“The Voice” or The Business

the voice 6

by Bryce Marvin

The 10th season of “The Voice” came to a close recently, and it came down to a group of four talented misfits looking for the next step in their music careers to decide who would earn the title. The finale came in two, 85 minute episodes giving each singer one last chance at winning the hearts of America.

In short, “The Voice” is basically a live-broadcast concert. With each musical performance, fog machines are working hard, the stage is customized to each performer, and the lighthe voice 4ts are in full effect to give the viewers a taste of how the contestants would do as professional musicians. Now take that aspect of the show, and I am all for it!
Unfortunately, over the course of an hour and a half, there’s usually no more than 5-6 performances because there is always a backstory or an interview to share. That is where this source of popular entertainment hits the commercial reality. It is fun to see all the hard work that these musicians have put in over the complete season, but their music and performances speak louder than the countless interviews that they choose to air.

And how about those outfits and costumes?

This finale actually surprised me with the modesty. The two men in the finals, Laith Al-Saadi and Adam Wakefield, were both dressed in long-sleeve clothes that suited their old rock and country sounds. From the two female finalists, Hannah Huston the voice 3and Alisan Porter, they both wore nice dresses as the winner was being announced, but that’s not to say they were always well covered. Hannah often wore dresses revealing her mid-section and back, and Alisan wore a dress that looked like a leotard with a transparent pattern overlay in the finale. The contestants did better than some of the performers invited on the show, or even Christina Aguilera, one of the coaches.

I was not blown away with this two-part finale. The music was good, but not great. After watching for 3 hours, I was burnt out. The format is predictable, and the 4 coaches do a good job of spicing things up, but it wasn’t enough.  I personally enjoyed watching the blind auditions more than the finale.

The music industry is extremely competitive, and “The Voice” is just another opportunity for up-and-coming artists to make a name for themselves while sharing their talents.

This season’s winner, Alisan Porter, is a mother of two who has been in the entertainment business since she was 3 years old. She is most commonly known for her starring role in the movie, “Curly Sue”, but she said that she wanted to focus more on music and less on The voice 2acting.

“The Voice” gives hope to grass roots performers, but is it in vain? Think of all the “American Idol” winners. Think of the last 10 winners on “The voice”. All of the winners have experienced their 15 minutes of fame, but only a few have continued successfully with their music careers. We romanticize the idea that a “normal” person could achieve unbelievable success through one of these programs, but are we giving them more credit than they deserve?

the voice 7

“Chewbacca” Mom Goes Viral: “Are we laughing enough?”


Eunseo Baek, EunSol Choi, Ying-Shi Chou, Sooyeong Jeong and Kate Pearson

If you doubt the power of laughter, consider the “Chewbacca Woman.” Candace Payne, mother of two kids in Texas donned a mask of the hairy Star Wars character, Chewbacca, and posted her uncontrollable nonstop four-minute laughter spasm. Her viral guffaw set a Facebook record, with 136 million views. Furthermore, it’s being shared on other sites and social media. For a moment, we paused from our busy day to laugh along with the video. As Latter-day Saints, we also paused to think about the role of humor in our lives.

After purchasing the mask on her 37th birthday, she sat in the car wearing a Death Star t-shirt reading “Epic Fail.” She streamed video via Facebook, strapping on the mask, and commencing an historical laughing fit so boisterous it ignited a global chuckle. Why did she derive such joy from such a simple thing? How did something most would find only mildly amusing send her into such a blissful ecstatic state? “Oh, I am such a happy Chewbacca and I kind of want to drive around like this!”

After becoming a Facebook celeb, Payne was interviewed by the BBC, NPR, and “Good Morning America, and so on. However, her dream is just to meet Steve Harvey and dance with Ellen DeGeneres.

Payne shared her thoughts about social media and encouraged others to set an example for cheering people up. She said, “I just think our world needs that amount of joy right now.” Social media is all about how we use it, and can bring joy to people. She has heard from people who are suffering from anxiety or depression thanking her for lifting their spirits and making them laugh. Payne felt so happy her laughing could help someone, she said, “I finally felt that Chewbacca got his joy back and all was right with the world.”

Quotes from Candace Payne (See one of her interviews at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ne27NcgO6I


“I’m a stay-at-home mom. I only had a few minutes before I had to go get my kids from school,” the mom told the “Late Late Show” host on Monday.

“I wanted to prove to all of my Facebook friends and family that that mask was mine.”

“I know that the minute that [my kids] saw it that they were going to take it from me,”

“And I’m like, ‘I didn’t buy it for you, little kids. I love you, but this isn’t for you.’”

“I’ve had some people — they’ve sent me private messages, and they’ll just say stuff like, ‘Man, I’ve been battling depression. So-and-so passed away, and I hadn’t laughed since they died and this video made me laugh again,’ ”

 Health Benefits of Laughter

Psychologically, humor can reduce stress a1244fdc5cb6aea6bb8c3393a58aa50band anxiety that often lead to other physical ailments. According to Dr. Lee Berk and Dr. Stanley Tan at the Loma Linda University in California, laughter has the following benefits (See full article at: http://life.gaiam.com/article/7-benefits-laughter):

1. Laughing lowers blood pressure. Research indicates a link between laughter or relaxed state and the lowering of blood pressure.

2. Reduces stress hormone levels. Something as simple as telling jokes with friends can relieve daily stress.

3. Fun ab workout. During laughter, stomach muscles expand and contract, thus making it a physical exercise.f43f0165f17fb92e0181a7bb0adf8c15

4. Improves cardiac health. Laughter is a great cardio workout and gets your heart pumping. You even burn calories.

5. Boosts T cells. T cells, or immune system cells can be boosted through humor enabling the body to fight off illness.

6. Triggers the release of endorphins. Laughing releases endorphins, which can ease chronic pain.

7. Produces a general sense of well-being. Studies show that people with a positive outlook have a greater chance of fighting certain diseases compared to those with negative demeanors.

Religion and Laughter

Religious denominations vary regarding the role of laughter. Humor plays a role in most faith communities, although some religions consider it incongruous with the sacred. For example, parishioners of older religions tend to be more at ease with humor. This is according to Diana Mahony in The Encyclopedia of Religion, Communication, and Media. Catholics, for example are comfortable with jokes about the Pope, while Mormons tend to be uneasy with jokes about the Prophet. Such humor  breaches the sacred realm of worship and clergy.

Mormonism, however, is a theology of the family, and when humor uplifts and strengthens family, members are reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:4 “A time to weep, a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance…”

fd41d072a467011c3f688f31745a0bf1What role does laughter play in the LDS belief system? In the Bible we read, “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” (Prov. 17:22.),and Jesus himself counselled that we “be of good cheer”. (John 16:33), but at the same time Doctrine and Covenants section 88 reminds the saints to “cease from all … light speeches, from all laughter … and light-mindedness” (D&C 88:121) and to “cast away … your excess of laughter far from you” (D&C 88:69), along with our “idle thoughts.”

According to a 1974 LDS address, “it would not be wise to attempt to define “excess of laughter” or “much laughter” in terms of decibel levels or time limits.”; although, leaders caution against humour which berates others or makes light of sacred things.

Anyone who has frequented LDS services, is no stranger to the puns, quips, and witty anecdotes that often fly from the pulpit, stirring a congregation all to ready to laugh out loud. Notable LDS church leaders have spoken on the value of humour and even declared that humour unifies marriages, creates fun family relationships, and helps keep life in perspective.

In his talk, “the power of laughter”, Gary Palmer explains that laughter helps us cope with the struggles of life, and suggests we look to the example of children who reportedly laugh 400 times a day on average, compared to15 times for adults. “Humor is in the way we see things, the way we think. It’s an attitude, not an event. Perhaps the key lies in becoming more childlike.”, Palmer said.


Previous LDS Church President, Gordon B. Hinckley, and his wife Marjorie were known for their keen sense of humour.

Sister Hinckley said, “The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache”.

Do we laugh enough in the LDS community? Is there something we can learn from the Chewbacca Mom about finding joy in everyday life?




Will Mormons reject the new “softer” slasher films?

by Danny Stout

“Slasher” films are dubious at best in LDS circles, and outright rejected at worst. Opponents struggle to find redeeming value in violence-as-entertainment, while fans talk of high-tension thrills and chills, or the fun of “freaking out.” Three new movies, Hush, The Green Room, and the TV dramatic series, Slasher, are challenging the kitch-based ultra violent genre that’s kept us screaming, and, in some cases laughing, for decades. The brand-new works retain spurious elements of past slashers (e.g., story begins with youth trauma, followed by revenge, typically with metal weapons by the wounded protagonist that usually wears a hockey mask or other creepy costume), yet the recent works have depth, finer craftsmanship, and moral commentary. Filmmakers increasingly discard the pejorative “slasher” in favor of the euphemistic “psychological thriller” or “psychological horror film.”

Something like the slasher has been around for centuries. Peasants attending London’s Elizabethan Theater demanded murder slasher4from Shakespeare who delivered it in high doses, Hamlet being an example. Actors in a play bereft of death scenes were bombarded by rotten vegetables by a deliriously discontented audience. Today, “scary” movies function similarly to their fifteenth century progenitors of the stage. Religionists struggle to sort out the moral questions. That is, not all violence is as easily denounced as that in the brutal The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). War movie Saving Private Ryan has a 30-minute scene of non-stop death, but is praised as a moral work. The Passion of Christ while lauded as a religious film, had bloodshed throughout as Mel Gibson strove for historical accuracy. Nevertheless, the “Slasher” pushes the limits of taste and morality.

The new films are more like Alfred Hitchcock‘s Psycho; they’re more morality tales than traditional slashers designed merely to exploit audience catharsis and adrenaline rushes. The shower scene murder was unprecedented, but the overall allegory is about conscience, repentance, and circumstances beyond one’s control. The Green Room, Hush, and Slasher while violent, have redeeming value beyond the traditional gore fests such as Halloween (1978), and Friday the 13th (1980). The three recent films are gory, but thoughtful; there’s fewer graphic scenes, emphasizing other dramatic elements, particularly character development and substantive plots, elevating moral themes.

In Hush, Maddie, a deaf writer played by Kate Siegel has an intruder hovering outside her remote cabin. His weapons include a machete and crossbow. Reading his lips, she decodes his message: “I’m not coming in until you want to die.” Murder is kept to a minimum because, thematically, the wonder of mind and spirit in outfoxing an overpowering foe is the gestalt. Conceding my reductionist take, the film deals with problem-solving in the wake of intense fear. While few of us will receive a visit from a deranged killer with a crossbow tonight, all have anxieties at various levels. In an impossible situation, Maddie finds a way to pause, think, and perhaps engage a higher power in discovering that fear, not the intruder, is the real threat.

The Green Room (i.e., chamber for performers before and after their acts) takes us into the punk rock culture, as the band, “The Ain’t Rights” reluctantly agree to play for neo-Nazi skinheads in a club outside Portland, Oregon. Opening their set with a song mocking Skinheads is the first mistake. Second, they witness a murder, and are locked in the Green Room; a roller coaster of rabid realism takes off. Like Hush, the violence is graphic, but not like Wes Craven‘s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) or Clive Barker‘s Hellraiser (1987).

Band members Sam, Pat, Tiger, and Reece give us a tour of punk life; the film takes on an ethnographic feel. Viewing it through an anthropological lens, the viewer is enlightened about the utility of punk community and its often misunderstood youth culture. Rituals such as “gobbing” (i.e., spitting at the band in appreciation) will intrigue uninformed audience members. How a functional subculture blends with a dysfunctional one such as the Skinheads is equally informative. Again, the violence, although salient, takes a backseat to the film’s engrossing setting.

Of the three, Slasher is truest to the genre in terms of frequency of meat cleaver deaths. Such is partly attributed to it being a dramatic series, and thus a longer story line. It also exceeds the sexuality quotient for LDS tastes. Nevertheless, Slasher is a whodunit focusing on who is killing as much as how. It works as mystery suspense in a traditional sense. Produced by the Canadian network Super Channel, Katie McGrath plays a newly wed returning to Waturbury, Ontario to uncover the story of her parents’ murder. It was the “Executioner,” following the List of The Seven Deadly Sins much like the movie, Seven. The tension builds gradually through the eight episodes with believable twists and surprises. It is a slasher – mystery hybrid.

Vacillating scenes from close-ups to distant shots of the town evoke the Hitchcockslasher technique of giving the viewer time to ponder. Campy elements reminiscent of older slashers add humor with lines like: “I’m beginning to think that moving back to Waterbury was a bad idea.” And “The hard work is going to be the death of you.” Slasher ostensibly is a commendable old fashioned mystery main course with a side order of gore.

Popularity of these films among LDS moviegoers is difficult to predict, but one thing is clear: The slasher genre is changing, and it will be increasingly difficult to assess as demonstrated by the films discussed. Moral values and assumptions of these works are not easily assessed. Whether one is better or worse having seen them cannot ne answered here, but all three have provoked mostly substantive discussion it seems.

“Hacking the System:” Making Life Easier for Whom?

By Bryce Marvin

Have you ever wondered how to get VIP treatment at a restaurant? Did you know you could hacking_the_systemfly on a private jet for the same price as an economy seat? Brian Brushwood reveals these and many other secrets and shortcuts to save time and make life better in an HBO series called, “Hacking The System”. Brushwood, a former student at the University of Texas at Austin has spent years working as an entertainer, studying psychology, and well, picking up tips from criminals. With this odd set of skills and experiences, he’s able to uncover many shortcuts that we may have never even considered.

In the words of one viewer, “This is like Mythbusters, but instead of proving or disproving myths, they seem more focused on hacking tricks and manipulation.”

While some of these “hacks” are entertaining, some of them could be seen as more juvenile and sometimes criminal such as breaking into someone’s house, how to easily break a car window, how to manipulate car salesmen into giving you the best possible option, or even just making a stoplight change in your favor more quickly. I was skeptical at first of the thought of teaching viewers how easy it is to break into a safe or any of the other more criminalist actions. There is a disclaimer shared on each episode not to try the things which they perform, but does that only incite the curious? Just as there have been controversies about what online videos should and should not be censored (i.e. how to make a bomb), where should the line be drawn?

As you continue watching the episodes you begin to question the way that you do things.


It is so easy to fall into the same daily routines and then when problems arise, we see just how vulnerable hacking maskwe can be at times. That is where these “hacks” truly serve. Maybe we are not pushy enough to try and “work the system” into free airline upgrades, but being informed on how to best protect yourself can serve all. Not everyone is out to get you, but just as inspired men have counseled, we need to be prepared.

“Hacking The System” is actually quite entertaining, and will make you think about the way you live your life. I hope to never be kidnapped, but I may just have to give a try at breaking out of zip ties!

“Captain America: Civil War” Lifts Marvel to a New Level

By Brianne Burgess

Civil_War_Final_Poster.jpgMarvel’s Captain America: Civil War is taking the country by storm. Although technically a Captain America movie featuring Marvel characters, fans of Thor or Hulk might be disappointed they don’t make an appearance. On the other hand, interesting new  characters make their debut.

Die-hard fans know that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), differs from the comics. A major plot point of the comics hangs on the secret identities of the heroes, but in the movies, their identities are well known. There are WAY more characters on each side in the comics, and the way the characters interact differs dramatically. This is not necessarily a bad thing, the movies need consistency within their own universe and present the story in a way more appropriate for the medium and audience.

Civil War raises the genre to new levels with uncommon nuance that includes extraordinary action scenes rare in cinema, high dramatic tension, and optimally placed humor. It’s far superior to Superman vs Batman which fails to artfully civil-war-promo-art-calendar-172257grasp the characters in the way that screenplay writers Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely  do in Civil War. They give each character depth while subtly disclosing their motives. Although it doesn’t match the comics in this respect, it didn’t need to. The cinematography is uncommonly good as is the superb choreography. Simply put, Civil War is a highly enjoyable movie. The sound engineering falls short somewhat, but it is hardly noticeable.


The movie has its twists and turns, but the moral message is familiar: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Abraham Lincoln quoting the Bible, speaking about the American Civil War).

The fact that comic books were condemned in a 1955 conference talk (see insert above) and 60 years later command a global following inside and outside the Church, speaks to the evolutionary nature of pop culture genres. Comic media are complex in their many forms. One example is the graphic novel (book-length comic book) Road to Perdition which was converted to an Academy Award – winning movie starring Tom Hanks.

Civil War is receiving critical acclaim, and for this genre, it may earn masterpiece status; it certainly gave me goosebumps, and at the end of the two and a half hours, I wanted more.

Encore Film Review: “Nightwatching” (Lest we not forget Rembrandt)

by Dean Duncan

Trot out the adjectives, visually speaking.  This is an utterly gorgeous, luminous film.  Not just painterly, but really successfully and multiply painterly.  Frames, perpendiculars, exquisite balance giving way to different exquisite balances.  Props and costumes seem so apt, so familiar and lived in/with.  As per usual with Greenaway, these visual clarities come into conflict with narrative and thematic complexity.  It’s a compelling combination, and a valid one.

nightwatchingtwoOn the other hand, as per usual with Greenaway, it’s all kind of unpleasant.  Make that very unpleasant.  Some of that unpleasantness is earned; the film intelligently and perceptively considers power and its abuses, and abusive power behaves badly.  In this the film goes beyond the level of platitude and self-serving—the specificity, of the thing, both historically and methodologically, is positively Brechtian.  And the picture, this detailing of the ways of political oppression, isn’t likely to be very pretty.

On the other hand, on the side of our protagonist (Freeman is revelatory), there’s a Rabelasian component, an earthiness/bawdiness nightwatching-5321ad45d6edfthat seems at once really well-researched/historically plausible, and really humanly accurate.  After all, the muck of medieval subsistence is still not so terribly far in the past.  Unfortunately, this is also, on the side of the apparent good guy, the source of most of the aforementioned unpleasantness.  Rembrandt’s efforts come more or less to naught, the which conclusion—remember, the writer/director is telling this particular story for a reason—contains the message of the movie.  It’s a practically Buñuelian vision of human perfidy.  Is Buñuel so set on the futility of it all?  It’s more than that, really.  Misanthropy is one thing.  Vicious misanthropy might go a bit too far.

Mind you, the conclusion, in which that foreign gentlemen steps out of the frame, enumerates the many facets of Rembrandt’s failure, and then concludes that he was right, has considerable, undiluted power.  Near the end of Henry V Prince Hal isn’t sure who won.  Are we ever?  At the very end of Henry V, not to soon after the historical battle, that stirring victory all falls apart.  Maybe not here.  It’s kind of thrilling, after being so very dispiriting.


“Coast to Coast AM” A UFO Show, but for Mormons?

by Danny Stout

UFO’s, ghosts, ghost-hunters, Big Foot, Area 51, crop circles, and cryptzoology are some of the topics on the radio show, “Coast to Coast AM.” Airing between 1am and 5am, it’s the most popular early morning program with 2.5 million weekly listeners. Over 600 stations carry the show. The format combines live callers and expert interviews. In an age when science and religion are the dominant modes of truth, “Coast to Coast” proves that belief in the paranormal occupies the culture in a big way.


The UFO phenomenon, or ufology, dominates the show. The listener immediately senses “believer” apologetics. A guest claims to verify your alien abduction through DNA testing. Others speak of handwriting on Martian mountains; an author speaks of civilizations in the center of the earth. The host, George Noory, praises guests and callers no matter how bizarre. Pseudo-scientific experts synthesize empiricicism, mysticism, religion, and the paranormal. “Scientific,” “data,” and “confirmed” are freely used terms. It’s hybrid entertainment at its best; a virtual stew of postmodern philosophies where nothing’s ruled out. Veracity of UFO’s is a central belief, and everyone has a sighting story. “Incredible!” Noory exclaims, and assures, “I believe you.”

Clairvoyants have given way to pseudoscientists quoting studies outside the paradigms of the mainstream scientific community, making it difficult to discern valid studies from heresay and conjecture. Pseudoscience empowers believers, and gives fence-sitters confidence to participate in the UFO dialogue. Given the expanding popularity of ufology, it’s time to ask where the LDS community fits into this expanding genre of popular culture.

Mormon cosmology suggests the probability of other worlds. In Moses 1:33, 35, we read:

“And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten. But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.”

     More recently, Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s book, Not My Will, But Thine states, “Of these worlds we learn further that ‘the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God’ (D&C 76:24).

But, mentioning UFO’s in Priesthood Meeting or Most-Beautiful-UFO-Wallpaper.jpgRelief Society will turn heads. Mormon discourse hasn’t emphasized other worlds for decades. In the Cold War Era, however, Mormons like other Americans, speculated about such objects in the sky. Russians and Americans were launching rockets and testing nuclear weapons. Landing men on the moon prompted speculation about life elsewhere. The UFO cottage industry included magazines, comic books, movies, and TV shows such as Lost in Space and My Favorite Martian with Bill Bixby. Star Trek would soon follow.

Today, the subject is low on the Lord’s agenda, particularly in terms of General Conference instruction. Coast to Coast AM is an unlikely source for Sunday School lesson preparation. Value lies in awareness that so many of our neighbors embrace the paranormal. The second reason for listening is entertainment; many shows are over-the-top, attracting audiences for advertising revenue. With all due respect for believers, CTC is so much theater, and what a wonderful show it is.

While some of Noory’s guests are credible, so much is hilariously over-the-top. Noory’s predecessor, Art Bell, was a notorious radio entertainer with guests such as the “Three Headed Man,” Elvira, Bobo, and Walter, the latter died of an aneurism before the show, his atrophied head covered by a hoodie sweatshirt. Bell claimed a guest was spinning his coffee cup by telekinesis on the air.




Frequent UFO sightings around the world.





The circus-like program nevertheless claims a respectable position in popular culture. How can one ignore an audience of 2.5 million people? Offhandedly dismissing it impedes a chance to apply the discipline of cultural studies, particularly the significance of story and the symbolism of myth. In the Betty and Barney Hill alien abduction tale, the space visitors are disappointed with eathlings’ low-level intelligence and morality. Thus they take off for another planet. As an open text, the story may have a point. Perhaps the human race hasn’t lived up to its potential. Then there’s the show on mushrooms contaminated by radioactivity near Chernobyl. Millions of contaminated agaricus bisporus are spreading throughout the world, but are they dangerous? No, for some reason they’re illuminating global warming. Ludicrous at one level, but symbolic of the belief that the world heals itself.

Don’t quote Coast to Coast in Church, but treat yourself to one of the most engrossing programs radio has to offer. Then put on your anthropologist hat: these stories tell us more about culture than the National Geographic Channel.



“Trump-tainment:” Who Takes the Prize?

by Danny Stout

The Donald Trump media phenomenon is a postmodern blend of politics and theater. My comments are apolitical; they’re about the amusement of Trump. Who wins the prize for “Best Trump-tainment,” or journalism designed to donaldtrumphairflyinggratify, placing less emphasis on civic matters? Burgeoning audiences sustain this spectacle as the ratings skyrocket. More advertising revenue in the coffers. Commendable are those fleeing to the PBS News Hour, Charlie Rose, and the New York Times for issues-based news. Millions say no, however, enjoying Donald the barker over Trump the politician. Who can resist the bombastic barnstormer; no one like him has occupied the public square in a century. We’re drawn to spectacle; it’s as engaging as other media of pop culture (e.g., TV dramedy, movies, etc.), and it provides deserved relaxation at the end of a long day. Again, I don’t judge Donald Trump as a political candidate. How well media present him as a thespian is the only goal here. Hopefully, the frameworks for trump-tainment criticism will expand.

Trump isn’t the first candidate to rely on an entertainment-heavy campaign. Lincoln honed the art of sarcasm, and who can forget Reagan’s snarky comment that Jimmy Carter’s message on 60 Minutes only took one minute. FDR had a quick and dry wit, and to Teddy Roosevelt, political pundits were “copper-riveted idiots” and “circumcised skunks.” Responding to the question of why Calvin Coolidge decided not to seek re-election, he told Yankee magazine in 1897, “Because there’s no chance for advancement.”


These candidates are light years from the drama and antics of Trump-tainment. Political issues dominated their speeches; Rough Rider Teddy Roosevelt, rousing as he was, is no match for the hurricane of name-calling, shouting, and screaming debates, not to mention physical altercations between protesters and campaign managers. Get the popcorn popping and Dr. Pepper flowing as we review programs depicting the spectacle in the style of Barnum and Bailey. “Step right up!”

Verbal pugilism is an apt starting point. Some 192f49a7f50a4eda4351fa7249b587e318d1aaf4call it aggression, some theatrics, but its sports-style coverage is in the same class as a UFC match. Kick-boxing isn’t nearly as compelling as a presidential candidate yell, “Throw em out! Throw em out!” Repeated video clips of Trump’s manager grabbing the shirt of a protester turned CNN into sportscasting. “Did you see that? He grabbed the protester’s collar!” The co-host responds, “No I think that was the man behind him; it’s hard to say there was physical contact.” Videos rolled again when the manager grabbed a journalist, bruising her arm. “No way! She attached him!” Trump screamed.

Then it happened. A Trump supporter sucker-punched a protester in the face as he climbed the stairs of an arena. CNN runs this tape again and again with commentators acting like boxing commentators. “Would you do it again?” the reporter asks the puncher, “Yeah, next time I’d kill him!” Trump’s response fuels the fire of the fight coverage. “If he’s sued, I’ll pay the legal costs,” Trump shouts. The best fight-coverage by journalists goes to CNN.

Winner for “most entertaining headlines,” is the New York Daily News going away. In New York, Chicago, Boston, and other major metro areas, the printed headline incites the day’s conversation. First, are the general Trump heads:





HIS endorsement by Sarah Palin inspired these headlines:



Walking up to a Manhattan newsstand, you’re already chuckling. The hard-hitting, thought-provoking front pages that summarize the fight to the White House deserve our prize for Trump-tainment in the headline category.

There’s nothing more enjoyable than seeing a politician unprepared, especially when its about a major issue. Thus the prize for “Best Surprise Interview Question” goes to MSNBC’s Chris Mathews. On the matter of abortion, Trump was ill-prepared to the point where he boldly said women should be punished for abortions:

TRUMP: Are you Catholic?
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think …
TRUMP: And how do you feel about the Catholic Church’s position?
MATTHEWS: Well, I accept the teaching authority of my church on moral issues.
TRUMP: I know, but do you know their position on abortion?
MATTHEWS: Yes, I do.
TRUMP: And do you concur with the position?
MATTHEWS: I concur with their moral position but legally, I get to the question — here’s my problem with it …
TRUMP: No, no, but let me ask you: But what do you say about your church?
MATTHEWS: It’s not funny.
TRUMP: Yes, it’s really not funny. What do you say about your church? They’re very, very strong.
MATTHEWS: They’re allowed to — but the churches make their moral judgments, but you running for president of the United States will be chief executive of the United States. Do you believe …
TRUMP: No, but …
MATTHEWS: Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no, as a principle?
TRUMP: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.
MATTHEWS: For the woman?
TRUMP: Yes, there has to be some form.

The top high-art donald-trump-blasts-worthless-daily-news-after-paper-mocks-his-zombie-supportersTrump-tainment prize is a three-way tie between filmmaker Michael Moore, Actress/Artist Tilda Swinton, and Eleanor Margolis of the StatesMan. They claim the entire Trump phenomenon is performance art. Intentional or not, they argue, the greatest value is in reading Trump as a character in a fictional narrative. Tilda Swinton, 2017 Turner Prize winner claims Trump is a post-9/11, post-ironic, pre-apocalyptic performance piece. Margolis wonders when the whole thing will be revealed as such an artwork, not reality.

Finally, the best YouTube Trump-tainment video captures the following quote:

“There may be somebody with tomatoes in the audience,” Trump warned people at a rally in Iowa last month. “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.”

A close second goes to the New York Post video of former Trump wife Ivana reacting to his deportation-oriented stance on immigration: “Who is going to vacuum our floors and clean our living rooms?”

Naming an overall donald trump sarah palin 2winner is impossible given its complexity and multiple dimensions. Is it ethical to recognize something like Trump-tainment? There’s something uneasy in watching a presidential race like a situation comedy or a dramedy, or a reality show. Even more compelling is that Trump is seen as an actor, not a statesman nor candidate for the most powerful position in the world. If he was, journalists would insist on more than the superficial rhetoric he dishes out. But, that’s no fun! Yet it’s sad. I laugh, but get that twinge of anxiety intermittently. Snapping out of it, I say to myself, “He’s fighting for the forgotten people by Washington; those crushed by the 2008 economic crash. Perhaps an entertainer can do no worse. Then, I’m, reminded of David Brooks in the New York Times: “Trump’s supporters deserve respect. They are left out of this economy. But Trump himself? No, not Trump, not ever.” For president, that is. As an entertainer, he’s even better than Jimmy Kimmel.

Just a Bunch of “Dudes”

By Bryce Marvin

Once upon a time there were five Texas A&M Seniors, Cory and Coby Cotton, Cody Jones, Tyler Toney, and Garrett Hilbert, that decided to record a few trick shots they were doing in their backyard. After several hours of filming, they had a three and a half minute video that caught the attention of thousands of viewers. Within a few days, ABC invited them on their news program. They were so impressed that they argued whether it could possibly be real, and even Diane Sawyer called the shots “mouthwatering.”

Although the crew at Dude perfect knew they had to do something even bigger if they ever hoped to keep their fame going.

In September of 2009, they released their video titled, “World’s Longest Basketball Shot” where the dudes threw a basketball from the nose bleed stands at their college football stadium and drained it. That video made it on the front of Yahoo!, and just within a couple of hours has received two million views. It was being viewed everywhere; from Spain to Israel and many more. And thus Dude Perfect was born and destined to be YouTube sensations.

Since the release of their first few videos, Dude Perfect has gained 9.27 million subscribers maxresdefault-1and more than 1.53 billion total video views. Their tricks have evolved over time from crazy basketball shots to archery trick shots, paintball trick shots, golf shots, go-kart tricks, and more. They have made videos representing different stereotypes, such as those you may see on a basketball court, a golf course, or even at the movie theaters. Having grown up together, they seem like a bunch of brothers who are always pushing one another to do something a little better than the last one. There is no doubt that they are all best friends and love to tease each other and have a good time.

Their popularity has blown up over the past few years. Their quirky and spontaneous style has caught the attention of major companies such as Ruffles, Southwest Airlines, Nerf, Bass Pro shop and the list goes on and on. They have even had professional athletes as guests on a number of their episodes. Their most recent exciting announcement is their new TV show that will premier April 14, 2016.

Beyond all the attention and success that they have had, their most impressive talent is their humble attitude and their dedication to their strong Christian background.


In an interview with The Daily Dot, Coby Cotton said, “We’ve all been fortunate enough to grow up with families that help teach us about faith and what we believe. That’s been essential to us throughout this whole process. We don’t have an underlying goal of converting people, but we do know that we have a platform that’s been a gift to us. We want to use that in a way that’s honoring God.”

On top of their videos, Dude Perfect is working to raise awareness of problems in the world that need addressing such as poverty and the clean water crisis in Africa.

It is comforting to see the success that these friends are able to have as they have stayed true to their beliefs. Finding family friendly entertainment only gets harder each day, but it is refreshing to know that there are successful groups who remind us where all good things come from.


Brief Thoughts on “Prince”

by Danny Stout

The performer “Prince,” known for seven years as the “Artist Formerly Known as Prince,” is enigmatic in the LDS community. Synthesizing multiple genres from pop to blues, he broke virtually every convention, and played 12 instruments. His snappy, “Little Red Corvette” was frequently played at BYU ballroom dance competitions. The song, “Purple Rain” and subsequent movie by the same title, has achieved cult status. At 19, his first review in the New York Times said he “was clearly a talented musician.” This was corroborated at the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when Prince’s  lead guitar performance on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” was a virtuoso’s to tribute to George Harrison.

Film and Television
No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock (1616482a) Purple Rain, Prince Film and Television

On the one hand, Mormons bristle at the eroticism in some songs and videos; sexuality was an artistic theme in some of his music. On the other, he was a practicing Seventh-Day Adventist that became a Jehovah’s Witness. He wasn’t afraid to disclose his Christianity, which he defined broadly. His was a “feel good” rhythm that had the power to move the passive listener to the dance floor. His dancing rivaled Michael Jackson’s, and was perhaps had more sophisticated choreography.  Some LDS fans describe the artist:

  • “Don’t really care for his music, but you can’t deny his huge cultural impact. Plus he lived a drug free life, which is cool for someone in his position. Deserved respect.”
  • “I am ashamed to say, but I didn’t know who he was til now…  to my defense I do live in seclusion.”
  • “I loved the movie Purple rain for its music but Prince should never had attempted acting. The man could play 27 instruments! That’s amazing! He died too early. Sad.”
  • “There will never be another like him, he was the Prince of Rock.”
  • “All I  know is when I was a teenager and would  sing along with the radio to his songs it would drive my mom nuts!  Especially “When Doves Cry”.  I remember being at a band competition in Nashville  and all the kids who had been involved with the competition dancing to “1999”. We weren’t competitors we were just hundreds of high schoolers dancing to an awesome song.”


Based an outpouring of critical acclaim, and effusive praise around the globe, Prince is on the level of artists leaving  behind an enduring body of work. Following the time-lag hypothesis, LDS fans will likely discover him in the future; he won’t be the first genius to be shunned by religionists initially, only to be praised later. Gauguin, Dali, DuChamp, and even Frank Zappa were initially rebuked by clergies, but gained appreciation as time passed. Zappa’s orchestral “Peaches in Regalia” performed in cathedrals, testifies to this rear-view mirror phenomenon. Such is likely with Prince in the LDS community.  He’ll be heard at church dances.


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