HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!
Thank you all for your kind phone calls and emails. I felt truly loved on my 27th. I celebrated by having lunch with the OCC (Obsessively Close Cohort), AKA my marriage and family therapy buddies. We ate pizza at the Mellow Mushroom (Auburn's best, if you ask me). A friend of mine threw me a surprise birthday party at a nearby park, where my friends gathered for cake, games, and a roast on yours truly, with embarrassing stories provided by my sisters (I'll get you!). At work my superior Roberta baked me a chocolate brownie cake and we had a little party with my coworkers. Charan called with his annual Indian-accent rendition of the "Happy Birthday" song. Family and friends all contacted me. Thanks and I love you all.
Went with the YSA's from my branch to a Young Single Adult Conference in Atlanta. There were hundreds of people there. Friday night was a dance. Young men and young women then stayed over at separate members' houses. We made a late night run over to Waffle House; ironically , we were just debating the sanitary level of the restaurant when we spotted a roach running across the kitchen floor. We just laughed and kept eating. Good stuff. Saturday morning was a series of Gospel workshops (kind of like glorified Institute classes, but on multiple specific topics). There was outdoor volleyball, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a movie, a fantastic testimony meeting, and another dance. Great times.
We followed a spiritual prompting to pull over and help a motorist on the side of the road. He was an old man who had broken his femur, and on his first day out of the hospital his car ran out of gas on the freeway. I was sad to hear that he'd been trying to wave down cars for an hour and a half, at night, but no one stopped in all that time. Just goes to show that one should always follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost. We got him some gas, and when we had some other technical problems, Caitlynn and Tiffany started praying in my car, and viola, problems solved. I had a good chat with him about the Savior (he's Christian) and we gave him a Conference Ensign and a Family Proclamation/Living Christ double-sided bookmark. So all in all, a pretty awesome experience!
I had what I believe to be a rather profound insight from the Holy Ghost today as I read from The Book of Mormon.
"... the people of the church began to be lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and to set their hearts upon riches and upon the vain things of the world, that they began to be scornful, one towards another, and they began to persecute those that did not believe according to their own will and pleasure" (ALMA 4: 8).
Here we have an instance not of the unbelievers persecuting the saints, but the other way around. In our quest to become righteous, we must beware of becoming self-righteous. In our attempts to "be in the world, not of the world," Satan may erroneously lead us to despise the world. This would be contrary to the Savior's example; He loved the world. Jesus associated with harlots, sinners, and publicans. He despised worldliness, but never the world. "He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation" (2 NEPHI 25:24).
The Father is the same way: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." (JOHN 3:16). We ought to be careful to never think of ourselves as better than those who do not share our beliefs. That's how the Gospel of Peace turns into a dogma of hatred, as it did with the Crusades, the Inquisition, the KKK, and the Mountain Meadows Massacre. The Lord loved the world and its people without being worldly, and He's our example, so...you see where I'm going with this.
MOVIE REVIEW: KUNG FU PANDA
In short...it's awesome. This is the best CGI-animation movie since The Incredibles. Clever writing, gorgeous animation, fun action, and stellar vocal work by Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, and...(drumroll please)...Jackie Chan! The latter lends a feel of authenticity to this kung-fu themed flick, but you don't have to be a martial arts afficionado to enjoy the ride. Like The Incredibles, this works on multiple levels: kids movie, adult comedy, fantasy, and action movie. Jack Black is immensely likable and Dustin Hoffman charms. There's even some decent morality and philosophy going on. And it'll make you laugh. What more do you want? **** (out of five).
TV ON DVD REVIEW: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
DWIGHT SCHRUTE: Do you watch Battlestar Galactica?
PARTY GUEST: Uh...no.
DWIGHT SCHRUTE: Then you are an idiot.
- THE OFFICE
TV Guide gives it a 10 out of 10 and says it "transcends genre. One of TV's boldest and best dramas...intensely suspenseful." The Boston Globe says "it surpasses nearly everything else on TV." Entertainment Weekly gives it an A- and calls it a show "you ought to be watching... spaceships or not!" The Chicago Tribune, USA Today...you get the picture. It doesn't matter if you don't like sci/fi. Brushing this show aside for being set in space would be like missing out on Lost because it has a smoke monster, Batman Begins for being about a bat-man, or The Lord of the Rings because it has dwarves, elves, and dragons. The point is, anywhere smart writing, thrilling acting, complex moral dillemmas, and great storytelling are going on, you can bet I'll be there. I've been watching this show on DVD and I love it. It's constantly being praised as the best show on TV, and while I personally think that title goes to Lost, this is pretty awesome in its own right. Fantastic actors, gripping plots, surprisingly intense action, great production values, you name it. While it's first few episodes are fine, it builds steam as it goes on and becomes truly great. Examines issues of faith, politics, war, morality, family, and more without taking sides or providing easy answers. It's also very emotionally impacting. Currently airing its fourth (and final) season, now is a good time to give this a shot on DVD and catch up. Has some sexual material (more in the earlier episodes than later), but it's easy to see it coming and FF it. Edward James Olmos (Stand and Deliver) and Mary McDonnell (Dances With Wolves) lead an exceptional cast. Give it a shot! I'm Jono Decker, and I endorse this message.
DVD REVIEW: MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATRE 3000- THE MOVIE
The Gyst: I don't care who you are, you'll laugh till your sides ache. **** (out of five).
The Full Scoop: Once again, you don't have to like sci-fi to enjoy this. All you need is an affinity for dry wit and clever sarcasm. This movie made me laugh harder than any other film I've seen all year. Mystery Science Theatre 3000 was a cult TV hit in the 90's that spawned this 1996 movie. The plot (not that it matters) is that a mad scientist wants to dominate the world, but first he needs to find a movie so bad that forcing humanity to watch it would break their collective spirits (rendering them easily conquerable). To test his catalogue of terrible B movies, he kidnaps some poor schmo (Mike Nelson) and sends him up into space, forcing him to watch cheap, poorly acted crap (and yes, these ARE real movies). Mike fights loneliness by building a pair of robot friends, and together the three of them maintain their sanity by endlessly making fun of the movies that are sent to them.
This is where the show (and the movie) excells. While the brief intermission sketches are pretty weak, the actual riffing of old movies provides some of the most clever, brutal, and quick humor I've ever experienced. But don't take my word alone for it:
- "Siezes hold of your funny bone like a rabid mongoose and never lets go." USA TODAY.
- "Flat-out hilarious. Provides more laughs per minute than most Hollywood comedies." THE WASHINGTON POST
- "Hilarious commentary. ***" ROGER EBERT
- "May be the mildest PG-13 film in quite some time. Though the robots utter a couple of profanities and there are some vulgar cracks, it easily could have received a PG rating. When MST3K is on the mark, it's a howl. Only a couple of jokes...fall flat. There are more than enough genuine belly laughs to make Mystery Science Theater worthwhile. ***" DESERET NEWS
So give it a shot. The first 5-10 minutes are slow, but then it kicks in. P.S. When our heroes realize that one of the actors in the movie they're watching is the professor from Gilligan's Island, the riffing is particularly rich.