Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Book Review: Weird Hauntings by Mark Moran & Mark Sceurman

What a great book this was! Except I should get it out of the way right up front; there are some typos with the title, "Weird Hauntings: True Stories about the Most Haunted Sites in America." First, none of them are actually 'weird.' Or 'hauntings,' per se. And a great many of the stories were obviously not remotely 'true.' And the places were far from the 'Most Haunted Sites.' Also, I didn't think the book was great. However, I can confidently state that the 'in America' part was mostly true. I think they went to Canada at least once.

So this is basically a compilation of 'true ghost stories' compiled by some authors-some good, some not so good. For example, there were 2 or 3 stories in there from Joseph Citro, who is a brilliant writer who has compiled some awesome and extremely well researched spooky stories about Vermont in a few different books.

The rest of the authors are people who basically share local legends. There is a lot of 'haunted bridge here' and 'haunted train tracks there' kinds of things, and many stories about how you can 'sometimes' hear someone moaning or something at a lake at midnight on Halloween.

Throughout are lame Photoshop pictures of different 'ghosts' who appear to be predominantly the participants of a community college drama class who volunteered to be photographed in a number of scary poses in front of a green screen one afternoon. They're then badly edited into a number of cheesy backgrounds and are filtered until they look see-through or blurry or bloody or what have you.

A number of the stories are told without any apparent regard for witnesses. For example, one story says that a hermit could hypnotize rattlesnakes with his flute or something and would go up and shoot the snakes up on a mountain and would sell them at the local trading post for their skins. But then one day his flute didn't work on them and their eyes turned red and they hypnotized him and he couldn't reach for his gun and his body was found several days later, dead by snake bites, and everyone said 'why didn't he use his gun'?

So...who witnessed that story, to fill in the details on the red snake eyes and such? Did he have a hermit friend who maintained a safe distance from this scene, but was close enough to see what color the beady little snake eyes were? Did he have hermit binoculars? Did one of the snakes talk? Did the hermit psychically send a vision to a local medium?

Also, the normal haunted house stories all tend to skip over the most interesting parts. Like, they'll spend 3 pages talking about hearing footsteps and a feeling of being watched, and then it's "Other odd things happened as well. Once I fell asleep and woke up on my neighbor's roof, and the sky was purple and I could see into the future. Another time a strangely fascinating face appeared at my window and told me bizarre things. But scariest of all was the time that [something really boring and not scary] happened, which I'll go into a ton of detail on." Constantly. Why not fill us in on the awesome parts that you skipped over? Who the heck is editing this thing?

Overall, not a terrible read, but a shallow and 'non-filling' read. Some moderately interesting stuff but not enough to justify the time and effort required to read it all and filter it out.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Flint Lockwood: [Hanging from a licorice rope held by Sam] Let go, Sam!
Sam Sparks: But you'll be stuck down there forever!
Flint Lockwood: It's not ideal, no. 
Sam Sparks: Come with us, Flint. We'll live underground, and use bacon for clothes. 
Flint Lockwood: That's not a very good plan, Sam. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013


I said before that George Washington is my favorite president, and I definitely meant it. There are so many things I admire about him that it's almost too many to count. An honest, God-fearing man, he was a chosen leader led directly by inspiration to set up the greatest country the world ever knew. Until we irrevocably screwed it up in the 20th and 21st centuries...

So apart from being a gifted military leader, a devout Christian, and a capable political leader, there's one thing about him that I think stands above everything else. Namely, when a friend, Lewis Nicola, wrote Washington a letter floating the idea that Washington establish himself as a monarch or king over America, Washington flatly dismissed the idea.

Would our current president dismiss the idea? Uh, no.

There are enough awesome Washington quotes to fill a full volume, but the following are some of my favorite. Can you even imagine a modern president saying anything like:
It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible. 
The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference - they deserve a place of honor with all that's good. 
Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected. 
Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth. 
Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. 
Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. 
Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company. 
The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments. 
It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon the supposition he may abuse it. 
The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it. 
Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


"Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it."
-Saint Augustine of Hippo

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Book Review: Anytime, Anywhere by John H. Groberg

One of my very favorite books ever is John Groberg's "In the Eye of the Storm" which has been renamed "The Other Side of Heaven" after the movie version. "Anytime, Anywhere" is Brother Groberg's 3rd book, which is just a random grouping of spiritual stories from his many adventures living all over the world over the course of a 30-year stretch as a full-time general authority.

It's a great book. Often I sell the books I buy if I don't see myself picking them up again for a 2nd read, even years down the road. This one is a definite keeper. Great stories, really neat and interesting spiritual stuff, and just a whole lifetime of adventures that they had with their 11 kids, moving all over the world.

I particularly enjoyed the story of some Tongan saints who drove to SLC from California so they could present President Benson with a handmade blanket so he would be warm enough (this was at the end of his life when his health was very frail). They arrived and were honored to be allowed to leave the blanket in his office. They were leaving when President Benson's personal nurse called and asked if someone happened to be there to see the President. He spent most of his final days resting in bed but on this day got dressed and said someone was going to visit him that day. John Groberg took the Tongan saints over and translated for them, and they presented President Benson with the blanket, which he accepted sweetly and with thanks. The Tongans were so moved by the experience that no one said a word to each other on the entire return trip.

The only knock against the book is that it's a little heavy on the wrap-up. Each chapter is a memory and a story, but at least 1/3 of each of the chapters is kind of a 'here's what I learned and what we all can learn from this story" thing that he does. I think it's appropriate to put a little slug in there but in most cases it was literally 1/4-1/3 of the entire chapter. It's OK to let us draw our own conclusions, a little.

But don't let this stop you from checking it out if you have an interest. There's more than enough meat on the bone here. I wish more general authorities would write books like this. They're just simple spiritual stories, all of them neat. Some dramatic, some just small but cool. You know they all have interesting occurrences like this. Spill it! :)

Monday, February 18, 2013


"Today the tyrant rules not by club or fist, but disguised as a market researcher, he shepherds his flocks in the ways of utility and comfort."

-Marshall McLuhan

Sunday, February 17, 2013


"I've never understood why it is "greed" to want to keep the money you've earned, but not greed to want to take somebody else's money."

-Thomas Sowell 

Thursday, February 14, 2013


"When you felt like crying, it was always better to laugh," she said. "One day I took a beautiful casserole from the oven and my six-year-old boy said, 'Mom, how come you baked the garbage?' Children are like that. There are days when it's hard to laugh."
*Possibly the first woman to be featured in one of my cartoon drawings. I've been running the blog for several years and somehow I'm not sure I've drawn a single woman? 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


"We can't be totally pure in heart as long as we have bad feelings towards others."

-John Groberg, one of my personal heroes

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


So for at least right now, Jan and I have given up Crystal Light. For about 5 years, we've drank pretty much no liquid other than milk and Crystal Light and the occasional pop. Jan thinks there is something 'bad' in Crystal Light which I think is hooey, but I admit I have three reasons that I think are semi-good for attempting such a thing:

1. To see if I actually have the willpower to accomplish this.
2. To save money.
3. To see if there actually are health affects in some way.

So far it hasn't gone well. There are many reasons for this, but the two biggest are:

1. I hate water. It's pointless.
2. Life has lost all of its joy. Think about if you woke up tomorrow and none of your food tasted like anything at all. No taste whatsoever. Not bad, not good, just blank. That's how water is. With water, all meals just become ridiculous and biological. You want some steak and mashed potatoes? Who cares. All you have to wash it down is Generic Food Lubricant.

Now, on to the good effects so far:

1. We have saved probably about $.89 cents in the last 5 days on not buying Crystal Light.
2. We have saved approximately 2.3 minutes in the last 5 days from not having to make mixes of Crystal Light.
3. I have a new appreciation for milk, because it has flavor.
4. I no longer fear the apocalypse, because it will mean the end of needing to only drink water.
That's it. We'll see where we go from here. I'm guessing somewhere flavorless.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Book Review: My Journey to Heaven, by Marvin Besteman

[CONTAINS SPOILERS] This was a pretty light read. Senior citizen Marvin "Marv" Besteman went to the hospital for a fairly routine procedure on his liver and when he woke up from the surgery, he was in so much pain that he apparently died. 

When he died, he had an extremely traditional heaven visit, in terms of pop culture heaven. He went to the 'pearly gates' which for him were made out of wood. He was dressed in his golf clothes. He waited in a line and got to St. Peter. St. Peter had his fisherman clothes on, and his boat was even parked nearby. 

Peter told him it wasn't his day to die yet, but Marv loved heaven so much he insisted on a second opinion. So Peter went 'to talk to God' and while he did that, Marv got a glimpse of heaven. It was a little odd.

First, he saw about 6 people that he knew. In heaven, all of your loved ones coincidentally hang out next to the entrance, apparently. He also saw 'scores' of babies, from the tiniest fetus up to a normal infant. They were all over the place, kind of hovering a few inches above the lawn. They were 'grouped together' by age and size and no one was taking care of them, but Marv said they all looked very happy, even the little fetuses. 

Peter sends Marv back to Earth, and while back here Marv hears the voice of God tell him to tell his story to everyone. He writes the book and the day he finishes it, he gets extremely ill and thereafter dies the end. 


I liked it. Do I believe that heaven is almost anything like what he described? Nope. What he experienced was maybe a type of vision but I don't believe he went to heaven. But this was an enjoyable read, and was clearly a positive experience for the author. Marv was clearly a very devout Christian throughout his life, and with the 6 years or so that he lived after he had 'died,' he told a lot of people about his experience and he relates in his book that many people he talked to felt inspired to change their lives. That if heaven was a reality, and they believed him when he said it was, they needed to improve some things. 

It was a fun book and a very light but enjoyable read. It's funny that he says the entire heaven visit took about 20-30 minutes or so in real time, but that he was able to write an entire book out of it. He pads it a bit with commentary and context a lot, but that doesn't get in the way too much. And I really liked that Marv said Peter shook his hand and said, "Hi, Marv. Welcome to Heaven. I'm Peter!"

And as odd as the baby part was, I did like the anti-abortion message there.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


I realized that if you erase Calvin Coolidge's hair, you get my grandpa on my Dad's side.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Random thoughts, volume III

  • Admit it, that institute video was really funny. 
  • Tonight I went to the apartment gym and had to walk past a guy who I thought was out for a walk. I got to the stair climber thing and was going and the guy walked in about 20 seconds later, saw me, turned on both TVs to Piers Morgan (or at least a blurry simulacrum thereof-I didn't have my glasses on so it could have in theory been just some random blurry bloated British guy interviewing someone about how the answer to our financial woes is to print more food stamps) and then sat on an exercise bike and glared at me. I worked out about 3x longer than I ever would have otherwise, just to prove a point. I forget what that point was, but I'm fairly certain I proved it because he eventually gave up waiting for the stair thing and left. About 2 seconds later I turned off the machine because my heart was beating like I'd swallowed a Shake Weight, stumbled out of the gym, and started dry heaving. Somehow I wandered home and made it up 3 more flights of stairs without passing out. #winning
  • My favorite presidents are George Washington, Calvin Coolidge, and Thomas Jefferson, in that order. 
  • My favorite movie is a tie between The Big Sleep and  The Hunt for Red October.  My 2nd favorite movie is a movie called Kiss Kiss Bang Bang that I only saw twice and will sadly probably never see again unless they release an edited version for some reason. I gave up R-rated movies a few years ago. I think the only R-rated movies I've seen in 5 years were Paranormal Activity 1-3 and The Trip, which I think is officially 'unrated' because it was a BBC thing, but would be roughly PG13+. So there you go.
  • My favorite candy is a tie between peppermint patties and Pico Ballas.  My favorite candy bar is Whatchamacallit. My favorite pop is Mountain Dew. My favorite food is steak. My favorite fruit is apples. My favorite book is Things as They Really Are by Neal A. Maxwell. My favorite cake is yellow cake with chocolate frosting. My favorite ice cream is bubble gum. My favorite place I've ever visited is Pittsburgh. My favorite store is
  • My favorite Woody Allen movies are Manhattan Murder Mystery, Bananas, and Annie Hall, in that order. My favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie is North by Northwest. My favorite Spielberg movie is Jaws. My favorite TV show ever was Fringe.
  • My favorite action movie is The Living Daylights, a Timothy Dalton Bond movie, though License to Kill technically had a slightly better plot. My favorite sci fi movie is the 2009 Star Trek reboot although I still really really like the first Iron Man. My favorite scary movie is Insidious. My favorite animated movie is a tie between The Incredibles and Meet the Robinsons. My favorite comedy is a tie between Fletch and Swingers. And I vastly prefer Warner Brothers animation to Disney.
  • I don't have a favorite band, although The Beatles were undisputedly the best, but my favorite song is Wires by Coconut Records (link is not the official video but just a fan video).
  • I am the only person left on the planet that will eat those combination bags of red and black licorice, though it's been years since I've found one in stores. Might only be a Utah thing nowadays.
  • My favorite restaurant is Chuck - A - Rama and I don't care what anyone says. 
  • I really love retro art, particularly WPA depression-era posters. They look like this:

  • And finally, my favorite scripture is Ether 12: 4:
Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might withasurety bhope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which chope cometh of dfaith, maketh an eanchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in fgood works, being led to gglorify God.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Go to Institute

I'm really not trying to deliberately post provocative stuff. It just happens, like nature. But this made me smile:

I guess they did it for a competition at the Logan institute. I'm guessing it didn't win...

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Book Review: The Uninvited, by Steven LaChance

I love scary stuff. Absolutely love it. It is awesome. The scarier, the better.

It's a widely known fact about me that ever since the first birthday party I remember-my 5th birthday party, which was in St. George-I have loved Halloween and everything about it. Being an October baby, I had a Halloween-themed party, and my parents invited a bunch of kids from the ward over and we watched Donald Duck's Scary Tales and I got a bunch of really awesome presents, including a He-Man sword that could break into two different swords AND ONE OF THEM GLOWED IN THE DARK.

Anyway, The Uninvited.

So this has a pretty scary cover on it, which makes it look a lot scarier than it actually is. Just kidding, it really is that scary. No joke, it's flippin scary. When it comes to scary stuff, I almost exclusively only read non-fiction, so this is the true story of a family's experience living in a haunted house in Union, MO.

And wow. One of the most blatant/open/not remotely subtle hauntings I've ever read about. This beats the Enfield Poltergeist, I think, and that basically rearranged everything in the house twice a day.

So here's the problem: the haunting was evil. Nothing cool or spooky about it-it was just Satan being evil and letting evil things do evil stuff to some good people. That becomes less interesting.

See, for whatever reason, ghosts are only cool if they're scary but not evil. I'm not sure why. I think it's because outright evil is predictable, and stupid. Obviously there are evil spirits, and they do evil things, and if you wanted to learn more about them, you'll kind of be crazy. Who wants to read about real life evil that can hurt you and be disturbing? Not me.

I prefer my ghosts dark enough to be spooky but not so dark that you need an exorcism. And surprisingly, there IS a happy medium out there, and I've generally been successful at finding those books. Why this book wound up being so much darker than those was just bad luck.

This being a book about evil spirits, it's filled with all kinds of disturbing stories. So I'll spare the blog audience all of that and say that I probably wouldn't recommend this book because of the subject matter/content (but if anyone would like to hear about them and/or lose a few nights of sleep, text me).

 It was an OK book, written by what seems like a genuinely good man, and I really liked the structure. That is, when the first really blatant disturbing thing happens to them, he MOVES OUT OF THE HOUSE. The entire rest of the book is about him helping the family that moved in after him, and contacted him through the internet. Very neat structure. Too bad it was so dark and crazy and then kind of descends into a possession story, which shifts the focus away from the haunting stuff and onto just being semi-posessed by an evil spirit or two.

To kind of cleanse the palette, I switched to another 'I died and visited heaven' book right after this. I needed something light and fluffy and not too heavy, and actual general authority books are great but they make my brain work too hard sometimes. So up next in a day or two, watch for that review. I know you'll be waiting...

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


We do not need more intellectual power - we need more spiritual power. We do not need more of the things that are seen - we need more of the things that are unseen.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Rambunctious Monkey (A cautionary tail)

By Christian.

Once upon a time there was a rambunctious little monkey. His name was Escolito. One day, Escolito was swinging through the vines in his favorite part of the forest. But today, Escolito was feeling a little more rambunctious than usual, and he decided to 'branch out' (heh) and explore a different part of the forest.

Further and further he swung till he reached a beautiful but unfamiliar clearing. "What a beautiful place this is!" thought Escolito. He picked a banana and listened to some Michael Jackson songs while he soaked up the sunlight.

Finally, it was time to go back home. Escolito grabbed hold of a vine and started to swing, when to his surprise he realized that "this was no vine." He was holding onto a giant python!

Startled, he let go of the snake, and found himself tumbling towards the ground. His descent was only halted by a lone branch that he was able to grab, which jutted out of the face of a tremendous cliff.

Surveying the dizzying height and the vast expanse beneath him, Escolito was frightened. But then he remembered the words of his mother: "Escolito, if you are ever frightened, you can say a little prayer." Summoning his courage, Escolito began to pray.

He prayed and prayed. Just then, something unexpected happened. He heard a very quiet voice:

Subir nuevamente por el acantilado, monito.

"What!?" exclaimed Escolito. Again, a quiet voice.

Subir nuevamente por el acantilado, monito.

This was difficult, but Escolito knew that an important choice would have to be made. He closed his eyes, relaxed his grip, and let go of the branch.

Down, down, down he fell. And as he plummeted to his doom, he thought, "I really should have learned Spanish."

Sunday, February 3, 2013


"They like you very much, but they are not the hell your whales."

Saturday, February 2, 2013


Drawn by Madeleine & Daddy. I think hers are insanely good. I was so proud!