Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dancing Notes

Post private lesson notes from Jofflyn and Amber:

  • Look towards my partner, not down at her.
    I have a tendency to roll my shoulders forward into the minutest slouch, and looking down into my partner's eyes feeds that bad habit.
  • Complete the thought of the lead.
    I have a tendency to not return to a fully squared off position.  Or "in the slot."  "On the diving board."
  • I don't have to rock-step on 1-2.
    Especially in two closed to closed circles in a row, why break up the flow of the circle with a rock-step?
    Anything else
  • Use entire right hand on follow's back for connection.
    I'm spreading my fingers, but hyper-extending them so that only my palm is making contact.
  • Watch the rhythm of my free spins.
    Tending to put enough energy for multiple spins but not following through (enough for three but only doing two).
    The energy in the spins needs to match the rhythm that I want out of the spin.
  • If I mean to travel in a straight line, make sure I move in a straight line.
    Tuck-turn example:  be firm enough in the lead to keep the follow going in the intended direction of the TT.
  • Step out of my box on a break.
    I always do the same rhythm steps or jockeys.  Drag back.  Walk back.  Do something different.
  • Establish my rhythm early
    I'm taking this to mean choosing which part of the music to dance to early, and sticking with it.
    I'll have to ask about instrumental solos and such.
  • Widen my base.
    I'm not keeping my feet at shoulder width apart and my balance suffers as a result.
  • Consistent energy from swing-out to swing-out
    Doing bouncy footwork variations then switching back to vanilla swing-outs is visually jarring.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Civil Rights and the Mormon Church

With all my Mormon friends, I've been caught up in the struggle and pain of many with their church's position against gay marriage.

Here's the digest version, for those who care.  On June 20th, 2008, the First Presidency of the Mormon church, consisting of the head of the church and his three counselors, released a letter, Preserving Traditional Marriage and Strengthening Families.  The letter stated the church's support of Proposition 8 in California and called on the membership for support:
We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage. 
Mormon doctrine states that the head of the church can issue statements like this with the power of infallibility.  In fact, letters from the First Presidency are the gold-standard for Mormon doctrine.

Members of the church can't really be fully participating members unless they can truthfully answer a series of questions to the leader of their congregation, including one which asks:
Do you sustain the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the prophet, seer, and revelator;
Thus, to some members feel it's their duty to be obedient to the church leadership to actively volunteer time, money, and their votes to the "Yes on 8" movement.  Others feel this is faulty.  But the friction between the two camps can cross friendship, family, and certainly congregational boundries.

In my mind, this is all wrapped up in the church's history of bigotry.

My father once told me that the Mormon's believed that blacks were "mud people."  I can't imagine that he knew much about the Mormon faith, but he certainly got the basic bigoted history correct.  Until 1978, the Church didn't allow it's black members to fully participate as anything but second class members.  The black men couldn't participate in the male-only lay priesthood system.  Neither gender was able to enter the buildings or perform the ceremonies which are doctrinally critical (including getting married in a Temple).

Remember the infallible statements of Mormon doctrine I mentioned before?  Here's an interesting list of Authoritative Statements on the Status of Blacks. The one I come back to over and over again is the 1949 statement which includes this doozy:
President Brigham Young said: "Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to."
One of the things I take away is that a past president of the church stated that black people are colored that way because of a historical curse from God.  And the First Presidency restated and enshrined that position as doctrine.  Black people are cursed by God.

Many Mormons don't know this is doctrine, or when faced with it, reject it as doctrine.  Which implies that they're rejecting the idea of the role of the President of the church as seer and revelator.  It's a treacherous path to walk, but depends on the individual judging their own ability to do mental gymnastics about this statement.  A very liberal minded Mormon would be able to say they uphold the leadership of the Church without regarding them as necessarily infallible even in these letters.  I get the impression that this is pretty outside of the mainstream.  But I also get the impression that not every Mormon has read this specific letter.  Which is weird, as they meet and study for hours on end (especially as youths, but even into adulthood).

Another tidbit.  Here's an exerpt from the current Aaronic Priesthood Manual, which is used to teach every adolescent boy.
“We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally, and of somewhat the same economic and social and educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), and above all, the same religious background, without question” (“Marriage and Divorce,” in 1976 Devotional Speeches of the Year [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1977], p. 144).
That's right, the church still uses statements against interracial marriage in it's teaching manuals.

In many ways, the racial bigotry seems like an untidy piece of history which is dying out with the people who lived it.  Not that quickly, but it is dying out.  The homophobia is slightly more institutionalized, though not couched in the language of hate, but in the language of preserving tradition and the family unit.

Gender inequality is mind-bogglingly in-your-face in the church.  All the ministireal leadership positions are held by men.  All.  From the highest levels to the local congregations.  I don't get it.

And the cultural gender roles... well, this is about civil rights and bigotry, not culture.  Never mind.

I've had to take a vaction from visiting practicing Mormon friends.  Every part of me wants to engage in these discussions which are attacking and accusatory.  And I get a quick thrill out of that behavior, along with a lot of long-term guilt.  And people who think I'm an asshole.

Bleh.  Bigotry makes me mad.

Civil Rights

So the 2008 election season has come and gone without me writing about it.

I'll say this, I spent election night dancing at Atomic Ballroom and trying not to follow things too closely once I realize that Barak Obama had won Ohio and Pennsylvania in early ballot counting.  Then heard that Prop 8 was passing in California and started paying attention again.

The people of California voted to amend the state constitution to disallow marriage for same-sex couples.  That's shocking and horrifying to me.  To a certain degree, I've been viewing this idea through the lens of my friends' experiences as liberal Mormons or ex-Mormons.  So it's been a lot about the pain of people grappling with their church's position instead of the pain of people who are being targeted for bigotry.

Yeah, bigotry.  I remember being horrified at the racism bubbling to the surface of the country during the West Virginia primary:

I laughed.  Laughed that this kind of bigotry still exists in this country.  And that people feel comfortable enough with it to expose themselves as such on camera.  And cried a little inside.

And now, as we've seemingly faced down our history of racism, we've made it clear that we haven't overcome anti-gay bigotry by a long shot.

Californians will look at themselves in the mirror years from now and have to justify this vote.  Or just be honest.  "I was a bigot."

Maya Lin's Wave Field

Maya Lin's Wave Field (hat tip, my mom)

Very cool series of installations blurring the lines between art, earth, and water.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I've been smugly telling people that I voted already, having sent in my absentee ballot a while back.

Imagine my surprise when I came home and noticed the envelope sitting by the door.  Oops.  Need to drop that off tomorrow.

Love the season.  Both candidates want to kill babies, apparently.  Obama want to kill them in utero.  McCain wants to kill them in Iraq.  Bleh.  The closer the election, the more strident the rhetoric.

One thing that did resonate with me was something which hasn't been discussed much:  abortion.  On Monday's Fresh Air, Dave Davies interviewed former Washington Post journalist and current journalism professor at UC Berkeley, Cynthia Gorney: Parsing the Politics of Abortion.  The revelatory nature of the interview was the reality of the pro-life movement's "true believers."

OK, just to think it through, some people believe that human life unequivocally begins at the moment of conception.  Thus abortion is murder.  And that's a hard line.  An embryo is the same as a two-year-old.  Rape or incest?  Since one wouldn't kill a child of rape or incest, their abortion shouldn't be legal either.  It's logically consistant but not what the vast majority of citizens believe, I think.  This was brought up in this context because Sarah (with-an-h) Palin is a "true believer."  No exceptions for rape or incest.  Only if the life of the mother is physically threatened (not emotionally) is abortion justified.

It's an outlying viewpoint.  I think if this was the classic "life begins at conception" viewpoint, not many people would view themselves as pro-life.

I'm not 100% clear on exception when the mother's life is threatend.  Would you sanction killing a two-year-old boy to save his mother?

This is a complex ethical question.  I can't help but think that abortion is a highly personal matter.  And that as a society, we should do everything in our power to make it unnecessary.  But illegal?  Doesn't sit right with me.