Saturday, April 30, 2011

One sentence movie review: Rudy

Rudy (1993) 8/10

Rudy may be slightly corny in its earnest sincerity, but it's one of the most effective (and affecting) entries ever made in the "inspirational sports movie" genre.

The ratings:
10: Best ever
9: Profoundly moving
8: Deeply engaging
7: Enjoyable
6: Just barely OK
5: Sorry I watched it
4: Couldn't sit through it
1: An abomination of human endeavor

Ratings for the last 571 movies I've watched




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Friday, April 29, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (4/29/2011)

"Forty years ago the most influential representatives of our largest corporations despaired. They saw themselves on the losing side of history. They did not, however, give in to that despair, but rather sought advice from the man they viewed as their best and brightest about how to reverse their losses. That man advanced a comprehensive, sophisticated strategy, but it was also a strategy that embraced a consistent tactic – attack the critics and valorize corporations!"

A more militarized CIA for a more militarized America.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement finally starting to leave DREAM students alone and concentrating on deporting criminals.

Speaking of immigration, some politically conservative Mormons now find themselves forced to do what liberal Mormons have long done: pretend to themselves that they're not disagreeing with their church.

ALS researcher trying to finish one final paper before he dies of ALS.

Hitchens on the royal wedding.

People killed by Satan in the Bible: 10
People killed by God in the Bible: 24,634,205

Trump claims to be worth $2.7 billion. If he'd invested his money in the stock market and left it alone instead of making "deals," he'd be worth $5.7 billion.

Can't imagine why this guy isn't married.

Darwinism, democrats, and homosexuality, oh my! Creeping liberalism at BYU.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (4/26/2011)

"President Obama, if you look closely at his positions, is a moderate Republican from the early 1990s."

From Nixon's plumbers to James O'Keefe's video smears: How political lying became normal.

Remember that study that suggested the existence of precognition because subjects were influenced by things that hadn't happened yet? An attempt to replicate it failed.

Change blindness: Most people don't notice when the person they're talking to is replaced by a different person.

The world's last typewriter factory has closed.

The Ultimate Easter Quiz.

Rock stars then and now, a gallery.

Descendant of ancient English tyrants to wed.

Victorian Star Trek.

R.I.P. Poly Styrene.



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Decency

Alas, poor mission acquaintance
Once or twice a year, I check the unofficial alumni page for my old mission. Like most of them, my mission has an "In memoriam" page that mentions any returned missionaries who have died.

When I checked recently, I saw that one of the guys I knew on my mission had died in an accident. I was sad to hear about it. I didn't stay in touch with him after the mission, but I'd known him fairly well while we were there, and I'd liked and even admired him. He was a smart, hard-working guy, serious about the mission, but never a dick about it. I'd wished more missionaries could be like him. Hell, I'd wished I could be a little more like him.

So I looked up his obituary. And I found out he'd been a lawyer, and he'd had an impressive career. From what I'd seen on my mission, it didn't surprise me at all that he was so successful. He'd clerked for a Supreme Court justice, and he'd risen high in his state's legal hierarchy. He'd argued some cases prominent enough for me to have heard of, cases in which, as it turned out, I disagreed with his position. So his politics were different from mine, but honestly, I didn't really care. I just remembered what a good guy he was on our missions.

And that seemed to be a theme in his obituaries. (Yes, he was prominent enough to have more than one.) He was such a nice guy. Not just doing church work, but looking after the junior members of his firm, things like that. One of the people quoted in one of the online obits mentioned "decency" as his defining characteristic.

But I read a little further, and I found out what he'd been working on when he died. He was representing his state in its fight against the right of a convicted prisoner to introduce new DNA evidence that could exonerate him. Get it? He was fighting -- actively fighting, using all his knowledge, training, experience, and ability -- to prevent a potentially innocent man from gaining access to a tool that could overturn what might be a wrongful conviction. [Edit: I should have mentioned that the man is on death row, so if he's actually innocent it would be a wrongful execution, not just a conviction.]

How can anyone who would do that be called "decent" by anyone? What possible moral justification could there be for doing something like that? It's not politics, it's not some abstract point of Law with a capital L; it's simply inhumane. It's indecent.

So that's who my old mission friend was: a man who was actively fighting to maintain an indecent, inhumane, immoral policy. (Not to mention unchristian; Jesus, after all, said that everyone will be judged by how they treat six kinds of people: the hungry, the thirsty, outsiders, the sick, people lacking clothes, and prisoners.)

And that left me... confused. I don't want to be glad that someone is dead -- especially someone I used to know and like -- but I was glad to know that my old acquaintance could no longer pursue his inhumane agenda. It wasn't quite the same thing as rejoicing in his death, but it was uncomfortably close. I don't feel all that decent myself when I think about that. But at least I've never fought to keep an innocent man in prison.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (4/25/2011)

"The United States is fundamentally getting it wrong when it comes to setting its priorities, particularly with regard to the budget and how Americans as a nation use their resources more broadly. ...Americans are overreacting to Islamic extremism, underinvesting in their youth, and failing to embrace the sense of competition and opportunity that made America a world power. The United States has been increasingly consumed by seeing the world through the lens of threat, while failing to understand that influence, competitiveness, and innovation are the key to advancing American interests in the modern world." That's a summary of a report released by... wait for it... the Pentagon.

The ongoing travesty of Guantanamo.

Things like this are why liberals think so many Republicans aren't just wrong on the issues, they're dicks: Foster children would be allowed to get clothing only from second hand stores.

Speaking of dicks, I hate the Dodgers, but it's a shame what's been done to them and to the LA Times by their respective owners.

There is no definitive historical evidence that a goddess named Eostre and her hare companion were part of pagan folklore.

Carry a smart phone, lose a lot of privacy.

Monster flower blooming in Switzerland.

I never knew animated gifs could be art, but these are.

Bureaucrats and politicians in hell.

Thou clay-brained guts, thou knotty-pated fool, thou whoreson obscene greasy tallow-catch!

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Covers that you might not have known are covers: "My Sweet Lord"

Semi-apropos of this weekend's celebration of the Great Zombie Uprising of 33 A.D., this week's cover that you might not have known is a cover is George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord," which is at least partly a reworking of the Chiffons' "He's So Fine."

"My Sweet Lord" was a worldwide hit and went to number 1 in the US. (Despite the fact that it was a paean to Vishnu, not Jesus; note the "Hare Krishna" chant that begins about three minutes in.) But it was an unusual "cover" in that it was plagiarized. And, unlike Led Zeppelin, Harrison didn't get away with it. He was sued and lost the case.

Familiar version: George Harrison, "My Sweet Lord" (1970)
Original version: The Chiffons, "He's So Fine" (1963)

"My Sweet Lord"




"He's So Fine"



Bonus (just because I like it):
"My Sweet Lord," The Wailing Souls (1998)



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Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (4/22/2011)

A bishop's resignation letter.

Mitt Romney's greatest regret.

Why patients are not consumers.

Bacterial ecosystems divide people into three types.

How do atheists absolve themselves of guilt?

The best-paid athletes from 182 countries.

Fascinating images randomly captured by Google Street View (h/t: The Meming of Life).

Before there was Photoshop, there were artists.

Some people are really loyal to their noodles.

"Evribodi gotted up an taeked him to Pilate. An dey wuz all 'Diz d00d iz makin trubl, interferin wif teh IRS. He evn sez hez a king LOL.'
So Pilate wuz liek, 'Iz u teh king of teh Jooz?'
Jesus wuz liek 'Yep, srsly.'"

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Earth Day: "How to Be Green"

Happy Earth Day!
This was created by my daughter C in kindergarten last year.


How To Be Green (not green like your whole body is green, green like taking care of the Earth)


The Earth

Pick up your trash

After you wash your hands, turn off the water while you dry your hands 

If you're cold, put on long sleeves instead of turning on the heater

Walk to school instead of going in the car 

Did you like this book?


Being green

The End

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Pretty"

This poem by Katie Makkai -- the part at the end -- brought tears to my eyes. I've tried to teach my daughters something like this. I don't think I've succeeded too well; the culture is too strong, and probably not just my message but I personally have been deeply subverted by it. But I hope they know -- at least sometimes -- that this is true.



(H/t: Sociological Images)

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Monday, April 18, 2011

One sentence movie review: Dead Snow

Dead Snow (2009) 7/10

It's hard to go wrong with a premise like "Nazi zombies from Hell," and this film, while not great, doesn't go wrong.

The ratings:
10: Best ever
9: Profoundly moving
8: Deeply engaging
7: Enjoyable
6: Just OK
5: Sorry I watched it
4: Couldn't sit through it
1: An abomination of human endeavor

Ratings for the last 570 movies I've watched




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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (4/17/2011)

Semi-related to my post about how Mormons watch movies:

Another entry in that peculiar religious conservative genre, "Hollywood is decadent, immoral, evil, and corrupt... and I desperately want their products."

Why are all Christian movies bad?

Or maybe the problem is just that movies made as reverent propaganda never work, no matter what the ideology?

And not-necessarily-about-movies links:

Shockingly undemocratic action in Michigan: Emergency Financial Manager fires entire town government.

Oral composition and the Book of Mormon.

I suppose it's much easier to live in a fantasy world where you can make up things about what former believers are like than it would be to actually listen to some of them and find out.

The moment I became a feminist.

The Geek Zodiac (I'm an "Alien").

Who would win a fight between Batman and Harry Potter?

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Imagine

Imagine that you're a professional athlete, and you're gay.
Imagine that during a road playoff game, the crowd -- thousands of people -- boos you and chants "faggot" every time you touch the ball.
Imagine that after the game, you have to face the media and answer questions about your sexuality.
Imagine what that would be like.

But.

Imagine that your team and its fans rally behind you.
Imagine that for your next game, at home, your team passes out pink thundersticks with your name on them, turning the entire arena pink in your honor.
Imagine that your entire team comes out wearing pink warmup jerseys to show its support for you.
Imagine that your teammate -- one of the best players in the world -- who plays a position that wears a different-colored jersey during games, plays the game wearing a rainbow jersey.
Imagine that the crowd unfurls a giant banner that says "Against Prejudice."
Imagine what that would be like.

Imagine what that would be like, because it all just happened to a pro volleyball player in Brazil (h/t: Sociological Images).

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Video favorites (April 2011)

Mormons vs. Jehovah's Witnesses, The President's Speech, A day in the life of world air traffic, Talking to strangers on the New York City subway, Poetry slam/Pocahontas mashup, The Matrix in Engrish, Best school assembly ever, E.T. sequel trailer, The World of Religion, and "I am a Child of God" in the original Klingon.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Naked people! Oh my gosh!

I was both amused and annoyed by this juvenile rant by a teenage prude at the Mormon blog Millennial Star. Camila B hates -- and she does mean hates -- the movie Black Swan. (Spoiler alert: she summarizes the entire plot.) Because old movies were good and clean and full of beautiful messages and morality. But today's movies, of which Black Swan is apparently the exemplar, are mostly full of sin and corruption.

Black Swan is immoral because a character masturbates "touches herself inappropriately," takes drugs, hallucinates a sexual encounter, self-harms, etc. Camila finds all this "uncomfortable" and "disturbing." That's not what she wants from a movie. She wants to "feel refreshed and glad to have watched something that has inspired me for once." Fair enough; I sometimes like to watch refreshing and inspiring movies too. I'm just not sure why she went to see Black Swan then, since a) it's a tragedy, b) it was made by a director (Darren Aronofsky) who was previously best known for making one of the most relentlessly downbeat movies of all time (Requiem for a Dream). Making people feel "disturbed and uncomfortable" was kind of the point of the film, after all.

Anyway, since Camila believes that movies made 50 or 60 years ago were so moral and had such "beautiful messages," let's take a look at the morality of a couple of the great films she mentions, Casablanca and Gone with the Wind. How do they square with Mormon morality? (Spoiler alert: since they've been out for 69 and 72 years, respectively, I assume you've had time to see them.)

Casablanca is indeed a highly moral film. It's about moral dilemmas and finally extols the nobility of personal sacrifice for the sake of high ideals. Even so, one can scarcely describe it as highly compatible with Mormon morality. To save time, let's skip over things like Rick's alcoholism, or Captain Renault extorting sex from refugees and arresting innocent people to cover for his friend ("Round up the usual suspects"), and cut to the chase.

She's married to someone else
Casablanca, that most romantic of films, romanticizes adultery. Rick and Ilsa had an affair. That's what the story is about: will they or won't they resume their affair? In the end, it is Rick, not the married Ilsa, who decides to break off the relationship. Ilsa is quite willing to abandon her husband to the Nazis for the sake of her adulterous love. In the end, though, Rick sends Ilsa and her husband on their way, not because of some notion of the sacredness of marriage vows, but because he concludes that fighting Nazism is more important than love (or, more abstractly, because he concludes that love without honor won't last long). Again, that's a highly moral choice, but it's not a Mormon one. Mormon morals would demand that Rick and Ilsa not commit adultery simply because adultery is always wrong and "thou shalt not commit it."

They're both married to someone else
And Gone with the Wind? I'm not really sure where the notion of this film having some sort of deep morality comes from. Setting aside its romanticizing of slavery, purveying of racial stereotypes, and condoning of marital rape ("This is one night you're not turning me out"), the film's heroine, Scarlett O'Hara, is arguably a psychopath. She cares only for herself, and she wreaks havoc and ruins lives all around her through her selfish schemes. All that makes for a very interesting character study and a sweeping romance, but it hardly seems compatible with Mormon morality. Indeed, much of the film is taken up with Scarlett's quest to seduce Ashley Wilkes, even after they're both married to other people.

So why do Mormons like Camila B extol the "morality" and "messages" of movies like Casablanca, which actually challenges Mormon morality, and Gone with the Wind, with its amoral heroine, while decrying movies like Black Swan, which usually are actually no more morally unconventional? Because the characters in Casablanca and Gone with the Wind keep their clothes on. And that's pretty much it.

That's how Mormons are trained to watch movies and judge their morality: by what they show. Not by what they say about what they show, but literally by what they show. Depiction equals "glorification." Thus, Casablanca is "moral" despite (or rather because of) the way it glosses over things like alcoholism and the sexual exploitation of refugees and despite its rather positive take on adultery, simply because it vaguely implies sexual situations rather than depicting them explicitly. Black Swan, on the other hand, is "immoral" because it explicitly depicts drug use, self-harm, and sexual situations, even though it depicts them negatively as tragic symptoms of mental illness.

That's what I meant when I called Camila B's piece a "juvenile rant." It has nothing to do with how old anyone is; there are many good young critics on the internet, some no doubt younger than Camila. And in this case, with the "preaching to the choir" venue in which it was posted, other than one mild dissent, the adults in the comments all agree with her. (Although one of them does manage to call up a vague sense that there's something wrong with the morality of Gone with the Wind.)

No, what I mean by "juvenile" is watching movies and seeing no further than Swear words! Oh my gosh! Drug use! Oh my gosh! Naked people! Oh my gosh! What I mean is the childish view that if a movie includes those, it is immoral; if it doesn't include them, it is moral. If that's how anyone wants to look at movies, that's fine, it's only their loss. I just wish they'd choose the movies they watch more carefully and then, no matter what their age, leave the reviews of the grownup movies to the grownups.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (4/11/2011)

A man who campaigned against marriage equality for five years now comes out in favor of it.

A Mormon lesbian's journey to finding herself.

Bear versus cows -- bear loses (scroll down to the photos).

Christopher Hitchens in praise of the King James Bible.

The inspiration and the gift of Tiger Woods.

"I now resort to more truthful news outlets, such as Fox News and the Internet." (h/t: @EricDSnider)

Study finds that judges are more likely to grant parole early in the morning and right after breaks.

What happens when (aesthetically) immature people watch movies made for grownups.

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Getting better

I've got to admit it's getting better
A little better all the time
-- "Getting Better," The Beatles
When I was still a Mormon -- but after I'd realized I was allowed to think for myself and that I didn't have to accept everything I heard at church as, well, "gospel" -- one of the things that used to bug me to no end was the way so many other Mormons talked about "the World."

"The World" is a horrible place and it's getting worse all the time. It's evil and getting eviler. It's dangerous and getting dangerouser. It's terribly frightening, and we're so fortunate to have the church to a) point this out to us and b) protect us from it, to give us a safe refuge. And there's no stopping it. It'll keep on getting worse and worse, more and more horrible, until finally Christ will come again and make everything nice (for the good people; for the bad people, not so much).

There were two things that bothered me about this. First, I've always thought that the world is actually a pretty cool place. Sure, I thought (and I always thought this, even at my most orthodox), there are bad things and bad people out there, but way more people are misguided rather than bad, and the bad things don't affect me much since I choose not to partake in them. (And, living my comfortable middle-class American and sometimes Japanese life, I was insulated from a lot of them.)

But there's so much beauty in the world. There's art, and science, and music, and sports, and nature, but most of all, there's people. People are beautiful. They're ugly too, and they do bad (or misguided) things, but that just makes the good things they do even more beautiful.

The second thing that bothered me is, as I discovered when I began thinking critically about the subject, that it's simply untrue. The world isn't getting worse and worse, it's getting better and better. If humanity were to disappear tomorrow, this -- right now, today -- would have been its Golden Age.

More people today are living decent lives than ever before. Life expectancy is way up. Infant, child, and maternal mortality is way down. Incomes are up; more people are middle-class, and fewer people live in the most abject poverty. More people are literate. More people than ever before have access to adequate food and water. More people have access to sanitation. Fewer people die of epidemic diseases. And on and on.

Yes, there are places where life is still horrible, but on average life is better than it has ever been. And this isn't something that has only happened in America, or only in the "First World." It's happening to some degree almost everywhere.

Watch this and you'll see what I'm talking about:



It is "pretty neat," and I don't just mean the presentation.

So why all this fear, this doom and gloom from Mormons and some other religions? Well, it's in their scriptures. Scriptures predict the "end times" or the "latter days" or whatever, and for almost 200 years for Mormons and about 2000 years for other Christians, the Second Coming of Jesus has been right around the corner.

And, while the world isn't getting worse, it is changing, and change can be scary. When faced with uncertainty, people want reassurance. They want someone to tell them it's going to be OK. Churches do that, in a way. Of course, they also scare people and teach them that the world is a horrible place, but that lets them say, "Things are scary, but don't worry; you're safe with us."

Churches that preach of a deteriorating world thus fulfill a psychological need. Which would be good, I suppose, except that those churches also work to create or at least exacerbate the need in the first place. They scare people by giving them a distorted picture of the world and then "heal" them by telling them that only the church can protect them. Not cool.

So religions, you can keep your pessimism about humanity. I'd rather join the Hans Roslings of the world, the ones who see that the world is "pretty neat" and getting neater.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Understanding Biblical parables: The Wheat and the Tares

Jesus explains a parable to a bird
Understanding Biblical parables: In which kuri gives you the benefit of his vast half-vast Biblical knowledge by explaining the parables of Jesus for the modern reader.

This week we'll cover the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30).

The parable

Jesus sez (KJV):
The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:

But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.

But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.

So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?

He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?

But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.

Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

The cultural context

"The Enemy Sowing Weeds"
"Tare," of course, is a Biblical word for "weed" (the kind that grows where it's not supposed to, not the kind you smoke). Biblical translators and scholars like to use words like "tare" because they confuse people. It makes them feel smart when people ask questions like, "What's a tare?"

The meaning of the parable

The meaning of this parable is fairly straightforward. A man's enemy developed an elaborate plan of sabotage. He expected his scheme to cause great damage to the man's crops. The man, however, was completely untroubled. He simply said, "It's no big deal. Just wait awhile and then pull up the weeds." Thus, the enemy's elaborate scheme had no effect.

Through this parable, Jesus teaches us the profound truth that everything we do is meaningless. No matter what plans we make or carry out, in the end, nothing matters. We might as well not even exist.

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Saturday, April 09, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (4/9/2011)

An email from a daughter whose mother endured everything because she did not want to ruin her daughters' lives.

Geoff B. molested by TSA.

The 1 percent of Americans who own 40 percent of its wealth.

Why hyperinflation won't happen in America.

"Liberals have more gray matter in a part of the brain associated with understanding complexity, while the conservative brain is bigger in the section related to processing fear."

The blind man who "sees" with echolocation.

And a video about the same man: keep in mind that the bike rider in the blue helmet, Daniel Kish, literally has no eyes. They had to be surgically removed when he was an infant.

The Matrix in Japanglish.

David Mamet's "Lost Masterpieces of Pornography" (video).

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Thursday, April 07, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (4/7/2011)

Some good advice from an LDS (Mormon) stake president.

Wil Wheaton molested by TSA.

Ongoing cover up of nuclear crisis by governments and nuclear power companies.

I think I'd much rather have Dan Savage teach my children about sex than have Maggie Gallagher do it.

Idiot on a Blog triumphant.

Can this actually be true in 2011: 46 percent of Mississippi Republicans believe that interracial marriage should be illegal?

Disinterested or uninterested?

Nuclear crowd-sourcing FAIL.

Never trust your eyes again!

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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (4/5/2011)

Lafcadio Hearn demonstrates how not to let a woman down easy: "You cannot make yourself physically attractive to me. Don’t try. I am an artist, a connoisseur, a student of beauty, and it is very hard to please me. Don’t disgust me, please—"

Obama's cowardly, stupid, and tragically wrong decision.

The most uncounted cost of Endless War: the way it is exploited to endlessly erode core liberties.

Make no mistake: the Republican plan is intended to end Medicare.

Preliminary review by critic who set out to disprove the consensus on global warming finds that the data are solid.

The Redistribution Fairy is dead, but she lives on in economists' fantasies.

Christian women, get your burkas on!

There was probably no archaic-to-modern transition in Homo sapiens.

Ten advertisements that shocked the world.

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One sentence movie review: The Italian Job

The Italian Job (1969) 7/10

This vintage caper flick is engaging and often drolly funny, but it's a little slow-moving for today's audiences.

The ratings:
10: Best ever
9: Profoundly moving
8: Deeply engaging
7: Enjoyable
6: Just OK
5: Sorry I watched it
4: Couldn't sit through it
1: An abomination of human endeavor

Ratings for the last 568 movies I've watched




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Monday, April 04, 2011

Musical interlude: Cream, "Tales of Brave Ulysses"



I love this song. I don't mean the music so much, although it's cool psychedelic rock, seminal album, Clapton on guitar, one of the first uses of a wah-wah pedal and all that.

What I really love are the lyrics. They make me see and feel everything in the song.
You thought the leaden winter would bring you down forever,
But you rode upon a steamer to the violence of the sun.
The leaden winter and the violence of the sun.
And the colors of the sea blind your eyes with trembling mermaids,
And you touch the distant beaches with tales of brave Ulysses:
How his naked ears were tortured by the Sirens sweetly singing,
For the sparkling waves are calling you to kiss their white laced lips.
This song makes me want to go somewhere like that. Right now. I don't care if leaden winter is ending and it's sort of spring already. I want to go to a place where the colors of the sea blind my eyes with trembling mermaids. I want to kiss the white-laced lips of the sparkling waves.

And this. Oh my God, I love this.
And you see a girl's brown body dancing through the turquoise,
And her footprints make you follow where the sky loves the sea.
And when your fingers find her, she drowns you in her body,
Carving deep blue ripples in the tissues of your mind.
The turquoise just barely saves the brown body dancing from being too cliché, but then, "where the sky loves the sea" is just beautiful. And the result of your pursuit is not that you passively drown, but that she drowns you. And she makes her mark not in your body, but in your mind.

And:
The tiny purple fishes run laughing through your fingers,
And you want to take her with you to the hard land of the winter.
But I don't want to take her back to the hard land of the winter. I'd rather stay with her where the sky loves the sea.
Her name is Aphrodite and she rides a crimson shell,
And you know you cannot leave her for you touched the distant sands
With tales of brave Ulysses; how his naked ears were tortured
By the Sirens sweetly singing.
No, I would never leave my Aphrodite.
The tiny purple fishes run laughing through your fingers,
And you want to take her with you to the hard land of the winter.
I need to book a flight to Hawaii... or Tahiti... or somewhere. Any suggestions?

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Sunday, April 03, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (4/3/2011)

Find the segues (not Segways) edition.

Carson's guide to keeping your testimony.

The danger of casual friendships outside the church.

Trends in General Conference talks: 1851 – 2010.

The Giant Pander in action: "Romney seems unable to stake out a foreign policy position until after the Republican consensus has formed, and he then adapts himself to whatever that consensus happens to be."

This week in Republican: Republicans try to repeal school integration, try to get rid of child labor laws, stop a civil unions bill, vote against a bill solely because it was introduced by a Democrat, cut programs for the developmentally disabled, and censure a Democrat for saying "uterus" in public. My only question is, why would anyone not want to belong to such a glorious organization?!

"Transocean Ltd. gave its top executives bonuses for achieving the "best year in safety performance in our company's history" – despite the explosion of its oil rig that killed 11 people and spilled 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico."

Two articles on psychopathy: the search for the roots of psychopathy and subject scores on the most common test for psychopathy are heavily influenced by the personality of the person who administers the test. (H/t for both links: Mind Hacks, and always interesting psychology blog.)

Flying Swiss tennis playing robots.

I'm definitely going to start using this excuse.

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Saturday, April 02, 2011

Covers that you might not have known are covers: "Blinded by the Light"

"Blinded by the Light"

This reached Number 1 for Manfred Mann's Earth Band in 1977. Written by Bruce Springsteen, it was the first track on his first album, the great Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., but never charted. It remains the only Number 1 single written by Springsteen.

The line that sounds like "Wrapped up like a douche" in the Manfred Mann version, by the way, is actually "Revved up like a deuce" (apparently referring to a car).

Familiar version: Manfred Mann's Earth Band (1977)
Original version: Bruce Springsteen (1973)

Manfred Mann's Earth Band




Bruce Springsteen (1974 live performance)



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Friday, April 01, 2011

Why I'm returning to the Mormon church

I feel a little foolish because I've been stating my atheism so strongly -- earlier this week even -- but I now see I was wrong. I have come to the following realization.
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