Why Me? Why Write? Why Now? Why Not?

The Me is Doug Curran…Douglas M Curran…Douglas Metcalf Curran. Douglas is Celtic for “dweller by the dark stream”. Curran in Gaelic means “little spear”. And Metcalf? Scottish for “I met a calf”? Hey I don’t know! I don't have all the answers. I'm still trying to get the questions right. At least I seem to be a spear fisher by some dirty water. Or maybe I'm a Druid. And that Curran thing may not even be as Irish as my Irish American wife, Colleen Fitzsimmons, hoped it was when she married me. Ok, I might be a Viking. It's like this. I was reading this book, The Lion Of Ireland, see, and the author, Morgan Llewellyn, recounts a last battle between Brian Boru and the Viking invader king, to regain Irish dominance again throughout the island and kick the fureners out. The Viking king's name? Olaf Cuaran? Cuaran? Curran? I'm a Viking now, so I am? And a descendent of one of those marauding and murderous pillagers and plunderers? I've never pillaged a thing in my life...well, maybe a book or two from somebody. I'm really just a gentle giant who loves books and music. Ok, I bought a sword recently, but only as a wall decoration to enhance my Irish family history coat of arms! Honest! Viking, Schmiking, so rest my Irish soul! Or my wife will have my old bald Irish head!

October 26, 2009

Tempus fugit...and time flies too!

I didn't used to think about time much, until I took a time management class. That was going to solve all my time problems and really get myself organized. It was required when I was a fledgling administrator at BYU-Hawaii. I think it was sponsored by Daytimer at the time and for me, it didn't take. Then along came the Franklin Planner a few years later, and we were all required to take that one seminar too - and actually use a planner, with goals and everything. I tried it - but when you're a daydreamer instead of a daytimer, it's hard. But I did start writing down goals - until I realized that I could never keep them very well and really got discouraged. I was supposed to prioritize them into A, B and C categories, in order of importance. Just couldn't do it, because everything seemed important at the time.

I'd write down a lot of stuff - but forget to look at it again and didn't use it half the time. Then I used it as a journal for awhile, getting maybe 10-15 years of journal writing for posterity and storing it in my closet in annuals, never to look at it again. Nor will my kids either, I'm sure. Now my desk is full of yellow sticky notes, stuck all over my computer, all over my printer and all over my desk, in piles, in my drawer - manageable in size but hard to keep from floating all over the place after the sticky wears out. But that was the purpose of the planner, wasn't it? To eliminate all the floating little pieces of paper?

I was really into Edward Hall's books for awhile, because they helped explain how differently certain cultures look at time. Americans are very time-based in their thinking, and being on time for whatever is a high cultural value. In other cultures, like in Hawaii when I lived there, time was not such a big deal, and you were supposed to float with the occasion, lay back and relax, not worry, take it easy...Hawaiians had their own Hawaiian time for starting things, which was usually 10-15 minutes after the appointed time. Even church started 10 minutes late in honor of Hawaiian time, which took precedence over God's time. But now, I can probably count the years I have left on my two hands...though it really is in God's hands.

October 25, 2009

Insomnia and BYU-Hawaii...

It's a little after 3:30am and I'm fighting my usual insomnia by sitting up in my big leather chair - and now that we have a little flat screen $99 tv we can watch upstairs on the dining room table, I can try to make myself fall asleep that way maybe. But as I channel surfed, I just caught the tail end on KBYU of a talk by Eric Shumway, an old friend and colleague from Hawaii days, giving a tribute to the labor missionaries who built the first buildings of that campus where I and my family spent 10 wonderful years, 1976-86, when I worked there in various capacities.

It was nostalgic to watch and listen to a video portion of Shumway's talk, that featured little clips of testimony and tribute from some of those early missionaries, all now retired...men like John Feinga, Tony Haiku, David Mohetau, Pupi Toelupe, and others I remember by name but never knew personally. But seeing these good men get emotional about their service, mentioning how their testimonies grew of the Gospel, how they saw the Priesthood in action so many times when workers would get hurt, how they never tired physically from the work because of their commitment and dedication - it stirred me and renewed my faith.

How I love these men, men I esteem so highly for their humble faith and lives well lived, all sitting therein their aloha shirts,, interviewed individually, reminiscing quietly upon a time when they could make a sacrifice to the Church they loved so much. They bore witness as to how their labors helped create an institution in the South Pacific of higher education and spiritual power that has touched so many students' lives and sent them out into the world, as prophesied by David O. McKay, to be an influence for good and instruments in building up the Church in so many parts of the world. It was such a privilege to be a small part of that in those days, as I also went back in time and reflected on the blessing I had to associate with so many of those men.

October 18, 2009

My mascot can beat up your mascot...

Now that football season is in full swing and basketball not far behind, here's one of my related columns I couldn't resist...

Now that I’m older and “wiser”, I have a lot more questions than answers. Like where did they get those college mascots? And those sports announcers to spout them out like they are household names. The arrogance! Every time football or basketball season rolls around, I am always struck, my intelligence insulted, my cognitive faculties assaulted and barraged by sports announcers’ arcane references to teams and their mascots as if they are something we deal with everyday. Just what is a Nittany Lion for instance? I have lost sleep over this because I am expected to know. I thought about attending Penn State once, but I just couldn’t square my collegiate identity with being a Nittany anything? Is it indigenous to the rolling hills of PA? Not that I ever saw in my several forays up the river Susquehanna to my dad’s hometown Williamsport as a kid. Doesn’t sound Native American to me. Almost sounds like a ninny lion and therefore a little too pansy for me.

What does Nittany mean and why do those sports guys throw it around like they know, they expect us to know, and if we don’t, well tough, they’re not going to tell us on the air. Honestly, how can some announcer try to inflate his ego by expecting me to have done my research on each team’s mascot? All I want is a clarification before each game on tv, something in writing on the screen while the announcers are giving their pre-game hype, that gives a simple definition and history of the mascot and how it was chosen. Then I could really get into the identity of it, the culture and the history of it, and stand in front of the screen and yell “Go Nittany’s!” Like the Vermont Catamounts, for example. I have to do a whole library and Google search – and I still don’t know what it is! Do I therefore want to yell for their team? Or even be one? They couldn’t recruit me with a mascot I can’t tell is animal, vegetable or mineral – and I don’t have time to play 20 questions.

And how about those Fighting Illini? Is that the plural of Illinois? What does Illinois even mean anyway? I’m guessing Indians, but maybe it’s French trappers fighting over some skunk pelts. And that other team from Illinois – the Salukis? The what? And then there’s those Indiana Hoosiers. What the heck is a Hoosier? Or a Georgetown Hoya for that matter? No, I’m just supposed to accept hearing about them without question, like I’ve been dutifully doing most of my sports-watching life, and act like I get it and know who these guys are talking about and play along to impress my other sports watching comrades!

Odds are they themselves probably only know because of the script they’re reading for that game, but they act like it’s all common knowledge, like we’re supposed to buy into and connect with some state’s nebulous and deep-rooted traditions! Give me a break! I just can’t be at a computer looking it up so I can stay with these guys. They spout off this school stuff because it’s supposed to pump up our juices and tap into some lost nostalgia now recalled and repeated annually, to really get us into the game, produce some artificial sports euphoria, and sell product for the station, the real bottom line. Sorry, not buying!

And there are so many more mascots now. And where did the need for mascots come from anyway? I’ll bet those announcers don’t even know where the word mascot comes from – a French word meaning “talisman”, usually an animal that becomes a symbol for any group wishing to associate itself with that animal’s power or other qualities and derive some magical or mystical power from it. What was the first one in collegiate annals? The Harvard Hamsters? I don’t know - but I’m sure you’re not supposed to use someone else’s either, though it seems to be allowed by the mascot screeners. Like the Washington State and BYU cougars? Especially when they play each other? Now there’s an announcer’s nightmare. “And the cougars win the game!” Happy now?

And I bet they love to call the games for those non-count mascots, like the Stanford Cardinal, which is a tree, not a bird - one tree. How is a team one tree? And the Golden Hurricane of Tulsa – one hurricane, especially in Oklahoma where they don’t have hurricanes, and more so, golden ones. Miami is rightfully the Hurricanes, because they have so many of them – duh! But maybe the Golden Hurricane hasn’t happened yet and that’s why it’s golden and singular – it’s a myth waiting to happen! Works for me.

But they do have Sooners in Oklahoma? And sooner or later someone is going to tell me what that is. And don’t tell me it’s a tornado. Actually I think it derives from prairie schooners, in which people ran over each other trying to stake a land claim. So why not the Squatters then? But that still doesn’t explain what “schooner” means. I don’t know of any schools in the Midwest with a tornado mascot, though my Omaha-born wife used to hide from them all the time. To me, that’s a lot more intimidating than a Cornhusker. Aren’t you afraid of being husked to a pulp? Or a cob? And I love the mixed religious meaning of those Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Are they demons? Or deacons? Are they enticing you to pray and then prey upon you? Those hypocritical oxymorons!

There are of course those wimpy mascots trying to be scary, like the menacing Horned Frogs of SMU? Or those terrifying Terrapins of Maryland, snapping turtles to you and me, to tear your toes off in a pileup. And they are called the Terps for short, another crazy name-shortening just so they don’t have to say Terrapins – which has no referent in the real world. And I would not like to be hooted to death by those Temple Owls either, or put in a ring with those angry South Carolina Gamecocks and get pecked to pieces.

And I love those politically incorrect references to the original natives of our continent who, because they were fighting for the land we were taking away from them, we choose to try to make it up to them by giving some of our schools names - like Florida Seminoles and Utah Utes. They are still fighting us about it. But why not those really bloodthirsty ones that are always in the movies, killing our cowboy ancestors mercilessly, those cunning and clever ones that used to ambush and annihilate and scalp us and leave us tied to stakes up on anthills in the hot sun? Or legs tied to two different trees and let fly? I don’t see any schools revering them with mascots - like Pawnees, Apaches, Mohawks, Commanches, and Sioux. Shades of Little Big Horn! Or maybe we could get more ancient and mysterious with the Anasazi or Mayans or Incas, to spook teams into defeat.

Then there are mascots for those who work the land and sweat in the factories – like the Aggies if you’re an agricultural college, which I think is a real mascot cop-out. I mean, will you really cower before an “Aggie”? And we have other farmer types like the Beetdiggers, Cornhuskers, Lumberjacks and Boilermakers, who try to intimidate us with their big muscles from toiling and tilling. I know I’m shaking. I wish there were more high-tech mascots that reflected the information age we live in instead of the past industrial one – like the Programmers, or the Telemarketers, or the Stock Brokers. Why are there no everyday guys like the Coroners or the Grocers? What, not scary enough?

Of course, you could just try to creep your opponents out with crawlers like the Earthworms, the Scorpions, the Army Ants, the Centipedes, the Killer Bees or Mormon Crickets. And we could get down and dirty with the Las Vegas Strippers or One-Armed Bandits or Mustang Ranchers! How about the LA Scandals or the Hollywood Pimps? There could be some more picturesque mascots like the Niagara Falls or the Smokey Mountains or the Mount Rushmores - or the Mt St Helens Lava Flows!

But I think the way to really get more threatening and ominous and go beyond the zoo dwellers or house pests is to create mascots that strike real fear and would cause people to wear surgical masks to games, that represent the real terror-filled world around us - like the Ebola Virus for instance - or the Hepatitus A’s , the E Coli’s , the Anthrax? Or how about the Hanta Virus Flesh Eaters , the HIV’s, or the Bubonic Plagues? Some mascots could actually be some of the wonder drugs to do battle on the field with these incurable diseases, like the Penicillins or the Polio Vaccines or the Antibiotics! Now we’re getting somewhere! Forget all attempts at propriety and tradition – let’s go for what’s in the news, like the Freaking Al Qaedas, or the Iraqi Insurgents or the Taliban Terrorists !

We need to bring more of the outside into our little provincial games and show everyone that we know what’s going on around us rather than keep glorifying these antiquated little mascots nobody really knows anything about. I used to be a sports editor in high school. You need a good mascot that you can write descriptive language about. We were the Montgomery Blair Blazers, and though it looked like a red devil, how does that translate to Blazer? Hard to describe what we did in victory – fork them to death? Of course, like most teens, I was oblivious at the time. I also did some sports writing at BYU-Hawaii many years later - and though I helped develop the long canoe and paddle guy logo existing today, it was hard to translate that into a Seasider, the longtime benign, amorphous mascot name that just wouldn't go away. We tried other more indigenous names like Paddlers, Long Canoes, Oarsmen, Outriggers, and such - but no takersl.

I think we should have a national college mascot referendum and evaluation day so universities can finally change their names shamelessly and opt for something more real world, more pertinent, more conciliatory or pugilistic? A lottery perhaps! But get over those golden days of a century ago when mascots were gentlemanly and irrelevant. And I have to mention the time when I was singing with The Lettermen at the University of Arkansas in 1969, and we got a big, long “Sooooey Pig” that nearly “p”- popped us off the stage with that labial wind blast from 10,000 students. Wow! That’s how I found out what a Razorback is! I was impressed. But I still want to know what a Nittany Lion is. Nittany, Nittany boo boo!

October 14, 2009

Some thoughts on death and dying...

We've lost two good friends lately, within the last several weeks. John Montrose and Dorine Jesperson were neighbors and close church-going family with whom we have had many years of serving and socializing together in our Orem 1st Ward. John 79 died of a stroke, though appearing fit and active the night before. He had just been on a long car trip up and down the Alcan Highway with Celestia to visit a daughter in Alaska. He had served so long and well in so many capacities, the most endearing for us being as a missionary couple to Ireland with his wife, when our son Quinn was there from 1989-91. We'll miss his jovial manner and his wild ties, some of which Celestia put in a box and gave to our High Priest Group to be passed around and taken as a remembrance of him.

Dorine was even more of a shock at 70. Where did blood clots come from in her lungs, one going to the heart and shutting off blood supply to her kidneys, causing renal failure and loss of blood pressure? Just like that, though she had complained of being excessively tired the past few weeks, according to family. She was tall and thin and active, a half foot taller than her stout basso profundo husband Oscar, a fellow choir singer with Colleen and I over our years together. But he was the less healthy one - and if anyone was supposed to go, everyone thought it would be him first, when and if. They had visited with us many times as our home teachers, conversations that often centered more on family and current news than on just a Gospel lesson. We loved her and will miss her too.

The impact? Of course we feel these losses deeply. And we come closer in thought if not body to that brink they have now crossed and we have yet to. But these were immortals to us, standards of goodness we thought subconsciously would be here much longer. We never put a time limit on our friendship - and we know it will endure beyond this life, but the timing is bad for us too. It's just not supposed to happen - not so soon, not like this, just not. We've felt the same with losses in the past few years of Bud Herring, Paul Sabin, Russ Logan, Jane Mangum, Phoebe Thomas, Gary Anderson and more. But it's not our timetable and someone else is in loving charge. And these good folks had their lives in order when they left. Will we? We're so much works in progress!

But as I viewed Dorine, so lovely and serene in her coffin and tried to convey tender feelings to Oscar and family, I went back to when my mom died in 1990, the first time a close loved one had passed since my dad's mom died in 1960. I walked up to her casket, frankly numb and emotionless, having just flown in from Utah to DC and maybe in shock. My dad was very emotional - but I just touched her face, so beautifully cold and hard, pristine like alabaster. It was her mortal shell, the tabernacle of her eternal spirit which was now not there. I knew that, but somehow it was still profoundly mysterious to me.

I accept the resurrection of Christ and His gift of that to all of us. It's all on faith. And though that's not tested when I attend a funeral viewing, it is still a bit incomprehensible. I know it will happen for me, though I always thought I would be caught up to meet Jesus when he came - and I'm still holding out some possibly vain hope, though I'm not sure how I'd handle the heights. My wife definitely has that fear and if we go up together, she's going to be clutching me as if we were hang gliding, and hopefully not dragging me back down to earth so we miss the whole "rapture" thing.

But I'd rather deal with that than death itself, because we are so indecisive about coffins (can they make me a double wide?) and we have no plots yet and wonder if we should just go with cardboard to save money - or do the cremation option and start picking out some exotic Celtic urn, Irish to the end. But who would want to keep it around the house? We're still supposed to get a plot for that? I'm all for mixing our ashes together in some macabre romantic rite - but then how will we be resurrected, all tangled up and possibly getting the wrong limbs? Or should we both be scattered to the four winds - but where? Together or separate? Because I know she's going to choose downtown Omaha and I'm more partial to Mount Timpanogos. So many questions, so little time, literally. I guess that's why we try to avoid thinking about it until it is thrust upon us unexpectedly by a close friend's early demise. Then we realize it's still around the corner, down the hall, second door to the left.

And one more footnote. I got an email today from a girl I had sung with in high school choir, Carolyn Hill Couser, whose family I had taught the Gospel back in 1974. That happened because she and her husband Dyrk had seen a marquis with my name on it when Colleen and I were singing at a Holiday Inn in Beltsville MD where we lived at that time. We all got talking about religion when they came in one night. They weren't happy with their church, had known that I was LDS and had gone to BYU after hight school, and wondered if I would tell them more. I got permission to teach them, and they eventually all joined and I was able to baptize all but the youngest kids - or did I do it at all instead of the missionaries? Memory freeze!

In the past year or so, she had been emailing me about her life as I tried to keep track of how they were doing in Church. They had been very active in the College Park Ward after we left and moved to Virginia, she becoming the ward organist for some time. Then he retired from NSA and they moved back to his hometown, Punxsutawny, PA - and started going ecumenical and attending other churches. I was concerned for them and wrote to them off and on. He eventually left his wife for another woman, left the Church - and now she has stomach cancer and is under hospice care.

She called me today and we talked about it. She is resigned, but with a lot more faith, having returned to the LDS church in the past year, partly by being reactivated by a missionary couple, Bob and Connie Rose, whom Colleen and I knew well from DC and who have lived in Bountiful these many years we've been here too. Smallness of worlds! I am strengthened by Carolyn's faith in the plan of salvation and for being able to be calm and courageous in the face of death. I know it is a door and passage to the spirit world, where she will be free of pain, be reunited with loved ones and wait for her eternal assignment and continual resurrected progress in the mansions of the Savior she so believes in! I hope I have as much courage when my time comes. Right now, there's more work to be done and a messy house to still be put in order! It would be nice to have more time to work on that, hint hint.

October 12, 2009

Saints alive!

No really folks, I was watching Fox News this morning before church, and heard that Father Damien had been sainted by the Catholic Church! In other words, his life had been lived so well and he had at least two miracles attributed to him, he made the grade. Well, I have a little something more to add.

First, I lived in Hawaii for ten years and visited Molokai and the Leper Colony there, even took a performing group of kids from BYU-Hawaii down for a visit and a little show. Going down and then up that 1000 foot mule trail to get there and back, right after a rain and amid some fresh animal poop, was one of my great life's funny memories. Father Damien really did a great service there and helped these pariah's feel loved and cared for, and then contracted Hansen's disease himself(formerly called leprosy) and died there. I don't take anything away from him for that though my sister Carol Hansen might take exception to the disease's new name.

I just have an issue with how so many people reporting on this sainting process just take it for granted and never question the whole idea of sainthood. In the early church, all of the members were called saints. If you read about so many of Paul's journeys to the early branches of the fledgling church through his letters, he almost always hails the members of those churches as "saints", i.e. "...to the saints at Ephesus". This other idea of sainthood came much later and became specific to just a few good people. And I don't take away from some very rare deeds and lives well lived on their parts. But what about the everyday folk and their sacrifices and good deeds?

I belong to a church which calls all its members "saints" - or "Latter-day Saints", meaning members of Christ's church in these latter days. And I've seen many a miracle of healing and comfort and service given freely and by and through the holy priesthood which every worthy male can have, without fanfare or self promotion, but in quiet acknowledgment and acceptance. Jesus used to do this himself saying things like, "Go and tell no one...", keeping it as a quiet testament to his Father's power.

He gave that Priesthood and the Holy Ghost to his Apostles before He left, so they could run the Church without Him and pass it on. Unfortunately, it was lost with their untimely deaths and the disappearance of the Priesthood keys which the Apostles held last. The simple church ordinances and structure changed too. But that same power and keys have been restored and exist today, used by common people for uncommon purposes, quietly and without any worldly recognition, from the administration of the Church by new Apostles down to the least of the members. If you don't know about it, you ought to check it out. True "sainthood" is really for everyone!

(Oh, and by the way, there was a Google ad on my blog the other day for "True Church", the "Restored Church of God". Uh, Not my church. That is a new version of the Herbert Armstrong's old Worldwide Church of God, using some our Mormon terminology, but not the same thing, by a long shot - albeit they have some good things to say)

October 11, 2009

Saturday...one big sandwich that ended in sleaze.

We try to sandwich in so much on a Saturday that s supposed to be a respite from the workweek. Well, I'm not actually working yet, but I follow my wife around, and that's a workweek all in one day for me. Started with an 8:30 am football game, way cool and wayyyyyy cold - grandson Kai is 8 and pushing the NFL envelop. There were other games of our step-grandkids we were supposed to attend, but after our weekly breakfast out, it got too late, so we had to get in a little apple picking and juicing, a little napping - and it was time to eat out with our widowed Karen friend, who we try to go out with once a month or so.

By the time we finished that and did a little Halloween shopping, it was time for some real football ala alma mater BYU. But it was also a rock band reunion for son Shane and we said we'd go - but we thought we had it timed so we could watch most of the game and get in the last of his performance at Velour in Provo with Chump! We left in time, but they finished sooner than expected, and we wound up with egg on our face - we said we'd stick around and cry and feel bad for hour or so, but they had to get their two little boys home for bed. It was already 10:30pm! Shane's wife Sharon was visibly disappointed, rightfully so - if we had left a tad earlier from the game, we'd have at least seen him playing his bass and singing, talented guy that he is. He was gracious about us missing it, but we still hurt about it! REALLY sorry, son!

We had also planned to see our daughter Erin sing in her band, Five On The Fly, an amazing pop rock combo playing this weekend at Club 90 in Sandy, and stay till 1:00 am because we have late church. Though my former Catholic wife did her share of socializing in bars before we were married and we had our singing days together in bars right after we were married, times have changed and so have we. While Erin sang her heart out and was amazing to watch and listen to, we had to endure all the dancing going on in front of us - if you can call it dancing anymore. It was more a combo of leaning, slouching, off-beat gyrating and a really vulgar display of erotic and sleazy humping and bumping and groping ...the worst was a guy in a wheelchair with his moll all but having sex with him right on the floor. A lot of girls dancing with girls too, and it wasn't all dancing - and just sad people trying to have some kind of kinky relationship and validation right in front of everyone without any qualms, their quiet desperation flowing out in an assortment of moves and grooves that was anything but dancing.

I felt sad for so many of them, their alcohol getting the best of them, loosening their inhibitions, causing them to do things they'd never do sober - at least I want to give them the benefit of the doubt. Colleen and I had to almost laugh, it was so tragic - and I'm not trying to be condescending or judgmental. There but for God go the both of us, who come from alcoholic roots and genes, who could be there were it not for our commitment to a higher law, knowing there is more, glad we know about it and trying to live it, albeit imperfectly. But it's easy to see how the Adversary works on people, controls them like puppets, deceives them into thinking they are having fun and are doing something meaningful. I call it being suckers for Satan, dupes for the Devil, lackeys for Lucifer. And this is just one of his active arenas. We left feeling a little slimy ourselves, looking up at our active LDS daughter and her band of good Mormon guys, knowing they were doing it for the fun of playing together - and the money's not bad either. Lucky they didn't have to take in the visuals and take any of it home with them.

October 6, 2009

My karaoke kids and singalong family...

Was chatting with my youngest, Conn, 26, till 2am this morning, mostly listening to his evening's antics in a karaoke bar. He says he tried not to sing, but his buddies made him get up...says he gets self-conscious singing, because he's a serious singer and he doesn't want to intimidate those for whom karaoke is just good fun, forget the actual singing part of it. But of course he got up anyway and sang "New York, New York" ala "old blue eyes" and got the usual plaudits and swoons. It's fun for him too, of course, especially the applause!

But when he mentioned how he doesn't like to sing to show off or show up anyone, because he doesn't want people not to get up after he sings because they might not feel they are as good, he wasn't being boastful. But he did reveal what karaoke has always been for most people, a chance to sing with a recorded band, get a moment of stardom, feel the high of the stage and the audience, sing with friends, usually sing badly but not care that much - unless they have serious social or mental issues, and then everything comes wailing out for all the world to hear.

But we Currans have taken it pretty seriously ever since we discovered it way back in the late eighties here in Utah, when we had just moved here without work from Hawaii in 1986. Our mom Colleen valiantly set up a singing studio to try to bring in some money, teaching voice students with her music degree, while I papered our walls with rejection letters from not being able to find work with my two masters degrees. We found that a local music store had just gotten a Singing Machine line to sell and after Colleen talked to them, they were willing to let her use one in our family room studio for free and we would refer students to them for a possible purchase.

It didn't take long to realize, however, that maybe we should be selling these singalong machines ourselves, so Colleen got us in touch with the wholesaler of the machines in LA, a Phillippine group called Zenasia. Their president, Albert Nini, came and met us once he heard that I had sung with The Lettermen(famous in his country), and set us up as retailers at home, and singing demonstrators of his line, Denonet, at Consumer Electronic Shows in Chicago and Las Vegas. Soon after that, he hired me to wholesale to music stores all over the West, to set up new accounts, traveling at first in a Dodge van and then eventually in my own Karaoke van.

After many a long and weary road trip, setting up new dealers from Washington to New Mexico, I got to stay home more and do phone follow ups with my own 800 number, 225-SING, which happened to also be our same number for our local Utah market. We struggled trying to make it work though, all the while enjoying the personal uses ourselves and especially watching all of our kids singing and gaining so much poise and repertoire with the many different popular songs available on tapes and eventually cd-rs. They were musical anyway, but this just enhanced their learning so much, gave them so much confidence and increased their singing abilities, that we felt it had been a boon to try this as a business, a great investment in their musical futures. I too love to sing with a good band arrangement that sounds like the original hit - and Colleen and I did many a gig ourselves with just a portable system to back us up.

But alas, we weren't very good with the bookkeeping and we were driving Albert and Max Villarin(the VP) crazy with bad accounting and money management on the business end of things. And the market was changing all the time too, with the Chinese developing little $100 units that were constantly undercutting our higher end units from Denon and Panasonic that sold for $500-700. So were losing money and finding it harder and harder to market what we had retail as well as continue wholesaling to the music store accounts I had set up before.

So Colleen kept doing the vocal teaching for a little while, trying different names like Singing Unlimited and Vocalife. But she finally got a teaching job in Special Ed and Music when teaching at home became too hard to do for much longer. I found odd jobs over the years in sales and telemarketing, market research, ESL/English teaching and doing some editing for a phone directory company. But still nothing steady and stable to date.

We don't do karaoke much anymore either, unless we have a wedding or anniversary, and then we rent out a full blown system with the mikes, monitors and big speakers, that have thousands of songs available to sing. Of course, Sean put his own studio in his old bedroom downstairs, and has recorded some pretty nice stuff from there, including two cds of his own, and vocal demos for Conn and Erin. Those guys and Shane have done the most continual singing and music as an extension of the karaoke we started with 20 years ago.

So now Conn has his own website, www.conncurran.com to market himself as a jazz singer. And Erin sings with a band that has demos online at www.fiveonthefly.com. Sean sells his cds but I'm not sure where - maybe on Google or YouTube? Shane has his own website too at www.singingbirthdaycard.com, where he has demos of his various written and recorded musical versions of original birthday songs you can give to loved ones. Check them out! They are all awesome - and so is karaoke for what it did for us financially and musically, and still does whenever we get a chance to do our sing thing.

October 3, 2009

You wanna talk peeves? I'll give you peeves!

I can't watch a night of tv without finding some peeves - not even pet peeves either. I love the History Channel, but I watched with some skepticism an episode called The Mountain Meadows Massacre", supposedly documenting a true version of a terrible event in Mormon Church history, to this day still unclear in all its facts, about the massacre of about 100 settlers going through southern Utah in 1857. As they made their way across that barren land, allegedly some Mormon leaders down there along with some Paiute Indians they hired, decided to kill everyone execution-style, except all children under 12 for whatever unknown reason. The innuendo throughout was that they were commissioned by Brigham Young, LDS prophet at the time to do this, though John D Lee was the only one ever found guilty of this terrible deed.

It happened. How and why is still a mystery, but the speculation was rampant that it was a setup and ok with the Mormons, based on the words and records of a few, who could have had some ax to grind and wanted to blame this church. And there's no question, there could have been some maverick LDS, still full of hate toward outsiders who contributed to their early heinous persecutions in the East, who might have done this. I've heard mention that some from this wagon train might have either been associated with former persecutors or may have stirred up these Mormon settlers down there and incited them to revenge.

But what was missing was any reference to the terrible treatment of the Mormons by non-Mormons in Illinois and Missouri, including an extermination order against the LDS members by then Governor Boggs of Missouri. Thousands of new converts lost their lives in this land of supposed religious freedom because of blatant bias, prejudice, hatred and harassment, even the their prophet, Joseph Smith, who was martyred defenseless while he was imprisoned. This ultimately led to their exodus from their beautiful city of Nauvoo and their perilous trek across the wilderness to the Great Salt Lake, with Brigham Young as their leader and new prophet. Many lost their lives on that journey too. Not mentioning that more balanced perspective peeved me - a lot!

Another peeve? I watched an episode of Cold Case in which a young baby had been taken from its crackhead mother by some people who wanted to give it a good home. But when the mom sobers up, she goes out to find her son and ultimately prosecutes the people who saved her kid from herself. So those Cold Casers bring the kid back to her, now 5 or 6 and already bonded to his nurturing parents, and return him to his sobered up mom, and make it look like this is supposed to be one big happy reunion, like the kid is supposed to be happy to be reunited with a mother he doesn't even know??? Outrageous! And while current laws support that kind of action in favor of the rights of the original parent, I think they should be changed.

Whoever the child bonds to should be the parents, so the kid isn't wrenched away from them to be with someone he doesn't know, doesn't care about and now will probably have permanent trauma because of all his life. Kids need stability and love without any disruption in those early years, staying with the family that brought them up and protected them, rather than giving them back to parents who spawned them but didn't ever parent them. What a sad jolt to any kid who has to go through that. Rethink that law, please, for the child's sake!

And yet another peeve? I happened to turn the tv on to a roast of Joan Rivers the other night. I thought it might be funny. I didn't watch much of it, because what I saw was one of the most vile and filthy- mouthed rips on someone I've ever heard, with all these "stars" feeling they had total license to call her every name in the book, all in fun of course, while she just sat there with this weird smile affixed on her face, probably put there earlier by one of her plastic surgeons, so she couldn't react. Just to listen to these famous names indulge themselves in coarse vulgarities at her expense and think it was all so funny? It was pathetic and tasteless and ugly and sad - and she just sat there, emotionless. Maybe she was dead and we just didn't know it. If so, I don't think she died laughing.

Ok, one more - not tv related, but I listened to a radio interview with Heather Armstrong a while back on NPR's Radio West. Here's a woman who writes about motherhood in crass terms and foul language, a former Mormon who thinks she's so liberated because she decided in an English class at BYU once that she could have thoughts independent of her parents - so she throws away her religion and family connections. And because so many sad people with no life of their own just adore mavericks and rebels, no matter what they are against, but just because they are turncoats, she now makes thousands a month on her blog because some women think she's so cool for leaving her faith and snubbing her roots and even speaking out against it all. Not cool. I know I won't go there to get any child-raising tips. She really peeves me! So there!

October 1, 2009

Ok Dan Brown, let's talk!

I just finished "The Lost Symbol" and I want to read it again, because I did get a little lost myself. I liked it of course, as I did all your other ones, all nail-biting, wild rides until the end! But in all your hoopla about "Apotheosis", man becoming like god, divine, and reaching his full potential, are you just pushing humanism again, that when man reaches his highest self-actualization, he is like A god? Because Katherine's Noetics is so much about the possibilities of the mind of man, the power of thought, man the ultimate creator? Or do I deduce too much by thinking you are touching on something else, the doctrine Christ taught in Matthew 5:48, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect", becoming like THE God? You quote a lot of biblical scripture around this theme, but left that one out. Maybe I'm extrapolating from my Mormon cosmology again.

But you bring in the idea of "Elohim", not just the name of one God but a plurality of Gods, as in "And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness..."(Gen1:26). Who is "us" and "our"? Who were the creator Gods? If Jesus was with God in the Beginning and said he was foreordained BEFORE the foundations of the world, God's Firstborn in the spirit, could he have been there with his Father, God, making the world, or at least doing it under his Father's direction? Two gods? So Joseph Smith's vision of two gods, the Father and the Son, isn't so far- fetched after all, but actually a confirmation of what the New Testament's Apostle Paul says so many ties in his journeys? He's always talking about the Father and the Son, yet that simple concept got so screwed up after the Council of Nicea, as you so ably implied in "The DaVinci Code." Good on you!

But then, in Genesis 1:27, "So God made man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, MALE and FEMALE (my caps) created he them." So is God male and female then? Androgynous? Or does God have a female partner, an eternal creator companion, a wife, after whom all women are created, who is also part of that pantheon plurality of gods known as Elohim? And the other one you quoted, "Know ye not that ye are gods? (Isaiah?) Can't that mean we are all gods in embryo, like earthly children can become like their earthly parents, as eternal spirit children of God(Heb 12:9) can become like their eternal Father/Mother Gods who have perfect, exalted bodies? Could it not be that as their spirit children, we had to come to earth to obtain physical bodies to become like them eternally, made in their image on earth, perfected in their image forever? So, sorry Katherine, I'm not buying being made in just in God's mind image.

I go back to when I was working at a CES show, showing karaoke for a company I worked for. With our staff was a preacher with his own church, also a biker we called Biker Bob - and a beautiful Latino lady hired to market to the Hispanic market. They were both Protestant Christians and had issues with me because I was a Mormon Christian, which they thought was a mutual exclusion. I asked Bob, as we were there working on a Sunday, "Does Jesus have a body?" "Yes, he was resurrected." "Ok then, does God have a body?" "No, God is a spirit". "Ok then, is Jesus the same as God?" "Yes, Jesus and God are one." "So Jesus has a body but God doesn't?" Silence. Bob had no answer, nor did the other lady. They walked away mumbling. But my answer is - yes, there is a plurality of gods.

Jesus was in the beginning with his Father. They are both Gods who created the earth and intiated a great plan of salvation in the heavens before Jesus came, so he could do his appointed and foreordained work of salvation for us as our Savior. And Satan was there too as Lucifer, wanting to be like God and a savior too, but proposing to save us all by force rather than through our choice. His egotistic and self-serving plan was rejected and who with a numerous host of his spirit siblings, some of God's spirit children, was cast out of heaven upon the earth, and who all are allowed to tempt and try us today so that our eternal free agency can be in effect and valid, so that we can make choices that show our love for God and man - or reject him and take the consequences.(Rev.12:7-9, 20:1-10) Sounds a little like Solomon's wayward son you created, who gave himself over to evil in so many awful ways.

So Dan Brown, I am expanding upon your theme somewhat in hopes that you might see how far you could have taken it if you knew what I and other Mormons know - and to quote a man whom I accept as a latter-day prophet, Lorenzo Snow, "As man is, God once was - and as God is, man may become." That's how far I am taking your ideas, good ideas all, just stopping short of what is for me in my Mormon theology the logical extension of "Laus Deo" inscribed on top of the Washington monument. I was born in DC and grew up around there - your amazing book has made me want to return with more insight into its fascinating history.

Growing up in Silver Spring, MD, just seven miles from the White House, we had a framed copy on our dining room wall of a famous painting of Pierre L'Enfant looking over the land that was soon to be Washington, showing his vision of how he would lay it out and how it would look. I've been downtown many times in my young life, never realizing all that went into the creation of such a marvelous city, built with so many symbols and references to principles and ideas that remain so important to the free society we enjoy today. Thanks for a great read, DB, and I will continue to study and understand better the unique history you have brought out in the open, the powerful confluence of ideas and connections you have made - it's an exciting tapestry to unravel and to ferret out God's truths from man's - forgive the presumption.