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Screw the Luddites

by babbage

What’s gold, has 5 stories, screams 6 times a day and needs to know your longitude and latitude in order to scream at the right time? If you answered a genuine “Islam call-to-prayer alarm clock,” CONGRATULATIONS. You win your very own prayer mat and time off for Fajr, Shurooq, Dhuhr, Asr, Maghrib & Isha!

I was talking to a friend about my first visit to the temple in Salt Lake—OK, to the visitors center. If you’ve read Wild Utah before, you’re right to guess my Temple Recommend is a ways off. I did the tour with the young, hottie missionaries; I saw the paintings and was amazed at how Aryan all those Middle Eastern Jews and Romans looked. I watched the film (and discovered Mary was a hottie too) and I saw that technological and theological wonder—the 20-foot talking Jesus.

Speaking of technological and theological wonders, those previously-mentioned prayer clocks are amazing and beautiful in a really scary, gold lamé, ‘MTV Cribs’ kind of way. The noise they make is unbelievable. I thought the worse thing I had ever heard was an early Yoko Ono album. But these clocks are 100 times worse. Oddly enough, the talking Jesus resuscitated long buried memories of that clock.

Both are religious technology novelties. You know the crappy stuff I’m talking about; glow in the dark Virgin Marys, moving eyes Jesus pictures, laughing Buddha’s that actually laugh when you touch their tummies. Everyone has an aunt or distant cousin with this kind of stuff around the living room. It’s everywhere these days and it’s becoming more insidious. I’ve seen Jesus night lights, touch-to-turn-on menorahs, crying Virgin Mary lamps, dancing Ganesh’s, and a whole host of automated nativity scenes. But Utah’s own talking 20-foot Jesus now tops my list.

Brief segue here: Have you heard “If I only had a brain” by MC 900ft Jesus? It came out in 1994 and is worth tracking down. Then again any song that starts out “suppose i accidentally got my shit together? would i get a medal? or a pat on the back and a little feather? i could stick it in my cap or pin it to my shirt, go out in the yard and poke it in the dirt, or leave it in the woods where it couldn’t be found - if it fell over, would it make a sound?” can’t be all bad. I suggest a quick trip too to pick it up. But I digress.

Let’s drop back down about 880ft from MC 900ft Jesus and back to Utah’s own talking Jesus. Think about this: he is by far the largest piece of technologically enhanced, religious kitsch out there and HE’S HANGING OUT RIGHT HERE IN OUR OWN BACKYARD. He has that freaky Disney style—cool, but in a slightly creepy way. He stands there surrounded by planets and stars including fiber optic lighting.

Even getting to him is an amazing trip; you just walk up the curving staircase a la Alice in Wonderland. It’s like that planetarium you visited in seventh grade. Remember how the artwork was exactly the same seven years later when you went to that ‘Laser Floyd light show?’ That’s the kind of scary, acrylic paint planets we’re talking about. Oh yeah – don’t forget the comets thrown in for good measure.

On that topic you may not think to ‘prepare’ for your trip to the talking Jesus in the same way you did for the ‘Laser Floyd.’ But think again – it may just be worth it. If you do—remember he talks! Forgetting this could result in a serious freak out. I’m guessing that would go badly at the visitor’s center.

But there’s more! The 20-foot talking Jesus even has theatrical lighting. Of course, Jesus has a great voice—sort of Charleton Heston meets Michael Landon. It’s the kind of voice you can imagine saying “Girls grab that AK-47, the Horwitzer and yer brother Alfred and go rustle Ma, yer little sister and I some Injuns fer dinner.” Trust me, this voice would have definitely avoided the ‘blessed are the cheese makers’ mistakes we all loved in Life of Brian.

Unlike the clock (a big seller throughout the Muslim world), talking Jesus is confined to the visitor’s center for now. So if you want to experience the best Utah has to offer in religious technology you’ll have to go visit him – but I suggest you leave the Laser Floyd tee shirt at home.