayed as super passionate, and this means super serious, along with deep sighs, longing glances, and a good deal of torment. Yes, love is scary a lot of the time, but it should also be fun, and this song portrays that fun pretty well. Pro tip: If you’re not having fun in your relationship 90% of the time, something is up; reassess.

5. Giving Up by Ingrid Michaelson

This song is maybe one of the most realistic songs about love I’ve ever run into. Dealing with that age-old question of “What if?”, Ingrid Michaelson composes a heartfelt song about what love is really about — giving up. A lot of songs talk about what the person would do for love, but perhaps more telling is how a person reacts to situations he or she didn’t anticipate. Life, along with love, is messy. I don’t want my wife to climb a mountain for me. I just want her to love me even when sometimes I’m not exactly what she had originally signed up for. This song is exactly about that, and it makes me cry.

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How NOT to Ask an Asian Girl Out

Yesterday, I tweeted the following statement:

There are few things in the world more condescending and creepy than a white guy hitting on an Asian girl. #doesnotincludemybrother-in-law

I got a lot of calls from people to clarify, and so I want to explain exactly what I meant.

The tweet was inspired by the fact that I was sitting next to a Chinese girl at the computer lab yesterday. A white guy from a previous Japanese class decided to stop by and talk to her. He opened up the conversation by saying hello in Japanese, and then about how Taiwan is not in fact owned by China (and then spouted off some facts that are the complete opposite of reality). I’m not sure why he decided that would be a great conversation starter with a Chinese girl, except that he wanted to show that he apparently knew more about her culture than he did. All in all, it was incredibly awkward and terribly condescending. None of the topics he talked about were about her as a person. Just her as a label. Just her as a simplified representation.

This shocked me. I thought this whole kind of exchange was a Mormon thing.

There’s a common trend at BYU where white guys will go on missions to Asian countries, and return enraptured by their women. Because of that, they launch into this dating campaign, only dating Asian women. What they don’t realize is that it’s super creepy, condescending, and offensive. Imagine my shock to be sitting in a secular school and watching this. Thus, my tweet. Apparently, this isn’t an isolated Mormon phenomena but a systemic plague.

Some people wanted to know how exactly is it creepy, condescending, and offensive, and so I promised a blog post and here it is. Guys, four tips on what NOT to do when an Asian Girl is awesome and you want to ask her out.

1. DO NOT refer to your desire for Asian girls as “yellow fever.”

This was a common term at BYU. I assume that it’s just as common outside as well. Don’t use it. EVER. Denounce it’s usage vehemently wherever you hear it. And this is why.

First of all, dude, you’re comparing your lewd, lustful desires to a disease.

PROTIP: When writing love poetry, do not compare your love to diseases. Examples:

Roses are red, violets are blue, Malaria kills millions of people a year. Like my love.

Shall I compare thee to the pustules the size of grapefruits localized around the lymphnodes of my love? On a summer’s day?

Secondly, you’re referring to a racist term that is super old when refering to Asians. Here’s a hint, guys. Racist terms are offensive. Just sayin’.

2. DO NOT assume that you know everything about their culture, and never assume you know more.

This should be a given, but apparently guys struggle with this. If you want to show off the fact that you know something about Asian culture, be subtle. Use chopsticks at a restaurant but don’t make a huge fuss about it. Follow the social customs but don’t draw attention to it. Here’s what not to do:

– Use words from their native language, especially if you are butchering them (hint: YOU ARE BUTCHERING THEM).

– Use words from another Asian language that is not their own (hint: JUST DON’T SPEAK ASIAN EVER UNTIL AT LEAST THE FIFTH DATE).

– Tell them in great detail of your travelogues in Asian countries, as if this makes you automatic soulmates.

– Worse, do not tell them what you know about Asia that you learned in Japanese 101.

– Do not draw any attention to the fact that you know anything about their culture ever. Chances are, you have a horrifically inaccurate, simplified version and you will make a fool of yourself by setting yourself up as an expert and then dispelling that fact before you open your mouth (hint: We can tell).

3. DO NOT assume all Asian girls are stereotypes.

This should also go without saying, and it’s totally in your best interest, dude. Do you know what your stereotype is? Obese, constantly eating fast food, lazy, stupid, and lecherous towards Asian women. It’s true.

Do not assume that an Asian girl knows about/likes any of the following things. In fact, you’d be safe NOT bringing any of this up for at least two or three dates:

– Anime
– Manga
– Hello Kitty
– Kimonos
– Cuisine of any kind
– Asian languages

PROTIP: Above all else, do not talk about how Asian girls are so “polite” and “subservient” and not “uppity” like American women. This is just offensive all around and, in 37 states, is grounds for obligatory junk kicking from every female in a five mile radius upon utterance.

4. DO NOT ask her out just because she’s Asian.

There is something that white people in America will never understand (at least this generation), and that is prolonged racism. It’s not your fault guys, it’s because you’ve just never had the opportunity to be exposed to it for long periods of time. Asian heritage is a huge part of our identity that is in our face all the time, and most of us are conflicted by it. It’s best if you don’t draw attention to it, that you not say that ambivalent, conflicting portion of them is what drew you to the girl (even if it was).

It works in all areas of life. Hugh Nibley was a famous BYU professor and guys would date his daughter just to meet her dad. They would not even get past the front door sometimes, spending three hours talking to her dad instead of taking her out on a date. Do you know how she knew she met her husband? When on the first date she asked him if he’d like to meet her dad now and he said, “Who’s Hugh Nibley?”

This is not to say you should feign ignorance. Don’t be an idiot. But if you know something about Asian culture, then here’s the best advice I can give you:

Keep your distance, but don’t look like you’re keeping your distance.

PROTIP: Star Wars references are always good on a first date.

If you can start to see a pattern here, then you’re intelligent. All of these acts that men do when many of them ask out Asian girls is demeaning. It’s degrading, and it dehumanizes. You are not in love with or infatuated with a person – you’re infatuated with a concept, and you’re using that person as a stand-in. And they can tell. My sister can tell when you don’t really care about who she is, as long as she’s Asian. And it’s offensive.

These four tips are just the start. I’m sure all of my Asian friends who are female could tell you plenty of other tips if hitching up with an Asian girl is truly your life’s goal (and you girls totally should in the comments). Heck, all of these tips, with a little bit of adaption, are appropriate for any type of meeting up with any girl. It’s just common sense – treat them with dignity and respect and humanity. Unfortunately, this is apparently A Very Hard Thing To Do for many males.

I wish this was an isolated kind of event and that I’m just ranting for the sake of ranting. But I’m not. Ask any Asian girl about this. It’s a regular occurrence. And ask my sister about her husband. He’s white. He went on a mission to Korea. But here’s one thing you can bet – he never did any of these things to her.

At least, not on the first date.


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Why I liked Victoria in The Corpse Bride

This blog post is spoilerific concerning Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride. Just so you know. If you haven’t seen it yet and are planning on watching it in the future, turn away. Read this instead.

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This last weekend for Halloween, a bunch of us watched Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride, which I will admit, is a decent movie. In the end, my friend Kim (great and honorable supplier of movies galore) mentioned, “The one big flaw about this movie is that they never give a reason to care about Victoria.”

At the moment I strongly disagreed with the idea that Victoria is a flat character, but I couldn’t put into words why. After thinking about it for a couple of days, here is my reason why Victoria was actually one of my most favorite characters in the movie.

The accusation made was that Victoria is flat, and there is never given a good reason why Victor should marry Victoria instead of Emily, the Corpse Bride, aside from the cliche Love At First Sight and the fact that their names match, which tends to negate the major internal conflict in the story.

However, I highly disagree. In the beginning, we are introduced to a quiet, demure girl, raised by what we can only infer as awful, oppressive parents. She’s curious of love, but her parents tell her that love does not matter in marriage. She is curious of music and the piano, but her mother tells her that a lady indulges in no such things for they are too passionate. When she meets Victor for the first time, she meets him as he plays the piano. Victoria, unquestioning Victoria, experiences passion and ecstasy through music for the first time, and is forever, indeliably changed.

Despite the fact that Victor cannot memorize his vows and clumsily sets her mother on fire (and is just awkward all around), Victoria falls in love with Victor. he loves him because he is everything that her world up until that point is not – he is clumsy, he is imperfect, he is passionate, he is idealistic, he is accepting of who Victoria is and not what he wishes she would or should be. Victor is her key to a much bigger world than the monotone, grey landscape she currently inhabits.

Her character, I would argue, undergoes the most change. Her speaking lines are few, but they only lend more emphasis to when she does speak her mind. When she discovers that Victor has accidently, comically married the Corpse Bride, the change in her character manifests. She uses her quilt (which could be used a symbol of her Victorian opporessive society) to climb out of her house. In the process, this quilt rips on the way down, demonstrating how this single act represents herself tearing the fabric that ties her to her past. She uses the remnant as a shield and goes looking for him during a rainstorm. She resists her re-capture and confinement with all the strength she can muster, but is swept away by the powerful societal forces that lock her in her room and subsequently force her to marry someone else for economic reasons.

The entire marriage to Barkis marks a massive change in Victoria’s character. She is no longer demure or quiet as per her Victorian upbringing. She is quite literally dead on the inside. All of her actions reveal that some part of her has died. Separated from the inspiration of the passion within her, Victor, she has given up on life. She refuses to return back to her old life; she retreats and walls herself up rather than give into the societal pressures around her. She speaks no words; she refuses to interact with the world which so cruelly rejected her humanity.

In the end when Barkis reveals his master plan in marrying Victoria and discovers his horrible mistake, Victoria regains her life and slings a barb at him, a theme repeated throughout the movie: “Did things not go according to your plan, Lord Barkis? Well, perhaps in disappointment, we are perfectly matched.” And with that, she elegantly walks out on her sham of a husband. How refreshing that this time around, the heroine simply walked out on her own free will and strength, rather than wait around for Victor to rescue her.

In the end, Victor chooses Victoria, and appropriately so. Though the Corpse Bride hails from an ironically more animated world and appears to show more passion for life than Victoria (through the scene where Victor and her play the piano and Emily’s enthusiasm causes her to temporarily fall apart on him, literally), the Corpse Bride remains wholly unchanged by Victor. When Victor rejects her, it’s not the pain of Victor’s unrequited love that pains her, but what he represents – a rejection from those who live, which led to her untimely, tragic death. She does not need Victor, nor does he need her; her infatuatiation with him is not in Victor the person, but Victor the ideal, namely, the ideal of a happy marriage.

In the end, Emily chooses to guide Victor to Victoria rather than herself because Emily understands that the source of her heartache is not because Victor initially rejected her, but the fact that fate cruelly snatched away what she felt would be a happily for ever ending. It is Victoria whom Victor truly loves, and vice versa. Both reawakened the original passion for uniting through marriage and love; Emily played second fiddle to Victor’s emotions, and she knew it. She stood as a replacement for Victor’s original lost love, and no marriage should ever be based upon an attempt to regain that which was lost through meaningless substitutes, which both Victor and Emily attempted to do with their planned – but timely averted – wedding. Victoria is the real deal, the girl who turned a reluctant, passionate, creative, bumbling bachelor into a man willing to commit his heart to a woman who loves him for who he is, not for what he represents.

Of course, this is all in a super short film made probably to recapture the glory, magic, and success of the Nightmare Before Christmas, which negates the lesson that Emily and Victor learn in the Corpse Bride. Irony!

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Obligatory President Packer’s talk edits analysis

If only I had waited a day later to post my obligatory President Packer talk analysis. Just one day.

Oh well.

I planned on this one being short, but I ended up ranting. I ranted, deleted, ranted, deleted, ranted, then deleted some more. This is the short version.

By now, most of you have probably heard the hullaballoo of the edits made on President Packer’s talk once the written form of Conference hit the Church website. The three major changes of import (and you can see a great blog post comparing the spoken and written version here) are thusly:

1. The edit which changed the Proclamation on the Family from a “revelation” to a “guide.”

2. The edit which changed President Packer’s statement that “tendencies” cannot be inborn to “temptations.”

3. The edit which completely eliminated President Packer’s rhetorical question: “Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?”

My thoughts:

1. This one is huge. I had always heard of the Proclamation on the Family as some form of revelation. It’s always been considered psuedo-scripture, or even with the same force as scripture. Whenever people want to cite the Church’s prophetic mantle, they cite this as revelation. Whenever people ask “Where have all the revelations gone?” this one is usually cited. I find all of these views on the Proclamation on the Family as problematic, but kept silent since this Proclamation is a huge sacred cow in the Church. For the deliberate edit demoting this officially from “revelation” to a “guide” is of great import, but will most likely (predictably) ignored.

2. This one people will probably be cheering about. There’s already a level of smugness about it for more liberal Mormons. This one doesn’t move me, nor did President Packer’s original statement bother me, but that’s because I’m jaded. Does this edit really change much? It’s moving the talk more towards the centrist “we talk about action, not orientation” position of the Church when it comes to homosexuality, and that’s that. Will it change the thoughts of more conservative Mormons when it comes to homosexuality? No. Absolutely not. Those who want to continue to believe homosexuality as a choice rather than part of your biological makeup will continue to trawl through past General Authority quotes to find what they want. In reality, this edit has a net difference of zero in our current situation.

3. This edit made me sad. Why? Because it’s a really, really good question, that’s why! I feel this is a dangerous move our Church has made in the interest of reducing some of the hate it’s attracted. But by golly, this is a deep theological question that everyone should struggle with for the rest of their life.

Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Why would he allow people to be born in abject, spirit-breaking poverty? Why would He allow children to be born to abusive parents who don’t even want them? Why would He allow women and children to be sold into sexual slavery and raped until their intestines fall out? Why would He allow people to butcher each other in wholesale slaughter? Why would He allow child molesters to kidnap children and brutally torture and scar them? Why would He allow that young mother of six to die of cancer when her family really needed her? Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?

Ruminate on this question. Let it marinate in your soul. This ultimate question of evil is that which we should wrestle with all night long, like Jacob did with the angel of God. We are the inheritors of the birthright of Israel, literally he who wrestles with God. Yet when President Packer brings up such a crucial theological question, we sweep it under the carpet. Sigh.

First thought that went through my head when I saw the update: What’s the point of watching General Conference anymore? Watching General Conference is like participating in a beta – it’s buggy, there’s bad information and code, and in the end, it’s probably gonna be fairly different when it finally ships.

This brings up a really good question, though. President Packer’s message was off enough where the Church (or, at least President Packer) decided to edit the remarks for the printed, written format. In a way, outside political events forced this issue, but it’s an important one.

What if prophets are wrong?

It’s just as hard as the “Why would Our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?” question. Another really good one to think about. It holds thunderous implications about how we view the Church and God’s interaction with her.

In closing, I feel bad for President Packer. He’s an 80+ year-old man. He’s someone’s grandpa. Oh no! An 80+ year-old man thinks that gay people choose to be gay? WHAT A SHOCK. JUST LIKE, OH, I DON’T KNOW, EVERY OTHER 80+ YEAR OLD MAN EVER IN THE EXISTENCE OF 80 YEAR-OLD MEN. Seriously. Let’s all calm down. I’m done talking about this, really I am. I’m so sick of the whole gay issue. Let us all agree on this as Church members, yes? Gay people are still Heavenly Father’s children and they deserve to be treated as such, and if we so much as judge them mentally, or mistreat them verbally or physically, or refuse to accept them into the family of God, imperfections and all, then we bring upon ourselves the displeasure and judgment of a God who knows that we know better.

Nobody is benefiting from this. Not Church members, not gay rights activists, no one. No one is benefiting, and no one will win. We will only have losers if we continue down this route. We need to change tactics, we need to change how this discourse pans out and fast, because right now, nobody is winning. Everyone’s just losing.

And it’s making me sick to my stomach, how we’re so willing to tear each other apart and scream and rant and throw feces at each other like the primates we descended from.

That is all.

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