Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Beatles Fan

Actually, it's ended up being more than a day--and somewhat inconveniently during days I needed to focus on other things.  But what would life be without a few distractions?

Here's what happened: My wife, Margaret Young, jokingly (I think) threatened on Facebook to toss my Beatles albums, and many, many people objected, some with great fervor. (And several said to toss them in their direction.)

After first pleading for mercy (actually requesting that nothing traumatic be done and that I not be tempted to spend time on Facebook for the next few days), I later responded:

To all you Beatles fans: Sorry for my earlier reply to Margaret's posting (I'm tempted to say I’m a loser--and I love her). I should have offered no reply or simply said something like: You can't do that! Or Help! or Wait! Or Misery! Or That’ll be the day! Actually, do you want to know a secret? If I fell for Margaret’s posting, I should have known better. Next year (when I’m 64--it won't be long!), I want to tell you, you won’t see me make a big deal about what goes on Facebook. But at the moment, I’m so tired of people taking it all so seriously. (Tell me why they do? I’d love you to.) When I get home, I will be able to share some things we said today, not to mention yesterday. (A brief preview of what she said: She said, “The two of us keep getting on Facebook, in spite of all the danger. You need to watch what you’re doing--because it’s all too much.” I said, “Yes, it is. But it’s getting better.”) Well, I've got to get back home. Good night. (The end.)

A colleague of mine--Pat Madden, a fine writer of creative non-fiction--counted 28 Beatles songs in my comment, but he missed several. In fact, there are over 30, including a couple extra cleverly present and easy to miss; also one that's ambiguous--it's really a Buddy Holly song--but the Beatles did record it. I'm counting the Beatles Anthology albums as well as the ones released back in the day. I think I've got something from just about every album.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should also say that, in the current version, I increased the references by one simply by expanding a contraction.  In other words, the original 34 song titles were increased to 35 when I changed "I'll" to "I will."  In a moment I'll list all the songs.

All this happened on Oct. 28.  Then, the next day, I added another comment:  "I'm afraid some of you are going to say, 'Not a second time'--but actually this is my 4th comment (maybe last?). I just wanted to give a link to a blog post on my history with the Beatles, including an interview at the Provo Central Stake picnic 16 years ago you may find interesting and entertaining:"

And finally today (Oct. 30), I added:
Since no one else has risen to the challenge, I am designating Pat Madden as the winner of the competition to count the Beatles song titles in my comment from the night before last.  He came awfully close- -28 out of 34 or 35.  (I admit picking songs from the Beatles Anthologies or Live at the BBC is a bit unfair--but I was hoping to separate the real experts from the casual fans.  I've put a list of the 35 titles on the following site: )  I wanted to imagine dozens crying, waiting, hoping to know if they would win, but apparently no one else was up to the challenge, for no one else even made a guess.  Of course, I will be giving Pat some kind of prize.  What it is I don’t know yet: we could throw him a birthday party, or I could let him drive my car.  (I've got a feeling I’ll have to come up with something more modest.)  In any case, we can work it out.
OK . . . it' s a bit predictable.  And maybe a bit scary.  This could go on in an endless loop, with every little thing I say becoming another challenge for song identifiers.

For now, I'll just list the references in the original message:

I’m a loser (from Beatles for Sale)
And I love her (from A Hard Day's Night)
No reply (from Beatles for Sale)
Something (from Abbey Road)
You can't do that (from A Hard Day's Night)
Help! (from Help)
Wait (from Rubber Soul)
Misery (from Please Please Me)
That’ll be the day (from Beatles Anthology 1)
Do you want to know a secret? (from Please Please Me)
If I fell (from A Hard Day's Night)
I should have known better (from A Hard Day's Night)
When I’m 64 (from Sgt. Pepper)
It won't be long (from With the Beatles)
I want to tell you (from Revolver)
You won’t see me (from Rubber Soul)
What goes on (from Rubber Soul)
I’m so tired (from The Beatles aka "the White Album")
Tell me why (from A Hard Day's Night)
Love you to (from Revolver)
When I get home (from A Hard Day's Night)
[I will (from The Beatles ["the White Album"]) (I'm putting this in brackets because originally I had "I'll" instead of "I will")]
Things we said today (from A Hard Day's Night)
Yesterday (from Help)
She said, she said (from Revolver)
Two of us (from Let It Be)
In spite of all the danger (from Beatles Anthology 1)
What you’re doing (from Beatles for Sale)
Because (from Abbey Road)
It’s all too much (from Yellow Submarine)
Yes, it is (from Past Masters 1)
Getting better (from Sgt. Pepper)
Get back (from Let It Be)
Good night (from The Beatles ["the White Album"])
The end (from Abbey Road)

And now if anyone would like to list the song titles in my other comments . . .

(By the way, I see that in the list above, I don't have anything from Magical Mystery Tour or Past Masters 2, though this second is actually one of two compilations of singles that didn't appear on the UK albums.  And there are, of course, other Anthology albums and various other compilations, most of which repeat songs found elsewhere.)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Provo City Elections!

Lots of people--even people who take their civic responsibilities seriously--neglect local elections.  Years ago I heard someone say that local elections are even more important than national ones.  At least they have more direct and detailed impact on everyday life.  With that in mind, I've decided I'd better vote today.

Today is municipal election day in Utah (that's my understanding anyway), and so it's the day to vote in Provo, Utah, where I live, for mayor and city council.

John Curtis is running for re-election as mayor.  He has several opponents, some of whom might be OK--an idealistic college student, another man who has run for mayor many times and who might be an interesting change of pace but probably wouldn't be as effective in terms of basic competence . . . , etc.   I really haven't looked carefully at all the candidates.  I believe Curtis has done a good job and plan to vote for him.

There doesn't appear to be a race this year in my city council district, though there are races in some of the others.

But there is a race for a city-wide council member.  I've looked at the websites of all the candidates, and, in my view, there are three that would be OK and two that could be disastrous.  If one of the disastrous candidates is elected, it will be in part because so few vote in local elections and because so few pay much attention or get informed.

Here are the websites of the three I think would not be disasters:

As I've looked at the sites, it appears to me all not only are sincere (so I take it are the other two, the ones I don't favor) but also seem capable and have wise and insightful things to say.  I'm grateful these folks have been willing to run for office and, if elected, serve.

One of the three stands out for me a bit, in part because of his own views and qualifications, but also because of the people supporting him, several of whom I know quite well--Lewis Billings (I was his counselor in a local stake presidency for several years), John and Susan Tanner (John is a colleague of mine in BYU's English Department, and John and Susan are part of a book group my wife and I have belonged to for over 20 years), and Lenore Davis and Patti Stirling (members of the same book group).  Another endorser is Cynthia Dayton, a former city council member and daughter of Welby Ricks (a stake patriarch and member of my ward) and mother of Lindsay Spencer (another ward member--she just gave birth a few days ago).

The candidate is Dave Sewell, and the page with endorsements is  Lewis Billings, who likes to make lists, says:

 If you will take the time to get to know him you will find him to be:
  • Completely honest
  • Genuine and real
  • An exceptional listener
  • Courteous and always respectful
  • An effective communicator
  • Very bright and quick to understand
  • Able to synthesize and bring order to divergent ideas
  • A hard worker and proven neighborhood leader
  • A good businessman and employer
  • Humble and not politically ambitious

(By the way--this is me again--for voting information in Provo, go to

Honestly, I wish I could vote for more than one of the city-wide council candidates: I think several of them could make great contributions, and they would bring a diversity of perspectives.  But, alas, one of the points of voting is to narrow down the list of our representatives to a manageable size.

My main reason for writing this blog post is to encourage everyone to think local--to be aware that you benefit from, and can also be threatened by, decisions made at the local level; to remember that your side walks, roads, garbage pickup, recycling, power, water, the quality of your neighborhoods and schools, and much, much more are affected by the people you elect to local offices.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The past few days . . .

I usually don't use blogging simply to report on my daily activities.  But the past few days have been exceptionally packed, and I thought it would be useful (for myself anyway) to make a record of this little slice of my life.  Here, to start with, is what I put as my status update on Facebook:
I was going to use Facebook to report on the past few days but realized the "update" box doesn't have near enough space. So here are some highlights followed by a link for more. Today I spent over an hour helping a former student with his application to run for office in India (that's a first for me). Yesterday included a visit to the Utah County Jail and finishing a summary of my life for the past 30 years (the spiritual and emotional side anyway) that will be published as part of a book on faith. The preceding few days included jumping off a platform from about the height of the top of a telephone pole; surviving a 7-mile hike; teaching a Sunday School lesson to teenagers on priesthood and gender; watching the film "Hitchcock" (as well as some episodes of The West Wing, Dick Van Dyke, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents); plus continuing my reading of "Team of Rivals" and doing some of the grading that has to get done by the time final grades are due on Friday . . .
In reality, any one of these items could be the subject of an essay.  Team of Rivals is a wonderfully illuminating and thought-provoking book.  The film Hitchcock was interesting (was he really that messed up? I'm glad he and his wife somehow managed to make a go of it).  The West Wing is a remarkably stimulating and engaging series.  The lesson on priesthood and gender went remarkably well, though I felt a bit nervous teaching it in the presence of my wife, who--quite rightly--has strong feelings on the subject.  I was happy to hear the students--young people about 16-18 years old--speak openly about their questions and feelings.

The seven-mile hike to the top of Big Baldy almost did me in, but I hope it's preparing me for the High Adventure experience I'm planning to take part in with young men of the area at the end of July and beginning of August.  Jumping off a platform from about the height of the top of a telephone pole: well, that was quite an experience.  This was part of a "ropes course" the young men and young women in our ward did for their activity last Thursday evening.  I was in a harness, so it was safe.  But the body and mind naturally rebel against jumping from that height, and so I had to push through a wall of panic (maybe "terror" is a better word) to make the jump.  Quite a tale could be told of how various adults and youth dealt with that jump and other "ropes course" experiences.

But moving on . . .

Monday morning I had a plumber do some major work in our home.  Monday evening we had a bit of a family crisis (in that same home), but it's turned out pretty well.  Tuesday I finished writing an addendum to an essay titled "The Miracle of Faith, the Miracle of Love: Some Personal Reflections," published in the book A Thoughtful Faith in 1986.  The book is soon to be reissued.  So my addendum, among other things, reflects on my life over the past 30 years.  (A draft of the addendum may be found here:

Last evening, I visited the Utah County Jail and had a nice chat (ending with a prayer) with a young man I've known since his childhood.  I have great hopes for him (joined with concerns).

Besides reading Team of Rivals, I've been reading The Life of William Shakespeare: A Critical Biography by Lois Potter (one of the best of many recent Shakespeare biographies)--and, just about daily, I've been reading the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants.  I've read the Book of Mormon over 20 times but keep learning and experiencing new things.  I've read the Doctrine and Covenants fewer times, but still quite a few.

And just to fill in a few more details:
  • On Friday, I consulted with a project aiming to present Hamlet along with a Christian interpretation for international broadcast.  And in the evening (before we watched Hitchcock), mi esposa Margaret and I went to an avant-garde local eating establishment (Station 22) and then tried to get her dying cell phone upgraded (I ended up ordering one online).
  • On Saturday (besides the 7-mile hike--which took about 7 hours) I spent about an hour in the Provo LDS Temple and then did some shopping at Costco.
  • On Sunday, I spent 7 1/2 hours in local church meetings and interviews (that included the Sunday School lesson plus lots more) and then watched a 2-hour Worldwide Leadership Training broadcast that, among other things, told me some of the things I should be doing or making sure get done.
  • On Sunday evening, my wife and I spent some relaxing time with extended family, eating and conversing.
  • I spent about a half hour swimming on Friday, Monday, and Wednesday (today)--something I'm doing to try to keep in shape and, well, just keep alive.  Actually, I've been sick (chest and nasal congestion, achiness, etc.) most of the past week, but have still managed to keep an active schedule.
Also, on Monday, I finished a letter assessing the teaching of a colleague who'll be up for a review.  The assessment is based on visits I made a few months ago to her class on Chaucer.

And of course, since I also live to some degree vicariously through my family, I should mention that my oldest son placed 5th in a Salt Lake Arts Festival poetry slam over the weekend.  My wife is, as always, doing amazing things, which I've helped with by working on some flyers she's putting together and printing off PDF contract or disbursement request forms for her to send to Oxford University Press and IFP (Independent Filmmaker Project).

In addition, I've kept in touch with family and friends in various ways and spent much, much, much time doing church-related business via e-mail and phone (and in person).  And just to make it clear that I don't do everything I'm asked, I've neglected or turned down various requests over the past few days.

But I am also aware that I'm overdue getting back to several people on a book proposal I need to send in (for something to be titled Shakespeare's Dramas of Atonement), for a book on Levinas and early modern literature, and for a panel on Shakespeare and Levinas for a conference next year in Paris.  And I need to quickly do an online letter of recommendation . . . and of course, get a pile of exams, papers, and other assignments graded in time for final grade submission on Friday at noon.

This is not necessarily a typical week.  But it's not especially atypical.  Except maybe for getting involved in a political campaign in Tamil Nadu.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Bruce Young on Christians, Romney, and Voting

[NOTE: This piece dates back to 2008 and consists of my response to an evangelical pastor who claimed, not only that Christians should not vote for anyone believing in a "false Christ" (meaning specifically a Mormon and, in the context of the time, Mitt Romney) but that Christians should not wish such a person well, on the basis of a verse in one of the epistles of John.  One argument he used for not voting for such a person is that, if we are not to welcome heretics into our homes and if the White House is in some sense a "home" belonging to the people, we should not welcome a heretic into the White House.  My piece originally appeared as a comment on the "Pastors 4 Huckabee" site (see ) and was reposted by Kaimi Wenger on the blog "Times and Seasons" (see ).]

My response (to Pastor Haisty’s argument that, according to John the apostle, Christians should not wish someone who believes in a “false Christ” well and should not welcome such a person into their home or any “house” that in some sense belongs to them):

(1) Even those who believe in absolute scriptural inerrancy must grant that, as human beings, we are seeking to understand the text (of which none of us, by the way, has the autographs from the hands of the apostles). Always, I believe, that understanding must take place in the light of Christ--that is, in harmony with “the mind of Christ” and with “the meekness and gentleness of Christ,” in a manner Christ himself would approve of, and with Christ’s direct words taking precedence and all other things being interpreted so as to be compatible with Christ’s words.

(2) With that in mind, John’s counsel not to wish unbelievers or antichrists well cannot be properly understood as contradicting Christ’s teaching to love your enemies, bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you. And so I agree with those that have said John means we should not wish unbelievers or antichrists well in their false or destructive endeavors. But a Christian can--in fact, must--wish them well in general, in the sense of desiring their ultimate happiness and salvation. I think we can even wish for their immediate prosperity--that they will be safe, happy, and successful in any good endeavors--insofar as that is not incompatible with their salvation. But I suppose in wishing anyone well, in a temporal sense, we ought to add, “God willing,” since God of course knows what is best for all of us and when adversity might do us more good than success.

(3) Extending the idea of not welcoming an unbeliever or antichrist into one’s home so that it applies to any “house” that in some sense you have a part in could lead to horrific consequences. It could be used to exclude Mormons (or others deemed non-Christian) from shelter or care in any kind of hospital, homeless center, residence, or other facility supported in whole or in part by public funds or by any other contributions you have made. It could be used to exclude them from any role in government or public life. I doubt that’s what John had in mind.

(4) What the pastor says about Mormons has, in the past, been said about Roman Catholics. From the Reformation onward, some Protestants have explicitly identified Catholics as antichrist. Should what the pastor says about Mormons be applied to Roman Catholics? Should it be applied to Jews? (You could argue, for instance, that Joe Lieberman’s view of Christ [="the Messiah"] is not only defective but false in fundamental ways.) How about other Protestants who do not believe literally in the historicity of Christ, or in his divine Sonship, or in his resurrection, or in the virgin birth, or in his miracles? That would include plenty of Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, and others (not to mention Unitarians)--including not only some nominal members with little interest in theology but, in some cases, ministers and theologians themselves. Should John’s counsel be applied in the same way to them? Does that mean that, with each presidential candidate, we should seek to examine carefully if their view of Christ is biblical (not whether they BELIEVE it is biblical, but whether WE believe it is biblical) and then counsel others not to vote for candidates if they don’t meet the standard? If the answer is “Yes” (as the pastor’s logic would demand), why not treat all the candidates equally and put them all to the test? There could then be a “Biblical Case” against voting for Giuliani, or McCain, or any number of others--perhaps even Huckabee himself, if he should happen to fail the test.

(5) As for who counts as a Christian, I believe the best test (as someone else has noted) is that given by Christ: “By their fruits ye shall know them.” It’s difficult to apply this to large groups of people, since, in any group I’ve discovered, there is great variety. But we can perhaps make a stab at testing a professed Christian by his fruits. And what should be those fruits? “Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.”

With that in mind, I believe that, while there may be many grounds on which to determine that people are believing in a “false Christ,” the one that matters most is whether believers show in their own words and actions evidence of “the mind of Christ.” If not, then even if all of their statements about Christ are theologically correct, their real knowledge--their personal and spiritual knowledge--of Christ must be defective. When Jesus said, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent,” I’m confident he meant knowing the Father and the Son in a personal and experiential sense, not in a merely theoretical, abstract, propositional sense.

Besides the statement “by their fruits,” Jesus gave at least three other tests of discipleship I can think of: obedience to the Father (“Not everyone that saith unto me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ . . . but he that doeth the will of my Father”), love (“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another”), and care for others (“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”). Interestingly the “doing” specified in this last standard is comfort and service--feeding, clothing, visiting--not correcting people’s theology. I would be most confident in identifying as a believer in the “true Jesus” someone who meets these standards.

(6) But perhaps, as I believe Governor Huckabee himself has suggested, there is a danger in trying to figure out who the true Christians are out there, when we are told, “Let a man examine himself.” Each of us needs to look in our own hearts. Each needs to ask, “Am I a true Christian--a follower in word, deed, and heart of the Son of God?”