Thursday, September 28, 2006

One year of "Letters from a Broad..."

Today's the day: one year ago today I started writing "Letters from a broad..." as a column in the (defunct) Utah Valley Monitor.

When I started, I set a goal to write regularly for one year and then decide what to do from there. Now I've succeeded in my goal, and I'm pleased with the results!!!

However -- as I'm sure many of you bloggers know only too well -- setting a goal to blog is a little like setting a goal to smoke crack. So it looks like for the moment I have no choice but to set a goal to not blog.

This hobby has become too much of a distraction from my real-life responsibilities: my family, my job, my home.

I've recently cut back on my working hours so that I can have one day a week to work on a new edition of my Java book and take care of my kids. This one day off per week is expensive for our little family, and I can't afford to let it get eaten up by blogging, which is would would happen if I'm not careful.

My plan is to temporarily go cold turkey from blogs and forums (except professional Java blogs and maybe my Star Trek forum), although I will probably still respond to comments on my blog. I expect to be back up and blogging some time in December. Hopefully JLO will be back from his hiatus around the same time. :D

When I come back, I hope to be starting on a brand-new Internet experiment:

I'm thinking of setting up a website for my novel Exmormon, and serializing it little by little through my blog over the course of a few years.

I got this idea because the Internet has been the root of so many fascinating innovations in communities and communication, and I'm curious to see what further directions it will lead. I know that in the past some novels were originally published as serials (notably some by Dickens), but it seems like that doesn't happen anymore -- I'm wondering if blogging and the Internet might bring it back. And I think it's very likely that more people will read the novel this way than if I find a real publisher.

This novel is (in my opinion) fabulous for this experiment because it's made up of independent segments that can be read separately. So I can pause between serializing different segments, and if new readers arrive after I'm two hundred pages into the story, they can pick up in the middle without being lost.

And if it doesn't fly it's no big loss -- I'm trying to take myself less seriously as a writer anyway. ;^)

That's why I only sent my novel pitch a few agents and publishers -- I've been planning this idea for a while.

Of course I'm still interested in finding a publisher who can get this book into real bookstores and such, so if you're a publisher or an agent (and willing to work with me on this serialize-it-through-my-blog idea), feel free to email me: chanson dot exmormon at gmail dot com.

For the rest of you: Ta-ta for now!!! I look forward to seeing you again in December.

Keep blog space warm for me and don't let Outer Blogness go all to hell... ;^)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Spotlight on France

Okay, I've saved the best topic for last: France!!!

Life in France
Now you may not know this if you're not a know-it-all parent, but in fact you're not supposed to do that. Fortunately, we were able to muster up enough will-power to restrain ourselves from telling them that they're not supposed to do that. This is mostly because we didn't want to get trapped in a discussion involving other people's wacky parenting theories. (Also because the guy was nice enough to help us schlep some heavy baby furniture up four flights of stairs.) After all, if we start telling them not to do this or that, then we run the risk that they might point out that you're not supposed to drink any wine at all (not even one glass occasionally with dinner) if you're breast-feeding your baby. Strangely enough, this couple is really negative about wine, despite not being adherents of any peculiar religious group (as far as we can tell). My question is, if they don't like wine, then why do they bother living in France at all? Maybe it's because they were born here.

Le Metro !: No longer car-dependent, I'm now part of the French underground
First of all, I can't stand exercising for its own sake -- it bores me to tears. I once went a good 10 months of faithfully doing a 90-minute workout three times a week because I had a car commute to a sedentary programming job -- and believe me, I was crying on my Stairmaster the whole time.

Bilingual Babies: How do you say 'ga-ga' in French?
So -- just as it happens with many parents -- our first child taught us all about what kids are like, and then the second one taught us that all that stuff we learned from the first one wasn't really so much info about kids in general, but rather was only relevant to that one kid. I think it was a famous mathematician who once said, "I used to have three theories about child-rearing and no kids; now I have three kids and no theories about child-rearing." I'm kind of like that myself, except that I have only two kids, and I hate to think I was ever presumptuous enough to imagine I had a theory of child-rearing other than "Love 'em lots, and good luck!"

Merry Noël!: Making it festive in France
Actually my husband is a pretty good sport about indulging my insistence on filling our home with a sentimental Christmas. Even though he doesn't like Christmas music all that much, he helped me make the 15 or so CDs I compiled, each with 20 or so favorites taken from my vast collection of Christmas CDs. And this year he even encouraged me to get out my collection of Christmas CDs in early December and start playing them for our little boys. I appreciated that a lot even though on some level I suspect he was mostly just hoping it would get me to stop playing Saturday's Warrior.

Adventures in Dental Care: French dentists put me at a floss for words
I was listening and nodding with a blank smile on my face, but my tiny brain was saying "Um, I came here to see a dentist. Are you a dentist or what?"

Those Wacky Health Insurance Companies!
You'll probably say "Well, sure the French can handle routine procedures like births, but if something really bad happened to you, you'd wish you were back in the US!" I can't really answer that charge either way since fortunately nothing really bad has happened to me.

Merde, Alors !: My least favorite thing about France
Actually, I kind of hesitate to tell fellow Americans about this problem because they're likely to conclude that things haven't changed much in Europe since the days of the black plague. But that simply isn't true. Since those days, France has managed to rid the streets of the poo of every species except dog, and I have high hopes they will one day eliminate this last one as well.

Weekend in Paris
Then I figured while I was at it I'd ask for P. G. Karamesines novel The Pictograph Murders since that's what I was reading at the time. They didn't have that one either. Man, it's hard to find Mormon literature in France! I'm starting to think I may be the only person in all of France who blogs about Mormon literature.

Freedom Avenue!!!
And here the American fast-food industry was working to mess up one of those points where Americans and French can join hands together in ganging up on those silly Brits, just like the question of which side of the road you're supposed to drive on! (You know, and like that whole Revolutionary War thing.)

Peanut Butter vs. Vegemite
So since moving to France, I've learned that the French don't eat peanut butter and they don't eat Vegemite. The Vegemite part didn't bother me so much since I'd never heard of Vegemite until my manager here was replaced by a guy from Australia. (Or so I thought -- when I told people I'd never heard of Vegemite, I found out that that line I never could understand from that one "Men at Work" song is actually "she just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich." Live and learn!)

I'm not fabulous...
Normally I think one of the advantages to living in Southern Europe is that you can wear "resort wear" all summer long. By that I mean it's socially acceptable to go around wearing a sundress that is really just a glorified colorful rag which will set you back about five bucks and which may or may not be flattering, depending entirely on luck.

Topless on the beach...
Now you may be wondering if these are these the same people that you would like to see with their shirts off, orientation permitting.

To me it seems to be more or less a cross-section. The decision to bear half seems to be more a function of the woman's own comfort level than of her hotness-or-notness. (Okay, I know that's not really a word, but you understood it, didn't you? So let's go with it.)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Spotlight on writing, Mormon lit, book reviews, and media

Here are the posts that make my blog the web's most entertaining outsider's take on Mormon literature!!! Plus it's one of the only blogs covering exmo lit, with a few non-mo book and media reviews thrown in just for fun!!!

Mormon Lit Misfit
Some may say that by writing stories about Mormons from an apostate perspective, I'm being one of those people who "can leave the church but can't leave it alone."

I ask, whose childhood am I supposed to write about? I didn't ask to be raised in this religion.

I know some of you who believe in the pre-existence will say that in fact I did ask to be raised in this religion, before I was born and everything. But I know myself pretty well, and I'm sure that if I did ask to be raised Mormon back in the pre-existence, I was just kidding.

Grammar Police: Rules are meant to be, like, broken
For one thing, I disagree with the theory that the use of profanity indicates that the speaker necessarily has a small vocabulary. The latent mathematician in me can't keep from pointing out that actively avoiding profanity technically makes your vocabulary smaller, not bigger. Sure it's easy to over-use naughty words, but if you know how to use them well, you can achieve certain effects that you can't create without them.

La littérature dangereuse: Lifestyles of the rich and literate
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the universe of Les Liaisons Dangereuses is not even remotely innocent. It is unabashedly cynical, and for that reason it is in some ways the most fun of the three.

Parade of Mormon Light Fiction: The secret pleasure of it
The theme to this book seems to be "being Mormon is a lot of work." The whole time I was reading it, I kept thinking, "Boy, am I ever glad I left the church!"

An Atheist Fantasy? Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" Trilogy
Aside from that point, if you kind of squint and look sideways at Pullman's premise, he gives a bit of a nod to science and skepticism by positing a sci-fi explanation for magical mysticism involving sentient dark matter. But even so, his magical, mystical universe -- in which shamanistic magic works, consulting the I-Ching yields concrete, factual information, and people's ghosts live on in the underworld when they die -- seems to me like the antithesis of the type of universe I would attach to word "atheist" to.

The Mo thriller vs. the post-Mo thriller: The Pictograph Murders by P. G. Karamesines and Wives and Sisters by Natalie R. Collins
The contrast that really took me by surprise, however, was that in the mystery by the apostate author, the hero was an exmormon/apostate and the villain was a devout Mormon, whereas in the mystery written by a Mormon, it turned out that the hero was a faithful Mormon and the villain was an atheist.

Hahahahahahahahahaha!!! Just kidding -- that didn't surprise me at all. In fact it was exactly what I was expecting before I cracked open either one of these two books.

Mormon Meat: Christopher Bigelow's Kindred Spirits
I knew before picking up this book that the author is a believing Mormon. So I kind of expected that this more-realistic-than-flattering portrait of Mormonism would be just a starting point, and from there he would build to a strong LDS-faith-promoting crescendo. But he didn't. It turns out this novel is more faith-exploring than faith-promoting. For that reason (plus the profanity and explicit sexual content) many Mormons will not like this book. However I'm sure there are some Mormons out there with a strong constitution and an interest in church history who will like it. I liked it even though it didn't stroke my beliefs any more than it strokes the beliefs of the Mormons (the only exmormon/apostate character being a misbehaving ne'er-do-well).

I should have moved to Estonia instead...
I can just picture myself spending the whole morning giggling while crafting the perfect line that is a subtle riff on some typical stereotype about Estonians. And then I picture my American audience reading it and going "Wha...? I don't get it..."

Post-Mormon perspectives
In short, I play the proverbial benevolent deity who gives her creations serious trials to overcome, but refuses to give them more than they can ultimately handle. Collins is more like the "cruel realities" deity who says to her creations "Oops, you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, so too bad for you." Wham!

My conspiracy theory!!!
As a cultural Mormon, I couldn't help but find it amusing that Brown sets out to show that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, which is a popular Mormon folk-doctrine that was taught by some early LDS church leaders. It wasn't until I read the whole book in all of its secrets-of-the-Templars glory that I saw how very perfectly the Mormons fit into the world Dan Brown set up!!!

Simpsons Proverbs
This is my all-time favorite Simpson's quote!!! I can't explain why -- I just know that when I heard that one from the toddler Ned Flanders, I couldn't stop laughing for weeks.

I've added this one to my everyday vocabulary. If something falls or gets spilled at our house, it's always "Whoops-a-doodle!"

However the most ridiculous part in my mind is that Diabolik makes his living stealing these famous, incredibly valuable jewels, yet in all the episodes I've read, I haven't seen any concern or explanation of how he manges to resell these objects for money. Yet Diabolik has as many gadgets as Batman or James Bond. To me it's not clear that he could really afford all these amazing gadgets just on the black-market value of stolen jewels. So I've developed my own theory that in his spare time he likes to steal stuff from Wallace and Gromit's house.

Thoughts on Jack Weyland
Basically you have to accept that this is the perspective that he's writing from if you want to read his work. It is written as light entertainment and instruction, and as such it is intended to be pleasant and affirming to the sensibilities of LDS readers.

My Ex is Having Sex with Rex!!!
Even though Jennifer is incredibly positive about pro-actively getting her own life in order and about giving number one top priority to her kids' well-being above all else, this book obviously ends up being a strong cautionary tale about why -- if you are a straight person -- you should not marry a gay person, imagining that somehow against all odds you'll find a way to make it work.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Spotlight on feminism, sexuality, and other politics

Today's batch is the naughtiest, most controversial set of them all!!!

The Mating Game: A primatologist looks at the mathematical community
Outsiders often think that mathematicians are all more or less equally dorky and socially maladjusted. To outsiders, perhaps they are! But not within their own society.

Girlhood Dreams
"Women's Lib" was all about crazy stuff like burning your bra (irresponsibly immodest and a fire hazard!) and forcing boys and girls to use the same bathroom by promoting something called the E.R.A. And who could be in favor of such obviously misguided foolishness? So like all good and reasonable Mormon families of the time, we were opposed to "Women's Lib."

Virginity -- once an asset, now a liability...
Mormonism confuses the issue because it trains people not to have any sex at all before marriage -- regardless of their natural inclinations. As a consequence, among faithful Mormons, it is nearly impossible for the couple to determine whether they are sexually compatible until after they've signed on for life.

Sexuality vs. Spirituality: Which is more intimate?
Now I'm actually glad I recorded this stuff in a sense because it is so alien to my normal personality that I would hardly believe I ever felt this way if I hadn't written it down.

An Immodest Proposal: sex on the first date?
There are guys out there who think that "nice girls don't" and that "women should be virgins until marriage," etc. This method eliminates those guys right off the bat too. Also eliminates closet gay guys. Hey, my time is valuable, people! I'm not so stingy about it, but I figure why should I waste three or four perfectly good evenings just to find out that I'm incompatible with some guy if I can do it in one?

Fertility, Mortality or Sex vs. Death
Now imagine that the disease and malnutrition death risk drops to one-in-five-thousand. Suddenly the one-in-five-hundred risk of accidental death is no longer a trivial side-note. It becomes worth your while to follow the kids closely to make sure nothing happens to them, even if it means a huge expenditure of time and energy.

Don't know much about the Middle East...
One night I went out drinking and partying with two of my girlfriends, both Jewish, in the Arab quarter of New Brunswick, as we loved to do!! Those were the days!!!

Confessions of a former Nader voter, part 1
Since Bush Jr. had demonstrated himself to be (if anything) even stupider, I figured he didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of getting elected. After all, I reasoned, even stupid people will say "Maybe for our leader we should choose someone who's not an idiot..."

Confessions of a former Nader voter, part 2
Between the election and the moment when Bush Jr. took office, my husband and I packed our bags and moved to France. It wasn't because of the election -- we'd been planning the move for more than a year -- but it probably looked bad. Like I was saying to my countrymen "Oops!! Sorry about that, guys. Umm... bye!"

Yes means yes
In a society where sexual expression is less stigmatized, men know that the women who want to have sex with them will feel perfectly comfortable and confident saying so. So when a guy meets up with a woman who says to him "No, I don't want to have sex with you," there is no confusion about it. The guy is less likely to doubt or try to second-guess her.

A feminist in favor of porn? Is that possible?
It's just a correlation, but this inverse correlation between porn and rape is strong enough that it's worth at least asking ourselves if maybe there's something to it. At the very least, it's compelling enough that -- if our real goal here is for women to be safer -- it warrants seriously re-analyzing the current feminist orthodoxy on the relationship between pornography and rape.

Think for yourself, starring the Internet and you!
Some will argue that the Internet is as good at spreading ignorance as it is at fighting ignorance since people can (and do) post tons of things that are false and wrong. Even wikipedia is riddled with errors. Or if it isn't I've just posted a false statement myself right here. ;^)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Spotlight on blogging, religion, and community

Today I'm gathering up my posts on blogging and how it relates to building a community.

Meta-blog: a blog entry about bloggin'
Also, just because a link appears here doesn't mean I necessarily endorse the site. Basically, in support of our fledgling exmo blog network, I gathered up all of the blog URLs that people posted to Exmo-Social and RfM, and I have not gone through all of the content carefully. That's why I put the disclaimer "follow at your own risk" above them. Then I put "follow at your own risk" over the other exmo links because Exmo-Social is full of "adult content", and RfM is full of "anti-Mormon content". Then I put "follow at your own risk" above my list of LDS blogs just because I didn't want them to feel left out. But really I've checked those out, and they're pretty tame and entertaining. Oh, I have to warn you though -- they're full of "LDS content".

If there's no solution, there's no problem.
A problem isn't just something that bothers/annoys/upsets you. A problem is something that you try to solve. If it is something that is by nature impossible for you to solve, then you stop trying to solve it. Then it is no longer a problem, it is rather something that you find a way to accept and deal with.

So I broke down and just alphabetized...
I would do that too, except that then it would take me friggin' forever to construct my sidebar. So instead I take more of an attitude of "Hey, you're on the Internet buddy!! If you don't want people reading your blog, then what the hell is it doing on the Internet?" That said, if anyone I've linked to objects to having a link from here to their blog, please comment below, and I'll be happy to remove it.

Exmo-Social is dead -- Long live Exmo-Social!!!
However, if there are any repectable people reading this post, I must warn you not to follow my sidebar link to Exmo-Social, and especially not to follow the sticky link to the old board!!! Please!!! I don't want to be liable for anyone's eyes popping out of their heads and exploding.

A visit from a celebrity exmo!!!
The picture I've posted is unfortunately the only picture I have of me with Rudi (taken by the waiter at the restaurant where we went to lunch). I say unfortunately because even though Rudi looks adorable, I look like crap (which is what really counts -- this is my blog after all dangit!), which is why I made the photo super, extra small. In hopes that it would be very difficult for you to see it.

Religion and getting along...
Here on the exmo blogs, I figure I can post whatever the hell I please as a comment (you guys have maybe picked up on this), but over there, I'm a little like the wicked witch of the West (or East?) -- outside of my realm I have to be careful that nobody drops a house on me. ;-)

Bloggernaclin' blues
That's why normally I try to avoid giving advice on the Bloggernacle. I assume most Bloggernaclers are open minded enough to consider my suggestions fairly, but I'd just as soon not cause confusion by making people ask themselves when I'm speaking as a person and when I'm speaking as an agent of Satan.

Rudi's version
I bought this wine a few times so I could take a picture of the bottle for my blog (so you can all see that I'm not just making this up), but I thought it would be prettier to photograph it while the bottle was still full, and the timing never really worked out on that.

So here's a picture of me playing with play-doh with my kids instead.

People from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania,
Yes, after joking around about Estonia here and here, I finally got some feedback from a real Estonian!!! And not just an Estonian, but an Estonian exmo!!!

Recovery, Self-Discovery, Community
It's true that the first part -- "ex" -- is a negative, but the second part -- "Mormon" -- isn't. Many people who have been Mormon refuse to identify as anything that has anything to do with the word Mormon. So to identify as "exmormon" (or "exmo") is as much a way of saying "Mormonism has been a part of my life" as it is a way of saying "I am not Mormon".

Blogs that get songs stuck in my head
I read that blog and ten minutes later I catch my stupid brain singing to me Simon and Garfunkel strains of "Hello Waffles, my old friend... I've come to talk with you again..."

My friend, the Internet...
Now if it ever happens one day that there's nothing left of me but a disembodied brain in a jar hooked up to the Internet, then I'm sure I'll become a regular on several forums in addition to blogging. (Guys, please don't try to pretend that you never plan what you'll do if you're ever reduced to nothing but a disembodied brain in a jar.) But for the moment, my system is to focus on blogging only.


Update: On a related note, I just noticed I've been added to Mojoey's atheist blogroll, so I'll be adding those guys to my sidebar as soon as I figure out how to do it... :D

Spotlight on my family

Today we have all of the posts on what a cool family I come from!!! :D

Me, on Star Trek!!!
Here I am as the Vulcan captain of the U.S.S. Galois, the starship I commanded for the fifteen-episode community cable Star Trek parody that my brother and I wrote and produced.

Cute Mormon Kid Drawings...
Mormon pioneers head west amid much persecution and volcanos.

The Tacky Prom!!!
Here we see her blowing a kiss to the little people in gratitude as she accepts the title of "Tacky Prom Queen":

Family history: we're different.
My mom's dad was born and raised in Utah and came from pioneer stock tracing back to Nauvoo, etc., but in some ways he was like an import or infusion of official history into a clan that was strongly centered in Illinois. My mother's mother's family all lived together in the same area long enough to ensure that our oral tradition has always centered around my great-grandfather: my mother's mother's father Grandpa G, who converted to the LDS church in the 1920's.

This will be fabulous!!! or a total disaster...
Apparently the Catholic church used to be more picky about insisting that both the bride and groom be Catholic in order to have a Catholic wedding (the bride is Catholic), but they've lately taken more of a "well, better than nothing" attitude. According to my mom, my little brother and his wife passed a special Catholic church wedding prep course, which Mom explained was "like a temple recommend" (except that it's just for the bride and groom, not the entire guest list).

Back from Scotland!!!
I think the problem is that the one white lie that's allowed in our culture is "No really, you look great. Seriously."

D'ooh!!! If only one honest person had said to me "No. Go put on the other dress."

Men in kilts!!!
This is the cool thing about Scottish formal-wear -- for once it's the guys that get the fun of accessorizing!!! Check out those man-purses they get to wear. (I learned the correct term for these, but I promptly forgot it because I liked "man-purse" better.)

The second stupidest thing I did in Scotland
I'm not doing it justice -- it was hilarious the way she told it!!! Everyone in this whole family is a jokemeister. Well, my siblings anyway -- my parents are kind of boring. (Kidding!!! Don't tell them I said that...)

Wedding in Brittany
I'm not recounting this story because I think it's cool or something. In truth I shouldn't be posting such a story to the Internet at all. But, I mean, nobody's really reading this, are they? Clearly in the wrong hands the Internet is a dangerous tool. Somebody stop me before I post again!!! ;-)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Spotlight on Mormonism

Today I'm gathering up my posts on Mormonism!!!

The Mishies and Me: Cultural Mormon nostalgia
Those of you who live in Utah are constantly reminded of Mormonism, so a subtle distinction like whether a given person believes it's real or not seems like a big deal to you. But here in France, Mormonism is so freakishly rare that it makes sense that all of us "cultural Mormons" should stick together.

Cultural Mormon: Who are these apostates coming down, coming down?
This may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes the apostates are even more offended by the sex talk than the Mormons. This is because I'm promoting the negative stereotype that people who leave the church are mostly depraved perverts.

So for the sake of my apostate friends, I feel compelled to tell you all that I do not necessarily represent the typical apostate. Many apostates are just as somber out of the church as they ever were in it. And I personally know plenty of apostates who are not at all sex maniacs nor hard-core partiers. Too bad for them, really, but to each his own.

Authentic faith-promoting anecdote for my LDS friends
I'm copying it here because it made me laugh, and hopefully I won't accidentally strenghten anyone's testimony with it... ;-)

Standing up for Your (Former) Beliefs
If the kids take up a religion once they're grown, whether we like it or not there's not a whole lot we can do about it. Sure we could threaten to disown them, but that's not really realistic. We have only two kids. We can't go around disowning them willy-nilly over trivialities like what religions they choose for themselves. If we did, we'd pretty quickly find ourselves with no kids at all, and then who would we annoy during our golden years? Think about that.

Cults vs. cult-like behavior
Now I'm not ignorant of the dangers of blind, unquestioning, overzealous obedience to authority. I'm just not convinced that the danger is something unique to organizations that fit a particular list of list of cult criteria.

The Mishies and Me II: The Revenge
For my husband's sake, I kept a very close eye on the mishies to make sure they weren't surreptitiously teaching Leo to sing "I Hope They Call Me on a Mission". I almost think it would have been kind of funny if they had taught him to sing that, but only because I have a really perverse sense of humor. Of course I wouldn't be laughing so hard anymore seventeen years later when LDS Inc. sends my little Leo to Bolivia or something, so I guess it's just as well that the mishies didn't try to indoctrinate him.

The Mishies and Me: The Rest of the Story
Inevitably, they asked me why I stopped believing. I gave them some variant on my usual response, which is the following: "Look, I don't want to debate you on this. I've looked at the questions of god existing and the Book of Mormon being true and all that, and for me the evidence just isn't there. But I assume you've already heard all of the same arguments, so it's pointless for me to repeat them to you. I understand that these are hard questions, so it doesn't bother me if other people come up with a different solution than mine."

More musings on mishies
But really, I try to avoid taking the attitude of "Aren't you the cutest little thing? When you grow up, you'll see it's all a fairy tale." Because that does nothing but insult them.

They're adults, off on their own (sort of), and have chosen to go through this difficult-yet-wacky rite of passage. And I have no particular reason to think that any of the ones I talk to will ever leave the church.

What? I'm not an apostate???
So for (1), even though I talk publicly about the LDS church in my blog and novel, it's not so much "opposition" as it is random snide comments and amusing anecdotes. For (2), if people ask me questions about what Mormons believe I'll answer them, and if any of my responses are inaccurate, at least no "bishop or higher authority" has told me to cut it out. For (3) I'm guessing that neither "Outer Blogness" nor Exmo-Social count as "apostate sects" because they sure as hell haven't encouraged me to practice polygamy...

What would have happened?
In my opinion, a few people watching the interview would have said "Hmm, that's pretty weird," and that would have been the end of it. I don't think that such an interview would have made a single negative blip for the LDS church on the news scene. Because none of it is news. Everyone knows that different religions believe different things, and the doctrines of Mormonism aren't a secret.

A nice compliment...
Okay, so I'm not so keen on the "evil" part, but I like the characterization of exmormons as the type of people who respond with lots of questions when taught bizarre things.

Jewish kids at Christmas...
It's a complicated situation, but I think everyone can understand some of the emotions involved for the kids -- the mixed feelings of wanting to be true to your traditions and people while on some level feeling like it might be nice to join in what's going on in the outside world instead of having to be different all the time.

my excommunication
I remember thinking this was pretty cool but wondering why my patriarichal blessing said nothing about this calling if it was important enough for an angel to intervene. But, y'know, those patriarichal blessings are really hit-or-miss sometimes....

In theory, the book might still have been originally written for Americans since Americans also occasionally go on trips to Paris. But the clincher was the page of ideas on how to beautifully set off one's photos of little boys peeing against a tree.

Perhaps you think I'm joking. If only I were joking. Sadly, I am not joking.

A handy guide to different types of Mormons
inactive Mormon: Someone who is listed as a member on the LDS church records but is MIA as far as the LDS church is concerned. Theoretically this applies mostly to people who might be "reactivated", however in practice it could be anything. Including dead.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Spotlight on reminiscences

Today I've collected up all of the posts where I recount my (now legendary ;-) ) past exploits...

Personal Progress '89
This little "improvement" I made to one of the pictures in my "Personal Progress" workbook as a teen illustrates a bit about what I thought of these lovely rewards:

Youth Conference 1986
The boys of our ward had escorted us to the dance, all except Scott. They had done a hopelessly lousy job of it. The boys walked ahead in a glob and the girls walked in a glob behind.

My mother, being a chaperone there, was determined that the girls should escort the boys to the next one, to show them how it's done, and to be polite and return the favor.

"If the church weren't true, I'd be an atheist" and other things I learned in seminary....
One morning I awoke from my usual early-morning-seminary stupor to find that Sister Intellectual was talking about the lack of unbiased historical evidence for the existence of Jesus.

Little girls, little girls, everywhere I turn...
Again because I have no shame, I'm reposting a bunch of immature stuff I wrote in my journal when I was 11 years

Why I hate church
Basically, my little friends and I would ask ourselves the following question: "Am I cold, tired, hungry, uncomfortable, bored, and have to go to the bathroom?" If the answer to that question was yes, we knew we were at church.

The Land Far-and-a-Half Away
When we got there, there were no people on the beach. So we decided to collect snail shells.

Then Johnny said "What a land, it's far-and-a-half away."

Suddenly a snail popped its head out of its shell. It wasn't a snail at all. Its head was so hairy all you could see was his eyes.

Naked People at Rutgers
The premise was that my main characters were transfer students representing a "clothing optional culture" (in California).

Naked People at Rutgers II
I'm not sure why I stopped drawing this comic strip after the second episode, but I think it was probably just that I ran out ideas. Basically, the whole point of the comic is "See? They're naked!!! Hahahahahahahahaha!!!"

I was able to milk that for two strips worth of material.

Celtic Knotwork
I used to joke around with my friends that this is the perfect hobby for me because it's Celtic and it's not work.

Hehe!! I'm such a jokemeister!!!

Maybe if I'd spent more time in grad school doing math rather than joke-smithing, learning French, and otherwise goofing off I'd be a Mathematician today rather than a code monkey... Ah, well, no sense worrying about it now...

Greetings from the planet Zoltron!
Yep, normally I try to hide that special triangular antenna I have on my head that I use to contact the planet Zoltron.

My deconversion, part 1: background
I was kind of a classic nerd, so Mormonism's "hip to be square" attitude fit my personality.

My deconversion, part 2: the evidence
This was a terrible blow, to learn that the physical evidence had been hidden away as a shameful thing and to hear an upsetting hint as to why.

My deconversion, part 3: the tipping point
She believed the stories her parents taught her with all her heart.

And her parents' stories and my parents' stories couldn't both be right.

This is me...
I've posted a lot of naughty things on this blog, and I'll probably post more, so I just thought that for balance I should post some photos to demonstrate how wholesome I really am!!!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Spotlight on family, motherhood, and work

Well folks, my one year blogaversary is coming up in a week (I'm counting from when I first started writing "Letters from a broad..." as a column in the defunct Utah Valley Monitor).

In honor of my blogaversary, and in honor of the fact that these blogger blogs don't provide a built-in topic index, I'm going to be spending the next week reviewing my favorite blog entries by topic.

In each case, I'm starting with the oldest ones, which aren't necessarily the best...

If that seems shockingly self-indulgent, remember this is a blog. ;-)

The first topic is family, motherhood, and work:

Programmer Technophobe
For example, instead of a portable computer or PDA, I like to bring an old-fashioned paper notebook with me to take notes during meetings. This is mostly because I don't like to take notes during meetings. As far as I'm concerned, it's bad enough I have to sit there and listen to it the first time. A paper and pen is much more convenient for the kind of notes I like to take, which mostly consist of portraits of the other people who are also stuck in the same meeting. Now, when notebook computers get really good at saving drawings -- and add a feature so that they flip immediately from the drawing to something that looks work-related as soon as someone looks over my shoulder -- I'll for sure go out and get one. That's the kind of life-enhancing convenience that a really good gadget would provide in my ideal world.

Horrific Voyage: With two little kids, everywhere is a No-Fly Zone
The story I'm going to tell you is a true story. I have to apologize in advance for the fact that even though it's on the humor page, it's not very funny, or at least it wasn't at the time. You might get a laugh out of it if you subscribe to the theory that "comedy is tragedy plus distance" and/or if you're a big fan of the type of comedy where somebody steps on the end of a rake and the handle swings up and smacks them in the head. I'll tell you the story, and you can decide.

The Christian establishment hasn't always been so gung-ho to embrace its best-loved holiday. Notably, the Puritan pilgrims outlawed the celebration of Christmas. They invented the holiday "Thanksgiving" as a replacement to put a stop to all the partying, fun-having, and other pagan customs traditionally associated with the yuletide season. So if you were wondering why Thanksgiving is such a lame holiday, that's why.

We're all about trains at my house!!!
Normally I love to travel, but I've been feeling so lazy recently that I ended up just spending my whole vacation in my pajamas playing with trains, as you can see from the following photographic evidence.

Happy Easter!!!
Now if you're new to this blog, you're probably wondering "Hey, if she's an atheist, what's she doing celebrating the festival of the goddess Astarte??"

Baby's day in Bordeaux
By Bordeaux reckoning, we live on the third floor, but by U.S. reckoning, it's the fifth floor, and some of the floors have extra high ceilings. You may wonder how they can calculate it as being only the third floor. This is because, for starters, in Europe the ground floor does not count as a floor. Then, in Bordeaux in particular, if the next floor does not have an extra high ceiling, then it doesn't count either. It's just the "entresol" or "in between floor".

Trains, trains, and more trains!!!
Additionally I think it's pretty clear that James (the red engine) is gay. Now I hope my gay readers won't think I'm stereotyping here by saying that James kind of sets off my gaydar and not just because he's the most beautiful of all of the engines. But since the kids are clearly supposed to identify with these little anthropomorphic trains, I would just as soon go with the interpretation that one of them is gay. I even mentioned to my kids that James is gay. They have no idea what that means, but they can make a note of it for future reference.

Bonne Fête, Maman !
I like to call this one "I'm cute, but my mommy dresses me funny"

Why I'm a bad mom, part 1
After watching Shrek II I don't know how many hundred million times, I thought it would be funny to teach my son Nicolas that the correct, polite thing to say after you burp is "Better out than in I always say, eh Fiona?"

Questions on parenting boys...
Oh, and they told me I was the daddy of both dolls. So I guess my kids think I'm some sort of incestuous transgender polygamist... (Let's see what google searches that line attracts to my blog!!! Hehe!!!)

Sunday morning in the South of France
photos only

I'm on the Mommy track!!!
I was telling my mom about my new schedule the other day, and she said that this homemaking day will fill up so quickly I won't know how I ever did without it. I replied that I already don't know how I'm doing without it -- I sincerely have no idea how other families with small kids where both parents work full-time keep their house from slowly (but surely) disintegrating...

On vacation...
photos only

At-home-vacation Travelogue
First of all, we took the kids to some medieval castles. I couldn't help but feel like this outing would have gone better if we'd brought Mike & John with us to tell us some interesting historical tidbits about the castles and such, since they know a lot about history. Left to our own devices, we were basically like "Hmmm, look at that -- a castle from the middle ages. Isn't that interesting?" Sure, we could have looked up stuff about these castles on our own before visiting them, but hey, we're on vacation!!

A creation myth by Nicolas
Nico: (after thinking about it a bit) Yes... There was a great big water bottle, and it spilled on the sand and made the sea!

So there you have it. And that's why the sea is made of water. ;^)

Monday, September 18, 2006

This is me...

I've posted a lot of naughty things on this blog, and I'll probably post more, so I just thought that for balance I should post some photos to demonstrate how wholesome I really am!!!

Here's a photo of me as a BYU student. See if you can find me in this picture:

Here I am as a grad student:

Here I've finally graduated, with that Ph.D. in hand!!! Woo-Hoo!!! :D

My mom earned her master's degree in journalism at the same time, and we got some great photos of the two of us as graduates together!!! She's LDS though, so I'm not sure she wants me posting photos of her on this blog, as if she endorses it or something... (She's even hotter than I am, by the way... ;-) )

Here's a picture from my wedding reception:

A little later in the evening:

Same couple, ten months later:

(Yeah, I know, we were embarrassingly conventional on the timing of that first kid, but what can you do?)

Speaking of how cool the Internet is....

It looks like The Foyer has started up a new aggregator for fringe Mormon and exmormon blogs for your convenience here!!!

Also, please have a look at floating in the milk!!! If I understand correctly ;-) this is the blog of a personal friend of mine from my BYU daze!!! :D

Saturday, September 16, 2006

My friend, the Internet...

In a recent post I told you guys a bunch of abstract, idealistic reasons for why I love the Internet. But really, it's more than that -- it's personal.

Let's face it: making friends in real life typically requires planning and big blocks of free time either to go out or to clean up the house and invite people over. And if you have a job and/or kids (or even if you don't) you don't necessarily have oodles of free time to go out and socialize as much as you might like. Then you have the obstacle of finding someone else whose free time matches up with yours, who doesn't live too far away, and hopefully shares some sort of interests with you. Sheesh, it's a wonder people in tho olden days were able to make friends at all...

Today whenever you find yourself with ten minutes or an hour to spare, you can pull up your cup of coffee (or whatever refreshing beverage you enjoy with your friends) and see what all of your virtual amigos are up to on your favorite blogs and forums.

True it's not the same as going out for a drink with your friends for real. But I don't see it as a substitute for real life socializing as much as it is a supplement and a resource. I spend as much time on real-life socializing today as I did before I discovered the Internet. But back then (without all my cyberbuds) I just had that many fewer friends. Plus I've met people in person that I met first online, and my Internet antics have helped me reconnect and stay in touch with family members and old friends.

Now you're probably going "Yeah right, Chanson, fess up -- the real reason you love the Internet is because of all the porn!!"

But in truth I'm not really interested in the porn. What I really like is talking about porn!!! The porn itself is okay -- I can take it or leave it -- but I can discuss porn theory all day long. Seriously. Try me. I think a lot of other feminists are the same way.

Considering how much I love the Internet, you may be wondering why I've essentially given up posting on forums (despite my recent visits to The Foyer and NOMs). It's really just a question of time. Blogging alone occupies more time than I ought to be wasting on the Internet, and if I added regular participation in a forum or two on top of that, I wouldn't have time to do anything else at all.

Now if it ever happens one day that there's nothing left of me but a disembodied brain in a jar hooked up to the Internet, then I'm sure I'll become a regular on several forums in addition to blogging. (Guys, please don't try to pretend that you never plan what you'll do if you're ever reduced to nothing but a disembodied brain in a jar.) But for the moment, my system is to focus on blogging only.

The main reason I ultimately chose blogging over forums is because I feel like it's easier to expand my social network outside of the boundaries of one particular forum.

The way I see it, a forum is a little like a town square (hence the name) where everyone has a megaphone and they're all talking to each other at once. A blog is more like a backyard barbecue where you go because you like the host, and maybe you'll see other people you know there, but maybe not.

The trouble is that it's incredibly time-consuming to live in even two or three towns to the point where you feel like you know the people there and understand what's going on. Then you may have friends you'd like to stay in touch with who aren't interested in moving to your favorite town, but who might be willing to occasionally stop by your backyard barbecue instead. Similarly, since I have interests besides exmormonism (hard to believe, but true!), it's easy for me to swing by non-LDS-related mathematician or other topic blogs on my blog-visiting rounds.

Another advantage to blogs is that they seem somewhat less prone to fighting and feuds than forums are. In blog space, if two people hate each other, they can just avoid visiting each other's blogs. But if they're on the same forum, they can't help but be constantly in each other's faces. A classic example is that unfortunate perpetual feud over on RfM between the religious and non-religious. I don't want to blame any individuals involved -- I really think that it's just a case where they've spent too much time disagreeing in a space where it's very hard to tune each other out. Then it escalates and ends up giving occasional visitors an inaccurate negative impression of both Christian and atheist exmos...

One advantage of a forum over a blog is that you tend to get more back-and-forth discussion among the participants. Plus you get more of a sense of community because you know that everybody there knows everybody else. But that isn't quite enough to tip the scale in favor of forums over blogging, so I probably won't be more than an occasional forum visitor again until I magically get a whole lot more free time (hopefully not through having my brain disembodied, but if it comes down to that, we'll see...).

Of course it looks like a lot of people participate on multiple forums and blogs in the great network of cultural Mormons. Once you participate somewhere in this network, you're likely to run into people you know and who know each other wherever you go. So even if it's only virtual, it's kind of like a community. :D

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Blogs that get songs stuck in my head

The two worst offenders are the following:

First of all, Sam-I-Am, over on Feminist, Economist is a really cool blogger, but every single time I load her blog I get that "Philosopher Song" from Monty Python stuck in my head. It's because her co-blogger is called "John Stewart Mill." This only goes to show how un-ed-juh-ma-kated I am, that the only thing I have filed under "John Stuart Mill" in my associative memory is "Bruces' Philosophers Song." ;-)

The other one is Hello Waffles.

I read that blog and ten minutes later I catch my stupid brain singing to me Simon and Garfunkel strains of "Hello Waffles, my old friend... I've come to talk with you again..."

Then I ask myself "Why? Why? Why???"

It's obvious that he's doing a riff on "Hello Kitty," not "Hello darkness"!!!


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Wedding in Brittany

I should probably be gushing about the bride's beautiful dress or the gorgeous scenery in Brittany, but -- although both were lovely -- the main reason I thought my husband's sister's wedding was fabulous was that the reception was held in the same hotel where the out-of-town family guests were staying. So we got to spend the whole weekend socializing with all of the grown-ups, and there were plenty of relatives around to fuss over my little Nico and Leo and play with them.

Our hotel was mostly filled with the Dutch side of the family. You probably didn't know that my little family has a Dutch contingent, but it does. The thing is that my kids' "French grandma" is naturalized French but originally Dutch, from the southern (Catholic) part of the Netherlands. Her siblings are close and lots of fun to hang out with.

Of course, since the Dutch relatives all speak very good French or very good English (but not necessarily both) -- and since my husband and I don't speak Dutch -- the whole weekend we had a trilingual conversation going on in which there were always a few people confused and a few people translating...

My husband's father's line is the side of the family that actually (mostly) comes from France. This was a bit of a family history trip for that line since they're from Brittany, and the wedding was held in the family's traditional parish church. We visited my husband's grandmother's grave in the churchyard.

Here's Leo climbing on the monument to the soldiers from this parish killed in World War I. If you look closely, you can see Leo's great-great uncle's name carved on this face.

The church was beautiful -- it was one of those typical old French Catholic churches with a vaulted stone ceiling, stained glass, and artwork inside and out. I can't report much on the mass or the wedding ceremony since Leo was only able to sit through the first ten minutes before creating a massive disruption. It was just as well. Even though it's half a world away, after ten minutes of sitting on the hard wooden pews and hearing the same well-worn passages recited from the New Testament, my latent unruly-toddler-is-a-good-excuse-to-go-out response started to kick in. Like riding a bicycle -- you never really forget how it works. ;-)

I was a little disappointed that I missed seeing whether or not my husband ended up taking communion. He was worried that since he was up on the stand as part of the wedding party (and since the groom's family is apparently very religious) his sister might want him to take it just to keep up appearances. I assume he didn't though since the church didn't get struck by lightning or anything.

The one thing I was really sad to have missed was the song performed by my husband's cousin, the opera singer. From outside in the church yard, I could hear him well enough to tell that his performance was beautiful, but not well enough to really appreciate it.

Here the math-professor-looking guy on the left is my husband, and the dashing young celebrity-looking guy on the right is his cousin. I don't know who that lady scowling at you is.

On to the reception, the dinner was delicious, the wine and champagne superb, and the ambiance convivial. They even provided a babysitter so we could periodically check on our little naughty guys without missing the grown-up party.

And I drank in such moderation! You guys would be impressed at the moderation with which I drank. Not like at that previous big Catholic wedding (my little brother's wedding in Scotland). That's the thing about alcohol at weddings -- it makes the atmosphere more lively and social overall, but there's usually somebody who overdoes it and makes a fool of themselves, and I really hate it when that person is me. (I don't know if there was somebody like that at this wedding since we went to bed before the party got going.)

You may remember I told you the second stupidest thing I did in Scotland was to miss my flight. I was surprised that nobody asked me what the very stupidest thing was, since to top that it clearly must have been a doozy.

It goes something like this: "Since I'm here in Scotland, I should sample a few glasses of this lovely scotch whiskey even though I've already had plenty of wine with dinner..."

I ended up missing the whole dancing part because I had to go lie down (in another room from the party, but still at the reception) and proceeded to throw up the whiskey and everything else. My little brother was nice about it -- reminding me the next day how he drank too much and threw up all night after my wedding reception (in the chateaux where my whole family was staying). I was pretty pissed off at myself though that at the age of thirty-four I would still be making such an error about my drinking limits, and at a beautiful wedding reception no less.

I'm not recounting this story because I think it's cool or something. In truth I shouldn't be posting such a story to the Internet at all. But, I mean, nobody's really reading this, are they? Clearly in the wrong hands the Internet is a dangerous tool. Somebody stop me before I post again!!! ;-)

But at least I learned my lesson well enough to be on good behavior for my husband's family even if I wasn't for my own...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Republicans' deal with the devil

I just got back from a four-day weekend in Brittany -- another big family Catholic wedding -- where I had a fantastic time!!! I'm planning to tell you all about it, but it will take me a few days to write it up.

In the meantime, for your reading pleasure, I'd like to highlight a series of articles that was posted as a comment here recently:

Brad Hicks, a graduate of a Fundamentalist Christan Academy (High School), wrote an interesting five-and-a-half part series arguing that the theology of the right-wing-theocracy-promoting Republicans is the opposite of what Jesus taught, indeed is closer to Satanism.

Christians in the Hand of an Angry God: Part 1
Christians in the Hand of an Angry God: Part 2
Christians in the Hand of an Angry God: Part 3
Christians in the Hand of an Angry God: Part 4
Christians in the Hand of an Angry God: Part 5

Bonus: The Evangelical pastor who wouldn't preach the Republican party line.

This series of articles is focused on Christian Fundamentalists (doesn't address Mormonism), so since mine is an LDS-interest blog, I'll just add a minor Mormon-related comment:

In the grand Christan debate of grace-vs-works, Mormons lean heavily towards the "works" end of the spectrum, whereas modern Fundamentalists and Evangelicals lean so far in the grace direction that (if I understand their position correctly) they argue that -- aside from accepting Jesus as your savior -- nothing you do has any relevance to your salvation. The author of these articles argues that this extremist grace position ignores important teachings of Christ from the gospels. Of course he also argues that the type of works Jesus requires for salvation involve feeding the poor, not all of those other commandments the Mormons are so fond of...

Then, for fun, let's look at a question from the antipode on the world of American politics and religion: Are outspoken atheists screwing things up for the Democrats? This blogger says no, go have a look for yourself. :D

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Think for yourself, starring the Internet and you!

I try to be a little wary of the idea that progress is always good; that human history is a parade of advances and improvements. Really, some innovations are good and some are not so good.

When it comes to the Internet though, I just can't contain my optimism!!!

My love song for the Internet goes a little like this:

Tyranny thrives on ignorance; so do intolerance and hate and the violence they inspire. The antidote is education, and the Internet can distribute a good dose of it.

Some will argue that the Internet is as good at spreading ignorance as it is at fighting ignorance since people can (and do) post tons of things that are false and wrong. Even wikipedia is riddled with errors. Or if it isn't I've just posted a false statement myself right here. ;^)

But I think that the Internet is a huge boon to educating masses of ordinary people for two main reasons:

1. The Internet gives people access to a wide range of perspectives from outside their own social/comfort zone that they would not have access to otherwise.

2. The Internet trains people to think critically for themselves.

And as a bonus, we have #3: It's so much fun that you end up learning things without even trying to.

Why do I think the Internet encourages people to think for themselves?

Think about how mass media works. Whether it's television, radio, books, newspapers, magazines, etc., you are encouraged to absorb. Sure you might analyze the information you've absorbed, but there's no real motivation to do so. Mass media divides the population into the producers of knowledge and the consumers of it, and never the twain shall meet.

Traditional media encourages the belief that "if it's in print, it's true," or alternately "Accurate unbiased news comes from a few established sources and everything else is the wacky fringe." It costs money to produce and distribute books, TV programs, etc., so media companies typically have an interest in building a reputation for being accurate and unbiased in order to build an audience. That's a good thing, but it means that if you question every newscast -- complaining about how much they aren't telling you -- the average person will lump you in the same category with crackpot conspiracy theorists.

Really it's better to keep in mind that there's an ocean of stories out there that aren't covered by the trickle of the standard media stream. Traditional news sources deserve your respect inasmuch as they earn it with careful, thorough reporting. But even when reading the big stories from reputable sources, it's beneficial to see multiple perspectives side-by-side (as you get in response to a search query or see in the comments of a blog entry). It forces you to assess for yourself who is the most credible and whose arguments make the most sense. It trains you pick up on hints of bias in even largely unbiased sources.

What's more, if you participate in blogs and forums, you get immediate positive feedback for coming up with original, intelligent, and insightful comments. You also get immediate positive feedback for thinking your ideas through carefully so you can express them clearly and concisely. Rambling or regurgitating an undigested party line will get your comments ignored. The result is daily exercise for your critical thinking skills.

Some people only like to frequent sites that cater to their own point of view. This encourages groupthink if the site succeeds in suppressing other viewpoints. However, on the Internet you're really never more than a click or two away from an opposing view, and many are tempted to make those few stray clicks. Additionally, even sites that cater to one viewpoint typically allow opposing comments: as a close-at-hand example, look at how the members of the Bloggernacle and of Outer Blogness cross-post on each other's blogs.

On the Internet, you're constantly presented with unfamiliar viewpoints even if you're not actively looking for them. Here's a typical example taken from my everyday blog reading. The permabloggers -- all with a similar background to each other -- were discussing violence in the Middle East with an understandable American "it's far away" attitude when they were confronted by someone with personal friends in the middle East urging them to remember that the "collateral damage" civilians are people too.

In blog-and-forum-space, you're encouraged to respond to unfamiliar viewpoints. That requires you to think about them and about your own position.

Now you might be saying "Chanson, you crazy optimist you -- most people are not discussing serious issues or current events at all online: they're exchanging pokemons and celebrity gossip!!!"

I contend that even reading and posting nothing but fluff to the Internet trains people to broaden their horizons.

Regardless of what everyone says about the deplorable spelling, grammar, and punctuation on the Internet, regular exercise at reading and writing improves one's composition skills.

More importantly -- even if your activities on the Internet are purely social -- you will almost certainly be socializing with people outside your usual real-life social boundaries. By that I mean you'll make friends people who are different from you in one or more of the following ways: economic class, education level, race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, age, and other similar social barriers that make it unlikely you would have met your Internet friends in real life. And no matter how open and tolerant you are intellectually, it is nearly impossible to learn deep down that those outside your familiar group are just ordinary people like you unless you actually meet them. There's no substitute for it -- it's the true antidote for bigotry.

I'll bet your "think for yourself" reflex is kicking in right now. You disagree with me? Then you're planning your insightful objection in your mind, working out just the right way to phrase it. Then you'll post it and everyone can decide what they think of your position.

If you were reading this in a magazine, that wouldn't be the case.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A handy guide to different types of Mormons

I'm sure all of these are covered by Wikipedia ;-) but I'd like to post my own impressions of what the different terms mean. I don't claim to be the world's leading expert, so everyone feel free to correct me, clarify, and add to this list.

faithful Mormon, believing Mormon, true-believing Mormon (TBM): Someone who believes in Mormonism and practices it (especially the SLC-based LDS church). Typically has a "testimony".

active Mormon: Someone who attends LDS church regularly -- at least once a month -- and fulfills callings.

inactive Mormon: Someone who is listed as a member on the LDS church records but is MIA as far as the LDS church is concerned. Theoretically this applies mostly to people who might be "reactivated", however in practice it could be anything. Including dead.

jack Mormon, jackmo: Someone who believes in Mormonism but does not practice. This term is especially applied to believers who ignore important commandments such as the "Word of Wisdom" and the "law of chastity."

New Order Mormon (NOM): Someone who disbelieves key doctrines of Mormonism yet actively chooses to practice Mormonism.

Liberal Mormon: Somewhere between the "when the prophet speaks, the thinking has been done" crowd and the New Order Mormons. Includes many TBMs as well as many readers of the magazine Sunstone.

Bloggernaccler or Naccler: Soumeone who regularly frequents the LDS-themed blogs. On average, they tend to be liberal Mormons.

Utah Mormon: A Mormon from Utah. Amusing stereotypes abound, especially involving funeral potatoes, "creative" first names, and saying "Oh my heck!"

mission-field Mormon: A Mormon who grew up or lives in a place with hardly a Mormon in sight.

exmormon, exmo, ex-Mormon: Someone who used to believe in Mormonism but doesn't anymore. Usually excommunicated or "resigned" but not necessarily.

post-Mormon: Same as exmormon. This term is sometimes preferred by those who feel that the term "exmormon" has negative connotations.

anti-Mormon: Someone who deliberately opposes and fights against the LDS church.

fundamentalist Mormon or Mormon fundamentalist: A member of one of the sects that broke from the SLC-based LDS church over the doctrine of polygamy. (The LDS church discourages use of this term, but it is commonly understood in practice.)

apostate: Someone who has fallen away from the church. There is some confusion as to precisely who fits into this category. Whether it's exmormons, anti-Mormons, fundamentalist Mormons, members of the SLC-based LDS church, or people who have fallen away from some entirely different religion really depends on who you're talking to...

ethnic Mormon: A multi-generational Mormon, especially a descendant of Mormon pioneers and/or polygamists.

(Mormon) convert: Someone who converted to Mormonism from some other religion or world-view.

Community of Christ, Strangite, Bickertonite, etc.: I don't know all of the terms for the members of other restoration churches -- any help would be appreciated.

cultural Mormon: All of the above.

Monday, September 04, 2006

More carnival fun!!!

This is so cool -- my little mishie story just got included in the 48th Carnival of the Godless!!!

That makes three carnivals I've been in now, including the feminist carnival Friday Femmes Fatales No 57 and of course the Carnival of the Veil.

Next up I need to find myself a carnival of Star-Trek-nerd mommies or maybe a carnival of expats who like to make fun of their new countries... ;-)

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Recovery, Self-Discovery, Community

I won't grow up. So what if I'm going to be thirty-five in two weeks and have taken on adult responsibilities? (job, committed relationship, kids, mortgage...)

I don't ever want to stop reinventing myself. And reinventing myself requires knowing the raw me that I'm starting from; constantly reassessing who I am, what I've done, who I've been.

That's why I'm never been partial to the recovery model in which "recovering" means getting to the point of never thinking about or speaking about Mormonism again. I don't feel like I need to forget my past in order to move forward.

Changing your world-view always entails some difficulty, pain, and disorientation. If you're in a state where Mormonism is haunting you against your will -- in your home, in your family, in your mind -- then "recovery" is the best word for what you need. And a support network of fellow exmormons is a good place to turn for help. But for former Mormons to continue to contemplate Mormonism on their own terms is normal and healthy. To believe otherwise is to grant that those who leave the church must leave it alone and have no right to their own past.

I think that recovery is only one part of why exmos befriend each other online. To me it's one of three main facets of exmormonism on the Internet: recovery, self-discovery, and community.

JLO's fun new "Know your blogger" feature is a great illustration of how these three aspects of Internet exmormonism work together: by sharing feelings and experiences related to recovery, we build friendships and community. Check out his first three installments: Fiddley Gomme, The Sinister Porpoise, and A New Eric.

(And while you're at it, don't forget to check out the last few installments of "Carnival of the Veil": here and here.)

Making positive social connections with interesting people is a big part of what blogging and forums are about for me. So it always surprises me to see how many people see the word "exmormon" as a negative way to identify yourself (as JLO discovered here -- not to pick on that one blogger or anything, I hope she'll join our community).

It's true that the first part -- "ex" -- is a negative, but the second part -- "Mormon" -- isn't. Many people who have been Mormon refuse to identify as anything that has anything to do with the word Mormon. So to identify as "exmormon" (or "exmo") is as much a way of saying "Mormonism has been a part of my life" as it is a way of saying "I am not Mormon". It means admitting to be a type of cultural Mormon along with active Mormons, jack-Mormons, etc.

Another reason that "exmo" is seen as a negative term is because a lot of exmo bonding looks like bonding over griping. But I think it's typical for friends to bond over griping when they have shared gripes. It's a way to share sympathy and solutions.

If you follow my blog, it should be pretty obvious by now how self-serving this three-pillar model is. I never had much to recover from -- Mormonism has caused me very little grief compared to the exmo average. Yet Mormonism has been an important part of my life, my formative years, my family, and my family history. And I love navel-gazing (I mean, y'know, self-discovery ;-) ), and loooooove making friends and exchanging ideas on the Internet.

Particularly with people I have something in common with, such as fellow cultural Mormons.