Various Thoughts


Photo of Noel Robinson by Todd Glaser

My cousin died this week. He was a surfer, Noel Robinson. All the surfing sites have pieces on him (this one is my favorite — what a great picture!), and there’s been a huge response from the surfing community. Noel and I got along well, but we only saw each other rarely. I had no idea that he was a celebrity in his sphere. Now that he’s gone, I really wish I had put in the effort to know him better.


I participated with Mormon Helping Hands yesterday. What an amazing gathering. I love to see how well we in the church come together. My only complaint is that the on-site management of the projects is usually pretty loose. We had about 300 people (or so I’m told), but I think that only about 1/3 of us were actually contributing at any time. That’s not due to lack of willingness, just that it’s hard to coordinate work between 300 people.


Zelophehad’s Daughters has posted their current “list of drafts”. To all the bloggers in the blogosphere, I encourage you to give them a hand — pick a couple of titles from their list and try writing posts based on them :)


My project manager at work went to school in Berkeley in the ’60s. He laments the lack of political activism among students today. As he put it, “The college years are a great time for risk taking and rebellion. An arrest for disorderly conduct in your college years won’t screw up the rest of your life.” Which got me thinking, are one’s college years a socially acceptable time for rebellion? And if so, is it really rebellion if it’s socially acceptable?


I like exploring big buildings and finding the hidden nooks, places where you can sit and read undisturbed. BYU is great for that. That’s also the reason I like attending ward choir practice. I think choir is the hidden nook in most wards.

18 comments for “Various Thoughts

  1. Sorry, I forgot to add that my previous comment was in regards to the 60s Berkeley comment.

  2. First, my condolences for the death of your cousin. That is a great photo of him. I had dreams to become a great surfer myself, but then my dad moved us inland to Sacramento in the middle of my sophomore year in high school and after I graduated I went off to BYU and then on a mission to Indian Country in South Dakota and Montana and that all pretty much put an end to my surfing dreams.

    I was a rebel at BYU in the late 60’s and early 70’s. There, at that time, it was easy to be a rebel at BYU. You did not have to march, you did not have to protest, you did not have to take over buildings – as was being done at other campuses all across the US.

    All you had to do was let your hair come down a bit over your ears, wear blue levis and sandals and then you were a genuine rebel, subject to threats of expulsion and exhortations to repent, issued by those who, at the very second they met you and saw your hair, knew you were on your way to perdition – or, at the very least, the Telestial Kingdom.

    I am not joking or exaggerating. That’s how it was.

    I don’t know how it is today. All I know is that the last time I was at BYU, maybe four years ago, I drove slowly through campus on a weekend nearly empty of traffic and, reminiscing, shot a few pictures through the car window. Just as I was about to drive off campus, a BYU security officer pulled me over with flashing lights, got out of his car, approached me with his finger and thumb sliding nervously back and forth along the top of his pistol and held me at bay for about 15 minutes until he came to a clear understanding that under the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States, I had every right to take pictures on the campus of my alma mater.

    In writing, I demanded an apology from the officer. His chief wound up issuing one, but I never heard again from the abusive officer.

    Again, I do not joke or exaggerate.

    So maybe it is still easy to be a rebel at BYU.

  3. Dane, your cousin Noel looks like an incredible free spirit and individualist. I am sure that he was just as colorful out of the surf as he was as a master of riding the curl of the wave. His life may not have been as long as he, you, and all of his friends and family would have liked, but I’ll bet that he lived what time he had to the fullest. That’s an achievement that few men ever equal. I can see him seated bare chested still dressed in his ‘jams’ captivating our Heavenly Father with his vivid stories and descriptions of his surfing experiences. My condolences to you and your family. Noel’s iridescent, shining spirit may have left mortality a more mundane and banal existence, but it made an immediate appearance on the other side of the veil with a magnified brillance brighter than any they have likely seen in quite a while.

    RE: Rebellion at BYU…
    Bill’s reminiscences reminded me of an experience I had at BUY in the late 60’s. Ernest L Wilkinson, (‘fondly’ known as “Ernie the Attorney”), had created a tradition of welcoming all the new students in the old Fieldhouse at the beginning of the school year. Also in attendence, if they so chose, were most of the returning students. President Wilkinson would begin his address by demonstrating his legendary athletic prowess by getting down and doing a number of push-ups on the stand and afterwards reading the statistics of the new incoming freshmen. (i.e.: total number of new students, total number from each U.S. state, total number from foreign countries, etc.) Then he would extend greetings to those students from each place and to those living in the various student housing areas. These greetings occasionally came with a brief editorial comment on, (his personal view), of the state of spirituality of those from each place. California always merited a comment on the tenuous spiritual status of the Californian Saints. New England, specifically Boston, fared little better because we were allegedly prone to view all things in the lamplight of our own conceit. We cheered at our denunciations and secretly vied to see what hi-jinx we could pull off to raise our status on Wilkinson’s annual apostacy meter. When Ernie got to the student dorm groups, we in Deseret Towers, “U” Hall, anxiously waited to see if our shelling of Helaman Hall’s fair sisters, (with their tuxedoed dates), with water balloons during Homecoming Prom Night* was enough to garner for us the coveted supreme denunciation. And finally it came, we were the last dorm group mentioned and Ernie said that he was witholding his annual greeting to Deseret Towers, “U” Hall, because all of it’s inhabitants were in “a state of total and complete apostacy!” We cheered until we were hoarse and stomped our feet on the risers much to the amusement of the rest of the fieldhouse audience.
    I became a rebel simply by being a Bostonian, and noted with amusement that while in New England my politics were considered ‘moderate Republican’ but after arriving in Utah I became a ‘liberal Democrat’ without changing any of my political views. Sadly, my reign of rebellion at BYU ended when I joined the Navy in 1969. Yea, verily, it was/is indeed easy to become a rebel at BYU!

    *For those of a tender heart, I must clarify that the starstruck young couples only became our targets after they had returned from the dance and their beaus were trying to extract a good night kiss from them. No one was actually hit by the water ballons since the projectiles were torn open by the branches of the bare locust trees that surrnounded the buildings. But the cold night air chilled the shower of water that fell upon them and dampened the ardor of nearly all of the hopeful young men. We laughed our butts off from the roof of the tower until we saw the campus security cars pull up and heard the electric motors of the elevators start up. By the time the boys in blue arrived on the roof we were already down the staircase with our ‘armaments’. All perpetrators were safely ensconced in pre-selected dorm rooms listening to music, talking sports or otherwise being the picture of innocence.

  4. Bill and Velikiye, you two are great. Thank you for sharing your own memories. My dad was at BYU during Pres. Wilkinson’s tenure…I’ll have to ask him about that.

    Velikiye, everything you say about Noel is true. His death has had me thinking a lot about what this life is for. I can’t put it into words, but I think Noel had figured it out pretty well.

  5. I share the view on activism. My brother came of age in the late 60’s and he was politically charged. His youngest sibling, I was 7 years behind him and far less politically aware. Maybe it was disillusionment over Nixon or finally the end of the Vietnam War, but my friends and I were just not as engaged.

    My children are now of an age when they could be more engaged. They have views, but struggle to articulate them, to get excited about issues. Their commentary is more fueled by late night comics and SNL sketches than any analysis.

    That said, my best political discussions are with my 13-year old, mostly because he’ll disagree with whatever I say just because I’ve said it.

  6. It’s not simply BYU (though it certainly ranks near the bottom of the bucket when it comes to political activism). This is a general phenomenon talked about all across the country. It correlates with the primary ambition of getting a job (as opposed to discovering oneself or positioning oneself to make a difference in society, the primary ambitions in earlier decades), and the general success of colleges & universities for getting students jobs.

    While at Georgetown a few years ago, the administration banned some form of social drinking – I can’t remember exactly what, drinking in the main quad after certain hours, or some such. Students sent around a formal petition protesting, and even had one calm sit in. Back in the early 70s (so faculty loved to relate; can’t vouch for the details), a similar measure ended NOT in calm, formal protests, but in a huge, riotous keg party in front of the main hall.

  7. do many wards even have a ward choir anymore? Our ward choir sucks, mostly because it gets zero support from the bishopric. Music is sadly just not very important in church these days. I would much rather sing the hymns of the church than hear talks from the latest young couple from BYU who moved into the ward.

  8. Our bishop sings in our ward choir.

    I would much rather sing the hymns of the church than hear talks from the latest young couple from BYU who moved into the ward.

    Although, speaking to a bunch of nearly-dead members is probably more beneficial to the development of that young couple than a tired version of a some Utah-specific hymn like “Carry On”…

  9. Dane,

    I appreciate your thoughts on Mormon Helping Hands. As the coordinator for our stake, I was also impressed. We had nearly 600 people show up when we had originally estimated the need for 300-400. It was great to see the extra support and all the yellow vests, even if the additional numbers meant less work (hence more standing around) for all. That is the problem with volunteerism. You don’t want to turn away willing volunteers and you can’t force any of them to do something they don’t want to do.

  10. Jos. Jr. (#10), that’s an interesting guess. Why do you say?

    Gilgamesh, project management is a mostly thankless task. So let me say thanks for coordinating the effort in your stake. I’m sure it was not a trivial effort.

  11. Condolences on the death of your cousin, Dane.

    I think it’s interesting that your project manager links political activism so closely with rebellion and disorderly conduct.

  12. @Dane: The “free-spirit” lifestyle embodied by a dedicated surfer seems incompatible with Mormonism. Sorry for your loss, BTW.

  13. Jos.Jr. at #16
    You can be a surfer and LDS without a problem. I, and our recently released Bishop (I was his second counsellor) and our EQP are all surfers. Our ward is in Geelong, Australia and you will find in almost all coastal wards in Australia a number of surfers. Surfing is a highly addictive sport, but living the Gospel helps keep it all in balance. I don’t think surfing is any less compatible with the Gospel than say golf, football or basketball.

  14. Ah yes, Ernie Wilkinson. My experience as a BYU freshman (1967-68) was interesting. We referred to the Wilkinson Center as “Ernie’s Bar & Grill”. I lived in Stover Hall (at that time an all-men’s hall in Helaman Halls). During spring finals a number of us quit shaving. Our hair and mustaches were already pretty long because Ernie didn’t lower the boom on facial hair and hair length until we were on our missions. Anyway, I’m on my way to my last final in the Jesse Knight Bldg., walking up the hill; when I got to the top the street was deserted. As I walked down the sidewalk a small figure emerged and started walking toward me. As we got closer to each other I realized it was Ernie. “Oh sh*t!” I said to myself. Ernie stopped dead in his tracks, stared at me, and then quickly crossed to the sidewalk on the other side of the street!

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