Okay, I'll give the blathering on about Star Wars a rest. A review of "The Last Jedi" will probably be forthcoming in a few weeks. I'll just say for now that I liked it much better the second time.
Visiting my family in Indiana required getting up at 6 am on Saturday morning. So like most people would do, I set an alarm. But additionally, my brain does this really helpful thing where it likes to wake me up at least an hour before my alarm goes off. And it did that. So after a bit of unpleasant half-sleeping delirium I came to my senses, such as they are, enough to figure that I should check how much time I had left. And the clock said... wait for it... 12:46. So I had probably been asleep for like two minutes. I said to my brain, I said, "Are you ----------------------------------- kidding me??"
I got back to sleep and, sure enough, woke up again. I checked again. Maybe it was almost time. Or maybe it was 2:59. It was 2:59.
"I hate being me," I told God. That was an overstatement, of course, but it was how I felt at the moment.
The third time, I wasn't optimistic, but it was 5:49 and that somehow came as a relief even though I felt like crap. I just wanted to put on a blindfold like Kanan Jarrus and never open my eyes again. How was it possible to be so hungry and so needing to throw up at the same time? Ironically, I felt worse than I did a week later in Indiana, yesterday, when I went to bed at 10, fell asleep sometime after 1:30, and was woken up at 5:24, aka 3:24 MST. Somehow I got so hot while being unable to sleep that twice I went outside in my underwear and stood with my bare feet in the snow and it felt like a cool spring day. But I digress.
I had to get up so early, in large part, so I could arrive at the airport two hours before my flight to make sure I would have plenty of time to get through security even though it's never taken me more than five minutes. But this time it did. This time it took an extra ten minutes. When my laptop didn't come out of the scanner with the rest of my stuff, I knew something was up. When the TSA guy carried it over to another station and asked "Whose laptop is this?" I knew something was up. When he gestured me over to him with a couple fingers and pointed to the external hard drive enclosure duct taped to the top of it and asked "What's that?" I knew something was up. He said that for future reference it looks suspicious to have something taped to a laptop in an airport and their explosives expert would have to look at it. That was fine with me, as I had nothing to hide, but I started to get a little worried that they would confiscate it anyway like they did my toothpaste one time, and then they may as well just shoot me too because it has my tens of thousands of songs that took years to accumulate.
It was nice of the people at both airports to let me through with my expired ID. There was an officer at one of them who looked like Will Smith. I wanted to get a picture of him, but I might have gotten in trouble. I traveled all day, had the usual delays, and got to Indiana around 9 pm EST. It was another hour to the house and then I was ready for bed. And right as I got out of the car I remembered the trains that pass like twenty feet from my parents' house several times day and night and always blow their horns. I used to like trains.
On a more positive note, the next morning it was once again nice to attend a congregation not completely full of white people. Don't get me wrong, most of my best friends are white, but it just gets stifling when that's all I'm ever surrounded by, you know? Because it was Christmas Eve, somebody thought it would be a good idea to sing like eight hymns. I opted out of all the extra ones because I was tired. The black Baptist convert behind us complained that we had ruined the tunes, and she wasn't wrong.
So, the fifty degrees of winter thing the previous and only time I'd visited Indiana turned out to be a fluke. It was very cold. One day I walked a couple miles from the house and on the return trip my fingers felt like they had been hacked off. I have gloves, I just don't know where they are. But it was sunny! I was asked to post some pictures and bring the sunshine back to Utah! So here are some pictures and I got a pocketful of sunshine which, as anyone in Logan can attest, is being put to good use. I hope I got enough pictures to satisfy the person who requested pictures.
Trains that were very hard to photograph through the trees
As Douglas Adams famously wrote in "Last Chance to See", here be chickens
My parents have the best kind of neighbors
A church we don't go to
Bustling city stuff
My scary friend Mackenzie is starting to sound even more like a mob boss
I knew what she meant the first time, of course, but I like messing with her. My advice to her and anyone else hiring someone to take me out is make sure you're not talking to an undercover cop by mistake. I saw that on TV once. It was real, filmed with a hidden camera in the cop's car, and this woman was hiring him to shoot her husband and he was playing Satan and trying to goad her into being more evil. He was like, "You know, sometimes when I shoot people, it takes them a long time to die and they suffer a lot. Does that bother you?" And she was like, "I don't care, I don't care, I just want him gone. Ohhh, I'm gonna sleep good tonight." You can spot undercover cops because they never actually drink the beer. Wait, wrong scenario. You're on your own then.
My parents have a few books
I took the time to read some of them and record my thoughts.
"Lost Race of Mars" by Robert Silverberg. Written in 1960, set in the distant future of 2017, where the colonists on Mars still use film cameras and paper mail. I'd trade digital cameras and email for a colony on Mars. We haven't even put a person on Mars, which is pathetic and inexcusable. We should have done it decades ago. Would we even be able to get emails on Mars? Could they set up the internet infrastructure between here and there? But hey, at least we have fidget spinners, amiright?
"Peanuts Classics" by Charles Schultz. This one is mine. I don't remember it having a broken binding and a brown stain all the way through. Let's see... oh, I know all these comics by heart even though I haven't read them in who knows how long. I read them so many times and yet I never really understood how great some of them are.
"From First Date to Chosen Hate" by Brenton G. Yorgason. Oh, "Mate". Right, I always read that wrong the first time. It's not the best font. Well, maybe I ought to read this famous book. Plot twist: it's for Australians wanting to escape the matezone. "Hooley dooley! So you've come the raw prawn with another true blue Sheila and she's dobbed she just wants to be mates? Do you just cop it sweet and hope she'll be apples, or bugger that for a joke? Fair suck o' the sav!" etc. 1977? Then it should be good for a few laughs. I'm sure it's very... dated. Hum de dum. Oh, so dating sucked even before millennials ruined it? So much for my... romanticizing the past. Creative date ideas - skip! Satan's deceptions - skip! Getting engaged - skip! Oh, look, it's available on archive.org and I just wasted my time reading the hard copy instead of something else! Well, it was very dated but it did have some good stuff. I recommend modern readers to supplement it with "Modern Romance" by Aziz Ansari and "Animal Behavior" by John Alcock.
"Happy Valley Patrol" by John "Blitz" Krieg, pseudonym for Robert Kirby. This book has seen better days. The binding is all but gone and at least a quarter of the pages are not connected to anything. I didn't do it, though I have read it many times. It's a collection of the eponymous newspaper column about Kirby's time as a police officer in Utah, and I love it because it makes fun of two things that I love making fun of: the human race and Provo. And it's just as hilarious this time around.
I also read through all my Tintin books that my sister is keeping safely for safekeeping. I hadn't read them since before I started college, and now I get more of the jokes and references. Hergé truly was a rare breed of genius, which would explain why most Americans don't appreciate him. If you haven't read Tintin, do so; you won't be sorry unless you have no taste. If you want to be thorough you can start from the actual beginning with the mediocre "Tintin in the Land of the Soviets" and the racist "Tintin in the Congo", but it's probably better to just start with the sanctioned volumes and come back to those for thoroughness after you're hooked.
The Mormon Section
A noble crusader against injustice has brought to light that in the last five years, twenty Holocaust victims were posthumously baptized by various Mormons in violation of LDS Church policy, sparking another round of complaints about baptizing dead people without consent. One should always obtain a dead person's consent before performing an ordinance that will either unlock their path to salvation or have no affect on them whatsoever. And it is, of course, incredibly selfish and thoughtless for Mormons to spend time baptizing people who will never be on the membership records, pay tithing, or help a church ball team. How would we feel if someone did it to us? I, for one, would be outraged if I were dead and a Muslim or a Hindu or a Rastafarian did something they thought would help me get into heaven. In fact, there's a website called "All Dead Mormons Are Now Gay" which purports to make that happen, and you can guess how much that upsets me by how many times in my life I've mentioned it. (This is the first time in my life I've mentioned it.) Why doesn't every religion just do this for everyone, and then we'll all have all our bases covered?
Several Jewish leaders take this practice personally because it reminds them of the long history of Jews being forced to convert to Christianity or die. That's understandable (even though, as people keep pretending to forget, Mormon teachings state that dead people are free to accept or reject the ordinance). The LDS Church is under no legal obligation to stop the baptizing of Holocaust victims, but does so as a gesture of good will. Most of the people feigning self-righteous indignation over the very few who slipped through the system are atheists who believe that Holocaust victims ceased to exist as soon as they were murdered. That in their lives, millions of lives, the Nazis permanently and irrevocably won. And these complaints about baptizing dead people without consent ring just a little hollow coming from them. And do they care one iota about Jewish religion or culture at any other time? A random teeny little hunch tells me probably not. Some people need to grow up.
The world has survived year one of Drumpf's presidency. True, he didn't accomplish much worthwhile, and he consistently refused to behave in an intelligent or dignified manner befitting a nation's leader (which comes as a surprise to no one), but he hasn't started a nuclear war yet despite his best efforts so I say we should count our blessings. I look forward to blogging for another year, and striving to please my loyal fans, unless of course I unexpectedly die and move beyond this vale of tears, which would be even better. I suppose it's also possible that Daesh will cut off my hands. That would really suck. I will surely face many challenges in this coming year, and just as surely God will bring me through them as He always has in the past, as undeserving as I am. I don't stress nearly as much about them now. So there's that.
George Harrison - Ding Dong
There aren't a lot of New Year's songs. That means there also aren't a lot of good ones. Enter George Harrison's "Ding Dong", which ought to be a lot more famous than it is, and might become a tradition with me since this is the second time I've shared it.
Will you permit me to be shockingly vulnerable and risk total humiliation for a moment? I regret to inform everyone that my mental health has deteriorated farther and more rapidly than I ever imagined was possible. I can't trust myself anymore and neither should anyone else. Frankly, I'm scared. There's no telling what I might do or whether I even truly have a say in the matter. I don't know how this happened, or why I failed to notice, but now that it's far too late for me to seek help I've finally gotten a red flag too blatant to ignore. Recently I re-watched "The Star Wars Holiday Special" for the first time in many years and I... well... I... I liked it. I thought it was interesting and exciting and hilarious. I understood for the first time where the writers were coming from and how they could have maybe not thought it would be impossibly terrible. I'm not going to argue that it isn't impossibly terrible. It is. But I don't care anymore. I'm so sorry.
Maybe I'm overreacting. It could just be really, really bad hormones. After all, my pregnancy test came back positive.
It must have been conceived by the will of the Living Force. You know, the mini-chlorines.
I binge-watched "The Clone Wars" again too, and it often made me sad, and I loved that. When dealing with reality, virtually anything that makes me sad goes a step further and triggers depression, which is entirely different and sucks. Sadness is a healthy and normal emotion, depression is not. And sadness is so many light-years removed from depression that it literally feels good by comparison. And because the suffering and death in these cartoons is fictional, it doesn't trigger the depression, and I can just cry like a normal person. Some episodes are like a laxative for tears. In one [SPOILER ALERT], a person very close to Obi-Wan Kenobi was murdered in front of him, and while I wasn't particularly attached to her, I am particularly attached to Obi-Wan, and so (even though I'd seen it before) I felt his pain vicariously, felt my own heart stop at the sight of his gaping mouth as the lightsaber skewered her, and as they spoke to each other of their forbidden and unsatiated love for the last time I cried for his loss and it was great.
And really, this prequel era is incredibly dark. The whole business of manufacturing millions of humans to follow orders and be cannon fodder, while the supposed guardians of truth and righteousness just play along with it, is dark enough in the movies alone. But these cartoons show time and time again that these clones have individual personalities, feelings, and self-selected names. They love each other as brothers. That makes it so much worse. In one story arc near the end of the series [SPOILER ALERT], one clone discovers that they all have chips in their heads that at some point will make them kill the Jedi, their best friends, and he tries to tell everyone but Palpatine frames him as unstable and dangerous and he becomes a fugitive from justice and everyone thinks he's insane and the other clones feel forced to kill him and the secret dies with him. It's dark and tragic and creepy and awful and I love it. And what about how even the most expendable droids are programmed to feel pain and fear death? The battle droids' comic relief is downright disturbing if you think about it too much.
There was also a story arc about slavery that was probably the most disturbing of all because it wasn't very fictional. Anakin's old master Watto was relatively kind, but this arc showed how much worse it could be. It started off innocently enough with the usual violence. And of course there was the usual humor as Ahsoka rolled her eyes at Anakin sweet-talking the Zygerian Queen to gain her confidence. And then a slave girl attempted to assassinate the Queen, and Anakin stopped her, and the Queen said she would have to be "processed" again to teach her submission, and she became horrified and jumped off the balcony rather than go through that again. Whoa. And then the heroes themselves were exposed and pressed into slavery and it was awful which was great. I probably sound like a sociopath. It's just that in my opinion, suffering and tragedy are what makes compelling stories. There has to be a balance, of course - there has to be humor and love and hope and goodness - but without darkness there can be no meaningful light.
And have you ever realized that the bad guys won in every single prequel movie? In Episode I, the Sith took over the Senate and found Anakin. The outcome of the Battle of Naboo really didn't matter. In Episode II, the Sith orchestrated a war to give them even more power. The outcome of the Battle of Geonosis really didn't matter. This is what's known as a Xanatos gambit, where any possible outcome is a victory for the villain, and Palpatine was a master of those. Yoda said it himself: "Victory? Master Obi-Wan, not victory. The shroud of the Dark Side has fallen. Begun, this Clone War has." Dun dun dun. And then of course in Episode III the Sith seduced Anakin, exterminated the Jedi and renamed the Republic the Empire, but that one's obvious. (And it really was little more than a renaming. In "The Clone Wars" we see that the Republic has already drifted far from being "the good guys". Which is awesome.) So the bad guys won in four out of six original Star Wars movies, which is one of the gutsiest moves of any franchise ever.
On Tuesday I became the last person in the world to see "The Last Jedi", as my workplace generously provided tickets for everyone as its Christmas party. Once again, it was worth waiting a few more days because free is better than not free and the fewer people in the theater, the better. I'm grateful that no one spoiled it for me because I've never killed anyone on purpose and hope to keep it that way. So, maybe I'll review it at some point but for now I'll just say that in my judgment it was better than "The Force Awakens" and not as good as "Rogue One". Serious props for its originality, though I wish they'd put in more familiar aliens like Rodians and Twi'leks to make these newer Star Wars movies feel more like Star Wars movies. Oh, and maybe you'll hate me for this, but BB-8 is at least as ridiculous as Jar Jar Binks. Still, it was great to witness the continued adventures of the Rebellion's, I mean Resistance's diversified millennial cast in their struggle against the forces of Discount Palpatine, Emo Boy, and Ginger Hitler. Will they prevail, or be annihilated? Only time will tell...
I didn't mean to write all that stuff about Star Wars, but it just kind of happened. I'm not sorry.
The other night I heard some people right next to me being matchmakers for a couple of other people. They didn't want these other people to find out that they were pulling all the strings, yet none of them thought to ask, let alone bribe me to stay quiet about it. I'm still undecided on whether to issue demands or just spill my guts because I can. You know, I got roped into being a matchmaker once in high school and decided that, as much as I like playing God with other people's lives, it wasn't really my thing. Quinn was like, "Find out if Samantha likes me, but don't tell her I like her." And then Samantha was like, "Find out if Quinn likes me, but don't tell him I like him." And that was stressful. The only way I saw to half-meet both of their requests was to lie and be like "Well, I think he/she likes you, but I'm not positive..." And I hate abandoning my integrity for free.
My dear friend serving in the Nigeria Enugu Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently wrote to me:
As you can imagine, it does my heart good to read such words. They validate the conventional wisdom that the LDS Church is doing very well in West Africa. This year, in particular, it has been expanding into unreached areas of many countries in an unprecedented way, and Nigeria is one of them. Of course this guy doesn't go into much detail here about why the work is going very well and being directed, though he mentioned in an earlier email that he had a baptism already as soon as he started. I will continue inquiring. It's very exciting to me to have a personal proverbial finger on the pulse of these happenings in one of my favorite areas of the world that I may never get to visit. This is a great young man, I love him dearly and I'm happy that he's having such a good time.
Self-Referential Rambling that Probably No One Cares About
This has been an exceptionally good week in the self-promotion department, and I'm sorry if this stuff holds no interest for anyone but it bring sunshine into my life so I'm going to write about it. I have an unsolicited blurb for this blog now. I didn't know where to put it other than the sidebar that most people never see because the mobile version of the site puts it at the bottom, so here it is too. Amelia Whitlock, whom I am not giving a pseudonym because that would defeat the purpose of using her quote (with permission) as a blurb, wrote, "Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you're ever looking for a good read, check this out!" So then of course I felt like
I could swear I've found this GIF before, but now I couldn't and had to make it myself. A word of advice: if you ever search for "bugs bunny gif", make sure SafeSearch is on. Please take my word for it. I still want to claw out my retinas. But I also realize that since I enjoyed the Star Wars Holiday Special, I'm in no position to judge anyone else's tastes. Anyway, I think Amelia started a chain reaction. The next day Allison mentioned that she had become aware of my blog and hoped to read it and then we could discuss it. That was nice, but I didn't think too much of it and assumed in my selfishness that if she really wanted very badly to read it she would have already done so. I saw her again the next day, and knew I should play it cool and wait at least a week before asking her if she had read my blog. To my pleasant surprise, she sought me out and started gushing about how great my blog was.
Then Alice, who had never spoken to me before or deigned to respond to my Facebook request one way or another, came up to me and said "Chris, word on the street is that you -" and I thought Oh crap. She was smiling, but I couldn't tell if she was being sadistic or just friendly. My eyes darted around for escape pods just in case. Was my past catching up to me? Why must I continue to be punished for poor decisions made with a younger and less experienced mind for which I have fully repented? "- have a blog," she finished. I love how she said it like it was some kind of impressive rare accomplishment. So that was nice. But who told her about it? "Allison," she said.
So I confronted Allison again. "Yeah, sorry, I'm just so excited that I'm telling everyone I know about your blog," she said. "Is that all right?"
In truth, I hate it when people read the personal, private stuff that I put on the internet, and was rather alarmed to hear this, but I didn't want her to feel bad. So I told her I check every day how many views my site has gotten and the higher, the better. (Incidentally, it's been good lately always dips around Christmastime. Yesterday it was below three hundred for the first time all month. Sad.)
"Oh, then let's see if we can get it to spike a little," she said.
"I should pay you," I said, hoping she would say no.
"You can pay me in friendship," she said. And that crushed my other hopes a little, because what I really wanted was to just throw her away like a used napkin as soon as she had served her purpose, but I guess just being friends is fine too. Just kidding about that first part. Really.
So that was the best evening in a long time, for those and a couple other reasons, and then of course I was punished for being too happy with an extra couple hours of insomnia, but it was worth it. And now I feel like
Today is Christmas Eve. Tomorrow is Christmas. I feel like I should be saying more about that, but what is there to say, really? You know what Christmas is, you know what it's about, and I've already used up my non-cynicism quota for this year. So just enjoy the peace and love and stuff.
The Muppets - One More Sleep 'Til Christmas
"The Muppet Christmas Carol" is one of the greatest movies ever, and I had been planning for some time to share a different song from it as kind of a passive-aggressive message to the world, but as things have panned out with it now being Christmas Eve, this one is more appropriate, so here it is instead. Steve Whitmire at his best.
Star Wars and Stuff
I have noticed that non-Muslim Americans, even those who love and support Muslims, often make the mistake of thinking that Islam is a race or nationality. Something "other", in other words. In truth, Muslims can be as white and/or American as anyone else. They're just normal people. And while they certainly deserve their reputation for being devout, far more so than Christians in many cases, they have other pursuits and interests just like everyone else. I thought about this recently when I watched "Rogue One" again and noted that, since it was partially filmed in Jordan, the credits listed several Jordanian people of whom the vast majority are undoubtedly Muslim. And Riz Ahmed, the rapper who was so eager to play defecting Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook that he sent in ten audition tapes, is a Muslim. I hope this doesn't sound patronizing. I only wish to tear away some of the "otherness" that many of us ascribe to Muslims without even realizing it.
So it got me thinking, what is it about Star Wars that transcends cultural and religious differences, that appeals to Muslims as well as Christians or atheists or whoever else? Of course, all of the above enjoy the action sequences and cool aliens and so forth as much as the next guy, but I think there's a deeper reason than that, especially for people as devout as most Muslims who weave worshiping God into every day of their lives. In my futile and long since aborted quest to collect all the Star Wars books that existed, I got "The Episode I Scrapbook". It was full of pictures and trivia and it had a behind the scenes section with a couple quotes from George Lucas that I think speak to why Star Wars is so universally appealing and enduring.
"The Force evolved out of various developments of character and plot. I wanted a concept of religion based on the premise that there is a God and there is good and evil. I began to distill the essence of all religions into what I thought was a basic idea common to all religions and common to primitive thinking. I wanted to develop something that was nondenominational but still had a kind of religious reality. I believe in God and I believe in right and wrong. I also believe that there are basic tenets which through history have developed into certainties, such as 'thou shalt not kill.' I don't want to hurt other people. 'Do unto others...' is the philosophy that permeates my work."
"The first film simply sets up Anakin as a sweet kid, which is what we have to do - say, 'First of all, he's just like you and me. He's a nice little kid and he wasn't evil.' A lot of people got very upset and wanted him to be an evil little kid that went around pulling wings off flies, as if that would explain everything. But then where does the story go? The point is not that you are born evil - the thing that makes the film work ultimately is the fact that he is a good kid, trying to be a good kid, and he grows up to be a good kid. It's simply that his emotions take him places he can't control. He becomes evil out of his own ambition and greed, and revenge and hatred - all those things that kids face."
And virtually all of those books are now non-canon anyway. Goodbye, Dave Wolverton's masterpiece "The Courtship of Princess Leia". No more of Han gloating, "Kiss my Wookiee!" No more of Luke threatening, "Take your hands off her or I will take your hands off you." No more of C-3PO singing, "Han Solo, what a man, Solo, he's every Princess's dream!" I hope great lines like these will at least be reincorporated into future movies. The Nightsisters of Dathomir did get used in "The Clone Wars" series, at least, resulting in an utterly ridiculous but thoroughly awesome storyline.
Star Wars is a subgenre of science fiction called space opera, which is sort of grand and sweeping and larger than life. Viewing it as a work of art as much as a story has helped me tolerate some of the more ridiculous elements, like technobabble and single-biome planets and blockades of only three ships and old friends running into each other in a galaxy of over a quadrillion people, while still appreciating the internal logic and consistency and depth of everything else. So many planets and characters and species and ships and droids and stories... it's got to be the largest franchise in the history of ever. And I'm blessed to have been born into the small window of human history when it exists. But the absolute most ridiculous thing that I can't get over is in "The Force Awakens" when Han uses the hyperdrive to get past the third Death Star's, I mean Starkiller Base's shield and then slows down before hitting the planet. Light travels at 300,000 kilometers per second. The Millennium Falcon was going faster than that. Either from hitting the planet or decelerating so abruptly, it would have been pulverized to atoms.
Now that Star Wars movies are being released in December I have to write about them and Christmas at the same time, and there's only so many ways to tie them together. Is there Christmas in the Star Wars galaxy? Their equivalent is generally considered to be "Life Day", first revealed in 1978's really really really bad "Star Wars Holidy Special", a holiday that Wookiees celebrate by covering their nudity with red robes and evidently taking some kind of psychedelic drug so they can walk through space into a star and listen to Princess Leia sing while she's so coked up that her eyes are pointing in opposite directions like a chameleon and she has to hold onto Chewbacca to stay standing. But the special was actually aired (one and only time) around Thanksgiving, not Christmas.
The 1980 album "Christmas in the Stars", in addition to giving a young Jon Bon Jovi his debut on one track, revealed that the Star Wars galaxy has Christmas as well. Not that it's saying a lot, but this album is scads better than the Holiday Special and I actually like it and recommend it to everyone without apology. You don't want to miss Artoo beeping along to the tune of "Sleigh Ride" as Threepio teaches him to sing, or a bunch of droids pondering the age-old question of what to get a Wookiee for Christmas when he already owns a comb. (I shared that a couple years ago here.) In the end [SPOILER ALERT] it is revealed that Santa's brother helps him deliver toys because the galaxy is too big for him to do it on his own.
Why do we spend so much effort making movies where the entire point is that Santa Claus is real and the skeptics need to have faith when Santa Claus is not, in fact, real? I think it's because Santa Claus should be real. In a just world, Santa Claus would be real. Because Santa Claus is second only to Jesus as an embodiment of all that is good and right and noble. But if we cultivate these attributes in ourselves, and keep them alive not just at Christmastime but all year round, then Santa Claus is real in a lame metaphorical not real sense.
One of my bishopric members really wanted to read my book, providing an opportunity to see how the more chronologically advanced Mormon demographic will receive it. So far he has been thrilled and not bothered by the thematic elements, cynical critiques of the human condition, or references to evolution. He says he learned some new words for the golf course; "Fardles" and "Space spit" (affectionate homages to Anne McCaffrey's "Dinosaur Planet" and R.L. Stine's "Space Cadets" series, respectively).
Originally I used real swear words, mainly because "The Outsiders" didn't and it totally ruined my suspension of disbelief. "We'll kill each other with broken beer bottles, but we won't swear or talk about sex, no matter how contrived this makes our dialogue at times. Also, we have names like Soda Pop and Pony Boy." So I was just being realistic. But then I read an interview with Dave Wolverton, who was asked how his Mormon faith influenced his writing and said in part: "When I first started writing, I was trained by my professors to try to create natural sounding voices (so if people swear, then you should swear), and I started realizing that I was really not being true to myself. Just because people swear doesn't mean I need to do it in my writing. I decided after my first novel to sort of back off on that, and I've noticed that a lot of other fine bestselling authors do the same - they don’t use any profanity at all." I figured that probably no one would read it because of the swearing, but people might not read it because of the swearing. So I fixed that. Though the concept of having words in our language that we're not supposed to say is still stupid to begin with.
I hope Star Wars doesn't steal all my ideas. "The Force Awakens" had me a little worried when the Millennium Falcon's escape from Tatooine, I mean Jakku, bore somewhat of a resemblance to a similar escape in my book.
Rebel Force Band - Living in These Star Wars
The original Star Wars movie was supposed to be timeless, but the myriad third-party attempts to cash in on it, including at least a score of disco or pop covers of the main theme (with the one by Meco charting at number one), were forever rooted in 1977-8. This band went a little too far with this album. They thought that Lucasfilm wouldn't sue them if they wrote the final S in "Star Wars" backwards, but they were wrong. Forty years later and like most of the others it's long since become public domain. I like it not just for its "camp" charm but legitimately as good music. Sue me. With gems like "Don't Fall in Love With an Android" and "Chewie the Rookie Wookie [[sic]", how could I not?
Dancing GIFs and Other Stuff
I'm usually pretty chill about the prejudice against Aspies and autistic people. I figure countless millions of people have been discriminated against for stupid reasons, so who am I to think I'm better than them? Who am I to resent someone calling the cops on me for acting strange when better men than I have been murdered for their skin color? I sometimes see the phrase "screeching autistically" used as some kind of derisive and not particularly funny joke. While I'm at the high-functioning end of the spectrum and do not, to my knowledge, screech in this manner, still I have a kinship with those who do and therefore try to gently guilt-trip people out of mocking them. I saw a dumb teenager use the phrase a few weeks ago. It would have been silly for me to get upset, because when I was a dumb teenager my friends and I were quite unrestrained in throwing around words like "gay" and "retarded", mostly at each other. I cringe to think about that now.
But I have less patience with adults, especially LDS adults, who should know better. The other day one used "miserable Aspie" as a slur against Jeremy Runnells who isn't even, to my knowledge, an Aspie. I told him to bite me. And I felt that I was symbolically saying it not just to him, but to the countless people throughout my life who have treated me like less than a person. So I'm still not perfect. Or sorry.
The Logan institute recently did its closing social and made it Star Wars themed. Mormons love Star Wars for theological reasons in addition to the reasons that everyone else loves Star Wars. Each room was supposed to represent a different location from one of the movies, and while they were in the planning stages I took the liberty of contributing unsolicited and tasteless suggestions.
These were better ideas than what they did for the opening social. They were calling one of the rooms "The Friend Zone" which was a clever joke because it was a place where you went to make friends. But not many people came in. I think they were afraid that if they came in, they would never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever leave.
We made several Star Wars decorations. The most bizarre in my opinion was a cutout of Darth Vader saying "Great leaders inspire greatness in others." Sorry, what? Did we leave off the end of the quote? "...by punishing failure with death," or something? This is Darth Vader, not Jesus. I heard there were several activities at this social but since one of them was an actual Star Wars movie, none of the others mattered. I heard one of them was a dance. The only dance move that most Mormons know, at least in this country, is jumping. Most people would call it "jumping up and down" but that's stupid because you only jump up and then the down part just kind of happens by itself. It's a cool move, but it's not my favorite. What are my favorites? I'm glad you asked! Let me show you!
The "George McFly"
The "Salacious Crumb"
The "Clone Troopers"
The "Obscure Peanuts"
The "Aman Mathur"
The "Emo Philips"
The "Wayne's World" (especially for Rammstein)
The "The Cheat"
The "Italian Schoolgirl"
The "Russian Riverdancer"
The "What is Love?"
I had to make more than half of those GIFs myself, and it was a real pain in the neck. Please read this post twice to justify the amount of work I put into it.
I suppose now that I'm feeling less lazy I should record something for posterity about visiting my grandparents for Thanksgiving. They live in eastern Idaho. It's a beautiful place if you like seeing eight hundred cow fields in a row, which I don't particularly, but I love it anyway. Up until a few years ago my grandparents had cows too. Cows are one of the ubiquitous animals that everyone, at least in the western hemisphere, knows about from infancy, but if you've only seen them in pictures and/or from a distance you may be surprised to discover how massive they are. I was. And if you've never had your hand sucked on by a calf before, put it on your bucket list. It feels amazing until you pull your hand out. I went back to the now-empty barn to look around and, surprise, it still smells like cows. My sense of smell is virtually nonexistent but one of the few things I can smell, fortunately for my nostalgia, is cows. I found two kittens sleeping, got closer, and then found that they weren't sleeping but were in fact part of a cluster of ten dead kittens in varying stages of decay. How they all came to be in that spot is perhaps best left to the imagination.
Next to the barn is a shed full of junk, including no fewer than nine bicycles and an old-timey radio. Whenever I see it I think it would be cool to fix it up and use it, but then I remember that it would still only play modern stations and that would totally kill the magic. And then, outside, there's like twenty enormous farm machines that are probably going to stay right where they are until the Second Coming. It's weird to think that one day Grandpa just turned each one off and never used it again. Kind of like how one day your parents put you down and never picked you up again. And they can't have been cheap.
The main way we spend time together when I'm there is by watching TV. In all seriousness, I feel that it brings me closer to them. As soon as Thanksgiving was over we watched "The Muppet Christmas Carol", the Rockettes Radio City Music Hall Christmas show from 2007, a ghost movie called "The Spirit of Christmas" that was all right but should have been half an hour longer to flesh out the reasons for the romance, and the first few minutes of some movie called "Noel". They turned it off after someone said to the protagonist, "You need sex. Good sex." My sister thought that it should have been PG-13 but since it was made a long time ago, in 2004, it must have been before the PG-13 rating was created. She was only off by twenty years.
But none of them had minded a few minutes earlier when the protagonist said something like, "I'm doing great! You know, single woman over forty during the Christmas season! Just keep me away from any kitchen knives or open windows for the next few days! Ha ha... heh..." So I'm not sure why the word "sex" is more offensive than a joke about suicide. Although I'd be lying if I said I didn't find said joke hilarious. But they turned that off and I requested "The Santa Clause" because I hadn't seen it in a very long time. Well, I don't know what else to say about this vacation now but I really just wanted to say something about how big cows are.
Auralnauts - Jedi Party
So how do actual Jedi dance? Look no further to find out! This is from the redubbed Star Wars film "Attack of the Phantom Past" and makes sense in context. Kind of.
I read this article about this documentary by an Indian featuring several other Indians claiming that "The Simpsons" character Dr. Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is racist. And I don't want that to be right, because I consider "The Simpsons" to be one of the best and most clever shows ever made, but I'm forced to concede that it probably is. I'm in no position to say it's not racist when I'm not on the receiving end of it. I'll just say this, that in my particular case, I don't feel that watching Apu had any detrimental effect on how I perceive Indians or their culture. On the contrary, it seemed to me that Apu was one of the smarter people in a world of mostly doofuses. In the episode "Much Apu About Nothing", for example, we have this exchange from his test to gain American citizenship:
Examiner: All right, here's your last question. What was the cause of the Civil War?
Apu: Actually, there were numerous causes. Aside from the obvious schism between the abolitionists and the anti-abolitionists, there were economic factors, both domestic and inter...
Examiner: Wait, wait... just say slavery.
Apu: Slavery it is, sir.
Prior to reading this article I didn't realize that Apu was voiced by a white guy. That certainly factors in. I think that in an world, we could all poke lighthearted fun at each other's accents and cultures and religions without being hurtful, as we do to a limited extent now. For example, in "Prisencolinensinainciusol", Italian Adriano Celentano sang a bunch of gibberish words that sound like English in a fake American accent. It wasn't controversial, I presume, because a. both groups are predominantly white European in makeup and b. Americans have never been oppressed by Italians, so no one would worry that this imitation was symptomatic of any deep-rooted prejudice. Imitating an Indian accent can have different connotations of the skin color difference and because Indians were oppressed by British for a long time. (It looks weird to not write "the British", but I'm not talking about all British people. How come I don't have to write "the Indians" but I have to write "the British"? That's stupid.)
It's not going to happen, but if humans ever got to the point of eradicating true prejudice altogether and all such teasing became acceptable, that would be great. We could eliminate all teasing instead, but where's the fun in that? I tease my friends, I tease my favorite franchises, I tease my own religion and its culture and usually find it hilarious when others do so as well. But we're not at that point with the human race, so yes, it does sadly appear to me that Apu is more or less racist, though like I said my opinion doesn't really matter.
I read this other article about how Hollywood drastically underrepresents and marginalizes women and non-white people. I won't call them "minorities" because that's increasingly an inaccurate term. Pretty soon white people will be the minority in the US, and since I'm not a Nazi I don't have a problem with that. Naturally, the asinine comments on the article by white and/or male people trying to rationalize why this isn't a problem were depressing to read. As much as I hate sounding like an SJW, defending this status quo is privilege at its finest. But, you know, it's ridiculous for these hoity-toity scientists to suggest that sexualizing women in the media causes women to have self-esteem problems, because men get sexualized too. Like all those muscular superhero guys. That's definitely the same thing, and since everyone knows men and women are exactly the same it's inconceivable that they could be affected differently. I wish I were making this idiocy up.
Star Wars, in particular, has made great strides in this area, leading some children to gripe that even Han Solo will be a woman in his upcoming solo film. I hope that in a future day there will be no need for conscious attempts to put more diversity in movies, because it will just be happening automatically. But Disney, the Imperial ranks are exactly the wrong place for more female representation. Part of their shtick is that with very few exceptions they don't like women or aliens. Maybe the First Order is different.
I would like to point out that I made both the protagonists in my manuscript female over seven years ago. I did this because I discovered that women, aliens, robots, and fantasy creatures were the only characters I could write with any feeling of investment and authenticity. And I never intended this as a huge feminist statement or anything, though the working title "Space Girls" may suggest otherwise. I knew there was a need for it after someone heard about them and expressed incredulity that they weren't lesbians. At one point I gender-swapped some of the characters to have more female representation, and I suppose that was a feminist statement. But most of the Earthling characters are, at least in my mind, white, and that's because I grew up surrounded by mostly white people and I'm still surrounded by mostly white people, so it was a subconscious thing and when the movie version is underway I'll make sure casting is open to people of all races.
Speaking of my manuscript, here's the latest feedback from a test reader:
Send a message like this to someone and make their day. They probably won't know what you're talking about, but I'm sure it will make their day.
Moving on to even more cheery and uplifting things. I'm grateful to know that this attitude exists, and that some of my "friends" share it, because I wasn't afraid enough of women already and this really helps with that. (I'm being sarcastic.)
In fairness, her remarks have been taken out of context. She goes on to explain "that is a price I am absolutely willing to pay". The fact that she herself isn't paying jack should hardly detract from the sincerity of these words. And of course, "[i]t's a microscopic risk in comparison to the issue at hand", which should be a source of great comfort to all the men who have lost their jobs and reputations and been incarcerated on rape convictions. It's not that you don't matter, guys, it's just that you don't matter. Because microscopic. But if you're lucky you live in a state that, after your innocence is discovered, will reimburse you less than minimum wage for the years of your life that they stole. And it really bothers me that Emily Lindin looks like Felicity Jones in this picture. I don't want the respect I hold for Felicity Jones to be tainted by mental association with this other person.
Moving on again, don't be this guy. I haven't gotten so many likes on a comment in a while.
Sarah Brightman - Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
Here's Sarah Brightman again already to ring in the Christmas season. This version of this song is the sort of thing that, given the choice, I would listen to on my deathbed while happily drifting out of consciousness surrounded by my loving and beautiful dogs. Beautiful song + beautiful voice = aural perfection.
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.