Sunday, March 20, 2011

New video!

This was my Winter Break...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Muskegon Witch Hunt

“Mr. Emory knew what he was doing. Everybody says he’s a good kid, he’s a good kid... but he’s done something...very vile to children...Where’s his morals? He has none after doing this.”
-Stephen Hellman, father of one of the victims

On January 12, 2011, Evan Emory, a 21-year-old amateur musician, entered a Muskegon County, Michigan elementary school and sung a few songs to a class of first-graders while a friend filmed the event. He arranged the show through the school administrators claiming he would use the footage “as a portion of his portfolio to help him gain admission to a Big Ten School of Education.” What they didn’t know was that he would later film a different song called, “The Naughty Song” while the children and teachers were absent from the room. The song featured very explicit lyrics that were not suitable for children. And yet Emory set to work editing the two videos together, omitting the “nice” songs with the sexually explicit one. The end result made it seem as if he had sung “The Naughty Song” to the children, their reactions included in the video. He uploaded the video onto Youtube and a few weeks later concerned parents phone calls started flowing in to the school offices.

On February 15, Emory was charged with “manufacturing child sexual abusive material,” a 20-year felony. Emory violated a portion of the Michigan Child Pornography penal code that addresses a person who “persuades, induces, entices, coerces, causes, or knowingly allows a child to engage in a child sexually abusive activity for the purpose of producing any child sexually abusive material.” This is the idea Muskegon County Prosecutor, Tony Tague, is running with. But to accurately decide his case, “abusive activity” must be defined. The Michigan law is vague and overbroad, just as its federal predecessor, the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996. CPPA prohibited images that "appear to be" children engaged in sexual activity or "convey the impression" that the images depict minors engaged in sexual activity. The Supreme Court ruled that these provisions were overbroad and threatening to first amendment rights and thus, unconstitutional (Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition 2002). The Michigan law has a very familiar CPPA-ring to it. The law would work in taking down the traditional child sex offender but leaves too much undefined room for addressing an indirect threat like Emory.

Is it fair to charge Emory with a felony when he gave fair warning in the beginning and ending credits that the children “were not actually used in the performance” of the song? There are other examples of the “comedic routine” he put on in popular culture. In recent years, many comedians have used the illusion of editing to make it seem like they are performing their routine, which is usually inappropriate, in front of naïve children. In a 2004 episode of The Chappelle Show, a segment called “Kneehigh Park” shows children learning about sex and drugs in a very explicit manner. At one point, a puppet shows its penis in the vicinity of a group of unsuspecting kids. Their gross-out reaction follows. While Emory’s lyrics were lewd, they were nowhere near the physical/verbal content of the Chapelle’s Show episode. How is it that a 21-year-old college musician is slammed with the possibility of registering as a sex offender and spending 20 years in prison but Dave Chappelle can still air the sketch in reruns and online video libraries? The answer comes down to power and money. If Evan Emory was financially capable of taking the matter to appeals court, I am confident he would come out on top.

On March 14, 2011, Evan Emory pleaded no contest to a reduced felony count to Muskegon County 14th Circuit Judge William C. Marietti. The plea deal requires him to serve 60 days in jail, two years of probation, and 200 hours of community service. After a successful probation, Emory will be allowed to plead to a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

The Evan Emory case brings to light many of the undefined obscenity laws of our country at a federal and state level. There is too much undefined space. The result is that laws are used for the wrong reasons. While I think the actions he took were in complete distaste, they were not worthy of all he's had to go through. Evan Emory is not a sex offender.
Parents like Stephen Hellman ought to be more upset with the school for allowing a stranger to film his child in a video he was unaware of rather than the editing which made it look suggestive.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Modern Day Church - Pt. 2

In some ways, this is a continuation of my previous post "A Modern Day Church" dated Friday, October 15, 2010

Someone prompted me to share my views on the LDS Church's view of same-gender attraction. I figured I would repost my response here just so I had it for my own records (it was a facebook comment).

First, his comment:

I respect that you have an opposing viewpoint, and appreciate the why, its just that currently the conclusions that the church has come to are having a VERY negative effect on LGBT's perceived self value and causing permanent damage to ...their self esteem and a huge strain on their social life and many of them are turning to suicide as their only option, and I find that to be terrible.

I don't see this as a Church standing against societal pressure. I see this as a Church being stubborn when a SERIOUS problem is plaguing the people when their methods and dogma are having terrible results.

Your first paragraph is basically saying: Despite the fact that the results continue to be so negative, the Prophets know what they are talking about and you should follow them anyways blindly.

But yet when Prophets have made mistakes in the past, we are then told, "Oh, well in that instance they were just acting as men" Which is a cop out. Why do you expect us to sustain a Prophet in everything they say, when later we can find out that they DO have human flaws? Couldn't this be one of those times that they are wrong because they are human?

Brigham Young said that black people WOULD NEVER hold the priesthood, and that if they did it would be the end of the church. Now obviously it is clear that this was wrong. But they could have just as easily demanded that everyone sustain him at the time, because he's the prophet.

Interestingly you should know that the Church actually made edits to Packers talk after he gave it, and before publishing it on the Internet and Ensigns. This shows you that even currently the Church is aware that its apostles, in this case Packer, are capable of making mistakes. And we are just supposed to sustain them no matter what?

All I'm saying is that I strongly feel that the Church is wrong on this issue, and causing permanent damage, and sorry if I'm not willing to just sustain a person despite witnessing the destruction what they say is causing. I attend weekly meetings held on campus where many openly gay Mormons discuss how they feel about the issue, and its really clear that there is a problem, and the problem ISN'T that they just want to get away with sin. I have attended lectures demonstrating some pretty definitive and backed up scientific evidence that this is something that they are born with, and cannot be "cured". And I have seen the terrifying statistics of youth suicide that are a direct result of the current attitude towards homosexuality.

Anyways, I AM getting really preachy now, and am making some big claims. But yeah, just trying to let you know where I'm coming from. And basically that guy's blog fails to answer all of my questions, and I'm not going to sustain ANYTHING until my questions are sufficiently answered.

"We are to stand by our convictions without forcing them upon others." - Well I strongly felt that the Church's influence on Prop 8 was in fact, forcing their convictions on others.

You have the right to believe how you believe, the only reason I speak out against it is because of what I just mentioned about forcing your convictions on others, and the damage I have personally witnessed it causing to others. That I can't abide.

My Response

I want to respond with a few clarifying points:

1. I really do value your opinion. I Do. I think there is a sense of homophobia running rampant throughout the Church membership. And it MUST stop. It has caused far too much harm. By becoming more educated and understanding of others, we can reverse that trend that sends so many with same gender attraction into a depressed inactive state, usually resulting in leaving the Church.

2. All GAs edit their talks a week after conference. Because their talks go on to publishing in Church magazines and for use by the media and most importantly, the members.

3. No, prophets are not perfect. They are human beings with human minds prone to error. BUT, they have been given authority and inspiration from Jesus Christ through their ordination to that calling. That is my belief and testimony.
In regards to Declaration 2 (Blacks gaining the priesthood), it states:

"As we have witnessed the expansion of the work of the Lord over the earth, we have been grateful that people of many nations have responded to the message of the restored gospel, and have joined the Church in ever-increasing numbers. This, in turn, has inspired us with a desire to extend to every worthy member of the Church all of the privileges and blessings, which the gospel affords."

The key point to be made lies within "This, in turn, has inspired us with a desire". The inspiration mentioned was collectively felt by all members of the 12 and First Presidency. They saw a doctrinal issue and all collectively felt inspired to clarify it. The same idea needs to be applied to the idea of same-gender attraction. If the brethren sought inspiration from the Lord, which they have made evident to us, I will listen to their counsel. That's the organization of this Church and the way Heavenly Father communicates with us.

Nothing in the Church can be ratified without the collective approval of all of the 12. If an issue is still at odds, it will not be pushed through in any form. I'm assuming Declaration 2 had its debut in one of the meetings the 12 and First Presidency has each Thursday morning on the 4th floor of The SLC Temple where they discuss doctrine and at times, revelation. And so it is my belief, through this Church and it's organization, that these principles are completely and 100 percent inspired revelation.
Who are we to say how the Lord wishes to carry out his Church?

If we follow Heavenly Father's counsel, we will be blessed:
"Let your soul be at rest concerning your spiritual standing, and resist no more my voice." (DC 108: 2)

The doctrine of marriage and chastity always has been. It has been in the books since the beginning of this Church. The stance the Church takes is nothing new, no succumbing to modern trends or pressures. The Proclamation of the Family merely restated things.

Finally, I just want to say that I don't come here to argue. I don't think arguing is productive in any way. And I don't feel like we have in any way. I've appreciated your well-thought out points and I'm glad that we're able to discuss these things the way we do. All too often, I see people on both sides of the fence shouting at each other. It's ridiculous and it hurts everyone involved. If we learned to be more accepting of all of our brothers and sisters, we would be that much closer to Christ.

Before I converted to the Church, I was involved in the Gay Rights movement. I marched on DC, I ran a campus this issue was absolutely critical to me when I made the decision to join the Church. But as I saw myself turning from my previous views that cast the Church as the enemy and started to pray and embrace the Gospel, I had my spiritual confirmation that I was joining Christ's Church on earth. It was hard, and still is hard.

I have gay friends who are members of the Church (and those who are not) and I respect them. I may align with the Church, but this does not mean I look down on them in any way. I love them and wish them the best in their own personal faith. More importantly, Heavenly Father does the same, but with a love that is incomprehensible.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I've been very introspective lately. I found myself going back through old writings and old blog posts, combing through past thoughts and feelings.

What I've seen most are the short film ideas I had written down at work. I read through them now for the first time since they flowed from my excited fingers a year or two ago. They are all quite revealing of my intentions, my passions, and the unrequited love I happened to be involved in at the time. I wanted to live vicariously through the characters I spoke of. I wanted love, security, and faith. The characters were always looking for something more...something that they could never find. They all get thrown into formidable situations beyond their control. And rather than thrive, they get sucked under. Some of them have luck in the end, but it's always by chance, and it's always unsuspecting.

I came across one unpublished post (draft) from January 2009 that simply states:
"This past Thanksgiving and Christmas marked the first times I realized I was an adult."

I remember that Christmas. I had a lot on my mind. I remember getting drunk a few days before leaving home for the Holidays. I was becoming a regular drinker (nothing crazy). Though in high school, I was a staunch opponent of even going to the parties where cheap beer flowed like water. I had a crush on a girl who I knew I would get eventually. I wanted to have a serious committed relationship with her...and I thought my chances were good (it fizzled out after nothing more than a kiss or two). I started to recognize the world around me as being endless with possibility. I could do anything. All throughout the break I told myself I was formally becoming initiated as an "adult" into this world. It was strange to come back into my previous life so soon after I had made these realizations within.

There is another one from March of this year:
"I know it's standard to be uncertain about your future in college. I get that.
But I just worry"

I still catch this thought every so often. But not nearly in the way I used to. Moving out to Utah was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I know my direction now. I have a tentative career path in a field where I'm not compromising my passions. I no longer want to make films for a living...but it's been replaced with something far more reaching into the depths of my appetite for life: helping others directly (cliche? yes. something I've found complete passion for? also, yes).

I feel like I have a taste of what I've always wanted. I have a faith that means everything to me, an understanding of my place in the universe, and a girl that I love. I'm not completely fulfilled because then I'd have no reason to continue living on earth. But for the first time ever, I'm not afraid to look at my prospective future. And I don't miss drinking either...

there's a waning moment in time
when the people slow down
the sun sets over the lake
my lungs breath in the cold air
and I know I'm alive

a wise man once said,
Dear God I see you move the mountains
Dear God I see you moving trees
Sometimes it’s nothing to believe in
Sometimes it’s everything I see