Monday, December 31, 2012

The Year (2012) in Photos

Because photos are pretty.

Disclaimer:  I am not a professional photographer, as the following photos will demonstrate.

Here are some of, but not all, of the highlights of this past year (the ones captured in photographs, anyway):

My sister-in-law's husband (is there a name for that?  is that a thing?) and I destroying snow elementals with swords.

Running the Thanksgiving Point Half Marathon with our friends Jon and Andrea (it was actually quite gorgeous).

My sister-in-law and I both graduated with our Masters degrees in April.  (This is my wife's family.)

Notice my brown hood.  And check out those sleeves.  Yeah, you don't see that stuff often.  MFA all the way, baby. (?)

My Dad, sister, and her husband were able to make it down for the graduation as well.

The fattest man I know got married and it was awesome.

We moved to Lehi, where I started writing full time in this shnazzy little office.  That's white-board paint on the wall, by the way. 

A couple of fun trips this summer, including Zion National Park.

Oceanside, CA with Rachel's family (okay okay, this picture is from a few years ago...apparently I didn't take any pictures there this year).

Florida with my family, including Disney World and--of course!--Harry Potter World (or whatever it's called)!  Notice our wands, here.  Pretty awesome.

Rachel was much more excited about halloween than I was, this year...but our costumes turned out quite well.

This guy got re-elected, and I'm pretty happy about that.  Thanks for the low gas prices for Christmas, Obama!  (Hey, if you can blame him for high gas prices, I can blame him for low ones.  He is equally involved in both, and when I say equally I actually mean infinitesimally...)

My parents and brother came down to UT for Thanksgiving--that was the first Thanksgiving we'd spent as a family in at least 5 years, so, yeah, that's pretty cool.  (This was when we went to Temple Square to check out the lights.)

The parentals.

Rachel and I celebrated 6 years of dating and 4.5 years of marriage on 7 December of this year.  Don't you wish your marriage was hot like

It actually snowed in Utah for the holidays this year, which is quite the miracle considering the dismal showing we had last year...

We spent Christmas in La Crescenta, CA with Rachel's family, and had a blast.  Saw Les Miserables on Christmas Eve, and it was just about the best Christmas present ever.

More taking advantage of the snow.  Rachel and Kristi made a pretty sweet snowslide in our backyard.

Also, I had a beard.

There are some other pretty awesome things that happened this year, but those are the visual highlights according to my hard drive.

Friday, December 21, 2012

"I'm afraid we have a slight apocalypse..."*

So it's 21 December 2012, and I've got to post something.  Life as we know it hasn't ended yet, at least not in my part of the world, and I'm pretty sure I know why.  Four words:

Just so you know who to thank when tomorrow rolls around and the majority of people aren't burning in fiery precipitation, or sucked into a surprise black hole, or possessed by a race of ethereal space demons, or just regular dead.

Happy holidays! :-D

*  So sayeth Giles, from BtVS, Season 7, Episode 9.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lock, stock, and...well, you know the rest.

Last week, I mentioned there were some feelings of anger that I might blog about one day.  Well, for at least one of those issues, today is that day.

Here's just a sample of the dozens of memes I've seen circulating social media lately*:

First of all, grammar police time:  a family GETS, families GET.  Second of all, need the obvious be stated?  This particular family's security is of national importance.  Your family's security probably isn't.  Not to mention a secret service detail for every family is something we just don't have the manpower to support, and providing one for every family in America would be a logistical nightmare.  (Wait, that system actually sounds familiar...something about feudal lordship...)

Ad populum, red herring, sweeping generalization, false analogy...need I say more?  And this is one of the more sound memes I've seen out there.  (Of course, I recognize memes are generally reliant on rhetorical fallacies in the first place, so perhaps my expectations are just too high.)

Really?  REALLY?  Would you like to go explain to the victims of Sandy Hook that the reason they or their loved ones are dead is because God is annoyed He isn't allowed in schools?  Or should I?  That's not the God I subscribe to, thanks.

Figured I'd include a positive one.  This, in my opinion, is a much more appropriate reaction to the tragedy in Newtown, CT than any of the above memes.  Focusing on the tragedy and how to deal with it is much more useful than baring your teeth in defense against accusations and legislation and that haven't even been made/proposed yet.

So, yeah, I'm going to talk about gun control.

Quick caveat.  If you haven't read this yet article, go read it.  It's written by a mother with a son who is mentally ill, and it's both poignant and relevant.  The issue of mental health in our country (or, more accurately, the lack of it, and the lack of appropriate, available methods of identifying, dealing with, and treating it) is appalling.  A number of people very close to me deal with mental illnesses, and I've seen firsthand many of the effects.  That said, this post is not going to be about mental illness.  That is an issue.  It does need to be addressed.  Things do need to change.  And, while we're on the subject, there are quite a lot of other factors that go into mass murders like the one in Newtown, CT.  (As pointed out by my friend Jon on his blog.)  A discussion of said factors could be the subject of an entire series of blog posts, or an entire blog, for that matter.

But let's not fool ourselves; gun control is an issue, too.  And while most people would probably agree that our country needs to approach its mental health issues differently, something tells me (memes aside) that not quite as many people would be on board with gun control.  So, let's chat.

First thing's first.  I don't own any guns myself, but I've fired and handled a few different types of firearms in my day.  Many of my family members and friends own guns (and my Dad, as he would say, has "more than you could shake a stick at").  Overall, I think the Second Amendment is a neat thing.  I think it's an important part of our Constitution.  As many of you know, the original intent behind the Second Amendment was to allow civilians the ability to protect themselves from the government.  Hopefully I'm not the only person who thinks that particular purpose is more than a little outdated.  Trust me, if the US Government wants to take you out, even an automatic assault weapon with an expanded ammo cartridge, a fancy laser sight, and scope-y magnificence (redundant, I know) isn't going to save you.  Unless we legalize aircraft carriers, biological, nuclear, and chemical weapons, oh, and drones, than I think you're just out of luck.

That said, I think there are legitimate reasons for owning firearms.  Protection is one.  Hunting is another.  Zombie apocalypses are a very real threat, and we all know how essential firearms will be when one of those comes around.  I'll even, hesitantly, add recreation to this list.

Long story short, I'm not completely against guns.  I don't think guns should be banned.  So all of you who are having a first-class freak-out about how the government is going to confiscate your weapons and murder your family, relax.  Take a chill pill.  I don't want that, and I'm pretty sure the majority of America doesn't want that, so it's probably not going to happen**.

Here's what does need to happen, though:  more regulation regarding the procurement and possession of firearms.  Seriously.  When it's easier to get a gun than it is to get a driver's license, or an apartment contract, or a bottle of Nyquil, something is wrong.  I went with my sister, who is considering purchasing a firearm, a few weeks ago to look at some options.  We could have walked out of the store with a gun that day.  To me, that was a pretty scary realization.  Utah, of course, is one of the most gun-liberal states in the union, but still.

Now, I'm no expert, (neither on guns nor legislation), but I have some vague and ill-informed suggestions that I'm going to propose, anyway.  Which is my First Amendment right, by the way, and we all know First comes before Second, so there.

Suggestions:  Gun licensing might be a good idea--and I mean licensing for any firearm, not just the right to carry a concealed weapon.  Mandatory firearm safety classes could be a good thing, too.  Background checks (including a check for specific forms of mental illness) might also help.  Registering every owner of a weapon, and the make and type of weapons they own, on a national or state list is another possibility.

Many states already operate under some of the above mentioned options, or other similar firearm regulation policies.  And there is indeed a general relationship between states with tighter gun control and states with fewer gun-related deaths (of course, a relationship doesn't indicate direct causality, but it's certainly helpful in piecing these situations together).  While adopting such policies wouldn't eliminate mass shootings, it would help.  These types of laws also wouldn't prohibit common, gun-savvy citizens from exerting their Second Amendment rights.  They could go hunting, go to the shooting range, and perhaps even stop mass shootings from happening (a benefit of bearing arms that the gun-savvy are always so eager to establish), as long as they do the paperwork, as it were***.

What if they don't want to do the paperwork, you ask?  What if it's just too damn inconvenient?  Well, screw inconvenience.  Tell them to suck it up.  If this sort of thing could even potentially stop another Columbine, or VA Tech, or Sandy Hook, then it is worth the effort ten million times over.

But don't take my word for it--look at Australia.  In 1996, Australia suffered the worst mass shooting in its history, and immediately set to work on legislation limiting civilian access to firearms.  And, wonder of wonders...they haven't had a large-scale massacre since.

There's a recent OpEd in the NYTimes that offers some more information on the necessity of gun regulation in America.  I encourage you to check it out for further information.

And don't go all liberal-media on me, either, because, look:  Justice Antonin Scalia--appointed by Ronald Reagan himself, if that means anything to you--said the following****:
Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited.  It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose:  For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues.  The Court's opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.
The Second Amendment isn't all-powerful, after all--according to a conservative Supreme Court Justice, anyway.

This is an issue that needs to be addressed.  We can't hide behind outdated laws and ignorant claims of entitlement when twenty innocent children are murdered.  Things aren't just going to get better.  On Monday--the next school day after the massacre in CT--a child in Utah brought a gun to school.


Brought a gun.

To a school.

That a child even has access to a firearm without parental supervision defies all forms of sanity.

He claims to have done it to protect himself against a shooting like the one in Newtown.  He also, allegedly, put the gun to a classmates' head and threatened her life.  Another source says his parents encouraged him to bring the gun to school.   Which is, to me, a sign that the entire gun-culture of our country needs to change.

I hope you're willing to help that change along.

*  While I'm quite sure there are some equally offensive/factually incorrect memes out there from the liberal end of things, I haven't seen any. Apparently 90% of my Facebook friends are conservative (or, at least, the majority of the active posters are).

**  This does not mean that I think specific weapons bans--or even a ban of firearms altogether--would be a bad thing.  I see a lot of good that could come from that kind of legislation.  But it might also cause more problems than it solves, and, let's be realistic, that kind of legislation is never going to pass in the USofA.

***  While on the topic of preventing shootings, particularly in schools, I'll briefly address the idea of arming school staff and teachers.  It's ludicrous.  You seriously want to put more guns in schools where children, apparently, don't even understand the danger?  Where there will undoubtedly be people of questionable mental health in close proximity?  Or, let's just indulge the slippery slope for a moment:  why don't we just start arming everyone in schools, students included?  That can't possibly be a bad idea.

****  From the 2008 DC vs. Heller ruling.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

a happy thought

Waking up to snow like this on a Saturday morning is a wonderful thing.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 14, 2012

some questions are only meant for god to answer

I cannot--I cannot--imagine what the friends and family members of the victims in Connecticut are experiencing.  I cannot imagine the trauma the survivors are dealing with, and will continue to deal with, for years and years to come.

I don't know what to say about the shooting at Sandy Hook.  I don't know if there's anything to say at all.

So why do I write about it?  To cope, I guess.  I don't pretend to be a victim of this tragedy.  I don't pretend to know what those affected by the shooting are thinking, or what the perpetrator was thinking. I don't pretend that my sorrow means anything compared to the sorrow of those close to this horror, or even to the sorrow of those affected by similar horrors, or even to the sorrow of parents who have children that attend any elementary school and will now--again--suffer the anxiety of uncertainty regarding their children's safety.  I don't pretend that my words will do anything to alleviate their pain.  But the awful truth is that this tragedy, in one way or another, touches all of us.  I just need a way to deal.

Today the media is focusing, overwhelmingly, on the tragedy.  That's fine.  That's to be expected.  But I hope that, in the coming days, more and more stories will emerge about people who acted heroically, who acted rightly, who acted with charity and love and comfort and courage and grace during this event.  I hope that's what we can focus on, and I hope that those are the people and actions we can foreground.

I've been angry about many things I've heard today.  I've been angry at the shooter.  I've been angry about what I've heard about the shooter.  I've been angry about what others have said about the shooter.  I've been angry about the comments I've heard trying to spin this situation one way or another regarding a particular political issue.  I've been angry about the situation in general, and some other things besides.  And, perhaps, I'll write about those feelings of anger one day.  But not today.  There's been enough of those kinds of feelings today.

Instead, today, I pray.  I pray for the shooter's family, and, if I can, I'll pray for the shooter.  But, more importantly, I pray for the families, victims, and survivors.  I'll send my thoughts and condolences to them.  I'm ashamed that's all I can do, but that's just it--right now, today, that's all I can do; that's all I know to do.

I really don't know what else to say.  Some questions are only meant for God to answer.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Some Thoughts on Glee (from a writer/fan's perspective)

So I'm a Gleek.  I admit it.  (Oh, and this post is going to contain some vague spoilers, so if you're worried about that sort of thing and aren't caught up with the episodes, get caught up, and then come back and read this.)  Rachel and I have watched Glee since the pilot episode first aired in May 2009, and we don't plan on stopping anytime soon.  We both love it--the music, the writing, the acting, the humor.  There's a lot to like!

Which is not to say that the show hasn't had some less-than-amazing moments, the whole cliffhanger with Quinn's accident being the one that stands out most in my mind.*  I'm sure there are others, but honestly, I can't think of them.  Hey, I'm biased--what did you expect?

Of course, Glee has had some great moments, too.  Lea Michele and Idina Menzel singing "Poker Face," for example (see below--and excuse the poor quality, but the full performance is worth it). Or when Finn doesn't want to spend too much time talking to Kurt in Quinn's bathroom because "they'll think I'm pooping!"  Pretty much every insult on the show is brilliant (kind of sad, but true, and hilarious), too.

And, most recently, the beginning of a relationship between Brittany and Sam takes its place among those great moments.

Some key elements of backstory:  Brittany is a bisexual and has a cat named Lord Tubbington.  She's (seemingly) always been pretty confident with her sexuality, and has had relationships with a lot of people, but most significantly, and recently, with her best friend Santana (who, on the other hand, was very insecure about her own homosexuality for quite a while, and who happens to be a pretty feisty, often violent, latina).  Sam's a straight dude who happens to have a huge mouth and gigantic lips.

Then, in last week's episode, after a few weeks of hinting at the two potentially getting together, they have this conversation** after Brittany shuts down Sam when he tries to kiss her:

Sam:  Is it my lips?

Brittany:  No.  Your lips are so soft and horizontal.  I just like you too much to put you in danger.

Sam:  Santana broke up with you.

Brittany:  No, it's not just Santana.  It's like...all the lesbians of the nation.  And I don't know how they found out about Santana and I dating, but once they did, they started sending me, like, tweets, and facebook messages on Lord Tubbington's wall.  I think it means a lot to them to see two super-hot, popular girls in love, and I worry if they find out about you and I dating that they'll turn on you and get really violent and hurt your beautiful face and mouth.

Now, later on in the episode, Brittany has a slight change of heart.  Because Sam is the only person who has been able to make her smile since Santana left for college, she decides to give him a chance and sets up a date for them.  "What about the lesbian blogger community?" Sam asks.  "They're not going to like it," Brittany says.  "But the way I figure is that they know they're my sisters, and love is love."  (What, I told you there would be spoilers...!)

HA!  Now, I think this is some great writing.  In one fell swoop***, the writers manage to develop character, begin a relationship in a pretty smart way, and acknowledge in advance some of the criticism they and the characters will certainly receive because of this relationship--if not outright pacify some of that criticism.

Now, some more backstory is in order, here, and this involves some generalizing, so don't murder me for it.  Just take it at face value.  The LGBTQ community (and any minority community, for that matter) tends to invest themselves quite heavily into any characters in television, film, or literature who happen to share their lifestyle choices.  (And for good reason!  They have very few "investment opportunities" to begin with [a phenomenon that is gradually changing for the better], so it makes sense they appreciate and follow very closely those opportunities when they do arise.)  When those characters begin to move in a direction that many in this community don't appreciate, the more active LGBTQ voices tend to state their discontent pretty strongly (whether that discontent is justified, which it often is, or not).  The most significant instance of this that I'm aware of is in Buffy the Vampire Slayer at the end of Season 6 with Tara and Willow (who are in a homosexual relationship****).  Tara is killed and Willow essentially goes evil-uber-witch crazy about it, and a lot of people in the LGBTQ community, who had been completely inspired and appreciative of the Tara-Willow relationship, got up in arms about this (turns out it is a pretty common trope for a lesbian couple to be "punished" for being lesbians in about the same way--dying and/or going "evil").  Now, despite the fact that neither Joss Whedon nor Marti Noxon intended that part of the storyline to play out as "punishment," they got a lot of flak for it anyway.  And, that sort of thing happens a lot.  (And, I should repeat, that this sort of outrage doesn't just happen with the LGBTQ community--it happens with anyone who feels they are being misrepresented in the media.  I figure that's a given, but I might as well say it.)

So, anyway, back to Glee...I think they handled this inevitable criticism perfectly by essentially breaking the fourth wall***** and saying "hey, look, I know this will disappoint some of you, but please don't freak out--we like the statements we make with the show, but in the end, it's a TV show, and characters kind of run it...and this is what Brittany's character is doing, these days."  Of course, just stating this doesn't make this writing decision okay.  The fact that Brittany is, pretty obviously, a bisexual is a huge reason why this is even possible.  If they were to suddenly put Santana--a staunch homosexual--in a happy relationship with a man (or one of the straight characters into a sudden homosexual relationship, for that matter), that would be a much more difficult plot development to swallow.  But they foreshadowed it well, and prepped their audience well, and then went ahead with a smart story choice.  There's a lot to respect and learn, there.

So, anyway.  I guess this is a really, really long way of saying that I really, really like Glee, and that a huge part of that boils down to something Brittany said.  Love is love, people.


*  I still think that Quinn should have died in that accident.  Not because I don't like her character (I do), or because I think she "deserved" it (I don't), but because, in my ever-so-humble opinion, that's what the storyline needed.  If Quinn would have died, it would have created a great opportunity for Glee to address yet another significant issue (death) with the teeny awkwardness, wit, and panache with which they've addressed homosexuality, bullying, teen romance, and a plethora of other issues.  I also think it may have made the show a bit more manageable.  This may sound cold, but often authors use death as a way to keep the story under control when the characters are threatening to become unmanageable.  The characters in Glee were, and even more so now are, threatening to do that (the characters can barely fit into a one-epidose-a-week format this season).  Killing Quinn off would have alleviated that, if only slightly.  My one qualm with this decision would have been that it might take away from the incredible scene that began the same episode (whatsisname attempting suicide during Blane's rendition of "Cough Syrup"), but honestly, I think the accident already did that either way, which is part of the reason Quinn actually surviving was kind of a let-down in the first place.  Anyway, obviously I have a lot to say on that topic, but essentially it is one of the few choices the show has made that I really didn't agree with.

**  Which I transcribed from watching the episode, so it may not be 100% accurate, but it's probably pretty close...

***  "Fell swoop" might be one of the worst phrases in the english language...and, for me, that's probably because swoop sounds so close to poop.  Hey, I'm just being honest.

****  Incidentally, one of the most genuine, sincere, and natural homosexual relationships on television to date--despite being on a TV show about a high school cheerleader who slays vampires in her spare time.  (By the way, I think Buffy the Vampire Slayer is probably the single greatest TV show in existence, and that is neither exaggeration nor sarcasm.  That's a blog topic for another day.)

*****  Breaking the fourth wall is, essentially, speaking directly to the audience.  Stating "Dear Reader" in a novel, or an actor in a play speaking directly to the audience (which, incidentally, is the literal origin of the term).

Friday, December 07, 2012

Brief Writing Update, oh, and Revision

I'm still working on "Wretched Queen," as you can probably tell from the sidebar.  I'm a bit miffed that I'm not back to working on my novel yet, but honestly, I think it's a really good thing.  Better to put something into the WOTF contest that I feel confident about, first of all, but I've also been learning a bit more about the revision process with this piece, which I think will be immensely helpful when I move back into my novel.

During my MFA program, and pretty much up until this story, my revision process has been sort of a hodgepodge frankenstein conglomerate of writing groups, workshops, line edits, consulting with professors, and so forth.  Don't get me wrong; all of those things were (usually) immensely helpful, and that's how my MFA thesis evolved into what it is now.  But there was no structure to the process.  I'd workshop when a workshop class came around.  I'd be involved in a writing group until it dissolved (which they all inevitably did).  I'd go to a professor when I felt I really needed some direction.  I'd edit for conciseness and clarity right before a deadline.  That's about it.

For this story, my process has been pretty different, and actually aligned with a revision philosophy I've been formulating for the past couple years, but just haven't put into practice until now.

I start with the first draft (version 1.0) of course, where I just get the story out onto paper (or my computer, as it were).  Nothing fancy, just getting the story down.  I've decided, at least for now, that I don't appreciate outside feedback during this process*.  I want to get my idea of the story completely out of my system before I allow anyone else to give me their input.

Next, I do my first revision (version 2.0), but again, I do this one with the door closed.  I'm a discovery writer**, and in a first draft I almost always end up taking things in a different direction than I'd anticipated.  Characters that were there in the beginning suddenly disappear halfway through the story, or characters appear out of nowhere.  Settings change in my head, but I don't change them on paper.  Plot twists develop out of nowhere and need some retroactive foreshadowing.  So, generally, before I show a story to outside eyes, there's a lot I need to fix after the first draft.  I know I need to fix it, so I figure I might as well do that before I show it to anyone else; that way I don't have people wasting their time telling me things I already know I need to change.

After the first revision is when I finally give the story to my first readers (a group that usually consists of my wife and one to three close friends or writer acquaintances).  I give them time to read the story and give me basic feedback--nothing about the grammar or writing on the sentence level, but rather the more global issues regarding plot and character development, etc.--and after receiving this feedback, I jump into my second major revision (version 3.0).

At this point, depending on how strong I feel the basics of the story are, I may or may not do a more micro-level revision (version 3.n, depending on how many times I've gone through the second major revision) in which I focus on the writing itself--using active verbs, eliminating unnecessary words, etc.  I won't put a ridiculous amount of energy into this, but I'll do what I can before I send it out to my next group of readers.

Once that's done, I send it out to another group of friends/writerly acquaintances--my beta readers.  Same cycle as before:  they read, give me basic feedback, and I read through that feedback and make the changes I find necessary*** in the third major revision (version 4.0).

At this point, any number of things may happen.  I may feel it is ready to submit to the contest, or send to the journal, or query to the agent, etc.  If that's the case, I'll do one more cutthroat revision (version 5.0) in which I look once again at the story on a paragraph and sentence level and really focus on streamlining the writing.  I'll often have a goal of cutting 10% of the total wordcount of the draft (hence the title of this particular revision) to make sure my writing is as efficient as I can possibly make it.  At that point, it's submission time!

If I don't feel the story is ready after that third major revision, I'll essentially repeat the process of finding more readers (or a writer's group, at this point), getting feedback, mulling over that feedback, and then integrating it into the story until I'm satisfied ("satisfied" being an extremely relative term in this case).

That's the revision process I've been following with "Wretched Queen," and so far (I've just received feedback from my first readers and am about to move into the second major revision) I've really liked it.  I feel much more direction with this process than I ever did while I was in school, which makes sense, because this particular process actually...has...direction...

This is also the revision process I plan on following with my novel.  Once "Wretched Queen" is done and submitted, I'll jump back into my first major revision of Before the Dark.

So there you have it!  That's the process I've developed at this point, and I'll stick with it until I find something better (which I may very well find; writing is an organic process, I think).

*  In his book On Writing (which, I think I've mentioned before, is one of the best books about writing on the market), Stephen King essentially says to "write with the door closed, revise with the door open."  I think that's a great concept for me, at least in this stage of my craft.

**  A discovery writer, in a nutshell, is someone who writes without the direction of an outline--also called writing by the seat of your pants.  Outlines have, historically, limited me more than motivated me.

***  I don't think I've ever taken ALL of someone's revision advice.  There are almost always things I completely agree need to change/happen, and there are almost always things that I know I can ignore for whatever reason.  That's just the nature of feedback, I think--that was even the case with my writing professors in my MFA program.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Yep. That's right. It's real.

My bow tie, that is:

Not some clip on, clip around nonsense.  And yes, I tied it all by myself.  Don't they have awards for that sort of thing?

Friday, November 30, 2012

The War are we fighting, again?

Some of you may have come across this article by Suzanne Venker over at that bastion of media respectability, Fox News.  If you haven't, you might want to check it out.  In the article, titled "The War on Men," Ms. Venker proposes that one of the reasons so many men are opposed to marriage these days is because of...well...because of women.

"I've spent thirteen years," Ms. Venker states,
examining social agendas as they pertain to sex, parenting, and gender roles.  During this time, I've spoken with hundreds, if not thousands, of men and women.
So she's establishing her credibility.  That's great, especially the stuff about examining social agendas and writing three books (which she mentions earlier in the article) and so forth.  But here's me being nitpickish, and I just can't help it.

Apparently she's also spoken to hundreds--maybe even thousands--of men and women.

WOW!  I'm amazed.  Except I'm not.  Admittedly, I assume she's saying that in the context of the "examining social agendas" thing, but come on.  I don't know if speaking to a lot of people qualifies anyone for much of anything.  Except, perhaps, speaking with more people (?).  Did she speak with these men and women in a professional context?  What kind of sample are they?  Gah.  Anyway.  This isn't even what I want to write about, but let me just say I'm not that impressed.

Back to her words:
I've accidentally stumbled upon a subculture of men who've told me, in no uncertain terms, that they're never getting married.  When I ask them why, the answer is always the same.  Women aren't women anymore.
Ok.  Women aren't women anymore.


Does she mean that women aren't what men expect and want them to be anymore?  They aren't what society tries to pigeonhole them into being anymore?  Or is there some other angle she's getting at, here?  Because, um, anatomically, I'm pretty sure women are still...women.  Stephen Colbert did a great bit on this, so check that out--I don't want to step on his toes (and couldn't if I tried) or beat the subject to death (and mix a lot of metaphors).

But anyway, there's the crux of her article.  Women want to get married, and men don't want to get married, and, largely, that whole conundrum is the women's fault.

Personally, I see some fundamental problems with this thesis.  First of all, since when, exactly, is men not wanting to get married a new thing?  I'm pretty sure Og and Zog, the caveman and cavewoman, struggled with the same issue.  Zog wanted babies.  Og wanted to go out with his pals, Urlp and Frederick, to see who could lift the largest rock.  Zog, seeing as how she was the one who did all the cooking, cleaning, and hunting to boot (What did Og do, anyway?  Lift rocks with his friends, I guess.  Oh, and start wars.  There's that.), threatened to withhold any and all sexy-fun-times unless Og stuck around to spend some quality time and give her a bouncing baby or three, or eleven.  So Og shouts down the cave complex to Urlp and Frederick, letting them know the big boulder-hefting competition is off, they'll have to try next weekend.*  It's a tale as old as time**, not the revelation Ms. Venker makes it out to be.

The modern Og and Zog.

Now, one thing Ms. Venker does get right is that women have changed quite a bit.  Good on you, Ms. Vanker, I think that's a fairly accurate statement, although it might be slightly more accurate to state that the way women are treated has changed quite a bit, but still.  Way to...oh.  Wait.  Actually, according to Ms. Venker, the gist of this change consists of women becoming angry and defensive.  Again, this is something I just don't see.  I'm sure Zog could be just as angry and defensive as any woman today, just as I know for a fact that most women today are actually quite pleasant and graceful.  Doesn't seem like much of a change to me.  In fact, Ms. Vanker's entire article seems to do little more than perpetuate generalities and stereotypes that have existed for centuries, wrapping them up in sort-of-shiny, kind-of-new wrapping paper, and throwing them right back into the face of feminism.

Ahem.  Anyway.  She said this other thing that I found a bit wonky***:
The so-called rise of women has not threatened men.  It has pissed them off.  It has also undermined their ability to become self-sufficient in the hopes of someday supporting a family.  Men want to love women, not compete with them.
First of all, let's be honest, the "rise of women" (which sounds more like a planet of the apes movie than anything--come on, people, let's work on our nomenclature) has threatened men.  Some men.  And, sure, it's probably pissed men off, too.  Some men.  But, by and large, I actually think that men, and society as a whole, are better off when women are treated as, well, anyone else should be treated--meaning respect, kindness, and all that jazz, as well as letting them choose to do whatever they want with their lives, whether that's running a business or running a home.  Some people (and I won't restrict this category to just men) may indeed be pissed off and/or threatened by women suddenly filling high-level positions in businesses, or doing better in school than men, or voting, or working while a man takes care of the children, or whatever.  And those people are entitled to their opinions.  But I don't think that's a reason to blame men's lack of matrimonial desire on women.

And the whole "love women, not compete with them" thing...that may be true, too, but probably only because men are scared to death of getting their butts handed to them.  Just another reason for men to pick it up a notch and give these uber-women a run for their money.  (Now, Ms. Venker did come out and say she actually meant that "husbands" don't want to compete with "wives" in the workplace, which I suppose makes a modicum of sense.  Look up modicum in the dictionary and you'll see what I mean.)

Now, is there some truth to Ms. Venker's article?  Sure.  I'm sure the thousands of men and women she's talked to have genuine concerns about this issue.  But I think she spins it too far--it seems more of a reactionary piece to elicit backlash more than anything (in which case, I suppose, she's got me there!).  But you know what?  She can say what she wants, I can say what I want, and we never even have to confront one another about it.  That's what's so great about America.  And the Internet.

Finally, let me contextualize:  I'm a married man, and I'm supremely happy about that.  My amazing wife happens to be the main breadwinner in our family at the moment, and I'm proud of her for that.  She's intelligent, capable, enjoys what she does for work and--get this--is freaking good at it.  I'm not angry or defensive about our situation, and neither is she.  Will that be our situation forever?  Probably not.  But if it is, I, for one, won't be terribly upset.  We compliment each other pretty well, she and I, and I think that is one attribute among many that makes us pretty adaptable to whatever situation comes our way.

*  True story.  Think I saw it on the history channel or something.

**  What, you thought Beauty and the Beast was the only one?  Don't be ridiculous.  Now, when it comes to songs as old as rhyme, I'm pretty sure there's just the one.

*** Okay, she said whole lot more stuff that I found wonky, to say the least.  But this post is already expanding far beyond its humble beginnings, so I'll hold my tongue.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives.
So says Oscar Wilde, anyway. Just a Thanksgivng Day thought. Fortunately, my family is pretty cool, so the above is something I rarely have to worry about--usually I'm the one that needs the forgiving, anyway--and today has been wonderful. I hope that, wherever you are, you are having a grand day of gratitude and gastronomical gorging.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Wretched Queen

Some of you may have noticed that the progress bar for "Wretched Queen 1.1" reached 100% last week.  That's right!  Draft 1 is finally complete.  This has been an interesting project to work on.  The story, in a nutshell, plays with the tropes we all know and love about Dark Lords (aka Evil Overlords, aka Big Bads, etc)--in this case, an Evil Queen.  This idea first came to me some time in 2008, during which I wrote what I thought was backstory for the piece.  As I've written this first draft, however, that back story has sort of wormed its way through the main narrative.  I'm preliminarily pleased with the results.

Why am I working on a short story (a novelette, actually) when I've got an entire novel burning a hole in my hard drive, just waiting to be revised?  The Writers of the Future contest, that's why.

WOTF is great.  If you can win that contest, you've got a pretty good "in" as far as the publishing industry is concerned.  Problem is, the contest is uber-competitive.  Which is why I plan on submitting a story every quarter of the contest until I win or they tell me to stop*.  We'll see which happens first.

Anyway.  I was talking about "Wretched Queen," right?  Here are some brief facts about the story:

Title:  "Wretched Queen"
Total Word Count:  11,688
Total (manuscript) Page Count:  56
Sections: 7
Viewpoint Characters: 2 major, 1 minor
File Size:  74 KB
Start Date:  I think it was March of 2008 when I started brainstorming and planning the idea, and drafting out the "backstory."  I returned to the idea for WOTF in mid October of 2012
End Date:  16 Nov 2012

Now, of course, this is just a first draft.  I'm planning on doing a major first revision starting tomorrow, and taking care of some of the major glitches in the story.  From there, I'll give the story to some first readers and see what they think, make more changes after that, and so forth until I submit the story--hopefully by the end of December to get it in to the contest in time for Q1 of 2013.

And there are, indeed, some major issues I think may need fixing.  The amount of viewpoint characters, for one, may be a bit too much for a novelette.  I also play with a number of things as far as form is concerned (tense, person, etc.), and I'm not quite sure whether I pull that off or not.  But, that's what revision and readers are for!  So, without further ado, that's what I'll be jumping into in the next couple weeks.

Wish me luck.

*  Now, I may not submit for the second and third quarters of next year (however long it takes me to finish BTD 2.0).  While the contest is important to me and a good way to "break in," even if I do happen to win, that doesn't do me much good unless I have a novel waiting in the wings and ready to go.  But, once that's taken care of, I plan on submitting essentially every quarter.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Life in the PR

4 best friends (we're four best friends!*)


3 sunset pictures (a couple of which are kind of weird because I was testing out the panorama feature on my phone...)


2 ridiculously large starfish


1 million mosquito bites

[picture withheld...seriously, you want to see a picture of my mosquito bites?]


A freaking awesome trip to Puerto Rico with some pro ballroom dancers, their east coast parentals, snuba diving, kayaking in bioluminescence, oh and some great dancing.  So, yeah, it was cool.

*  "Stealing socks!" ...from the SNL digital short that I actually won't like to, you know, because of content...not the cleanest of sketches.  But I'm sure if you really wanted to find it, you could.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Guess what! I'm leaving the country!

And going to Puerto Rico!

That's right. I can't take the election rhetoric anymore, so I'm getting out of dodge. I've already decided who I'm voting for anyway, so it's all lost on me.

Ok, actually we're going to PR to hang with our friends Travis and Jaimee, and to watch them dance at the Caribbean Classic. Yeah, they're professional ballroom dancers. So that should be pretty cool.

In other news, I'm trying to use the Blogger app for the iPhone. It's okay so far, but pretty minimal. I can post pictures, as you can see, but haven't found a way to integrate links yet, as you may also be able to see. Not sure if there is one, which is disappointing. Im attempting to do it with regular old html; we'll see if it works. So if the whole post is full of incredibly unwieldy, aesthetically offensive, awkwardly parenthetical URLs, I'll just have to fix them in post (or as soon as I get a real web browser and/or wifi that doesn't cost money).

Anyway, be jealous because I'm going to tropical warm weather and it's going to be awesome.

[also, I know the pic is lame...I'm sure there will be much better ones to come]

Monday, October 29, 2012

I'm a Mormon. And I'm voting for Barack Obama.

So, it's election season.  Oh, you didn't know?  Kind of sneaks up on you*, I guess.

Which means it is time for me to get vaguely political, attempting to care about issues I don't really know much about, and trying to sound as sophisticated as possible when I talk about them.  (In other words, DISCLAIMER:  I'm an ignorant person.)

But allow me to attempt to rise above my ignorance, if only for the briefest of moments.

I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormon Church (which is how I'll refer to it hereafter for the sake of clarity).  I consider myself both a religious and spiritual person, with an emphasis on the latter term**.  I agree with the majority of the teachings of the Mormon Church and its prophet, Thomas S. Monson.  Do I think either of these entities (the Mormon Church or its prophet) is perfect?  Certainly not.  President Monson is still just a man and therefore inherently flawed; the Church's stewardship is given to regular men and women, who are also inherently flawed.  But, that said, I've found a whole lot of joy, peace, fulfillment, and comfort in the Church's teachings.  I believe strongly in the Mormon Church, and particularly--and most importantly--Jesus Christ (yes, I'm a Christian).

Now, some of you may have heard that Governor Mitt Romney is also a Mormon.  I think that's great.  I think it's cool that a Mormon has garnered such popularity in mainstream politics; I feel more validated as just a regular person who happens to have a certain set of beliefs, rather than a walking stereotype of Mormonism, because of what Gov. Romney has accomplished.  I feel an affinity towards him because of our shared faith.  I suspect (although I can't say for sure, of course, given that I don't know the man) that he is a genuinely good person.  I think he wants the best for himself, his family, and his country.  And, I have to admit, I'm strangely touched by crazy Facebook trends like this one.

But I'll be voting for the other guy.

Now, to be fair, this has a lot more to do with my personal politics than with either of the men running for president.  I believe equality is important, and that it should be an indispensable part of our society.  I believe that women who work the same jobs as men should be paid on the same scale as men.  I believe that women should be able to do what they want to do with their own bodies, and not be dictated to, in that regard or any other, by anyone else (And if men get Viagra covered by their insurance, BY ALL MEANS, give women birth control!  The logic behind that whole situation is outrageous to me.)  I believe that people should be able to love who they want to love, and be in the relationships that make them happiest.  I think of healthcare in terms of "right" rather than "privilege."  While I have the utmost respect for business owners and entrepreneurs, and think it takes a tremendous amount of tenacity, drive, and creativity to do what they do, I don't think they would be able to accomplish what they do without the help of friends, mentors, teachers, and--dare I say it?--government.  I think it is everyone's responsibility, but particularly that of the successful and the wealthy, to support others in turn, through charity, education, and taxes.***

And, honestly, the rhetoric of the conservative side of things is just bothersome, sometimes.  Saying things like "legitimate rape," and "Obama is a Muslim and will ruin this country" just doesn't seem helpful.  Now, I'm aware that the left has had their share of rhetorical diarrhea (forgive the imagery).  But, at least to me (and why not?  I'm biased, anyway), the fault seems worse on the conservative side of things.

What I'm NOT saying, here, is that Mitt Romney doesn't care about any of the aforementioned ideas, or that he endorses the crazy things extremists say.  Let me repeat:  I'm NOT saying that.  I think he probably does care a great deal about a lot of those things.  But the way he wants to approach them really doesn't strike my fancy.

President Obama's approach does (strike my fancy, that is).  And there's a lot more I like about him, besides.  I agree with him when he says that our national defense is no longer based strictly on the size of our navy.  There are a lot of other factors that go into it nowadays (let's be honest; there always have been), and I think he knows what those factors are and how to make them work for America.  I think that balancing the budget requires a lot more than a vague five-point plan.  And I think Pres. Obama has handled the last four years remarkably well, considering what was dropped in his lap in the first place.  In his next term, I think he'll continue to strengthen and lead our country through recovery and into success.

Now, I recognize I've focused, mostly, on pathos in this post.  And I don't feel bad about it.  This is how I feel about things.  I COULD cite a bunch of facts (and I'm sure a lot of people who disagree with this post will view that as a sleight; I'm not posting the facts because there ARE no facts that support Obama, right?).  I COULD point you towards the 31 straight months of economic growth, or show you how unemployment is the lowest it's been since December of 2008, or demonstrate how housing starts are at an all time high.  But I won't.  Because facts are boring, and I don't want to, and this post is long enough as it is, and this is my blog and I can do what I want.  So there.  And, ultimately, this post is about how I feel about the upcoming election.  My point of view on things, nothing more, nothing less.

So, even though I'm a Mormon, I'm voting for Barack Obama (and look!  I haven't been struck by lightning yet!  I'll have to wait until election day to tell you for sure, though).  Even though I don't think Gov. Romney is an awful guy--and I admit, I think he would do some good things for our country as President--I think Pres. Obama is the right man to lead in the next four years.  He would do . . . more . . . of the good things . . . ahem.  Hey, don't look at me like that.  I told you I was ignorant.

That's how I see things.  If you feel otherwise, feel free to let me know!

And, in the spirit of friendship, you should watch this, because it is hilarious, and will make your day.

*  And by "sneaks up on you," I mean "hits you over the head with a giant hammer, Super Smash Brothers style, like a year and a half too early."

**  Hopefully this goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway:  I also consider myself a seriously flawed person; my attempts to give up those flaws and weaknesses are a large part of what I consider spirituality, and one of the driving concepts behind my idea of religion.

***  A brief tangent:  I'm always just a little bit astounded that the majority of Christians tend to choose the Republican platform over the Democratic one.  While I was in church just this last Sunday, I listened to a scripture-oriented discussion on how people are so prideful these days that they think whatever they own, create, and accumulate for themselves is theirs and theirs alone, when in reality they should be thinking of all of the people that helped them accomplish and receive all of the blessings they have, and of ways they can share those blessings with others.  I'm sure that a whole lot of the people involved in that discussion also posted memes like this one on their favorite social media sites.  So, yeah.  I just don't get it.  Jesus' only requirement for healing was something called faith.  That sounds like a pretty good healthcare system to me.  He seemed to be in favor of helping the poor, afflicted, and downtrodden--not putting the rich on a pedestal.  When the most basic idea behind Christianity is becoming like Christ, I'm astounded at how many people seem to ignore His actions.  Maybe I just have the wrong idea about Christianity.

New Look

Just because.  I think the lighter tone suits the site well, don't you?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Wise Man Once Said...

If we follow our own will, we may get to the best places we can imagine.  But there are better places than we can imagine.
That's a quote from my friend Bentley (who is, incidentally, the man*).  I think it is brilliant.  And pretty relevant to my life, these days.

The idea, of course, is that there is genuine serenity and happiness in surrendering oneself to God, or the Universe, or a higher power.  I, personally, find that to be true.  But I've said too much already.  I'll just let Bentley speak for himself.  As it were.

Beauty in simplicity, and all that.

*  In a "he's the man!" way, not "he's 'the man'" as in "the establishment" way...just to clarify.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Abstract and Acknowledgments

As promised in my previous post, here is the Abstract and the Acknowledgments sections of my Masters Thesis:


Look Me in the Stars

Christopher B. Husberg
Department of English, BYU
Master of Fine Arts

Look Me in the Stars is a work of fiction comprising seven short stories and a critical introduction.  Elements of fantasy, speculation, and horror are woven throughout each of the stories.  While these elements sometimes tend to provide the reader an “escape” from reality, their purpose in these stories is quite the opposite, with the intention of bringing the reader closer to reality rather than further away.

The critical introduction that precedes the collection examines the author’s predilection towards speculative fiction, discussing literary influences and different methodologies for using fantasy as a window to reality.


I am profoundly grateful to a lot of people.  Here are some of them:

Thanks first and foremost to my thesis committee—Steve Tuttle, John Bennion, and Carl Sederholm—for their support and encouragement, and for their insightful suggestions, and for asking the questions that needed to be asked.  Thanks to Steve in particular for all the time he spent with each story in this thesis, as well as with all the stories that didn’t make the cut.  He’s really the godfather of this collection; he’s been around most of these stories since they were in rough draft form.  His comments, and confidence, were invaluable.

Thanks to those other professors and mentors, without whom this project would not be what it is today:  Kim Johnson, Trent Hickman, Pat Madden, Chris Crowe, Susan Howe, Doug Thayer, and Brandon Sanderson.  I can trace specific parts of this thesis to bits of advice and counsel each of you gave me, in class or otherwise, and it’s that sort of thing that has shaped me (and still shapes me) as a writer.

Thanks to those writers with whom I’ve spent the last two years:  Steve, Amber, Scott, Becca, Shelah, and Bentley.  Your comments are brilliant, your jokes are hilarious, and your singing voices and guitar playing skillz are off the hook, especially late at night in cabins near Capitol Reef National Park.  Also:  you’re all phenomenal writers (imho).

Thanks to my parents for reading to me and helping me tell stories when I was young.  You always encouraged me to pursue stories, both within myself and in the outside world, and really, without that, where would I be?  (Probably graduating from med school, by now.  Thanks a lot.)  You told me I could dream, and you believed in me when I did.  I love you both.

Thanks to all the other family members, both in-law and regular type, who love and support me through these crazy dreams of mine.  There are far too many of you to list, but your confidence in me, your faith, and the way you live your lives are inspiring.

And of course, and always, and forever thanks to my wife, Rachel.  This is something I literally (and I mean it with the literally) never could have done without you.  You support me in all of this, in more ways than one, but—even better—you think I’m cool because of it, and that makes you amazing and wonderful and full of grace and all sorts of awesome things.  Okay, you were already all of that stuff.  I just wanted an excuse to say it.  Everything I write is, and will always be, for you.