Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Hunger Games

Last night Laura and I saw The Hunger Games. I haven't read the books but I really liked the movie.

But throughout some of the film I initially found the premise difficult to believe. I just couldn't fathom that any society would send kids to kill each other.

And then I realized that there is a society that did that, and it is ours. My reasoning is that there are kids currently engaged in that type of violence in the world. For example, child soldiers in Africa.

Of course, we don't revel in that kind of violence the way the spectators do in the Hunger Games, but we also aren't doing much to stop it. Personally, I'm doing nothing to solve it, actually. I know there are various sorts of government programs and efforts to make the world a more peaceful place, but the reality is that in my case I'm apparently okay with a world that is much more violent than that of The Hunger Games.

All this is to say that after thinking about this idea for a little while, the premise of The Hunger Games seemed a lot more believable.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

New post

I've been feeling like I want to post something on this blog lately and despite having many thoughts and opinions I just haven't had time to write anything. Writing about Provo literally takes up all my free time.

However, I would like to mention the wonderful spring that we're having here in Utah. Sadly, I have somehow developed allergies for the first time in my life, that's making the spring a bit less pleasant than in previous years, but still.

Also, congrats to my wife Laura for getting a new, more awesome job.

Monday, March 12, 2012

30 Rock Jumped the Shark

There was a period of time when 30 Rock was one of my favorite shows on TV. But no longer. It's gotten to the point that I derive absolutely no pleasure from watching it. The show is boring, nonsensical, and tired. I can't think of any other show that went from so great to so bad.

When Community was temporarily taken off the air, I heard many people say that 30 Rock should have received the ax instead. I wanted to stand up for 30 Rock because, as much as I appreciate the intellectual and post modern acrobatics of Community, I've never really felt like it consistently includes good stories.

Now that 30 Rock is back on the air, I stand corrected. Community is superior to 30 Rock, as are a great many other shows.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Walk-In Closets

Walk-in closets are like the cul du sac of home architecture: temporarily popular, but ultimately a huge waste of space.

People should probably just stop hoarding so much stuff that they (think they) need a walk-in closet, but even if that doesn't happen there are so many better, more versatile ways to store things. Like an armoire, for example.

I would bet money that in not very long, walk-in closets will be way out of vogue, much as city planners now look down on the surreal tract housing neighborhoods that produced the American cul du sacs. For now at least, walk-in closets seem to be a still-popular vestige of the ignominious McMansion.

If I ever remodel my home, I'm not only going to avoid installing walk-in closets, I'm going to rip out the existing small closets. I will only use armoires, and my house will be all the better for it.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I cannot believe this weather. It's still February and it's like it's spring. So wonderful.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

So, the travel blog

Today, somewhere in the world, someone googled the phrase "otter, river tiber, rome" and ended up finding this post, which I wrote a year and a half ago. Nine other people also searched for other assorted phrases and words, mostly city names, and found my Tripping Over the World Blog. It continues to amaze me that it randomly shows up in search results while I do nothing on it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Brendan Gleeson

In that last post of things I like I mentioned Brendan Gleeson. After I wrote the post, however, I thought I'd expand on that a bit.

Last night, Laura and I watched The Guard, which is a gritty and delightful dark comedy about a cop in rural Ireland who is fighting the drug trade. I'd highly recommend it and, for people like me who cancelled their netflix accounts last year, it's currently in the redbox.

Watching it also reminded me that I can't think of any movie starring Brendan Gleeson that I don't like. He's best known as Mad Eye Moody in the Harry Potter films, but he's also in Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York and in the delightful dark comedy In Bruges. Laura and I liked In Bruges so much, in fact, that we actually went to Bruges while we were backpacking through Europe.

Things I Don't Hate (But Rather Like A Lot)

Hopefully my last post wasn't too negative. I was (and still am) sick with a wicked cough/cold/fever, so there's that, though I really do hate that stuff. But to prove I'm not just a hater, here's some stuff I like

Pao de Queijo (Brazilian cheese bread)
Leonard Cohen
Large, magnificent buildings. For example the Woolworth Building.
Brendan Gleeson
My house
Captain Crunch
Reading about animals on Wikipedia
Cinque Terra
Sleeping in
Not being sick

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Stuff I Hate

I write a lot of stuff over the course of any given day (for the newspaper, for the other blog) but sometimes I just want to spend my time writing lists of stuff I hate. So here is one of those lists:

Bon Iver's smugness about the Grammy's (seriously, that whole "I don't care about anything but the art and not selling out" attitude hasn't been a thing for like 10 years.)
Bad writing
Heat waves
Anonymous comments on the internet
Being sick
Bad drivers
Mean dogs that aren't on leashes
Mean dogs in general
Parking lots
Bloggers who use multiple different font sizes and colors in their posts. (Come on people, it makes it really hard to read.)
Karmen (this is a new one. I just learned about this terrible, terrible band.)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Thoughts on Academia

Last week a friend posted about her disaffection with academia. The post got me thinking about my own views on the subject, which once upon a time I blogged about on this site. (My plan at one point was to get a PhD in the humanities.)

First, and for one thing, I really wish I had the hours and freedom of an academic. Though it might seem odd to my friends in academia, I also wish I had the salary of an academic (I do work at a newspaper, after all). Though there's plenty to dislike about the day to day work of a college professor, it's still better than most other "regular" jobs — so excluding things like being a professional musician, for example — that I can think of.

But while the lifestyle keeps academia on my list of things I might go back to someday, there's a lot more than prevents me from actually pursuing it. The biggest of those things is the writing.

Probably my biggest qualm with academic writing is that you have to become a superstar for it to matter much in the humanities world. Sure, if you're Harold Bloom or Stanley Fish your work influences people far and wide. But most academics are not superstars. Their work is read by very, very few people, and meaningfully influences only a fraction of those readers.

I think that's why I've gravitated toward journalism and even blogging, where between the different things I write I have thousands of readers every day — and I work at a relatively small paper in a relatively small city. If I worked in a bigger market, I'd have even more readers. And even in my short professional life, I've seen my writing have some, very modest influence in my community. If I was writing to an academic "community" I suspect it would be much smaller, much more difficult to influence, and much more detached from the material world. But feel free to disagree with that assessment.

I don't know what the future holds for me career-wise (probably not crime writing at the Daily Herald, as much as I like it now) but no matter what happens I don't think I'd ever be happy primarily writing academic papers on the humanities. I applaud those who do like it, but I want my writing to, you know, be read.

Anyway, I guess that's my biggest qualm about academia.

But there are others. In all my time in college (which was much longer than most people), for example, I really only encountered two or three professors who were meaningfully engaging with the community. More often, I found professors who seemed to think it was beneath them to participate in Provo's (sometimes admittedly provincial) culture. Perhaps my professors were engaged in ways I couldn't see, but I think few of them attended cultural events in Provo, patronized Provo's independent restaurants, or (and this is huge) even lived in Provo, where their college was located.

That attitude wasn't universal and it was probably influenced by the fact that professors at BYU are LDS and therefore might feel the church provides them with sufficient community engagement, but it nevertheless strikes me as a kind of provincialism itself. (Again, however, I can't stress enough that I had wonderful professors to whom this description doesn't apply even remotely.)

Well, this post is getting long enough now, so I'll wrap it up. But it's been nice to think again about academia and perhaps I'll post some more thoughts in the future.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

LDS Church's WTF Response to Court's Prop 8 Ruling

This past week the LDS church issued this response to California's ruling on Prop 8:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regrets today's decision. California voters have twice determined in a general election that marriage should be recognized as only between a man and a woman. We have always had that view. Courts should not alter that definition, especially when the people of California have spoken so clearly on the subject.

Millions of voters in California sent a message that traditional marriage is crucial to society. They expressed their desire, through the democratic process, to keep traditional marriage as the bedrock of society, as it has been for generations.

We recognize that this decision represents a continuation of what has been a vigorous public debate over the rights of the people to define and protect the fundamental institution of marriage. There is no doubt that today's ruling will intensify the debate in this country. We urge people on all sides of this issue to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward those with a different opinion.

Boy is that a disappointing response. Setting aside the fact that many people consider the Prop 8 election to have been bought by special interest groups — like the church — this statement contants a blatant falsehood:

We have always had that view.

What? Actually the church has never held that view.

The church historically practiced polygamy and continues to include polygamy as a part of its doctrine. (I know many LDS men who are "sealed" — or religiously married — to multiple women who have either died or divorced them, meaning they believe that after they die they will have multiple wives.)

We can quibble over whether the word "recognize" makes the statement technically true about the church's current stance — I can already anticipate someone pointing out that the church doesn't currently ask the government to "recognize" polygamous temple marriages — but in the past the church absolutely wanted to have open, real-world polygamous marriages that were recognized. So from a historical perspective this statement is nothing short of a lie.

And I'd disagree with the counter argument over the word "recognize" and say it's pretty close to a lie about the church's current postion; after all the church itself "recognizes" polygamous marriages, even if the government doesn't.

I'm all for rigorous debate on this topic. I understand and respect the fact that many gay marriage proponents and Mormons (and people who are both, such as myself) have varying views on this topic.

But I'm nothing short of appalled when an official statement includes something that is so obviously misleading.


Today my other blog on Provo, (pro(vo)cation) passed 2,000 views. The growth of the blog seems to be accelerating as well, meaning that generally each week is better than the last. Friday, for example, I had 91 hits. There were weeks back in November and December, shortly after I started the blog, that didn't do that well in seven days (which is too bad since I wrote some of my favorite posts at that time).

Anyway, Provo is really doing great so either check out my blog or another blog/website to find out more. Or, even better, just visit.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Why don't adults "play"? I know some adults talk about "playing," but it usually seems to mean going out to eat, to a bar or some other appropriate "adult" activity. I want to know why adults can't get together with their friends, pick up a few sticks in the backyard, and have a huge sword fight. Why isn't it socially acceptable for adults to run around the neighborhood, pretending to be on a quest? These are things I think more adults would be interested in doing than we might realize.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


One of my life's regrets is that I never allowed myself to fall in love as a teenager.


Each time I write a new post on my other Provo blog, (pro(vo)cation), Wordpress updates me on how I'm doing with my blogging "goals." That's funny, because I have no specific blogging goals and indeed don't really like the whole concept of goals in general. Today, for example, I was informed that I just met my goal of 105 posts. Huzzah... I guess.

Anyway, one thing I actually enjoy about these computer generated goals is that they also come with quotes about writing from famous writers. Here was today's:

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe — Gustave Flaubert

While I know this quote was made specifically for me to the same extent that a fortune cookie fortune is made for me (so not at all), it is nevertheless serendipitous because that is how I feel. When I started blogging years ago I had a series of objectives (not goals!) some of which were met and others which weren't. In the time since, however, I've continued to blog even as my objectives, interests and circumstances have changed.

The point I think is the one that Flaubert makes: that writing itself is the point.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Girl

I'm really enjoying New Girl, the Fox sitcom starring Zooey Deschanel. But one really bizarre thing about the show is how they're revealing more and more about the setting.

Maybe I missed something, but when the show began I would have bet money it was set in New York. However, as far as I could tell (and I watched several episodes twice), they never explicitly said where the show was taking place.

Then, bam! Like a punch to the face, several episodes in the show gave us an establishing shot of LA. It was startling. And fascinating. Since then, I'd argue that the show has gradually asserted a stronger sense of place — scenes in the mall, at a very California-esque party.

Anyway, I think this method of revealing the setting (or perhaps choosing the setting) is both interesting and odd.