Because I read about near-death experiences recently, of course the omniscient internet brought to my attention the most recent development in that field. Four people hooked up to life support were having their brains monitored for whatever reason, and after they were taken off life support, two of their brains registered a surge of activity in the part responsible for dreams. Scientists speculate that these people were having NDEs, although they had a history of epilepsy, and nobody's ever shown a correlation between epilepsy and NDEs. The headline I looked at claimed that scientists had observed the brain activity behind NDEs for the first time, as if that were an established fact, but of course it isn't. They don't know what they actually observed. In order to know that, or at least be fairly confident, they'd have to observe something similar in the brain of someone who subsequently came back to life and reported on it. Science may sooner or later explain NDEs away as a purely neurological phenomenon, but it hasn't yet and we mustn't be premature about it. Journalists often take the nuance out of science, either out of sincere ignorance or the need to produce clickbait.
My roommate has finally moved out. He moved upstairs, meaning that he wanted to stay in this complex but not with me. The feeling is mutual. I didn't like that he left lights on he wasn't using (though I trained him by example to not do it constantly), I didn't like that he walked around without a shirt on when the weather was warm, I didn't like that he spent two hours a day in the bathroom, and I especially didn't like that he spent at least an hour a day practicing what can only be called "singing" under the most generous interpretation at the top of his lungs. It sounds more like an air raid siren. I had a friend over once and he laughed in disbelief at how bad it was. I sent a recording to another friend whom my complaints had made curious, and she wrote back, "PUT IT OUT OF ITS MISERY. WTF." Early on, at a public gathering, my roommate put me on the spot and asked if his singing annoyed me. Trying to balance tact with honesty, I said, "Only when it's really loud" (which was always). So he continued to consistently do it at the top of his lungs. Now I feel bad that I've been festering in resentment instead of asking him to stop, though, because I warned my upstairs neighbor about it, and I shouldn't have been surprised to learn that he hasn't been enjoying it either.
Recently the Temple City Sheriff's office invaded the wrong home without a warrant and illegally questioned and arrested two children who now, presumably, are traumatized for life but at least won't grow up to be bootlickers. I wrote some strong language in an online form somewhere and fully expected, based on previous interactions with law enforcement, that they would ignore me, but that the publicity would make them think twice (or at least once) about pulling such stunts in the future. I was quite surprised when someone got back to me earlier this week. Credit where it's due.
I've started wasting time on Twitter instead of reddit lately. I used to do essentially nothing on Twitter except share my blog posts, and I stayed at 38 followers for over six years. Now after a few weeks of interacting with people, I'm up to 53, so yay.
Twitter brings out the worst in people, including me, because it has almost no rules. Before Elon Musk took over, my account was suspended for wishing death on (checks notes) Vladimir Putin. And I still do and I'm not sorry. But now, I can say whatever the hell I want without fear of consequences. I've had some arguments. Even though I only follow ex-Mormons and liberal Mormons as far as Mormon stuff is concerned, I keep getting conservative Mormons in my feed, and they're pretty much the worst people in the world. Half their identity right now revolves around hating transgender people, and the other half is divided between hating apostates, hating liberals, hating scholars, hating gay people, and hating feminists. They're straight-up bullies more often than not, and because they think they're boldly standing up for truth and righteousness, they're quite incapable of attaining any self-awareness about how awful they are. Case in point:
I mean, wow. I used to have a hell of a persecution complex myself, but I don't think there was ever a point when I would have told someone "You are a demonic force and will be treated accordingly." It frightens me that people who think that way exist. Of course, guys like this think I'm a demonic force too. I try to be good. I don't set out to tear down Mormon beliefs every time I see them in my feed. I only get involved if they say something egregiously stupid and/or bigoted. And I try not to mock or insult them until they do it to me first, but that usually doesn't take very long. Personal attacks are usually their first and only response to critique of any kind. They really thought they were clever for pointing out that I had my pronouns in my bio and a Ukrainian flag next to my name. I had to block an account with the word "Christ" in its name that insisted Ukraine "isn't innocent" and basically deserves what it's getting, a claim that could be made with a little more accuracy (though it would still be victim-blaming) about the Mormons who moved into Missouri and boasted that the Lord would give them their neighbors' land. I added a Pride flag and a transgender flag to my Ukrainian flag just to bother these troglodytes, and then I added "If my flags and pronouns bother you, mission accomplished" to my bio to make sure they know that I'm bothering them on purpose, and now they don't bring that stuff up as much.
The leaders of the church don't appear to care that in a few years, people like this will be the only members they have left. Decent, intelligent, empathetic people are being alienated in droves. Of course, some of these jackasses also get alienated every time the church takes a position against bigotry or in favor of modern medicine - the other day one even confessed that he struggles with his faith and desire to attend church because a Primary teacher elsewhere on Twitter wore a rainbow pin - but overall, I think they're winning. Perhaps in fifty years, this church will make the Westboro Baptist Church look like a happy memory. Perhaps it will truly be The Church of Brigham Young, Ezra Taft Benson, and Donald J. Trump. (One of the guys I argued with had modeled his profile after Spencer W. Kimball, though. Kimball's a more nuanced figure in my book. If I meet him in the next life, I'll thank him for what he did to advance racial equality within the church, then kick him between the legs for the vile things he said about women and gay men.)
Mario + Unitarian Universalism
I have little to no interest in seeing most movies in the theater, but I really wanted to see The Super Mario Bros. Movie after waiting a few weeks for it to be less crowded, and not just because its financial success increases the likelihood of a The Legend of Zelda Movie down the line. And it has had a great deal of financial success even without my help. At the very beginning, far-right commentators accused it of being "woke" because Princess Peach is a strong female character and wears pants in one scene - never mind that she's been a playable character in many games and I always play as her in Super Mario 2 because I've found her jumping/hovering ability more useful than Toad's speed, Mario's well-roundedness, or Luigi's talent for running off the edges of platforms and dying - but as soon as it started to break box office records they decided that was because it's actually "anti-woke." I guess they didn't notice the scene where a character dresses in drag. Critics, who are often very out of touch with what normal people enjoy watching, have complained that the movie doesn't break new ground. I actually don't think most children's movies need to have life-altering plot twists. It's just a fun adventure with fun characters and a lot of shameless fanservice. That's all I wanted and all I thought it would be.
Now, yes, let's talk about a The Legend of Zelda movie. It needs to happen. It needs to be a little more mature, a little more complex, a little more critic-pleasing, but still retain some of the goofiness. And Link should't talk. And Zelda should be at least as woke as Peach. And those are my only requirements. So I guess I don't have much to talk about.
I saw The Super Mario Bros. Movie with a friend, and then I invited her to a free dinner put on by the Cache Valley Unitarian Universalists, and they talked about the stuff they do there and she expressed regret that she hasn't been involved with them during the past year when she had so much free time and now she's moving in a couple months. So without even trying, I had more missionary success that night than in all my years as a Mormon. The appeal of Unitarian Universalism is exactly what I didn't like about it when I was a Mormon. It's very secular in nature, doesn't tell people what to believe and doesn't talk about God or the supernatural or the afterlife much at all. This means that even an agnostic like my friend can be comfortable participating. It also means a bigger focus on environmentalism and social justice than many churches have. While many churches do a lot of good in the world, the belief that God will fix everything, in fact the belief that the world has to get worse so God can fix everything, often diverts their priorities elsewhere. I hope this life isn't all we get, but I think there's something to be said for living as if it is. That perspective makes me more eager to assuage others' suffering. It makes me a lot less patient with Republicans fighting against human rights and humanitarian aid in the name of their cruel and petty god.
Puppy + God + Shootings
In case anyone was wondering, I switched my website to Dark Mode because my friend Marie whined about straining her eyes while reading Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men from Mars. It will take some getting used to but I think it's better for the environment or something so I'll probably keep it.
Addendum to my observation that young Latter-day Saints have become more chill about swearing: On Thursday I went to a game night where at least three people who weren't the same as the people at the fire said "Shit" and/or "Damn it" when the Exploding Kittens weren't in their favor. No one acted scandalized and no one apologized. Last night I attended the Logan YSA 7th Stake talent show. A woman did a humorous monologue and mentioned that she was "covered in shit all day" in her job as a nurse. She apologized to the stake president and bishops but argued that it was fine because it wasn't Sunday and we weren't in the chapel. Then she immediately described one of her patients as "a crazy-ass lady" and didn't apologize for that one. She was my second choice in the vote for the winners. None of my choices won anything, just like in a real election.
I finally made some small tangible impact on the world this week when I played a small part in taking down the Missouri Attorney General's Transgender Center Concerns online form. Honestly, he should have seen the deluge of fake spam complaints coming a mile away. A lot of people filed complaints about Republican politicians' wives or the Catholic priests who wear dresses and groom children. I made up a story about my little brother wearing a dress and then becoming a Marxist lesbian who wants to teach critical race theory. And it got pretty weird and crass after that so I'll leave it to your imagination. The person reading the entries probably didn't bother to read mine after he saw that my name was Ron DeSantis, though, so I should have thought that through a little better.
Yesterday I also went for a walk with my neighbor and his puppy Gizmo. I help take care of Gizmo while my neighbor is at work at least twice a week. He's a real hassle, gets on my nerves constantly, but of course I wuv him.
But anyway, I went for a walk with him and my neighbor, and as we neared the end my neighbor asked, "You're LDS, aren't you?" Not gonna lie, that was a pretty embarrassing thing to be asked by a Black person, because, you know, the entirety of the LDS Church's history with Black people. I said I used to be but I left the church last year. He was curious why. I didn't know how much he would even understand as an outsider. To summarize it I said, "A lot of stuff that built up over the years.... Stuff in the church's history that made me think it isn't what it claims to be, and its positions on social issues. It discriminated against Black people for a long time, it's been really sexist, and it's against gay rights." If I'd had more time to think I would have phrased my response a little differently because in fairness, within the second half of my short lifetime the LDS Church has started supporting most gay rights except marriage. It's come a long way since Dallin H. Oaks proposed that gay people should be barred from any form of employment where children could see them as role models.
He asked if I'd ever been baptized and when. I said when I was eight, which is standard for children born into the LDS Church. He was amazed at how young that was so I explained how the church teaches that eight is the age of accountability when children understand right and wrong enough to sin, and if they die before then, they automatically go to heaven. He thought that was nice. He said he wanted to get baptized soon, probably into the Baptists, "Because I, too, am a God-fearing man." I said I didn't know what to believe, and I'd stayed in the LDS Church longer than I should have, because I'd felt spiritual feelings and I was told that they were the Holy Ghost telling me that specific religion is true, and then I saw a video of people in all different religions apparently getting identical feelings and asserting with just as much confidence that their religions were true, so now I wonder if they're all just delusions. He said he thinks all religions are just people's best efforts to reach God and that they can all experience God in their own way. That's a nice thought. "I believe everything happens for a reason," he said.
Afterward I realized he seems to know almost nothing about the LDS Church, so my answer probably didn't mean as much to him as to someone who does. He didn't seem to realize that the LDS Church isn't just another denomination, that it claims to be the one true church restored by Joseph Smith and led by prophets who speak for God. The Baptists have certainly had their own problems with racism, but those are easier to forgive because they don't make such lofty claims. And it's harder to falsify their entire religion by pinpointing a historical event that didn't happen the way they say it did. The LDS Church's historical problems are so damning that it's now teaching the youth this crap in seminary:
There's a sneaky conflation of terms here. Of course some, even most historical details are insignificant. But without others, the so-called Restoration completely falls apart. The term "Restoration" itself is a historical claim. Allegedly Joseph Smith restored Jesus Christ's original church. Either that happened or it didn't. Likewise, either he saw Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father in the woods or he didn't, either he translated the Book of Mormon or he didn't, either he received the priesthood from heavenly messengers or he didn't, either he received the temple ceremonies by revelation or he didn't, and so on. Without these historical details, the covenants, ordinances, and doctrine are completely bogus. And the historical details of social issues play into this too. When prophets are on the wrong side of slavery, civil rights, feminism, and gay rights, that's a pretty good indication that they're not nearly as in tune with the mind and will of the Lord as they claim to be, and that the covenants, ordinances, and doctrine that come through them should consequently be treated with greater skepticism. Especially since their views on slavery, civil rights, feminism, and gay rights were doctrine until suddenly they weren't.
My neighbor is hardly alone in believing that everything happens for a reason. Life is less frightening that way. But even when I believed God was far more hands-on with his creations than I believe now, I didn't share that sentiment. How could I? In four separate incidents in the last week or so, a teenage boy, two college cheerleaders, a little girl and her parents, and a very young woman were shot by psychopaths for making simple and entirely harmless mistakes. All these shootings happened in the United States, but you already knew that. Miraculously, all of these people except for the very young woman survived. I say "miraculously" because it's a normal and appropriate figure of speech, but I don't believe any real miracles occurred at all. I think most of them got lucky and Kaylin Gillis didn't. I don't see how I could accept a God who intervened to save the others but got to Kaylin Gillis and said, "I'm sorry, I have a very important and immutable divine plan that desperately requires you to die at age twenty. This piece of shit was foreordained to shoot you and if he hadn't, I would have arranged an accident anyway. Fuck your parents, fuck your younger sisters, fuck your long-term boyfriend who wanted to spend the rest of his life with you and nobody else."
Which brings me to another issue that first occurred to me years ago when I read about an LDS woman whose boyfriend was killed in a mass shooting. It was in the United States, but you already knew that. Anyway, the LDS Church teaches that the Atonement of Jesus Christ will make everything right in the next life and fix every injustice. And that's a beautiful thing to believe. But I don't see how it could fix everything for Kaylin Gillis and her boyfriend. They wanted to be together. But Kevin Monahan took away their agency to make that choice. Agency is one of the most important things in the LDS paradigm, so why does God let people take other people's away? Why does Kevin Monahan's agency trump theirs? Now Kaylin Gillis' boyfriend could stay alone for the rest of his life and then be reunited with her in the afterlife and still be with her for eternity. But if at any point he does marry someone else, then she has to either find someone else too or join them as a polygamous wife. And actually, because of deaths and remarriages I don't see a way around the polygamy problem for eternal marriage in general, although the LDS Church could make it not sexist by letting women be sealed to multiple husbands too. In any case, their eternal destinies have been altered in a way that the Atonement may not be able to reverse.
The other most famous of these shootings, Andrew Lester vs. Ralph Yarl, is of course making waves for the racial component. Without knowing anything except that an elderly white man shot a Black teenager in the head for ringing his doorbell, I would have bet the lives of everyone I care about that the elderly white man voted for Donald Trump, but it's even better than that. According to his relatives, he's a full-blown Fox News junkie, anti-vaxxer, Stop the Steal, the whole shebang. So of course he's afraid of everything. Of course when he hears the doorbell ring his first thought is to grab his gun. Of course he's going to think that the Black person who just rang his fucking doorbell is trying to break in. Of course he's going to be scared of the size of the Black person who's shorter than me and weighs the same. This isn't me reading his mind, by the way, these are all things he told the police. Look, I've tried really really hard to be politically nuanced and avoid polarization, and I'm not saying progressives are perfect or anything, but the right-wing movement in this country is a fucking cancer. It just is. And either the movement or the country is going to die.
This weekend, for the first time in my life, I did not watch the LDS General Conference. Last time I found excuses to watch it because I desperately wanted to maintain some kind of connection to the LDS Church so I didn't feel that my heritage and my years of devotion to it were a waste, but now I'm ready to move on. Kind of. I followed the liberal and ex-member social media commentary on the Saturday sessions before losing interest on the Sunday sessions. Granted, they bring a certain bias, but it doesn't seem like I missed much. Some of the messages are downright toxic - it causes me some anxiety that my nieces will be taught them - and I think I can find the good ones elsewhere. And of course Russell Nelson announced fifteen completely unnecessary temples for random locations that lack the membership to support them, and of course nearly every other speaker worshiped him. Pass. Still, periodically I can't help worrying just a little bit that I may have missed out on a spiritual feast, like when I text a member friend to talk about it and she keeps saying she fell asleep or wasn't really paying attention, or when I see how absolutely riveted the live audience was by their prophets, seers and revelators.
I did, however, go to a fireside last Sunday in the hope that someone I needed to talk to would be there, which they weren't. I had dinner with friends and tagged along with them at the last minute after they mentioned it. First surprise: the speaker was Jacob Hess. I am not a big fan of Jacob Hess. He's a proponent of mixed-orientation marriages for gay LDS Church members as an alternative to lifelong celibacy, and though he means well, that's just awful for everyone involved. His guest appearance at my institute class last year was the final nail in the coffin of my efforts to accept the LDS Church's position on LGBTQ stuff. He handed out a handout of quotes from mostly non-LDS thinkers to support the church's position - because almost all the men articulating this position have to support it is "God said so" - and it just made me decide that the position was unsupportable. A Catholic quote about how sexual orientation and gender identity aren't essential to our eternal identities made little sense in an LDS context where eternal marriage, procreation, and gender roles are supposedly at the core of God's eternal plan for all of us, and a Buddhist quote along similar lines was unhelpful because Buddhism teaches that we don't even have eternal identities because consciousness is an illusion.
Second surprise: the topic was "Mindfulness and Sexuality." I thought of leaving, but I could use a lot more mindfulness so I gave it a chance. And that aspect of the talk was really good and I had no complaints. Even the sexuality aspect wasn't so bad because he didn't talk much about sex per se. He talked about how romance in the last few generations has been blown out of proportion to be regarded as the most important thing ever that will complete us and fix all our problems and make us happy all the time. He gave a similar spiel in my institute class. At that time, he was clearly trying to downplay the significance of gay people's desire for fulfilling romantic relationships. But now he was applying it more evenly. On the one hand, I think this is true and useful counsel in general - albeit hypocritical coming from a speaker for a church that teaches marriage is the most important thing in this world and the next - but on the other hand, I don't know that it applies to me. I'm asexual and very ambivalent about marriage. If I'm going to make the seemingly astronomical sacrifices that it would require of me, then yes, I expect the other person in the equation to knock my socks off. I don't expect perfection by any means, but nor am I interested in finding just anyone to marry for the sake of being married. I realize I'm not such a catch myself, but if I'm not wanted by anybody I want - as has consistently been the case thus far - I'd rather stay alone than loosen my criteria.
Of course he also talked about the LGBTQ stuff and I still disagreed with him. He shared some quotes from Ty Mansfield and a few other gay and lesbian people who haven't left the LDS Church yet - the usual tactic to reassure straight members that everything is fine and they don't need to experience cognitive dissonances over this issue. For every person he quoted, I could think of a dozen others I'd read about or known personally who left the church because it made them miserable or worse. And that's why I believe the church is wrong. You simply cannot convince me that this pain is the will of a loving God. He also alluded to the recent controversy over Jeffrey Holland being Southern Utah University's commencement speaker despite his call for BYU faculty to defend the church's anti-LGBTQ doctrines with metaphorical "musket fire," and the Deseret News op-ed he co-wrote about why Holland shouldn't be canceled. He put a picture of the First Presidency on the screen and said, "You have to try really hard to make them the bad guys." Cue laughter. Yes, hilarious. Look, I'm not saying they're supervillains or anything, but this was a weird thing to say a month after the Securities Exchange Commission fined the LDS Church $5 million for several years of being dishonest and breaking the law with the First Presidency's approval. And Nelson and Oaks have lied publicly on other occasions. So, you know, they're demonstrably not the paragons of virtue that Jacob Hess meant to imply.
During the Q&A session, someone asked about how to befriend and love gay people without condoning choices that go against our beliefs. Such questions always kind of annoy me because I'm not in the business of condoning anyone's relationships, gay or straight. People are not lining up to ask for my approval of their choices of romantic partners. I've only gotten into it on those rare occasions when I could see that a friend was dating an abuser. Sometimes I check back on one friend to make sure she hasn't gotten back with him again. Well, I liked Jacob Hess's response, specifically how he broadened it. He said we need to rediscover the concept that being friends with people and loving people doesn't mean agreeing with them on everything. He said he's friends with gay people, atheists, Marxists, and evangelicals who are afraid for his soul, and he has lunch with them and stuff and they still disagree but it's fine. He said we should talk to people and listen to their perspectives and why they see the world how they do without trying to change their minds.
Ah, I wish I could exemplify that noble principle. I used to be very conservative. I know what it's like to be very conservative. I want to be politically nuanced. I don't want to be part of the problem of political polarization and extremism in the US. I don't want to believe that most conservatives are truly awful people - and yet how can I not, when I can see how they behave and what they're doing to this country with my own eyes? It seems that for every person driven by legitimate concerns about liberty and limited government, a dozen are driven by selfishness, bigotry, anti-intellectualism, and fear. Take their current mindless panic about transgender children and drag queens, for example, which besides being painfully stupid to watch is actively making a lot of people's lives worse. (The LDS Church's complete silence on this issue is just further proof to me that it isn't led by God.) The Republican Party was founded on noble principles. Now it's just a cancer hell-bent on dragging this country back to the 1950s.
Anyway, I survived the fireside. It could have been a lot worse. It could have been ten hours long like General Conference.
Edited to add:
Watching TV with My Grandpa
The other day I learned about something too good to be true - a free, insanely quick, and virtually effortless way for citizens of free countries, like me, to help Iranian revolutionaries and other oppressed people. No, I'm not talking about liking a Facebook page, I mean something that actually helps people. If you install the Tor Snowflake extension on Google Chrome or Firefox, people anywhere in the world can use it to circumvent government censorship of the internet. Download it here. Do it do it do it. The little icon turns green when someone is using it, and it displays the number of people who have used it in the last twenty-four hours. Right now mine is at twelve. The highest it's been is sixteen. Already I've gotten my money's worth out of it. I also embedded it in the code of my website's footer, so I have no idea how but I guess people can visit my website and then use it to do other things. That one says it's helped one person. Good enough for me. We now return to our regularly scheduled post.
Almost the only thing my grandpa does is watch TV, especially since his wife died, so during my recent visit I watched it with him for a few hours every day. It's nice to just be able to enjoy someone's company without talking. Mostly he watches on the YouTube app, and since the search function isn't working very well, nowadays he just scrolls through the recommendations that tend to fall into a few distinct categories that I feel like discussing in no particular order.
I'm not a fan of Fox News but I stuck around for some of it to get out of my echo chamber. And it's not that I think Biden is above criticism. I'm not a die-hard fan or anything. I didn't even vote for him. I just don't notice a lot of things to criticize because I'm too busy being grateful that he's not Donald Trump. So I didn't mind that, but when Tucker Carlson started bashing Volodymyr Zelenskyy, I had to leave the room before I threw something at the TV. Zelenskyy is eight hundred thousand times the man Carlson will ever be. He has more class, courage, and integrity in the dead skin cells he sloughs off in one night than Carlson will manifest in his lifetime. But while millions of his people are losing their homes and their livelihoods, he had the gall to not wear a tie to the White House and to request more military aid, and that triggered this shitflake. (Really, the US is doing the bare minimum required by basic human decency. It should have sent Navy Seals to kill Putin months ago. I'm not even joking. This war is almost entirely his fault, and he has so little support in his own country that his death would probably end it overnight.) Then there was this other guy with his own show, Greg Gutfeld. He's a jerk but sometimes he's pretty funny. So help me, I like him. I guess he reminds me of me.
This show is like a cowboy-themed version of Laugh-In, which I didn't find funny either. A lot of humor from the seventies doesn't seem to land the same way anymore. This even applies somewhat to The Muppet Show, but in that case the goofy characters' delivery saves it, and anyway they're constantly making fun of how bad their show is and that works as a kind of reverse psychology. This also partially explains The Star Wars Holiday Special, though the only thing that can fully explain The Star Wars Holiday Special is lots and lots of drugs. So when I visited for Thanksgiving I just thought Hee Haw was painfully unfunny with some decent music. My sister and brother-in-law concurred. This time, though, I enjoyed several clips and an entire episode from start to finish. Maybe I was just glad not to be watching Fox News. But I thought the same thing I thought the second time I saw The Croods: Either this show got better, or I got stupider. My favorite joke was when this guy showered praises on this lady and she responded to all of his lines with "Olé!" and he asked her why and she said, "That's what they say when the bull comes out."
Ray Stevens Music
My grandpa used to watch a lot of Home Free, which is, get this, it will blow your mind, an all-male acapella group that covers other people's songs, but he doesn't anymore for some reason. Now it's usually Ray Stevens. Some of Ray Stevens' songs are hilarious, some are just weird, and some are very right-wing and/or somewhat racist, but fortunately we didn't watch any of those. This is rightly considered one of his best.
America's/Britain's Got Talent
These shows live up to their names. Great music and incredible feats abound. I cry sometimes. This time we got a blast from the past watching Susan Boyle. I remember hearing about her appearance on the news in the airport coming back from my high school's Spanish Club trip. I didn't think as much then as I do now about how crappy everyone was toward her before she sang. They didn't even try to hide the fact that they assumed she would suck because she wasn't young and beautiful. People are really awful. Oh yeah, and then there was the teenager that everyone thought would suck because he was fat, and he put them in their place. But then Simon Cowell suggested that he should dump his friend who supported him through everything and just did the duet with him, because he was phenomenal and she was just good and she would hold him back, and she was standing right there pretending not to be hurt. What a jerk. Oh, here's a nice clip that made me cry. I watched it at Thanksgiving but that's close enough.
I've watched bits and pieces of Western movies with my grandpa. When I was there for Thanksgiving I watched Hang 'Em High in its entirety. This time I watched Sonny and Jed (originally La Banda J.&S.) in its entirety. A brief synopsis with spoilers follows.
Jed is an outlaw who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. He also swears a lot more than necessary. Sonny rescues him from the sheriff and says she wants to join him. The second time he talks to her, he's surprised to realize she's a woman, which surprised me because it was pretty obvious, but then I remembered that this movie is set in an era when women weren't supposed to be cowboys. But he also makes a weird joke about her being "castrated at birth" and for a couple minutes I thought he was serious and that it was going to be an interesting plot point. Anyway, as soon as he finds out she's a woman he's like "Do you know what I do to females?" and then tries to rape her but gives up in disgust when he discerns, through some means I don't want to know, that she's a virgin. At that point, for me, Jed crosses the line from anti-hero or likeable villain to someone whose death I'll actively root for throughout the rest of the movie. His redeeming qualities don't balance out this monstrous act. But Sonny keeps following him anyway.
He belittles her nearly every time he opens his mouth, whether he's addressing her or someone else in front of her. At one point his brothel-owning friend wants to buy her and pins her to a bed and tries to take her clothes off, and he just sits back and watches for an uncomfortable length of time before intervening, at which point she's crying not because of trauma but because she loves him. They get married and immediately rob the priest, which is pretty funny. Then there are some more funny scenes of them robbing people as a couple. I feel like this should have been the focus of the movie, but it doesn't last very long. He's nicer to her for a while but then he's a jerk again. Eventually she betrays him to the sheriff, then rescues him from the sheriff (again), then leaves him while he hobbles behind on his injured leg and begs her to come back. Earlier in the movie he told her to walk five feet behind him "like a dog;" now she tells him the same thing.
The best part of the movie is a recurring motif in Ennio Morricone's score with a banjo and then voices singing, "Sonny... Sonny..." Not Jed, which is just as well, as he doesn't deserve to have his name in a song. It's like unseen angels urging Sonny to get out of this terrible relationship. I'd have to go back and keep track of when it comes up to guess at its actual intended meaning.
We took a break from YouTube to watch two of the finest Christmas movies ever made on VHS (ask your parents what that is) - The Muppet Christmas Carol (without the heart-wrenching musical number "When Love is Found" wrongfully excised) and It's a Wonderful Life. They both made me cry. I was a wreck, y'all. The next day, Christmas Day, I suggested Miracle on 34th Street and we looked on Netflix but it wasn't there so instead we watched Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas instead. Then my grandpa just scrolled through Netflix and asked if there was anything I wanted to watch. I saw The Man from Toronto and mentioned that it was funny, so he put it on, and I realized with some chagrin that it's not nearly as funny when I'm not watching it with a bunch of college-aged friends, and this was the day before we watched Sonny and Jed so I wasn't sure how comfortable he'd be with the content, but he slept through most of it anyway.
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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.