Day 5

I've decided to take weekends off from posting. But who knows, the bug might bite on the random Saturday or Sunday. May the wind always be at your back... Actually, I think it's kind of fun to have the wind at your front. That we you can totally lean into the wind...it's a trip!

Eric Code, Rule #2

After watching my beloved alma mater to fall to the mighty Beavers of Oregon State (note to OSU: worst. mascot. ever.), I was in something of a sour mood when sitting down to write this post. In fact, ever since being cut off by the mini-cooper the other day, I've been pondering some of the more colorful metaphors I've overheard and been known to use on occasion. I can't help but wonder why some of the strongest words in the English language are so shunned in our culture. Obviously, they can be shocking and totally inappropriate. I think I once reduced my little brother Mikee to tears with a well-placed curse. That was bad form on my part, but interesting when looking back at it.

BYU's Honor Code reduces their language standard to the following:

Profanity and other crude expressions
"BYU faculty, staff, and students should avoid swearing in speech and writing; coarse expressions derived from profanity; displaying of pictures, posters, and other forms of expressions which are crude or suggestive; and expressions that depend upon allusions to crudity for effect."

In my revision of the Code, I would echo everything mentioned above, with the following addendum:

"...unless it's really funny."

You see, a well placed curse word--meaning at the right time, with the right emphasis, and the right audience--can absolutely lighten a mood, warm a heart, and create an atmosphere condusive to good feelings and relationships. I guess I simply resist the idea that curse words--and there aren't many of them in our language--inherently offend and abuse. It is the meaning and the context within which we frame those words that should be determinant of their power. I love words, well-written paragraphs, and well-executed stories. As such a word-lover, I just can't get behind a hard-line segregation of certain letters and words. My dear friend and former editor RuthAnne Frost once put it this way: "I don't believe in maintaining prejudice against words. I'm an equal opportunity speaker."

In her defense, RuthAnne is not foul-mouthed or offensive. She's actually one of the sweeter people I know (if you're reading this Ruthie, sushi's on me next time). To illustrate my point, and to prove to you that tasteful application of some of our stronger words can be productive, I give you two Swearing Stories, one negative, the other positive:

Once, while a roommate and I were perusing the tube on a lazy afternoon, the BYU women's basketball team popped up on The mtn. Network. Having just broken up with one of the players, my dear, usually innocent roommate muttered "Ah bunch of #$@%s." Mortified at his flippant use of a fairly derrogatory term synonymous with both a Dutch water retaining structure and a female homosexual, I said "Bro! Where did that come from?" To which he responded, "What?! It just means a bunch of lesbians, right?" I then carefully explained to him that, indeed, all curse words have a meaning to them, but that doesn't necessarily mean we should use them. To emphasize my point, I believe I explained that even our heaviest, R-Rating qualifier, has a real meaning to it: Fornication Under Consent of the King. He didn't appreciate that little lesson in English Language History much. But I felt the need to drive home the point that he had inappropriately and offensively used a curse word. It didn't matter that it didn't fall under the usual standards--my roommate was angry and hurled the word as an insult, feeling justiied because he wasn't "swearing," even though he intended it to be demeaning and hurtful.

Now, here's a great example of a good use of colorful language:

J. Golden Kimball--sometimes referred to as the Will Rogers of Mormonism or as the Swearing Apostle, depending on the present company. From the font of all knowledge, Wikipedia:

He was well known for swearing good naturedly from the pulpit, sprinkling "damns" and "hells" into his speeches. Although the habit was of concern to other church leaders, and subjected him to counsel from his close friend LDS President Heber J. Grant on many occasions, this common touch made Kimball one of the most beloved leaders in the history of the Church. Asked how he could get away with the way he spoke, Elder Kimball is said to have replied: Hell, they can't excommunicate me. I repent too damned fast.

This "folksy" style was backed by intelligence and deep spirituality, and Latter-day Saints would travel long distances to hear him speak at conferences.

"J. Golden" stories have become a type of folklore for members of the LDS Church. One of the best known has Church President Grant writing a "clean" radio speech for Kimball and ordering him to read it. However, once on the air, Kimball struggled with Grant's handwriting and finally exclaimed, Hell, Heber, I can't read this damn thing.

When addressing concerns about the behavior of the youth, Golden once told a congregation not to worry about the young people: "They'll be all right. It's all these old bald-headed bastards on the front row that you need to look out for."

Another time, while in southern Utah to speak at a stake conference, he'd ditched his traveling companion and headed off to a local restaurant for lunch. He was eating - a cup of coffee at the ready - when his companion caught up with him. Said his horrified and self-righteous companion: "Why Brother Kimball, I'd rather commit adultery than drink a cup of coffee." To which, J. Golden replied: "Who the hell wouldn't."

Now, if you got out of those last anecdotes without a smile on your face and were actually offended by Brother Kimball's language, I politely invite you to comment on this post so that I never have to talk to you again. To those offended few, I ask, what is swearing: spewing out a calous, demeaning slur that may or may not be considered a curse word, or light-heartedly employing some of our more under-represented words?

Think hard, damn it. Think hard...


Day 3--A "Good" 'Stache Goes a Long Way.

Too far for the Honor Code, if you ask me.

I've decided to set down a code of my own making to supplement the Honor Code here at BYU. I just don't think the Honor Code is strict enough. I mean, where else on earth does an organization actually ask you to verify that you will "voluntarily" agree to a set of standards to live by, and then make you sign a binding contract to that effect? I say get rid of the "voluntary" pretext, and just set down the law. If you want to go to school here, you'll live this stuff; otherwise, you're out of the Garden and into the cold, harsh world.

To you critics out there who might argue that I'm taking away someone's agency, I counter by saying: You're free to sign the contract, right? You were free to come to this school, right? Now that you're here, we're freely going to make you live the RIGHT way. Our way.

So, to kick off my tighter, leaner code, I'll address the Dress and Grooming Standard.

Under the Men's section of the Dress and Grooming Standards, the following guideline is issued:

"If worn, moustaches should be neatly trimmed and may not extend beyond or below the corners of the mouth."

I have two issues with the allowable moustache. First: if facial hair guidelines exist for the men, women should have to follow them as well. (Ladies, you know who you are). Second: if this is the only allowable facial hair, please, for the love of all that is good in this world, just get rid of all of it. It's not that it's an embarrassment or even ugly. To the contrary: it's too attractive. (See the above photo. Seriously, could any woman resist that moustache? And see the below photo. "What could be better than a moustache," you ask? "A guy holding an insanely cute baby and a moustache," I respond.)

No. It's simply too much for other individuals to resist. In my short time living in Guatemala in 2005, I discovered the perils of wearing a "neatly trimmed moustache." It was a Latin American Lady-Killer. How many women would have fallen if I hadn't maintained the amazing levels of monk-like self control that I did, I cannot begin to imagine. Hundreds, if not millions.
So, to prevent the kind of tragedy that a rash of staches would produce at BYU, my Rule would read something like this:

Eric Code, Rule #1:
In order to protect the virtue and chastity of the young men and women on campus, and to avoid temptations above that which others can possibly bear, men shall not wear any moustache of any kind. Any violations of this rule will result in immediate Time Out and prompt shaving.

It's for the greater good people. Let's get behind this thing. I'm thinking a protest/gathering at BYU in mid-October would be appropriate. We'll wear shaving cream on our upper lips, and we could carry signs saying "Shave and Save!" or "Stash the 'Stache."
I'm really excited about this! This may be the most important thing I've ever done. More information to come.

Day 2

This is not the first time I've posted this picture. This little man, I believe, came about as a failed experiment in the middle of my Civil Procedure class. Yep. Law Students, like anyone else on this great blue planet, daydream and idle away their time on PC Paint, Solitaire, or IM. We often joke that in order to become a true law student, one must master the art of multi-tasking at least 7 different programs/games/documents during one 50 minute class.

This man is significant, though. Upon first look, he's a lot of smaller and larger circles which come together to form a man. This man is me, after several months at the law school. Notice the belly. I am not making it up when I say that this Eric-man is drawn to scale. I can't quite figure out why he's pointing with such a wide-eyed look of...something. Is he horrified by what he sees in front of him? Or is he intrigued? Is he warning people about something? Is it another final? Is it another year of law school beyond this one? Is it a Provo couple getting too cozy on a grassy area (why isn't that against the Honor Code?!)? Is it a career looming on the horizon? Is it responsibility looming on the horizon? Is it the football season looming on the horizon?

Or is it just a mirror?

Hmmm...maybe it's time to pick up another sport to supplement racquetball and soccer. I won't be able to blame my physique on law school for much longer.


Law School: Year 2, Day 1

I started class very auspiciously today. Not because of anything academic (ie being unprepared, showing up late, or missing any classes). No, I'm pretty sure I almost broke the Honor Code. Let me explain:
After battling the raging relief society sisters and cute retiree couples of Education Week--which stormed through BYU last week--I thought that today's parking outside the J. Reuben Clark would be much less....stressful. Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Instead of "Seek Learning" the theme of the conference should have been "Seek Parking."
Imagine a flock of buzzards slowly circling around the same herd of slowly starving buffalo, only the buzzards are annoyed graduate students and the buffalo are inconveniently parked cars. And the circling is v e r y s l o w : about 5 mph. Now imagine that occasionally, and very slowly, one of the buffalo separates from the pack, leaving an opening for the scavengers. AH HAH!!! Vultures "caw" as rubber peals across the pavement, and the nearest one strikes with ruthless efficiency, sliding in between the lines, leaving the rest of the pack to fend for themselves. That's parking in Provo. Period, end of metaphor. In fact, it sounds a lot like parking at nearly every University.
However, in my short years, I have learned that there are certain, albeit few, guidelines to the Troubled Parking Paradox that allow the human race to continue and flourish. They are:
1. "It takes a village to park a car." This means that teamwork, common courtesy, manners, ethics, morales, etc. must be employed to allow everyone to park decently and with a minimum of headaches. This is the overarching rule that guides other parking rules.
2. "First Come, First Parked." While once, Ladies First may have been the rule of its day, Political Correctness and the Feminist Movement have relegated that to the back alley where the lost and forgotten guidelines hang out with the official Uno Rules. This rule also allows for broad interpretations, but the most common is the "I'm closer, so neener, neener" interpretation handed down by Soccer Moms in the mid-90s. Typically, this is where most of the parking guidelines infractions occur.
3. "Remember Who You Are and Where You Parked." This guideline, while often forgotten, appeals to that certain sense of nobility that has been forced down to the depths of our souls in far too many cases. It can often be utilized by former Eagle Scouts and do-gooders who graciously allow a female driver, a senior citizen, or an obviously frazzled driver to take their spot. This action is traditionally recognized by either the Courtesy Wave or the Mouthed "Thank You."
Apparently, no one who has grown up in or around Provo has subscribed to these guidelines. Ever. While trying to park this morning, I finally found a spot where a van was trying to ease its way out of the lines. Joy! How lucky I felt, then, that I was the only car then on the row, and quickly steered over to claim my spot. You see, these sort of things rarely happen to me. Usually I have to park a mile away in the residential zone, where it's really only 2 hour parking, and I suffer from ulcers worrying whether or not I'll get ticketed/booted/towed (you never know, because it's Provo City, we're talking about here), so really, at this moment I'm just excited to be parking close to the school for once, and if you didn't catch it before, I'm really, really happy about this. While waiting for the van driver to exit, I began tapping on the wheel, and singing along with the radio. Life was good, I was about to park, and everything was OK with the world.
As soon as the van pulls out, however, out of the clear Cougar Blue, a yellow mini-cooper swoops down from J. Reuben-knows-where and dives into my spot. No slow-down, no eye-contact, and no recognition of any form by the driver. My jaw drops. The van driver's jaw drops. We are stunned. We are both thinking Who does this?! This is a clear violation of the second guideline! I had unmistakably marked my territory and no one could question it. This type of flagrant offense simply doesn't happen....outside of Provo. Still, I was peeved. To top it all off, however, the driver was wearing a sweet power suit, carried a nice versacci bag, and had a "Mitt Romney in 2008" sticker pasted to the back of her rear window.

Now, don't get me wrong. Individually, these things are fine, if somewhat superficial and/or status oriented. However, when combined, they create the Parking Jerk. Someone more important, more pressed, and more MORE than you. She carried herself with that haughty air that just reeked of Wekan Sueem & Howe, LLP, or some other Death Star law firm, on campus to lead away our idealist law students to the Dark Side of the force.

With my jaw still hanging in disbelief, I considered honking, I briefly toyed with raising that ever-so-sweet middle digit to the sky, and I even momentarily imagined myself keying her car. But in the end, reason, and the ever-circling buzzard cars, swept me back up into the race, and eventually over to neighborhood parking. I'm not certain, but I'm pretty sure that most of my thoughts from the parking lot to the neighborhood were against the Honor Code. But thought-crime, thankfully, hasn't been authorized yet.

Not yet, anyway.


A New Series

As I gear up for this next year at the J. Reuben Clark School of Law, I've decided to start a new series of blog posts: The Provo Watch. My goal is to make at least one observation per day about life, love, liberty, etc. in what is probably the world's oddest city. I'll try and keep them updated regularly for two reasons: (1) this is for posterity (I want them to know, R-E-A-L-L-Y know, the sacrifices Grandpa Eric made for them in his college years); and (2) boredom. On the upside, my schedule should be much less intense than it was last year, providing me some breathing room in life.
This is promising to be a very fascinating prompt, and one that should provide hours of hilarity, inanity, and general tom-foolery. I might mix in one or two serious notes, but let's be honest with ourselves-- anyone who takes Provo seriously is either a shade left of zealotry or a 19-year-old from Utah County who has drunk too much of the local sugar-free Kool-Aid. I wonder what flavor that Kool-Aid is. Any thoughts?


Meditations on a Summer Friday

It's Friday. The week is done, the Lord is thanked by billions of working Joes, Joses, and Jus, and here I am wittling away at some of my time on the blog. It might not be the most glamorous or inspiring of muses, but Friday serves up this post's topic: A history of Fridays in Eric's life. (Warning: I'm very Stream-of-Consciousness-ish today. Consider yourself warned)
Early Fridays in my life consisted of, I am told, burping, eating, sleeping, and pooping. I don't remember much of these Fridays, but I'm sure they were just fine. I do have vague memories of weekends as something special for my parents, however, who often hosted dinner get-togethers at our place. That was OK, because when the adults got to have fun, so did we. Fifth Branch dinner night meant: we got to play downstairs. Perhaps the greatest time of my life was spent down there when the carpeting had been torn up to reveal--shock of shocks!-- a black and red checkerboard pattern in the tile floor underneath. That provided hours and hours of entertainment in the boring years of youth: onesies slipped and slid across the tile surface at all times of the day, we would seriosuly set up and play human checkers (which wasn't as fun as you might think with only four or five checkers pieces in their pajamas), and I think the classic Vogeler game "Don't Touch the Lava--or Else You'll Burn Up" was invented sometime in the Spring of 1987. Oh, the good ol' days. Which led up to...
...the Sleepover years!!! When a Vogeler child turned eight, it signaled one of a few significant things: you could get baptized, you would get a CTR ring from Aunt Karen, you might get a 20 from Aunt Leslie (I did, I don't know if the other kids did...), you couldn't lie down on the benches at church anymore, and, perhaps the most exciting of all, you could have a Birthday Party Sleepover. YES!!! Can you feel the excitement that went into that? My poor parents could, and to their credit, they let 12 eight-year-old boys come over to their house, eat popcorn, watch movies, play Nintendo, and giddily talk until the wee hours of the night: 12:30 pm. That December 15, 1990, I believe the guest list included (in no particular order):
-Nate McConkie: he was the new kid in the neighborhood, and had a buzz cut. That was so cool! Plus, Nate's dad, Dan, competed on American Gladiators. At least, that was the story. After playing many a Turkey bowl at Bonneville elementary with Dan, I believe it.
-Dave Johnson: Long-time Bonneville and Nintendo friend. When Dave passed Super Mario Brothers without warping to any levels, his dad, Norm bought him the game of his choice. Norm was father of the year at that time, if I remember correctly. Dave and I also played at his house frequently after school. Two years later, Dave would hit me in the back of the head with a baseball bat. Miraculously, we're still friends.
-Andrew Hill: Dave's neighbor and partner in crime. Andrew could draw a sweet Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, he played on our Coach-pitch baseball team, and also had a really cute sister, although we probably didn't appreciate that as much as his nunchuck drawing skills. That changed once testosterone came onto the scene. (Melanie, if you read this, I'm sorry. We were dumb.)
-Mark Howell: Probably my best and fastest childhood friend, Mark and I spent many a day together at his house playing Nintendo's Olympic Track and Field (complete with pad!), making mud castles in his back-yard, and trying to figure out why Mark's older brothers were so mean. (They weren't, they were just bigger than us.) Plus, his sweet mother, Jane Howell, always had a huge stock of Sour Patch Kids, popcorn, and soda that she would produce at the perfect times. I learned how to love '80s movies like Ghostbusters and Goonies at the Howells.
-Dave Whittaker: I think. Dave was always hit and miss because he didn't go to elementary school with us, even though he lived two blocks away. However, he had the "Lego Loft" at his house, and countless army men that, when melted just right, could be made to look like they had been buried in the sidewalk concrete. Man, we loved the Whittaker house.
-Michael Garff: Mike and I used to play Indiana Jones in his backyard or Star Wars inside, depending on the weather. We also had cabins on the same lake, both raised rabbits, and I'm pretty sure I learned how to ride a bike with Mike and Ben Sorensen. Unfortunately, they didn't show me how to use the breaks. Thankfully, the oaks lining the streets of our neighborhood provided their own breaking system. How I didn't break my neck is beyond me...
-Timmy and Mikee Vogeler (6 and 4, respectively): for some reason, they really liked to play with me and my friends. At the time, nothing could have been more annoying. Timmy breathed too loudly when I was playing Nintendo, and Mikee cried too much when we wouldn't let him play. Gosh, why couldn't they just go to bed?! Thankfully, I outgrew that phase and we're now best buddies.
In fact, looking at this list, I can honestly say that I remained pretty close friends with all of these guys to this day. Not many people can say that.
Wow. Too nastalgic? Maybe. But summer does that sometimes. I think it's the smell of fresh-cut grass, the breeze off the gully, or the "ca-chuk, ca-chuck" of the sprinklers. Whatever it is, it's a good thing. I think I'll go get some ice cream tonight and watch a movie with friends. Life hasn't changed all that much really.