Sunday, May 21, 2017

God's Army 2: States of Grace (2005): A Review

From the morass of products of most questionable quality that is LDS cinema, the work of Richard Dutcher juts upward like a monumental rock face. Here at last is sublimity. Here is art. I believe this statement is uncontroversial, even among Mormons, for whom their distinct film industry, such as it is, is not to my knowledge a point of especial pride. In a field that is otherwise made up, near as my fellow investigator and I can tell, of student-produced shorts from BYU in the 1960s and '70s, largely intended for seminary audiences (who in LDS contexts, recall, are mostly teenagers) and with vague P.S.A. overtones (in one of them, a student actually does awake at the end to learn that the terrible warning conveyed by the film about the importance of temple marriage was "all a dream" -- à la "Come back, Zinc! Come back!"), along with a handful of godawful "comedies" made in the last two decades in which some mildly rebellious Mormon twenty-something learns that it's actually worth it to follow church rules because it is the only way to win back his gorgeous future Mormon spouse. Among this sallow competition, Richard Dutcher is, indisputably, the best. And the uncomfortable part? He left the church in 2007 in a high-profile way, announcing he was no longer a Mormon.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Three Poems


Space dog of Moscow,
In my school books I learned
That you orbited the earth – yet I never 
 asked how you returned.
I learned only late,
 in my twenty-seventh year
That you didn’t survive at all -- 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Meaning of Life: A Provisional Assessment

People can't really mean what they say when they ask for the meaning of life. Words have meanings in relation to the objects to which they refer, and we already know what the thing is that corresponds to "life" -- well, I don't know -- but definitions can probably be found in the scientific literature. Or maybe not; maybe that's a false, if intuitive, understanding of how words and objects interact, but to complete that thought would require some passage about Wittgenstein and the early chapters of Augustine's Confessions, and I haven't thought my way through that question in a long time, if I ever did. And I've gotten lazier about pursuing that kind of digression since I turned twenty-five and my brain stopped developing (which happened a little less than two years into this blog's existence, for whatever that's worth). At any rate, there's no way that people who ask about the meaning of life are trying to gesture toward some intellectual finger-trap of this sort -- what they are really asking is: How can life be made enjoyable? How can it be something that hurts less?; something that is appreciated rather than just got through?

Thursday, May 11, 2017


Lo yon college student
Who defined for me
The word ‘acoustic’
  After dropping it
Not quite casually.

I suppose he thought
As I did,
  and countless others before us,
That because before our present state
We were none the wiser

Then none of those
Outside the groves
Could know it either.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Cultural Revolution

 It had been thus with him all his life.  If there had come at any time a gleam of sunshine and hope, it was to be obscured immediately -- Samuel Butler

I suppose it did seem
It was time
For a turn
Of Fortuna's wheel
I did feel
I had been insufficient brave
In defense of fallen comrades
Much breath had been spent
On the subject of courage
  In facing the enemy
I did not foresee
The only need of it would come,
As it does, in the end
From facing
  my friends.


From the church newsletter for May:


At the beginning of last month, we completed our yearlong discernment to become a sanctuary congregation. I could not be more thrilled to have been a part of it during my internship. We made a choice to live into our values in one of the most exacting of forms, and we did it in a way that was energizing and – dare I say – fun! It was also a constant learning process for me, however, and the lessons were occasionally hard ones.

Monday, May 8, 2017



Every time I see some customer in line
Hectoring the barista, say,
about how little lime
There is in this selzer
Or how this mocha was supposed to be
Extra hot, and have
More foam
  Than usual

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Two Unrelated Poems


"Though I may be sent to Hell for it, such a God will never command my respect", was Milton's well known opinion of the doctrine.
 -- Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Parsons, Giddens Trans.)

What an incredibly intriguing quote!
Which Weber attributes as if it were spoke
By a great puritan poet, and yet -- 'tis plain
It is a heroic rebuttal of all Calvin's pains!
 How could that be? And it is made
more tantalizing still by the striking fact
That it is apparently "well known," yet its source--
 impossible to track!
Each undergraduate asks: