Saturday, January 18, 2014

Devil's Due - Matty Jacobson

THE SKEWED REVIEW | FILM

In my never-ending quest to find the next sleeper horror hit, the likes of which leave me awake at night ("Paranormal Activity 3!"), I paid real, actual dollars to see "Devil's Due." 

It's a mockumentary, found footage style, about a newly-married woman who is impregnated by, Satan, I guess, while on her honeymoon. 

It's not a spoiler. I mean, look at the movie title. 

The reason I think it should be torn into a million pieces and then shoved down the throats of the filmmakers is this: If you want to make a truly scary movie in this day and age, you need to eliminate motive and explanation. Seriously. 

Something can be creepy, scary, haunting without having to be explained to the audience. In fact, when you don't explain the origin of something to the audience, said audience is left to dream up their own personal nightmare instead. 

That's why the very first "Paranormal Activity" worked so well -- despite the horrible acting. The demon was never shown, so we were all left to imagine what it would look like. And there's only one person in the world who can imagine the scariest thing ever. That's you -- thinking about the scariest thing ever to you. 

"Devil's Due" gives us a stupid rehash of "The Last Exorcism" in that not only is Satan's baby inside this woman, but there's also a group of people -- a coven or whatever -- who are actively making sure the Antichrist is born. 

So, no. I wasn't scared. There were no good GOTCHA scares. There wasn't anything that made this film any better than the worst found footage film I've seen. Laaaaaame. 

Save your money. 


Friday, January 17, 2014

My Fitness Pal - by Matty Jacobson



THE SKEWED REVIEW | TECHNOLOGY | PRODUCTS

Being sexy isn't easy. It takes a lot of discipline: eating correctly, working out, and keeping track of everything so you know you're doing it right.

It's true those things come naturally to the luckier of us. But for everyone else, we either have to be meticulous about what we put into our bodies and what activities we do to ensure our food is getting put to good use, or we simply become unhealthy, out of shape and overweight. 

There are a lot of apps that serve this purpose. I've tried a few, but the one I'm most satisfied with is MyFitnessPal. 


This app isn't just for people like me who are trying to trim the fat. It's also for anyone who wants to maintain a certain weight, or even gain muscle weight. 

The program gets your current weight, your goal weight (if you have one) and your height. It then generates how many calories you should be consuming each day. Surprise, surprise, it's not 2,000. In fact, for me to stay at a svelte 185 (I'm 6-feet 2-inches tall, mind you), I should only be consuming 1,390 calories per day. 

"But Matty!" You're screaming right now, I assume. "Swimmer Ryan Phelps! He's about your height and he consumes 12,000 calories a day!" 


Well, that's because he's an athlete. And most days, I end up consuming between 3,000 and 5,000 calories because I also run. That's one of my favorite parts of the MyFitnessPal app. 

At the end of your workout, you let the app know what type of activity you were doing, and how long you were active. It then adds the applicable amount of calories to your diet. So if I want to go to a movie and plan on downing an entire tub of popcorn by myself, then I need to work out for about an hour to free up the necessary 1,000 calories. 

It's simple, but I had to get into the habit of adding my food to the diary after every meal. (Ideally, this app would come with some sort of computer chip you swallow that doesn't digest and reads everything you eat so you don't have to do any work -- but I'm not holding my breath for that technology.) But the food diary is really simple to use. Anything you purchase can be scanned with the app's barcode feature. Anything else will most definitely be in the diary's database. 

And if you're cooking a ridiculous recipe all your own, just add the ingredients to the diary separately. The diary keeps track of what you put into it, so once you've entered it in once, you only have to scroll through your foods to add it again. 

At the end of the day, MyFitnessPal tells you how much you will weight in two weeks if your eating and exercise habits remain the same. 

Some days, the app tells me I'll weigh 175 pounds, and one or two times I've been told I'ld weigh more than 210 if I kept it up. But for the most part, actually utilizing the app has made me more aware of the kinds of foods I eat. 

Now if only the App Store could come up with something that would track my food and activity without my having to do a thing. 






Thursday, January 16, 2014

OH NO, Ross and Carrie! - By Matty Jacobson



THE SKEWED REVIEW | PODCASTS

Podcasts on the strange and mysterious have always fascinated me, and to this day I think it's a shame that AM Coast-to-Coast isn't available in podcast format.

However, I've never really been interested in listening to those skeptics' podcasts that tear apart all the fun of occultism, the Illuminati, mysticism and whatnot. But as I happened to hear a plug for this particular show, "Oh No, Ross and Carrie!", when I was listening to another podcast.

It piqued my interest because the hosts, Ross Blocher and Carrie Poppy, don't just sit and talk about why dousing rods are just a bunch of hooey. No, they actually go and investigate. Since they delve pretty deep into topics, the show is released monthly.

I wasn't sure if I planned on actually investing my time in this show, but as I scrolled through old episodes, I saw they had a two-parter on Mormonism. Well, considering everything that's going on currently with Utah and the denial of equal rights of its citizens because of the aforementioned church, I had to take a listen.

Ross and Carrie are true investigators. They sat through all the missionary discussions (back when the missionaries did that sort of thing), attended church, legitimately prayed about their experiences and -- gasp! -- also got baptized.

I was astounded at the level of commitment to getting the whole story. But Mormonism isn't the only topic they cover. From Kabbalah to juice cleansing, this duo goes in strong under the guise of being legitimately interested. And, from listening to a few episodes, it seems like the two do get legitimately interested in some aspects of the things they investigate.

They wrap up with informing the listeners about the dangers, the financial impact and the scientific probability, among other things, of whatever religion/belief/superstition they've spent their time on.

You can check out their website and stream the show here. You can subscribe to the show through iTunes here.



Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Myrtle Snow: The Best... Ever? -- By Matty Jacobson





Since 2009, The Skewed Review has given its opinion on films, music, iPhone apps, legislation, presidents, clothes, marathons and everything in between. But we're breaking new ground today as we review a character from a television show. 

Many shows have warranted a nod from us, but few characters housed within those shows have been striking enough to garner a column dedicated wholly to him or her. 

And when it comes to "striking," nobody holds a candle to "American Horror Story: Coven's" Myrtle Snow ("I've got a book of matches in my pocket Fiona, and I'm just dying to light this fire").

Played by Frances Conroy, Myrtle's great quotes ("Mothballs and history. It's a cocktail I swoon for!") aren't the only thing that make her the sleeper star of "Coven." Her badass fashion sense and shocking red hair round out the perfect witch who's a decadently divine combination of mystery, snark and fabulousness. 

And when it comes to hair, as Myrtle puts it, "Oh little bird, I've been buying in bulk from North Korea for years!" 

Myrtle is just one of the many witchy opponents to Jessica Lange's Fiona Goode, who is everyone else's favorite spellcaster. But Myrtle's special kind of vengeance for all things Fiona -- portrayed through dry dialogue, minimal facial expressions, and a dangerous melon baller -- bring the icing to the already delicious cake that is "Coven." 

Whether she's playing an instrument (a theremin!) or commenting on the decor ("I'm just mad for tartan!"), we're always on the edge of our seats waiting for Myrtle's next appearance. 

What does the rest of the season have in store for our favorite fiery ginger? It won't matter if she goes down in flames (again), she'll still be our favorite thing to come out of the "Horror Story" franchise! 






Monday, January 13, 2014

Why Mormons Cannot Trust Their Own Church Anymore -- by Matty Jacobson


THE SKEWED REVIEW | HEADLINES

In response to the recent court battles over equal rights and the outpouring of calls for marriage equality, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement Jan. 10 bolstering its doctrine that marriage is between one man and one woman. No exceptions. According to the statement:

"Marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God and is central to His plan for His children and for the well-being of society. Strong families, guided by a loving mother and father, serve as the fundamental institution for nurturing children, instilling faith, and transmitting to future generations the moral strengths and values that are important to civilization and crucial to eternal salvation. Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established."

It's a proclamation from the headquarters of the prophet himself. And, as all faithful LDS members know, the prophet communes with God himself, so this news might as well have come from the Lord Almighty. And we'll return to that in a moment.

In the meantime, let's take a look at another proclamation released from the church in 2013. This one tackles the scandalous topic of race and the priesthood. According to that statement: 

"[In 1852] Brigham Young announced a policy restricting men of black African descent from priesthood ordination. At the same time, President Young said that at some future day, black Church members would 'have [all] the privilege and more' enjoyed by other members. ... The curse of Cain was often put forward as justification for the priesthood and temple restrictions."

This information, found on the official LDS website, goes on to say that "... Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter the policy and they made ongoing efforts to understand what should be done. After praying for guidance, President (David) McKay did not feel impressed to lift the ban." 

So, in black and white (pun intended) on the Church's website, we see that a prophet of God prayed and was, essentially, told not to allow black men to have the priesthood. 

The statement continues and tells us that the prophet Spencer Kimball received a revelation in 1978 that God was finally cool with the descendants of Cain receiving the priesthood. 

What's interesting is what follows in the statement: 

"Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form." 

What the LDS Church is saying here is that the proclamation to exclude black men from the priesthood was not an act of God, but an act of man. Furthermore, when a so-called prophet of God prayed on the matter decades later, he was "not impressed to lift the ban." 

Should God have not related to the very men who are his mouthpiece on earth sometime between the rein of Brigham Young and Spencer Kimball that this was not his word, but merely the bigotry of a racist man? 

Interesting. And today, the LDS church acknowledges that this was not an act of God. Yet, for nearly a century, it was treated as such. The faithful members were left to speculate as to why God would deny black men the priesthood. And the church itself never stepped in to denounce any of those speculations until just last year. 

So, how many other proclamations that come from the mouths of LDS prophets are actually rooted in the biases of the prophet himself and not of God? How can any critically-thinking Latter-day Saint not look at the proclamation that family is only reserved for a man and woman and not think, "God supposedly told the prophet black men weren't allowed to hold the priesthood, either, but we now know it wasn't God." 

And for men who profess to speak on behalf of God, it sure is interesting how it took nearly 100 years for God's voice to actually come through. So what's stopping the current LDS leaders from professing to speak on behalf of God, but only speak their own bigotry? 

The answer: not much. 

Faithful LDS members may say they pray and have a testimony that what the prophet says is true. Well, prayers and testimonies were also "true" from the time blacks were denied the priesthood up until last year. 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has proven itself. It presents doctrine based on the feelings of a single man, and woe be unto those who fall under the bigoted biases of that man. 

More importantly, and sadly, woe be unto those who follow blindly without question. They are the ones who are hurting their fellow humans, destroying live and tearing apart families.

God gave them reason. Maybe He did that so they could save themselves from being conned at such a grand level. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Petition Delivered! -- by Matty Jacobson




Aimed at those who seek to destroy our families, this
sign was a little ironic since it was displayed by
Matty Jacobson, who attended the rally without his
family due to conflicting schedules.
 THE SKEWED REVIEW | HEADLINES

Who would have thought that the petition started to make a simple point -- don't spend $2 million on hate -- would make it all the way to Utah's Capitol Hill?

Well, it did. Of course that petition piggybacked on the bigger success of another petition, started by Tim Wagner, which calls for Gov. Gary Herbert to let marriage equality stand. But together, the two petitions garnered at least 56,000 signatures at the time of delivery.

And the signing continues.

With the help of MoveOn.org, I was able to make the trip to Salt Lake City to see my petition was delivered. And what an experience it was.

It was awe-inspiring to see the capital rotunda packed with supporters of equal rights. There were glorious stories of family values being told, beautiful examples of family success, and it all hopefully got the attention of the state. But we'll see about that.
All the couples who were legally married
in Utah during the brief period of time
when the state had equal rights gather at
the rally Jan. 11 to show their support for
family values.

Through the efforts of Salt Lake City-area radio personality Troy Williams, the rally was put together with only a couple of days notice. But just after noon on Jan. 10, roughly 1,800 supporters gathered inside the capital.

Wagner spoke to the crowd about the importance of letting love rule the day. He told me later that he hadn't intended for his petition to snowball into the behemoth it is today, but that he's glad it did.

I also had the opportunity to speak to the crowd, although I was wholly unprepared to do so. I wish I'd have written something down, but I tried to get my point across as briefly as possible that Utah, like any place or person on this planet, could stand to be improved. And while $2 million might not mean a lot to the governor, it could mean a world of difference to students, the poor, the hungry, the unemployed and the environment.

So I enthusiastically called for those in attendance to help me let the governor know that we don't want our taxpayer money to go toward hate.

Pictured is the printout of the combined
petitions. Numbering thousands and
thousands of pages, at least 56,000
signatures were delivered to the governor's
office Jan. 11.
The rally was filled to the brim with an array of speakers from every walk of life. The Kitchens, who first filed the lawsuit against the state of Utah, talked about the changing opinions in the public arena. Schoolteachers talked about how their daughter was being harmed because of the governor's action. The child of a same-sex couple defended his parents and made it a point to tell Herby that he's doing great, and the only thing he has to fear are the rights and protections he doesn't have because his parents aren't legally recognized as married in the state of Utah.

But the rally wasn't without its downside.

I travelled alone because my husband had to work. Unlike the state of Utah, we don't have the funds to throw money at whatever we want. Luckily, I had the day off, so I could make the trip. Sadly, I had no one by my side.

For a governor who's so concerned about family values, he doesn't seem to care that he's breaking up all these families who showed up, or that he made me leave my husband (which, as ridiculous as it may sound, was incredibly painful considering the situation) to demand I be afforded the same dignity and rights the governor enjoys on a daily basis.

But despite my loneliness, I couldn't help but leave with a feeling of accomplishment. Despite the fact that Herby the No-love Gov. has yet to release a statement that he even knows about our petitions.

Let's keep up the good fight. We can't be ignored forever.

Below the Facebook comments is a video shot by Dominique Storni, which shows the majority of the rally.




Wednesday, January 8, 2014

American Horror Story: Coven - By Matty Jacobson



THE SKEWED REVIEW | TELEVISION

It's not often I get really into a show that isn't already off the air. More often than not, I'll get hooked on a show because it popped up on Netflix, and then I'll usually just binge-watch through however many seasons are available.

There were other shows I started watching that I fully intended to keep up with. "Once Upon a Time," "Scandal," "Revenge" and "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." are just a few examples. I don't know if I just lack the attention span to stay with a show when I have to wait a whole week between airings, or if TV just ain't what it should be, but shows that follow a story arc just don't seem to be my cup of tea.

Except for "American Horror Story: Coven."

The first season of "American Horror Story" did what this season is doing for me. It lassoed me in with historical mysteries, gore and the paranormal. The first season even gave me nightmares! Suffice to say, I felt like I would be in it for the long haul.

It didn't hurt that AHS creators planned on starting a new horror story each season. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for "American Horror Story: Asylum."

What a downer. Last season was muddled and confusing, had hardly a real scare, and lacked any of the big historical mysteries that season one offered (such as the Black Dahlia nod).

So I was a little reluctant coming into the third season. But, as more was revealed about what "Coven" would entail -- witchcraft, New Orleans, Delphine LaLaurie, Marie Laveau -- my anticipation became insufferable.

I took a trip to New Orleans last year, and have since been fascinated with the place and its incredibly spooky history. So I hyped myself up for AHS's new season -- something that usually sets me up for disappointment.

But "Coven" has yet to disappoint. I've even entertained the idea that "Coven" should have another season. I'm that invested.

And of all the wonderful, grotesque, evil, lovable, hatable characters, there's one I just can't get enough of: Francis Conroy's Myrtle Snow. How can I begin to describe how much I dig her? She's got the best lines in the whole show (when asked how her burned-off hair grew back so fast, "I've been buying in bulk for years!" Myrtle responds), but her fashion sense is off the charts.

And the woman's got serious style. She was super concerned about the witches who left Salem hundreds of years before because they had to travel all that distance without a bidet. What class!

I am team Myrtle all the way.

I am going to be so sad when this season ends. My biggest fear: How will "AHS" top this season? It will definitely be a challenge.