Svithing Pure Religion


The first paragraph in a recent press release from the Church:
    For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and many others, the biblical apostle James’ definition of pure religion is more than a platitude. It is an extremely practical way to approach personal, family and community challenges. James’ understanding of this principle is expressed in this way: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
Thanksgiving is a good time to think about Pure Religion. Me, I spend a lot of time utterly failing in this camp. I'm not the world's best sharer. Within my family, sure, but outside? I have a lot of growing to do. Don't expect me to sell all my crap and give the proceeds to the poor anytime soon. I've had too many bad experiences with beggars to trust them anymore and if I gave a buck to every kid who asked, I'ld soon be in the hole. And debt isn't precisely what deity has in mind for me, I don't imagine.
    Latter-day Saints take this interpretation of pure religion very seriously. Being a person of faith is something you do within the context of a world full of suffering, not just what you say or believe. Genuine and frequent charitable acts, though, are not enough on their own. They need to be enacted by individuals who are trying to live morally upright lives, or are striving to keep themselves “unspotted from the world.”
In other words, the best 'charity' is committed by the charitable. Christlike acts by the Christlike.
    Many Latter-day Saints feel this desire to reach out to the downtrodden — James’ widows and fatherless — and find that the two elements of his pure religion exist in a symbiotic relationship. Learning Christ’s teachings and reading about the way He conducted Himself motivates individuals to look for ways to engage with others the way He did. And serving those in need functions as a refining process — humbling the server, bringing her or him closer to Christ and His example.
It's cyclical. Act more charitable to be more charitable. Not hypocrisy, practice. Thy present becomes thy future. My present'll become my future.

Something like that.

last week's svithe


So call me a hypocrite then


One thing I like about Obama is that he's nice to listen to. After sixteen years of presidents with really irritating accents and mannerisms, it's a relief.

One more word on Sarah Palin there

Doonesbury's Palin Doll

What is wrong with people in this country? There is nothing wrong with the way Sarah Palin talks. Making fun of her dialect (which is widespread among my relations, by the by) is no different from making fun of a Southern drawl or Boston r-dropping or Ebonics. Why is the West suddenly the last fair geography to mock?

And, yes, she's not a talented soundbiter. So what? I grant you that tv skillz are necessary in today's media-ized political environment, but I'm guessing the governor of Alaska hasn't been dropping thousands on a soundbite coach. That's a crime?

I don't care if people hate her politics, but dismissing her as stupid because you don't like her accent or because she has no experience compressing big thoughts into ten-second segments is inexcusable. These are lousy lousy ways to judge the worth of either a human being or a politician.

I liked her before I heard her speak --- before McCain selected her. If you made all your judgments based on her tv-readiness, it's time to get over yourself.

I would sound like an idiot on tv.

I would sound like an idiot if you merely transcribed the way I talk.

Chances are, you would too.

Let's be honest about why Sarah Palin's [still] a punching bag. And then let's grow up a little.


Back on Motley Vision


If you (foolishly) aren't an AMV regular, don't let that be an excuse to miss my new post there, “Mormons might well be the new Catholics!”.


I don't get it, this IQ thing.


All these ads asking me to compare my IQ to famous people --- no famous person seems to have an IQ under 110. Bush is 120 (as is Palin), Obama is 125, Daniel Craig is 115, etc. Not an average mind among them. I didn't realize actors and politicians were generally so very very brilliant.

And here's the thing: of course these number are made up, but if you're going to give me an even-less-scientific-than-regular-IQ-tests IQ test, why not make famous people dolts so I feel good about my 95? Or am I to assume that average on these faux tests ends up being more like 140? Or are they setting us up to fail in comparison to the famed? Perhaps to help us understand it is right and good that we ourselves are not famous?

The whole thing's stupid.

Anyway, if you want a more rigorous assessment of your intelligence, play my Preseason Oscar Game. Just click the picture below.

Oscar's Tush

click to play

Preseason Oscar Game


I know, I know ---- this post is way overdue (I nearly forgot) (!). But there's still time and I trust you will spend your days off this week pondering your entry.

For you newcomers, as the year draws to a close and awards season draws nigh, Thmazing's Preseason Oscar Game becomes all the rage among hip movie lovers. Sure, some of the frontrunners haven't even come out yet, yes, it is way too soon to have any sensible idea about who will win anything, but so what? That's what Thmazing's Preseason Oscar Game is all about!

(That and a truly atrocious photograph.)

Oxcar's Tush

Here are the rules:

1. Your goal is to predict that a movie will be nominated in a particular category (not that it will win).

2. You may only make one nomination per award.

3. You may nominate a movie in only one category. If you nominate a movie in more than one category, only the first will count. (In other words, you can't choose In the Land of Fuzzy Dice for Best Picture and Best Actress and Best Director and Best Art Direction. And if you do, only the Best Picture guess will count. Because it came first.)

4. The winner will be the person who makes the most correct nomination guesses.

5. In the event of a tie, the tied player who posted first wins.

6. Categories marked with an * require the name of a person or a song in addition to the movie title.

7. Categories marked with an * can receive half a point even if incorrect. For instance, if you thought Parker Pooky would be nominated for Best Actor for his work in What Sandwich, but he was nominated instead for his role in Stick It in Your Ear, you will receive half a point. Similarly, if instead of Pooky, Zaron Smith is nominated for Best Actor for his work in What Sandwich, half a point. But if Smith is nominated for What Sandwich and Pooky is nommed for Stick It in Your Ear, you still only get half a point. You were wrong after all.

8. All entries must be posted in the comments of this post by the last minute of Pearl Harbor Day 2008 (that's two Sundays). Part of the preseason fun is the impossibility of having seen every movie eligible. (Not that I personally am likely to see any of them.)

9. You may research your answers anywhere you like except in the comments section of this post. Looking at others' guesses before posting your own makes you illegible to win. Honesty is our policy. That and garroting filthy cheaters.

10. You do not have to take a stab at each category to qualify. But (obviously) the more complete your survey, the better chance you have of winning.

11. Don't rearrange the nominations' order. That'll just confuse me.

12. So here's what you do: the categories appear below. Just copy them and paste them into the comments box, then fill them in.


14. After the real nominations come out, I will do the math and announce the winner.

15. The winner will get a cool prize.

16. So please beat me so I can give it to someone this year. I'm undefeated and, frankly, given how few movies I see, it's getting ridiculous.

So. Go forth. If you would like to see last year's competition, here's the link.


Best motion picture of the year

Best animated feature film of the year

Achievement in directing

Performance by an actor in a leading role*
--------[name] [title]

Performance by an actress in a leading role*
--------[name] [title]

Performance by an actor in a supporting role*
--------[name] [title]

Performance by an actress in a supporting role*
--------[name] [title]

Adapted screenplay

Original screenplay

Best documentary feature

Best foreign language film of the year

Best animated short film

Best live action short film

Best documentary short subject

Achievement in film editing

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)*
--------[song] [title]

Achievement in art direction

Achievement in cinematography

Achievement in costume design

Achievement in makeup

Achievement in sound editing

Achievement in sound mixing

Achievement in visual effects




Of all the things I am grateful more, one is topmost on my mind: Lady Steed.

Lady Steed and ThericThe most immediate impetus for this decision is Mr Fob's beautiful post on the occasion of his anniversary. The second, in good Puritan fashion, is guilt.

Two Friday's ago it was our 100th Lunaversary and I had been making plans. (And what better event to make plans for? Lady Steed would never see it coming --- it would be a grand romantic gesture. Just arrange a babysitter and --- )

Yeah. Then I completely forgot. In my favor, that was one of the busiest weekends of our life, but how can one forget the number 100 which, in our base-10 counting system, is among the most significant numbers we have? I screamed in agony as I sat reading, suddenly realizing that I had forgotten. I ranted and raved, cursing myself.


Because Lady Steed deserves a good 100th Lunaversary. She deserves a lot of things I'm less than perfect at delivering.

So for my svithe this week, although I've failed my wife, neither she nor God have failed me and I thank them.

    And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, . . . [it] shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting . . . .

My love, it's a wonderful journey.

last week's svithe


ABC has broken my fragile heart

Save Pushing Daisies.

ABC! What is wrong with you! How can you cancel the best hourlong show of my adult life? I just caught up online last night and last Wednesday's episode was wonderful! brilliant! And the plot is getting more interesting as characters grow in depth as the backstory deepens (etc etc etc).

Pushing Daisies

It's nice to know that Bryan Fuller is going to finish the tales in comics (send to me for free reviews), but this is a tv show --- it's a big part of the reason I've taken to respecting tv. No matter what ABC replaces Daisies with, I'm not likely to watch it. And the comics make me nervous --- will they have the same writers? will the art be any good? And I'm happy with the notion of a movie some day, but I would rather have it every week.

Chuck of Pushing Daisies

What about the acclaim, ABC? What about the Emmys? What about your self respect.

Come on, people, now, come on together --- everybody come together, let's save Pushing Daisies right now.


An acrostic poem for your average Wednesday


When the ancient
elephants cry
down at us for
new hope and
easier access to credit lines (
same as their venerated ancestors
depended upon
all those
years ago)

We will have to
effect the
dangerous attitude
necessary to drive their
enormous bulks from our monetary
sanctuaries ---
depend upon it!
and manage
yourself well, to win the battle for our children's children's children.


The 21st Five Books of 2008


105) The Brave & the Bold, Book 2
by Mark Waid et al, finished November 16
    Well, no question, this was my favorite of the four books I just borrowed from Mr Fob. Although there was an overall arching story, most of the chapters were self-contained stories. And instead of focusing on big characters (eg, Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman), most of the stories dealt with little-known characters.

    Dial H for HeroBack when I was borrowing from the Fobster on a more regular basis and starting to understand what the DCU was all about, I could understand the greater mythological underpinnings that keep that boat afloat. But now that I'm back to being a casual taster, reading about less mytheavy characters such as The Doom Patrol and Metal Men is much more enjoyable --- these are characters free to be fun. And that's mostly what I want from my major-publisher superheros these days.

    That and highend Batman.

    three days

104) Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, finished November 15
    The first, oh, 120 pages of this book were nice basic simple YA stuff --- nothing remarkable, nothing terrible. Then it settled into the most horribly boring stuff I've perhaps ever read. Three hundred pages of it. A week would go by and I would look at my nightstand for something to read and see this enormous black hardback and be totally stumped: What in the world is that? Am I reading that thing? So I would pick it up. Oh yeah. That.

    Starting around the baseball game (which strikes me as utterly unfilmable, by the way) the book got fun. Not actually good, but fun. And that lasted up to the epilogue which was totally gratuitous.

    I read this book because I had a paper idea (which the editor liked), but the idea of delving back into it makes me shudder. Anyone have a searchable copy they'll share? Otherwise I might not have the will to do this thing. So . . . tedious . . . .

    This is why I'd been avoiding reading these books anyway. I really wanted to like them and greatly feared I would not. Which is exactly what happened.


    month and a half, ish

103) Dali & I: The Surreal Story by Stan Lauryssens, finished November 15
    In brief: Stan becomes a lying thieving art dealer specializing, mostly, in fakes Dalís (although, as it ends up later, even genuine Dalis are actually fake Dalís). Then his crimes catch up with him.

    The scoop: the first twenty pages or so are among the most fun, most delightful, most kick-in-the-pants fun pages I've ever read. Then the books gets overwhelmingly tedious. And the author's 'redemption' never feels even 3% genuine. He's only ever sad he gets caught, nothing else.

    But what kept me going was learning about all the shady shenanigans that surrounded the Dalí art machine. That information was fascinating, but the fact that you never feel like the author is trustworthy, you can't be sure how much stock to place in his revelations. Did Dalí really have a giant dildo with the face of Hitler on it? Did he really pay a set designer to paint some of his most famous works? Did he really sell impressions of nudes' bottoms to the Vatican? Or is this the author's attempt at redemption: to show that someone else was even worse?

    I don't know.

    But I am much more sympathetic towards and understanding of the legions who dismiss Dalí as a fraud.

    A note on the forthcoming movie: Pacino, fine, whatever. But I hope we only ever see him in a wheelchair or hospital bed. I hope they use old footage and let Dalí speak for himself.

    A note on a better I-was-a-reallife-con book: Catch Me If You Can.

    Swans Reflecting Elephants

    three or four months

102) Brave & The Bold Vol. 1: Lords Of Luck by Mark Waid and George Pérez, finished November 13
    This is a silly book. But it is shamelessly silly --- it glories in its silliness. And that is exactly what silly should do.

    Waid also wrote the topnotch Kingdom Come so it's not that he is capable of nothing else. Instead, I imagine that this was more of a chance to wallow in geek pride and let his freak flag fly (as it were).

    And nicely done.

    Plus, it's a nice crash course in the DC Universe. This is the first time I've read a Lobo story, for instance, and who knew Hal Jordan was still alive? The things you learn!

    ten days

101) The Black Whole edited by Jacqueline M Jones, finished November 13
    This short story collection's faults are legion --- the typos are just the first you'll notice.

    The sad things is I think I would have liked this book fifteen years ago, back in high school, when I was more likely to equate tricksy endings with emotional depth..

    The book's back copy wars the reader to "remember that your tastes tomorrow will be much different than today's. More than that, though, what you read here will alter you just a tad, so that tomorrow you might re-read with a totally different eye, with totally different taste buds."

    Yeah. Hubris. Of the totally unjustified variety.

    Let me be nice for a while and say that some of the stories were not repellent. And many more were based on genuinely clever concepts, even if the execution was disastrous.

    Some examples of the good: The representation of dryads was appealing. I never saw dryads as being worth a writer's time, but I'm rethinking that. The vampire-who-eats-old-people was a nice twist on vampire stereotypes. The 9/11 story avoided the hackneyed (if barely). The woman who fell in half was genuinely startling and a good start to---

    This brings me to a new subject. The halved-woman story was written by the editor (her other two delivered diminishing returns). Editing an anthology and including oneself is always dicey and smacks of hubris itself. Being an editor on such an anthology myself, this collection gives me pause and will, I trust, lead to harder more critical looks.

    Anyway, this collection failed in its goals. It approximated them a few times, but ultimately, no dice. And the shocking mistakes (eg, the author whose byline doesn't match her name in the bio) don't help. I like to give bitty publishers the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes they won't let me. Alas.

    perhaps a month