Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Oklahoma City, 9/11, & the Blitz

Still watching the London Olympics and thinking of other things . . . .

St. Paul's Cathedral, August 13, 2010
When we came out of the new Globe Theatre and walked across the "Harry Potter" Millennium Bridge to catch the Tube, there were clouds all around St. Paul's and the glow of the city in the sky reminded me of the pictures I had seen of the London Blitz. It was a little historically spooky.

The Good & Bad of Politics

Dick Cheney good, Joe Biden bad.

Guns bad, gun laws good.

Stimulus bad, debt good.

Obama good, Romney bad.

See any problem with this?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Cwm Rhondda - Bread of Heaven

We've now watched pieces of the Olympics Opening Ceremonies a few times on our DVR with a those of our children who missed it or don't have TV access.  My wife asked me if I could find what that music was with the whistling. So there I was applying my expert googling skills trying to find it and seeing a lot of reviews of that Opening Ceremony. The best was that some Americans were confused about why Kenneth Branagh was dressed as Abraham Lincoln. My kids thought he looked like Brigham Young. And you have to admit all those guys kind of looked like Mormon missionaries of the 1830s.

Anyway, I avoided the forehead-slap when I realized, at the exact moment my boy said, "They just announced that song. It's 'Caliban's Dream.,'" that it would likely be advertised on the iTunes store. Sure enough, there it was front and center. I bought it for $1.29 along with the children's choirs singing their English, Irish (Northern), Scottish, and Welsh anthems. I've already blogged on the moving Jerusalem themes in English culture. Now, it's time again for the Welsh.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Obedience Talk: A Seatbelt Story

In an effort to redeem myself a bit from my last posting which some consider to be a little irreverent, I am pleased to share a guest post from a good friend of mine just returned from an LDS mission in Italy. My friend, we'll call him Friend-B, gave one of the best homecoming talks I've heard. Without further ado, I present Friend-B's talk on Obedience:

Several years ago, as a young deacon, I would often get a ride to church from RL for Deacon’s Quorum Presidency meeting. I was always the last stop on the very short trip to church and, as RL will certainly recall, I would almost always find at least one person who hadn’t put on their seatbelt. And I would call them to repentance. It quickly became our weekly joke. And that is all it was—a joke. At that point in my life, wearing a seatbelt was just an uncomfortable rule imposed on me by my parents, backed up with words—meaningless to me—about safety. I would guess all of us, at times, have felt like it was a nuisance to dig up the lost seatbelt in the back seat, fumble around to put it on, and then be rooted in place for a seemingly risk-free drive. As a missionary I learned why my parents taught me such an obnoxious rule. *Mom, you might want to buckle your emotional seatbelt—you’ve never heard this story before.*

Just over a year ago, it was my first Sunday in Battipaglia and my first time with a mission car. A member in Policastro—about 2 ½ hours south of Battipaglia—had called us and requested a blessing. So we jumped in the car after church and set off. Thick clouds threatened rain, but all we got was thick humidity as we set off down the narrow and winding roads of Italy. I knew nothing of Italian traffic laws, so I left the driving to my companion and enjoyed the beautiful landscapes. Then, after over 2 hours, nearly at our destination, my companion took a curve just a little too fast. In an instant that seemed to last hours the car sped head-on into a concrete wall and was thrown violently into the air. It landed on its side—my window—sending tiny shards of shattered glass past my eyes as the car slid a good thirty feet down the road while spinning on its side. The car stopped. And then, hanging by my seatbelt just inches off the ground, completely unharmed, I knew why wearing a seatbelt was important. Suddenly a joke and annoying rule became a literal life-saver. To my parents and those of you who are devout seatbelt wearers, I say thank you for setting the good example. To the rest of you (and especially you, RL), wear your seatbelts.

My Least Favorite Hymn

My family has my specific request not to play a certain hymn at my funeral. They probably will just to annoy me, but maybe I can find a spare lightning bolt or something to hit the organ mid-stanza. My preference is for something more like Siegfried's Todesmarsch from Götterdammerung. I almost have enough musical kids to fill the orchestra.

The hymn I don't like has become quite popular in Mormon circles. The Tabernacle Choir has their version. And when it comes up as it does fairly regularly at church, I just sit silently and wait it out. It's a very long wait. That is one of my principal complaints about the song. It seems to be musically dishonest, if there even is such a thing. It is definitely too long. And it usually drags. At least the Mo-Tab version keeps up the pace a bit.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Glastonbury Tor

As the British people placed the Tor front and center in their opening ceremonies for the Olympics last night, I thought I would share our experience. I am certainly glad that my wife and I made it there on our trip to Britain two years ago. It's always good to find places the local people go for holiday, and Glastonbury is one of those. Climbing up the Tor was right in line with the British custom of walking the hills of that "green and pleasant land." I'll start with this excerpt from my "Journal of the Trip" picking up on the top of Cadbury Hillfort which some consider to be the original Camelot.

Glastonbury Tor from Cadbury Hillfort, Somerset

Friday, July 27, 2012

Delayed Live-Blogging London Olympics Opening Ceremony

So one of my fans (my oldest boy) just texted me that I should be live-blogging the show. Of course it's on delay for NBC to clean up on its exclusive rights, but it is probably a better use of my blogging than picking on poor Mitt and his international sports diplomacy gaffes.

Don't Think of an Elephant!

It probably seems like "beat-up-on-Mitt" week here on PMM (as well as in London). But I finally heard an explanation of his constant gaffes that makes sense. I have tried my amateur psychology on his relationship with his dad, George Romney. But it was Jonathan Alter I just heard on Chris Matthews's show Hardball, that put it all together for me.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

In Your Heart, You Know He's Trite

Really, I'm trying very hard not to go tit-for-tat in this presidential election season. I could go on for days on the Olympics diplomacy (or lack thereof) alone. But there is a recent comment of Governor Romney's that really bothers me. You've already seen my recent posts on guns, here and here. As reported by the New York Times, Governor Romney's response to crazy people using assault weapons in a crowded theater was:
Americans “sometimes hope that just changing the law will make all bad things go away,” Mr. Romney said. “It won’t. Changing the heart of the American people may well be what’s essential, to improve the lots of the American people.”

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Saxon Foe

While Governor Romney is visiting London, apparently as an aficionado of the Olympics, one of his adviser's attempted to promote Romney's heritage as a link to our English friends across the sea. According to Max Fisher at The Atlantic, he expressed it like this:
"We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special ... The White House didn't fully appreciate the shared history we have...."
The only way I can respond is as follows:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Happy Pioneer Day, 2012!

My mom gave me a treasured heirloom - a 19th Century LDS Hymnal. It has little if any collector's value as it is separated from its binding and missing a few pages. It is treasured because it has the apparent signature of one of my pioneer ancestors.

James Brigham Staples (1853-1910) was the son of Richard Staples (1796-1868) and Louisa Field Staples (1813-1870). Richard and Louisa were baptized into the LDS Church on 27 February 1850. As James was born three years later, his middle name was likely given in honor of Brigham Young.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Not Knowing Beforehand . . .

There was one whole day in my life where I was pretty sure I was guided by the Spirit. And I can pinpoint by date it as it was our wedding anniversary some years ago when I was bishop. Yes, another bishop story, but it's essential to understand the context. And at least part of it sort of came out in High Priests Group this morning.

For reasons that only became known later, my wife and I had decided to go the night before our anniversary to stay in a bed and breakfast we liked between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. The plan was to sleep in, then spend our anniversary day in Albuquerque doing some shopping, eating out, and seeing a movie before we went back home to our six kids. It sort of turned out that way.

Ragnar 2012 - The Film (well, digital video)

My nephew, a PhD in the physics of acoustics, and a very fit guy (he plays hockey in Minnesota) came out to run Ragnar with us and took these great vids. Thanks, RC!

This is my boy coming into the first exchange to trade off with me for my first run. That's probably why I'm still so excited and cheerful:

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Spoons Don't Make You Fat

They don't even make it that much easier. You can still get plenty fat without a spoon on hamburgers, hot dogs, potato chips, soda, milkshakes, etc., etc. And it's not like you can sneak a spoon into a crowded theater and make yourself fat in a few short seconds.

The poor analogy of the spoon is used to promote the idea that guns are just tools. It's the bad guys who use them badly, not the good guys who just shoot animals or targets and are ready whenever to prevent a bad guy from shooting, raping or robbing - even if this happens very, very, rarely. I don't have stats, but common sense tells me there are far more gun wounds and deaths from the accidental harm to children who find a gun in the wrong place (or domestic violence) than any bad guys taken out by the good guys with concealed or open-carry weapons or a gun in their nightstand. (Prove me wrong.) Even if gun proponents say everyone should be better trained on gun safety and gun use so they won't be misused, isn't that a form of regulation? Yeah.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Guns Don't Kill People . . .

They just make it a lot easier.

I wish this could spread to counter the NRA version along with the "cold dead fingers" and all the others. I will keep on keeping on trying to influence and change opinion and culture on this. All I can hope is that a few people will find it here.

Here are a couple of interesting articles. The first from James Fallows at The Atlantic. The second is from the Onion (yes, the Onion - h/t HF)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

United Snakes

The tea party crowd adopted a Revolutionary War symbol of the yellow flag with the snake and slogan "Don't tread on me." The new meaning seems to be an individualistic, anti-government sentiment if I understand them correctly. It reminds me of an earlier snake image in American History attributed to Benjamin Franklin. This snake says "Join, or Die" - also a revolutionary sentiment, but tied to the dream of American Union proposed by Franklin as early as the 1750s.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Teddy Roosevelt - "for Men and not for Property"

The ugliness of the current presidential election distresses me. I decline to argue or comment on the specifics of the charges and counter-charges between the President and the Governor. People have generally already chosen their champion based on politics and personal preference. Factual debate seems rather elusive as each side marshals their own political offenses to charge against the other side.

I guess I am still doing that to some degree, but it seems a little less contentious to go back into history. Thinking a lot about the modern conservative movement, I was trying to find a good quote from Republican President Teddy Roosevelt on the progressive income tax. I have also pondered on the apparent connection between conservatives and anti- civil rights sentiment (anti- immigration reform, anti- social programs for the poor - generally minorities, etc.)

Chris Stewart - Politician

As a citizen of the new, gerrymandered 2nd Congressional District with Jim Matheson scooting off to the new 4th to face tea-partier Mia Love- at least I won't have Rob Bishop. I'm voting for Jay Seegmiller. The Republican candidate, Chris Stewart, is just another politician telling people what they want to hear. And he's being promoted by his part-time employer, Glenn Beck.

Watching the Farmington Festival Days Parade last Saturday, Stewart supporters came along the crowd handing out  pamphlets. I politely (yes, politely) told the supporter, "No, thank you. He should go back to writing books." My son-in-law reading through the pamphlet noted that Stewart says that our Founding Fathers were patriots not politicians. I beg to differ.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

St. Francis of Moroni

One of my favorite movies is Franco Zeffirelli's Brother Sun Sister Moon - the story of St. Francis of Assisi.  My wife and I saw it again the other night. This 1972 film, as a product of its day, kind of portrays St. Francis as the first hippie (music by Donovan). But much better than a drug-addled counter-culturist picking flowers, St. Francis served the poor, the lepers, and of course, the birds of the sky and all creatures of our God and King. My wife isn't as taken by the film as I am. You have to remember my personality profile and the fact that it was 1972 in the midst of my teenage angst.

A good scene to sum it all up, very powerful and somewhat disturbing, is when Francesco's friend Bernardo, recently returned from the Crusades, goes out to find his old friend rebuilding the church of San Diamano:

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fathers & Sons

I haven't read Turgenev, but I have read Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov which is as much about the various relationships the brothers had with their troublesome father as anything else. I highly recommend that book. It includes the best definition of Hell that I have come across:
“What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.” 
This isn't intended as a literary criticism post, but more of a psychological analysis for which I am equally unqualified. But I am a son and a father and have a father and sons. And I read political history.

George & Mitt 1964
Barack & Barack about  1971

Friday, July 13, 2012

Thimbleberry Falls

Thimbleberries (Rubus parviflorus according to Wikipedia)
Unaware of any other name for my waterfall, I get to name it.

I went up there again yesterday evening. It wasn’t 103 degrees as it had been for the previous few days. Just around 90 and a little overcast, I thought it would be cool enough in Centerville Canyon along Deuel Creek. It was very pleasant once I got past the downsides of a lot of sweat and a few deer flies (only bit twice). I saw a snake, but it was only a garter. And the poison ivy is starting to spring up, but easily avoided watching carefully where you plant your feet. I was doing that anyway because it is a rough, primitive trail.

There was a guy coming out of the canyon mouth as I was going in. And there was a family group just coming in as I was going out later. On most of the trail it was just me and the thimbleberries – and eventually, the waterfall. I have never seen another soul up there except for the Scouts I have taken up on a couple of occasions. When I have been alone, I was alone.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Respect the Troops. Don't Spread False Information.

For several weeks now I've seen a Facebook post shared by various people about "31 Troops" lost in Afghanistan in the previous day and how they are forgotten and disrespected. With all due respect to the those who sacrifice on our behalf, it seems odd that 31 Troops keep dying every day or so with or without our respect. I never see any source cited for this information.

If I were serving, I would not be happy about false information about my fellow servicemen and women spread for some sort of agenda, even with well-intended patriotism or whatever. I'm not happy to see false information as a patriotic U.S. Citizen in the civil service with great respect for all who serve our country.

I can't personally vouch for it, but this site appears to be more accurate: http://icasualties.org/OEF/Index.aspx. It seems to match up fairly well with a Congressional Research Service Report current up to May 2012 found at http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R41084.pdf. It also seems to complement the comprehensive information gathered by the Washington Post at: http://apps.washingtonpost.com/national/fallen/. Casualty lists have historically been difficult to keep accurate. Negligently spreading questionable information does not help at all -- especially when much more reliable information is so readily at hand.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Supremes Perform "Obamacare"

Chief Justice John Roberts

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

And what a performance it was! Roberts versus Ginsburg plus Kagan, Sotomayor, & Breyer versus the Three Amigos plus Kennedy! 

Not being much of a Supreme Court expert, as an attorney I still feel the urge to jump in with my views on the Health Care (Obamacare) decision, National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, 567 U.S. ___ (2012). You can find it here. At least I have read it, which is more than can be said for many pontificators especially those who get their talking points from Fox News or silly little bites of cuteness on Facebook. I’ve even skimmed through the Act myself. But as a federal attorney, I’m used to that sort of thing.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Rescuing Damsels in Distress

Just before the lightning struck at my Archery Range
Perhaps a bit over stated as these Fair Maidens (Young Women) were pretty tough and strong as evidenced by the photo I snapped moments before the lightning struck. But it is rare that I get an opportunity to practice my Knight Errantry.

As explained previously, I spent the last week at Envision Woodbadge/Family Camp for the Great Salt Lake Council, Boy Scouts of America running the Archery Range. The first few days were dusty and hot with cold nights. Then we had some spectacular rain the end of the week. The Family Camp participants were divided up into age groups much like the family program at Philmont Training Center. My wife was program director at Envision and did a great job with her organizational skills.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Scouting for Lady Liberty

At the opening campfire for Envision Woodbadge/Family Camp, the usual annoying skits and songs were proceeding along when we were astounded to see a woman come out in the most amazing, patriotic dress. She told the story of the Statue of Liberty with audience participation. Then she sang the hymn from the poem written by Emma Lazarus for the statue:

Monday, July 2, 2012

Scouting Adventures on the Mormon Pioneer Trail

My daughter (the rescue party) at Echo, Utah on the Mormon Trail
Now it’s a total of three adventures I’ve taken unexpectedly from the East Fork of the Bear. The first was a few years back when I was up here with some Varsity (14-15 year old) Scouts. One kid, whose mother always fed him nutritiously at home, tended to gorge on forbidden items when out with the Scouts. Hot dogs and marshmallows aren’t so great coming back at 3 o’clock in the morning.

My own boy who was the Varsity Team Captain came to wake me in my tent. He told me that the guy had gotten sick and he took care of it the best he could. It was bitter cold that year, certainly below freezing because water was. My boy’s strategy of taking care of the other boy who woke up and said he was sick, was to advise him to puke into his sleeping bag. Not a bad strategy all things considered, especially considering the plan to keep using that tent along with the other boys not wanting to be puked on.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Scouting the East Fork of the Bear

Here I am on another Scouting adventure. I really have to keep working on my attitude. I understand and respect the aims of Scouting in building character and citizenship in young men and even young women (outside the LDS Church sponsored units). I just find myself at odds so often with Scouting in its application among failed human beings as we all are. There are some really good people in Scouting, but too often it tends to involve odd characters – and a few of them are seriously overweight or lacking in social skills – or both. (Now I’m in trouble.) Maybe that’s probably just a reflection on modern U.S. society in general.

And I wish they would just get over the gay thing. Do like the LDS Church, at least, and acknowledge same-sex attraction as a reality. As long as behavioral standards are kept, and Scouting is pretty strict these days with Youth Protection programs (protecting from abuse by heterosexuals), I don’t see why there should be a problem. Sure, a little cultural adjustment will be required. The program is pretty strong these days in anti-bullying and anti-hazing (with some room for improvement), And they did it with racial integration. So, once again, it’s heading in the right direction just with a ways still to go.