Showing posts from April, 2011

Mortifying Moments: folk songs, technology, the masses.

I was washing dishes the other day and I was suddenly overwhelmed, at the sink, up to wrists in a soapy quart jar, with a vivid mortifying recall. I can't be the only one to get these: sudden attacks of deeply stupid things you said or did years ago.  Also a quixotic need to right the ancient wrongs!

Here, to exorcise it forever, is this kitchen-sink mortifying moment.

I was at the Atlanta American Folklore Society meeting. I presented a paper about Hawaiian Slack-key guitar and the vagaries of teaching a traditional artform using modern media, and felt a little like an academic poseur. I took a tour-- a packed tourbus full of American folklorists-- graduate students and professors-- to several Deep South potter's workshops-- saw the giant sieves to press the rough red clay and pull out the hand-shredding glass shards, the huge infernal wood-fired kilns with the godly white-hot pots transmogrifying inside. We got shown around and fed collards and pie by shirtless, overall wear…

A Mormon Aside: 90's alternative and urban legends

Listening to Pandora, an angry 90's girl mix, Sheryl Crow is singing, "if it makes you happy it can't be that bad. If it makes you happy, then why the hell are you so sad." I realize that my inner teenage mormon-girl is sadly shaking her head-- if you are unhappy it MUST be bad! Although as an adult I believe that  happy lives can look very different from each other, that being good can be miserable, and that breaking the rules can be right, I still sometimes get pings from my inner zealot.

But I suddenly realize that Mormonism, our values of abstinence, cleanliness, and self-improvement aren't special. This is a shock: we are the peculiar people! We are the exclusive heirs of the restored truth-- whatever else is good in the world is incomplete if it doesn't include Mormon temples, Mormon priesthood. When we present our ideas to other people, we must speak slowly and carefully because "the World" just won't have ears to hear our special languag…

You're a Natural!

I recently took the girls for their annual checkups-- the usual peering in ears, screaming at shots, gnawing on stethescopes. Plus the usual-for-maybe-just-my-kids stuff: hiding from the doctor under the exam table, being dragged out by the hind leg, barricading the exam room door with a step ladder, jarring the biohazard waste bin open --bam!~bam!-- with that appealing little foot pedal, befriending an autistic teenager in the lobby and rolling a rubber ball back and forth across the waiting room with him, chatting up an aging swami, petitioning the nurse for repeated trips to the Treasure Box, and then sending up a crescendoing keen of impatience and aggravation.

The visit was entering its second hour, the girls and I were all shot up and bandaged and heading exit-wards, the receptionist was re-swiping my card, the teenage buddy was pointing out the varieties of tropical fish in the fish tank, the baby was pulling my shirt off of my shoulders and yowling, and RJ was crawling under m…