Tuesday, December 30, 2008

(Not) According to Jim--D.C. Version

[Political pouter] Well, Utah's predictable right wing posters may object to City Weekly calling out Rep. Jim Matheson, (D-kind of, Utah) for refusing to talk to our reporters for more than three years. But someone in Washington D.C.--the other place where Matheson hangs out--noticed and let people know about it.

(Holly Mullen)

Slamdance Pumps Up The Volume

Slamdance, the "other" independent film festival running alongside the annual Sundance Film Festival, continues its steady ascension out of the shadows with a new focus on music. Organizers recently launched a year-round showcase of up and coming artists, with a mini-tour kicking off Dec. 31 in Brooklyn. The addition coincides with the festival's 15th anniversary. Featured performers on the Slamdance Underground Music vs. Film Tour include headliners The Woes and Psuedo Slang. You can catch the lineup in Park City, Jan. 15-17 at various locations. Visit Slamdance.com for details.
(Jamie Gadette)

Dead Zephyr: Week 268

(Bill Frost)

Sweet Stuff

[Just Desserts] Here's a link to a clip of City Weekly Dining Editor Ted Scheffler's appearance on KSL-TV's Studio 5 discussing "Desserts Worth Going Out For." 

Midway to New Year's

[Annual Ritual] Looking to escape the hoards on New Year's Eve? A journey to Midway might just be the ticket. 

Midway's Zermatt Resort www.ZermattResort.com offers two New Year's Eve options: There's a 4-course prix fixe dinner at Schneitter's Restaurant ($85 per person, includes tax & tip) with live music from the Murdock Jazz Ensemble, hats, horns, and a Champagne or cider toast. At Zermatt's Bernese Event Center a "Family Fun New Year's Bash" will feature the Salzburger Echo, face painting, Laughing Gravy DJ & dancing, and a buffet dinner. The cost is $39 for ages 12-adult, $25 ages 6-11, kids under 6 free. For more info and reservations call 866-320-3068. 

Over at Midway's Blue Boar Inn www.TheBlueBoarInn.com "Bavarian Splendor" is the theme for New Year's Eve. Chef Eric May's 7-course celebration meal includes entrees such as butter-poached lobster with Chardonnay cream sauce, citrus tuna tartare, roasted veal loin, and duck confit. The Blue Boar will offer two seatings for New Year's Eve: one at 5:00 PM (5-courses for $75) and a 7:00 PM seating (7-courses for $150, including party favors, Champagne or cider, and live music).  Guests will also have the opportunity to ring in the New Year by blowing the 10-foot, curved European Alpenhorn. Phone 888-650-1400 for reservations. 


(Ted Scheffler) 

Friday, December 26, 2008

Obama's Birth Certificate Found!

[Conspiracy Theories] President-elect Barack Obama was totally born in the USA; this birth certificate from the not-at-all-insane "real" journalists at WorldNetDaily.com proves it!

(Bill Frost)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas With the Davenports

[Fine Cinema] Happy Xmas, and I hope you made out better than poor old Divine in this touching scene from John Waters' Female Trouble (1974):

"I wanted cha-cha heels!" So did I, Dawn Davenport. So did I.

(Brandon Burt)

Touched by an Angell

[Creativity] Yay! Roger Angell has penned yet another of his celebrity-name-based, poetic, Christmas tributes in sparkling trochaic tetrameter. (That is to say, Angell's "Greetings, Friends" for 2008 is now available online.)

Angell--at the age of 88--wrote this annual New Yorker feature every year since he took it over from Frank Sullivan in 1974 until he gave it up in 1998. I'm happy to see its return. Angell has a unique gift for composing humorous, benevolent rhyming lists from the names that saturate American media--rendering harmless, through light verse, the menaces of the past year. Here's an excerpt:
We’ve mistletoe, in hope it helps
To waft good will to Michael Phelps,
And myrrh (spell-checked) to make the Day
For Charlie Crist and Tina Fey.
Come Christmas, gang, we’ll ask St. Nick
To not forget Nathaniel Fick;
Then drop requested toys and games
On Lolo Jones and LeBron James,
Plus lumps of coal from deepest pack
For Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac [...]
I vividly remember that the first of Angell's "Greetings" poems I ever read--sometime during the 1980s, I think--contained the line "Pickins? Samuel? (Slim to Nunn)." I wracked my brain all last night trying to figure out what was the previous line with its rhyme for "Nunn." (It made a brilliant couplet, I recall.)

I've often wondered exactly how he accomplishes this--say, by sitting down the day after Thanksgiving to start compiling a list of names from Google News? Nah, it's just too big of a project. I theorized he must periodically jot down ideas for his file throughout the entire year--and, according to a piece in The New York Times, that seems about right--he says he started jotting down lines way back in the summer while on vacation in Maine.

Now my New Year's resolution is to develop that kind of creative discipline and foresight.

(Brandon Burt)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Lilli of our Valley

[Call for donations] Real-estate broker and community leader Babs De Lay recently sent an e-mail seeking donations for her friend, local psychic Lilli DeCair, whose apartment at Incline Terrace went up in flames due to another tenant's careless smoking. To make matters worse, DeCair's son Shawn lived next door and he also lost everything.

Babs De Lay notes, "Lilli is a local witch, tarot-card reader and all around do-gooder. We’ve been friends for years, and she’s a lovely person. She’s newly married and a breast-cancer survivor. Her mom died last month. She has been working at a minimum-wage job helping immigrant families who have nothing themselves."

DeCair did psychic readings for City Weekly in last year's Year in Preview issue. Many's the evening she's made the scene at Alchemy Coffeehouse to do card readings. DeCair also sends out e-mail blasts each week, letting those on her list know all the little things in life she is grateful for. I have to admit, even with all the e-mail and spam that regularly clog my inbox, I take the time to read her e-mails.

DeCair and her family are living in temporary housing but basically are starting over. Babs De Lay's first call for help yielded beds, chairs, tables and computers. Donations of cash and gift cards would be greatly appreciated by DeCair this holiday season to buy the basics: underwear, shoes and household items.

Send checks or gift cards to:
Lilli DeCair
c/o Babs De Lay
Urban Utah Homes and Estates
380 W. 200 South Unit 101
Salt Lake City, UT 84101

All the best, Lilli. (Jerre Wroble)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays!

This is truly amazing.

(Jamie Gadette)

Christmas With the Buttarses

[Holiday Cheer] If you receive an invitation to the annual Buttars Family Christmas Musicale, don't even think about singing a song unless it mentions Baby Jesus 12 or more times.

The holiday excitement and goodwill is palpable ...

(Brandon Burt)

Linus, the Silver ADDY Recipient

[Shakin' That Moneymaker] For our talented friends and former colleagues who have moved on to Madison Avenue--or, in Salt Lake City's case, SOGA ... whichever.

(Brandon Burt)

Best Tracks Of 2008: Final Countdown

Be sure to check online or pick up a copy of City Weekly tomorrow (downtown at least) for our Top Albums of 2008. Until then, enjoy a couple of my favorite songs by ex-Wooden Wand members James Jackson Toth and Jex Thoth whose individual projects vary wildly in sound. Jex Thoth's eponymous doom/pysch band, formerly Totem, is signed to I Hate Records, home to Salt Lake City's heavy folk rockers Subrosa!

Jex Thoth
"Nothing Left to Die"

James Jackson Toth

(Jamie Gadette)

Dead Zephyr: Week 267

(Bill Frost)

Buttars, Be Merry

[Holiday Dig] From our godless, communist acquaintance Brian M. Barnard, who is also a Salt Lake City attorney practicing at 214 E. 500 South, comes this holiday greeting.

(Holly Mullen)

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Name Game

Local punk band Fuck the Informer made it into the AV Club's The Year in Band Names 2008 edition, a list devoted to the worst and weirdest names that come through their office via press release/unnecessarily in-depth bios. Fuck the Informer is on page four under F-Bombs. If you read City Weekly, you recognize them as F--k the Informer as per our awesome censorship policy! Aw, that reminds me how much I miss The C--ted.

Thanks YouTube!
(Jamie Gadette)

Slowtrain Locals Night: Holiday Magic

Slowtrain's weekly Locals Night continues with a very special holiday party featuring an in-store performance by The Platte (formerly Chanticleer, The Clever Cowboy) aka Andrew Shaw (of City Library PSA fame). He has a nifty holiday EP out which he swears is not your Grandma's Yanni record. Check it out. Store owners Chris and Anna Brozek will have cookies on hand plus a Christmas tree which they invite show-goers to decorate. Bring in a crafty ornament and join the fun. Show starts at 7 p.m. All-ages. Free. 221 E. Broadway

(Jamie Gadette)

Best Tracks Of 2008: Part 4

Three more days til Christmas ... and City Weekly's Top Albums of 2008! Here are some more tunes that struck a chord with me this year. Consider this my hipster edition

"L.E.S. Artistes"


The Presets
"Talk Like That"

(Jamie Gadette)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Let the Schwartz Be With You

[Music] The closest this gay pagan ever came to having a Christian conversion was from watching the energetic number "O Bless the Lord My Soul" which, ironically, was composed by the gay Jewish composer Stephen Schwartz.

I regret that Schwartz won't be joining the Great Gay Boycott of 2009--but I still call out City Weekly music experts Jamie Gadette and Ryan Bradford to watch the 1973 movie adaptation of Godspell, Schwartz's version of the Gospel of St. Matthew. I love it, and I will hear nothing against it--Godspell is the perfect antidote to dreary postmodernist irony. Watch it enough times and, like me, you might even find yourself in danger of getting Born Again.

(Note: You may recognize Lynne Thigpen, who played The Chief in the mid-1980s PBS series Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?)

(Brandon Burt)

Obama: The Next B.J. Clinton?

[Politics] The high point for me in the 2008 election was the Barack Obama presidential victory. A victory for change! Yes we can!

The bullshit with the California Constitution was disappointing, of course, but at least we had a new president who recognized the rights of all Americans. And that was enough for me.

It's actually the same feeling I had in 1992. When Bill Clinton was elected, I thought, "At last, here's somebody who will stick up for the rights of all Americans. Even fags like me!" And then he went and botched the whole gays-in-the-military issue, coming up with Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell. And then he fucked up national health care. And then he stuck his cigar in Lewinsky's nether regions. And then he gave the extremist free-market Republicans free reign over the country's economy, and look how well that turned out.

Looks like Obama is set to become another Bill Clinton, having chosen Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren, with his purpose-driven bullshit, to give a prayer at the inauguration. Hooray for Democrats in the White House! Warren is just another of those fuckers who pretend to "hate the sin and love the sinner" all the while spreading vile lies and bullshit about gay and lesbian Americans--especially how we should never have equal marriage rights.

Wow. Great, Obama. I'm so glad, now that you managed to garner the gay and lesbian vote, that you're willing to sacrifice our support even before you take office. Fuck you, Obama. If you ever meant anything you said about equality and hope, get rid of that homophobe Rick Warren before it's too late.

We've been through this before with that egomaniac Clinton, and we're not all that willing to lie down with your boot on our face because of some campaign platitudes you once spewed. Your 52% mandate is not as broad as you think, and my support (among that of other gays and lesbians) may waver. We buy property; we just might decide to vote for false "low taxes"--or for Donald Duck--in 2010.

President-elect Obama, I want to believe in you, even if your misguided advisers consider the fag-and-dyke vote to be expendible. Please don't let us down. I recommend that you keep homophobes like Rick Warren as far away as possible from your inauguration. Frankly, I'm hurt that you would even consider it.

(Brandon Burt)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Give the Gift of Fizz

[Stocking Stuffers] Nothing says "Yuletide" like a hand-crafted gift. And what could be better than giving your own homemade OTC medications?

Next: Make your own toothpaste out of mint leaves and modeling clay!

(Brandon Burt)Link

Emerging Artists: Spinnerette

The job of a music writer is never done. While most writers are content to sit back and brush the dust of 2008 off their shoulders, coasting on their year-end-lists, we've already got our sights on what next year brings us.

One of my most anticipated bands is Spinnerette, fronted by ex-Distiller Brody Dalle. Despite the Distillers being an awesome band, it seems that most of Dalle's offstage antics are what made her famous - marriage to Rancid's Tim Armstrong, subsequent divorce and immediate remarriage to Rock's Most Endearing Asshole, Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age).

That said, Spinnerette's music stands on its own, as evidenced by their recent self-released EP Ghetto Love. Tracks like "Valium Knights" is as intense as anything the Distillers put out, but it seems that Dalle has learned to croon in the meantime. "Distorting a Code" is thick and choppy, but Dalle's voice swoons above it all. Check it out!

(Ryan Bradford)

Best Tracks Of 2008: Part 3

Just a few more days til we publish our Top Albums of 2008! Sit tight with these gems

Two fantastic female vocalists, one a veteran the other brand-spankin new. Crain is 22:

Samantha Crain
"The River"

Jolie Holland
"Mexico City"

One heavy rocker & one psychedelic blitz. Both bands played at Kilby Court this year and blew minds (and some ear drums). Dead Meadow might sound mellow here, but backed by ten-plus amps they're a killer tour de force.

Dead Meadow
"I'm Gone"

Crystal Antlers
"A Thousand Eyes"

Mixtape from http://favtape.com/artist/crystal antlers

(Jamie Gadette)

Sexing the Reindeer

["News"] A veterinary professor at Texas A&M posits that all eight of Santa's reindeer are female (er, that is, she says they "were" female--does she know something we don't?) I scoff at this madness. Yes, scoff!

Now, depictions of antlers on tole paintings and Christmas cards don't seem to me sufficient basis on which to determine that an entire herd of deer somehow ended up being the same sex. That's no way to maintain a sustainable reindeer operation. (And don't even laughingly mention Rudolph--that ersatz, 20th-century commercial invention has no place in the true mythology.)

Going by names, Cupid is undoubtedly male, and Vixen is certainly female. QED, it's a mixed bunch. Here's my attempt at sexing the reindeer:
  • Dasher--male
  • Dancer--female
  • Prancer--male
  • Vixen--female
  • Comet--male
  • Cupid--male
  • Donner--male
  • Blitzen--female
I figure "Donner" and "Blitzen," from the German for "thunder" and "lightning," must be a breeding pair, and the plural "-en" ending is more feminine in that language, so there you go. Comet and Prancer could go either way--and, for that matter, they probably do.

(Brandon Burt)

Utah Critics go "Dark"

It's that time of year again: When movie critics attempt to shape the year-end awards landscape by handing out their own honors.

The Utah Film Critics Association -- made up of film journalists from around the state, including yours truly -- voted Thursday night, and selected The Dark Knight as Best Picture of 2008. Like many critics' groups nationwide, Utah's gang also selected Heath Ledger as Best Supporting Actor.
Your humble narrator is particularly pleased with the selection for Achievement in Directing: Andrew Stanton, director of WALL-E. While we, like other groups, may continue to ghetto-ize animated films into their own category, at least we recognize that these films don't direct themselves. If Stanton's work on WALL-E doesn't count as visionary filmmaking, I don't know what does.
The full list of awards follows, and does include 2008 releases that have not yet opened in Utah:

Best Picture
The Dark Knight
(runner-up: Rachel Getting Married)

Best Achievement in Directing
Andrew Stanton, WALL-E
(runner-up: Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight)

Best Lead Performance by an Actor
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
(runners-up: Richard Jenkins, The Visitor; Sean Penn, Milk)

Best Lead Performance by an Actress
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
(runner-up: Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married)

Best Supporting Performance by an Actor
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
(no runner-up)

Best Supporting Performance by an Actress
Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married
(runners-up: Frances McDormand, Burn After Reading; Misty Upham, Frozen River; Evan Rachel Wood, The Wrestler)

Best Screenplay
Jenny Lumet, Rachel Getting Married
(runner-up: Robert Siegel, The Wrestler)

Best Documentary Feature
Man on Wire
(runners-up: Encounters at the End of the World; Waltz with Bashir)

Best Non-English Language Feature
Let the Right One In
(runner-up: Waltz with Bashir)

Best Animated Feature
(runner-up: Kung Fu Panda)
[Scott Renshaw]

Peace & Goodwill: On Sale Now!

[Seasonable Greetings] Remember: Only six shopping days!

(Brandon Burt)

Twinkie Bailout?

(Ongoing disasters) You might recall that Interstate Bakeries -- makers of Hostess Twinkies and Wonder Bread -- are in bankruptcy. Both products are nutritional disasters: the dumb sort of product that could only be produced and consumed in America.

Today George W. Bush announced an auto industry bailout plan aimed at forestalling the inevitable bankruptcy of Chrysler and possibly GM. It doesn't take a genius to see the similarities between stupid products like Twinkies and Wonder Bread and stupid products like Escalades and Hummers.

So the obvious question: Why no Twinkies bailout from the Bushies?

(Ted Scheffler)

Back Track: From The Vaults

With music critics devoting much of their attention to new developments--new music, new albums, new gossip and drama--it's easy to forget the artists who once occupied our attention even just a few years ago. Ever so often, it's fun to look back on the bands that still matter though we've filed them away for safe keeping. Today, take a trip down memory lane with Grandaddy. The Modesto, Calif. experimental folk/rock/pysch band split up in 2006 shortly after the release of their final album, Just Like The Fambly Cat. Frontman Jason Lytle is working on a solo project with a record coming out in 2009. Until then, enjoy this gem off Sophtware Slump:

(Jamie Gadette)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Better Browsing Through Firefox

[Teh Intarweb] Mozilla Firefox 3.05 is chock full of new features, including enhanced security and customization--but most exciting of all are its performance upgrades: Not only does it sport a lean, mean memory footprint but, according to its Website, "hundreds of memory leaks are now remedied."

That's right: All the while we forward-thinking, space-age open-software early adopters were setting the Web aflame with our customizable user-agent strings and scriptable pop-up blockers, the old, bad versions of Firefox, with their hundreds of memory leaks, were sucking up our precious, precious RAM. A new "garbage collector" makes the need for good programming practices a thing of the past--so be prepared for some big, bloatsome improvements in v3.1!

Now, I love open-source, and I love Firefox. But you know how your whole system sometimes slows to a snail's pace? Think of Firefox as Ebenezer Scrooge, as unwilling to relinquish unneeded memory blocks from its tight fists as Scrooge was to "deallocate" his excess Pounds Sterling for Bob Cratchit's Christmas bonus.

With v3.05, we hope to see that Firefox finally realizes how to keep Christmas well. Fingers crossed.

(Brandon Burt)

On That Note...

Ryan Bradford's obsession with Future of the Left's "Manchasm" (see below) sparked my obsession with McLusky, the defunct Welsh rockers who gave rise to Future of the Left. A damn shame they split up. A damn shame. One of the following videos may or may not be safe for work, kiddos.

(Jamie Gadette)

Top Tracks Of 2008: Ryan Bradford-Style Part. 1

These are songs that came from albums I didn't include in my Top 10 for one reason or another. But I tended to hit repeat on these after they were done more than any other songs.

Ryan Leslie - "Diamond Girl"

M83 - "Graveyard Girl"

Die! Die! Die! - "Whitehorses"

Future of the Left - "Manchasm"

(Ryan "Notorious" Bradford)

Guilty Pleasure Christmas Songs

Carrie Brownstein's NPR blog reminded me how much I love this lil Wham! ditty. Warms the cockles every time.

And who can deny this groovy Casio-fueled track?

(Jamie Gadette)

Artist To Watch: Dalek

All this talk about best albums and songs has got me thinking about the multitude of largely unrecognized talent out there. On that note, we're going to start tipping you off to some of our favorite discoveries, even if they're just new to us.

I (sort of) saw Dalek at SXSW last year. A friend told me to check them out and I walked in as they were wrapping up their last song. That two-minute taste was enough, though. Now I'm hooked. The hip-hop crew has this ominous vibe similar to Cannibal Ox. The creepy factor is typical of an Ipecac Recordings artist, and I dig it. Dalek will release Gutter Tactics on January 27. The follow-up to Abandoned Language is currently on repeat on my iPod.

Here's a sample of what to expect. Please to enjoy "Paragraphs Relentless" off Abandoned Language.

(Jamie Gadette)

Holiday Romance

[Graffiti] In Sam Wellers’ book store this morning one sales assistant announced to a friend, “I’m skipping Christmas and going straight to New Year.” Given the economic climate and the weather you couldn’t blame her. And yet, damn it, it’s Christmas, a time of good cheer and faith in mankind.

As if in response to that sales person’s acerbic thought condemning the Yuletide to being no more than another day, someone in this great metropolis wrote a message in the snow just across the road from the bookstore. That message, for those lucky enough to witness it, just might have restored a little faith in our fellow human beings battered by the ennui and disappointment that seems to overhang this particular Christmas.

On one of the rectangular concrete slabs in front of KUTV 2, someone wrote this morning in capital letters, I AM IN LOVE WITH U. Was it a man or a woman who, heart in mouth, declared their passion to someone who knew nothing about their feelings? Or was it an act of confirmation when faced with questions or doubts?

Whoever wrote it and for whatever reason, it was a singular romantic gesture of passionate love announced and, dare we hope, reciprocated. A gesture that for a few fleeting hours was immortalized in the snow. And left there for the whole world to see. [Stephen Dark]

Best Tracks of 2008: Episode 2

The countdown to our Top Albums of 2008 continues with another round of my favorite individual tracks from this year. The following songs are by a couple of artists who caught a lot of ears with their latest respective takes on rusty-folk rock. I'm sure in six months I'll look back and kick myself for not including them in my top albums. For now, the LPs are still sinking in. Oh, make a mental note to see them live next time they stop in SLC.

The Dutchess & The Duke
"Reservoir Park"

Blitzen Trapper
"God + Suicide"

(Jamie Gadette)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Best Tracks Of 2008: Episode 1

In next week's Very Special Christmas issue, we'll be publishing our Top Albums of 2008, a list as varied as every other publication's lists which I've been obsessively reading up on for the past two weeks. From Paste to Rolling Stone, NME, Pitchfork and NPR, the final judgments land all over the place. Paste boldly proclaimed She & Him as its album of the year while Rolling Stone put Chinese Democracy in its Top 10. I personally had a hard time pinning down the LPs that fit my criteria for "Best," but had no problem thinking of all the awesome tracks that rocked my year. So, for the next seven days I'll be posting some of my favorite single tracks for your enjoyment. Stay tuned, and let us know what you've been listening to for the past 365 or so days!

The following songs are by a couple of my favorite artists whose latest albums don't quite live up to their previous releases:

The Breeders
"We're Gonna Rise"

"Trans Canada"

(Jamie Gadette)

Ken Salazar: Threat or Menace?

[Media] Here's a case where a reader has to ask: "Were these reporters at the same press conference?"

Prez-elect Barack Obama today officially announced Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., as his choice for Secretary of the Interior.

The New York Times headlined its story this way.

The Salt Lake Tribune headlined its story this way, with Tribune reporter Thomas Burr adding: Environmental groups heralded Salazar's appointment.

(Holly Mullen)

White (Truffle) Christmas

(Salami Santa) Utah's own (via Italy) Cristiano Creminelli has handcrafted the perfect foodie gift for the holiday season: White Truffle Salami. Christiano employs rare Alba white truffles to produce a gourmet salami which he says, "is just the kind of small indulgence that will make it a happy holiday." 

The Creminelli Fine Meats limited quantity White Truffle Salami is sold in 8-9 oz. pieces cased in a wooden gift box for $49.95. You can find it at gourmet markets like Tony Caputo's locally, as well as Pike Place Market in Seattle and Murray's Cheese Shop in NYC. Order online at www.creminelli.com. (Ted Scheffler) 

Jon and Huck

[More Gay Marriage] I was way late to this discussion with Jon Stewart and Mike Huckabee on the issue of same-sex marriage. I just saw the Dec. 8 episode of The Daily Show last night, while catching up on all my Comedy Central recordings. Please to excuse my tardiness in sharing this with you.

This video clip shows why Stewart is one of the best interviewers working right now. Of course the guy gets the laughs. But when he wants an answer from a shifty politician like Huckabee, he works as hard as anyone in the business to get it. And if he doesn't get the answer, at least he bores into a subject hard enough to make the guy squirm a bit.

It's long, but worth watching. (Holly Mullen)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mock the (Utah) Vote

[2008 Election] Apparently, so many Utahns this past fall were busy contributing cash and time at phone banks to killing same-sex marriage in the whole other state of California, they forgot to vote!

Or maybe they just didn't care care.**

Or maybe they figured Barack Obama had it in the bag, which it turned out, he did. Even in parts of Utah (Salt Lake and Grand counties to be exact).

[Insert obligatory nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah to right wingers in Utah here.)

Here is how much our electorate in this state sucks (taken from George Washington University data): We have 1.77 million eligible voters and only 952,370 of them voted. In 2004, when Utah voters rallied for George W. Bush, only 58.9 percent of us voted.

We are 47th in the nation for 2008 voter participation. West Virginia and Hawaii tied for dead last, with 50.6 percent turnout. Then Arkansas at 53.4 percent, followed by the nearly equally ignorant and unengaged masses in the Beehive State with 53.8 percent.

Note that this is the state of the oft-cited Mormon majority, where LDS church leaders urge members from cradle to grave that voting is a crucial civic and moral obligation. Guess they were sleeping during that particular talk in sacrament meeting. (Except, as noted, when it comes to sending millions of dollars to the Prop 8 forces in California.)

Mad props to patriotic Minnesota, my home from 1988-94, which took first place in voting turnout with more than 77 percent. (Holly Mullen)

**U.S. State Department photo above, depicts Afghan women who, unlike slobs in Utah, are willing to stand in line for hours to vote.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Woohoo! I've Earned a Cyberstalker!

[Blogs] My criticisms of California's Proposition 8 and, more recently, Brigham Young University's academic policies seem to have generated some displeasure from one or more readers. Still, reading my blog posts is a voluntary act. It requires an investment of time, that scarcest of commodities. That's why it's so gratifying to have cyberstalkers!

They like me, they really like me! Well, OK, they don't like
me at all--but at least they're devoted enough to follow me around to various other blogs on which I occasionally comment.

One or two called me out after I posted this comment on SLOG. I'm waiting for them to start jumping all over my posts on sites where I help math students with their homework. ("Grr!" they might say: "The derivative of x cos(x) is cos(x) + x sin(x), NOT cos(x) - x sin(x)!!! You jerk!!!" And, of course, they'd be just as wrong as ever.)

(Brandon Burt)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

How to Pad a Story

[Media] Writers: So you've got a cogent and timely 3,500-word piece about results-based educational standards, but your editor is demanding 6,200 words. Whatever shall you do?

It's quite a pickle. Fortunately, Malcolm Gladwell's got it all figured out: Just interpolate a tedious football metaphor! It may ruin an otherwise decent article, but you can comfort yourself in the knowledge that neither educators nor football fans will ever summon enough patience to finish reading it.

Here's the condensed version of Gladwell's "Most Likely to Succeed," Dec. 15, New Yorker:
Football, blah blah blah, football.

Some important people have reasoned that the performance of teachers in the U.S. education system can be judged by how much their students learn over the course of a school year. They call this "value-added analysis."

Football, yada yada, "offensive gaps," college vs. NFL bullshit. Also, this boldly homoerotic quote: "In the spread, you see a lot of guys wide open." Yet even more football, blah blah blah, football.

Some teachers do a better job at keeping students' attention than others. Experts can determine which are which by watching videotaped classroom sessions. Good teachers have a knack for engaging students as individuals, whereas bad teachers seem to regard the classroom as a mass of undifferentiated humanity. A guy named Jacob Kounin says the good teachers have something called "withiness."

Some people believe that the great success of the financial sector could be replicated in the public school system if Wall Street's Lord of the Flies-style hiring standards were applied to teachers: Financial firms interview a lot of potential employees, but very few make the cut. Then, over the next five years, almost everybody gets fired.

Such a scheme would cost taxpayers more than the present track-and-tenure system, but the idea holds appeal for those who think both teachers' unions and standards-based reformers are on the wrong course.

Football, football, oh god kill me now, football, blah blah blah, football.
(Brandon Burt)

Friday, December 12, 2008

There Are Gay People at BYU

[Update] In case you missed it during this busy, busy week, the Brigham Young University student photography exhibit that was quietly taken down last week was reinstated after review by college administrators, who determined that it did not, after all, violate BYU's honor code and explained that the removal was due to an administrative miscommunication.

The artist, Michael Wiltbank, is being more than gracious regarding BYU's gaffe and the distress it caused him. As with the bloggers who expressed outrage on his behalf, he seems less pleased: According to the D-News article, Wiltbank is "disappointed" at those who criticized the removal (which criticism is characterized as an attack on the LDS Church and the school). Wiltbank is quoted thus:

"I don't have any bitterness," he said. "The whole premise of the show was to show tolerance and support on both sides of the issue. What I wrote on my blog about the removal has been construed as bitter, but I didn't think it was. I think what some said on the Internet went against what I was trying to do with the exhibit.

"If we yell out hatred and bigoted things, nothing gets better."

Obviously, the reason this story garnered such widespread attention is because BYU is owned by the LDS Church, which is under criticism from those whose friends and families were affected by the Proposition 8 campaign (which actually was an attack on the material rights of gay and lesbian families in California). Otherwise, this story would have generated only tepid interest outside Utah, the way most stories about BYU's faculty purges and academic suppression have.

Yep, once again, it's the gays who are the bigots. (Apparently, it is no longer PC to express outrage against those who actively mean to cause you harm.)

I'd like to cut through all these coded messages about "tolerance and support" on "both sides of the issue." The whole reason there was any question about this exhibit is because it dealt with gay BYU students. Apparently, "being gay" is not a violation of the honor code. Only "homosexual behavior" is--because the honor code prohibits sex outside of a legally sanctioned marriage.

Considering the LDS Church has been doing everything in its power to ensure that gays and lesbians everywhere, even those who do not choose to attend BYU or join the church, can never enjoy the benefits of legally sanctioned marriage, what cruel logic that is!

Still, they are nice photos--I love the interesting focal treatment which serves to highlight the subjects' gaze--and they undoubtedly look best without that big, red "CENSORED" stamp.

(Brandon Burt)


[TV] In last night's Christmas-party episode of The Office, Michael makes Meredith a series a brain-erasing drinks, then stages an intervention because she's a flaming (literally) drunk. One of the test questions Michael reads to Meredith from a downloaded pamphlet is, "Have you ever, under the influence of alcohol, questioned the teachings of the Mormon church?" Ah, memories ...

Intervention at about 8:30 mins into the episode:

(Bill Frost)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Yes! Anti-Teen Technology

[Technology] Breaking scientific developments out of the University of Utah here. This device will no doubt save many lives and parents' insurance premiums. Now if only they can develop technology that will actually drive the car for the teen. (Eric S. Peterson)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Art, Well Schooled

[Gift central] For the past week, press releases keep landing in my inbox spouting "last-minute" gift ideas. I am thinking, OMG, we still have two weeks! Veritable buckets of time remaining. In fact, I might just begin to ^wrap^ my head around the idea of Christmas shopping by this weekend. But that's me: I'm usually crashing into my deadlines.

Anyway, for those of you farther along (or perhaps just as stuck), here's an event that's been underway for two days: The University of Utah Department of Art and Art History's annual holiday sale in the Gittins Art Gallery located in the Art and Architecture Building (375 S. 1530 East). The third and final day takes place Thursday, Dec. 11, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Here you'll find some pretty inspired ceramics, prints, paintings and photography—all at reasonable prices. Who knows? The work you buy today might be worth a pretty penny when these humble student artists make it big. Plus, you can feel doubly-good because funds raised by the sale help send students to national art conferences.

For more info, call 581-8677. And in the rare event that anyone reading knows and loves me, always remember that in my view, ceramics are forever. Pots, pots, pots. Interesting bowls and goblets, too. Even urns. In fact, I yearn for urns. (Jerre Wroble)

If You Didn't Call in "Gay" Today ...

... please to enjoy this: Prop. 8, The Musical:

(Bill Frost)

When Do Gays Get a Bailout?

[Politics as Usual] Stephen Wade and John Garff trundled off to Washington D.C. yesterday to lobby hard for the bailout for U.S. automakers.

They need help, these poor guys. They are begging for money to aid their troubled industry. Wade owns a chain of car dealerships in St. George; Garff is a top executive at the Ken Garff chain in Salt Lake City.

Poor Mr. Wade may be cash-strapped right now, but his economic status was no worry in November, when he found an extra $10,000 for the Proposition 8 campaign in California to keep gays and lesbians from marrying. As for Garff, his mother, Katharine, gave $100,000 to Prop 8 in the Golden State. (Holly Mullen)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

There Are Were Gay People at BYU

[Censorship] BYU art student J. Michael Wiltbank knew his entry in a student art show might be controversial--but he didn't know school authorities had quietly removed it from the exhibition until a classmate told him. His photo portraits were stealthily taken down, and the remaining entries carefully redistributed throughout the gallery so as not to leave a noticable gap.

"I wish that they would have asked me to remove it, or at least had the courtesy to ask that I remove it or discuss it with me prior to its removal," Wiltbank wrote on his blog. "It seems that censorship is favored over support and love. This really saddens me."

His subject was a series of photo portraits. Each pair of portraits depicted a gay BYU student, and a friend or family member who provided that student with love and unconditional emotional support. (Neither portrait was identified as being either "the gay one" or "the supportive one.")

We can expect the campus secret police to go into action now, tracking down the subjects of Wiltbank's portraits. Neither member of each pair is safe, of course. Naturally, being gay is a violation of BYU's infamous honor code. But, then, so is "advocacy"--defined as "promoting homosexual relations as being morally acceptable." That means even offering unconditional support and love for a gay family member or loved one could get you booted off campus. I wish all these people good luck.

Stories of academic suppression emerge from BYU with predictable regularity. Around these parts, they're generally told with a roll of the eye and a measure of cynicism ("Well, what do you expect? After all, it is BYU").

But cynical acceptance is still acceptance. And it is widespread acceptance that allows BYU's dishonest academic policies to continue. A typical excuse is that BYU is privately owned and can therefore do as it likes. But this doesn't wash: Is BYU not an accredited institution? How can other universities accept credentials issued by a university which, time and again, has clearly demonstrated that it does not honor the basic principle of academic freedom? If BYU wishes to practice blatant censorship, it may do so. But, in doing so, it risks losing the respect of the academic community, and forfeits any claim that this loss of respect has anything to do with religious discrimination.

Rather than cynical acceptance, maybe it would be more sane to express something real, something sincere. Dismay, shock, outrage. Mild irritation. Searing anger. Venomous spite. Hell, anything. This world-weary act doesn't work anymore in this weary world. Perhaps the time has come to sincerely seek revocation of BYU's accreditation.

Do you have any problems with BYU's take on academic freedom? I'd say the NWCCU deserves to hear about it.

BYU's accreditation is under the aegis of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities every 10 years. According to Standard Nine on which NWCCU grants accreditation:
Hence, institutions may hold to a particular, social, or religious philosophy, as may individual faculty members or students. But to be true to what they profess academically, individuals and institutions must remain intellectually free and allow others the same freedom to pursue truth and to distinguish the pursuit of it from a commitment to it. [Emphasis mine.]
Was Wiltbank allowed the "freedom to pursue truth"? Perhaps--his camera wasn't destroyed outright, his legs weren't broken and he wasn't actually imprisoned. But was he allowed to "remain intellectually free"? Um, no. Were his fellow students and others who attended the art show "allowed to pursue truth and to distinguish the pursuit of it from a commitment to it"? No, absolutely not.

In fact, it seems clear the university does all it can to remain technically close to the line while violating the principles of academic freedom left and right. The photos were removed quietly and without any statement because university officials know they are skating on thin ice, and they wanted to leave as little documentary evidence as possible.

Do you have any problems with BYU's take on academic freedom? I'd say the NWCCU deserves to hear about it.

(Brandon Burt)

P.S. If anybody's curious where I learned about this story, it was from Dan Savage on SLOG. Yes, that Dan Savage: the one who supposedly was in charge of the whole Proposition 8 Utah boycott. He ended up seeming a bit less demonic during his KRCL RadioActive! interview with Troy Williams. And, frankly, he seems to do a damn good job at covering gay issues in Utah. (In other words, this is a mia culpa: Where the fuck was I?)

Rocky Anderson: Guitar Hero

When he's not saving the world, former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson likes to jam with local bands.

Says Park City TV host/producer Ori Hoffer of one recent onstage appearance by the snowy-haired man about town, "Local band CORY MON & THE STARLIGHT GOSPEL were on our show last week. When Rocky Anderson showed up to talk about his new human rights organization, he joked, "maybe I can sit in on guitar with them." I told that to Cory, and he jumped at the chance. They grabbed another guitar, showed Rocky the tune, and two minutes later we were live."

Next up, Ralph Becker: Dance, Dance Revolution

(Jamie Gadette)

Yes, There IS A Free Lunch

[Curry Craziness] In what is either a moment of temporary insanity or extreme generosity, Mona Nisar, owner of Curry in a Hurry, has announced a special way of celebrating the restaurant's 10th anniversary: Free curry! 

On Wednesday, Dec. 10, Curry in a Hurry (2020 S. State St.) will serve free curry plates for anyone wanting to join them for lunch, from 12 PM to 2 PM. 

"We want to give back to our community that has supported us all these years," says Mona. 

(Ted Scheffler) 

Dead Zephyr: Week 265

(Bill Frost)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Oh! The Things You Can Do With Deer Butts

[Home Decor] If you thought a taxidermied deer butt was only good for beautifying the interior of your home, think again! It also makes a dandy doorbell frame:

I was idly Googling--trying to decide whether, at a Sound of Music sing-along this weekend, it would be more fun to dress up as a "doorbell," a "sleighbell" or "schnitzel with noodles." (I had pretty much made up my mind that "schnitzel" and "noodles" would likely constitute at least two separate costumes.) And then, I came across this. And I don't know what to think anymore.

(Brandon Burt)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Playing for Change: Stand By Me

[We Are The World v2.0] I get teary everytime I watch this beautiful video. I posted it last week but stupidly linked it to one of Utah's asswipe politicians, thereby probably causing a lot of folks to ignore it. Take a look; you'll be moved. 

(Ted Scheffler)


Friday, December 5, 2008

Perverse pleasure

Wow, J.C. Penney actually has a funny bone. I rather enjoyed this little subliminal "diamonds are forever" ditty. (Jerre Wroble)

Celebs on the Slopes

[Curb Your Skiing Enthusiasm] This weekend, Dec. 6&7, Deer Valley Resort hosts it's annual Celebrity Skifest, which pairs former Olympic ski stars with stars of screen and television for a weekend of skiing, live music, and fundraising for the Waterkeeper Alliance. 

This year's lineup of celebrities schedule to attend Skifest include former Olympians Tommy Moe, Phil Mahre, and Deer Valley Ski Ambassador Heidi Voelker, along with Larry David, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Matthew Modine, Robert F. Kennedy, Joe Pantoliano, Rob Morrow, and others. Those in attendance at last year's Celebrity Skifest will remember Larry David falling on top of Stanley Tucci ... "He pushed me. It was a case of bad sportsmanship," David insisted. 

The public is invited to take in the Skifest races adjacent to Deer Valley's Birdseye ski run. 

In addition, Deer Valley is offering discounted lift tickets for their opening weekend. Go to www.DeerValley.com for more info. (Ted Scheffler) 

Dan Savage on KRCL Tonight

[More Prop 8] Tonight from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., KRCL-90.9's Troy Williams will host a conversation with Dan Savage*, editor of Seattle alternative newspaper The Stranger and a nationally syndicated sex advice columnist, on the station's public affairs program RadioActive.

Readers of City Weekly and Salt Blog might recognize the name. Savage was one of the first gay activists in the country to urge a total boycott of Utah (yeah, that's right. The whole state) the day after Californians passed Proposition 8 which bans same-sex marriage in their state. As is well-known by now, with the steady urging of the LDS hierarchy, members of the Mormon Church donated about $22 million to help pass the measure. Many of the biggest spenders live right here in Utah.

CW president John Saltas, who goes back years with Savage in the tight-knit community of altie papers, chose to drop Savage's sex column, which we had been running online. Saltas has explained his stand on the blanket boycott that Savage and others have been pushing, here and here.

I ran into Williams on a Main Street sidewalk earlier today. He promises the show will be lively. Williams, who is gay, told me he doesn't like the notion of a Utah boycott, nor does he support Saltas in his choice to drop Savage. "I want to heal the community," he told me, waving his arms in that big, expansive way of making a happy globe. Tune in, or better yet, call the show and be heard.

*That's Savage in the pix, though god knows how old that shot is. (Holly Mullen)