This whole stupid Miley thing

Angela Lansbury

Miley Cyrus was on the homepage of CNN’s website today. As The Onion so gracefully pointed out, that’s very stupid. I haven’t actually seen the thing she did that everyone seems to care about, but I have seen the numerous Buzzfeed posts filtering through my twitter feed. Something about “twerking” and teddy bears, I gather.

For some unexplainable reason, all of this reminded me of something Richard Condon, the guy who wrote The Manchurian Candidate, wrote after Kennedy’s assassination.

You see, after Kennedy was killed in Dallas some people looked to Condon’s book to explain what motivated Oswald. They wanted to believe that he was a disturbed man on the outskirts of American life, brainwashed by other governments.

Condon disagreed.

He argued that  the purpose of his book was in fact to show that the “brain washing” was happening right here on our own soil:

“I meant to show that when the attention of a nation is focused upon violence—when it appears on the front page of all newspapers, throughout television programming, in the hundreds of millions of monthly comic books, in most motion pictures, in the rhythms of popular music and the dance, and in popular $5 novels which soon become 50c paperbacks; when a most violent example is set by city, state and federal governments, when organized crime merges with organized commerce and labor, when a feeble, bewildered set of churches cannot counteract any of this and all of it is power-hosed at all of us through the most gigantically complex overcommunications system ever developed—we must not be surprised that one of us bombs little girls in a Sunday school or shoots down a President of our republic.”

Condon was probably wrong about the motivations of Kennedy’s killer, but his thoughts are still interesting. Just swap out “violence” for “reckless behavior.”

The bottom line is, this shouldn’t have been at the top of CNN’s homepage, or any homepage for that matter, because it’s simply not surprising.

Ben Affleck being Batman isn’t the problem

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My qualms with the Batman Vs. Superman movie are almost entirely personal. I love Batman movies, more than most things in life, but I just want a break. I like the anticipation. I was excited by the prospect of waiting. But that’s just not how the movie business works when it comes to this kind of stuff.

I don’t actually think it’s that big of a deal that Affleck is going to be Batman. Despite some of his film choices, he’s a pretty good actor. It’s kind of an odd choice, but it’s still less outrageous than when Keaton was cast in the ’80s. Besides, I have a hard time believing Affleck didn’t have his reservations about taking the part. He’s been around a while, and has had his fair share of negative press, so I’m sure he wouldn’t take it if he thought it would be embarrassing. They must have said something that convinced him it would be worth it (“worst case scenario, everyone still forgets completely about Daredevil”)

No, the real issue is what the heck is the batsuit going to look like? They’re running out of options. They’ve already done the “practical approach” in TDK and TDKR. They’ve already done the Steam Punk industrial look (’89) statuesque (Returns) MTV Bad-A (Forever) MTV toy ready (Last 20 minutes of Forever) and whatever the heck they were going for in B&R.

Will his head turn? Will he be black? Grey? Or even blue? Are they going to do the yellow oval? Are they going with the classic batsign? A redesign? How tall are the ears going to be (someday we will all recognize the greatness of Kelley Jones)? What’s the cape going to be like? It can’t be a cool fabric that turns into a glider, because they already did that. Will it just be an unnecessarily heavy annoyance like it was in the old movies? Will they bring back the BatNike boots?

After all is said and done, these are the things that worry me the most. I’m not worried about Zach Snider, he has a great eye for stylized action. I’m worried about the script, but lets face it, there are three movies in the history of Batdom that actually have decent scripts. This may not beat The Dark Knight Trilogy, but I doubt it will make less sense than the others. Fidelity to the comic book? Meh. Batman Returns has almost nothing to do with the Batman of the comic books, but its still a cool movie.

In short, lets all just calm down about Ben, and worry about the batsuit.

—P.S.—

This is how I imagine the board meeting that decided all this went down:

[David Goyer and Zach Snyder sitting at the far end of an obscenely large boardroom style table, opposite a young perky exec at Warner Bros. with blinding cuff links and a cigar]

YPE: So, David, Zach, we really loved Man of Steel. It made a lot of money for us, which is, you know, super [zing] important.

DG: Thanks.

ZS: We’re really excited to get to work on the sequel.

YPE: About that. So here’s the thing guys. You see, Man of Steel made a lot of money, but there was one thing the studio isn’t terribly happy about.

ZS: I know, the ending was a little over the top—

YPE: No. No that’s not the problem at all. You see the Rotten Tomatoes numbers are in and they aren’t great.

ZS: What’s Rotten Tomatoes?

DG: Like, how not great?

YPE: Like, 56% not great.

DG : Only 56%?!?! [A woman in the hallway outside faints, a small child in Brundi begins to weep.]

YPE: Yeah. That just can’t happen. The Avengers took in a solid 92%.

DG: Well what do we need to change for the sequel?

YPE: I’m glad you asked. The fact of the matter is, the Batman franchise has always managed to pull in great reviews. Collectively they average out at 83.4% fresh.

DG: Really? even with the Schumacher films?

YPE: The what?

DG:  Schumacher. You know, the films he directed. Critics hated them.

YPE: Who directed what? Can someone tell me what the heck David Goyer is talking about?

ZS: Joel Schumacher. He directed Batman Forever and Batm—

YPE: Moving on. So the higher ups at the studio think the best way to handle this problem is by having Batman be in the next Superman movie.

DG: But, I mean, doesn’t that not make sense?

ZS: Yeah, it’s like, if Superman exists why would Gotham even need Batman. It works in the comics as a novelty thing but I feel like in a movie the audience just wouldn’t buy into it.

YPE: The audience isn’t important.

DG: And plus, I just wrote three Batman movies. How do you expect me to write that character again and not just have it be an imitation of what Chris Nolan and I were doing?

YPE: I’m sorry, were you guys saying something? Anyways, we need to boost our RT score up at least 30% this next go around, so we’ve decided on two potential actors to play Iron-Man

DG: You mean Batman…

YPE: Both of them have great track records on Rotten Tomatoes recently: George Clooney and Ben Affleck.

ZS: I would stay away from Clooney.

YPE: Why?

DG: Don’t worry about it. Lets go with Affleck.

What I think of Utah (So Far)

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My identity is divided between two states.

I grew up in the great state of Oregon. The Beaver State, home to rocky beaches, Elliot Smith, and Nike. I have an odd relationship with that state. Born and raised there, I always felt the need to defend it, like the brother/sister you can tease but can’t stand to see teased by others.

I defended her because I’ve always felt like where you live defines your identity more than anything else in your life. I had invested a lot of time and energy into figuring out my own identity, and I knew it would never happen without embracing where I grew up. So I did exactly that: I embraced the fact that I grew up in Oregon, and not somewhere more interesting like Chicago or even Seattle. I really learned to love that friggin state, even with all of its rainy days.

My senior year of high school things got a little more confusing — identity wise that is — and it reached a point where I felt I had to run away. Cut my self off from the root, so to speak. So I did, to Virginia.

Since the summer of 2006 I have considered myself an adopted son of Virginia. I absolutely fell in love with that state. Orange leaves, college towns, summer thunder storms, fireflies, all of it. I also fell in love in that state. I love the East. Sometimes it’s hard for me to say that I love it more than the West, but I do.

But now I live in Utah, and it’s been a surreal experience for many reasons. Of all the places in the whole country, I never ever imagined I would live in Utah. I used to joke with my wife all the time that we would end up in Wisconsin or Wyoming, but Utah never even crossed my mind. I had avoided Utah, I thought, because I didn’t go to college at BYU. Because, you see, that’s why people move to Utah, because they went to school at BYU.  I didn’t, therefore there would be no good reason for me to move to Utah.

Wrong.

I’ve been fascinated by this whole “journalism” thing for some time now. When I got an e-mail offering me an internship at the Deseret News, my wife and I decided this was the right move for us. So here we are. Salt Lake City. Utah. And now I have a third place to try to fit into my heart and soul. Somewhere new to help shape my identity, even if it’s only for a short while.

I have been surprised though, because both my wife and I have loved being here. The first thing I noticed when I landed at the SLC airport was the beautiful mountains that surround the valley. I can see why the saints thought it would be safe here. It feels so cut off from the outside, like there’s a giant wall blocking Salt Lake from the rest of the world.

We have met wonderful people here. I work with some of the most delightful people I’ve ever met, and both of us have connected (or reconnected) with family out here, which has made it easier to adjust. I’ve even had the chance to meet up with one of my old mission companions, which was something I’ve looked forward to since the day I came home from Brazil almost four years ago.

I love seeing the Salt Lake temple every day. It just doesn’t get old (or at least it hasn’t yet). I love church history, but I was always more interested in the earlier years before the trek west. Being in Utah has piqued my interest in the Utah period though, which has been a delightsome distraction from my usual historical meanderings.

The West is so wide, so open. The streets here are huge which makes Salt Lake the easiest city I’ve ever had the pleasure to drive in. Absolutely everything (that wasn’t built by the pioneers) looks like it was built in the ‘70s. It brings back some weird memories from my childhood, especially the look of the apartment buildings. I can’t explain it, but I can say that Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs hits a different spot emotionally out here than it did in the East. There is something about the hazy dream of the western suburb that I think people who grew up in the East can’t relate too. I may be wrong, but that’s how it feels.

Salt Lake is a very inviting city, and it’s done a great job of welcoming us. We both work downtown so we’ve grown pretty fond of it. I think more so than any other small city I’ve heard of, SLC does a lot to keep it’s young poor people occupied. Free movies projected at the capitol, big name concerts for only $5, and two great outdoor malls within a mile of each other. We stay pretty busy.

Brittany and I talk a lot about the unfortunate stigma that Utah has, you know, because when you grow up outside the Mormon belt you get a little tired of people talking about how great Café Rio is and bragging about growing up in a neighborhood full of Mormons. I think Mormons outside the Wasatch Front can be a little harsh though. This really is a beautiful state, and SLC is really a great city.

Brittany and I had the chance last week to visit her hometown in Southern Utah. I never knew the desert was so beautiful. Big, red rocks that look like they fell strait out of The Searchers. I drove home by myself through those canyons (Brittany stuck around an extra day to be with family but I had to get back for work) and I listened to Joshua Tree. I could swear I had never really heard that album until I listened to it as I weaved through the canyons of Southern Utah.

Besides my appreciation for the history and beauty of the area, I can’t say much about the people. I still haven’t had the chance to get to know many people, besides the ones I work with. They are all great, so If I take them as a representative sample this place is full of kind, intelligent people. We did have a rough experience at a Flaming Lips concert, lots of lame-o’s there, but I hardly think they speak for the state of Utah.

Having said that, I do feel like I’m borrowing all this. It might be a feeling that will go away with time (if we do stay here) but deep down I still feel like an Oregonian son adopted by the good graces of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Utah, to me, feels less like home and more like a fun stop on the way to somewhere else. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.