Christmas Report/Movie Reviews

I’m at an Internet cafe in Port Angeles, Washington, home of all manner of Twilight paraphernalia. (The town is much dumpier than it is in the books.) The lovely Mrs. Cornell is using my computer, so I have some time to kill, and what better way to kill time than blogging?

This blog featured prominently in one aspect of our Christmas. It seems that, growing up, Mrs. Cornell’s family always opened one present on Christmas Eve, something that was verboten in the Cornell clan. However, Santa Claus always left us pajamas to wear on Christmas morning. So, as a compromise, we now open a present from our cats every Christmas Eve – and it’s always pajamas.

This year, Mrs. Cornell decided to sew up a pair of pajama bottoms for everyone from scratch. I was put in charge of the pajama tops, and I got everyone a T-shirt printed with the code names I use for this blog. I now have a shirt that says “Stallion,” and Mrs. Cornell has one that says “Mrs. Cornell,” and so forth. Turns out the only kid who thought that was clever was Chloe. Cleta was absolutely disgusted.

“Everyone hates your blog!” she said. “You post gross things on there!”

We got her a cell phone for Christmas in a blatant attempt to buy her love. She turns 13 next week, and it seems teenager love is very, very expensive.

Driving 18 hours from Salt Lake to Port Angeles with five kids in tow is pretty brutal, and we were joined up here by Mrs. Cornell’s sister’s family, which also includes five kids. Ten kids and seven adults – Mrs. Cornell’s brother came by, too – in one 1,500 square-foot home tends to make time spent in an Internet cafe very precious, indeed.

It also means more time at the movies.

Two days ago, I took the kids to see The Princess and the Frog at the Port Angeles downtown theater, but it turned out that Alvin and the Chipmunks sequel – “squeakuel” – was playing at the same time, and they wanted to see that. Yikes. So we did, sort of. That is to say, the dumpy PA movie theatre refused to turn off the lights or focus the projector, so what we saw was a bright, blurry mess. Which is not to say that it would have been better had it been more readily visible. I tried to fall asleep, but that’s hard to do with the lights on. There’s no point in reviewing the movie in any substantive way – it’s exactly what you’d expect. If that floats your boat, then yippee turtles for you. For me, it was like getting a swirlie in an electrified toilet.

Much better was Avatar, which we sort of saw last night. I say “sort of” again because the picture wasn’t blurry, although it wasn’t in 3D. (“The 2D doesn’t detract from the epicness!” the ticket seller told us. Swell.) The projector broke during the last twenty minutes, which was fine by me, because I got my money back, and I was going to see it in 3D again anyway. And it’s not as if I don’t know what’s going to happen.

James Cameron is a great director. He can put together an action sequence like nobody’s business. And the visuals in this movie, even in 2D, were breathtaking. This movie is definitely a game changer. Well done.

So why can’t the guy learn how to write?

The plotline is Dances with Blue Wolves, only less subtle. The juvenile politics were tiresome. And the clunky little anti-Bush shout-outs – “Let’s fight terror with terror! Shock and awe! Let’s win hearts and minds!” – seem as dated as Lewinsky jokes.

Avatar is a prime example of earth worship. If only those pesky humans would get out of the way, things would revert to their Edenic state! I worship earth’s Creator, not His creations. I’m getting used to Hollywood demonizing me for that, but it’s still kind of annoying.

I have to go now. Back to the tiny house with no Internet access. Weep for me.

So Close to Greatness…

So if you haven’t seen this, watch it. You’ll need it as background for today’s post.

Actually, I thought that was far gentler and funnier than it could have been. All in all, it was very much a positive.

I wasn’t the only one who thought so.

One of my friends works for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir – not to be confused with Conan’s Mormon Tapper-nacle Choir. The day after this aired, he called Conan’s people to suggest that the Mormon Tabernacles would be interested in responding. Very quickly, he was speaking to Conan O’Brien’s executive producer, who said that they’d be very interested.

Then he called me.

He had about twenty minutes before he was going to go in and pitch this idea to the powers that be. He wanted to go in armed with something the Choir could sing that would be an appropriate response – funny and cutting edge without being cruel or embarrassing. And he needed it pretty much in about ten minutes.

So I churned out the following three verses, sung to the tune of “O Tannenbaum.” I include it with annotated explanations for the Conan uninitiated:

We really liked
Your Mormon song
The one that Max was singing [I kind of liked “the one the Jew was singing,” but that was too nasty.]

On drums, we know
He’s apropos
On vocals, he’s no Springsteen [Max Weinberg was and is the drummer for Springsteen’s E Street Band.]

Now we reply in harmony
Bill Shatner sings there; why can’t we? [Reference to the very popular Shatner/Palin sketches.]

So here’s our new Tonight Show song
Enjoy the payback, Andy. [Andy Richter, Conan’s sidekick who claimed you can find out about Mormons by watching Children of the Corn.]
____________

Los Angeles seems good for you
And much of what you’re doing

We’re glad you dropped those characters
Unfit for family viewing [This is the closest I could come to directly referencing the Masturbating Bear.]

We offer you a yule log
To lose that insult comic dog

We dug those puppies dressed as cats
That’s really worth pursuing [A fun sketch that Conan does regularly]

____________

We hope you’ll come and visit us
If you get further inland

All of us can’t wait to meet
The Prime Minister of Finland [Reference to long-running Conan gag about the fact that he looks exactly like the Prime Minister of Finland – who is female.]

We think that you’re the better man
We’d never go on Letterman

So Merry Christmas one and all
Nothing rhymes with Finland.

____________

That’s it. I think it’s mildly clever on its own but would be riotously funny if the entire choir were to sing it. My friend agreed, and I waited to hear back as he ran it up the flagpole with the powers that be.

I spent about two or three hours reveling in the idea that I had just written something that would be performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on the Tonight Show. I imagined my inevitable new career as the Tonight Show’s new head writer, and I was wondering where I would live upon my triumphant return to Los Angeles and show biz stardom.

Alas, it was not to be.

It’s a no go. The Choir, it seems, doesn’t do comedy of any stripe. They are considered official representatives of the Church, and to get permission to do this, they’d have to get direct approval from the First Presidency. Which is about as likely as me flapping my arms and flying to the moon.

Still, I had a good time. And it makes for an above average blog entry.

Cleta’s First Talk in Sacrament Meeting

My talk is about Jesus Christ, the prince of peace. This title for Christ comes from the scripture in Isaiah 9:6. It says: ‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.’

Many of the Jewish people believed that this meant that Christ would be a powerful military leader that would bring peace to the Jews. However, that isn’t the kind of peace Christ gives. In John 14:26, it says: ‘But the comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will sent in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.’

The peace that Christ promises isn’t world peace. In fact, more wars have been fought in Christ’s name than any other person. The peace that Christ promises is peace within us. This kind of peace only comes if we pray and have faith.

My mom discovered this while she was serving a mission in Chile. The first Christmas she was there, she was homesick and miserable. But the second Christmas, she loved it. She loved the people she was teaching and she had found the kind of peace that Christ promised.

Another example of finding peace comes from a book title, My Parents Married on a Dare by Carlfred Broderick. He was a stake president at the time when this story was taking place. A lady in the stake had just had a new baby daughter. While her husband was at the hospital with her visiting the baby, the lady’s two year old daughter drowned while being babysat. The two year old was in the hospital for two months breathing on life support while everyone in his ward fasted and prayed for him constantly. He was given many priesthood blessings, but soon it became clear that the child was dying. They finally decided to let him go back to his father in heaven, and took him off the life support. Just a week before the two year old died, the lady’s newborn was diagnosed with spinal meningitis. The babies were both placed in the same hospital room. When the two year old finally died, his mother bore her testimony at his grave. This is what she said.

“I am content that God be God. I will not try to instruct him on his duties or on his obligations toward me or toward any of his children. I know he lives and loves me, that he is God. He’s not unmindful of us. We do not suffer out of his view. He does not inflict pain upon us, but he sustains us in our pain. I am his daughter; my son is also his son; we belong to him, and we are safe with him. I used to think we were safe from grief and pain here because of our faith. I know now that is not true, but we are safe in his love We are protected in the most ultimate sense of all-we have a safe home forever. That is my witness.”

This lady truly found the kind of peace that Christ gives. And that is why Christ is truly called the Prince of Peace.

A Very Bad Decision

I know, I know. Climategate. It’s huge! I have much to say, but I’m waiting for the story to unravel just a bit more.

I want to talk, instead, about what may well be the worst decision of Barack Obama’s presidency.

I recognize that that’s a very high threshold. His bloated, wasteful stimulus package, his ill-conceived government-run health care plans, and his constant stream of apologies for America being America all qualify as products of terrible decisions. But this past month, he may well have outdone himself.

It is a colossal mistake to bring 9/11 hijackers onto American soil to try them in civilian courts.

Khalid Sheik Mohammed is the admitted mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks. His actions resulted in the slaughter of thousands of American innocents in the worst act of domestic terrorism in our nation’s history. For this, he was not arrested; he was captured out in the field of battle.

He didn’t commit a crime; he committed an act of war.

Our nation has a mechanism of dealing with people who are captured in battle. These peoples are tried away from the media circus in military tribunals that reflect the difference between domestic felons and international terrorists. Military tribunals have a long and respected history, and they’ve been employed by Republicans and Democrats alike.

Why, then, do President Obama and his Attorney General feel it necessary to abandon precedent and drag this enemy of the state into a civilian court?

Left-wing pundits scoff at the claim that this is somehow a threat to our national security, since American prisons are just as secure as Guantanamo Bay. They miss the point entirely. The problem isn’t that the prison system will let him escape; it’s that a judge, applying the precedents of liberal jurisprudence, might very well be persuaded to let him go.

Consider this. Khalid Sheik Mohammed was never read his Miranda rights. He was never indicted by a grand jury; he never had a bail hearing; he wasn’t allowed one phone call. That’s entirely appropriate in an international wartime setting, but domestically, it’s enough to get a case thrown out of a civilian court.

Why would the President subject the nation to this?

This circus of a trial will provide an opportunity to paint the Bush administration in the worst possible light. Mr. Mohammed will undoubtedly use his soapbox to tell lurid and wildly exaggerated tales of torture and malfeasance and attempt to indict the War on Terror as the real source of evil in the world. It will also ensure that classified information used to fight the war will come to light as a result of the trial discovery process.

It demonstrates that President Obama is more interested in scoring cheap political points then he is in treating this war as a war.

You can see evidence of that in the recent terrorist incident in Ft. Hood, when an Islamic extremist slaughtered American soldiers on American soil. Even now, we’re told to “withhold judgment” and avoid “jumping to conclusions,” despite the clear evidence that demonstrates the murderer’s terrorist sympathies. Should we continue to treat terrorism lightly, we will only serve to weaken our national resolve and undermine the successes that we have had in fighting terror since that dreadful day in 2001.

We are at war. This terrible decision is a profoundly unserious way to deal with a very serious threat.

The Third Floor Wallpaper Birds

One night in my apartment, I, Jake, was on my bed. I was sleeping when I heard stomp stomp stomp. I heard a creeeaaak. My door was opening. It was… It was? Boom! I was hit with a magic spell and went right back to sleep.

That morning, I woke up. I was looking around and I saw it. A bird on my wallpaper was missing! This could not be happening, I thought. I could not let my brother Josh or my mom and dad find out. I went through the day but couldn’t find out anything about a wizard, so that night I stayed awake, but nothing happened. That morning, I didn’t eat breakfast. I juts grabbed my lunch and left. On the way to school, I was thinking was it a wrathmonk like in Measle and the Wrathmonk who did it?

I was going to solve this mystery once and for all. That night I heard stomp stomp stomp again, so I put on my night vision goggles but I was hit by the same spell and fell asleep. That morning I found drool on my night vision goggles. It was disgusting. I was thinking again. I thought it was a monster now. I just know it. That night, I saw it – a creepy drooling monster. And then I fainted. I was thinking that morning.

Could the monster ship-shape?

At school, I asked my friends if monsters could ship-shape. They laughed at me, but my friend Max didn’t laugh. he had a sleepover to see the creature. That night I and Max folded out the couch . Then we got in bed. Then we heard stomp stomp stomp. The creature was muttering, “My real form is a wrathmonk that can ship-shape.” Max heard it, too.

The wrathmonk broke the door!

I put on my night vision goggles. Two birds were missing, and three birds were turning 3-d! We had to stop the wrathmonk! Me and Max jumped at him and tackled him. Then we were being controlled! I figured out my arms weren’t controlled. So I picked up a bat and threw it. The bat hit the wrathmonk like a monkey that had a banana gun and shot it. I jumped at him like I was a leopard pouncing on a bird. I told him to change the spell, but he said no. I picked up a bat, but he shot a spell and the bat turned two-d.

I went to get a mirror. When I got back, Max was asleep. The wrathmonk shot a spell. It hit the mirror and made a sound like a howler monkey and a blue whale screaming together, and the spell bounced back. The wrathmonk dived like a bullet firing and dodged the spell.

The spell hit me and I fell asleep. When Max and I woke up, we saw another bird gone!

We had to stop the wrathmonk.

That night, Max had another sleepover and when we got in bed we heard stomp stomp stomp. Out of nowhere – AAAAAA AAAA! Max was tooken by the wrathmonk! He was screaming like a howler monkey was yelling as loud as it can. My front door opened and Max was gone with the wrathmonk.

That morning at school, I decided to follow the wrathmonk and get Max back.

That night, I followed the wrathmonk to his base. I looked in and saw Max. The wrathmonk was playing darts with Max as the target, but the darts kept missing and he saw me with the corner of his eye and fired a ball of fire at me.

KABLOOIE! It missed me by an inch! Few.

I was relieved I wasn’t dead. Then he said blstastlamdechoo! That was weird, but the wrathmonk shot a tornado of fire at me. BAM BOOM EEEK! That hurt my ears. I was lucky it didn’t hit me. Boom! We were being pulled into a black hole! I ripped the rope off. Max got a parachute and jumped out the window. The wrathmonk followed us. We kept running until we lost the wrathmonk. We were panting so I hard I felt like I was going to die.

I, Jake, would stop the wrathmonk.

Max went home so I would watch for the wrathmonk. BOOM BOOOOOOOOOM! I got my dad’s sword ready to fight, but I fainted.

“Where am I,” I said?

I looked down. AAAAA! I was 2,000 feet off the ground! The thing I know I fainted. I woke up in strange clothes. The wrathmonk was here. Boom! There stood the wrathmonk.

This was it. I would fight until death.

We were fighting. I grabbed a suit, put it on, and had powers! I took off teh suit and still had powers! It was amazing! I and the wrathmonk were fighting, and, out of nowhere, I shot a power with fire water and grass in it.

“This battle ends here,” I said.

“Never,” said the wrathmonk.

Blam Boom Kaboom! I dived and kept dodging the wrathmonk’s shots. I picked up a black bomb and threw it. Out of the bomb, a black hole appeared and sucked up the wrathmonk and disappeared!

I went home and hoped nobody noticed how messy my room is. I looked at the door. I saw there in the doorway – my mom. She wanted an explanation. I told her I guess I’m crazy.

“You’re a goofball”, she said and walked out.

But I thought, “I’m not a goofball. I’m a hero.” I looked at my wall. The birds were back on my wallpaper. I looked down. My bat was 3-D again. Everything was back to normal.

Well, most everything. The wrathmonk is still there. At school we were supposed to write what happened on our 5 day weekend. I, Jake, knew exactly what to write. My beginning. it all happened when someone left the window open. It was a great week. See ya.

Obama and Afghanistan

On a side note, I keep getting spammed by some Russian mail order bride company. I don’t know why. Most of them show up on the “Call Me Ishmael” post. So I’ve changed the comment moderation settings – for posts over two weeks old, your comments will be moderated. I think that will cut off teh flow of Call Me Ishmael mail order crap. If you want a Russian mail order bride, I have no interest in providing any assistance in the process.

My eight-year-old son Corbin is disturbed very much by war. For as long as he’s had memory, this nation has been at war in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. Not long ago, he asked his parents whether or not wars ever end.

That’s a question that President Obama inappropriately answered the other night.

It’s been said before, and it needs to be said again: no one wants war. But simply pulling troops out before the job is done doesn’t bring peace. All it does is return us to a time when the other side was the only one fighting. Afghanistan, for years, was a failed state ruled by a brutal regime that aided and harbored the terrorists who struck us on 9/11. If we leave Afghanistan now, we’ll allow it to return to that condition and create a breeding ground for more assaults on America.

We can’t let that happen.

For part of President Obama’s speech, it seemed as if he understood that. He was making the case for committing additional troops to the area, which is a hard sell to a war-weary nation. But his commitment was halfhearted, because he promised to have all the troops out of Afghanistan by 2013.

This is the worst of all possible worlds.

The deadline sends a terrible message to our enemies. It lets them know that all they have to do is wait us out for the next three years, and then, it’s business as usual. It says that America can be outlasted, and that our commitment to freedom only goes so far.

Of course, many Democrats are upset that he’s willing to continue military action at all. So, in order to appease them, he’s set a deadline for the war to be over, whether or not it actually is. I can’t judge the president’s motives, but I think it would be abhorrent to make life-and-death decisions about putting our troops in harms way based on political calculation. Rightly or wrongly, this deadline for troop withdrawal creates that impression, and it does nothing to boost the morale and confidence of those brave men and women who stand ready to make the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.

Still, President Obama is our Commander-in-Chief, and I consider it my duty to support him on this. I have every confidence that we can win this conflict if we have the political will to do so.

It’s a good thing nobody set a deadline for the end of World War II.