Monday, February 16, 2015

Celebrating Presidents Day by Ranking Presidential Portraits

One day you will die and be forgotten.

Sorry, not a very good introduction. Let me try again.

Happy Presidents Day! Officially celebrated as George Washington's birthday, P-day is the day when we celebrate...having a president and being American, I guess. Or having the day off if you're a banker or a government employee. Or having to put out inventory and work harder if you're in retail.

Anyway, one day you will die and be forgotten.

But not if you're an American President! Then, you'll be forever immortalized by an official portrait, which will be hung forever in the hallowed halls of...the White House, I assume? The point is, some portraits are really good. Some are not. Here's a list dedicated to counting down the ten best and worst.

The Best Presidential Portraits

10. Thomas Jefferson

Simple, elegant, and also is it weird that I kind of think Jefferson looks a little like Liam Neeson here? Is that just me? Yes? Okay, fine. Moving along.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sleater-Kinney Is A Great ROCK Band. Here's Why.

About a week ago I saw Sleater-Kinney at The Depot in Salt Lake City. The rock-punk* trio played a helluva show--only their third after a nine-year hiatus--and I'm going to tell you why, if you don't already know them, they should be one of your favorite bands right now.

Meet your new favorite band. Carrie Brownstein (of Portlandia fame) on guitar/vocals, Janet Weiss on drums, Corin Tucker on guitar/vocals.

For one thing, Sleater-Kinney is awesome because they're all-female and unapologetically feminist. Check out this interview for a taste of that. Second, they ROCK. Third, analysis is stupid so just listen to these songs:

1. No Cities to Love

The lead single from their latest album of the same name, this is a good intro to Sleater-Kinney because it features some celebrities. The song is hella catchy, too.

Monday, January 19, 2015

On The Legend of Korra and Avatar: The Last Airbender

A little while back the wonderful Nickelodeon cartoon The Legend of Korra ended its four-year run. Korra and its predecessor, the equally fantastic Avatar: The Last Airbender, represent high points in American animation and kids/young adult entertainment that can, and should also be appreciated by adults. Plenty has already been written about Avatar's boisterous energy and Korra's nuanced female characters and rich animation, so instead I want to talk about some of Korra and Avatar's larger political themes. I think both stories, taken as a whole, have useful things to say about modernity, (lack of) control, and the usefulness of being able to lob enormous boulders at your enemies with the flick of a wrist.

For people who haven't watched the shows (you really should), I'll address some minor spoilers that mostly amount to "the good guys win." Hopefully you feel inspired to seek out and watch both Avatar and Korra when I'm finished.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Songs of Mormonism, Part I

We're happy to welcome EOR to the fold here at Expert Textperts. We're still not sure exactly why anybody would want to besmirch their good name by writing here, but we're not going to complain.

The other night I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole and somehow (don’t ask me because I couldn’t tell you) I wound up at the 1982 Tony Awards performance of “And I am Telling You” from Dreamgirls. The scene itself is of course designed to evoke powerful emotion on poor Effie’s behalf—what that emotion is must be determined by the viewer.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Something for your Stocking: An Expert Textperts Christmas Quickie

The Expert Textperts are all busy with family, friends, and...their work (inside joke!), so creating an in-depth Christmas post tonight is a tall order. Instead, as a Christmas offering, I present the following, which is adapted from a narration I wrote for our ward's Christmas program last Sunday. This means it will be a lot less sarcastic than you may be used to seeing here--for that, I apologize in advance. Merry Christmas from your favorite political-philosophical-vaguely-LDS-themed blog!

There's a Primary song that asks: "How could the Father tell the world of love and tenderness?" There is no message humanity needs to hear more than this--to love one another, to love their Father in Heaven, to learn how to return home to him. Generations of men and women have lived on this earth without knowing where to find this love. They have lived in darkness, never knowing the light--kept captive by sin and ignorance. However, as often happens with the most profound problems, the answer was found in the least likely place; in this case, the birth of a tiny baby in a manger. And though the birth of every baby is a miracle, this one was particularly important, for that child was the Son of God, the prophesied Emmanuel--the Lord Jesus Christ.

"O come, o come, Emmanuel/ And ransom captive Israel." “Emmanuel” comes from Hebrew, and means “God is with us”--a fitting title, then, for the Son of God. It is first spoken of in the scriptures by the prophet Isaiah, who lived several centuries before the birth of the Savior. Isaiah was a man of righteousness, one of the great prophets spoken of in the Old Testament; and like all prophets in the scriptures, he looked forward to the glorious day when the Son of God would live among men and women, healing the sick, raising the dead, and restoring his gospel. In his writings, Isaiah gave his people hope in the deliverance that was to come. He wrote:

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

He also wrote,

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

That same hope and excitement that was felt so keenly by Isaiah was echoed in the exultation of the angels, and the joy of the shepherds with whom they shared the blessed news of the birth of Christ.

The Gospel of John, however, declares, “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” In these words, we find a theme that can be traced throughout the entire life of the Savior. At his birth, the humble glorified and blessed him, while the proud took no heed of what was, to them, just another impoverished child. In his life, the obedient heard his words and followed his ministry, while the apathetic and the self-important alike ignored him or, worse, reviled him. In his death, the righteous mourned while the wicked mocked. In his resurrection, the daughters and sons of God found hope everlasting and peace to their souls, while the men and women of the flesh saw only another moral obstacle on the road to immorality. Today, some two thousand years later, Christmas can be a time for each of us to ask ourselves--if I were one of Bethlehem’s shepherds on that lonely night, or one of the wise kings from far-off lands, would I have rejoiced at the birth of this child? If he were born today, would I still sing his praise?

The birth of the savior was glorious in what it portended; the life of the savior was magnificent in what it presented; and the death and resurrection of the savior was inexpressible in what it demonstrated. Well do the words of the prophet Nephi take special meaning this time of year:

“And he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hi, I'm Infertile

Living with infertility is not something I planned on as a child. I knew life would occasionally be less than perfect, but I only ever thought I'd end up with really bad bouts of strep throat or pink eye (my worst enemies in those younger years).

It's not all bad. I mean, there are times when everything is wonderful. In these moments, I have all the hope in the world that everything will work out perfectly and soon I'll have new, simpler worries to deal with.

There are other moments when that vision crashes on my head as if to say, "Don't plan on it."

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Race, Police, and Other Bad News

If you're the type who follows the news, then you might have noticed that things seem a little down lately. Times may be confusing and depressing, but fear not: Expert Textperts is here as always to explain the most important going-ons goingses-on things happening in your world today. Here's your news update for December 2014.

Now with 500% more image captions

Saturday, November 22, 2014

For and In Behalf Of: A New Skin (Part 2)

This is a continuation of a piece I have been posting. For the first part of this scene, click here. To start at the beginning, read Scene 1. Also, this portion includes a video from rehearsal to show some choreography for the piece. Soon, I will add a similar video for the second half of Scene 2.

AllanFor all her service, talents, and leadership, because she was a woman, my grandmother would never be ordained to the priesthood. Not in the regular operations of the LDS Church, anyway. But in the temple and in the covenants my grandmother wore to her death, she wore the power of the priesthood and acted in its authority.

[Enter B and F]

Allan: But I think I would like you to learn about that from two women who have often been close to my family. This is Sister Kelley and Sister Jensen.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Weirder Side of Evangelizing: A Journey Through a Jack Chick Comic Book

Late last week, while making my commute to class, I stopped at a gas station and found a Jack Chick comic stuck in a crack in the gas pump. If you haven't heard of Chick before, you very well may have seen his work, as he and his company create comic book tracts for Evangelical Christians that are:

a.) commonly handed out or left in public areas by, I'm sure, well-meaning people; and
b.) crazier than a sloth with syphilis.

Some of my personal favorites in his oeuvre include a scathing denunciation of that great abomination of the 20th century, Dungeons and Dragons; the classic "This Was Your Life," in which all of a man's sins are shown on a theater screen in heaven, including that time he checked his watch during church; and the ominously titled "The Visitors," in which a brave Christian girl tells her maiden aunt/strict librarian/Sarah Palin? that Mormonism is...well, take a look for yourself:
I am so looking forward to's upcoming Gospel Topics essay on Baal worship.
Seeing this comic book gave me two immediate thoughts. One, leaving a tracting pamphlet in a gas pump is only one passive-aggressive step removed from leaving an anonymous note on your neighbor's windshield saying, "Hey friend, heard you weren't baptized! That's cool, nothing wrong with that, but you're totally going to hell. I love what you did with your yard!" Two, that I must take this pamphlet, read it, and share it with all of you, for the good of all the Internet.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

For and In Behalf Of: A New Skin (Part 1)

This is a continuation of the performance piece I have written. I invite you to read Scene 1: In the Beginning... and Scene 2: The Fall if you have not yet done so.

III. A New Skin

[With lights out, projection reads: “III. A New Skin”. Lights rise on female figure]

D: I don’t care what anyone says: Clothes make the man. Naked people often have little to no influence in society.

[Projection reads: “I don’t care what anyone says: Clothes make the man. Naked people often have little to no influence in society.”  – Mark Twain, 1905]

D: Mark Twain, 1905

[Light fades on D. D exits and Allan re-enters. Lights up on Allan]