History You Definitely Don't Want to Repeat

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I'm glad to have read The Tudors: The Complete Story of England's Most Notorious Dynasty by G.J. Meyer and am even more glad I don't have to read it again. Well written but deeply depressing, regardless of how accurate Meyer's interpretation is. By the end, the litany of brutality, profligacy, and corruption had become a slog.

One thing that bugged me was the simplicity with which Meyer let some people off the hook while insisting on the depravity of others. John Calvin, for instance, got off easy in this book. Here's Meyer on

Calvin's notion of "double predestination"--of some being marked for damnation just as surely as others are fated for salvation--[which] has too often been regarded as the centerpiece of his theology. It is said to have made his God a kind of insanely cruel monster and to explain the severity of the regimen that Calvin imposed upon Geneva. In fact, however, Calvin regarded predestination as logically inescapable but otherwise beyond human understanding and in practical terms not of great importance. It was his followers who, after his death, moved predestination closer to the center of "Calvinist" belief. Calvin's own view was that the idea of predestination should make it possible for believers to set aside their anxieties about earning salvation and put their trust in the mercy of a gentle, compassionate divine father (who was also, Calvin suggested, a loving mother).

What the what?

50 Shades of Stockholm Syndrome

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As Mr. Kurtz so famously put it, "The horror! The horror!"

There's so much here that's horror-inducing that I think that might be the genre.

I was actually excited to read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. People said that the author was smart! You know, she has a PhD--in SCIENCE! That the premise was unusual! You know, WWII nurse sucked into henge-y highland vortex and transported 200 years into the past!

But really it's just a super boring, super bloated paean to how great it is to be dominated by some big dude in a skirt and no underwear and learn to call him master. Marital rape is AWESOME because even though it HURTS to have your husband fuck you super hard when you're already in pain and begging him to stop, the extra-super intense orgasm you have from it and the special closeness you feel to your husband lord and master afterward makes it all worth it. Same thing with having him beat you: yeah, it hurts, but if you deserved it, well, it just helps you see what a lucky lady you are to have a such a strong, domineering husband. Check it out:

Today I talked to a friend about how, since she has moved to Utah, she has found herself revisiting both her Mormon upbringing and her disaffection from the church.

She said she hadn't been able understand why some people were still concerned with the church, still talked about it, still participated in forums discussing or criticizing it. Sure, it was super messed up, but she'd left that behind. She had more important things to worry about than the stupid things she used to believe in her youth. The church had no effect on her now.

And then she moved to Utah, where her parents and several siblings live. And after a while, she not only listened politely, nodded, then changed the subject when people talked to her at parties about their relationship to Mormonism, she initiated conversations on the topic herself.

I get it. I always cared about my own Mormon past but for a very long time--well over a decade--I couldn't be bothered to pay attention to church-related current events. Why would I pay attention? They didn't affect me.

Then I moved to Utah, and now they do affect me.

Happiness, Submission and....

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Here's a photo that showed up in my Facebook feed last week:


I don't know if it's photoshopped or real graffiti, but I do know exactly where the building is: East Sixth Street and North Euclid Avenue in Tucson.

I even have my own picture of it:

Submission to god 2.JPG

I also have a picture where I'm grinning and flipping it off, but I'd rather not publish that here.

You just want to write a shitty first draft. The shittiest first draft on paper is superior to the most perfect first draft in your head.

Think of it as evolution. You just have to get it to the mammal stage the first time around. Actually it just has to have four legs and not swim in the water. So once you get your draft out of the primordial ooze and onto dry land, then you can take the time you need to turn it into a primate.

Less Complex than the Boy Scouts

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One of my most popular reviews on Goodreads is my trashing of Divergent, which I read a couple of years ago on the recommendation of someone who unfriended me on Facebook because I hated the book so much--and since the movie adaptation is in theaters now, I thought I would post it here.

Even Boy Scouts, who are supposed to be "Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, Reverent," are more morally and intellectually complex than this entire society, where you're allowed one defining trait, one primary virtue--and that's it.

Code Name Bullshit


I was so excited about Code Name Verity. I have a thing for war literature in general (I've taught college courses on the topic) and combat literature in particular, and I'm always looking for something that explores women's roles in the military.

But then I actually cracked open the book.

here was me on page 1: Is this a joke?

me on page 2: Is this a sick joke?

me on page 30: Oh god, it's not just a sick joke. It's a sick BORING joke.

Code Name Verity can be summed up as Hogan's Heroes (a cheesy, late 1960s sitcom about how fun it is to be in a Nazi POW camp, in case you didn't know) meets Life of Pi.

It's Hogan's Heroes because the Nazis in CNV are NICE Nazis! Sure, they torture our heroine the narrator (OHTN) because she's a spy and they're trying to extract useful information from her. But they also really care about her--how can they help it, given how witty, clever, cultured, beautiful and sassy she is? Sure, she calls them names and mocks them, but it's just a sign of what a free spirit she is, someone who deserves their admiration and respect.

It's Life of Pi because OHTN has a plan, which both the Nazis ans the reader figure out right away! Her confession is going to take as long as possible and be filled with as many details and bits minutae as possible, ostensibly so she can "keep it straight in [her] own mind" (3) but really to buy time and point her captors in the wrong direction. And the really smart ones among her captors like it! Again, it just shows what a special, exceptional POW OHTN really is:

Vote for Me in the Brodies!

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So, yeah. One of the reasons I didn't blog much here in the last year or so is that if I had something to say about Mormonism, one of my standard topics, I generally chose to say it someplace else.

One of such place was Main Street Plaza. In the process of writing about Mormonism there, I produced two posts that have since been nominated for Brodies. One is "My Ordain Women Testimony," up for Best Religion-and-Gender Discussion. The other is 'Because They Couldn't Very Well Say "Sorry We Insisted You Waste All that Time and Money",' up for Best Post Title. Please go vote for me, and while you're at it, check out the other contests!

My Review of "The Soong Dynasty"

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So, I've had grand plans about my blog--all these ways I'm going to revive it, all these things I'm going to post, some of which are already written.

And then I just don't.

But today I just am posting. And what I'm posting is a review I also posted on Goodreads.

These days, I write a review of every book I admit to reading on Goodreads. (There are a few books I don't care to publicize that I've read. And there's not really a way to announce that I've reread a book, and I do reread books.) I started out using Goodreads as a way simply to keep tracks of books I've read--but I actually like some of the reviews I've written and had the occasionally interesting conversation as a result.

So here's the most recent review I've written. I'll work back from it.

The Soong Dynasty
by Sterling Seagrave

Riveting, harrowing, tragic: rarely do I exclaim, "My god! Oh my god!" or "Jesus Christ!" over and over while I read a book, sometimes more than once on a single page, but I did with this one. What else can do you when you encounter sentences like "He was no match for military man whose troops enjoyed disemboweling young girls and winding their intestines around their naked bodies while they were still conscious"?

I'm just so flabbergasted. I'm not a complete ignoramus when it comes to China: I was a Mormon missionary in Taiwan in the 1980s, for starters. The Taiwan part was not by choice, even if the missionary part was: I volunteered to be a missionary, but I had no interest in Asia; I wanted to go to France or Italy. But missionaries have no say in where they serve, so when I got a letter informing that I would be going to Taiwan and learning Mandarin, I got out a map and thanked the powers that be that at least I wasn't going to Alabama.

I didn't learn much about Chinese history during my 18 months as a missionary except for the existence of Double 10 Day and who both Chiang Kai-Chek and Sun Yat-Sen were. The cult of personalty surrounding both thoroughly freaked me out. OK, I also learned that there were people who HATED CKC; I had a friend whose uncle was incarcerated in a notorious prison, convicted of the crime of sedition for fighting against CKC when he showed up after WWII and took over the island with help from the US. And I became fluent in Mandarin and grew to understand certain Chinese sensibilities.

In the early 1990s I went to Shanghai to teach English and HATED IT. The Mainland was just awful after Taiwan: my bosses and colleagues were so mean! I couldn't understand why at first.

Then I saw things like the sign on the Bund declaring its famous park off-limits to dogs and Chinese. Or the palatial homes Westerners built for themselves while the locals lived in squalid huts. I started to understand why.

Reading The Soong Dynasty, I really understand why.

Much of The Soong Dynasty is set in Shanghai, because it was wHere foreign powers held most sway. Then and now, that is one of the reasons for Shanghai's wealth--and the fact that so much of that wealth was concentrated in the hands of foreigners and Chinese unwilling to share with the average 中国人 was one reason said average 中国人hated them.

Photoshop Is for Wimps

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Here's something I just saw on Facebook:

I watched it, and then I watched it again.

I looked out my window at the yellow leaves on the horse chestnut trees in my neighborhood, one of the only things brightening the sodden gray way October is ending. I tried to think up a clever comment to add to the thread about it. I felt a leaden mixture of recognition and dejection in my lower abdomen.

Everything in the whole world managed to tell me by the time I was twelve that I had to find ways--razors, tweezers, dyes, cosmetics, clothes, exercise, diets--to do to my own body what the computer did to this woman's. If my legs weren't long, I had to use the right clothes to make them look longer. If my ass was too big--and I found it striking that fixing her ass was the very last thing they did--I had to find a way to shrink it. I had to reshape my eyebrows and cover any imperfection in my skin.

I love the scene in Pulp Fiction where Fabienne, attempting to explain why she wishes she had a pot belly, says, "It's unfortunate what we find pleasing to the touch and pleasing to the eye is seldom the same." I dated this guy once who had kind of a big ass for a guy. I remember looking at a picture of him on Facebook and thinking, "He's got kind of a lot of junk in his trunk for a guy." I wouldn't say it wasn't pleasing to the eye, but it was definitely pleasing to the touch: muscular and firm, with plenty to hang on to.


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