April 17, 2005
I took a week off from blogging. Just had to give my brain a rest from all that Utah stuff. Of course, a ton of things happened while I was slacking. The Kingston custody battle was resolved, the FLDS Texas Temple got a lot of media play, and Bikini Cuts was on A Current Affair. A real trifecta by Utah Sub Rosa standards.
Texas has got FLDS fever. The building of the FLDS temple in the small Texas town (trust Warren Jeffs to choose one of the only states with screwier liquor laws than Utah) of Eldorado has residents all twitterpated. Some are down right pissed about the invasion of the whacky polygamists. Protesters have camped outside the temple waving banners with such endearments as "Polygamists Go Home." Texas lawmakers are drafting laws that would make it tougher on FLDS practices, such as moving the age of consent for marriage from 14 to 16. Those Texans are so forward thinking.
Others are taking a more amused approach to the appearance of nutty polygamists on their doorstep. The local newspaper, The Eldorado Success, has been covering the FLDS since the group broke ground on the temple. Among the info made available to Texas residents is a recording of of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs spouting racist doctrine. The newspaper also featured an ad offering humorous products aimed at the FLDS siege of Texas. Those interested in purchasing these items should click here.
A blog also popped up allowing Texas residents to vent about their polygamist neighbors. The Texas Polygamy blog has such diverse threads as "Doomsday Disappointment" (aimed at Warren Jeffs' prediction that the world would end April 6 this year) and "Are Mormons Christians."
One can understand the Texans' mixed feeling about the FLDS moving onto their turf. We in Utah are used to such shenanigans. Though the LaBaron gang killed some folks in Texas a decade ago, this is pretty much virgin territory for the Lonestar State. We Utahns would be happy to have only one crazy polygamist clan to deal with.
The Kingstons have won one. Juvenile Judge Andrew Valdez has ruled that Heidi Mattingly Foster can begin supervised visits with nine children that were removed from her custody after accusations of abuse arose. The visits are a first step in allowing the kids to return full time with their polygamist parent. Foster is one wife of John Daniel Kingston.
Valdez also lifted an order that Foster sever all ties with the Kingston Clan, which provided her job. A happy ending for the Kingston wife, provided she can comply with all therapy foisted on her by the court.
Earlier in the week the judge's son, Tito Andrew Valdez, was arrested after scuffling with pro-Kingston protesters that had camped outside of the courthouse. Young Valdez screamed at the protesters, claiming they "defamed his father." He tossed a box of their pamphlets into the street and grabbed signs. Police wrestled the teen to the ground during the arrest. God, what a great state we live in.
A Utah business was featured on that National Enquirer of the airwaves, A Current Affair. Bikini Cuts, a Salt Lake City hair chopping emporium that boasts bikini-clad stylists, rated a lengthy segment on the Wednesday edition of the tabloid television show. A bunch of hot babes in bikini tops cutting hair apparently makes great TV. This could be bad for Utah's chaste image. First a strip club in Park City gets gigged for unauthorized lap dances, then the nation gets force fed a story on scantily-clad barbers. If we are not careful outsiders might get the mistaken impression that we have fun in the Beehive state every once in a while.
On a more personal note, my attempts to get my site listed on Google have been a dismal failure. Unwilling to whore my site for links, I emailed the search-engine giant to see if there was a way around this link business. I got a form email that pretty much advised I do what I was trying to avoid.
"Make sure that other sites link to yours. Links help our crawlers find your site and can give your site greater visibility in our search results," the Google email suggested. "Google counts the number of votes a page receives to determine its PageRank, interpreting a link from page A to page B as a vote by page A for page B."
It was obvious no one at Google bothered to read my email and zapped out a prefab response to my query. I do have a link page, but I don't want to clutter it up with a bunch of junk like MyAnalFissures.com or poophumor.com just because they will trade links. Call me a hopeless romantic, but I would prefer linking to Utah related stuff that my readers (all six of them) might find interesting.
It seems Google has these things called spiders that search the web for links. I'm not so sure I want my website infested with spiders. It kind of creeps me out, like someone telling me my dog has fleas or my house has termites. I wouldn't be so squeamish if Google called these web crawlers something cool like weboids or sitebots.
My site does pop up on lesser search engines such as Lycos or Yahoo, but only if you type in Utah Gothic. Maybe I am crazy, but I don't think many folks entering that in a search field are gonna be searching for weird Utah history. Chances are they are looking for something like Dame Darcy's next concert or where to buy black lipstick.
Oh well, looks like I am doomed to search engine obscurity. Guess I have to choke it down, keep writing, and live with the fact that word-of-mouth is my only hope.
To be fair, the form letter did provide some useful advice, but links seem to be the major method for listing sites, unless you pay Google to be a "featured site." Yeah, right! I can barely afford to keep this site up as it is. Throwing bucks at Google is just the ticket.
I owe a big thanks to Ab5om1 (whoever you may be) for providing the links to The Eldorado Success and Texas Polygamy blog.
April 3, 2005
Richard Ricci (the original suspect of the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping) has a champion. A Minnesota writer has taken a unique approach to documenting the Smart case and its tragic outcome for Ricci. While the supermarket tabloid or the potboiler paperback is the preferred mode for most true crime stories, Lee Whitefox (a.k.a. Robert Voyles) has instead chosen to relate the particulars of the kidnapping in 58 poems. He has gathered them together in the book whataboutrick.com.
Ricci died in Prison of a cerebral hemorrhage in August 2002. His widow, Angela, received a $150,000 settlement from the Utah Department of Corrections for wrongful death in September 2004.
Voyles feels the Ricci case never got the attention it deserved after the capture of Brian David Mitchell. Ricci's story got shoved aside for the whacky Mormon polygamist angle of the kidnapping. He had originally wanted to do a biography and had met with Angela Ricci to discuss the idea. The Ricci biography never went anywhere, so he settled on the poetry angle.
"It was a very intense, spiritual experience for me," Voyle wrote in an email interview. "But it was fun playing with words again, too."
"It didn’t take me very long to write whataboutrick.com, about two months. I was pumped up with a head-full of information for a possible biography anyway, so I abstracted the information through poetry."
Those interested in purchasing whataboutrick.com can go here. Ken Sanders Rare Books in Salt Lake City also has a few copies.
LDS Conference weekend went pretty much as expected. The Street Preachers yelled and the Mormons ignored them. I don't agree very much with what the street preachers are doing, but I have to admit they are some pretty fine sign makers. Those Baptist must spend hours drawing those things up.
Some folks showed up to protest the street preachers. They were as loud and obnoxious as the Baptists, but at least they had a sense of humor. One guy showed up dressed as a bottle of ketchup sporting a sign reading, "Baptists, the Other White Meat."
Police did have to caution folks from time to time to keep the protest thing somewhat civil. However, there appeared to be no major altercations. Just a lot of preachin', sign waving, and the like.
While I was at conference it struck me that the street preachers have got this whole faith thing wrong. I thought religion was suppose to give you peace of mind and a certain calmness that this whole living deal was being guided by a higher power. Faith only makes these guys angry. They are pissed of at everything; Mormons, Catholics, Gays, Abortions, just about any and everything people do. The street preachers worship Jesus with such fervor they just about have strokes over those that don't embrace their version of christianity.
The Mormons, on the other hand, seemed pleased just to be participating in conference. I saw well-dressed happy folks rushing to make the latest speech by a general authority (something that bores me to tears). Their religion does seem to calm them. It is a shame the street preachers, even though I support their constitutional right to be pains in the ass, can't let the Mormons have their gathering in peace and quite.
The mission president for Temple Square, Milo LaBaron chatted with me while I was taking in the whole conference thing. Talk about a contrast. While the street preachers howled the gospel at anybody passing, Elder LaBaron amiably explained the workings of the Temple Square mission. He said he thought the street preachers actually earned sympathy for the Mormons with all their ranting, and I had to agree. A choice between hanging out with the street preachers or Elder LaBaron would be no contest. The elderly Mormon gentleman seemed at peace with himself while the screaming baptist are so damned amped you almost need to be drugged to get near them.
Now don't get me wrong, I am the first to gleefully point out Mormon peccadilloes. But a weekend hanging around those born-again zealots makes me glad I don't live in the bible belt. Give me Utah and Mormons any day.
March 27, 2005
The 175th LDS General Conference gets underway next Saturday. This two day fest of fun, family and faith is always a large draw for Mormons and downtown traffic suffers accordingly. Those interested in attending, or just taking in every word via the radio, should click here.
Utah legislators have been taking aim at one of the more unwelcome (at least among the LDS faithful) fixtures at Conference; the street preachers. This group of evangelical christians flock to Conference to proselytize (a.k.a harass) to the thousands of Mormons attending. These mavens of strict biblical interpretation feel the LDS faith is a sacrilegious twisting of Christianity. And they don't mind shouting this view (augmented with signs decrying Mormonism) at the army of Mormons herding into Conference. Needless to say, the LDS faithful find the whole falderal rather distasteful.
There have been scuffles. One such altercation over temple garments used as a prop by a street preacher two years ago ended in the arrest of an offended Mormon. He wrested the garment from the preacher and took off through the crowd.
The whole street preacher thing has added an air of circus to Conference. The evangelicals even draw their own protesters. Many Mormons feel it has come to overshadow the important message of the bi-annual gathering. The media shows up fairly chomping at the bit for a battle between Mormons and the noisy evangelicals. The pious message of Conference gets lost in the mix.
Utah Legislator Doug Aagard (R) introduced HB131 with expressed purpose of ridding Conference of these evangelical pests. The bill, titled Access to Health Care Facilities and Places of Worship, would make it a class B misdemeanor for most of the stuff the street preachers do at Conference. To make it seem like the state legislators (who are about 85% mormon) aren't passing a law favoring the Mormon Church, they have included hospitals and clinics in the proposed law.
This law would prohibit displaying signs. passing out pamphlets or "engaging in oral protest, education, or counseling." Considerations of freedom of speech on public property don't seem to concern the billmakers as long as conference-goers have peace and quiet. Sure the street preachers are obnoxious, but face it, freedom of speech can be an annoying thing. It is one more piece of evidence that Utah legislators don't feel the need to separate church and state. Many civil libertarians have expressed dismay at the bill, and legal experts have opined that it doesn't stand a chance of passing constitutional muster.
To be truthful, I don't know the current status of HB131. The Utah House website describes the bill as "enacting clause struck," whatever in hell that means. Governor Huntsman has neither signed nor vetoed the bill, so it is probably still awaiting a vote.
Better political news (at least in my opinion) surfaced this week. Pete Ashdown announced he is taking a run at Orrin Hatch's senate seat. He owns Xmission (the ISP that hosts Utah Gothic). Ashdown sites technology issues, which he feels are underrepresented in congress, as the main reason he is attempting to unseat Hatch.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit Pete is a friend of mine. Still, even if he wasn't a pal, I would support him. With more guys like Pete in government maybe I wouldn't have to worry about providing some sort of lame rating for my website like Utah legislators want from me. I would guess Utah Gothic would get a PG13 (violence, mild profanity, some sexual references, and embarrassing Utah facts).
To keep my PG13 rating intact (wouldn't want to drop to a wimpy PG) some strip club news is in order. The Monkey Bar in Park City was handed a 32-day suspension this week. Utah is not famous for raunchy strip bars, and The Monkey Bar apparently threatened that standing.
"There were lap dances, or simulated sexual contact, and contact between the dancers and patrons," assistant attorney general Sheila Page said. "Those were the areas of our concern."
Utah Law requires pasties and g-strings for dancers in clubs serving alcohol. And no physical contact between dancers and the lusting men that frequent such places. My only complaint is that I always seem to find out about this stuff after all the fun has been stopped. Oh well.
Another bone of contention is that club owner Gregg Davidson failed to mention the stripper element when applying for a licence with the DABC. Must have slipped his mind. After the suspension is served, The Monkey Bar will have to undergo further state scrutiny to make sure it fully complies with the moral ambience Utah demands of its strip joints.
In more wholesome (and less salaciously attired) news, an American Fork business is cashing in on young Mormon women's desire to be fashionable and yet modest. Shade Clothing specializes in women's clothing that is not only the height of chic, but also covers LDS garments.
Chelsea Rippy started the clothing business because she had trouble finding clothing that was fashionable but met her Mormon standards. No Brittany Spears bare midriffs from Shade. Rippy claims that even non-Mormon women have been snatching up her clothing line. Shade Clothing can be purchased on line.
A Kingston youth has complained of bullying while in state custody. The teenage son of John Daniel Kingston and Heidi Mattingly Foster bolted from Valley Mental Health's Adolescent Residential Treatment and Education Center, a mental facility, about a week ago.
The 15-year-old boy appeared at a friday hearing in handcuffs and shackles. He claimed he ran from the facility because of threats from another teenage inmate that staff did nothing to prevent. The boy turned himself into authorities on Thursday.
The youth appears to have been a model citizen before the state removed him and seven other siblings from Foster's custody amid allegations that John Daniel had abused their children. He also accused ARTEC staff of trying to coerce him into saying his parents abused him. He claims that he lost privileges when he refused.
Juvenile Court Judge Andrew Valdez is allowing the youth to stay at a children's shelter until the state can place him in a foster home. Valdez reinstated supervised visits between the teenager and his mother. He also ordered an investigation into the boy's accusations against ARTEC. John Daniel attended the hearing.
March 20, 2005
It has been kind of an uneventful week. Nothing too nutty in the Beehive state.
Fred Jessop, a former leader of the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) in Hildale, died at the ripe old age of 94 last Tuesday. The former patriarch was booted from the FLDS church by leader Warren Jeffs in January 2004. This was part of a coup following the death of Rulon Jeffs in which, son Warren installed himself as the lone head of the FLDS. Jessop was very popular among many in the Hildale-Colorado polygamist community. He went by the avuncular title of "Uncle Fred." Many thought he was the heir apparent to FLDS leadership, but Warren nipped that in the bud. Jessop vanished from the public eye following his excommunication. He remained missing until the announcement of his death. He had 30 wives and about 100 children.
A piece of legislation passed by the Utah House (a.k.a. The Eagle Forum Jr.) in February has been getting a lot of play in local newspaper opinion columns and letter section. HB42 is also known a the "Anti-Ritilan Bill." It addresses the national problem of ADD and the over prescription of the behavior modification drug in a particularly Utah way, don't allow teachers to talk about it! Yeah, that works.
Teachers are no longer allowed to advise parents to get their children on Ritilan. They can't even suggest psychiatric counciling. They can only discuss the child's behavior. Things like "Little Billy bit the ear off Janey and cut up the gerbil with a pair of child-safe scissors," can no longer be followed by "get that kid to a shrink." Utah legislators figure that parents will be able to puzzle out the obvious for themselves.
It is typical Utah optimism that "parents always do what's best for their children." At the risk of voicing something that most folks don't want to admit, parents don't always do what is best for their children. In fact, parents often do stuff that is downright harmful. Especially in Utah. All you have to do is look at our rates of child abuse and child sexual abuse, which are much higher than the national average. And who hasn't been around the doting parent that has cooed lovingly when their little monster has caused havoc at home or in public. Through ignorance or by intent, parents are often their children's worst enemies!
Not allowing teachers to communicate with parents (considering in many cases teachers spend much more time with the kids) is wrong-headed Utah thinking at its worst. To be fair, the legislation allows state-licensed mental health experts with the school to make such suggestions, but as I understand the law, the teachers can't even suggest to parents that they should speak to the school shrink about their little darling. We can only hope Governor Huntsman vetoes this dopey example of Utah lawmaking.
March 12, 2005
Today is the anniversary of the capture of Brian David Mitchell and the rescue from his clutches of Elizabeth Smart. To celebrate, Mitchell belted out another song during his competency hearing in court yesterday. This makes the fourth time the crooner was ousted from court for such antics. As he was pulled from court he screamed "Ye mockers and scorners, you mock and scorn the holy son of God! You know I speak the truth!" What a fun guy. A prosecution expert, psychiatrist Noel Gardner, testified that although Mitchell is a whacked-out Mormon fundamentalist, he is sane enough to stand trial. The competency hearing is scheduled to last two more days, but without Mitchell. He will be cooling his heals in his jail cell while others decide his sanity.
Another major Utah anniversary occurs tomorrow. On March, 13 1968 a test at Dugway Proving Grounds went bad. A Phantom Jet accidentally released an extra twenty pounds of VX gas. This resulted in the wrongful death of about 6,000 sheep. A national stink ensued and brought the public spotlight on the Army's experiments with chemical warfare. Utahns celebrated a week early with a nasty chemical spill in South Salt Lake. A train tanker ruptured, spilling toxic chemicals all over the place. Residents in the area had to be evacuated from their homes and I-15 was closed for two days. Nobody, including sheep, died. Lucky us. In honor of the Dugway anniversary and the chemical spill, I am declaring it Toxic Utah Week. Go out. Have fun. Drink a toast to Envirocare.
In a related story, U.S. Congressman, and major Utah goofball, Chris Cannon has come out in favor of resumed nuclear tests in Nevada. Oh boy, this is the Chris we know and have come to love. Even though a major portion of his constitutes are downwinders (and despite the fact he believes his own father may have died from cancer caused by fallout!), Cannon says the testing is needed to keep us safe from terrorists and the like. What's a few cases of cancer compared with the threat of madmen armed with box cutters? Oddly, Cannon has been catching some heat from conservative groups. Not for his nuclear stand, but for his support of Bush's immigration amnesty. Some conservative sites have labeled Cannon a RINO (Republican in Name Only). You can check his voting record here and decide for yourself just how liberal-leaning comrade Cannon is. Personally, I think he plays Costello to Orrin Hatch's Abbott.
A new book has hit the stands that is a must for informed Utahns: Mormonism For Dummies. I bet it is an easier (and more entertaining) read than Bruce McConkie's Mormon Doctrine. Make sure to reserve your copy.
March 6, 2005
St. George played host to a gathering of polygamists at the invitation of Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and his Arizona counterpart Terry Goddard. What a fun meeting it was, with about 300 attending. A real love fest. The forum drew reps from a who's who of polygamist groups including The Davis County Cooperative Society (a.k.a. The Kingston Clan), Apostolic United Brethren (murdered Rulon Allred's group), and Centennial Park. The polygamist representatives called for the decriminalization of polygamy, making it a misdemeanor. The attorney generals said they had recently started programs to help those in the clans that suffered abuse and promised to prosecute any responsible for said abuse. Some in the audience called for the arrest of polygamists. In other words, nothing was solved. We can only hope at least St. George merchants made some bucks off of the polygamist tourists.
Saturday is the second anniversary of the release of Elizabeth Smart from nutty kidnapper, Brian David Mitchell. In the heady days following Mitchell's capture and Smart's return to her family, weird Utah religion was national news. Not anymore. Mitchell's recent antics in court haven't even rated a mention in the national media. Only a trial could throw the strange story back into the limelight. With Mitchell's bizarre behavior, however, prosecution isn't looking too likely. Chances are he'll be declared crazy as a loon and locked away in Provo. We can only wait for Liz Smart's tell-all book sometime in the future, which also doesn't seem very likely.
Feb. 28, 2005
Well, I finally updated my web site. It took me over a year, but this new format will make it easier to update the goddamn thing one story at a time.
A lot has been happening in Good ole Utah, lately.
Hugh Nibley, LDS historian and accused child molester, died at 94 Feb. 24. He was one of the most outspoken and faithful of the LDS scholars. He was never afraid to accuse the Mormon rank and file of being too materialistic. His name came under a cloud when his daughter Martha Beck wrote ''Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith,'' in which she accuses Nibley of molesting her as a child. Nibley's seven other kids have called the book and its accusations bunk. As A BYU professor, he was not afraid to critique the church and its followers, but remained, at the same time, one of Mormondom's staunchest defenders. Nibley has been bedridden for two years. Beck's book is due out next month.
Hollywood outsider Crispin Glover brought his magnum opus What Is It? to the Tower Theater this week. Glover tours around the country with the movie and includes a slide show and Q&A with some screenings. Utah audiences have been amazed, and often confused, by Glover's tale of Downs Syndrome and snail abuse. One thing is sure, there ain't another movie out there quite like it.
Glover shot part of the film here ten years ago in David Brothers' Folsom Street warehouse. Brothers built the sets for the film. What Is It? is one of three films Glover has shot in Utah. The First, The Backward Swing was filmed in the late 80s. Once again sets were built by Brothers. About three years ago Glover financed the Steve Stewart movie Everything Is Fine. Stewart, a Utah resident with cerebral palsy, began dictating the script to David Brothers in 1979. The process took over a year. It was Stewart's life-long dream to star in a filmed version of his script.
Stewart died about a week before shooting was completed. A double had to finish his role. Glover and Brothers co-directed Everything is Fine. Once again, Brothers constructed the numerous sets used in the movie. Both The Backward Swing and Everything Is Fine are awaiting completion. Glover achieved Utah cult status when he appeared in Trent Harris' Rubin and Ed, a perennial Beehive state favorite (though pretty much unknown outside of Zion). Many folks believe he lives in Utah, but he is a Los Angeles resident.
Utah crazy Brian David Mitchell has been in the news lately. The Elizabeth Smart kidnapper's antics in the courtroom, while amusing, disrupted attempts to judge his competency to stand trial. He regales courtroom spectators with song, belting out such Mormon Hymns as "High on the Mountain Top." Judge Judith Atherton is less than amused and apparently unimpressed with Mitchell's crooning skills. She had the nutty prophet booted from a competency hearing for the third time. According to Mitchell's attorney, the accused kidnapper refuses to accept a deal from prosecutors 'cause he believes they are in league with Satan.
Of course, the prosecutors believe this is just a tactic by Mitchell and he is sane enough to go to trial. Mitchell's alleged accomplice and wife, Wanda Barzee, was judged too loony to be prosecuted last year. A state mental health expert is scheduled to testify before Atherton on March 11th about just how crazy Mitchell really is.
Welcome to my blog. This is an adjunct to my website Utah Gothic.
I will try to update this weekly with weird Utah news or any other silly thing that comes to mind.
For more information on Brian David Mitchell you can read my history of the mad prophet here.
|To learn more about the whacky world of Chris Cannon you can go to his Congressional website.|
|Those interested in helping Pete Ashdown in his bid to unseat Orrin Hatch should click here.|