Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Is There Another Shoe?

We’ve known some of the kids in our boys’ class for about two years and know their parents as well. In turn they know our family. But, as the twins are in different classes this year, there are now some kids and parents we don’t know so well, and I’ve been worried how they’d react to our family.

We got another hint the other day when Rob and I decided to surprise the boys and meet them for lunch. This was the first time we’d both been there for lunch at the same time. I was sitting with Alan and Rob with Brian at first, as they eat with their classes at separate tables.

While Rob was eating he overheard a kid lean over to another boy and ask him who Rob was. The boy told him Rob was Brian’s dad. Confused, the first kid pointed across the room to me and said he thought I was Brian and Alan’s dad, as he’d sat next to me at lunch a week before.

Our boy’s friend just said as casually as anything, “He’s their papa. They have two dads.” And that was it. With an “oh” they were talking about something else.

If I’m to trust the word of their wonderful teachers during our recent conference, our boys are doing great, academically and socially. They are popular and loved. One’s picking up reading amazingly quick and the other is on schedule. The same goes with mathematics. (Man, kids learn a lot more and sooner nowadays; I can’t wait for the day they stump me :-).) I wonder if the teachers inadvertently try to tell us what we want to hear, but I know, in discussions with other parents, they can and do give warnings when other kids are in trouble. We’ve even been told “I only wish I had 1o others doing as well as he is,” at which I swelled :-).

I do, though, get worried, too worried apparently, that there will be some issue, some fight, some struggle for our boys when they meet up with the teachings of this conservative culture in their peers. However, that point is not here now, and seems to be retreating more quickly into the older generation than the speed at which our boys are growing into their own (and that seems so very fast!).

The culture really has changed dramatically for the better. With twins, it seems we go to a birthday party about every week. I know Bouncing off the Walls like the back of my hand. While at all these parties, everyone is quite nice, no cold shoulders. Heck, most of the time the birthday boy or girl’s family has their gay friend there helping out, or their lesbian sister, or what have you. Someone has already been there in their life, building those relationships between the gay and the conservative community that make the lives of our children that much easier here. It seems such involvement and openness has produced a real sea change here. I mean, think how things were in the suburbs of Utah only a decade ago.

But is it over? Can my children's generation just go on with an “oh” and get back to their lunch, as it were?

I know some parents who might have a problem with us are still trying to figure out how to discuss our family with their children and who knows where they’ll end up. There is the one boy in Brian’s class, from a conservative LDS family who keeps talking about heaven in school (which has led to some pretty funny conversations in our home, as Brian has confused the idea of Heaven being a fun place above us with his astronomy books and a bit of Super Mario Galaxy mixed in). This kid also told Brian the other day that two men could get legally married in Hawaii. Clearly his parents weren’t up on the actual law and only remember the controversy, but the important thing to me is that, even one of the most conservative family there, is trying. They are talking about it and apparently distinguishing between being married and legally married, which is fine by me. Everything has been respectful, and nothing has hurt our boy’s feelings, yet...

So, am I wasting time and energy waiting for the other shoe to drop, or best to be prepared anyway? I don’t know.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


I just wanted to express my condolences for the loss of a beloved leader to all the LDS readers who happen by here. Wish I had something better to offer.

What Has Made a Marriage

I’ve been going through some of my old stuff and came across this list of ways I’ve found by which the state has defined a marriage in our history:

-Slavery (a slave could marry)
-Race Alone
-Race Relative to Intended Partner
-Current Legal Gender
-Legal Gender at Birth
-Biological Sex (The reason Rob and I could be legally married in, say, Spain but not Utah)
-In Apprenticeship
-In School
-Parental Consent
-Employer’s Consent
-Your Consent (Sometimes it didn't matter a bit)
-Already Married (polygamy)
-Family/Blood Relation
-Using Contraception (This was only a church discrimination of marriages, that I can find)
-Fertility (only the infertile allowed to marry, in some cases. I can’t find a case where fertility was a requirement for marriage).
-Social Class
-Political Class, Nobility
-Economic Class
-Dowry Size
-Existence of Previous Children
-Blood Test Results
-Criminal Record

I just find it funny that some people are living under the impression that the definition of a marriage is and has been immutable, and the day after a change in what constitutes a marriage will see men lining up to marry office furniture or livestock (Ahem, Huckabee, you goof). In fact, the definition has changed greatly over years and geography—often for the better—and no one yet has tried yet to get on their canine husband’s health insurance policy. Is it really a mystery as to why?

Many different states, sects, and religions have sought to hold jurisdiction over the human heart when it comes to our feelings on family. It’s easy to understand why. Family, just below the individual, is a primary human institutions, fixed in the root of most innate human motivations. If you control your neighbor’s family, you will control your neighbor.

The definition of a valid union has been used to weaken powerful families, keep the poor from coupling with the rich, keep the slave focused on his servitude, encourage large populations of followers, and uphold superstitions about race. But the definition of a marriage has become more and more just with each generation. It’s become nearer the golden rule and truer to the human drive to love and couple up, set there by our creator, be it the laws of physics or God.

I just hope it’s not too long before my local government, as many others have, realizes denying a couple marriage rights and responsibilities because of their sexual anatomy is just as misguided and damaging to society and family as denying the same for their income, race, or class. I'd hope sometime in my life to have the peace of mind of knowing my family will be treated as family by the powers that be, if anything were to happen to me. So here's to hoping for another change for the better in the definition of what makes a marriage.

Friday, January 25, 2008

My Brain, My Brian

This morning, at 5 AM, I awoke to my sweet little Brian snuggling up. We laid there and talked for a couple minuets before I got up, woke his brother, and fed them breakfast. I bathed them, got their cloths out and their backpacks ready, with all the care in the world. As I knelt down and began to tie Brian’s shoes, he reached over and patted the crown of my head.

Was he about to say something sweet, something to hit that Dad button deep in the core of my being? I love it when they just, out of the blue, say something like “Papa, I love you,” and I began smiling in anticipation.

After a moment of patting my head he finally said with amusement, “Papa, I can see your brain.”

“My brain?” I asked, oblivious.

“Yes, at the top of your head.”

It wasn’t the best way to learn my hair is thinning up there, but far from the worst :-).

Thursday, January 24, 2008

In Defense of the Opponent's Queen

Paul posted a comment in my last post defending "Queens" that caused me to write a reply that became long enough to be a post itself. His comment is here. Basically he was asking why some gay men become outrageously flamboyant, and hinted at the damage they do in the public eye (that, or I read too much into things :-), but it’s true, nonetheless). So:

I see it this way. While most folks easily enough fit into traditional categories of male and female, there is a gradient between in every dimensions: self identity, genetics, physical appearance, orientation, and so on. All of these can and do vary independently, even though some do tend to correlate with others. For example, a disproportional number of effeminate boys will grow up to be gay men, though many gay men aren’t near effeminate and not all effeminate boys will be gay men.

You can get all sorts of combinations, from individuals who are anatomically and genetically both sexes to 100% straight men with a pronounced flair for girly stuff. I know a male to female post op transvestite who always knew she was a woman, but nevertheless ended up with and has never felt anything but the traditionally male sexual orientation towards women. She was basically a lesbian mind in a man’s body; talk about trouble finding a partner.

Why are people like that? Many reasons; I don’t know for sure. People just have such differences by chance of nature or nurture; it really doesn’t mater which. Some guys simply feel most in their own skin when they look as pretty as Judy Garland. Other guys identify with Russell Crow, and still other guys identify with Alan Turing and are attracted to Russell Crow (What are you looking at? ;-)). I get that it’s difficult to wrap one’s mind around some of these permutations. I’ve felt such difficulty from both sides. Personally I find concern for topics like fashion to be trivial concerns, I don’t get transvestitism, and Lord knows I’ve clashed with my more fabulous gay brethren. I know first hand they’re tough by making enemies of some :-).

Before I discuses the negative aspects, I want to say I do know many wildly effeminate gay men who’ve taken far more honorable roles in society than I or most, in their familial or charitable commitments. Though not my thing, I’ll not nearly fault that guy for wanting to put pink designer sunglasses on his bleached hair, or dress in drag when he goes out. He gets my respect, if not my direct understanding.

There are, of course, guys whose life has turned into a self focused cycle of finding a new way to be shockingly and outrageously gay, showing it off to the public, and then often numbing themselves in bars. I imagine those men are the men you, Paul, are referring to? Such gay men definitely exist--it’s not only a stereotype. I know they politically hurt my family in a round about way. Still, I’ll give them a wide berth. When we were in the vital transitions of adolescence, they were often the ones taking damage, while I was taking cover. My more masculine demeanor let me hide, ironically, and I don’t know who I’d be today if I took on some of the challenges most gay men must before I was ready.

I think those trials set them on their path, made them feel they had to advertize their orientation in neon as a defense from rejection. I know it sounds counter intuitive, but when you've been hurt by a homophobe you loved, like a parent, I can see how you'd want to advertize who you were so loudly that no homophobe would touch you with a 10' pole. You want all to know you're gay so you can't get close enough to someone who'd reject you for it.

I have much respect for the effeminate gay man who made it to healthy adulthood despite his obvious bully-provoking difference in adolescence. But for the other effeminate gay guy, the one who ended up self abusive, outrageous, defensive, and self focused I still have respect. Simply, there but for the grace of God go I. While I do often publically disagree with such men (and they don’t agree with me and my life either), and while I will and do find myself fighting them and their negative political effect on my home, I can’t deny that they beat a path for me at one point. They took some of the brunt off of my young self, until I could carry it myself.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

God Save the Queen

Gays, of course, come in all sorts of flavors. I’ve been thinking about some of my more so-called effeminate brothers.

In high school, I never came out to anyone but my family and friends, those I could trust. I suppose I also came out to the gay youth group held at the Stonewall Center and there were kids from my school there, but we kept each other’s secret. Simply, I came out early, but I don’t count myself as brave. I was very cautious and was consequently never harassed in High School. I was called a couple names soon after, in college, once I stopped caring about who knew what. By then I’d built my confidence back up enough to put a quick end to the harassment.

But there were gay kids there in my High School who were out, out and flaming. They weren’t out in the sense that they told people they were gay; they didn’t need to. They were gay and also innately effeminate men, and they took no steps to hide that fact. Rather they, at some point past middle school, went with their true self, gave up trying to fit in, and chose the brunt of the bullies for it. I could naturally and, to my shame, did pass. Now, I never did anything as cliché as call them a fag, or fake a laugh when they were shoved; my distaste for such was clear. But I didn’t go out of my way to defend them (or myself) either. I kept my social currency for myself; I hid.

I wish I had a different High School story to tell, but that’s it. I hid in plane view; I passed when I could have helped. I’m not comfortable thinking on what that says about me, but it’s a sure way to motivate myself to speak up today.

Those “queens” who’d not back down do deserve respect. They went to school every day and endured taunts and physical abuse, and they kept coming when most kids would’ve crumbled. They dressed how they wanted and they openly were who they were regardless; they didn’t give in or hide. They didn’t letter in any sport, win any elections, go to any dances, or use "girlfriends" as cover. In fact, as the months went on they became more and more defiant in the face of social pressure, while I publically played the part until college.

I find it funny such men are sometimes called pansies, an ironically hearty flower. They had more courage than anyone in my High School, any jock running down the field, any cheerleader at her tryouts, any academic taking on another AP course. Anyone. Though I’ve a nature the majority can swallow a bit better, there came a day when I’d learn to hate passing, and I’m very glad to now be in the camp of the "queens" of this world. I suppose in my experience many of those kids grew up to become my bad cop counterparts in the gay community, but I respect them nonetheless, even when we fight over how to approach a problem. After all, "pansies" really know how to stand their ground, and more firmly than the average man of any sort.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Frozen Desert (Day 2)

In my continuing attempt to boost the winter economy of southern Utah:

They always insist on at least one "funny face" picture:

The dog had a much better day too (warmer today, and he only went swimming up to his neck):

Beautiful land.

Now we're exhausted. Rob is napping, along with the dog, and the kids in front of a fire, coloring, and I'm making use of the rare presence of dsl in our condo. Seems there's not much reason to return home :-).

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Frozen Desert

I suppose not many people see hiking in Moab as a good idea when the highs are in the mid 20’s, but look at this:

Beautiful, eh? Though the photos don’t do it justice.

(and no, clearly our dog was not built for such adventure, poor frozen thing)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Palate Cleanser

Something worlds less serious than the last post. Tom Cruise:

He's just so... happy? enthusiastic? Like he's about to jump on another couch?

Eh, whatever, it made me smile.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


A local and very prominent anti-gay rights activist lost her son a while ago. Many in the gay community knew how at the time, but the official police report only came out last week. It even took up a portion of the news, but I'd rather keep this nameless and not link to a story. Plainly, he overdosed on a mixture of heroin and a couple other drugs. Those are the dry facts of an event, an unmitigated tragedy.

I’ve been wondering if there’s anything to say about this and how or if one should. I held off to see how it would settle. Anything I can write will balance precariously near misusing someone’s tragedy to try to mitigate another’s and I don’t want that. Nevertheless, it’s too clear that there is something to say here. There are a lot of emotions and conflicting feelings, and maybe a moral for all parents.

I was on a panel with this lady at one point. I was very much a novice at politics, but she is a professional. The whole time I talked she took notes. When it was her turn she was brutal, to my perspective, calling our love for our children selfish and debasing our family. She made all sorts of dire predictions for our handicapped children, in their non-ideal home, based on research that was either unpublishable in any reputable journal or focused on children in single-parents homes.

One of the things she claimed was that our children were likely to become sexually promiscuous and drug addicts. The daughter of one of our lesbian friends in the audience began to cry at her assault. I’ll not forget the look on that girl's face when she finally got up in tears and tried to defend herself and her family from this lady. But this anti-gay rights activist was unmoved; she just kept that serene look on her face, so seemingly self-assured that what she was doing was right, giving us and our families her “tough love.” It’s difficult for me to understand how, but she felt good keeping us away from the rights she enjoyed in her family; she was fine taking our tax dollars under such circumstances and you could see it on her face. It all made me angry.

One charge she leveled against us was how horrible it was that our children may get teased in school, apparently never making the connection that whether that happens or not is in her hands, and in the hands of parents like herself. She also complained that we were using our children for politics, by merely speaking up in public! We were instead supposed to keep hidden and quiet and let the insults and lies about our families go unchallenged. That was the lesson we should, I guess, teach our children in her mind (though she was in the press all the time). How couldn’t she understand, as a parent herself, that we had to speak up? We were never even involved in politics until we became parents and then it became very important, but, to her mind, gays are such people that she couldn’t comprehend that it wasn’t dastardly political hopes spurring gays into having children.

Why? I suspect it's because she had, in her mind, dehumanized our families through the lense of her religious beliefs. But many in the gay community, myself included, have made the a similar mistake in response.

Okay, clearly, I think she has a warped outlook, and maybe working off old steam from that day at this point is wrong. I don’t know. I can’t help, though, but feel something profound is in this waiting to be unearthed for both this lady and the gay community for which she has long been the bogyman. I can so clearly see the distressed face of that 14-year-old girl of our lesbian friends, a great girl (class president at her school at the time). I can clearly hear her sob “I am not a drug addict,” and speak of her love for her family bravely in the face of such opposition. I can also so clearly see this lady’s serene face at the time, and hear her confident pronouncements about her idea of “ideal families.”

But now I know, at that very moment, she already knew her son was, sadly, an addict; that serenity and look of “I know what’s best for you and your children, and what God wants” was merely a thin veneer. In fact, now the whole memory has been turned upside down. It's one of those plot twists that can reach back and change even the past, what you thought you saw. That memory of her serene, self-assured face once triggered anger; in a blink of new information it's become a portrait of indescribable human sadness, one I’m terrified to ever know.

There must be a lesson in this tragedy for both sides. For my side, I hope the gay community pauses before we take her harsh attitude and allow it to anger us again; we should look deeper at what might be beyond the political persona. Sure, we must counter her attacks, but the demonizing should end. Eventually we'll have to find some common ground, and, while we wait, it will do us all some good to focus on the people behind those veneers. I personally don’t imagine her slings and arrows will ever sting like they once did, even if she starts it all up again; there is a place now where what we share in our humanity is too apparent, disarming. It's unfortunate that tragedy brought it to mind.

I wish that I could personally give my condolences without the baggage of history and politics trailing behind them, but I’m pretty sure that’s too much to hope for. This will have to do.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Dividing Labor

In an attempt to smear my perfectly tolerable name, Mr. Fob has suggested that I don’t do enough around the house (no doubt in order to improve the chances that a fruit, one that’s like 50% pit, will be elected president).

It may be kind of different how labor becomes divided in a home with two men or two women. So, to explain (and defend myself!), this is how it’s done. We split it up by who’s good at what. I have the lamb skins and so I’m the one with the out of the home career, and he’s a stay at home dad because that’s where most his talents are, but it’s more complicated than that.

Honors Given to Scot:

Bringer of Bacon
Bather of Wild Children
Hanger of Pictures
Slayer of Spiders
Vanquisher of Trash
Taskmaster of Homework
Preparer of Children for School and Bed
Assembler of Breakfast
Scary Monster, Sith Lord, or Hide and Seek Ninja
between the hours of 5 and 8 PM.
Main Cleaner of all Things Unmentionable
Handy Man
, a title on which my ego demands elaboration.
Builder and Designer of Sand Boxes
Designer of Playhouses (Est. Completion Date: June 2008)
Installer and Designer of our Home Automation, Security, Network, and Sound Systems
Novice Electrician (Yes, it’s as imprudent as it sounds.)
And just yesterday I built a nicely framed, 2 ft by 6 ft cork board for each of the boy’s rooms, for art display :-). I don’t know that that deserves a title. Still, they are cool, if I do say so myself, custom made, and I can’t wait for the paint to dry so that I can get that art up.
Computer Tamer
Sole Operator of Home Entertainment Systems
(See, the trick is to make it so complicated that you become indispensible.)

Honors Given to Rob:

Creator of Dinner. (But somehow and unlike the situation in other families, this doesn’t mean he’s the one who continually gets up to get the kids all the extra stuff they ask for, until dinner has gone cold. Generally, he’s the cook and I’m the waiter)
Cleaner of Homes
Launderer of Laundry
Baker of Cookies
Blower of Snow
Planter of Flowers and Gardens
Hunter and Gatherer of Food and Clothing
Payer of Bills

Of course, we do cross over into each other’s realm at times and there are some job titles we share pretty much 50/50, like the Doer of Dishes.

I also suppose I’ve numerous easy jobs and a couple larger responsibilities, while Rob has more quality than quantity, but I think it balances out :-).

(Did I make myself sound useful enough?)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Making Home

Rob has been out of commission for a couple days and so I’m the substitute homemaker here. I swear I’ve done about a dozen loads of laundry already. I've not had time for even one soap opera or episode of Divorce Court. I thought Rob sat home all day and watched TV while eating bonbons, or something, maybe intermixed with the occasional reading of Rosie's Blog ;-). Instead it turns out there’s a lot to do here, and after a couple days I find myself thankful for other things, beyond people lending a hand.

--The Roomba, my little robot helper. I conveniently got one for Rob for Christmas, and instead my gift has saved me from vacuuming. It’s also fun to watch it feel its way through the home while the dog runs from the thing in terror.

--Kraft Macaroni & Cheese—It’s the cheesiest. It’s also one thing I can make that Alan will eat. That, PB&H, and canned salmon from CostCo. He’s a particular eater, and so it’s that and take-out for him until Rob is back to normal.

--Now, I’ve had much multidisciplinary training in the sciences—I’m a PhD for goodness sake—but I can’t figure out how Tide’s bleach knows to bleach the ketchup stain on a white shirt but not the purposeful pigment on a red shirt. Regardless, I’m thankful for magic bleach.

--On the same topic, Downey. Rob’s mom never used it and so when we met he associated the smell with me. Keep your fancy colognes, the smell of Downey makes me feel attractive now, and I like using it.

--Sheeting action.

--And finally, the ipod. How did people do housework before podcasts?

Things for which I’m not thankful:

--Molten sugar. My blistered index finger could do a PSA on the dangers of grabbing a smoking pop tart from the toaster.

(Hmm… Maybe this back thing was all a ruse just to make me more thankful for Rob...)

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Societal Back Brace

A couple nights ago we were getting the boys ready for sleep. Rob was just laying there on Brian’s bed. He rolled a bit to get up and was suddenly in tremendous pain, back pain. He couldn’t move at all; the pain was so intense he could hardly even communicate. The boys thought he was joking and immediately rushed to pile on him. I caught them and hurried them into my office and got them coloring. They were oblivious to the situation, thankfully.

I got our neighbors over and they played with the boys until my parents arrived. Rob and I spent the night in the emergency room.

First off, Rob is doing fine. It was an old injury flaring up and pressing on a nerve. Not many humans exit life without experiencing back pain, and curse our ancestors for standing so quickly and leaving us with such a poor design, but what can you do? The doctor said surgery had a good chance of making things worse and so it’s rest and physical therapy. I got off easy, only being sentenced to housework for the last couple days. Nevertheless, aside from the kids, there’s no one I like to nurse back to health better than Rob :-).

I’ve been thinking how different such an event is for our family, though, and how we manage that difference.

On the way to the hospital I was flustered and a bit panicked. I mean, he couldn’t talk or move and we had no idea how serious this injury was. At about half way there, I’m ashamed to say, I broke into a string of profanities. I’d forgotten our binder! The binder that contains all our legal papers. It’s like our security blanket in such situations. If Rob remains unable to effectively communicate or goes unconscious, in order to make medical decisions for him, I’d have to run home and get those damn legal papers. I couldn’t leave him and he couldn’t wait and so I just thought, if worse comes to worse, I’ll just have to have my dad run it over.

When we got there I had to answer all the questions about Rob's medical history for him. They kept asking me about my “brother,” and in the rush I just let it stand; not a time for a diversity lesson. Finally I was asked if he was married and I said, “yes, to me, for 13 years.” maybe a bit too indignantly. I didn’t check to see if see if the lady listed our 15 years as “single” on the record; neither of us needed the aggravation.

In all the MRI showed the bulging disks, but also that it wasn’t nearly as bad as it seemed. It was just one very intense night and, with the help of some steroids, he’s doing great, considering. He’ll be okay.

I must say how much this event also made me realize how blessed we are with great neighbors, family, and friends. The reason we live in Utah, without the safety nets of legal marriage we could have elsewhere, is because we have so many other safety nets right here. We have ways here to brace ourselves from the disadvantage.

I know if anything happens, my family or Rob’s family will be right there. I know my friends are just minuets away and, if we’re in need, our boys will be in good hands (though they could end up spending dinner in anything from a Muslim to a Mormon to a lesbian household :-)).

Finally, Utah is great for its sense of community. The neighbors who came over that night are great people. They distracted our boys, they cooked us dinner the next night, and cleared our driveway at the last storm. I love feeling that sort of comfort. Say what you will of Hillary, but I sleep better knowing the village is there, just in case.

In all, I just feel very lucky, or blessed, or like we’re subconsciously adept selectors of friends, family, and home locations, or something :-). Thank you, powers that be.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Completely Superficial Benefits of Being Gay

--My wardrobe is doubled.

--I haven’t had to operate our snow blower yet this year--I’ve a man who does that.

--Much money has been saved on cosmetics and jewelry. I took our Aunt shopping the other day and am pretty sure our kids can go to college on what we’re saving as two men.

--The precious look on a bigot’s face when he realizes he’s talking bad about you to you.

--10$ Gift Certificate to Abercrombie & Fitch for every straight man I convert.

--Without being rude, it’s fantastically easy to cut short a visit from Jehovah Witnesses.

--There has never been an argument in our home about the proper positioning of a toilet seat.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


I’ve said how uncomfortable I am with the word “activist,” and I still am. Nevertheless, I still do activist-like activities, wherever the chance arises. But, naturally being more of a good cop than bad cop, my interactions with government in Utah are pretty much limited to Salt Lake. I hate to say it, but the rest of the state and the state as a whole have governments that don’t generally want to hear the concerns of our families, and good cops can’t do much when no one wants to talk. Thank goodness for bad cops!

And that brings me to one of my favorite friends again: the friend I mentioned a couple posts ago. I can’t say enough good things about her.

She was invited to a state Department of Education summit on the concerns of ethnic minorities in the Utah school system. And there are many concerns here that need to be addressed. Knowing the state, though, would not hear from gay and lesbian parents or parents of gays and lesbians in such an influential forum, she asked if I would like to come and give my input. I, of course, said yes. The organizers said I could come only as an observer, not on the panel making the decisions. I don’t blame them (they were constrained by the “ethnic minority” designation from the state and had filled their panels). I was happy for any inclusion.

Now, as luck would have it, we had a bad snowstorm yesterday morning and about a quarter of the participants stayed home. The organizers ended up letting me take an absent person’s place in the Asian panel. I was greatly honored to be, as the others dubbed me, an "honorary Asian" for the day. Everyone in my group was very nice and receptive.

I was able to get some of my concerns and ideas heard about curtailing harassment for our children and gay children. My friend and I were able to get a proposal in for how it may become official policy for teachers and administrators to have a structured means by which they can learn the makeup, and cultural, linguistic, and religious nature of each student’s family. We also made suggestion about improving teacher understanding on such issues. That way, they’ll know why the Muslim girl shouldn’t be hugged by a male teacher, or why the refugee kid’s parents aren’t reading your letters. Or, for our children, why on, say, Mother’s Day they should make something for their Grandmothers, and on Father’s Day they make two macaroni portraits. We also proposed ways to get parents to interact with each other, as a significant problem for many minority kids is the bias of their friend’s parents. I know I’ve found nothing breaks walls and stereotypes better than face to face interaction.

On top of all that, I was able to help a bit on the issues of many other groups, by my experiences advocating for other minorities. The main issues brought up were, sadly, the old issues: large class size, bigotry/low expectations, discouragement of parental involvement, lack of accounting for cultural differences, and, the cliché in these parts, parents who’ll get in the way of their kids befriending someone outside of their religion.

Nevertheless, there are a lot of great teachers, parents, and administrators out there willing to help make this state’s educational system into what it should be for all students. I’m sure the trajectory is right, even if the speed is frustrating at times.

I’m just thankful to have been snuck in :-), and to have our families seen as extant in Utah's school system, let alone heard. I’m very thankful for people like my friend, the facilitators of this event, and all those many ethnic minorities there who welcomed me in and listened to our concerns when they could have more easily stuck to their own work and given agenda. I know, from past experience with some of the same people, at least one guy was upset to see me there, thinking the ethnicity movements should leave us behind. But most, I've found, will push for us. It takes a good soul to use some of their newfound political currency and acceptance by the mainstream to reach back and help pull another group up to parity. If you’ve ever done that for anyone, thank you.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Fred Tries for a Grammy?

Speaking of music, you see this?

Yeah, I hate to give the guy what he wants like this, but whatever harm is done has to be offset by the fact that the lower he goes the less people want to be associated anywhere near his cause.

It's also always nice to remember what can be out there in the wide world; keeps a guy from getting lazy.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Sounds I Heard in 2007

Happy New Year all.

I love music and getting new recommendations (and hope this post generates some). So I thought I’d do a cliché blog thing and use a post to give out the Utah Cog Award for Excellence in Making Noise awards for 2007:

1. Neon Bible by Arcade Fire – This album hasn’t been far from my ears since it’s been out. I was admittedly prepared to love Neon Bible before I heard note one for my appreciation of Funeral, their first album. In the end I don’t think my bias was needed. Give a listen to Building Downtown, or The Well and the Lighthouse, or, though it’s not on this album, one of my favorite songs of theirs, Une Annee Sans Lumieere (pay no attention to the music videos on youtube :-); they detract).

2. In Rainbows by Radiohead – Though Rob thinks Thom York sounds like Family Guy's Old Man Herbert, I’m a sucker for Radiohead. OK Computer felt like an epiphany those many years ago, and Kid A was equally surprising. I’d put In Rainbows near both. Though I wasn’t as much in the mood this year for the sort of lyrics Thom writes, and maybe that’s why my favorite band takes second place, but their work is always beautiful. I’d particularly recommend Nude, Weird Fishes, and All I Need.

3. Boxer by The National Here's a sample of the album. I’d never heard The National until this year when I accidently came across Fake Empire online (listen to the full song). I was drawn in by the mixed timing and lyrics. I decided to buy it once I read Sufjan Stevens was a contributor. After a couple listens it’s become one of my favorites of 2007; I’d say Green Gloves is one of the best songs of the year. Add to that the joy of discovering their other releases and I’m pretty happy with The National. Plus, Matt Berninger’s voice is low enough that I can sing to it in the car near the correct key :-).

4. Hvarf/Heim by Sigur Ros– Pretentious sissy Icelandic art rock? A little too grandiose in places? Maybe… sometimes… Still, it’s great music, uplifting and poignant in ways I’ve never heard from other bands. I very much enjoyed last year’s Takk and was disappointed to hear this CD would be a rework of old songs. I was wrong to be concerned, though, and find the new versions to even improve upon what I liked about the tracks in the first place, such as Hljomalind and Vaka.

Honorable Mentions:
We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank by Modest Mouse – Maybe I’m just glad to hear Jonny Mar’s guitar again, but I’ve enjoyed this one quite a bit too. Give Little Motel a listen, or Dashboard, or Fire It Up.

Armchair Apocripha by Andrew Bird – Love his violin and whistl’n, and the lyrics are always interesting. Listen to Imitosis, for example.

Sound of Silver by LCD Sound System – I have to put this up because it’s what Alan got me for Christmas. While I’m not a fan of every track, I do like North American Scum and Someone Great, and would recommend the album.

Other than that, and while they didn’t make an album this year worthy of a UCAEMN award, I’d recommend a couple other bands:

Beck – Of course. Despite my confusion about the Scientology, I’ll buy anything he makes. This year, it was only a single, time bomb, but good nonetheless. I’d recommend: Missing, New Round, or Sunday Sun, or really anything.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Often very strong on Christian imagery and is one of the rare guys who can write a love song that'll move me, one that's not too pop sappy, but he can be brutal in his imagery. As a start I’d recommend: Breathless (almost a hymn), Bless His Ever Loving Heart (not almost), Darker With the Day (one of my favorite songs in all--it's a great love song and hit's all those christiany buttons in me), Henry Lee, Supernatural, Idiot's Prayer, or many more.

Decemberists – Great story telling in song. O Valencia, or Here I Drempt I was an Architect.
Boards of Canada – They’re hard to explain. Try out roygbiv, or Dayvan Cowboy.
Frank Black and (though not anymore) the Catholics -- This ex-front man for the Pixies, a great band, has been prolific after dropping off most folk's radar and much of it is quite good. This years release was okay, a kind of return to his old style, and most fans may not agree but I really like more his folksy country streak in the older albums. Check out Manitoba, 21 Reasons, or a bunch of other I can't find on youtube.
Christopher O’Riley – As a fan of radiohead and having been raised on classical, I love his piano interpretations of some of my favorite songs. Let Down, or True Love Waits.
Sufjan Stevens – Some pretty good christiany music for a christiany agnostic. Casmir Pulaski Day, To Be Alone With You.

Finally, bands that no longer exist but young'ns should give a chance.
Cocteau Twins – For their uniqueness, I think they have to be one of the most underappreciated bands. Try: Pandora, Heaven or Las Vegas, Caroline's Fingers. They're not the best but it's what I could find.
Billy Holliday – I’m resistant to the gay allure of Madonna and Cher… but there’s just something about Billy. Summertime, Strange Fruit, and so on and on.

Morphine – It’s unfortunate this band’s life was cut short. Most songs are base, sax, and drums, but I love the mood they deliver. Try The Night, Early to Bed, Yes.

Leonard Cohen – Though he hasn’t done much for my tastes lately, I love his early songs and he is a great influence on today’s music. Hallelujah, Suzanne, or too many to mention.

Talking Heads -- An influence on bands like Arcade Fire and quite creative in their day. Naive Melody is one of my favorite songs. Try Heaven, Once in a Lifetime, or Take Me to the River.

Well, I'm not done listing my favored music but spent :-). I hope some are turned on to new music and I hope, if you've any suggestions, you'll share.