Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Superstar Faith Crises - 2014, 1972, and 33 or so A.D.

My first true twitterpation was with a dear girl a year older than me. That made her within the Mormon cultural expectation of no-dating-before-16, but I, alas, was only fifteen. Of course she was Lutheran so the whole thing didn't matter from her perspective.

She wore a red velvet cape in cooler weather. She was into Mary Stewart's Hollow Hills and Egyptian mummies, especially how they took the brains out with a hook through the nose. She loved the word "goodly." What was there not to like? And she was a big fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber's and Tim Rice's Jesus Christ Superstar (1970).

Well aware that many consider the Rock Opera heretical and spiritually offense, I have no problem if you skip this posting. I worried about it back then. There was guidance from my church that it was irreverent and offensive. A girl in my ward, also a year or two older than I, once gave a talk about how she stood for her religious principles and refused to sing "Hosanna" from Superstar with the school choir. I had seen her down at Juanita Beach attempting a tan on her back with the top of her two-piece untied, so I didn't give much heed to what she said (Yes, I was very judgmental in those days for which I repent).

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Welcome: Vaughan Home

Our house now has a name. I named it. My wife is cool with it as she was in Britain and saw how it's very common that even the smallest home has a name. They are not all that unique as the popular names, like "Rose Cottage" are used over and over again. But if you're in a village or on an estate and ask for Rose Cottage, they will usually guide you to the right place. There is likely no street address otherwise.

Most often (even in the case of "Rose Cottage") the names are practical and simple explaining something unique about the house even if the village next door also has one by the same name. I guess that's part of the simplicity.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Personal Embossing Tool

My children are the greatest in the world! Each in their own independent and unique way contribute to the world and to the happiness of their parents. United, they are a powerful force for love to be reckoned with.

Honest praise for my children seems more appropriate than just showing off the best Christmas gift ever! They pooled creativity and resources to present me with a personal embossing tool for my library.
It comes in its own little case!

They used the logo from my Vaughan Family armorial, "the Strangled Boye!" OK, my wife still thinks it's creepy and refuses to claim the family, but I proudly do!

The first book I crimped was a new book for Christmas that Santa ordered for himself (but Mrs. Clause is reading the Llewellyn Fawr [the Great] series, so she'll get to this one), The Sunne in Splendor by Sharon Kay Penman. I thought I'd give old Richard III a chance. The second book was my Welsh translation of the Book of Mormon:

Still the 1852 translation with no chapters or verses. There is a new Welsh version in preparation by a BYU Prof & Adjuncts.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas from Henry Vaughan (1621-1695)

For Christmas Love, Joy, and above all Peace, we bring you a Christmas Poem by my ancient cousin, Henry Vaughan, the Silurist:


My soul, there is a country
     Far beyond the stars,
Where stands a wingéd sentry
     All skilful in the wars;

There above the noise and danger,
     Sweet Peace sits crown’d with smiles,
And One born in a manger
     Commands the beauteous files.

He is thy gracious Friend,
     And—O my Soul awake!—
Did in pure love descend
     To die here for thy sake.

If thou canst get but thither,
     There grows the flower of Peace,
The Rose that cannot wither,
     Thy fortress and thy ease.

Leave then thy foolish ranges,
     For none can thee secure
But One, who never changes,
     Thy God, thy life, thy cure.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

"Nights Should All Be Silent, Days Should All Slow Down"

It's time for my favorite Christmas song! It is an odd choice, I know. But it is the one song I can play over and over (and I do!) and I don't ever tire of it. (My family bans it so I listen on ear buds). And doubly odd as it's sung by the sleepiest songster ever, Perry Como (but then he sang, "The Bluest Skies" as well. Look it up.)

Yes, "Christmas Dream" featured in the opening credits of a very good anti-Nazi thriller, The Odessa File. Jon Voight plays a reporter in 1960s Hamburg and comes across the diary of a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust who commits suicide. Voight is captivated by the diary and goes off to search out the SS Commandant referenced. No spoilers here, but it's the best kind of story with a surprise ending that makes sense looking back at the movie or seeing it again. And it has that great song.

It's the second verse that gets me every time. Have a listen (and a glimpse of the film):

Monday, December 22, 2014

Northern Lights in Utah?

From Aurora Borealis Forcast
We were in Cottonwood Heights last night leaving my in-laws when we saw three strange flashes of light in the sky. Actually, I missed the first one sitting in the car but I heard my kids out on the lawn, "Wow! What was that?" I looked out and saw the second and third manifestations. The clouds above us flashed green and pink just for a second.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

No Dystopian Present Thirty Years Past 1984

Our first-born, Christmas 1984
Scanning family photos to put them on the OneDrive (I liked "SkyDrive" better), I just finished 1984. While I know that dystopian novels and movies are more a commentary on the current day rather than predictions of the future, our 1984 was really nice.

We ended up living in three different places that year as I had seen a guy waving a handgun in the parking lot of our apartment complex. We were in a suburb of Baltimore transitioning from a Jewish to an African-American neighborhood. We shopped at Shapiro's and were in a distinct minority in our apartment complex that was mostly African-American. We got along great with our neighbors, but I didn't like the handgun.

We spent that summer renting the upstairs of a beautiful ancient house on Old Court Road, out in the woods, with an address of Granite, Maryland - named for an abandoned quarry. The owner was one of my wife's school-teacher friends who spent most of the summer away except for the few weekends he spent at home. When he wasn't home, we had the use of the whole house and when he was home, we pretty much stayed upstairs and even left when he had his parties as we had inadvertently come across his cannabis supply. We didn't turn him in. We didn't with the guy and the handgun either.
M's place in Granite, Maryland on Old Court Road

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

¡Viva Cuba!

Last night, my little play on The Old Man and the Sea turned out to be so prescient! I had no idea the President would announce the first steps to normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba today. It's long overdue. Our little Western Hemisphere containment theory hasn't worked all that well, so let's open it up and let in the bright sun.

Cuba still has to reform and become democratic. That works best with international trade. My Brazilians friends, many of them conservatives, may challenge me on this but Presidente Dilma was pretty smart to get Brazil well situated with a new international port established in Cuba. It would be good for the US to get in on some of that economic action and anything at all is bound to help Cuba modernize and democratize (although I'm not sure free-market, capitalist swine have done so well with that in Russia. Just sayin'.)

Cuba and Me

Young Boy of the Sea

My Mom and I, Cruising the San Juan Islands, Washington, about 1964
Another strong memory resurfaced going through old photos to scan. They let me sit out there on the bow as long as I had that orange life-preserver. I notice Mom close by but I could look out ahead seeing just water and I stayed the longest time. I can feel the rare warm sun, see the bright flashes on the water, and could be there still if life hadn't intervened.

There were some great opportunities we had with my Dad's work with the Boy Scouts. These were actual Sea Scouts and my little brother and I were treated like royalty, or at least mascots, as guests on their ship (fairly large cabin cruiser). I seem to recall that we were at Friday Harbor for the 4th of July. I'll have to check that with my Dad. And I have the vaguest memory of a campfire while watching a satellite go by overhead when it was still a big deal. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Making Utah Connections - Thomas Evans Giles (1881-1959)

So, I was up in the music building at the University of Utah for my son's senior recital (which was very good, by the way), and standing outside the room was a portrait. Noting the name I said, "I know that guy's grandpa!"

That was a bit presumptuous on my part, so I did a quick check on Family Search - Family Tree. And . . . Yep! I was right.

Thomas Evans Giles was the son of  Henry Evans and Catherine Hughes Giles. Catherine was born in Wales in 1861. Henry, born 1859 in Utah, was the son of Thomas Davis and Hannah Evans Giles. Thomas, the grandfather, was born 1820 in Blaenavon, Monmouthshire, just over the Blorenge from where my ancestors lived in Llanfoist.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

And Now, the Senate Show

Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, appropriately on the left. And Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, who really should be farther right, right off the page
Still Majority Leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, has not got the Cromnibus passed yet. The House passed it and now it's t It's the Senate's turn. It's still a bit mired in procedural ploys so Reid is now trying to get as many cloture votes (requiring 60 to stop action) as possible to move forward with his still democratic majority for confirmation of President Obama's nominees to staff vacant political positions in this administration. The big show is at 1 a.m. tonight (technically tomorrow in DC time, and 11 p.m. here in Mountain) when he will call for a vote on Cromnibus. There are two obstacles in the way pictured above.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Boehner-Obama Budgeting - Not Funding Non-Action

The President and John Boehner accomplished a sort of Holiday Miracle by not shutting down the government. The managed to get a year-long spending bill approved in the House. Called the "Cromnibus" as in "CR" for Continuing Resolution, and "Omnibus" for a bill of multiple agency appropriations, the Republicans put enough "crappy" stuff in to make that the "CR" part. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Why I Trust John McCain on Torture

He knows.

This is posted in the best effort to learn from the past. I'm not sure we have, so we need these reminders. Fortunately, John McCain, victim of North Vietnamese torture, is still in the Senate and can rebut most of those in his Republican Party who try to excuse or justify the use of torture by the United States. (OK, if you're still unsure whether "water-boarding = torture" I hope you can at least admit that anal forced-feeding is.)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Alternate Nativities

The extremes of Christmas are represented right here in our little neighborhood. Well, there's no either/or sort of thing. And there's no outright satanist or atheist attack. I'm just glad to enjoy some diversity within just a few blocks in Davis County, Utah.

The first is what you would expect at an LDS Ward Christmas Party Breakfast. The Primary children put on a great nativity with music and costumes. I'm not sure what the girls in yellow are supposed to be, but they sure had fun with their twirly dresses. The one in the yellow top competed a little with some ballet moves. The kids standing in front of the stage had my wife's musical chimes to hit at the time indicated by the color-code on the music director's chart. If you see the goat among the lowing animals, that's one of my wife's many costumes. The best part was that they're all kids from the neighborhood including at least one who is not a member of our church.

My role, because nobody else was doing it, was to monitor the microphone levels with the dials at the opposite side of the cultural hall. I guess I should have realized that is part of the unwritten order of things for a High Priest Group Leader.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Sam Brown's Basic Principles and the Temple - The Body of Christ

There is an excellent review of Dr. Brown's book by George Handley at Patheos. I'm right there with George in his interpretation and recommendation. This is not so much a book review of Samuel Morris Brown's First Principles and Ordinances: The Fourth Article of Faith in Light of the Temple (Maxwell Institute, BYU, Provo, 2014), as it is a thematic introspection taking off from his ideas. Hopefully with the Holy Spirit, and a sharing with you, the reader.

The basic principles of the Gospel - Faith, Repentance, Baptism and other ordinances, and the Holy Ghost - all enduring to the end are very important to me. I think they are a process of a lifetime. And here we have Sam taking those basic principle pretty deep in his linking to the Temple and the idea I hadn't really thought about so profoundly how those principles and ordinances are not accomplished just individually but as a people. We need each other. And that stretches over families, generations, congregations, priesthoods, and a living Faith evidenced through our choices and actions in Hope that our meager efforts will accomplish good and affirm the Faith we strive for.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Servi no Templo EM PORTUGUÊS!

Boy, am I jazzed! That is, if it's OK to be spiritually jazzed!

Campinas, São Paulo, Brasil Temple - Not the one I served in tonight, but it felt like it.
Tonight was my Friday to serve in the Bountiful Temple, and while my Welshman friend wasn't there, I heard the shift coordinators talking about doing some temple work in Portuguese. I let them know that I could help if they needed. I had done it in Spanish before (in a bit of a panic), but Portuguese was my No. 1 second language.

They let me study the card and I had it all down pretty well. They let me take the card just in case. The big surprise was that they said there would be one Temple patron needing Portuguese and then I would switch back to English. But the next guy started off in Portuguese too. I had just dropped the card which I hadn't used anyway, so I went on in Portuguese full of confidence and spiritual power.

George Washington Didn't Say That About Guns Either

As a proud defender of our founding fathers (putting slavery to the side in the context of its times - it was still wrong), I rise again to respond to the latest false meme sighted (or falsely cited) on Facebook. George Washington did not say:
When any nation mistrusts its citizens with guns, it is sending a clear message. It no longer trusts its citizens because it has evil plans.
Nope. Nada. Nothing of the sort. It doesn't even sound like him. It certainly doesn't sound like the President George Washington who federalized militias to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. It's nowhere to be found in any official source from George himself! Check out a few:

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Family Totems - Christmas Edition

When we were young, our dad would set out in December to design and paint his annual Christmas picture on our front window. This is the earliest one I can remember: