31 January 2008

it's raining men.

Some days, The New York Times really gets it right. Today The Paper is filled with many magical pictures of men, in what is no doubt a concerted effort to get the cynical amongst us recommitted to their raging lust for men in time for Valentine's Day.

For example, from Jordan:

See! Men can be fun again!

From the Styles page:
See! Men can be dapper and straight! (the brown shoes with a black suit are a dead giveaway)

And lastly:
See! Manimals! Grrrrrrrr!

Ugh. That one really kills the mood.

28 January 2008

bike commuters do it in the snow.

So I brought my camera with me to work today with the intent of doing kind of a photo essay, you know "Day in the Life of a Grad Student" cheese -y type exercise. I thought I might show the view from the office, whatever-- when I left my apartment, it was a really nice day. Reasonably clear, forty degrees-- it felt like Spring! Being from Washington it was a big struggle not to put on some shorts (and sandals... with socks). But instead I figured that my trackie and beanie were cold-weather gear enough and cruised off to work around 9am.

So I'm chugging along through work and suddenly it gets dark (it's about 10am). My back faces a 10 foot tall window, so I notice these things, and I turn around, and it's a freaking whiteout! I was way too distracted to chronicle my mundane activities . It dumped snow pretty steadily until I left work at 1:30. I was going to ride down to the TRAX station and take the train up the hill, but the snow began to slow and the plows were about campus, so I just rode back up. I'm pretty sure I was having way more fun than the people walking, and even through several inches of snow, my trusty Red Rider kept me pushing forward. What's more, I stayed warm and dry. On days like this I definitely realize how spoiled I am, with a short commute, snow plows, bike-a-vator, fab bike... (stops bragging. resumes school work.)

a president like ____.

I really went gangbusters on my reading this weekend. The problem with focusing solely on twentieth-century history this semester is that the connections to the present are so easy to make; it gets a little distracting. Case in point, I read Paul K. Conkin's The New Deal. About 75% of the book is devoted to the various reasons why FDR's personality and style more or less made the New Deal a wash. It's a pretty scathing critique; to be fair, it was written in the mid-sixties as things were just about to hit the fan. The breadth of the things that FDR was able to do, not because he was informed but because he was persuasive, is disturbing. From Conkin's perspective, FDR achieved power in 1932, "the form was more important than the substance."

Within an hour of reading such a statement, I came across this little gem by Caroline Kennedy, an op-ed piece in the Times called "A President Like My Father." It's a sentimental endorsement of Barack Obama framed in a comparison to the idealism of JFK. Now I'm not a scholar of FDR, JFK or politics in general. But man, I read the Conkin book and it confirmed to me what I've been thinking for months now-- somebody who gives you goosebumps when they're giving a speech is suspect. Goosebumps do not, for me, justify a vote, yet the Democratic candidate's stands are so reasonably similar that this whole race is coming down to personality (not to mention tone, approach and demographics... I'm totes oversimplifying here).

Super Tuesday is a week away and I have yet to decide which route to take. I feel horribly conflicted and feel like, amidst the cacophony of calls for change, I am expected to choose between an experienced, polarizing dynastacist or an inexperienced skilled orator or the magnificent populist who has yet to win a state. And this is my opportunity to make my vote count-- Utah is so decidedly red. Ugh. Like I even have the time to be agonizing over this.

26 January 2008

oh, what a perfect day.

Sometimes I wonder if it gets any better than this. I love that in the middle of a recession, employment turmoil, school stress, and a life that at times seems filled with things to be unsure about, I can wake up to a perfect winter day. The haze of pollution that hung over the City has disappeared, the Oquirrhs in the West stand out in bright relief against a clear blue sky, and at 36 degrees, it feels warm! There is still snow on the ground, but clad in a reliable track jacket, I am comfortable and happy as I cruise down the hill towards work. Work! How strange to feel happy to go to work! On a Saturday! But this is the kind of day where nothing can be wrong-- even work seems full of opportunity and greatness, perhaps because the large windows don't separate me from the perfect day going on outside, because the perfect day is going on inside.

Today is a day for poetry-- my two favorites. The first, Song of the Open Road by Walt Whitman, captures perfectly, I think, all of the blissful feelings one might feel on a bike ride. The second is a prayer of sorts by e.e. cummings. Enjoy this perfect Saturday!

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

25 January 2008

this inactive mormon life.

So tonight after class, I decided to take the night off. It's been a long week filled with an expectedly intense amount of reading (I am a grad student, right? I live for it!) and job drama. Of course I thought I might further sell my soul to Steve Jobs and rent a movie off of iTunes, because you know after a week like this, the pajamas were on before my jeans even had a chance. But of course, Steve had it in for me, and I couldn't rent without an iTunes update, and that took 45 minutes, and then I decide I want to watch Mean Girls which takes AN HOUR to download. So I'm like, trying to unwind and of course after working today I have already gutted every newspaper and blog that I peruse for interesting snippets, waiting for the opportunity to chill out.

Left to my own devices, I might have done something productive like shave my legs or do homework, but no--I wanted to be entertained! And then I remember that for plane flights and whatever I subscribe to the This American Life podcast, which is of course, amazing. So I make my way all the way through episode #347, "Matchmakers," and at the end, sweet Ira says that the girl who just told this hilarious story has a forthcoming book about The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance or something or the other, and I'm like, nuh.uh. So of course I am googling right now to find out who this girl is and what makes her the authority on such things, especially as someone who survived many such a dance (bad grammar, I knows). What I found was the funniest thing I've heard in a while-- I think because it was so earnest-- this comedienne totally reached me. Click here to feel the love.

I'll admit, she left me with some deep and abiding questions about what people thought I was the year I dressed as a Q-tip. But what really made her act perfect was how validating it was-- just to hear, for once, "yes, this is ridiculous, but oh, how hard we try!" And it seems no matter how far away I get from those experiences-- those years in College Heights ward, those innumerable dances, the painful dates and planning so many of those awful activities myself-- I can't shake that they are a part of who I am. I am bound, in some way that I don't understand, to the sacrifices I made-- even when I didn't understand why I was making them, even when they became half-hearted, and even now as I cut my losses. It made me wonder how much you can really stop being who you were, even as I heave a huge sigh of relief that my future is free from ever having to see a thirty-five year old virgin dressed as a duck doing the Electric Slide.

Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for Mean Girls.

23 January 2008

no excuses

This article in The New York Times made me feel a touch guilty. I haven't been riding as much lately as the weather here has been hanging around 5 and 25 degrees (yesterday was warm-- mid 30's!!!). Looks like I will just have to cover my ears and buck up. I suppose this means it's about time for me to revisit my "running gives me foot pain / makes me too tired/ blah blah blah whining" excuse. I probably just need new shoes.

It gives me pause though, to think of all the excuses I make. I don't have the time, the qualifications, the willpower, the money, the looks. That hill is too steep, the competition is too intense, and what if this means I have to sacrifice my pride, or even my future?! And what if there's ice in the bike lanes?!

The fact of the matter is, I am so much happier when I take risks. Not the scary kinds of risks that get you hurt or cause you to contract diseases, but the kinds of risks that cause me to go a step beyond what I thought I could do-- it's when I take those risks that I find that I am living better.

19 January 2008

there will be blood... and bourbon

File this one under "things I wouldn't do unless somebody else was paying."

A school colleague was for some reason, really, really eager to see the film There Will Be Blood. Admittedly, I am not much for blood, and as a result of seeing this movie I was pretty suspicious of where the title might be taking me. But alas, I was unexpectedly treated to a well crafted movie with an amazing score. I'm not saying it was particularly uplifting (scathing critiques of capitalism usually aren't), but it was very intense and there was indeed blood.

Unlike Hairspray, which made me want to burst into song and dance, I emerged from the theater badly in need of a drink. As still something of a relative newbie to the wide world of spirits, I found myself provided with a rather large shot of bourbon. It tastes like something that would probably taste good if it didn't taste like taking a hit off a jug of rubbing alcohol. Combined with the lovely mystery beer it definitely made for a fun evening.

The review: Like There Will Be Blood, bourbon was enjoyed but will probably not be revisited.

church of the what?

First things first, let it be understood that I am not actually starting a church.

The blog title came to me quite some time ago. I bought my bike around the same time I undertook a major reevaluation of my spiritual life. It was-- and is-- the bike of my dreams, the kind of bike I'd lusted after since my visit to Amsterdam. What finally drove me to buy it was the simple desire to feel the wind against my face; the bike seemed to represent a feeling of freedom that I had only recently realized was possible. So alas, no expense was spared, and with the help of the good folks at Hyland Cyclery, I obtained the omafiat of my dreams-- a red, 3 speed Batavus Old Dutch.

To succinctly describe the experience of riding an omafiat (that's Dutch for granny bike), the bike is heavy and upright and the ride is smooth. Given the beauty of the Salt Lake valley and the excellent placement of the University of Utah campus, any ride can be a supremely spiritual experience. And so this blog was named for the "place" that I seem to do most of my worshipping these days, the bike that has come to represent the "untrammelled womanhood" spoken of by Susan B. Anthony. It embodies to me the immense simplification of my life, as I now allow myself to be happy pursuing happiness instead of unhappily waiting for it to show up. To be cliche'-- my life is about enjoying the ride.

In the film Stranger than Fiction, Harold Krick asks himself whether his life is a tragedy or a comedy. I see mine as a comedy, and hope that you will at the very least have a few laughs at my expense, and at the most glean something useful from what you read here.