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.
I feel like I was a little premature in writing about Indiana Jones 5 last weekend because if I'd just had a little patience, I would have waited for the trailer to come out and give me more to work with. Now it's out and I think I'll go ahead and analyze it. I've never analyzed a trailer before and I don't expect to do so as skillfully as the YouTube channels dedicated to that sort of thing, but I think it will be fun. For me, at least. I can't promise it will be fun to read. Everything here is either my own speculation or information from official channels. I have no desire to ruin the movie for myself. Director James Mangold did see fit the other day to debunk one particularly stupid internet rumor from mouth-breathing misogynists who claim that Indiana Jones will use time travel to erase himself from existence so his goddaughter can take over the role. This is particularly stupid because he's seventy years old and could just, you know, retire, at which point I would have no objection to his goddaughter taking over the role and starring in additional movies that would at best be great and at worst fail to ruin the great movies that already exist. Good grief.
So here's the trailer on YouTube, but it looks much better on Disney+. The first four Indiana Jones movies aren't on Disney+ because Paramount still owns the distribution rights, but fear not, that will be moot in the near future when Disney buys Paramount. In the meantime I suppose this will be the only movie that doesn't open with the Paramount logo dissolving into a real mountain or a mountain etched onto a gong or a CGI prairie dog hill.
First things first: I'm not crazy about the title, which was already rumored and is now confirmed. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. As much as I appreciate alliteration, I just don't think it conveys the proper sense of scope and awe for an Indiana Jones movie, especially one that's meant to cap off the franchise. Across the titles we have an ark, a temple, a crusade, a kingdom, and now... a dial. But whatever; the title won't make or break it. Visually, I think it looks great and I can tell it will be a thrill to watch even if the plot and the dialogue and the acting suck. Some of the CGI looks a bit dodgy, but with seven months left until release I'm sure it will be finessed further. Most of the cinematography and effects of the movies from the eighties still hold up and feel timeless while I'm watching them, but then the cinematography and effects here are still a vast improvement, more visually interesting with more kinetic energy. This particularly stands out in the shots set closer to the timeframe of the originals - but I'm getting ahead of myself.
The trailer opens with a voiceover from Sallah reminiscing about the desert and the sea, and we see shots of the desert and the sea. He didn't do anything with the sea in his original movies but it's implied here that he had several more adventures with Indy. He had some in the books and comics, of course. I don't know how seriously Disney is taking the tie-in materials. It didn't explicitly purge them from canon like it did with Star Wars. Some of them contradict each other, of course, but unlike the contradictions in the old Star Wars Expanded Universe, I like that because it contributes to the feeling of Indy as a larger than life, almost mythical character. Anyway, the desert shots show a bit of a chase sequence including Indy and his goddaughter Helena and some other people, and then there's a shot of him in New York City (actually Glasgow in costume) even though Sallah doesn't mention missing the city, and then there's a rearview closeup on a couple of divers (probably Indy and Helena) and then an old barnacle-encrusted skeleton is destroyed by some eels swimming out of its mouth. Will eels be the creepy crawlies of this movie? Granted, they neither creep nor crawl, but they're basically underwater snakes, which could present some entertaining possibilities.
Sallah keeps talking and makes it sound like he used to go on an adventure with Indy every day. That's a bit much. I didn't see him in India (actually Sri Lanka in costume) in 1935. Indy's in a classroom lecturing students about some kind of alien spacecraft or diving bell, and it's a nice little lecture hall with rising seats, nicer than his previous classrooms, but this is 1969 and he's old and his students, far removed from the days when they would write "Love You" on their eyelids, probably think he's, like, not a groovy cat at all, man. Then Indy and Helena walk over a bridge in a cave and look down at the outstretched hand of a statue. Then all of a sudden it's 1944 and a couple of Nazis - okay, really they're just German soldiers who may or may not be formally affiliated with the Nazi Party, but at best they're Nazi enablers and that's bad enough - are dragging a prisoner with a bag over his head while a castle explodes behind them. Who could it be?? Then a wide shot of someone running across the top of a train on a foggy night. Who could it be?? Then a rear view of a motorcycle approaching a parked plane in the rain in the dark. Who could it be?? A lot of build up here. If the shots weren't so quick, the suspense would be unbearable. Someone walks between the shelves of what looks like a museum storage room, and fortunately he comes into the light so we can see that he's none other than Indiana freakin' Jones!
Now the trailer does the clever trailer trick where it switches from a voiceover over a bunch of different shots to the actual scene that the voiceover is coming from. We see Dr. Jones up close and personal for the first time since he turned seventy (actually eighty in costume) talking to Sallah in front of what appears to be an airport. Sallah is once again played by John Rhys-Davies. Nowadays casting a Caucasian British man as an Egyptian would probably be frowned upon, but he's been grandfathered into the role. Indy says to him, "Those days have come and gone." He turns away and starts walking toward the airport. Sallah says, "Perhaps - perhaps not." Indy, apparently just waiting for the flimsiest pretext to persuade him to do what he really wanted to do anyway, stops, turns back, and manages a bit of a smile as the scene fades out. Mic drop. Here we see clear evidence of James Mangold's script revisions. Originally, aside from a few jokes it didn't address Indy's age or how he's become obsolete in a changing world. It was just another adventure and didn't serve to cap off his career as neatly as it could have. James Mangold may have fixed that - or he may have been too heavy-handed with the idea. These brief snippets of dialogue seem kind of heavy-handed. But eh, at least they weren't written by George Lucas.
Then old Indy shines his flashlight on a statue that kind of looks Greek except that it has arms and isn't naked. Then young Indy and his assistant played by Toby Jones stand atop the train and brace themselves as a Nazi emerges from the fog, but we don't get a good look at them yet. Then we get our first closeup shot of Helena, looking concerned about something as she runs to the edge of something in New York City. I actually don't watch a lot of the movies that normal people watch, so I still associate Phoebe Waller-Bridge with a woke robot that makes weird innuendos, and I hope this character will be completely different. Now, holy crap, the guy with the bag over his head is tied to a chair that appears to be inside the castle (before it exploded?) and someone takes the bag off and HOLY CRAP IT'S LIKE HARRISON FORD TIME TRAVELED! The de-aging looks phenomenal, at least in the brief glimpses we get here. Some people are concerned that he'll still move like an eighty-year-old man, but I don't think eighty-year-old Harrison Ford even moves like an eighty-year-old man, and if they did use a stunt double for most of these scenes I don't even care. Whatever it takes. Now here, in 1944, is where I think the contrast with the cinematography and effects of the originals really stands out in a good way. It's the best of both worlds - twenties technology with eighties Harrison Ford. (Not to be confused with eighty-year-old Harrison Ford.)
Now we get a succession of quick shots. Voller, the main villain and unequivocally affiliated with the Nazi Party, opens a box as two other Nazis look on. I was only half-joking when I predicted that Mads Mikkelson would be a villain as soon as his casting was announced. A big machine gun turret on the back of the train fires and burns. Antonio Banderas looks up suspiciously as he sits in his humble abode with a banjo and some other stuff nearby. I saw him earlier this year in Uncharted and couldn't help but notice that even at his age he remained sexier than either of the young female leads. Someone walks across an airfield in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot and then Voller, probably on the same airfield, looks up majestically. Young Indy turns around inside the train and gives us another good look at his unnatural face. Twenty-five years later, his aged hands pick up some kind of mechanical disk artifact that just might be the titular dial, although tossing it in here so casually doesn't exactly rectify the title's lack of awe. Helena shines a flashlight over the statue's arm. Indy and Helena fall into a canal with broken Gregian pillars on either side. The shot is too quick for me to tell, but I think they're standing in the water and the canal floor suddenly gives way.
Through all of this, Indy - perhaps still talking to Sallah, perhaps not - gives a voiceover: "I don't believe in magic. But a few times in my life, I’ve seen things, things I can’t explain. And I’ve come to believe that it’s not so much what you believe...." And he leaves us hanging for a moment before concluding, "It's how hard you believe it." This addresses a couple weird details of the quasi-reality that is the world of Indiana Jones. First, essentially every religion, myth, and legend is true. Second, in spite of this, he spends much of his career being skeptical every time someone tells him about a new magic artifact. One has to assume that as a scientist, he looks for the most naturalistic explanation and evaluates everything on a case-by-case basis. It wouldn't be professional to start with the assumption that the Holy Grail is real just because Sankara stones and the Ark of the Covenant are real. But even so, by 1957 he's seen enough to say, "I believe, sister. That's why I'm down here." Now with this line in the trailer he seems to grant some validity to all supernatural beliefs without embracing any of them. He maintains an agnostic detachment, but long gone is the outright skepticism of his younger years. One can imagine him hastening to add, "Sallah, I've been from one side of this planet to the other. I've seen a lot of strange stuff, but I've never seen anything to make me believe there's one all-powerful Force controlling everything."
But before he finishes talking - I had to go a bit out of order to preserve a more coherent flow of ideas - there's a few shots of the ticker tape parade in New York City on August 13, 1969 in honor of the "astronauts" who made the "moon landing." It marks an interesting shift in the movies' approach. The first four don't disclose specific dates, and they remain sufficiently detached from the real world that you could pretend they actually happened without interfering with known real history. The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV series took a very different approach. Episodes were named after years and months, and Indy constantly participated in historical events and interacted with historical figures (actually actors in costume). This movie brings in some of the latter approach. Voller works for NASA by this point and that's going to tie into the prologue and the artifact somehow. Maybe they'll have their final showdown in space, a bold original move that I'm sure wouldn't upset anyone. In a quick series of shots in the middle of this parade, Indy rears up on a horse, Voller's sycophant Klaber pulls up on a police motorcycle that he probably borrowed from one of his fellow white supremacists, a beauty pageant winner looks frightened as her unpleasant-looking driver brings her car to a halt, and Indy rides his horse at high speed. Then Indy picks up his hat and whip from a table as lightning flashes offscreen and he finishes the aforementioned voiceover. Mic drop.
Now the trailer blasts into full gear. Nazi motorcycle, falling boulder, exploding floor, Indy punches a Vietnam War protester, Indy punches a Nazi enabler, Klaber fires his gun into the air and makes parade viewers get down, Toby Jones yells "Indy!" atop the train, a Nazi gets pulled into a motorcycle as something explodes behind him, an airplane cockpit provides a beautiful view of a stormy sky reminiscent of the Millennium Falcon going into hyperspace, Indy whips a gun out of the train Nazi's hand, someone swims away from something exploding underwater, car chase, train chase, car chase, closeup of Helena apparently gripping an old person's neck through the shattered back window of a car, Indy rides his horse down a subway tunnel toward an oncoming train and ducks aside just in time, all backed by the Hidden Citizens Epic Trailer remix of the Raiders March: DUN-DA-DUN-DUNNN, DUN-DA-DUNNNNN! How can something sound so cool and so much like self-parody at the same time? I doubt this rendition will appear in the movie itself, and I have mixed feelings about the possibility that it will. It would sound kind of cheesy and dated, but fresher than an identical repetition of the motif we've heard in three movies already. I can live with or without it. TITLE SCREEN! Meh, I'm still not sold on it.
Now we're in the home stretch. In some wretched hive of scum and villainy, a Middle Eastern gangster-looking guy asks, "Who is this man?" Indy, looking annoyed, says, "I'm her godfather" while Helena, looking perhaps embarrassed, says, "He's... mildly related." Who is she severely related to anyway? Someone British. Marcus Brody would be nice, but for storyline purposes, it's probably Toby Jones' character from the prologue. Now Indy draws his whip, cracks it thrice over a dozen people's heads, and snarls, "Get back!" But in a karmic reversal of his hilarious casual murder of the Cairo swordsman, the dozen people all pull guns on him. He gets a panicked look. They graciously give him time to duck under the table before they all fire at the spot where he was standing. This bit of ridiculousness justifies itself by being funny, but I wouldn't be surprised to see in the movie that they don't really want him dead anyway. I bet they're just putting him in his place before offering him a mutually beneficial alliance that they intend to break at the first opportunity.
Missing from the trailer, as far as I could see, was CIA agent Mason, played by Shaunette Renée Wilson. Not a good look, Disney. Also missing was Mutt, who's been confirmed to not appear in the movie, and Marion, who hasn't. Seeing as Marion is Indy's wife, liked by fans, and played by an actress who's alive and well, she should at least get a couple lines to explain that as much as she'd love to come on Indy's final adventure, she's already committed to a series of bra-burning rallies. And Mutt probably died in Vietnam. Come to think of it, even though this is meant to be Indy's final adventure, and even though every franchise doesn't need to be kept on life support forever, he's such an interesting guy that I wouldn't mind watching more movies about his everyday life as a grouchy old man. I would pay money to see him walk out of a screening of Star Wars and complain about what an obnoxious ass Han Solo is.
Aging + Indy + Andor
Thursday was the first time since 2019 that I made it up to my grandfather's house for Thanksgiving. Although I had a great time, afterward of course I waxed nostalgic and depressed about how those three years have zipped by and how much has transpired within them, good and bad. Back then it was my grandmother's house too. Back then nobody had heard of Covid-19. Back then the girl next door hadn't yet sent the police after me. Back then I hadn't even applied to graduate school. Back then I had zero nieces instead of two. And when all is said and done, back then I was three years younger. Not that I'm old, but I'm significantly closer to the end of the prime of my life than the beginning. After thirty-five, if I'm lucky, I'll spend the rest of my life physically deteriorating. That seems like a really perverse ratio to me. A majority of people in developed nations - not me, I'm sure, given my state of health, but a majority - can reasonably expect to live into their eighties or beyond. So in my view, they shouldn't start actually being old until they turn sixty or thereabouts. They shouldn't start losing their hair or their eyesight or their bladder control until then. But nobody asked me.
Getting old is going to be a major theme of Indiana Jones 5, which is one of the things I'm grateful for this year. Of course I'm being a little premature because it might suck, but I'm confident that it will be at least moderately entertaining and that I'll prefer its existence to its nonexistence. Give me a few chases and explosions and I'll be happy. It will be set in 1969, the year my dad was born. It's going to heavily feature the moon landing and the Nazis who ran the American space program. (On the one hand, casting Nazis as the villains again feels ridiculous, but on the other hand, Nazis are still villains in real life and it will be more cathartic than ever to watch them get what they deserve, which, in case I wasn't clear enough, is death. Nazis deserve death.) I hope it also touches on the Stonewall riots, the civil rights movement, anti-Vietnam War protests, and second-wave feminism, just so the people who complain about everything being too "woke" will have aneurysms when they watch it. But I digress. Indiana Jones is canonically 70 years old in this movie (though Harrison Ford is pushing 80, and is older than George Hall was when the latter portrayed 93-year-old Indy in the highly underrated Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, which shows that at least people are aging better than they used to even if they still spend most of their lives looking old). He's an old man in a time of immense change and upheaval and as he approaches retirement, he's becoming obsolete.
This angle is especially interesting to me in light of the character's origins. He is, of course, based on the action heroes from old adventure serials and was never meant to be taken altogether seriously, yet he's always been a little more realistic than them. He gets hurt and he gets tired while they never did. He's firmly a product of the 1930s and 40s just as they were, yet unlike them, he stuck around and aged through subsequent decades, and that's just cool to me. Meta, almost. And Disney has promised not to recast him or reboot the series with a different actor. When Harrison Ford is done, Indiana Jones is done (even though he's already been portrayed at different ages by multiple other actors - the aforementioned George Hall as well as River Phoenix, Corey Carrier, and Sean Patrick Flanery). So more than likely his goddaughter Helena, introduced in this upcoming movie, will get her own spinoff series instead, and the people who complain about everything being too "woke" will weep and wail and gnash their teeth that this icon of masculinity has been replaced by a woman. I see no downside, though. If her series sucks I can just pretend it doesn't exist. I don't anticipate that, though, because as long as it gives me a few chases and explosions I'll be happy.
Another thing I'm grateful for, one that's actually been released, is the first season of the Star Wars series Andor. Now again, because I have very low standards, I found Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi worth watching, but in some ways they were disappointing. They fell short of their potential. Andor is just phenomenal in every respect - great plot, great characters, great dialogue, great music. It dares to be original instead of nostalgia bait - so much so, in fact, that the first three episodes didn't feel like Star Wars to me and were hard to get into, but once I got used to it, hoo-boy it was great. So much political intrigue, but done better than the prequel movies (which I also liked), punctuated periodically by just the right amount of action. Likeable villains, despicable protagonists, and just regular people trying to make it in the galaxy with no Force and no lightsabers. Great debates and doublespeak and monologues. Electronic music that sounds more modern and different than the usual scores, but works beautifully. And the thinly-veiled parallels to real life give the people who complain about everything being too "woke" a lot to complain about, so that's a plus. I recommend it to everyone because I've seen multiple people say that they're not really into Star Wars but they love this show. They say it's just a great show, period.
Last but not least, I'm grateful now and always for music, my love, my drug, my lifeblood, my precious, my escape from whatever disappointments or existential horrors life can throw at me. I hope and pray that whatever happens as I age, I won't lose my hearing. Which means that I probably will because God doesn't seem very concerned about what I want.
My Favorite Italo-Disco Songs
I got into Italo-disco because it's an ancestor of spacesynth, a genre of usually space-themed music that all sounds the same but in a good way. Italo-disco itself sounds a bit more diverse. I think all these tracks are Italo-disco, but I don't know much about music genres, I just know what I like, so sue me if I'm a little off.
Charlie - Spacer Woman
A classic in the venerable "love from outer space" theme.
Crazy Gang - Every Sunday
This song is either about being abused by clergy or just being bored at church, I'm not sure which. Maybe it's deliberately open to interpretation.
Damian - The Time Warp
An even more upbeat cover of the song from Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Italian Boys - Forever Lovers
I have nothing to say about this one but it's catchy.
Kano - Another Life
I have nothing to say about this one but it's catchy.
Kano - Cosmic Voyager
I like any piece of media with a reference to outer space in the title.
Koto - Dragon's Legend
Based on the infamously challenging Don Bluth-animated 1983 video game Dragon's Lair.
Koto - Star Wars
The most danceable version of this theme I've ever heard. The entire album "Koto Plays Sci-Fi Themes" is great but I had to exercise some restraint.
Ottawan - Haut les Mains (Donne-moi ton couer)
An English version also exists, but obviously Italo-disco should be in French.
RADAR - China Darling
I suppose the title alone is politically incorrect by today's standards, but there's nothing racist in the song.
Radiorama - Aliens
The lyrics are in such broken English that I'm not sure what's going on, but I think the aliens in this case are supposed to be scary.
Radiorama - Vampires
Again, the English is broken, but it's more clear this time that the vampires are supposed to be scary, especially because they're vampires.
Robert Barre - Neanderthal Man
If Neanderthals were alive today, they would listen to this kind of music and be overqualified to run for political office.
Wish Key - Orient Express
Last but by no means least, this one has really grown on me. I especially love how the male and female vocals blend.
A while ago, as I mentioned, I was moving through the interview process to be an FSY counselor until suddenly there were no openings because several sessions were canceled due to low enrollment. As part of that process I had to prepare a five-minute devotional based on a section of the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. So I read through the pamphlet again for the first time in years. I think it teaches good values for people young and old people to live by, but as the cynic and skeptic that I am, I don't agree with every single thing in it, and now that I'm no longer trying to become an FSY counselor I'm free to say so. It's not like anyone should expect it to be perfect or timeless - the first edition, published in 1965, was very different and is kind of a laugh riot now. (My favorite part is "Pants for young women are not desirable attire for shopping, at school, in the library, in cafeterias or restaurants.")
Having said that, I can only remember six parts in the current edition that I disagree with and I'm not going to read the whole thing again, so this will be a short post! And again, it does contain a lot of good stuff. The pamphlet, I mean, not my post. Insert your own quip about none of my posts containing a lot of good stuff here.
"Young men generally take the initiative in asking for and planning dates."
This is true, of course, but it shouldn't be. Young women should be encouraged to go after what they want instead of passively hoping someone will offer it to them. This sentence is only descriptive, not prescriptive, but still it offers implicit encouragement to an uncool status quo and could be deleted without losing anything of value.
Dress and Appearance
"Young women should avoid short shorts and short skirts, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and clothing that does not cover the shoulders or is low-cut in the front or the back. Young men should also maintain modesty in their appearance."
The sexist double standard here is so obvious, it would be funny if it was funny. The reasons this section gives for dressing modestly are to "show that you know how precious your body is" and "show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ and that you love Him." Yet this passage shows what the writers really believe: that dressing modestly is far more important for women because they have a responsibility to help men control their bestial urges. It's nice that they, unlike many people in the church, didn't explicitly state this toxic and false belief, but it needs to be scrapped altogether. Either make a detailed list of clothing that men shouldn't wear, or be equally vague for women.
"Young women, if you desire to have your ears pierced, wear only one pair of earrings."
I stopped believing that God cares about this when I read Leonard J. Arrington’s diary and learned that General Authorities in the 1970s disagreed among themselves about whether it was even okay for women to have one pair of earrings. My thoughts were a. why the hell was it any of their business and b. why should I believe what they said publicly about earrings thirty years later?
Entertainment and Media
"Do not attend, view, or participate in anything that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way."
Nobody in the church follows this ridiculously un-nuanced standard unless they eschew entertainment and media altogether. It would rule out any movie that depicts Jesus Christ being tortured and executed. It would rule out any movie that depicts Joseph Smith being murdered. It would rule out Star Wars, which the local Institute had no problem screening at an activity even though it literally has "wars" in the title. It would rule out any Peanuts cartoon where Lucy yanks the football away and makes Charlie Brown flop onto his back.
"Choose not to insult others or put them down, even in joking."
I could quibble about how Jesus insulted people all the time, but it's really the "even in joking" part I take issue with. This happens to be how I bond with my friends. Without my snark, sass, and sarcasm, few of them would notice that I exist. And in fact, multiple studies have found that romantic partners who tease or roast each other are happier. I observed this principle years ago when Dale G. Renlund and his wife Ruth spoke in the USU Spectrum. They roasted each other constantly and I thought it was way more romantic than the "My wife is a literal goddess and I am unworthy to kiss her feet" spiel I usually hear from LDS men. I wish I remembered all the specifics. I just remember that he teased her about the time she thought it would be nice to frame his stethoscope and then her mother almost died because he couldn't find his stethoscope, and he teased her a lot about being a lawyer, and then he said, "I know, I know, it isn't fair to judge the entire profession based on four... or five... hundred thousand bad apples."
"Homosexual and lesbian behavior is a serious sin. If you find yourself struggling with same-gender attraction or you are being persuaded to participate in inappropriate behavior, seek counsel from your parents and bishop. They will help you."
As I have recently explained, I don't believe that homosexual behavior is a sin because in my observations, for the most part, gay and lesbian members who pursue committed monogamous same-sex relationships against the church's wishes seem considerably happier than those who pursue lives of celibacy or marry someone they're not attracted to. I expect this passage will be reworded with a bit more sensitivity but not really changed for some time. Seeking counsel from parents and bishops is a bit of roulette. In the past, parents might have "helped" by throwing their child out on the street and bishops might have "helped" by arranging some kind of conversion therapy. Things have vastly improved by now, but there's still no standardized training to ensure that parents or bishops in the church know what they're talking about. In a recent study, gay Latter-day Saints said the most helpful thing bishops can do is show love and empathy, and the least helpful thing they can do is remind them of church teachings and policies that they're already perfectly aware of.
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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.