Check, check, check, check, check, check, check
Also, a New Year's Resolution


So it's been a long time since I was doing this series and it is definitely time I finish it. If you're interested, here are the other movies of AFI's new top 100 list:

81. "Spartacus," 1960.
    I don't need to see this movie to know that I am Spartacus. Though Pepsi certainly has helped with my educations:

82. "Sunrise," 1927.
    Oh! Sunrise! I will never be fully hip till I have seen this movie. And neither will you. Loser.

83. "Titanic," 1997.
    I still haven't seen this. And, frankly, Kate Winslet's breasts not being the draw they once were, I'm not sure I ever will.

84. "Easy Rider," 1969.
    I just heard an interview with Peter Fonda on Fresh Air about this movie. I still have no idea what it's about. If I knew more about it than they ride motorcycles, then maybe I could get more excited. I wonder if the first three minutes would help . . . ?


85. "A Night at the Opera," 1935.♥
    Our copy. Which I've still to watch.

    I mean: it's their greatest hit!

    Check out these jokes!

86. "Platoon," 1986.
    Oh jeez. I wasn't even born till 1976 and I'm still tired of Vietnam. I'll see Apocalypse Now someday, but beyond that, I make no promises.

87. "12 Angry Men," 1957.♥♥
    Only the best movie ever. And as restricted a Greek tragedy.

    Okay, okay. Maybe not the best movie ever. But still....

88. "Bringing Up Baby," 1938.♥♥♥

89. "The Sixth Sense," 1999.♥♥♥
    The first time I saw it? Scared the crap out of me.

    The second time I saw it? A beautiful story of married love.

    The third time I saw it? A moving tale of a boy and his mother.

    Every time I've seen it? Excellent.

90. "Swing Time," 1936.
    What? This is a real movie?

91. "Sophie's Choice," 1982.
    Although I've heard marvelous things about Meryl's accent, I always think of this as That Overacted Abortion Movie. Which description really doesn't have that many selling points in it. I think I'd rather hit the abortion genre in Romania.

92. "Goodfellas," 1990.
    Sorry, 'fellas. I've nothing against mob movies, but I really need to watch the Godfather trilogy first. I'm sure you understand.

93. "The French Connection," 1971.
    Finally. A top-100 film that's all about cops shooting people.

94. "Pulp Fiction," 1994.♥
    I've seen this movie not from the beginning or not till the end several times on the tele and it hasn't won me over. Plus, the excerpt of dialogue I read in the New Yorker when the film first came out was utterly unintelligible. I couldn't find the content amidst the swarms of ficklings. So there's that too.

95. "The Last Picture Show," 1971.

96. "Do the Right Thing," 1989.
    Because seeing this Spike Lee joint is the right thing.

    What I'm feeling right now?

    That's white guilt.

97. "Blade Runner," 1982.♥

98. "Yankee Doodle Dandy," 1942.
    Instead of grapefruiting people . . .

    he's singing and dancing!

    So much nicer.

99. "Toy Story," 1995.♥♥♥
    No, it's not their best. Yes, it's on here to represent all Pixar films. Yes, it's still awesome. Yes, Mr. Lasseter, I am available to start work this summer. Thank you for asking.

100. "Ben-Hur," 1959.♥?
    Have I seen it?
    I don't know.
    "Cause the Bible tells me so.


Anyway, that's the best 100 American movies according the the AFI's current whims.

What I need to do this year is actually watch some more of them.

So my goal this year is to watch all the movies on the list I own but have not yet seen, viz.

And on! To 2008!

(if you want to come watch one with us, let me know)




Last Saturday was our ward's annual Mormon Casserole Cookoff. I signed up but couldn't make my original plan and ran out of time in the early stages of my second. But had I finished both, the poor schmucks I worship with would have been treated to the ultimate showdown:

Eric's Cheesy Cajun Pumpkin Stroganoff
The Fancy-Pants Cowboy's Painful Breakfast Casserole

It should be understood that these are not classic Mormon casseroles of ancient date. The name "Eric", for instance, does not imply some guy named Eric has been making that stroganoff for years. No. Those titles represent the direction my culinary genius was headed last week.

In my opinion, Church functions are no time for tried-and-true dishes. They're perfect instead for experimenting. No one takes a lot of any one thing, so if they hate it, no loss. And since lots of people take those little bits, it'll all be gone, so no nasty leftovers.

But I'm a firm believer that either of my casseroles would have been a delight to eat.

Take it on faith, baby.

Delicious, delicious faith.


Svithing the Prophet:
In Memoriam G.B.H.

The Hinckleys

Shortly after President Kimball died, my grandmother asked me who I thought would be the next prophet. I was young and didn't know there was an order to these things and so when she told me she thought it would be some guy named Benson I had no idea she was cheating.

My guess was President Hinckley.

How could it not be? To me, President Hinckley was the public face of the Church. His was the only name--besides the prophet's--that I knew and the guy I looked forward to hearing from.


I served my mission in Korea--started just a few months after President Hinckley was made president of the Church--and I was there when he spoke to the Saints in Pusan. The Korean Saints feel like President Hinckley is their guy--perhaps all the Saints in all of Asia feel that way; for years and years as an apostle, he traveled the world bringing the Word. And not just some abstract intellectual concept called the Word, but the Word as in Love.

I mean those capitalizations. President Hinckley was an emissary of Christ.


President Hinckley has been the physical symbol of what-being-Mormon means, for me, for all my life. I will miss him tremendously. But never have I seen a man more deserving of rest and reward.

In a religion class I took at BYU--"The Church in Asia"--the teacher quoted John Taylor, viz. "Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it." Then he said that no man save Joseph Smith only (and, presumably, Jesus again) had done more than Spencer W. Kimball in this dispensation for the salvation of men in this world. But he added the caveat that perhaps Gordon B. Hinckley would win that honor away from him.

I think it's silly and presumptuous and misguided and absurd to rank people's lives in such a manner, but I will say my bias is that President Hinckley probably has done more for the human family, in terms of Salvation, than any one else in the last hundred years.

Certainly he has done all he could to save me.

I love you, sir. God give you rest. Embrace your wife. Be happy.

We know you will continue to serve.

last week's svithe


My eyes are


framed in baggy gray skin


quite likely bloodshot

ready to take a week off

in a constant struggle with gravity



sorta stinging



Battling side-by-side


Today the Big O and I battled rush-hour traffic to and from Oakland so I could go to a copy shop on Grand and buy a packet for a course I'm taking. It was pretty heroic of us.

Plus, the Big O found a screw on the sidewalk. I kid you not.

Check my math (the preseason oscar game results)


First the bad news: I won again. I'm never going to be able to give out fun and exciting prizes if I keep winning every year.

The good news, of course, is that I won again. Yippee!

So the final results:

    Theric: 11 points
    Edgy: 6 points
    Schmetterling: 1.5 points

Since I'm at work and my cleverness is limited, I'm just going to list the categories, then my score, Edgy's score and Schmet's score respectively:

Oscar dude
    Best motion picture of the year: 1,0,0
    Best animated feature film of the year: 1,1,1
    Achievement in directing: 1,0,0
    Performance by an actor in a leading role: 1,0,½
    Performance by an actress in a leading role: 1,0,0
    Performance by an actor in a supporting role: 0,0,0
    Performance by an actress in a supporting role: 1,0,0
    Adapted screenplay: 0,1,0
    Original screenplay: 0,1,0
    Best documentary feature: 1,0,0
    Best foreign language film of the year: 0,0,0
    Best animated short film: 0,0,0
    Best live action short film: 0,0,0
    Best documentary short subject: 1,0,0
    Achievement in film editing: 1,1,0
    Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score): 0,0,0
    Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song): 0,0,0
    Achievement in art direction: 0,1,0
    Achievement in cinematography: 0,0,0
    Achievement in costume design: 0,0,0
    Achievement in makeup: 0,0,0
    Achievement in sound editing: 1,0,0
    Achievement in sound mixing: 0,0,0
    Achievement in visual effects: 1,1,0


How to check my math:

    1. Check the game rules here.

    2. Check the contestants' attempts here.

    3. Check the actual nominees here.

Thank you all and I hope more of you will participate next year.

On handicapping next year:
    Theric has remained right around eleven each year of this competition and there is no reason to suppose he will improve. Edgy has improved each year and can be expected to continue to do so. If he starts selecting with cold rationality rather than his heart, he can be a real contender. Schmetterling can be expected to improve enormously next year over this. Melyngoch is not expected to be back in time for next year's competition. The real question, Steve, is who will show up for the first time next year? And how competitive will they be?


Bloomberg / Washington


Michael BloombergWith the unfortunate demise of Unity08 (which in many ways is good, as indicative of the parties' recognition that we're tired of hyperpartisanship), people's attention (notably two Unity08 founders' attention) is shifting rather forcefully to New York mayor Michael Bloomberg who, for all his naysaying, is obviously this close to running for president as an independent.

I don't know enough about Bloomberg to compare him to the parties' frontrunners, and I have a pinko distrust of the very rich, but there's a lot I like about Bloomberg. And a lot of what I like about him can be summed up in one name: George Washington.

Washington is among our greatest presidents for one reason above all others: He served only because he knew he was the best person in America to be president at that moment, and he had absolutely no ambition to be more than what all those crazy Constitution-writing optimists dreamed of. And only that for two terms.

It's hard to imagine that a billionaire could be without ambition, but Bloomberg doesn't go for the trappings of pride. I'm a total sucker for things like his desk habit: Instead of sitting in the fancy mayor's office, he and all his senior officials take little desks in a big room filled with desks just like all the other schmoes in city government. I like to think that's not just a savvy management decision but also indicative of his character.

I've been thinking lately about America's rather shockingly unimpressive economic credentials (I mean--we're much bigger and much more populated and much better resourced than race-winner Japan), which is a big part of the reason I find Romney compelling. I think someone like a Romney or Bloomberg who has spent a lifetime figuring out how to make things efficient and functioning would be a very good sort of person to put in charge of an organization as bloated and overgrown as our federal government.

I'm no economist, nor could I impress anyone with my credentials as a historian, so I can't judge the plans being put forth by the candidates from either of those perspectives. Like most Americans, my vote will be based as much on gut and instinct and feel as it will anything intelligent. Sure, I'll be doing my research over the coming months but I won't be getting a doctorate in campaign-promise makesensibleness. And, unlike our current commander-in-chief, I can't see into anyone's soul.

Like a lot of things, the best principle to lean towards when voting is By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them.

It's time to start looking closely at their fruits.

Washington's have proven excellent.


Svithing deliverance



During sacrament meting, one speaker referenced an essay titled "Why the Church Is as True as the Gospel" which, alas, I can no longer attribute authorship to. But the guy was a grad student at Stanford and later moved to Minnesota. Hope that helps.

Anyway, the gist of it was that anything that gets us to socialize with people and serve people and love people we normally wouldn't associate with must be good for us. Learning to accept a leader who may be petty or mean or unrighteous is good for us, as is learning, when it is our turn to lead, that we too can be petty or mean or unrighteous is good for us. All these interactions with people and activities outside our personal norms make as grow as people.


During our ever-excellent Sunday School this week, we talked about what Nephi means by deliverance and how his perception of God slowly evolved from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to Christ. It was interesting. I loved Primary, but it's nice to be with the grownups and to think big eternal thoughts. Or try to, anyway.


The Big O just asked me what svithing is, and I told him it's my way of saying Thank you Heavenly Father for letting my have high-speed internet. Which is pretty the most accurate reason I could give.

He also told me he likes our house. Especially the black spots in the bathroom.

And now you know what Jesus meant when he said to be as a little child: for no man hath charity enough to love mildew. It takes a child to pull that off.

last week's svithe


Here's a picture for you.....


People are flocking to Thmusings by way of Google Image Search which I find mystifying. Since when did I become The Great Repository of Jpgs? Very mysterious.

Anyway, in honor of my new role, here's a picture for you:

Dante by Dore

So, um, this is Dante and his main chick staring into the glory of heaven. It's the happy ending Inferno totally failed to deliver.

It's a Doré and it's pretty nice.

So, um, come again soon? You're welcome back any time, of course. And, ah, we have words too, you know....


In praise of slobber


It depends, does it not
From whose mouth it may drop?
Whether icky and gross
Or sublime and utmost?

Some slobber is funny;
Some sends me off running.
Some cause me grimaces
Others? Halfway to blisseses!

That dog leaves me shiny and wet;
That dog's evaporates off as I pet
Baby on finger is cute, quite adorable!
Baby on finger and wrist and forearm and elbow and bicep and shoulder and tshirt? Deplorable.

Yes, slobber is dandy, slobber is great.
Just not some places, like here on my plate.


First Five Books of 2008: THE MOVIE!!!!!
with copious liner notes


I didn't know I read so many books a year when I decided to do this last year. And looking over the list is fascinating--I would never remember that I read some of those books in 2007 without my blogging them. So now I can't imagine not doing this. I imagine I'll be writing these posts for the rest of my life.

All those wasted hours typing.....

So let's get to it!


Holy CRAP blogger sped that up fast!


005) The Salmon of Doubt:: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time by Douglas Adams, finished January 14
      Recession Cone and 'sposita gave this book to me for Coast Guard Day, and I was glad to finally read it. But the primary thing its mere existence does is break my heart. Douglas Adams died at 49 and things just should not be so.

      The pain is especially acute now, as today I finished reading the portion of the book that was the unfinished Dirk Gently novel, and let me just say: the first 11 chapters were excellent.

      The book is also packed with lectures and magazine articles and the like, including the impressive Parable of the puddle and a hilarious version of Genghis Khan. Really, the whole book is worth reading, although--as might be expected from a posthumous collection--a little patched-together feeling.


    five plus months

004) Lord of the Flies by William Golding, finished January 10
      I am no longer the only English teacher in America to have never read Lord of the Flies.

      And between this, Animal Farm, and Lady Steed's reading of Heart of Darkness, we're doing an excellent job of reading the world's greatest books both short and cheerful.

    just shy of one month

003) Rising Sun by Michael Crichton, finished January 7
      As I didn't get any novels for Christmas, and since the comics I did get were the ultrasexy editions, I needed something to read while I held the baby. I ended up picking this off the shelf--got it in my stocking clear back in 1994 and never read it till now. Mostly because the trailers for the movie made it look like the book might have way more kinky sex than a soon-to-be-missionary should be watching.

      My only prior Crichton novel was Jurassic Park which I read shortly before the movie came out (and loved).

      Anyway, according to the NYTBR quote on the cover, Rising Sun is "As well built a thrill machine as a suspense novel can be." Uh huh.

      In fact, the book is thrilling for about twenty pages toward the end. The rest of the book is the protagonist being lectured to by everyone he runs into about the history and evil implications of Japanese/American business relations. It's tedious.

      And that's all I have to say about that.

    not quite two weeks

002) The Marketing of Sister B by Linda Hoffman Kimball, finished January 2
      I first heard of this book via a positive review published on the AML List about five years ago. I didn't remember a lot about it, but it sounded good and Lady Steed thought so too, so this Christmas, the Big O gave it to her. She read it and it made her very very angry at its awfulness.

      I think she overreacted--perhaps because she has never read a true piece of dreck like Baptists at Our Barbecue. Which sucked. A lot.

      The comparison is helpful, and, for me, useful. As a writer of a comic Mormon novel myself (look for it this summer!), reading BaoB made me feel like a genius. Sister B, on the other hand, made me wonder if I made some of these blunders.

      The answer is obvious: Yes. Then I had the good sense to rewrite it. And rewrite it. And rewrite it. And gets notes from many people. And rewrite it. And rewrite it. Then get a good editor. Who made me rewrite it again. And again. And again.

      I'm sure it'll still not work for everyone--no fiction does, and comedy pisses off / confuses a great many people, and I'm fine with that (this may be why many friends never get back to me on what they think)--but it's a terrific book (IMHO) and it's effective comedy for most people who've read it.

      I'm surprised at Signature. Their reputation includes an assumption that the quality of the writing they put out under their name will be excellent. You may hate what the writer says, but you'll admit that it's extremely well written. Do they not treat their (rare) fiction the same? Is quality not as important when it's "just comedy"? Another review on AML says just that: "it has unbelievable situations, stock characters, and a tidily wrapped-up ending. None of these things are liabilities in the service of the comedy, however." Blarney.

      What upsets me most about this book is how much potential it has. For all its egregious problems (a Miss Misery-worthy Channel 5 anchor, an irredeemably obnoxious best friend, a total incapacity to represent the flow of time makesensibly), the book is still so close to being good.

      I wish she'd sent me the MS. I would have marked it up with a thousand comments....


      Anyway. The book made me sigh a lot. And for all its comedic potential, I almost never smiled. But I am notoriously picky and many people enjoyed this book immensely.

      Here's a synop: Sister Brooks makes a perfume for a Relief Society meeting where it falls into the hands of a NY firm who turns Sister Brooks into their spokesperson and sends her all around the country promoting the most popular scent in the history of bottled stink. Good things happen. Bad things happen. Astonishingly unsubtle foreshadowing happens.

      I hate to be saying so much bad about such a promising rough draft, but I don't know what else to do: it was perfect bound and I paid for it. I want a little more.

      Et tu?

      Note: it should be mentioned that Lady Steed has additional reasons for being irritated by this book, viz, the main character was set up to be much like her, then revealed to be a blathering idiot--at least from the Lady's perspective. It's much worse when it's much closer to home.

    three or four days

001) Animal Farm by George Orwell, finished January 1
      A lot of the complaints I would make about any other book I can't make about this as it's a parable and nothing more. So I won't. It is, as everyone knows, good at what it is. but if, like me, it's the only book you have enough cash for at the sixth-grade book fair, you're apt to be disappointed. Unless really evil talking pigs are your thing.

      You know what I mean.

    twenty some hours