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My Sundance Film Festival 2016 Lineup

Sundance Film Festival is coming up, and I have now settled on the lineup of 10 films that I’ll be seeing. I am also looking forward to the art exhibitions and the Virtual Reality showcase in Park City which promises to be a unique artistic experience.  As of right now, the 10 films that I am slated to see are as follows, the descriptions come from the official Sundance program:

1. Other People IMDB 

“A struggling comedy writer, fresh from breaking up with his boyfriend, moves to Sacramento to help his sick mother. Living with his conservative father and younger sisters, David feels like a stranger in his childhood home. As his mother worsens, he tries to convince everyone (including himself) he’s “doing okay.”

This is billed as a drama, but written and directed by Chris Kelly, a funny man with a The Onion News, Saturday Night Live, and Comedy Central background. And it is a movie about comedy, a subject I’m always interested in, so I’m really looking forward to this one. 

2. Wiener-DogIMDB 

“This film tells several stories featuring people who find their life inspired or changed by one particular dachshund, who seems to be spreading comfort and joy.” 

This feel-good story has a lot of hype surrounding it, and I love dogs, so this should be good.

3. Captain FantasticIMDB 

“Deep in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and re-enter society, beginning a journey that challenges his idea of what it means to be a parent.”

Nothing about this film screams excitement to me, other than the fact that it is Aragorn (aka Viggo Mortensen) in the forests of Washington. And that is more than enough reason for me to watch it.

4. JoshyIMDB 

“Josh treats what would have been his bachelor party as an opportunity to reconnect with his friends.”

A relative unknown, with Thomas Middleditch starring, I think I’m drawn to this film because of the bro-love factor of bachelor party movies.

5. Certain Women –

“The lives of three women intersect in small town America, where each is imperfectly blazing a trail.”

An acclaimed female cast with a female director shot in Montana on 16-mm film is what drew me to this movie. It sounds like it could deliver a unique perspective.

6. The InterventionIMDB 

“A weekend getaway for four couples takes a sharp turn when one of the couples discovers the entire trip was orchestrated to host an intervention on their marriage.”

Not going to  lie, I wanted to see Goat, but couldn’t make it fit my schedule, so I picked the next US Drama film on the docket. The Intervention it is.

7. Yoga Hosers IMDB 

“Colleen Collette and Colleen McKenzie are teenage besties from Winnipeg who love yoga and live on their smartphones. But when these sophomores get invited to a senior party by the school hottie, the Colleens accidentally uncover an ancient evil buried beneath their Canadian convenience store.”

This is maybe the film I’m most looking forward to seeing. A fantasy comedy horror with arguably the most all-star studded lineup in the festival this year. This could be very good or very bad. We’ll see if Smith (Clerks, Good Will Hunting) can make a return to the glory he once had.

8. Frank & LolaIMDB 

“A psychosexual noir love story—set in Las Vegas and Paris—about love, obsession, sex, betrayal, revenge and, ultimately, the search for redemption.”

Cooking in Paris. Lies and deceit. Loud and offensive characters. Beautiful people. It sounds like a recipe for a decent film.

9. The HollarsIMDB 

“Aspiring New York City artist John Hollar returns to his Middle America hometown on the eve of his mother’s brain surgery. Joined by his girlfriend, eight months pregnant with their first child, John is forced to navigate the crazy world he left behind.”

Anna Kendrick and John Krasinski together on the big screen? The Grand isn’t going to be just a movie theater, it is going to be Heaven. With popcorn. But really, will she be at Sundance? Can I meet her? Can someone make this happen?

10. The Fundamentals of CaringIMDB

“Having suffered a tragedy, Ben becomes a caregiver to earn money. His first client, Trevor, is a hilarious 18-year-old with muscular dystrophy. One paralyzed emotionally, one paralyzed physically, Ben and Trevor hit the road, finding hope, friendship, and Dot in this funny and touching inspirational tale.”

I’m not sure about Selena Gomez having a major role (second billing even?) in this film because she usually annoys me to no end, but Paul Rudd is one of my favorite actors and hopefully he’ll knock it out with this one.

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Exploring Utah In 2016

In the year and a half I have lived in Utah, I’ve tried to make it a goal to explore the state as much as possible. I’ve seen quite a few really cool places, such as Calf Creak Falls, but there are many more still to be visited. I’m getting a bit of a head-start on making my 2016 resolutions, and one of them is to get out and see more of the state I’m living in. I’ve yet to make it to places like the sun tunnels or Sundance Film Festival (though I do have tickets for this year.) For the upcoming year, I will be putting together a Utah bucket list of the places I want to see before 2017.

One of my favorite resources for learning about cool, less-explored places in Utah is Jacob Barlow’s incredible self-titled blog as he attempts to visit and document every town and village in Utah. Another source I’ve used is Utah Travel Secrets.

I can’t wait to get out and explore this great state some more and see the great geographical diversity that Utah has to offer.

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50 Years Since Goldenrod

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the land speed record set by the car they called Goldenrod, a Chrysler powered hot rod piloted by brothers Bill and Bob Simmons. The land speed record was set on the Bonneville Salt Flats where speed races are held each year. Racing has occurred at the Salt Flats of Utah dating back to 1896.

Goldenrod held the official wheel-driven land speed record from 1965 all the way until 2008 when it was finally beaten out. It was unofficial record until 1991, but the Spirit of ’76 did not beat the 1% average speed increase to become an official record. Goldenrod was far ahead of its time, and remains one of the fastest to this day. You can see the Goldenrod in all of its restored glory at Henry Ford, restored by John Baechtel.

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First Day of School

This morning I am starting school again, starting on the journey of my 18th year of education. We have done the meet and greet with all my new classmates – 13 others to make 14 of us total. Everything is so far so good, and it sounds like I’ve made a decision I’m going to be happy with, doing a competency based strategic communications program. After a lot of research, it was the best program I found for my needs, and it turns out that the only competency based program utilizing real world projects west of the Mississippi. And it is basically in my backyard, only 4 blocks from my apartment.

It is a little nerve-wracking to be starting a new program, but everyone I have met and talked to is super nice and friendly, and I’m looking forward to learning from everyone and networking. As for the benefits of the program itself, I really like the idea of competency over graded assessment, and being able to resubmit everything until all goals are achieved, rather than being stuck with whatever grade you received first and then moving on without mastery of that topic.

This afternoon we’ll get assigned teams that we’ll be working with for the rest of the 18-month program, so time to get a bit nervous all over again.

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Pie and Beer Day and Mormon Music Videos

July 24th is an official state holiday in Utah known as “Pioneer Day”. Pioneer Day celebrates the anniversary of the founding of Salt Lake City when Brigham Young and the first Mormon pioneers settled the Salt Lake Valley. Each year it is celebrated with a rodeo, parade, and of course lots of fireworks. However, due to the strong ties to the LDS religion, it is often considered to be a religious holiday and not inclusive of much of the Salt Lake City community that isn’t LDS. When you see the music videos with lines such as “Piercings, tattoos, coffee in the morning | short skirts, curse words, no missions or good works” referring to non-Mormons, it is easy to see how the two groups may not always see eye-to-eye on everything.

Not to fear though, because the gentiles have created their own version of Pioneer Day known as Pie and Beer Day. That’s right, a day-long celebration of Pie and Beer, basically the world’s greatest holiday. Some people celebrate at home with groups of friends, take their pie and beer outside, or visit one of the many local bars and restaurants that have their own Pie and Beer Day specials. So grab some pie, pour some beer, and enjoy another one of these hilarious Mormon music videos.

Happy Pie and Beer Day!

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Summum: The Salt Lake City Cult That Wants You to Masturbate (And Then Mummify You)

Mormonism is without a doubt the dominant religious affiliation in Salt Lake City, but there is one religious group entirely at odds with the LDS community that has quietly resided in a modern day Egyptian style pyramid in the industrial sector of West Salt Lake for the past 36 years. You can view the pyramid on Google here. You may have heard of Summum in the news since it has made national headlines for being the only official provider of modern day mummification techniques.

A few weeks ago I was able to attend a Wednesday night (7:15 pm) Summum meeting in the Salt Lake City pyramid. I was excited to learn that these weekly meetings are open to the public and anyone can attend. (There is a waiver form you must sign stating that you will be respectful and not attend if you are sick.) For those that cannot make it to the meeting in person, you can also watch the weekly meeting via online broadcast.

I was raised in a Christian household and I have attended many religious observations from Jewish Seders to Hare Krishna prayer mantras, but this was my first experience with what I would label an “alternative” religious meeting.  After visiting the Summum website and reading up on the group’s philosophy, I was expecting something unique, different, and probably a little weird, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

From the outside, the pyramid resembles an Egyptian tomb, with actual mummies inside. Stepping inside, you must take off your shoes, and it is best to bring warm clothing or a blanket because of the constant cold temperature that the pyramid is kept at. (The pyramid is officially recognized as a winery due to the alcoholic spiritual “nectars” that are produced.) Looking around the inside of the pyramid, I counted nine mummified cats as well as one giant golden mummy case of a person.  I must say that these feline mummies were beautiful, and this wouldn’t be a bad memorial for a beloved pet if you have the money for it (about $5,000 for a small animal). According to the Summum website, it will cost you about $67,000 to be mummified when you die, and there will be an additional cost for the burial casket of course.

I label Sumum as a cult due to the fact that the group is very small (there were 5 others present at the meeting I attended), has an alternative belief system, and is a self-professed thorn in the side of the LDS community that governs Salt Lake City. As for the actual meetings, they typically consist of reading and discussion on the wisdom of spiritual teachers from various religions around the world. The meeting I attended was very relaxed, there wasn’t any pressure to contribute, and everyone was respectful of each other’s input.

In all likelihood, I would have gone back for another weekly meeting if it were not for the surprising “gift” I received for attending. This gift was actually a book about masturbation and the joys of sexual pleasure. Basically, it is a (very) graphically illustrated how-to book of sex. From self-pleasure to kegel exercises to bringing your partner to multiple orgasms, it encourages exploring ones sexuality with the goal of achieving sexual ecstasy.

The especially strange part was that there was no forewarning of what this book contained or any explanation as to why they give this book out to first-time visitors. It was simply given as a parting gift, and I was told that I would “enjoy reading through it”. I can only imagine the reaction of a conservative person from a Mormon background encountering this type of material. I was certainly shocked, and now keep the book (hidden on a bottom shelf) as a souvenir and talking point when anyone asks about Summum. If you would like your own copy of the book without attending a weekly meeting, they are available here on Amazon.

All in all, the Summum pyramid is one of the most unique parts of Salt Lake City and a worthwhile visit if you would like to expand your horizons.

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