The Book of Mormon Kansas City

H and I have been wanting to watch The Book of Mormon for a while. Let’s start with a little context. H grew up in and around the church. Mormonism to her is not just a religion but friends, family and in some ways part of her culture. It is very similar to what Catholicism is to me. Neither of us are currently part of any particular church but we are both very respectful of what others believe. That said, we both have a crude sense of humor when we talk about religion to each other. We are both very frank people with each other about what we find hilarious but we don’t ever try to offend others with our views or ridiculing their views.

I have been in New York in recent years and I was tempted to go see the play while there, but opted to wait until we could see it together. We actually had plans to see it in Chicago but it did not pan out. We were fortunate enough to have a friend that had fantastic seats but was not going to attend so we bought the tickets from him. All that said we did have a close Mormon friend tell us not to go. It did cause some pause for me.

Before being married to a non practicing Mormon my knowledge of the religion was being visited at one point by missionaries down in Colombia. My Mom had a strict rule about other religions just not entering our household. I did have a grandfather that was agnostic most of his life but ended his days following Hinduism. I can be open minded and I did the whole American protestant churches tour. Mormons are a lot different than other protestants I have encountered. They are by far some of the most warm and welcoming people I have ever encountered.

SouthPark creators had previously taken on Mormonism with one of their episodes. Surprisingly that show only made me more interested about the religions and I have since watched it more than once and think it is really positive. It highlights the values that I really love about that religion, the emphasis on family. Mormonism is not for me because I really love coffee and my brain breaks the illusion of religion when it comes to food. Same reason I could not be a Muslim, I can stop eating bacon because it will give me a hear-attack but not because a book tells me so. I also stopped practicing Catholicism seriously when I realized that I forget lent and eat meat on Fridays… I did it for a couple of years without even noticing. I don’t like feeling guilty because of something I consume without thinking.

Before going to watch the show I looked for content about it and found a song that really made me a little uneasy. One of the best songs really highlights some of the reasons that Mormonism would quickly lose me as a member. The chorus “A Mormon just believes” is pretty tough for me. I have no problem with satire and Catholic altar boy jokes, however this song could potentially ridicule some of the doctrine.

The book of Mormon would not affect a devout Mormon at all. However, if you are a Mormon that has doubts or thinks there are things that don’t make sense, this play will probably highlight most of them in a way that might make you think it is pretty ridiculous for you to believe on them. Without giving away the whole play, I am certain that the creators of SouthPark were not trying to get members away from the church but simply make everyone laugh.

Chef (****)

I have always been somewhat of a Jon Favreau fan, so when I heard that he was going to be starting on a movie he wrote I was pretty intrigued. The movie seemed to have been promoted pretty well the last couple of weeks because it stayed in my radar. I heard an interview and a review on the radio. I knew from listening that it was a movie that I could not go hungry to because it was going to be a foodie porn movie for sure.

Chef’s cast was cast was excellent. Jon Favreau as “El Jefe” or the boss of the kitchen was very believable Chef Carl Casper. He created art when he was doing the cooking and highlighted the love that goes into crafting a good meal with some soul. John Leguizamo was the comedy relief as Martin, he had a couple of lines that will make you truly laugh without making the movie into a silly road trip movie. The kid in the movie was amazing, for such a young actor Emjay Anthony as Percy truly captured what it is to be part of a broken family and also let us see how kids not understand the digital world a little more than their parents. The female characters could have been a little stronger, but both Scarlett Johansson as Molly and Sofía Vergara as Inez did a great job playing roles a little bit different than what they do in most movie; still not different enough to be remarkable but it worked.

The movie also had two villains, Dustin Hoffman as Riva the clueless restaurateur and Oliver Platt as Ramsey Michel food critic and wordsmith that takes people apart with his reviews. Even Robert Downey Jr. as a small cameo brought laughter to the movie.

The movie is about great food and it also has some great music. I think it is a foodies’ must see this summer. One thing I found interesting is its take head on the topic of internet reviews. It is not very often that you get to face your critic and let him know how you feel. That part was interesting to watch. While it was a movie about food, it was also about social media in many ways. It is worth the time to watch it on the big screen. Do not go hungry into that movie if you are hungry or you will spend the rest of the day trying to find your nearest Cuban restaurant.

Anime Introduction Guide

During my last visit to KC one of the many conversations that sprouted amongst people there was about anime. I love the fact that I have friends from so many backgrounds and with awesome hobbies. I was an anime freak at some point, and even thought I still follow one religiously (I watch it about an hour after it is released in Japan sometimes) I don’t participate in the community as much as I used to. I was at one time the Anime Society of Kansas City webmaster… but I was a horrible webmaster after I moved to Chicago so my friend Tim took the job over.

During the conversation my BFF asked what he should watch… and well, that is like asking a librarian what is her favorite book. But I promised to take on the task of putting together a little introduction to anime for those that don’t even know where to start. So this will be half introduction to anime, half pissing off anime fans because not only are they out there, they will think I am so wrong for recommending X or Y… you will see.

Before we get into recommendations lets talk a little about anime. Animation in Japan is a little different than in the rest of the world. Anime and Manga(comics) are consumed beyond the youth and into adulthood. While most kids stop reading comics at one point or another in their lives, Japanese animation continue well beyond that. That brings us to something you need to stay away from which is Hentai. A first time anime watcher can be discouraged from watching further anime because they encounter a movie that is geared towards adults with their own fetish. So basically people might expect skinemax level of entertainment and they end up with a very specific animated snuff film. It is like asking a person getting back into reading for pleasure to read Dante’s Inferno. When you are starting out on anime, don’t try to explore the adult world of animation first. I think you should learn a little more about the medium before you are grossed out by some monster with many many tentacles.

Now that we got out of the way, since most anime is geared towards an adult audience, it does not mean that all anime is XXX either. There are animated things for children, a lot of them will have adult themes. Furthermore there are animation geared towards boys or girls. That is probably one of the biggest differences we see, because even though a lot of comic fans continue into adolescence, there is really not much of a market for girls here in the U.S.

I could post a lot more about this subject, but I just wanted to give a little background as to what I was going to present. I am also going to cheat quite a bit and leave out anything that you would have to consume subbed. Not too long ago it was very challenging to get some series dubbed, and to purist it is almost sacrilege to present anime to someone in a dubbed form. Eventually if you fall in love with some anime I do recommend it watching it with the original voice acting, but to start out I think only looking at dubbed is fine. *Disclaimer* most of the ones I will recommend are my personal favorites. If you have better options, just leave a comment, don’t discredit my choices, just give yours 😛

I am also picking films or series that are easy to find on streaming services or rental.

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Ghost in the Shell – Action – Sci-Fi

This film can be consumed in one afternoon. While I already loved anime before watching this, this one really cemented anime in my brain as entertainment beyond kid stuff. It showed me that animated films could have not just depth, but also deal with adult themes. A fun fact is that The Matrix owes a lot of its style and visual feel to the film.

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Rurouni Kenshin – Samurai

This is a series that will captivate you from beginning to end. The cool part about this anime is that even though it is turn of the century and very serious at times, it also gets goofy from time to time. There is a movie series associated with it called Samurai X which is a little drier than the anime, but still excellent. Its turn of the century Japan and the adventures of a Samurai that does not want to kill anymore. Along with it is a love story and tons of interesting characters. I find it to be a great introduction to anime because while not completely formulaic you can start to see the themes that are often used for a series.

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Full Metal Alchemist – Fantasy

I know that “brotherhood is out” however I love the original. The story of two brothers is told through their adventures as they deal with an ever changing world. Lots of mystery and fantasy mixed with loyalty and love for family. A great series that is not as long as Kenshin, but just as enjoyable.

Last but not least is, addict the special woman in your life to anime.

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Fruits Basket – Romance

While the series is a very girly series, it still has its moments of action. The story is good around a girl in distress and the Chinese zodiac curse. Lovable characters, easy to watch. I don’t like to talk about it much because it is so much more fun to discover things as you watch it.

What to stream today?

We did away with cable when we moved to Chicago, and we really have not missed it all that much. Except for a sport event that might be missed here and there (we always have the option to go to see Football games at my Mom’s place) we get pretty much everything via streaming. I figured it would be a good new feature to balance things out to also post about what we are watching or find interesting.

This weekend we streamed 2 movies, and I guess now I know why I did not pay full ticket price to see them at the theaters.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (**)

While this movie was entertaining, it really seemed to be missing something. It was like eating a pie that had flavor, but with mushy crust.

The acting was great. There was really nobody that was too annoying and what was supposed to be dramatic was, what was supposed to be funny also was. The CGI monkeys were mostly believable and did not interrupt the flow of the move for me. Neither did the action. Every character was compelling in some way.

It is a lot to ask for a CGI monkey to be the centerpiece of the movie, but Cesar delivered. He did not seem to want to be a bad monkey, but he was… oh wait, he is not a monkey, he is a chimp! I can already hear the cries all over the ape loving blog-sphere.

It is a little on the violent side to watch with small children, so I would not call it a family movie. It does have potential though, it does make you wonder if there are more ape movies that can be made. I would probably watch another one, but not holding my breath.

I would rent it, but I don’t think I would ever watch it again.


Moneyball (***)

Ah, Brad Pitt. While the dude is still married to a girl I had a crush on when I watched hackers, everything past Billy Bob is damaged goods, I cannot hold that against him. He is a good actor and I seriously did not see him, I saw a very crazy GM trying to run a baseball team with no money to spend. I could relate with a dude trying to accomplish the impossible with no resources… I do work in IT.

The acting was not bad, the baseball seemed like the average movie representation. The movie was more about the man than the game.

While it is kind of a “feel good” movie, it does not make you feel very good. It has flashes of awesome when it tries to make you look at the love for the game, but it reminded me that football seems to be more America’s sport now than baseball.

This one is a kid friendly movie, but maybe nostalgia makes me want to share the older movies from the 80s rather than this one.

I rank it a little better than apes because I think I like baseball better than CGI apes. Overall they are both cheap rentals that should waste a couple of hours of your day.

So what have you been streaming lately?

Jesus Phone vs Android vs CrankBerry

As you guys know I have been looking to change my Android. I had already set my eyes on the iPhone and was even thinking about dropping Verizon altogether (even though I have been with then for over 10 years… since they were Ameritech and even before that I think). I know that the iPhone 5 is just around the corner, but I am not interested on going to Sprint or waiting forever for a phone. I am already sick of my android.

Before we continue with this post I would like to define a couple of things. When I say phone, I mean call quality and ease of making phone calls. That is not to be confused with smartphone which I associate with all the other computer related functions. I had my Motorola Droid for 2 years, the blackberry for a week and been using my wife’s iPhone 4 since she got it over 6 months ago. I have also been the original iPhone that practically became my iTouch since my wife upgraded her iPhone.

The night before I pulled the trigger someone started to sing the praises of the BlackBerry Torch 9850. I fondly remember how much I love the experience of having a BB and how great of a phone it was. Calls were easy to make and I never hung up on anyone while talking to them. I think I hung up on someone at least once a week with the android.

I was prepared for Verizon to give me their canned speech when I called. I had been looking at the BB but it was not available through Verizon, so I had my argument all prepared. When I start to go into it, guess what sir, we now carry the BB torch, it just came out this week in Verizon. I am like NOOOOOO! Dam it all.

I decided… lets give it a try. Even though the reviews are pretty poor, maybe it will serve me well. Oh how wrong I was. Long story short, after a week of trying to love the BB I ended up returning it and getting an iPhone 4. Now I will explain why.

Feature iPhone 4 Android BB Torch
Phone Calls 7 5 10
Web Surfing 9 7 2
Battery Life 7 5 8
Apps 9 7 2
Navigation 9 7 3
User Input 8 6 3
Design 9 7 8
Score 8 6 5

Phone Calls

Here is where blackberry shines. BB makes hands down the best phones that I have used in recent years (I’ve had in possession LG, Motorola Android, BB with and now without physical keyboard.) Making a call is extremely easy, it takes literally a couple of button presses and you are dialing. This is where the Android started to wear down on me. Making a phone call always felt cumbersome, like the smartphone had to open up an up to become a phone dialer. It was a PDA trying to have phone capabilities (remember the Treo.) Couple that with hanging up on people consistently an 50% failure rate of answering the second incoming call (it could have been mostly user error,) muted myself all the time and you have one unhappy customer. The iPhone does not shine, but also it does not hung up on people.

Initially I thought that since call quality is my number one priority on my phone choice, that it will clearly outweigh the other smartphone features. After one week with the BB, it clearly did not. I obviously use the smartphone part of a device a lot more than the actual phone. I became increasingly annoyed every time I tried to web surf and failed.

Web Surfing

Web page loading is one of the most annoying things about the android phone. The way a page is rendered can mean you getting to content quickly or you basically just giving up. While it is great to be able to zoom in to read content, if you have to do it over and over, it becomes a chore and depending on your level of interest on the content, you simply give up. The BB made this even more painful. Viewing any kind of web content required at least 3 or 4 interactions with the user interface. Then while reading you had to scroll probably twice as much as I did even on the android. That is annoying.

The iPhone has alternative web browsers, but even with just Safari, the experience is superior to the other 2 phones. Content is easy to read and you do a lot less clicking. I thought that the BB providing me with a quasy mouse experience to click on those hard to reach link (because they were too small) was somehow going to make up for things, but it just made things more annoying because my fat finger would some times still activate the touchscreen resetting the mouse. What a mess of an interface to just try to read something.

Battery Life

If I would have written this post prior to spending a week with the torch, I would have talked a lot more about how this matters. Now, all I have to say is that who cares if you have a smartphone that stays charged for 2 days with medium level use if the reason its not getting heavy use is because it sucks. Get extra cables, charge it in the office or the car. Don’t let battery life affect your decision at all, its all about the extra cables.

Apps

So I don’t play a lot of games on my phone. I do however play games on Bea’s old iPhone (for a while my iTouch) now retired device.

Leave it DeGuia (who by the way seems to have been planning this Borg conversion with Bea because they are both laughing at me for having an iPhone now.) to rub it in my face that he has an app for that. Driving on my way home last week it smelled like a whole forest was burning. It was not a near by forest, it was all the way in freaking MN! So what does DeGuia do, oh let me pull up the police scanner up to see what they are saying. If it is local the cops will probably be talking about it. SHOW OFF!

Not to mention that Gaucho Software is coming out with a new version of Seasonality. (Disclaimer: the developer of Seasonality is one of my best friends.)

I don’t think I even have to make a case for this, the apps available for the iOS are just better than anything I was able to find for android and light-years away from what is available from the BB.

Navigation

The blackberry simply fails on this area. You have to be able to navigate through your phone in an intuitive and seamless way. I thought that having everything available via menus was going to make my life easier, I really liked having that option before. After a couple of minutes your brain should not be aware of trying to find something, it should be able to just find it. Android does it well, iOS does it better.

User Input

This is where my hatred of the new Torch started. I have not mistyped a letter on an iOS device after I spend an actual 20 minutes playing with one. I spent a lot of time on the Torch the week I had it and I would never actually type an e-mail on it… and that is what the BB are supposed to be the stars at. Sure the ones with a physical keyboard might be able to… but their touch keyboard is garbage. The auto-complete feature worthless.

I don’t particularly love the android keyboard and I very seldom used the physical keyboard. It is sad, but iOS made me forget about physical keyboard on devices now. A feature that I thought would be a must on any device.

Design

I never thought that BB could come up with a cool design, but the Torch is beautiful and feels amazing to the touch. They did make a couple of mistakes with the button, but overall I think it is a great design both in looks, comfort and weight. Too bad that they cool factor wears off quickly when you cannot quickly access the multimedia experience that the awesome display is supposed to deliver.

Score

Sadly for the Android and the BB, the iPhone just pulls ahead. Sure it might not have the best battery life and you might have to jail break it to have the flexibility that android has. The iPhone might not be as strong of a phone as BB is. The iPhone basically does not compete with any of those other devices, it is in a class of its own and everything else simply seems to be playing catch up. As sad as this makes me, I have to break up with google at least when it comes to mobile devices. I don’t stay sad for too long though, I am now part of the Borg and LOVING IT!

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