Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I think I’ll continue the tradition of posting something not-jerky on my blog every year on my birthday. It’ll be like a New Year’s resolution of being nice (which, like any resolution, won’t last more than a month), or a State of the Union speech (so someone is in charge of posting “YOU LIE” in the comments section).

It’s tempting to write this post as if it were a Christmas letter; I could easily put on the warm tone of reflection, recounting the many wonderful changes that have happened to me since my 28th birthday. I could also—as I am wont to do—rave about all of the things about this year have been the absolute best in their respective categories. I have a penchant for superlatives, and I imagine that my birthday posts would be as boring for you to read as they would be for me to write. Every year of my life—with 2 notable exceptions—has been better than the last. I won’t bother making it official by reminding you of that every February 24th. If you want the update on what I’ve done over the past year, I can copy and paste the paragraph from my family’s Christmas letter (which I also wrote). I’ll even attach some adorable pictures of my dogs in their Halloween costumes, if it would float your boat.

I once had an interview with Charles Stoddard, my old stake president. Rather than ask me any questions about school, work, or the weather, he started out by asking me what I did for fun; since everybody has to fulfill their duties, he reasoned, what defines us best is what we do when we don’t have to be doing anything. With that rationale in mind, here is a list of things that I’ve been doing for fun in the last year, and things I would recommend to you as well.

Five movies came out in theaters in the last year that I think are worth recommending:
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Easy A (so I like cheesy high-school flicks. Sue me)
Toy Story 3
How to Train Your Dragon

I watched 4 TV shows this year that I’d recommend to everybody, namely Pushing Daisies, Modern Family, Battlestar Gallactica, and The Tick. True Blood is trashy and crass, but is also great fun.

I also watched 3 non-documentary movies on Netflix that I think were worth recommending. I’d been hearing that they were good, but didn’t get around to them until just recently.

Mary and Max
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

As always, documentaries make up the bulk of the movies that I watch and would recommend. From best to least best, they are:

Collapse (you have to watch this one, not just listen to it. The subtext is told with the film work. )
Our Daily Bread (is the quietly spectacular German answer to the crappy American food documentaries like Food Inc. that I always complain about.)
Restrepo (up for an Oscar this year. I haven’t seen the others, but this one deserved a nomination)
The Great Happiness Space (as is almost always the case, my friend Lina deserves credit for finding this and passing it on to me.)
The Most Dangerous Man in America (not a brilliant art, but worth watching to frame the Wikileaks phenomenon)
Dogs Decoded: Nova (full of cool factoids and experiments.)
Capturing the Friedmans (depressing, but really well-made)
How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair (they really did a lot with very little on this one)
Blood in the Face (A movie with Michael Moore that doesn’t suck)
The Garden (warning: this will make you hate humanity)
The Union (worth watching, especially if you don’t yet believe that drug war needs to end)
Born Rich (Solidly made, but not life-changing)
Waiting for Armageddon (watch Jesus Camp instead, if you haven’t seen it. If you liked Jesus Camp, this one is worth watching.)
Atheism Tapes (these are good fodder for discussion, but aren’t intrinsically all that great. They’re a good starting point, but will leave you cold if you’re hoping for a complete argument or a refutation of specific points. Still, they’re short and worth listening to.)

I’d also recommend watching The Daily Show for kicks and giggles and reading The Economist for news, finding an Indian restaurant that sells Papdi Chaat, and watching Mitch Daniel’s speech from CPAC.

On food: my mother-in-law improved on the german pancakes recipes I’ve always used (she cooks hers with 1½ C. milk, 6 eggs, 1 C flour, salt, and vanilla and cooks it at 425, instead of 350. I’ve been experimenting with putting the brown sugar, apples, and pecans below the batter or above it and at various stages of cooking, but still haven’t found something worth passing on yet), I’ve started making Nutella gelato, and have started cooking my own dog food as well. If you have a picky dog, shoot me an e-mail and I’ll forward along the recipes my friend Megan sent me that I’ve been using.

Oh, and documentary recommendations make excellent birthday gifts.