Writer, director and playwright Neil LaBute has been producing provocative and critically-acclaimed theater, film and fiction for more than a decade in the US and abroad.
First, let me say thank you to my hosts. I feel like a celebrity. A couple of weeks ago, the Deseret News ran a column in its Religion & Ethics session about Mormons participating in the arts. The author, Jerry Johnston, put forward the theory that good Mormons will fail at convincingly portraying bad people.
No, weâ€™re not talking about the journal Dialogueâ€”weâ€™re talking about lines of dialogue from film, television, or books that creep their way into our homes and stick around for years, much like food supplies from the cannery. The lines that resonate with us can reveal a lot about ourselves and our families.
I know it’s the weekend and blog activity drops way down on weekends. However I thought some might find this discussion interesting. I’ve been blogging about it on my website the past few days, but have primarily been focusing on abstract phenomenological and semiotic aspects of the problem. The basic issue gets back to the whole Sheri Dew Nazi reference. Over on LDS-Phil we had this (to me) extremely interesting discussion of why her comments were inappropriate. Quite a few people I really respect strongly suggested that to use the holocaust as a metaphor diminishes and denigrates the holocaust.
It was late spring in London, and just as the weather outside started warming up, things inside started heating up, too.
In 1940, 20th Century Fox released Brigham Young, an extravagant epic starring Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, a 29-year-old Vincent Price (as Joseph Smith), and Dean Jagger as the title character. The film’s world premiere was in Salt Lake City, and the studio spared no expense in promoting the film. The stars were flown into Salt Lake, took part in a parade down Main Street, and dined with President Heber J. Grant in the Lion House. The film premiered simultaneously in seven theatres in Salt Lake — unheard of at the time — and each was filled to capacity. When released to the rest of the nation, the title was changed to Brigham Young, Frontiersman, and it did fairly well at the box office. Last year, the film was released for the first time on DVD, with a great commentary by BYU professor James D’Arc, and other interesting features. I watched it last night. There are two distinct threads to the film’s plot: one involving a young, stalwart believer (played by Power) and his gentile sweetheart (played by Darnell); and the other being Brigham’s determination to lead the saints to a safe new home in the aftermath of Joseph’s martyrdom. This latter thread has some interesting wrinkles, as it plays up Brigham’s self-doubt as a prophet. As portrayed by the filmmakers, Brigham is not assured that God is truly on his side until the climactic moment when the seagulls blacken the…
My impression is that pornography is a widespread problem among members of the Church. While women sometimes fall prey to its enticements, the overwhelming majority of pornography consumers are men. The perils of pornography are of particular concern for those who work with the young men, but many Elders and High Priests also suffer from a so-called “pornography addiction.” As I have encountered members of the Church who are dealing with this problem — whether as Church leaders or as parents — one thing has become depressingly clear: we are not very effective at countering the magnetic force of pornography.
There have been some particularly heavy discussions here lately, so I thought I’d offer up something ultralight. Now I like books as much as the next person, but I’m not one of you bring-a-book-on-a-date-so-I-have-something-to-read-while-she’s-powdering-her-nose guys. I will, however, admit to viewing some 37 movies in the last six months (according to my Netflix records). Anyway, I was ruminating this morning about the best movies about the afterlife.
About a week ago I went to the wedding of one of my nieces. As I sat waiting for the wedding to begin and watching people arrive, I suddenly had a glimpse of how we look to many who either are not attending church with us or are completely outside our community. In short, we look weird.
HBO has ordered 10 episodes of a serial drama series, produced by Tom Hanks, about a polygamist family in Utah. The story is here. Thanks to Renee for the tip.
We would be remiss if we didn’t tip our collective hat to Ken Jennings, who is setting records on the Jeopardy game show. Many of the news stories about Jennings discuss tithing or his Church affiliation generally. My favorite is this spoof: According to a source within the Mormon church, a team of investigators have started looking into the life of this bright young husband and father of one…. “This is bad, real bad,” our source said. “Mormons do best when they are flying under the radar. At our core we are a fragile, shallow religion. One tremor like this game show thing could make us implode.” Our source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said a fact finding inquest has quietly begun on the Jeopardy champ. “We’ve started to look into this Jennings fellow and we want to know how he slipped into Mormonism in the first place. He obviously is quite intelligent and we normally don’t go looking for the folks who are apt to think things out. We try to weed them out right away.”… “The increased scrutiny we are receiving because of Jennings can only hurt us. Non-Mormons will start asking our members what Mormonism is all about. That can only lead to our people having to wake up and look into things themselves,” said our perspiring source. “We’ll probably lose some of our members. Our net income will go down and the church elders…
I recently returned from a teaching stint in Europe, and this morning I was thinking about a small incident that prompted some Gospel-related thoughts … not about war. Two of my children and I were traveling from Bath to London, and we decided to take the scenic route, which allowed us to stop at Stonehenge on the way. We were all quite enamored with the ancient structure, which I found oddly inspiring. My children (ages 10 and 8) listened intently to their self-guided tour recordings and asked interesting questions. They were genuinely engaged.
Dan Burke speculated, tongue in cheek, on the purpose of the church’s policies against facial hair stemming from a desire to protect members against archetypal authority figures, but the most likely reason for the policy is fashion cycles: the church’s historical acceptance of facial hair perfectly tracks the American fashion trend.
Are police really bringing felony charges against Utah players who (gasp!) painted the BYU “Y” red prior to a game? Apparently they are. This sounds like a terrible overreaction to me. If the news story is correct, someone (a BYU alum?) believes it proper to bring charges against these college kids, that could subject the nefarious Y-painters to up to 15 years in prison. Of course, some punishment for the painters may be appropriate. Perhaps they should have to repaint (under supervision) a few Y buildings that are in need of a new paint job — these kids certainly know how to paint! It also may be proper to make them pay for the repainting costs of the letter. I’m sure that there are other potential punishments that would fit the infraction. But it seems clear that felony charges do not fit the infraction here.
Though the act of aborting a partially-born baby is logically called ‘partial-birth abortion,’ the media refuse to use the term when describing the act. Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby explains why. Yes, he thinks the fact that 97% of editors and journalists at major newsrooms identify themselves as being pro-choice is a factor. Jacoby doesn’t address this point, but most press reports of the clash over abortion refer to one side as “abortion rights” activists or groups, and to the other as “opposed to abortion rights” or “anti-abortion.” Because the media has decided to avoid the terms ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’ because of their ambiguity, pro-lifers would be wise to call themselves “fetal rights groups.” It’s better to be known what you are for — fetal rights — than what you are against — abortion. And in the case of ‘fetal rights’, the media would have no justification to avoid calling a fetal rights group a fetal rights group.
There’s a fun article in yesterday’s New York Times about bloggers. It has some nice observations. Such as: Blogging is a pastime for many, even a livelihood for a few. For some, it becomes an obsession. Such bloggers often feel compelled to write several times daily and feel anxious if they don’t keep up. As they spend more time hunkered over their computers, they neglect family, friends and jobs. They blog at home, at work and on the road. Yikes! I hope I don’t meet that description, at least not too well. (He says as he takes a moment’s break from working to blog). And perhaps the best lines of the article: Sometimes, too, the realization that no one is reading sets in. A few blogs have thousands of readers, but never have so many people written so much to be read by so few. By Jupiter Research’s estimate, only 4 percent of online users read blogs. Indeed, if a blog is likened to a conversation between a writer and readers, bloggers  are having conversations largely with themselves. It’s an illuminating article. I sometimes wonder about the place of blogs in my life and in the world. We get commenters who say that they “need to cut back” on T & S — are we (like) an addictive drug? Are Nate and I and the rest of the gang being “pushers” — “come on, everyone’s doing it . .…
Recent comments elsewhere have discussed the question of the media: Whether it is reporting properly, whether it is politically impartial, and whether the answers to those questions are a problem. There is clearly a diversity of opinion among T & S readers on these topics. This thread is everyone’s chance to air their views about the media. However, I really don’t want this to become a mudfight. And, it has been my observation that people are (more so than usual) willing to speak without support on this topic. So, for this thread alone, I’m asking for an added set of comment procedures to be followed. The usual set of comment policies applies. (No personal attacks and so forth, see here for details). In addition to the usual rules, I would like to keep out broad, unsupported stand-alone statements — “The New York Times always publishes anti-American articles” or “Rush Limbaugh always makes incorrect statements” or “The media always . . .”. So, if making comments here, please (1) make comments relating to particular articles, i.e., “This Washington Post article is biased because . . .” and (2) provide a link to the article in question. (Please link to original articles where possible. Not “read this 200-page-editorial elsewhere for news about the NYT” — link to the original NYT.) After all, if the media is really as good / bad / whatever as everyone seems to think, it can’t be that…
I’ve been hearing and reading about what a great player Kobe Bryant is, since he is putting up good basketball numbers while also defending himself at trial. I haven’t been particularly impressed with that feat. And I just noticed an ESPN column by writer Jason Whitlock that is more in line with my own feelings. He writes: “As good as [Kobe] played Tuesday, just think: If the idiot hadn’t stepped out on his wife and slept with a teenage woman he didn’t know, he might have been even better Tuesday night. . . . These are the dangers of a high-profile, married man sleeping with a teenager he’s only known for 30 minutes.” I agree. Writers should not be making this man out to be a hero because he is being forced defend himself from rape allegations — a position he is in only because he either made a horrendous decision (rape) or merely a very bad decision (“mere” adultery). It is nice that he is able to continue to play well while also dealing with the consequences of his bad choices. But it is nothing heroic. And the best and most admirable thing Kobe Bryant could have done, for his family, his team, and himself, would have been not making those bad choices in the first place.
Darren Roulstone was kind enough to pass along a pointer to an article in the most recent issue of Fortune, which lies unread on my nightstand. The article — entitled “Which Nations Will Go Forth and Multiply?” — is adapted from Phillip Longman’s book The Empty Cradle. The main thrust of the article is that declining fertility rates bring lots of benefits, along with some risks for the future. Longman describes the worst-case scenario as follows: Even more sobering are the implications for modern civilization’s values. As urbanization and globalization continue to create a human environment in which children become costly impediments to material success, people who are well adapted to this environment will tend not to reproduce…So where will the children of the future come from? Increasingly they will come from people who are at odds with the modern world–who either ‘don’t get’ the new rules of the game…or who believe they are (or who in fact are) commanded by a higher power to procreate. Such a higher power might be God speaking through Abraham, Jesus, Mohammed, or some latter-day saint, or it might be a totalitarian state. Either way, such a trend, if sustained, could drive human culture off its current market-driven, individualistic, modernist course, gradually creating an antimarket culture dominated by fundamentalism–a new dark ages… Darren rightly observes in his email, “One has to search hard to find such a bizarre notion. I suppose Longman doesn’t read…
The Passion of the Christ was released seven weeks ago today. In that time it has become: # 8 highest grossing movie of all time # 1 highest grossing February release of all time # 1 highest grossing non-English movie of all time # 1 highest grossing February weekend # 1 highest grossing R-rated movie of all time # 2 highest grossing 7th weekend By next week it will have overtaken Jurassic Park for the seventh spot on the all-time list.