Thursday, 15 November 2018

Welcome to Utah, Mitt!

posted on 11/15/2018 by the Salt City Sinner
Utah’s population is quickly growing, due to both our leporine birth rate and a steady influx of new residents from other states. One such incoming resident is Willard Mitt “Mittens” Romney, our new junior senator!

Now, Utah is a unique place, both geographically and culturally, and I worry that Mitt – a native Michigander who went on to become a Bay Stater – is going to have a hard time adapting. Well, one of the first things Mitt is going to learn about Utah is how gosh darned neighborly we are! In that spirit, here are a few things I think he ought to check out, things that will help him to comprehend the buzzing soul of the Beehive State.

Family Dinner At Chuck-A-Rama

As Mittens is stepping into the tattered, ancient house-slippers of Orrin Hatch, what better way to understand the culture of Utah than by dining at Orrin’s favorite eatery?

Whatever clever staffer has been tweeting as Orrin has had great fun with Mr. Hatch’s affection for this venerable Utah family buffet, a place where the beef is always shiny and resplendent, the happy shrieks of children are loud enough to rattle the silverware, and the ice cream flows like wine. Just don’t overdo it or they’ll kick you out. I mean, “all you can eat,” but within reason, okay Mitt?

And I’m afraid they don’t serve your favorite, “hot dogmeat.”

A Night at the Nicklecade

Are the ear-splitting shrieks of sugared children beginning to get to you, Mitt? Well, a change of scenery is in order, then. You may enjoy the ear-splitting shrieks of overexcited children mixed with the electronic shrieks and loud, thumping techno music of the Nicklecade (located in scenic Taylorsville, UT)! For an entry fee plus a handful of tokens, you can pit your wits against incomprehensible, deafening, and brightly lit games of chance and skill! What fun! How exciting! Pass the Excedrin!

Toxic Algae Season (Catch the Fever!)

As climate change gets up to its extinction-level mischief, Utah is regrettably not exempt from the fallout., This is an issue that Willard will have to tackle in the Senate. There are many signs of the disastrous times in Utah, including our ongoing crusade against bark beetles, but as Mitt is famous for his concern for the welfare of dogs, I figured that the toxic algae blooms that now take place in Utah lake might be his preferred issue, since the algae-poisoned water has been known to hurt canines who drink it or swim in it.

I figure Mitt can go on a fact-finding mission to Utah Lake and – perhaps – wrestle the Bear Lake Monster while he’s taking Utah littorally (so to speak).

A Good, Old-Fashioned Case of the Clap

I've often thought that, with Utah's birth rate, the slogan "Life Elevated" is pretty transparent code for "Lots of Banging." Indeed, Utahns appear to be doing the dirty deed with nary a concern for safety – at least, judging by the STI rate!

Sexually transmitted diseases continue to spread across Utah as the number of positive tests climbs to record rates.

Compared to the five-year average, nearly 600 more people have tested positive for gonorrhea and 700 for chlamydia this year, according to data compiled by the Utah Department of Health.

…now, I would never wish the actual clap upon Willard – I’m just saying that a nice, juicy case of the clap might be something he should investigate (on WebMD, maybe?) when he’s dealing with funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization that works in Utah to, among other things, test for and treat STIs.

Welcome to Utah, Mitt Romney!

I’m sure you’re going to love it. Or, I suppose, you’ll just bounce in a decade to become Governor of Arizona or something.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Hiatus Interruptus

posted on 11/13/2018 by the Salt City Sinner
Once upon a time when I was but a lad, I managed to contract pneumonia. I won’t go into all the juicy, phlegmy details, but suffice it to say that it was no picnic. By the time I began to get better, I was thoroughly sick of being sick and ready to get back to all the urgent dumbassery that younger me no doubt was up to. Silly me! Just when I thought I was all healed up, the pneumonia came roaring back, feistier and nastier than ever.

Think of this humble bloggue as a persistent bacterial infection of the soul. Just when it seems like I’ve been expunged, hey presto, I’m back! (This has happened before and probably will happen again.)

So! Let’s get right to it. What can you, the discerning degenerate, expect in the coming days?


Satan Loves Me, This I Know

Since I’ve come out of the closet as a Satanist (I’m a card-carrying member of the Satanic Temple, although my affiliation predates our particular sect/organization), I get asked a lot of questions, from the basic (“Do you worship Satan?” …. Quick answer, no, but we’ll get to that) to the complicated (“Why is the Satanic Temple big mad at the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina?”). I’ll take a whack at answering them! Pursuant to that, if you have any questions: please ask them!

The Sinner’s $.25 Psychic Self Defense and Literature Review

I’ve read – and continue to read – a few books that I think are particularly salient to these troubled times in which we live, and I’d love to infect you with that knowledge as well! Lucky you!

First up, I’ll be featuring the Fourth Political Ideology (Четвертая политическая теория) by Aleksandr Dugin, who has some pretty far-out ideas about a glorious return to the Middle Ages, and the Reactionary Mind by Dr. Corey Robin, who has some not-entirely-far-out ideas about the psycho-theoretical underpinnings of conservative political thought. After that, we’ll move on to the lighter side of things with Dr. Robert Lifton’s Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing” in China.

this wonderful photo c/o Vanity Fair
Welcome to Utah, Mitt

A guide for new Utahns who might need a hand – where to eat, the happening night-spots, places for human automatons to recharge their lithium cells, anything that Mitt Romney might not know but want to know about his new home!

I’ll be updating this thing as rigorously as I can – if nothing else, the glowing coals of my misanthropy should keep me warm through the winter months, right? Right?


Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Garden Is Dead, Long Live The Garden

posted on 8/30/2015 by the Salt City Sinner 

The last two times that I wrote about gardening, the tone was uncharacteristically less “playful whimsy” than “agonized demon howl.”

This is with good reason. The cockroach-hearted fauxhemian Whole Foods crowd at Wasatch Community Gardens, you see, did a terrible thing to me and many other people – they decided that agreements are for suckers and that what the world really needs is another blighted patch of asphalt rather than a large and vibrant community garden, and so they killed my garden (and the gardens of many others) dead, dead, dead.

Forgive my bitterness: there is something about loving a patch of actual soil, about nurturing life from tiny green shoots to a luxurious canopy of flowers and vegetables that brings out a protective streak in a human being, and also a ferocious loyalty. The destruction of Sugar House Community Garden did not, however, end my gardening career – heavens, no! Instead, I and a handful of former SHCG gardeners transported (with no small effort) four raised beds’ worth of soil to four new raised beds at Saint Mark’s Millcreek, an apartment community for low-income seniors and people with disabilities.

moving a garden, just like they moved Mrs. Brisby's house in "The Secret of NIMH"

The first year was fantastic: every week during harvest season we collected and distributed produce, and all season long the seniors and other residents at Saint Mark's could enjoy the beds, which are located right off the back patio outside the recreation room. This year, we were able to add two more beds, for a grand total of six, and the results have been fantastic.

We have grown approximately my weight in beans (I exaggerate… slightly). We have grown a few different varieties of tomato and pepper, and the results from both have been pleasing.

We have a designated herb bed, located in the partial shade provided by a nearby tree...

...and this year, instead of repeating last year's feat of growing a three-foot novelty squash that wound up named “Millie” (for “Mill Creek”), we are growing one gentlemanly pumpkin, currently unnamed.

This is a pretty average week’s harvest during the current peak garden production time:

Not too shabby! With the strategic deployment of hoop houses, we should be able to keep a minimum of one bed producing well into the winter months.

As you can see, Sugar House Community Garden, like a great many anarchist or quasi-anarchist projects, has turned out to be much harder to crush in actuality than in theory (or was it in theory rather than actuality?).

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

A Sinner's History of Utah: The Commercial Street Red Light District

posted on 8/12/2015 by the Salt City Sinner

I moved from Utah to the American South as a teenager, and pretty quickly learned that if you hail from the Beehive State, there are a series of extremely dumb questions you will be asked when people first meet you that would not be asked of someone from, say, South Dakota or Maine.

 “Are you Mormon?” is obviously the first one – and a pretty reasonable question, all things considered. That is usually followed up with some sort of question about polygamy, however, which is lazy and ignorant and gets old remarkably quickly. Sometimes I would be asked if one can buy alcohol in Utah. This is, again, a not entirely unreasonable thing to ask, especially since many of these interactions took place back in the days of private clubs and membership cards – but it did strike me as a little silly given that I was often asked about Utah and booze while going to college in Conway, Arkansas, which is a town located in a dry county where sales of all alcohol were prohibited at the time.

beer, which has never existed in Utah, being brewed in Utah

Indeed, Utah has a long and complicated history with alcohol and other “vices.” The Mormon pioneers may have been the most significant and influential component of the white colonization of the region, but they were far, far from the only ones to settle and leave their mark, even in the early days.

Just as the Latter Day Saints built their own civic infrastructure – banks, stores, centers of art and learning – non-Mormon residents of Utah have, from the beginning, had our own shadowy parallel set of structures. This is not to say that Mormons and gentiles do not have a shared history or shared spaces in the public and private realms, but only to note that just as American history is not simply the history of white Christian America, the history of Utah, especially the history of places like Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Park City, is not exclusively the history of Mormon Utah.

In the spirit of taking an entertaining and marginally informative look at the odd nooks and weird crannies of Utah history, this is the first in a series of posts I’m calling (with apologies to Howard Zinn) “A Sinners’ History of Utah.” Today’s installment:

The Commercial Street Red Light District

In the heart of downtown Salt Lake City, between State Street and Main Street, an alleyway connects 100 South to 200 South. Regent Street, as it’s now called, is currently undergoing a $12.8 million renovation (along with Orpheum Avenue and a now-defunct but soon-resurrected access alley called Regent Walk) as part of the construction of the new downtown performing arts center. Regent Street’s gentrification is a benign affair – no historic homes are being torn down, nor are any landmarks being razed – and I’d say that Regent Street has paid its dues, given its sordid past, back when it still went by the name Commercial Street.

Salt Lake City began its life in 1847 as Great Salt Lake City (the “Great” was dropped in 1868). Salt City might be the home of Temple Square, the Church Office Building and other landmarks of Mormonism, but from the get-go it has also been the commercial center of Utah, and thus has drawn an assortment of sketchy heathens, eager capitalists, immigrants, and many folks who probably qualify as all of the above.

When these enterprising souls struck out for the Utah Territory, they brought their tastes and habits with them, and thus saloons, tobacconists, gambling dens, and brothels flourished in Salt Lake City and elsewhere. Far from being shocked and appalled at such establishments, some Latter Day Saints – either the smart ones or the opportunists (or both) – invested in and/or operated them, thus turning a tidy profit.

By the 1870s, much of Salt Lake City’s traffic in vice took place on Regent Street, which was at the time known as Commercial Street. At this time, houses on Commercial Street generally had a legitimate business (usually a taproom or tobacco shop) on the ground floor, with prostitutes living and working on the second floor. Famous madams such as Helen Blazes and Ada Wilson kept things running smoothly, bribing the right officials and keeping tabs on the women working there.

The golden age of prostitution on Commercial Street lasted from about 1870 to 1908, by which time a formal system of “fines” (which were more like monthly operating fees than punitive measures) and the registration of both madams and prostitutes. The quasi-legalization of prostitution and its accompanying regulation and taxation created a lucrative system that provided Salt Lake City, still in its infancy,with a reliable and vital stream of revenue. That this bustling hotbed of for-profit sexxxytime fun was located less than a mile (6/10 of a mile, to be precise) from the LDS Temple is a fact that I imagine did not sit well with local civic and religious leaders.

one of the "stockades" that moved the red light district westward from Commercial Street
As a result, a push began between 1903 and 1908 to relocate Salt Lake’s red light district. In 1908, a new “stockade” system was implemented by Mayor John Bransford, pushing the city’s quasi-legal prostitution trade west, to an area between 500 and 600 West and 100 and 200 South. The new red light district was run by a prominent madam from Ogden, Dora Topham.

These “stockades” are a story for another day – for now, let’s remember that for almost 40 years, Salt Lake City’s Commercial Street – now Regent Street – was the center of the sin trade in Salt Lake City, proving (as if this humble bloggue needed any further proof) that this, our beloved City of Salt, is a place where sinners and saints live cheek by jowl, side by side, peacefully tolerating each other’s existence.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Witch-Hunting, The Great Christian Pastime (Part 2)

posted on 7/26/2015 by the Salt City Sinner

(In part one of this post, I very briefly addressed some of the historic witch hunts, both literal and figurative, that Christians in the West have engaged in. Today we're going to focus in a little closer on literal, 'get him/her, she/he's a witch' witch hunts. )

To be fair, it’s not just Christians in the West (or “Christendom,” as some right-wing Christians have adorably taken to calling it again) who have engaged in this type of hideous nonsense. Listverse compiled ’10 Modern Attempts to Police the Occult -- a fascinating and quick read that is completely worth checking out, by the way -- and only two of the entries on the list are from the West; one example from the United Kingdom and one to Canada. Given the content coming up in the third and final installment of this post, leaving the U.S. off the list strikes me as a little weird.

Also, it’s worth noting that Islam is at least as unhinged as Christianity when it comes to hunting and, in many cases, killing “witches,” and while the Abrahamic faiths seem to be unusually given to tormenting real or imagined practitioners of the Art of Arts, no religion is really immune, and periodic outbreaks of hysteria happen in Hindu communities, in Buddhist communities, pretty much anywhere where humans get up to their usual shenanigans. Monotheists seem, for obvious reasons, much more likely to dust off the torture rack and light the witch-burnin’ bonfires, but no group seems truly immune.

Of course, Christians in the West have had almost two millennia in which to process the twin facts that, firstly, virtually none – literally almost zero out of hundreds of thousands – of their victims actually practiced witchcraft, and secondly, even if they did, so fucking what?

"So fucking what" is a vexing question for aspiring Vans Helsing , especially in the days since the Enlightenment, and even more so in the United States (a country that, ostensibly, guarantees the right to freely practice one’s chosen religion or lack thereof to everyone, even witches). How are good, God-fearing Christians supposed to persecute witches if witchcraft is a constitutionally-protected exercise of religious freedom?

As is the case with so many questions ranging from U.S. history to scientific facts about the age of the Earth or the origins of life, the solution that Christians have come up with is simple and elegant: make shit up and lie their fucking asses off.

Since it’s no longer acceptable (at least, for now) to barbecue someone for worshipping a goddess or Satan, or for practicing magick, or for blaspheming, the trick is to pretend that the people you are persecuting are actually the persecutors; that they have done something so odious that nobody in polite society will call you out for throwing them to the wolves.

But what supposed crime is odious enough that just accusing a hated minority of it is enough to end the debate, even if you can never, ever prove anything -- even if 100% of your accusations turn out, in the end, to be false? Well, the rape, torture, and murder of countless children, it turns out, fits the bill nicely.

In the thrilling conclusion of ‘Witch-Hunting, The Great Christian Pastime’ we’ll take a brief look at the ‘Satanic Panic,’ and revisit our old friend Aaron Klein (of WND, well, not fame, but close enough for a wingnut). See you soon!

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Salt City Vexillology

posted on 7/19/2015 by the Salt City Sinner

If you are registered to vote in Salt Lake City, and if you haven’t been paying much attention to local politics, you are forgiven for being a little perplexed to find a mysterious piece of mail from the powers that be at City Hall in your mailbox. There’s a chance that it might be a big lucky chunk of unclaimed property, or an exciting notice that you are being sued by somebody (whether those types of mail actually originate at City Hall I am far too lazy to find out), but most likely it is your ballot for Salt Lake City’s 2015 mayoral primary election, which is being conducted entirely by mail.

If you’re looking for advice, I’d say ‘for the love of god, do not read my blog for advice.’ Then, however, I’d say ‘vote for Luke Garrott, City Councilman, Professor of Political Science, and All-Around Stud’ (full disclosure: Dr. Garrott is a friend and former mentor, which you should in no way hold against him). There have already been multiple debates between the five candidates for Mayor of Salt Lake, and you should check them out. I’m not saying that the moderators have been anything less than sharp and well-prepared, but I have noticed one issue that so far has been conspicuously absent from any discussion of the issues facing Salt Lake City. I’m speaking, of course, about the vexillological merits of Salt Lake City’s flag, and whether we need another update to its design. 

Vexillology is the study of the usage, symbolism, and history of flags. A “vexillologist” is defined as either someone who studies flags or just someone who is enthusiastic or knowledgeable about them. You are welcome to pepper your conversation with both terms if you need to up your fancy-pants word ratio, and, by the way, you’re welcome.

To get things started, let’s have a gander at the original flag of Salt Lake City, adopted in the 1960s:

Yikes, that thing is a mess!

Why do I say this? Well, the North American Vexillological Association has a whole report dedicated to helping your flag not suck, but the five essential principles of decent flag design are as follows: 1.) Keep it simple 2.) Use 2 – 3 basic, contrasting colors 3.) Use meaningful symbolism 4.) Avoid seals or lettering and 5.) Be distinctive.

Salt Lake City’s old flag was pretty bad at guiding principles 1, 2, and 4. In 2004, Salt Lake City sponsored a contest to redesign the city flag, and while none of the entries were adopted outright, the new flag (adopted in 2006) was “largely based on” one of the designs. The flag you will now see flapping around over municipal buildings is this fella:

It is a significant improvement, I’ll give it that. It no longer looks like a grade-school diorama project, and it is no longer something that would be busy and incomprehensible even by the standards of good city seal design. But the skyline, the lettering, the font of the lettering (dear sweet Lucifer, the font) – it’s still pretty terrible, in my opinion.

This leads me to believe that someone at the City level took the skeleton of a good design and then added the skyline and lettering. I have no evidence for this idea, but something in my soul says that somewhere out there is an amateur vexillologist whose fantastic design was almost adopted, a sad bastard of a vexillologist who both cries and drinks at night thinking of the design that was eventually actually adopted.

I think that we can do better, and I don’t think we need to wait another thirty years to spruce things up. I mean, we’re better than Provo, for the love of Pete, and Provo’s flag re-design is a study in replacing something that is laugh-out-loud bad with something that is actually pretty cool.

Here is the old flag of Provo:

I don't really need to add anything more to that.

And the spiffy new one (lettering-free, as you’ll note):

So let’s get cracking, various candidates for Mayor of Salt Lake City! Do we really want a flag that’s goofier than the flag of Provo?

I didn’t think so.

(h/t to the podcast 99% Invisible , which first got me interested in amateur vexillology)

Saturday, 4 July 2015

500 Posts!

posted on 7/4/2015 by the Salt City Sinner

Well, look at THAT!  Salt City Sinner has racked up 500 posts!

Despite work stoppages created by tense relations between labor and management (in other words I'm sometimes lazy and filled with self-loathing), this thing has kept creaking along, more or less steering itself, for far longer than I ever expected it to, and probably far longer than is sane or healthy.

To celebrate 500 posts' worth of sometimes entertaining, often obscenity-laced nonsense and balderdash, the following selections have been hand picked, quality controlled, and partially digested before being regurgitated for your perusal and/or delectation. Please enjoy responsibly!

A Combat Of Cocks

"Lord Dickens Smallwood was Warden of the Short Tower, a stub of a man only as tall as he was wide, and given to agitated frothing at the slightest provocation. He dug his thighs into his mount and pulled up short before a banner bearing the sigil of his house: a wilted orchid, purple on a pale field. Ser Boner Cartwheel, Smallwood’s strong right hand, planned to take the Rear Guard into battle."

#OccupySLC: Now There Is Nothing But Ruins

"I caught more shit for my home-made press pass than I have for anything I've worn in public since middle school. The CBS camera-guy ranked on me. The ABC camera-guy ranked on me. An independent journalist who wore a complicated rig with three or four cameras on it laughed uproariously and snapped my picture when I produced this 'pass' and fumblingly pinned it on. The way I figure it, using a press pass is like using a cross against a vampire: you have to believe in it and/or imbue it with authenticity to make it 'work.'"

Of Presidents And Ponies

“'I’ll, ah, take that into consideration,' the President says. 'Now, before things get going properly, let’s pour you into a pair of your very tightest slacks without underwear – I mean, so tight that you aren’t going to leave anything to the imagination – and get a couple of tall, lukewarm glasses of skim milk going. This party’s about to get weird.'

“'Bro hoof?' he asks again. 'Bro hoof,' I reply sadly."

Redistricting Time 2011

"Just as the Gini Coefficient can be used to examine income inequality and allows us to compare different countries and/or political economies using a consistent metric, there should be a coefficient that measures disparity in representative democracies. In such a rating system, the U.S. would rank somewhere around Liberia or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and even within such a competitive framework, I'd bet that Utah would rank in the top two or three least representative states."

A Tour Of Salt City Sinner Headquarters

"Last and least of all, you must be wondering what the Salt City Sinner himself looks like and where he spends his idle days. The short answer is: fuck off. The long answer is that 'I' am actually a complex series of neuroses and psychocosms amalgamated specifically to sustain the order of Salt City while secretly undermining it. Have a nice weekend!"

The Mistakes Of The Mero “Mind” Part I

"Paul Mero is a pompous, sneering dickhead, but that doesn't set him apart from the rest of his ilk in any extraordinary way. What gets my attention, and yanks my eyeballs to many of his online or in-print columns, is Mero's gift for torturing logic, this way, that way, inside and out, and then accusing his ideological opponent of irrational thinking. It's the intellectual equivalent of watching a drunken clown hopped up on methamphetamines juggle live snakes "

Well there you have it!

On a serious note, sincere thanks to everyone who has read, linked to, or written for this bloggue over the years. You guys are the best, and the reason I continue to do this (it certainly isn't the fame and money). I hope that 500 posts from now we're all in good health and high spirits. Cheers, and happy Fourth!