CineFix

I’m a bit of a film nerd, and as much as I love YouTube channels like CinemaSins and WatchMojo, those are just fluff. However, I get a much deeper enjoyment out of the CineFix channel. I’ve really learned quite a bit about film from them. Here are a few of their more recent videos that I think are especially valuable for the critical film fan:

 

Nevada in 2042

Nevada had always been a magnet for kooks. Misfits, outcasts, miscreants, mavericks–the malcontents, the fantasists, the seekers of shortcuts. Born of mining boom and bust, the economy was founded on vice: prizefighting, loose women, drunkenness, gambling, and marital fecklessness. Even before going it alone, the state was an outlier, making it all too easy to get married, easier still to divorce. Alcohol was plied twenty-four hours a day. A lenient relationship to prostitution well predated the era in which Savannah was able to earn an accredited community college degree in stimulation therapy. Real cigarettes–or giant, smelly cigars. for that matter–were legal in casinos. A prohibition against state income tax was enshrined in its constitution. In 2042, Nevadans had merely formalized that they were a people apart. 

–Lionel Shriver, The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047, page 382

Buster Keaton’s Best, Funniest Movie

I love Buster Keaton–nearly 100 years on, his movies are still some of the most amazing, hilarious, creative, and wild ones out there.

Earlier this year, I showed my family his little masterpiece Sherlock Jr. At only 45 minutes, it didn’t strain anyone’s attention span, nor did the lack of dialogue confuse even the youngest kids.

The jokes, the stunts, and a very early bit of meta-commentary on film itself make this one of my favorite movies. The kids, too, have asked to see it again since then. Enjoy!

 

Here’s a great analysis of Keaton’s work and legacy:

My Speech To The School Board

At our school board’s meeting on Thursday, the controversial sex ed opt-in/opt-out issue was on the agenda, and I went there to speak. My remarks actually elicited a surprisingly mixed reaction from the room, but I’m proud of it. As soon as I heard about this meeting, I felt compelled to say this, and I stand by it:

Good evening. I’d like to thank the school board, district leaders, and every parent and community member here for all their service and sacrifice for the good of our community’s children. Everyone here works hard, and even if I disagree with some of you, you all deserve appreciation and respect.

I’m both a parent and teacher myself. I’ve been with CCSD for 16 years now. I also have a child who has graduated from CCSD, four more who are currently enrolled, and two others who will be here in a few years. I might be one of the most most invested stakeholders here tonight, and I do have thoughts about the sex education issue, but I’m not here to argue for or against any position being discussed.

My message tonight isn’t about the issues, it’s about us. There will be a lot of serious disagreement here tonight, and that’s OK, but if we’re really going to help the youth of this community, we need to show them that we can be united despite our differences. Too often, these discussions are hindered by hostility. My plea is to all who will speak or listen tonight—let’s be civil to those who disagree with us. Everybody here is trying to help, everybody here is doing the best they can, everybody here has the interests of children at heart. Let’s not assume the worst of each other.

Imagine if we all tried to understand before being understood. Whatever the best decision here is, civility and empathy are the most likely ways to find it and actually get it enacted—kindness is in everyone’s best interest. I’d like to ask everyone here tonight to refrain from insulting anyone whose opinion differs from theirs, either verbally or just mentally. We can disagree, and we can and should debate, but we shouldn’t debase anyone’s humanity while doing so. Thank you.

Literature: The Major Art Form of Western Civilization

The special thing about literature, the major art form of a Western civilization now ending before our very eyes, is not hard to define. Like literature, music can overwhelm you with sudden emotion, can move you to absolute sorrow or ecstasy; like literature, painting has the power to astonish, and to make you see the world through fresh eyes. But only literature can put you in touch with another human spirit, as a whole, with all its weaknesses and grandeurs, its limitations, its pettinesses, its obsessions, its beliefs; with whatever it finds moving, interesting, exciting, or repugnant. Only literature can grant you access to a spirit from beyond the grave–a more direct, more complete, deeper access than you’d have in conversation with a friend. Even in our deepest, most lasting friendships, we never speak so openly as when we face a blank page and address an unknown reader.

–Michel Houellebecq, Submission

 

White Joke

Today I read my American Lit kids an essay by a French man who visited the American colonies and famously described their multicultural diversity:

He is neither an European, nor the descendant of an European; hence that strange mixture of blood, which you will find in no other country. I could point out to you a family whose grandfather was an Englishman, whose wife was Dutch, whose son married a French woman, and whose present four sons have now four wives of different nations.

After which I commented, “That should have been their motto: Colonial America–where a white person is free to marry a slightly different kind of white person.”

This might end up being the best received joke I tell all year.

A French Writer On Politics & Society Today

From Michel Houellebecq’s 2015 novel, Submission:

“The Muslim Brotherhood is an unusual party, you know. Many of the usual political issues simply don’t matter to them. To start with, the economy is not their main concern. What they care about is birthrate and education. To them it’s simple–whichever segment of the population has the highest birthrate, and does the best job of transmitting its values, wins. If you control the children, you control the future.” pg. 64

“My only goal in life was to do a little reading and get in bed at four in the afternoon with a carton of cigarettes and a bottle; and yet, at the same time, I had to admit, I was going to die if I kept that up–I was going to die fast, unhappy and alone. And did I really want to die fast, unhappy and alone? In the end, only kind of.” pg. 203

“The fact is, most people live their lives without worrying too much about these supposedly philosophical questions. They think about them only when they’re facing some kind of tragedy–a serious illness, the death of a loved one. At least, that’s how it is in the West; in the rest of the world people die and kill in the name of these very questions, they wage bloody wars over them, and they have since the dawn of time. These metaphysical questions are exactly what men fight over, not market shares or who gets to hunt where. Even in the West, atheism has no solid basis.” pg. 204

On The Use & Abuse Of Media

After all that’s been written for and against gay marriage, there’s one major aspect of the issue that has received almost no attention at all. And it may be the most important part.

In the early 2000’s, 31 U.S. states passed constitutional amendments that specifically reiterated the definition of marriage as being one-man-one-woman. By 2015, when the Supreme Court struck those down, a majority of Americans in surveys said they no longer disapproved of gay marriage.

Aside from any feeling about the issue itself, that change should be fascinating. Has there ever been a faster shift of so large a portion of the population on so major an issue? In only about a decade, millions of people just changed their mind.

And nobody seems to be asking why or how.

I think the answer is obvious, if we do bother to ask. Those millions of people didn’t all just spontaneously have random changes of heart, in history’s biggest coincidence.

No. The media worked on us. What else could it have been?

There’s no need here to rehash the many, many positive portrayals of gay people and their relationships on TV over the last few decades (a short summary, though, is here); I don’t think anyone would deny that such portrayals were very common, that they became more common over time, and that the amount of characters involved was disproportionate to the general population in real life.  Again, no value judgment about gay marriage either way is needed in order to simply see that TV’s tendency to preach the virtue of gays was widespread. One might say that this trend was meant to combat ignorance–fair enough. My point here is that the trend exists.

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Remembering The Huntridge

We took the kids to the Nevada State Museum this summer, and one area was dedicated to remembering the Huntridge theater. It really had a fascinating history. I saw plenty of concerts there in the 90’s, including Nine Inch Nails just as The Downward Spiral came out. I had to take some pictures of these displays, as they brought back some great memories. Strange that I never think of this stuff–I work only a block from there and drive by it all the time.

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Look at all these forgotten 90’s bands! Hemlock, Dinosaur Jr., Suicidal Tendencies, The Ataris, Dance Hall Crashers, KMFDM, Save Ferris, Voodoo Glow Skulls! I used to save these little fliers and put them on the wall of my bedroom. I wish I still had them–there were dozens just plastering the whole thing.

 

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I used to have that exact KUNV shirt in high school! I just checked eBay, and nothing, sadly. The “Rock Avenue” slogan on the right refers to the legendary overnight show that radio station used to play–the DJs there knew everything and played the most amazing range of stuff.

Stolen From The Library

I was just looking at my library district’s web page to see which branches have copies of some movies I’m looking to check out over the long weekend. One of them is The Expendables 3. Below is a screen shot of part of the results page for that one.

This is hilarious. Look how many copies were checked out and never returned! (Those are the ones marked “billed.”) Between this and the other branches shown on the rest of that page, there are dozens of copies borrowed and kept forever.

I’ve seen this note on other movies before, but never in quantities like this.

So, what is it about The Expendables 3 that makes so many people check it out and keep it?

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A Picture For A Great Book of Mormon Verse

14117824_10209866266511572_2409278205517880784_nI made this last week because it’s one of my favorite verses in the whole Book of Mormon, and there weren’t any really good pictures out there featuring it (though I had to condense it to make it readable in the space available).

I love the rhetorical power in 3 Nephi 27:14. I read it as an ironic contrast: the innocent Christ is “lifted up” by guilty mankind to torture, which enables that same guilty mankind to be “lifted up” by Christ’s loving Father to salvation.

A friend pointed out that it can also be read as a parallel as well as a contrast: “as” Christ was lifted up on the cross, “even so should men be” also, in that each of us must “deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23), or that “our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” (Romans 6:6).

Clearly, there’s some deep and beautiful wisdom in this one verse. It should be read and lived and appreciated more. I hope you like the picture.

What Is Section 132 Really About?

Not marriage. Not really. A question about marriage is the impetus for the revelation, and information about it is given at a few points, but that information is always incidental, and given to illustrate points about the revelation’s larger theme.

Consider that section 132 is the last revelation Joseph Smith received that’s included in the Doctrine and Covenants. What might be the most important message of that book overall for the Saints in this dispensation? It’s one that is indeed extremely important and relevant for us this very day.

 

WORD COUNTS

In 66 verses, the word “marriage” is only used two times. Other marriage-related terms occur not much more often: “marry” and “sealed” occur six times each, “concubines” and “wives,” four times each. The most commonly used marriage-related terms are “wife” and “adultery,” which occur ten times each; and “adultery” is always mentioned in material that’s meant to ensure that that sin is not committed.

Contrast that with the frequency of these other significant terms:

  • Commanded, commandment, priesthood – 7 times each
  • According, appointed, received—9 times each
  • Exaltation, receive—11 times each
  • Abide—12 times
  • Power, word—13 times each
  • Covenant—15 times
  • Servant—16 times

And perhaps the most important term of all, as suggested by frequency of use:

  • Law—32 times

 

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A word cloud of terms in Doctrine and Covenants section 132

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Weekly Family History Hacks

I just started a Facebook group called Weekly Family History Hacks. I’ll share resources and tips for people at all levels of research there. It’s open to the public and participation is encouraged, so please join and share!

The first post covers signing up for Family Search, using the Social Security Death Index, and getting the new Family Search Memories smartphone app.

Huston. Front- Asa Huston, John Henry Huston, Ellen Huston. Back- George A. Huston, Mildred M. Huston, Fred C. Huston, Cassia Huston Reams, John W. Huston.

My grandfather is the middle-aged man on the left. My great-grandfather is the old man in the front. 

 

Which Episodes of Star Trek Should Be In The Reboot Universe?

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With Star Trek Beyond set in the middle of the “5-year mission,” we’ve officially reached crossover time with the original series.* Despite the alternate universe of the reboot, V’ger is still out there, the whale probe is still on its way, and the Klingon moon is still likely to explode.

Besides those later movie references, the TV series itself offers some rich grist for the mill. Consider the great 2nd season episode, “The Doomsday Machine.” This one featured a giant automated device with an impenetrable hull from beyond our galaxy that would slice up entire solar systems. It drifted in from off our charts and wreaked havoc. Nothing in the altered timeline would change that. It’s still out there, and at about the right time to merge with the reboot universe.

The original episode does a decent job of conveying the machine’s size and strength, but obviously the budget and effects of the time left it largely to imagination. Today, a story on such a scale could be realized much more effectively. If the Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens was a big step up from the old Death Star, a new Doomsday Machine could make Starkiller Base look like child’s play.

Future reboot movies could do a lot worse than including a new Doomsday Machine.

 

* I used to worry that the reboot series was moving too far too fast, but then it struck me that Kirk probably joined Starfleet several years later in this universe than he would have in the original series. Having them in the “5-year mission” era already seems defensible. Besides, its the 3rd film in the series; no need to hold off forever on the timeline.