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Lotsa Stuff

My blog post titled Stake President of the United States has received over 50,000 unique visits and counting and has been cited by media outlets across the country, including just last week by the Deseret News. It tells the story of Mitt Romney removing a hornet’s nest from my cousin’s second-story air conditioner. The story has been received positively by many, and it seems to have spread far and wide, although a few people have questioned its veracity. I actually had one guy I don’t know quote my blog post back to me while I was participating in a political focus group. When I told him I’d written that story, he asked me “well, is it true?”

It is.

What’s more, you no longer have to take my word for it. You can read an interview with the cousin in question, Grant Bennett, here, and he recounts the story in his own words. I wouldn’t be surprised if you heard him repeat it at tonight’s Republican National Convention. Grant will be speaking about his experiences with Mitt Romney as a Mormon bishop between 8 and 9 pm EST.
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People are still asking me about the NBC Rock Center special about the LDS Church and what I thought of it. I was surprised to read this report from Newsbusters.org, a conservative media watchdog site, that referred to the special as a “Mormon hit piece.” Longtime commenter Daniel Z. has tagged me as having a persecution complex on the subject, but I found myself pleasantly surprised by the report, which, overall, was very favorable to the church.

Could it have been better? Sure. But it could also have been much, much worse.

Take polygamy, for instance. Of course they had to mention it, but we didn’t get and extended segment with Warren Jeffs acolytes the way we did when the BBC did their hit piece a few months back. Instead, we got a very thoughtful comment from an official church leader who put the practice in its historical context and clarified that it hasn’t been a part of the church since the 19th Century.

As for past racism in the church, that was mentioned but not dwelled upon, and they gave a great deal of time to an interracial couple from Lehi, Utah, where the African-American husband made it clear that he’d never experienced any bigotry in his LDS congregation. The interview with Mormon feminist Joanna Brooks and the openly gay bishopric counselor Mitch Mayne were remarkably complimentary, and segments about the church’s welfare program were practically gushing in their admiration, and, overall, I think anyone with no knowledge of the church prior to watching that show would have come away with a very favorable impression.

And although I winced when it was clear that they were going to close the program with a segment about the incredibly offensive Book of Mormon musical, imagine my surprise when they decided to highlight Clark Johnson, the one (former) Mormon in the cast who had incredibly gracious things to say about his own missionary experience. (Name drop alert: Clark Johnson was an actor at the Tuacahn Amphitheatre in 2001 when I was the Artistic Director there. I taught him several Gershwin numbers for that year’s preshow. I was astonished that he didn’t mention that, as I’m sure it was one of the seminal moments of his career.)

So was it perfect? No. Why not? Abby Huntsman.

The twenty-something daughter of failed presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, who can’t decide whether or not he’s still a Mormon, Abby was Brian Williams’ “go-to-guy,” so to speak. She got the final word on subjects like temple marriage and temple garments, even though she’s no longer a member of the church and has never experienced Mormon temple rituals firsthand. She was held up as an authority on these subjects because she is “Mormon royalty” that is “descended from one of the church’s original twelve apostles,” although they never said which. Is a dissident really the most authoritative voice on how the church operates, particularly a very young dissident who has limited personal experience with the things she’s discussing? Plus what was with her lipstick? It looked like she’d just had her collagen implants spray painted.

Still, that’s essentially a quibble. If all media treatments of Mormonism are executed with as much thoughtfulness as this one was, then I’ll be forced to concede that Daniel Z. was right.
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So what do I think of the Republican Convention so far?

I think it’s a home run. I think Ann Romney faced ridiculously high expectations and effortlessly exceeded them. I thought Chris Christie’s speech was grand, thoughtful, and inclusive. I thought Paul Ryan delivered a devastating blow to the Obama administration last night, and I have fallen madly and deeply in love with Condoleezza Rice.

What will America think, and will this provide a significant bump in the polls? I don’t know. If they’re watching, it will. And it will depend almost entirely on how well Mitt does tonight. But I think a good sign is that the MSNBC anchors are beside themselves with blind, sputtering rage – especially Chris Matthews, who thinks everything the Republicans are saying is really a secret code that means “we’re anxiously engaged in efforts to enslave African-Americans all over again.” To him, everything a Republican says is latently racist. But if everything is racist, then nothing is racist. Or, as the great Harry Nilsson once observed, “a point in every direction is the same as no point at all.”

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Four of my columns have now run in the Deseret News, which is the second largest paper in Utah and the fastest growing newspaper – maybe the only newspaper with growing circulation at all – in the United States.

The first was Superheroes should maintain their super values and talks about superhero movies.

The second, which I referenced in this blog post, is titled “Not bad” isn’t necessarily good and recounts my experiences rewriting Tuacahn’s Utah! musical, which I also talked about in this blog post.

The third was on the front page of the Sunday Arts section and is titled Movie ratings useful, but can be arbitrary. It recounts a story that I told in one of my very first blog posts back in 2007.

The fourth generated quite a bit of controversy on my Facebook page, and it’s titled Hollywood mocks what it doesn’t understand. I anticipate that my fifth column will run this Sunday. I’ll post a link here when it does.

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My year-old album up on Amazon and iTunes has still sold precisely zero copies. So that’s why I added a new single to several online stores called “Edge of a Crow,” which has the best production values of any song I’ve ever recorded. It seems I’m getting the hang of GarageBand, but not of selling anything. So if you want to be the first person on the planet to plunk down 89 cents for an original Stallion Cornell tune, now’s your chance.

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I have nothing more to say to you, at least today. Feel free to go about your business.

 

More than Bad Grammar
Shakespeare Festival in Context

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