Author: Orson Scott Card

About Orson Scott Card

Here are my most recent posts

Yost’s Weekend with POTUS

So, the other day, I’m lying in bed on Wednesday morning just minding my own business in my own perfectly pleasant little dream world, and then, suddenly, I’m woken very harshly by the sound of helicopters passing by right over my bedroom like I was in a war zone or something. WA-KA, WA-KA, WAKA! WA-KA, WA-KA, WA-KA! WA-KA, WA-KA, WA-KA! I mean, the whole house was shaking. At first I thought it might be part of a dream where I was heroically saving fellow soldiers and taking out an enemy machine-gun nest or something, but I wasn’t having any...

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American Made, Young Sheldon, Good Doctor

When I was a kid, the resumption of new television programs with the new “season” in September was complete recompense for the end of summer vacation. Yes, we had to go back to school, but hey, there were cool new shows. When I was young, that usually meant intriguing new westerns – I remember the debuts of The Rifleman, Sugarfoot, Bonanza, Cheyenne, Have Gun – Will Travel and Rawhide, which provided starring roles for Chuck Connors and Johnny Crawford; Will Hutchins; Lorne Greene and Michael Landon; Clint Walker; Richard Boone; and Clint Eastwood and Eric Fleming, respectively. I can still sing almost the entire Rawhide theme song from memory. I remember Micah (Paul Fix), the marshal on The Rifleman, and Wishbone (Paul Brinegar) from Rawhide, and I haven’t even mentioned the most iconic TV western of them all, Gunsmoke. Fall television season was more important than the start of school. More important, when I was young, than presidential elections, which came as an anticlimax later in the season, and then went on hiatus for four years at a time. Nowadays, you’d think the “television season” thing wouldn’t matter anymore. Cable channels like TNT, USA, AMC, HBO, Showtime and others have mini-seasons of six, nine, 10 or a dozen episodes, and they start exactly when the traditional network seasons run out. Instead of the summer being devoted to reruns of...

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Izzard, Kingsman, Brad’s Status, Assassin

If only Trump would just shut up. Theodore Roosevelt called the US presidency “a bully pulpit,” in an age when “bully” was the slang equivalent of “awesome.” The presidency is only a bully pulpit if the people don’t think you’re an idiot. In that case, the twittering presidency is like being in the stocks in the village square. The Secret Service keeps people from throwing fruit or, like, rocks. But lots of people want to, and the more you shout stupidities at them, the more their fingers itch. Ultra-right Republicans have the delusion, shared by the ultra-left, that Trump was the actual consensus choice of the Republican Party. This is not true, was never true. Most Republicans in primary after primary kept voting for candidates other than Trump. The trouble was that for a long period Trump’s most visible rival was Ted Cruz, who was only slightly less repugnant. Trump was elected constitutionally, but with a minority of the popular vote. It is delusional and self-destructive for the far-right wing of the Republican Party to demand that the leadership of the Republican Party set aside their knowledge of how to govern, and instead adopt the ludicrous, mean-spirited, bigoted agenda of the far right and ram it down the throats of the American people. There is some consensus in the Republican Party: a strong national defense, which will be hard...

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Home Again, Do Your Laundry, Yesterday

Home Again was one of two movies my wife and I chose between last Friday. The other was American Assassin. (When choosing a movie to go to, horror movies like It aren’t even in the running. Why should I pay Hollywood for scaring me, when I can just stay home and watch the news?) We had good luck with The Hitman’s Bodyguard, and American Assassin looked like it might be as good … or better. And all the promos and reviews for Home Again suggested that it was going to be about a May-December romance ╨ except the woman would be the older one. Ooooh, a twist. I found this offensive, by the way, because when we talk about May-December love stories, we usually mean an old guy. You know, December – nearing the end of the year, so metaphorically nearing the end of life. An old man. But when you flip it, and the “old” woman is an absolutely gorgeous and youthful-looking Reese Witherspoon, we’re not talking about May-December at all. Witherspoon is 41, for pete’s sake, and she has never been more beautiful. And even though Pico Alexander, who plays her initial love interest, has a photo on IMDb that makes him look 14, he was born in 1991, which makes him 26 years old. Fifteen years younger than Witherspoon. That’s not May-December. That’s June-August. No cradles are...

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Third Places in American Life

Why do you have a lawn? No, seriously. Why do you want to have this greensward that you must mow, weed (manually or chemically), water (even in our damp climate) and leave generally unused? Here’s why: English country houses. The wealthy ruling class in England before 1700 was generally dependent on their income from the land. They would collect rents from peasants who worked the land but did not own it. The landlord lived in a large fine house somewhere on his own property, with a clear separation between his household and the surrounding farmers. But the grounds of the house, while they might be well-tended by a gardener, were part of a large working agricultural enterprise. Therefore, large sweeps of land near the house were kept as meadows, with herds of sheep or goats keeping them well-cropped. As the idle rich sought more ways to amuse themselves, this close-cut grass began to be used for various functions. Croquet and tennis, when they were imported from France, were fairly easy to situate on a level stretch of lawn. Garden parties took place on tables and chairs set up (by servants) on the lawn. One of the hallmarks of a great house, as you approached it from the road, was the broad lawn on either side of the trees planted to line the long sweeping driveway. Yes, there were sheep...

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Exploding Yogurt, Two Games, Thorns

The biggest problem with trivia games – even the well-written ones, like Trivial Pursuit – is assembling a group of people to play together. Let’s face it, when playing trivia games many people are at a great disadvantage, at least in certain categories. For years, I’ve had to play Trivial Pursuit with a severe handicap: the Sports & Leisure category. Not only do I know less than nothing about sports (that is, even the things I think I know are mostly wrong), but also it seems as though half the “leisure” questions are about alcoholic beverages, and as a Mormon, I have no idea what liquids are ingredients of various mixed drinks. Otherwise, I do pretty well. So there’s been many a game where my little wheel filled up with cheeses, except for Sports & Leisure, long before anyone else was close. But then I keep dancing around, failing to answer the sports questions, until somebody else fills their wheel and goes to the middle and wins. Even if I get one sports question right, when I get into the middle my opponents only have to keep asking me sports questions and they have plenty of time to catch up and beat me. Then there’s the problem of brain-holes, where some fact you’ve known your whole life suddenly falls out. I remember one game with a group of professors...

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Hacksaw, TrapTap, Lucky Logan, Prager

My wife and I don’t go to the movies very much, for several reasons: There aren’t many movies that are aimed at people like us. You know, grownups. Even the movies thatcouldhave been enjoyable are often very badly written, and when that becomes obvious in the promos, why should we waste time and money going to see them? We can always catch them later on cable to see if they turned out better than they looked in the teasers. There are only two or three movies a year that are more enjoyable than just staying home and watching our recorded shows or playing Ticket to Ride or inviting friends over to visit or just talking. We’re busy. Sometimes, we’re traveling or are completely tied up in local activities during the entire theatrical run of a movie. This is why we didn’t see Hacksaw Ridge when it first came out. We knew the storyline, we like Andrew Garfield as an actor, and we know that Mel Gibson is not only a brilliant director but also one with the courage to show a man of faith unironically on the screen. But those are also reasons why I picked another movie the week that we could have seen Hacksaw Ridge in the theaters. Because I’m such a sucker for a good story – or even a bad one – that I over-identify with onscreen characters. I get too emotional, and if...

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Hitman’s Bodyguard, Quitters and Paprika

We just got back from a late-night showing of The Hitman’s Bodyguard. The reviews on this have been mixed. Our reviews are unanimous: Terrific adventure movie, with a double romance tossed in. Good dialogue, good writing, Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Gary Oldman, an amazing amount of obscene language (half of which you miss if you don’t speak Spanish), and more dead bodies and wrecked, shot-up and blown-up cars than your average movie. If you want to see stuff you haven’t seen before, this movie has a guided tour of Amsterdam, which is a gorgeous city when people aren’t shooting and blowing up vehicles. We loved every minute. Ignore the critics who are too cool for school. …. Watching a few moments of the Kevin Spacey film K-PAX, I happened to see Spacey, playing a man who might be insane or might be an alien, take a bite out of the end of a whole banana and start chewing. If you’ve ever tried that, you know that not only does it taste nasty, you’ve got to have sharp teeth, a strong bite and give the fruit a firm ripping motion to succeed in taking off the end. With his mouth still full (because I sincerely hope Spacey did not swallow the peel), he took a second bite. In case someone thought it was a fluke. Then, I hope, a production assistant or his personal valet...

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Nut Job 2, Conlangs, Taíno

Nut Job 2. I saw it last Saturday. Did you guess that I went because my grandchildren were still visiting us? The squirrel Surly has come a long way since he inhabited those cartoons at the beginning of Pixar features, in which the one joke was his Wile E. Coyote–style way of making desperate efforts to capture his quarry – an acorn – and failing spectacularly. We loved those cartoons. Partly because they were clever, well-produced and funny. Partly because the old tradition of having short cartoons before every feature is one that I miss. There was no profit in those cartoons in the old days. They were really there, I suspect, to allow time for latecomers to get seated before the feature started. But they made movie-going more of an event, a celebration. Even if you were there to see some dark, demented horror flick, the cartoon at the beginning put everybody in a good mood. (That’s right, even the annoying cartoons, like Woody Woodpecker. After seeing one of those, I couldn’t get that obnoxious cackle out of my head for days.) But those squirrel-and-nut cartoons, beloved as they were, had to be turned into money, and that is done by having a feature film. Never mind that the feature film had to be completely different and couldn’t possibly bring the same delight. Audience loved Surly the nut-seeking squirrel, so they had to be...

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Making Movies Despicable, Outer Banks

I wasn’t going to see Despicable Me 3 because, you know, Despicable Me 2.  But we have three grandchildren visiting with us, all under the age of 12. So now I’ve seen DespicableMe 3 and I’m happy to tell you that, compared with grinding your head into a rough concrete wall for an hour, Despicable Me 3 is better.  Which is more than could be said for Despicable Me 2 or the Minions movie.  The saving grace of all the Despicable Me movies is that Steve Carell plays Gru, and Carell classes up everything he’s in. He’s one of the few American screen actors who can do voices – accents, dialects and actual characters. This means that he is especially suited to voice work in animated movies – a branch of acting in which most American actors range from untrained to dreadful.  As a case in point, I recently tried to listen to the audio version of three books by noted performers, read by the authors: Paula Poundstone’s The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness;Kevin Hart’s I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons; and Jeffrey Tambor’s Are You Anybody?  Usually, with a book by a comedian or comic actor or, you know, any actor at all, you expect they’ll be the best or only possible reader of their material.  Why would you ever listen to an audio version of one of Woody Allen’s books, like Without Feathers, if Allen himself were not reading it? Nobody could bring off that mix of...

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Evan Hansen, Musical Groundhog

It’s an odd thing to say, but despite its role as the capital of American left-wing oppression – though Seattle, Portland and the whole state of California are vying for the title – New York City remains the cultural center of the United States.  And even though the days are long gone when Broadway shows were a steady source of enduring popular songs, we still look to Broadway to certify a show as important.  There are ridiculously few new musicals compared to past decades, and now that contemporary pop, hip-hop and rap are supplanting many older musical traditions in Broadway shows, it seems even less likely for a Broadway musical to produce any song that can reach the public consciousness.  And yet we still go to Broadway. Sometimes kicking and screaming, especially when ridiculous comic-book movies are turned into offensively stupid comic-book musicals.  Anyway, a few years back I simply stopped going.  That’s right, a dyed-in-the-wool theater major and play director like me finally realized: Broadway choruses are the best singers and dancers in the world, but with the star performers in the shows borrowed from television, Grammy broadcasts and movies, nearly without regard for whether they can actually act and sing well enough for Broadway, it’s usually better to see a local production after the Broadway hit has had its run. Cheaper, too.  Or, you know, not see it at all. ...

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Candy Bars, Dunkirk, The Big Sick

If you want good brioche, you go to France. Period. Very little that is called “brioche” here in the US is good brioche. For one thing, you mostly see it as a hamburger on a “brioche” bun. If it’s brioche, it isn’t shaped like a hamburger bun. Brioche is also way too good to put hamburger ingredients on it. Hamburger on real brioche bread is like using a matched pair of Arabian stallions to pull a little red wagon. Some foods can be internationalized. Not only is high-quality wine from France, Italy and (in the opinion of some) Germany, Spain, Greece and Portugal available all over the world, but also wines from the same kinds of grapes are produced in California, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, China, Russia, Romania, New Zealand and Brazil. Is there anywhere on Earth where you can’t get Chinese food? Delivered? Or pizza? (American pizza is way better than anything sold under that name in Italy. If you go to Italy for the pizza, forget it.) But other foods remain, like brioche, the exclusive domain of a handful of countries. Mexican food, for instance, belongs almost entirely to Texas, California, New Mexico and – no, sorry, not Mexico. What we call Mexican food isn’t what you can expect to see more than 50 miles south of the border. (In Mexico, all the food is Mexican.) May...

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Spidey, Baby Driver, Apes, Cookies

Summer movies are supposed to be huge. The studios bring out their biggest moneymakers in May and June so they’ll have a chance to sit in the theaters all summer long, raking in money. Except that many of the movies the studios counted on simply have not performed. For instance, how could you lose with the Smurfs movie (Smurfs: The Lost Village)? Oh, wait. I forgot that I loathed every moment of the Smurfs on television when my kids were young. I would have paid 50 bucks for the privilege of never seeing it. Apparently I wasn’t alone in that sentiment. On a $60 million budget, it’s barely making that back … and not making a dent in the costs of promotion, which often equal the shooting budget. Baywatch had The Rock and Zac Efron. Seriously, how could it lose? Oh, yeah, it was based on a truly lousy TV show. And there was that little problem about how the promos weren’t even slightly funny or sexy, and if you don’t have either of those, why would anybody go see it? Like Smurfs, it might make back its budget, but it’s still a medium flop. Ghost in the Shell? If it had any promotion, I never saw it. Apparently it wasn’t advertised in places that an old coot like me would ever see it. On a budget of $110 million,...

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Yost Finds Freedom In Fake News

For centuries, the news has been the news; but now, in 2017, we have a completely brand new phenomenon, the thing that’s suddenly all the rage – fake news. Unlike most people, who rail against it, I consider fake news to be a highly welcome change for the stodgy and uptight journalism industry. For too long, newspapers and other media outlets have been handcuffed by the requirement that news stories be factually accurate. And, while accuracy and factuality unquestionably have their advantages – not to mention a certain pedestrian charm – those requirements also manacle news reporters in extremely confining ways. However, with fake news, stories immediately become much more interesting, there’s zero research required and reporter creativity is allowed to reach new heights. So all that got me thinking: Why don’t we just stop fighting against fake news and embrace it. As you no doubt realize by now, fake news is all around us and it’s certainly here to stay – and trying to buck that trend is a losing battle. Also, if you can’t beat them, then you know what they say you should do. So, I am in fact joining them, and this week I decided to just bring you some of the best fake news stories we could find …   Guilford County Jail Meals Go All-organic. Greensboro – Inmates in Guilford County’s two jails,...

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Spider-Man: Homecoming, Anne Ursu

When you drive across America with no particular itinerary, mealtimes can fall at awkward moments. Like between Denver, Colorado, and Salina, Kansas. Like westbound between Laramie, Wyoming, and death. There’s plenty to see in such regions. Railroad trains that go on forever. Redrock and then whiterock cliffs, buttes, and crags that gradually melt down to swells in the prairie with an occasional outcropping of stone. Clouds that drift along in neat acrobatic-swimming ranks and files. Distant rainstorms with virga sweeping down from the base of the clouds but never reaching the ground. What isn’t always obvious is information about where to eat in a strange town. When there’s only one Yelp review and it goes on and on about how brilliant the restaurant is, so that one can only assume that the owner wrote it. And there are some places so obscure that Yelp has not yet penetrated the fog. I’ve been daring, as with a very nice-looking standalone restaurant in Kanab, Utah, which has become, in our family lore, the legendary Fly-On-Your-Plate Restaurant. (We paid, left, and ate at a Subway farther along the road.) In the end, when you’re road-weary and eager to get to your evening’s lodgings, you sometimes have to figure, McDonald’s or Subway or Arby’s or some other chain represents a minimum below which they are unlikely to fall. McDonald’s is passionate about quality...

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County Kiddie Train Leaves Northeast Park on Round Trip to California

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch but apparently there are free kiddie train repairs. In an amazing and unexplainable turn of events in the long-running saga of the dysfunctional Little Train that Couldn’t at Northeast Park, the company that sold the defective train to Guilford County has, out of the blue, agreed to come get the train, truck it back to California, repair it and return it free of charge. That comes two months after the Guilford County Board of Commissioners voted to spend an estimated $63,000 to fix the train and tracks. The board later hired a Burlington company to do the repairs. This new development means the county could save nearly all of that money commissioners approved earlier this year in their last ditch effort to save the train. County officials had long ago given up hopes that the original supplier that sold the train to the county would fix it. Six years ago, Guilford County purchased the C.P. Huntington train from Katiland Trains to serve as a park attraction that would draw kids and their families to Northeast Park, but the train has never run properly and, aside from a short stint a year and a half ago, the ride has never been operational. The county spent nearly $370,000 to purchase the train and tracks – roughly $170,000 for the train, and...

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Schmackary’s, Fragmentary Movies

It was almost funny. Someone had told me that Schmackary’s in Manhattan made the best cookies in America. The store also did wonderful-weird things like allowing people to go online and order a bunch of cookies to be sent to the cast of any show on Broadway. (Maybe they include off-Broadway shows, too. I didn’t check.) It sounded like great fun, but I wasn’t going to send an order of cookies to anyone else before I sampled some myself. My wife and I plan to go to New York to see Dear Evan Hansen, which has been highly recommended by friends. I take personal recommendations of shows seriously, because going to Broadway and spending the money to see a lousy show is a serious waste of time and money. I have found, ever since walking out of a couple of shows so offensively stupid that I felt it was dangerous to my mental health to remain, that Broadway reviewers are not to be trusted, period. But when a good (and smart, and not stage-struck) friend tells me that Dear Evan Hansen is a terrific show, and his plot summary is encouraging, then yes, it’s worth the trip to Manhattan to see the play. But what if we had gone to see the musical Amelie because we loved the French movie by that name? I ordered the original cast album...

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Dance Shows, NanoTrax Goes Wild

When promotion began for NBC’s new dance program, World of Dance, with Jennifer Lopez as the lead judge, I was optimistic. I was seeing no promotion for So You Think You Can Dance, and I vaguely assumed that it might have been canceled. After all, if Fox could cancel American Idol when it was still a powerhouse in the ratings, why would it keep on with SYTYCD? The signs of decay were already there. Some really misguided decisions – dividing the dancers into two categories – “street” dance vs. “stage” dance – lowered the quality of both groups. I still watched the show that year, mind you – but because all the street dance numbers were pretty much the same moves over and over, and the music was always hip-hop, mostly unlistenable to people who like things like lyrics, melody and harmony, SYTYCD had become only half watchable. And then they did the awful season 13, which they called “The Next Generation.” It was children, all children. Aw. Awww. Aaaawwww. How kee-yute. I don’t want to watch children getting pushed and tormented into doing ridiculously difficult moves, any more than I would like watching children play tackle football. It isn’t cute. It’s scary and it’s tedious. Watching children dance – even the most skilled of them – is like watching dogs walk on their hind legs. The amusement comes...

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Wonder Woman, WWI, Smart Animals

I always thought the Wonder Woman TV series was terminally dumb. I hated her dumb red-white-and-blue merry-widow costume, I hated the dumb stuff she did to wield superpowers (a rope? crossing her arms? spinning around till they did a splash effect? They might as well have gotten their special effects from the people who came up with Daleks). And while everybody at the time talked about how beautiful Lynda Carter was, I thought she had a boring cliche face and no acting talent whatsoever. Now I understand that she was probably doing the best she could with really crummy scripts, and as for beauty, remember that I’m the guy who never understood all the hoopla about Scarlett Johansson or Andie MacDowell or Elizabeth Taylor or, really, anybody who was famous for being beautiful since Grace Kelly. I’m just out of the loop on all that stuff. And come on. “Wonder Woman”? Could they possibly have come up with a more generic name? It makes “Captain Underpants” seem deep. But then the trailers for the new Wonder Woman movie looked like there might be good writing and good acting and an actual story with characters we could care about, so my wife and I showed up for a late afternoon showing in the cushy reclining seats at Red Cinemas, full of hope. OK, we weren’t full of hope, but we...

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