Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Letter from America - Utah

In common with other broadcasters, we are proud to present an occasional series on the 48 contiguous states of the USA.  This is a colossal undertaking and we hope this will reach the same artistic and scientific achievements as astonished the world when the BBC made that fantastic series on a 100 objects rejected by charity shops along the Old Kent Road.  We have presented the production values of Dr A.V. O'Gadro (this has nothing to do with the AV referendum of which more later on) and his deep insight into aspects of chemistry in this 'Year of Chemistry' as dedicated by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC).

One of my chums, Dr Eugene Hicks, is going to talk about the 48 chromosomes or states of the USA.  These are usually found in pairs and each state has a 2 letter code so for example, GENE is going to start with UT for Utah.  Over to you Gene.

Thank you for the introduction:  let me introduce my country with the lyrics of that Perry Como song "What did Della wear"


I had the fortune of meeting your host Obreption on the ski slopes of Alta in Little Cottonwood Canyon here in Utah.  Obreption was with a bunch of social anthropologists, rabid atheists, professors of theology, bishops, elders, priests etc.  They were there on some theological conference in Utah.  Surprisingly, there was only one decent skier among them and that was Obreption, who crashed into me on a double diamond run in front of the lift line.  There had been 80 inches of fresh champagne powder 2 days before and luckily we were not hurt.  Gradually I met all of the cronies from theology departments and we spent an enjoyable couple of days thereafter.  I managed to introduce them to Utah, which showed that they had come with both sore misgivings and preconceptions about our state. 

Utah is often referred to as the Mormon state, the Bee Hive state, the alcohol-free, tobacco free and polygamist state.  Only one of these is true.

Mormon is a term used to describe members of the LDS (Latter Day Saints).  If you type LDS UT SLC into a search engine you'll get a rough idea of both the religion and the state.  Just to show we're not all smug and sincere, here are a few links to US and Utah humor:


Mormon jokes can be related to Irish Catholic, Orthodox Jewish, Pakistani Muslim etc etc.  There's an impression of breeding for the record books and strict religious observance.  These stereotypes might be reductionist, have a grain of truth, but there are only jokes.  As for the usual comments about Americans not having a sense of humor or getting irony, you ought to listen to a few of our Aggie jokes: http://home.earthlink.net/~mike_scott/aggjoke.htm

The Aggie jokes are the old Polish jokes which we used to tell in the USA.  You Brits used to say the same about the Irish, the Dutch  the Belgians, the Germans the Austrians,  and the Austrians the Hungarians.  For an example of a detailed piece of academic research, you should bombard Obreption for the seminal work "Wagnerian jokes in The Ring Cycle" .  I won't tell you the punch line, but the way Obreption tells it it's a killer - and takes 22 hours!  

The state capital of Utah is Salt Lake City and if you fly in to SLC you'll get a good view of the Salt Lake, the Mormon Temple and the Wasatch Front.  You can buy booze here, alcohol is controlled as in most of the US and we're no different from any other state.  We have state control, dry counties and segregated public drinking areas.  Some states and counties in the US are stricter than we are in SLC and some are more relaxed.  The city is pleasant to walk around, relatively safe, has many attractions and is a great place for spending a ski vacation.  You can get to many different resorts within an hour or so and you have the fun of the city without being trapped into having to share the resort on the slopes with a bunch of ski bums and snowboard bums.  


The big educational establishment in our state is BYU (http://www.byu.edu/webapp/home/index.jsp).  You can buy the shirts and Obreption's favorite 'material culture tack' - see the seminal study of this.  BYU is situated in Provo, a short drive from SLC.  It's a bit of a pressure cooker for students, who can either have a complete breakdown or go off the rails totally, like Obreption and me.  Obreption isn't a lapsed anything, he was just born that way.  Obreption says: I am neither pre or post Lapsarian; I just got a prolapse in a ski prang.  If you have enjoyed this post, be careful how you contact the LDS.  They'll be looking for you!  

Have nice day!


1 comment:

  1. I was distressed to read about the plight of the students at BYU and am alarmed that this is tolerated in a civilised country like the USA. But then again, we are talking about Utah.

    Anyway,I was wondering if the students' sad state of affairs was perhaps the inspiration for that classic ballad written by Rory Orbison et al, but immortalised by Linda Ronstadt - Blue Bayou?

    Keep up the good work!