Friday, December 18, 2015

Toys are from Mars, Women are from Venus

The internet is buzzing about the newest Star Wars movie. Don't worry, I promise I won't reveal anything plot-wise in this post, so all I'll say is that I liked it and it fits solidly into the greater universe while introducing fascinating new characters.

One of these new characters is Rey. You've undoubtedly already seen her in the trailer and floating around a lot of the promotional materials, including this poster:

She even carries a big stick. Don't get on her bad side...

Rey is obviously the center of the film. The poster places her as the focal point, so you don't have to see the movie to know she is a big deal.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Some Thoughts On Shame

It's been a tumultuous couple of weeks in the world (especially if you live in Paris, Beirut, Japan, Mexico, or Baghdad, or if you are LDS) and after a couple of weeks of watching my Facebook News Feed, I have a some advice:

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Pit of Despair

The Princess Bride is easily one of the best movies of all time. This is not an opinion; this is fact. For any plebs who haven't seen it yet, it is a love story that makes Romeo & Juliet look like common street trash (I never liked that play anyway. Why didn't we read Much Ado About Nothing in high school instead?).

Oversimplified plot: Wesley, the hero of the story, must fight to save the love of his life, Buttercup, from her engagement to a snobby prince. More detail is necessary to state my point, but we're far past the statute of limitations on spoilers here, so...

After a daring rescue, Wesley and Buttercup face terrors together only to have Buttercup end up back in the clutches of Prince Humperdink. Buttercup makes the prince promise that Wesley will be returned safely to his ship, to which request Humperdink swears his life. Little does she know that Humperdink is not nearly as forgiving as she had assumed, and the prince's right hand man, Count Rugen, instead knocks Wesley out and takes him into the forest to his deranged laboratory: The Pit of Despair.

Friday, November 6, 2015

10 Ways to Feel Better About the LDS Church Being Terrible to Gay Families

Well, by now you're probably heard: The LDS Church really, really dislikes gay families. So much that they won't allow children who live with gay parents to be blessed or baptized. Sorry, joint-custody families, your kids are now officially ostracized on your behalf. Some people--both the faithful and the faithless--are arguing that this move is actually good for children, because it protects them from being indoctrinated and confused by either their gay family or the church.

This, of course, is hogwash: regardless of your opinion about the church, the fact that other "sinful" family behavior (bar polygamy) isn't similarly punished indicates that the goal here is boundary maintenance on the church's part, plain and simple. And trust me, the message has been received loud and clear--people I care about are genuinely hurting over this. So, to my friends who are struggling with the church's decision, I've come up with a short list of things you can do to feel better this weekend:

This guy got away with top tens every night for decades, so I don't feel bad about doing two in a week.

Monday, November 2, 2015

10 Lessons About History I Learned From Comments on Posts About the CES Letter.

Recently, a few bloggers who are smarter than I am have undertaken to write about the Letter to a CES Director, a document that collects and sums up dozens of thorny historical and theological questions facing Mormonism today.

I don't really care to weigh in on the CES letter in much detail, except to say that the problems it outlines are perfectly valid for discussion, and are, well, exactly as important as your perspective on Mormonism demands them to be.

Who am I to argue with Tim and Bradley?

Instead, I'm more interested in the comments posts like those tend to attract, particularly from the disaffected/ex-mormon side. While I don't think those comments are necessarily representative of exmormonism as a whole, I think I've spent enough time writing about my issues with certain faithful Mormons to shift gears and talk about...

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Does The LDS Church Have Anything To Say About War?

As I write this post, the United Nations estimates that up to 300,000 people have died in the ongoing Syrian civil war. Around 12 million people have been forced to flee Syria as refugees, making it one of the worst such crises of our generation, although not remotely the only one. Also right now there's a U.S.-backed war in Yemen going on, and ongoing turmoil in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, all conflicts in which the United States has played a direct role.

Syrian Refugees

Last week, Mormons around the world gathered to hear their leaders speak the putative word of the Lord at the church's semiannual General Conference. On Sunday morning, as I half-watched one of the speakers while skimming various faithful and snarky #ldsconf tweets on Twitter, I scrolled past a headline about a few dozen deaths in Syria. Maybe it was ISIS, maybe Assad, maybe America or Russia, but it was nothing particularly unusual. But it struck me, because I realized that nobody at conference seemed particularly interested in discussing Syria. Or Libya. Or Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Sudan, Nigeria, Ukraine, or any other part of the world facing widespread violence and repression right now. From an LDS perspective, those conflicts might as well not exist except as destinations for humanitarian relief.

In response I tweeted this:

Monday, July 27, 2015

Mormons React to the BSA Allowing Gay Leaders (or, Idolatry in the 21st Century)

An unedited sample of comments on the Mormon Newsroom's Facebook link to the church's statement on the Boy Scouts' decision to allow openly gay leaders:
"I will as well support the decisions of my Church Leadres." 
"I support the Church" 
"I will agree with whatever decision the church decides.I am a latter day Saint and I love my church and it's leaders" 
"Follow the prophet, that's what I'm going to do!!"
"Stay with the church teachings" 
"Thank full for prophets and other inspired men who lead with honor and authority!" 
"As a member of the Church, I will support their decision" 
"Thankful that the Church is reevaluating what has become a thorn in our side. Have confidence that whatever they decide will be done correctly." 
"I support what the church decides to do" 
"Out leaders will do what's right, for this reason I am so thankful for inspired leaders who do not decided from Truth and right with love and dignity shown to all"

Monday, July 6, 2015

My New Best Friend: Gordon Cynthia Churchill (Written by Me at Age 14)

Update: I originally wrote that this was written around age 8 after I misread folder labeled "third period" as "third grade." In fact, this came from Junior High. I was a precocious kid, but not that precocious.

Tonight I was going through a box of old documents from school when I came across this paper, written by me at age 15 or 16, apparently for an assignment to write about an imaginary friend. It seems worth sharing, if only because the profound weirdness entertains my 30 year old self. I now present it fully transcribed and without significant edits, for your...whatever it is you get out of reading this blog.

Gordon Churchill is my new best friend. He is a 55 year old deadbeat living in a trailer home with his mother Cynthia, his cat Muffykins, and his mom's current boyfriend Antonio. His dad joined congress when he was young, and has not been seen since. He has no job, although he once briefly held the position of assistant regurgitation engineer in a Turkish vomitorium (he never told me what he was doing in Turkey). Currently, he makes his living turning in Pepsi cans to grocery stores, suing corporations for trivial injuries and annoyances, collecting welfare, unemployment, and mooching money off of Cynthia (he calls her by her first name, by the way).

He is aware of his financial turmoil, and currently plans to start his business venture, the "Disco Copying Center," as soon as he can get money to rent space, hire employees, buy copiers, buy a disco ball, and order every Bee Gees album ever released. Says Gordon, "I am confident that the Disco Copying Center will take the fire away from Xerox and Staples, and make me rich!" Says Cynthia, "Take out the **** garbage NOW before I skin your *********** and **** it to the **** before they ***** with your loser father!" Once Gordon starts Disco Copying, he plans to live there also.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

On Freedom

This Independence Day, I've been thinking a lot about freedom. Freedom is an abstract concept and easy to twist to whatever your personal definition may be, but bear with me as I play with the definition to serve the purposes of this post.

Freedom is being free, right? If you are a free person, you can go do basically whatever you'd like today as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. You probably have a few options of what to do today including barbecuing, watching Netflix, going on a walk, and watching fireworks later tonight. In the United States, certain freedoms are enumerated in Bill of Rights. We have freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to petition government, freedom to assemble, and a number of other such freedoms that make America THE GREATEST COUNTRY ON EARTH.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Some Thoughts on (Shudder) Matt Walsh

A spectre is haunting social media. The spectre...of an acerbic right-wing Christian blogger named Matt Walsh. If your Facebook feeds are anything like mine, it's entirely likely that you've come across Walsh at some point. His chest-puffing, bible-thumping, liberal-bashing rhetoric propelled him from being just another blogger to landing a gig on The Blaze in a very short time period, making him a darling of right-wing social conservatives and a sworn enemy of liberals, feminists, and social justice advocates.

However, I'm not really interested in Walsh per se. I find his writing, such as I've read, narrow, superficial, and lacking in empathy, mostly just a waste of time. I don't think he's a troll, insofar as he's apparently quite sincere about his beliefs; he's just sort of an ass. But that applies to plenty of writers on the internet. What's more interesting is that over and over again I see people, many of them left-leaning, sharing his posts. I have no data for this, but compared to other conservative bloggers Walsh seems to dominate social media, both from people singing his praises and others ruthlessly mocking him.

Matt Walsh the blogger, thankfully, has nothing to do with Matt Walsh the actor, who is a national treasure.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Complicating Motherhood: 4 Important Examples to Consider

Mother's Day is upon us, which means it's time for a serious discussion of mothers, motherhood, mothering, and other suffixes as well.

As you know, motherhood is important, but also mysterious and complex, like Jon Snow or a Comcast remote control. To respect that fact, I compiled a quick list of things to provide a more thoughtful and nuanced take on motherhood that is very deep and also important.

1. Mother Teresa: Not who she appeared to be

Not a mother. Not a Teresa. Not for America.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Baptism is Not Wedding Prep for Little Girls

Okay, first things first, my disclaimer:

Beware, all ye who read this. I would like you to read this because I believe it is important, but please consider what you read for a few minutes before responding, and definitely read the entire post, especially if it makes you angry, because this is my feminist rant about LDS baptismal traditions.

Before I am accused of being apostate: I do think that 8 year olds are capable of making the decision to be baptized, I do think they shouldn't feel pressure to choose it, and I definitely think that it is an important step to make in one's religious journey.

I do not, however, think that little girls who are only just becoming capable of making their own decisions should be led to believe in any way that baptism is the last big step before marriage. (Read on, angry reader. Read on.)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Are You Defending The Family Enough? Take Take This Quiz and Find Out!

Faithful Latter-day Saints and good Christians everywhere know that The Family is under attack as it has never before been. Indeed, The Family is in such dire straights that people struggling with same sex attraction are trying to form their own families, often cheered on by governments, scholars, feminists, and (obviously) Satan. This grave, dire, and definitely real threat to religious liberty and Christian values means it is our sacred duty to defend The Family by attacking all who would destroy it.

But how do you know you're doing enough to defend The Family? This short quiz is here to help!

The biggest threat to The Family today is:
A) Gay people getting married
B) Child poverty, abuse, human trafficking, warfare etc, but mostly gay people getting married

Which of the following happy Caucasian families with 2.5 children dressed in modest earth tones is most appropriate for creating an uplifting meme about The Family?

Friday, March 27, 2015

10 Mormon Newsroom headlines we all expect to see (but never will)

You and I both know the Mormon Newsroom as America's real journal of record, but despite so many high-quality press releases descending on its pages as the dews of Carmel, I feel like there are some headlines I keep expecting (or hoping) to see but never do.

Well, if the greatest new organization of our generation cannot fill that need, I guess it's up to people like me to do so using the most important weapon in a non-journalist's arsenal: my own twisted imagination.

-- -- --

New missionary age limits announced: elders may serve at age eighteen, sisters at not eighteen
Church members laud the move as both a step towards, and away from, gender equality

-- -- --

Typo in First Presidency letter results in radical new calling: 'Skate President' presides, directs, pulls off wicked frontside ollies
"We need to discuss your temple worthiness."
-- -- --
(continued after the jump)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Kindness, or Why I'm a Huge Fan of Taylor Swift

At the outset of this year I made one New Years' Resolution, and I'd like to share it with the faithful readers. For my resolution I have chosen two people whom I greatly admire and would like to emulate. My first choice was obvious; I want to be more like the pope. Pope Francis has become a daily inspiration to the world, Catholics and otherwise, making him an obvious choice of a strong, Christlike person whom I could use as a good example of how to live my life with more empathy, understanding, and love.

Four for you, Pope Francis! You go Pope Francis. via

My second choice is perhaps less obvious, and the inspiration for writing this post. The other person I want to become more like is Taylor Swift.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Few Thoughts on Polygamy, Its Discontents, and Its Weirdest Defenders

I recently read a post over at kiwimormon about an LDS man facing some kind of church discipline for writing an essay arguing that the historical Mormon practice of polygamy was not doctrinal. I don't know the guy and I want to be sensitive to what sounds like a difficult situation, so I won't comment more on that, but it got me thinking about the practice we Mormonfolk call plural marriage. For starters, I thought about how much I dislike that euphemism, so I'll just call it polygamy.*

My position on polygamy is straightforward: Not gonna do it. Not now, not ever. If the President of the Church ever personally asked me to practice it, I would politely invite him to go to hell. If an angel visited me at night with a flaming sword, I like to think I'd grab my wife's Legend of Zelda Master Sword replica and at least go down with a fight.

Or just have my wife fight the battle for me. She's pretty great.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The 8 Kinds of Liberals on The Internet

Regular readers of this blog probably know that I'm a left-leaning kind of guy. Most of my friends are liberals, too. So it is with deep and sincere regret that I must drag all of us through the mud as I exhaustively categorize the kinds of liberals I see most often on Facebook, Twitter, and so on.

You might argue that this list is reductive, unfair, and even offensive. You're probably right.

The Watchdog

If a conservative somewhere says something ignorant, racist, sexist, homophobic, or just basically conservative, the watchdog knows and immediately announces it to the world (by which I mean, Facebook friends) with appropriate disdain. Spends hours trawling blogs and media outlets (or at least liberal watchdog sites) looking for links to post, lest you forget for one second how awful, awful, awful conservatives are.

Most likely to post a link from: Breitbart (with scorn)

Conservatives beware; the watchdog misses nothing

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.