Archive for the ‘Mormons’ Category

Utah Pride Parade

Utah’s Pride Festival rolled into downtown Salt Lake City this weekend and once again, organizers could not have asked for better weather. That’s great for attendees but not so great for pictures, so I (again) apologize for how washed out some of these look.

Utah Pride Parade

This year’s grand marshalls were the three couples who challenged Utah’s amendment 3, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Federal Judge Robert Shelby ruled in the couples’ favor in December, beginning a 17-day period when same-sex marriages were legal in the state, before a stay of Shelby’s ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court pending appeal.

The three couples were joined at the head of the parade by some of the Utahns that were married during that 17-day period, many of whom carried signs listing their wedding date and how long they had been together.

Utah Pride Parade

A Boy Scout Troop was also present to serve as color guard.

Utah Pride Parade

 

Two separate groups of members from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints participated in the event: Mormons building bridges, which is consistently the largest entry in the parade,

Utah Pride Parade

as well as Mormons for Equality

Utah Pride Parade

Utah Pride Parade

Both SLC mayors were present: Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker

Utah Pride Parade

and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.

Utah Pride Parade

University of Utah, Westminster College and Weber State University all had floats in the parade, and WSU President Charles Wight sported a purple and white headdress for his school’s entry. (Rear left of photo above).

Utah Pride Parade

A small group of protesters was present at the start of the parade. This man was actually pretty game, standing in the center of the street while the MCs read of his list of persons destined for hell, with parade attendees cheering at the various descriptors they self-associate with. He was then hugged by a small group of parade-goers.

Utah Pride Parade

These colorful balloon blossoms were a very popular feature this year.

Utah Pride Parade

Utah Pride Parade

Utah Pride Parade

Utah Pride Parade

This group performed “Keep It Gay” from the Producers. I wasn’t able to get him in the frame but they made sure to have a singing, dancing, rainbow flag-waving Hitler as part of their entry.

Utah Pride Parade

Utah Pride Parade

Flag twirlers from West High School

Utah Pride Parade

QUAC – The Queer Utah Aquatic Club

Utah Pride Parade     Utah Pride Parade

The final entry consisted of the largest flag I’ve ever seen (I’d wager it stretched from one intersection to the other, but I couldn’t get high enough to see) and accumulated donated money thrown from the watching crowds as it passed by.

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This weekend was the Utah Pride Festival and Pride Parade in Salt Lake City. I’ve been meaning to go for years but my schedule never allowed it but luckily everything worked out this year. The festival itself was awesome. Organizers couldn’t have asked for better weather and the whole event was bursting with positivity and joie de vie.

As for the parade, I couldn’t pass up the chance to snap some pictures. The lighting was crazy harsh and I unfortunately got into a position where everyone was walking away from the sun so forgive me if a few of these seem washed out.

DPP_2024

I was going to lead this post with another picture, since most media coverage of the Utah Pride Parade will inevitably focus on the Mormons Building Bridges group and the perceived conflict in Salt Lake City between the LGBT community and the Mormon Church, but at the parade it was obvious that MBB was a centerpoint. The group itself was massive this year and when it rounded the corner onto 200 South the crowd erupted into cheers.

Also, it should be noted that Salt Lake City was named the Gayest City in the U.S. in 2012 and recently it was reported that SLC has the highest percentage of same-sex couples with children.

DPP_2006

Most of the “floats” consisted of groups of people walking down the street. Visually it’s not as striking as, say, a Thanksgiving Day Parade, but at least everything is vibrantly colorful.

DPP_2007

Also, the spectators are just as fun as the parade itself.

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The Smith’s entry, which featured a squad of rainbow-adorned shopping carts.

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Sen. Jim Dabakis, the only openly gay member of the Utah Legislature, spending time with a potential voter.

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Flag twirlers from West High School

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The Human Rights Campaign, carrying their signature blue equality flag. I love the way the light goes through the flag and makes a mirror image on the ground.

DPP_2005

The men and women of Wasatch Roller Derby jumping in the street. This picture was fraught with problems, the sun washed everything out and I  ran out into the parade trying to capture this guy in mid-air but was too late.

DPP_2010

“Real Men Sing!” I couldn’t agree more, though I would add “…and play Ukulele!”

DPP_2014

The beautiful men and women of Club Hydrate.

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I didn’t catch what group this was (American Express?) but loved the visual of these colorful flags lining the street.

DPP_2019

Fierce!

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My favorite float of the parade. These guys had a whole choreographed number to Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and the colors were great.

DPP_2020

The Moab Pride Festival guys representing. We had a chance to explore this float the night before at the Pride Festival and it’s absolutely chock-full of gadgets and flair. You can’t see it from this angle but on the other side of the fan there’s a rope swing on an extended beam.

DPP_2022

I had to work in a balloon-rainbow photo.

DPP_2001

Salt Lake City’s Bike Share

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dpp_1
I never moved as a kid. My parents still live in my childhood home in Huntsville (technically just outside of Huntsville) which is, as a matter of fact, where I am currently sitting as I write this post.
At 25, I have lived in 5 different cities. I don’t count “moves” that occur within the same municipality. Were I still a child, and therefore subject to the early developmental abandonment issues, I would, but it seems common for college-age students to bounce around a bit which is why I don’t classify Alva Heights, The Bunker and Brooklane as separate moves. It works on principle but also means that I need to find another explanation for my abandonment issues.
But I digress. It all started in Huntsville. Like I said before, I actually grew up outside of Huntsville in unincorporated Weber County. That’s how small MY home town is, it’s not even technically a town.
I’m very proud of that. I love that right now as I look out my window the nearest home is a half-mile away. I love that I can shoot clay pigeons off of my deck and light a fire in the backyard. I love that I can walk outside at night and scream and no one will hear me. I also love that our drinking water comes straight out of the ground. Trust me, you’ve never tasted anything so refreshing on a hot day.
Sadly, however, the constraints of society are such that eventually I had to pass through the mountains (quite literally, it’s the only way out) and go to the city. After 18 good years of camping, horseback riding, river running and mountain biking, I stuffed everything I owned into the back of the Cavalier and headed up to Logan for college.
Under the guidance of my friend Jesse, me and a few pals from Weber High School moved into the luxurious Alva C. Snow Hall. Snow remains, to this day, the nicest dorm on campus but even without community bathrooms it’s not somewhere you can live for more than one academic year.
 
We lived on the top floor (the fifth) which we nicknamed Alva Heights and I fell in with a band of villains there (2 Daves, 2 Bens, 2 Zachs and … Joe and Mitch) which we nicknamed Sigma Alpha Eta (SAH, or Snow Alva Heights) as a joke about how stupid we all thought Fraternities were. This was in 2005 and was the seeds of my 7-year feud with the USU chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon but THAT is a story for another day.
Summer came, though, and with it came Brazil. I try to avoid talking about my LDS Mission as much as possible (my feelings about it are “conflicted” at best) but I can’t really avoid it in THIS post, now can I? Funny story, the other day I was walking with some co-workers and we passed a mobile blood drive bus and we joked about giving blood.
“I can’t” my coworker said.
“Why not?” someone asked.
“Oh, you can’t ever if you’ve had sex with a man,” he said.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it caught me a little off guard so I hurried to say something to avoid a lag in the conversation.
“Oh, I can’t either since I lived in Brazil.” I said.
“Oh, what were you doing there?” He asked.
I’m sure you can see the problem here. All that these New Yorkers know about Mormons is that we have multiple wives (false) and that we hate gay people (well…) so I didn’t want to follow “I’ve had sex with a man” with “I was a Mormon missionary” so I lied and said “I was doing humanitarian work.”
Bad Idea! For the next 5 blocks I had to make up a series of lies about the orphanages I helped build.
But I digress.
 
For the next 2 years I lived out of a suitcase (2, technically) moving, on average, every 9 weeks (not kidding). It’s odd, I know that I technically “lived” in Pernambuco, Brazil. I ate its food, heard its music (forro, absolutely terrible) and walked its streets, but since I didn’t recreate at all there it’s hard to say that I really “know” Recife. I really should go back sometime when I could have some fun and enjoy it, but if I’m going to drop two grand on a vacation it seems like I should go somewhere new.
Either way, I learned Portuguese, got robbed twice, had two women propose to me, saw (from a distance) the most beautiful beaches you can imagine, watched a couple of men die, saw a couple of men already-dead and, you know, added a few more Mormons to the ranks.
I was only home in Huntsville for 3 weeks before I moved back to Logan. My sister got married and moved to Australia, I packed up the Corolla the next day. My mom was a wreck.
 
First, it was the Bunker, a house with an unfinished basement where we stored the piano, drum set, and a lopsided pool table. It was overpriced, cold in the winter and just on the edge of “near-campus” which was murder to our social lives. Not that it mattered, I’ve never been very social anyway (I blame the small town…and by “blame” I mean “thank”).
It was also where the slow and steady elimination of my friends to the iron grasp of marriage began. Mitch got engaged before the ink was dry on the lease and moved out a few months later. Ben took his place and immediately met Natalie (I totally introduced them) and got engaged that summer when we moved to Brooklane. Ironically enough (or was it?) Dave, who took Ben’s place at Brooklane, got engaged next and got married the following summer. At least he made it through a full academic year.
That engagement was no surprise, they had been putting it off over and over again while his girlfriend/fiance/wife bounced around the country for swag internships (ambitious women, ha, nothing but trouble). Right on his heels though were Trevor and Haley (I totally introduced them) and not to virtually every one of my friends from Jr. High and High School. Conventional wisdom would suggest that there’s something wrong with me, I choose to look at it as being the only sane person in the world.
 
 
 
School, as all things must, ended and I began the next inevitable phase of my progression to adult-hood: the perpetual intern. I packed up the Corrola again and headed south to Salt Lake City (Capitol!). I always figured that I would end up in Salt Lake City, there’s only so many options for a journalist in Utah so it was either SLC or head out of state to, I don’t know, New York? Oh wait, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
I loved Salt Lake, more than I even thought I would. I also loved The Deseret News, more than I thought I would, and (fingers crossed) will be heading back there in the new future. Salt Lake strikes me as the perfect-sized city. It has just the right amount of hidden gems (Bay Leaf, so awesome) without being sheer urban sprawl. I’ve also been very impressed with the way the movers and shakers try to stick to what SLC does best without trying to be bigger than its shoes. I always roll my eyes when the USU business students talk about making the Huntsman School a “Top Tier Business College.” USU, and the Huntsman School, is never going to be Ivy League, ever. Most of us are perfectly ok with that (as evidenced by our decision to go there) so just stick to what your good at, give the kids a good education and enjoy USU for what it is.
But I digress, Salt Lake City does that. One example, when Modest Mouse played the opening show of the 2010 Twilight Concert Series, something like 40,000 people showed up. So what did they do next year, book Nickelback? No! They opened with Explosions in the Sky, and it was awesome.
 

But internships, like all things, come to an end and through an eerie display of sure luck I was offered the chance to intern for the premier Entertainment magazine in the country. Even in the beginning, I knew I wouldn’t be there for long. New York just isn’t my city and 6 months was the perfect amount of time.
As far as the move is concerned, I tried to get everything I owned into suitcases which proved “successful” in a way but also completely disastrous. If I ever move cross-country again I’m just paying for some organization (fed ex, u-haul, whatever) to move it for me. At least I learned my lesson by the time I came home, I hired a car service to pick me up at my apartment and just tipped the guy at the airport to handle my bags for me. My parents raised me save money wherever I could, but some comforts are just worth paying a little extra for.
I lived in queens which was less than enthralling. I had two roommates, one in his mid-thirties and one in his early-20s. I don’t think I spent a single minute with them outside of the apartment. Also, there was no water pressure and I’m a man who enjoys a strong, hot shower in the morning.
So when my time was up at EW, I graciously made my exit. Most people would have stayed, waited tables or done whatever it took to be close when the next opportunity came their way. I’m not most people, and as a result I probably won’t get another shot at the “big time” but that’s just fine, I really missed my car.
Plus, I didn’t leave until I got an article in the magazine.
 
How do you like THEM apples?

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I live in Elmhurst.

Here, your location is never as simple as city and state. There is the city, New York. You live within it’s boundaries. You pay its taxes and elect its mayor. But you do not live in New York City.

Where you actually live is a series of concentric circles. You live at a number, on a street, in a neighborhood, that is part of a borough, which makes up the greater New York metropolitan area. I live on 48th Avenue, in Elmhurst, the borough of Queens, the city of New York. The city that never sleeps.

Queens sleeps. Unlike the hustle and bustle and constant flickering lights of its sister across the river, walking home on the cold streets of Queens at midnight or later is a parade of locked storefronts where bodies, obscured by layers, bundle and curl for the night.

My particular corner of Queens is little Korea. Every day on my morning commute I pass groceries selling odd-looking fruit and restaurants boasting specials that I can not read. The church on the corner is Episcopal. I didn’t know there were Episcopal Koreans. You learn something new every day in New York City.

On the subway — either of the two that I take every morning to work in Midtown and every evening back — I play a game. I count the Caucasians. In the morning there’s usually a few. Middle-aged women clutching heavy bags and men in Yamakas. I’ve always admired the Jews. Mormons get razzed for our holy underwear and it’s just a t-shirt that no one sees. I wonder where they work, especially the Hasidics. Obviously we’ve come far enough in our society that a Hasidic Jew can work anywhere I can, but I have to wonder if anyone would take me seriously at the magazine if I showed up to the morning meeting in a top hat and curly sideburns. In the end it doesn’t really matter, as they undoubtedly make more money at their job than I do at mine.

Yes, that’s a prejudiced statement and yes, it’s also true. I’ve always found it funny how people take offense to jokes about Jews with money. It’s usually people who aren’t Jewish who call you out for such behavior. I doubt the Jewish people care, they’re laughing their way to the bank. Is it really offensive to be positively-stereotyped? Do men take offense at being GOOD drivers? Do Republicans really mind being called shrewd Machiavellians? Trust me, we don’t.

I went to the laundromat this weekend. It didn’t seem necessary to shower just to watch my clothing tumble so I put on my laundry jeans — you know, that pair you only wear when your real pants are dirty — a black concert t-shirt, a red knit cap and a giant pair of neon-orange over-the-ear headphones. Why was I wearing a knit cap? I don’t wear a lot of hats to begin with and besides my black fedora — obviously — I didn’t bother packing a lot of headwear. When choosing between two items you’ll never use, go with the one that takes up the least amount of space. I wasn’t about to wear my fedora to the laundromat, so red knit cap it was.

The headphones are a recent acquisition. They were free. I don’t particularly care for over-the-ear headphones. Sure, the sound quality is better, but in most circumstances I find them to be gaudy, bulky, showy monstrosities that the kind of people who like to longboard and collect vinyl records tend to wear. I neither longboard nor collect vinyl records but my ear buds are starting to freak out and if I’m going to be sitting in a laundromat for an hour I want to be able to listen to my music in comfort.

So there I was, the only white guy in Queens, sitting at a laundromat filled entirely with Hispanics and Koreans on a Saturday morning. I have no doubt that they thought I was some sort of delinquent rapist. They had no way of knowing that Carbon Leaf is a celtic-inspired alt-rock band with folk influences. There was no reason for them to assume that my obnoxiously bright headphones were just a poor kid taking advantage of a free deal and I would hardly expect them to understand that I was wearing a knit cap because I needed to cover up my bed-head and didn’t really have another option.

To them, I was a minority. I was a minority in my grunge-rock t-shirt, my pot-head hat and my big, neon, skater-punk headphones. I was Kevin Federline, or worse, Fred Durst. I’ve been a minority before, but the circumstances were considerably different. In that case, I was perpetually well-dressed compared to the locals and their women would offer themselves to me on the street. Partly because my rich white seed would do wonders for their economic situation and partly because they knew full-well that I was a squirley virgin and the sound of exotic women calling me “Delicious” would mess with my mind.

I doubt that anyone at the laundromat noticed that I was reading a TIME magazine. Delinquent rapists don’t read TIME magazine, they don’t read at all. They flip through the pages of the alternative free weekly to get to the back where the tattoo/piercing parlor and escort service advertisements are or they just sit, empty handed, and scowl at passers-by.

I saw this kid on the train the other day, he was wearing a face mask with the image of some sort of clown or skull, or clown skull. He had a curly black ponytail that poked out of a black trucker hat. He was like 14. Part of me wanted to mess with him just so I could pull his ponytail and tear that stupid mask off his face. I’d bet $200 that he had braces, and acne. His name was probably something like Julien, or Samuel and he was on his way to violin practice, or Latin lessons. Every kid in New York has some weird extra-curricular activity. They can’t go play outside — there is no outside — so instead of playing football with their friends or kicking rocks down the road they learn calligraphy or go see a therapist so that their parents don’t have to deal with talking to them.

A while back someone asked me “What do you guys do in Utah?” They were younger, barely out of high school so I answered the question. I told them that I do a lot of mountain biking and camping, that we hike and horseback ride. I’ve been through this game enough times that I’ve learned to always start with the activities that your interrogators have likely never experienced. If I was a recreation para-glider, I would lead with that.

“What do you guys do?” I asked. This is when the horrible person within me started to rise to the surface. These kids were middle-class Queens Hispanics. They lived within miles of Broadway, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and some of the finest dining in America. By virtue of my profession I had probably had more “New York Moments” in 4 months than these kids had in several years growing up in THE city. “Well,” she said. “Everything is so expensive, we usually just end up going to someone’s house to watch a movie or play Rock Band.”

My natural reaction to this would be to cock my eyebrow, say “Good thing you don’t live in Utah,” and walk away like a B.A. from an explosion. I did not. I smiled and said “Cool, Rock Band is fun” and then changed the subject by asking what movies they had seen lately. I take this as a sign that I’m beginning to grow up. Either that or my subconscious was afraid that even though I was at a religious function, if I got too smart someone would knife me. They do that in New York, knife people, at least that’s what I’ve been conditioned to believe my whole life. In New York, people knife you. In Wisconsin, they offer you doughnuts. In Japan, they bow and in Germany they yell and punch you in the face. No matter where you are, though, you can change the subject by asking what movies they’ve seen lately. Everybody likes to talk about movies and besides McDonald’s, Hollywood is America’s chief global export.

So there I was, sitting at the laundromat in Queens, watching my clothes tumble. I know for a fact that they thought I was some screwed up punk. Why else would a dumb white-boy be sitting at a grimy laundromat in Queens in big neon headphones and a knit cap. Yes, it was prejudiced of them and this is prejudiced of me. That’s life, we all kind of suck sometimes.

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* note: While I always try to write my posts to have diverse readability, some topics inherently stem from my personal experience in my heavily LDS-saturated community.

*note #2: I have volumes that I wish I could say about this subject but am constrained by size. As such, this post comes off a bit choppy but I would love to discuss the subject further if anyone is interested.

I was going to put up a red Restricted screen to be more eye-catching but I didn’t want to mislabel this post (or my blog as a whole for that matter). Wood’s Stock is definitely PG-13. I would like to believe that some of the subject material (pornography, homosexuality, politics, just to name a recent few) go above those that are agedly challenged, but I hardly think that you need to be accompanied by an adult to read it.

As an avid consumer of entertainment with an emphasis in film, I have been involved with many conversations regarding the MPAA rating’s system. It’s not often that I hear someone praising the MPAA, rather, these chats tend to stem from a variation of

“Man, ______ should not have been rated R.”

Sometimes it’s a would-be fan upset that he will not be able to see a certain film. Other times it takes the form of a more liberal viewer defending their choice for watching a certain film.

I like to call it The Matrix Effect.



According to the MPAA, The Matrix is “rated R for sci-fi violence and brief language.” Essentially, there is non-stop death and destruction but no nudity and little swearing. The two big movie-no-nos of mainstream Mormonism: Boobies and F-Bombs.

Never mind the fact that Neo and his team of protagonists are essentially terrorists (In multiple scenes they either gun down or flying-kick-to-the-face dozens of innocent police officers), but it also presents an alternate reality where human beings have literally cast a shadow over the earth and are farmed for the energy our bodies produce by self-aware machines. On the sub-textual level, it calls to mind themes of ignorance vs knowledge, governmental oppression, righteous rebellion and the corruptive force of power.

Heavy stuff right?

Back when this came out I was a child, and my parents were well within their parental rights to say “No R.” Now, however, I am an adult (as are most of my associates) and yet I still hear the same cries. “That shouldn’t be rated R.”

The problem: MPAA ratings are not intended to be a perfect fit to Mormon standards of decency.

The Sub-Problem: Most members of the LDS church have created a filter in their mind that divides movies into two categories. PG-13=”Good” and R=”Naughty”

The system works splendidly for most Mormons, but creates a problem for those few that are somewhat cultured. I remember the agony of being forced to sit through “She’s The Man” by a girlfriend because it was her “favorite movie.” I suppose if you’d never seen Slumdog Millionaire, Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan, Crash, or The Shawshank Redemption then Amanda Bynes might actually seem like a decent actress.

But here’s where it gets tricky. “The Notebook,” that sobfest that every girl clings to like it’s scripture, is rife with pre-marital sex, adultery, and infidelity: BIG no-no’s in Utah. Why then has every good mormon girl seen it when they haven’t seen “Amelie”? or “The King’s Speech?” Because Notebook, despite toeing the line incessantly, has neither Boobies nor F-Bombs. It is therefore “Good” while the darling french “Amelie” is Naughty and the true-story of King George is “Obsene”

History time. Back in the day Hollywood was getting into a lot of heat for showing indecent things so in 1930, studios adopted the Motion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hayes Production Code. It was, in essence, a list of things that could not be shown in films in order to avoid promoting wickedness. They ranged from the physical (no kissing for more than 3 seconds) to the subjective (the bad guy can never, EVER, win).

It was to movies what the Jewish laws of the sabbath had become around the beginning of the Christian Era (you know, the tie your shoe with one hand stuff).

If you’ve ever seen an old black and white and been completely confused (for example, A Streetcar Named Desire) this is why.



After decades of this, writers and directors got tired of having their hands tied and said “FORGET IT.” They adopted the MPAA ratings code and essentially told the American public “If you don’t like what’s in the movie, DON’T SEE IT.”

A novel idea, no?

Back to today. Her’s the definition of an R rating, as noted on the MPAA website.

“An R-rated motion picture, in the view of the Rating Board, contains some adult material. An R-rated motion picture may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements, so that parents are counseled to take this rating very seriously.”

And let’s look at this statement about ratings in general, from the same site.

“Movie ratings provide parents with advance information about the content of films, so they can determine what movies are appropriate for their young children to see. Movie ratings do not determine whether a film is “good” or “bad.””

There’s many reasons why a film will land an R. People love to point out the more easily recognizable examples like “Only 1 F-bomb” or “Illegal drug use” but what they forget is that “Adult material” is not synonymous with porn. There was talk about rating “The Dark Knight” R due to its themes of anarchy, betrayal, corruption, brutality, general despair, and the capacity of every man to be both Evil and Great. My mother, who’s well over the 17-year-old limit of seeing a movie by herself, finds Dark Knight too dark for her taste. She’s seen it, and will fully admit that it’s a great movie, but she chooses not to watch again because it chills her.



No Boobies, no F-Bombs, just some heavy stuff. Heavy stuff that a parent should think twice about before taking their young children.

So, my point to end all of this. The motion picture ratings were never intended to be black and white, but merely a general recommendation and indication of what could be expected to show up on the screen. As such, they should not be treated as black and white, end-all authorities on what you can an can not watch. Most of the greatest films ever made are Rated R, films that educate, inspire, and change your perception of the world. At the same time, some of the most insipid intellectual trash ever conspired has been PG-13, or even PG (Monkeybone comes to mind, but there’s better examples)

Take each movie case by case, educate yourself on what it contains, and decide for yourself based on your values whether you will or will not watch. Then, afterwards, leave people alone who choose differently.

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I haven’t ranted in a while, and since July registered alarmingly LOW viewership on Wood’s Stock I get the impression that I need to break up the reviews with a few cans of crazy out of my deranged mind.

Last month I went to a concert downtown. It was the quintessential free outdoor summer-time show that bleeds Americana. I hadn’t been to a concert yet so I figured that as unimpressive as the roster sounded (Allred, really? Why do we as consumers allow this person to continue performing?) I’d throw on some flip flops and a t-shirt and go get my summertime on.

I should’ve stayed home.

Besides the fact that the talent was utterly forgettable, I realized soon after arriving that the event was being hosted by Fight The New Drug.

For those of you who haven’t spent a lot of time around predominantly LDS college campuses in Utah, FTND is a anti-pornography club who’s mission is to “raise awareness” about the dangers of pornography.

I remember a marketing class I had once where we were all assigned into groups and given the task of raising $1,000 for charity. We had to turn in mission statements and my professor said that if anyone stated their mission as “raising awareness” he would fail us on the spot. Rightly so.

“Raising Awareness” is one of those good sounding yet innocuous phrases that actually mean nothing. As my professor pointed out, it is an un-quantifiable goal. Unless you plan on going door-to-door both before and after your project/event to quiz everyday citizens on their awareness of a particular group/topic there’s no way of knowing if you were successful.

Which brings me back to FTND. They don’t care that their battle is un-winnable because they have no intention of actually winning a battle. Between acts a group of 7 20-something men came out on stage and shouted into a microphone “I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH PORNOGRAPHY” (intended as a pun, not a confession. They have a “problem” with it, get it?) amid a chorus of cheers from a mostly female crowd.

It was a pure exercise in futility. What’s more, it was one of the most blatant displays of a desired ego massage that I’ve ever seen. Here you had 7 unremarkable men who’s primary skill set involve the ability to attend classes on time with 17,000 peers and how to make a symmetric faux-hawk using OTC hair product. These men had never been cheered, and yet here they were receiving the adulation of 3,000 people simply by putting on a club t-shirt and standing on stage, declaring themselves “better” than the New Drug.

I’m sure somewhere in the crowd were 7 girls, brought to the event as dates, who were lucky enough to see their men taking a stand against a multi-billion dollar industry that degrades women and brings out the prurient instincts of men.

It’s a ploy for attention, pure and simple.

Standing in front of 3,000 Mormons and saying “Pornography Sucks” is the Cause-al equivalent of taking candy from a baby. It’s the same as holding an event where the message is “Cancer Sucks,” or “We hate racism,” or “Democracy is good.”

They weren’t raising money for an anti-pornography campaign. They weren’t rallying behind a politician who had pledged to destroy the porn industry. They were merely putting on a pair of skinny jeans, spritzing some cologne and screaming “HEY, PORN IS BAD” to a crowd made up of some of the most conservative youth in the country.

So, FTND club, thank you for a forgettable evening and forgive me if your useless attempts made little to no effect on my level of “awareness.” Try actually DOING something next time.

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By now you all know what “The Book of Mormon” is, where it comes from and what it is about. I will not waste any time on exposition suffice to type a single obligatory statement: for the sake of this review I am referring to the hit broadway musical “The Book of Mormon” and not the volume of scripture used by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of the same name.

Shortly after my trip to New York, still on a naughty-puppet high from seeing Avenue Q, I rushed to Amazon.com to take advantage of the TBOM soundtrack for $2.99 (with digital booklet). That price has since returned to a more customary $10.99 so my apologies to all of you who missed out.

TBOM has received critical praise, boat-loads of awards and accolades far and wide. It has been heralded as “revolutionary” and, especially where I’m from, created no small uproar for it’s “lewd” “crass” “offensive” “vulgar” “disgusting” lyrics.

I am here, an unapologetic Mormon man, siding with the former. TBOM is extraordinary. I remember one reviewer saying that if anyone stands to be offended, it’s the Ugandans.

While the lyrics are blatantly explicit, the fact remains that the songs are entertaining and at time heartwarming. I literally got goosebumps listening to “I Believe,” the Act III opus that finds the at-times-downtrodden Elder Price triumphantly proclaiming his faith as he marches alone into the camp of a tyrannical warlord.

It wasn’t the only time. I laughed-out-loud listening to “Baptize Me,” as awkward Elder Cunningham and a female Ugandan prepare for the defining moment of any missionaries experience abroad: the first baptism. The humor comes from the lyrics taking on a double-entendre as the two get excited for their “first time” and Cunningham explains that he will “hold her like this” and “lower her down” and then screams triumphantly “I baptized you GOOD.”

It’s hilarious, ESPECIALLY if you’ve actually been a missionary. The awdward, sex-starved, two-year famine where recreation of any kind is a sinful waste of time and the slightest mis-thought sends you through a shame spiral where you question your own self worth. My companions and I would do a “Dança do Batismo” or “Baptism Dance” after every such ceremony once we were alone in our apartments.

And that, in essence, is the pure genius of TBOM. It is undeniably crude and vulgar but it is also excruciatingly spot-on in its portrayal of Mormon culture and Mormon missionary life. From “Hello” which portrays the mundane torture of Missionary Training Center exercises to “Turn It Off” which pokes fun at the cognitive dissonance that so many Mormons, struggling with their own weaknesses, feel but have been raised to never voice.

The creators take some creative license in some minute details but they are fully within their right as story tellers and the small comedic deviations do not detract from the overall level of accuracy that even a team of lifetime Mormons would have trouble reproducing with the amount of doctrinal variation from one tithe-payer to another.

The score has its weak points. I didn’t care too much for “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” and “Joseph Smith American Moses” is just an avenue for the Southpark Creators to spray vulgarity at you. In a different vein “Man Up” is just an annoying song, skip it entirely. At times it seems like Trey Parker and Matt Stone are trying a little too hard to swim against the stream and stretch the line between crisp social commentary and cheap laughs a little too far.

For the curious among you who are slightly faint of heart, stick to “Hello,” “Baptize Me” “You and Me” “Turn it Off” “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” “I Believe” and “I Am Africa.” You’ll get the occasional expletive but nothing more than the typical modern Pop album and with a good sampling of the production as a whole.

That said, nothing in this album comes close to approaching the level of offense of some modern Rap albums that seem to make their money off of degradation of women. These are dirty jokes for laughs, the kind that your uncle tells at Christmas, drawing a slap on the shoulder from your mother even though she’s hiding back a smile.

In the end, we have a creatively ingenious effort that occasionally misses but mostly hits the bullseye over and over again. TBOM pulls an often-misunderstood religion out of obscurity under the guise of poking fun, but instead presents it in a heartwarming, uplifting, and outright hilarious light.

Oh yeah, and the digital booklet is fantastic.

Download this: “Baptize Me” “I Believe”
Grade: B*

*note, this grade applies ONLY to the music and not the overall stage production of TBOM as staging, acting, and inter-musical dialogue create a more enhanced experience

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