Friday, August 21, 2009

Out and Hyped: Ramona Falls - Intuit


Did anyone follow Pitchfork's "Best Tracks of the Decade" thing this week? I want to hate music now. What the hell was "All My Friends" doing at number 2? I mean, it's a cool song, but the second best song of the decade? What a bizarre, stupid list. Sometimes I'd just like to go to Pitchfork's meeting room and figure out how they come up with nonsense like that.

But one of my favorite bands' tracks ended up way back at #442. "Wet and Rusting" by Menomena. The wonderful little voice you hear singing is a Portland dude named Brent Knopf. All three guys in Menomena are awesome, but I have a feeling that Brent might be the musical mastermind of the bunch.

I've come to this conclusion as a result of listening to Brent's new solo side project a few times today. Ramona Falls is the name, and the first album is called Intuit (Barsuk Records). This music is for Menomena fans who enjoy the more melodic and pop-friendly sides of the band. Fans of Arcade Fire will definitely dig Brent's multi-instrumental indie rock too. It's synth-heavy, rhythm-happy, quirky-introspective loveliness.

Dudes like Brent make me wonder how one mind can contain so many melodies. Where do his hoards of creativity come from? It's incredible, this album. From start to finish, it's like a romp for the soul.

If you want the proof, listen here. Paste, in all their good taste, decided to stream the entire album.

I'll be heading over to their show at the Chopin Theater in Chicago next month, and I'll definitely take some pictures and review the show (If I'm lucky, I'll snag an interview with Brent). But until then, get this album. If each member of Menomena decided today that they wanted to just work on solo projects, I'd be in full support of it. That's how much I like Ramona Falls.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Top 10 Basketball Moves

Boy am I tired. I'm actually going to fall asleep before midnight tonight. That hasn't happened since I was four. I put together a garage door opener this afternoon. It took hours. I didn't even know that it was possible to put together a garage door opener, I always thought they came with the garage. It was something else, let me tell you.

So now I feel like the only thing I can write is a list. An easy list. Something that everyone will enjoy. And I'm not going to write a sentence for every inclusion in the list, I'm just too tired for that. Be grateful for the pictures.

You've read the title. Here are the top ten basketball moves... according to Dylan Peterson

10. Offensive Boards


9. Fade-Away


8. Steal


7. Reverse Slam


6. Tre


5. The No-Look Pass


4. The Double Crossover


3. Stuffed


2. Buzzer Beater


1. The Alley-Oop


The Sickest Basketball Moves. Listed

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Movies are Nice


http://www.onlygoodmovies.com/blog/movie-megalists/75-comedy-films-to-see-before-you-die/

75 comedies we should watch before we die. See what you think. It's not a bad list. Charmingly, OnlyGoodMovies.com linked each title on the list to a different blog, and they picked Total Darkness vs. Blinding Light for their selection of the classic Marx Brothers' film, Duck Soup.

I'd say that if there are a few films on the list that you haven't seen, go ahead and throw them into the old Netflix queue. I'm going to add Casino Royale and Bananas now. I never know which Woody Allen movies to add, so I'm glad that Only Good Movies narrowed it down for me.

I'm not sure how Ghostbusters was left off the list, and I would've put Life of Brian in there before The Meaning of Life too (actually, there are quite a few changes I would have made if I had the final edit...). But I guess this is a site run by people who just love movies. It's independent. There's no pressure. No pretension.

The nice thing about having a blog is the community it beckons. You don't have to make friends or connections in writing online. Networking is laid back on the blogs. So this particular post is a tip of the hat back in the direction of Only Good Movies. They took the time to find my little blog and link it to their little website, so why wouldn't I do the same? I'm all about returning favors.

There's just one thing I can't condone, and that is the watching of number 71. I think I would have preferred to die without ever having to sit through Adam Sandler oggling Fairuza Balk. That's just bad, bad, bad. I'll give you a pass this time OGM, but next time, edit the list down to 74 if it's between that or an Adam Sandler flick.

Introduction of a Story

I've always been interested in the truth. Knowing it, telling it, seeking it. For as long as I can remember, the truth has been important to me. And yet, people call me a liar. They tell me that they want nothing to do with me. They do everything in their power to ignore me. But what if I can tell them the truth? Why wouldn't they want to hear it? This is a question I ask myself every day.

Truth might not always be easy to understand, and maybe I don't know all of it myself, but I've gone through damning experiences that clearly point to truth. At least truth in my own mind. Subjective truth. Isn't that worth listening to? Isn't my story worth another person's time?

I listen to everybody's story. There isn't a book I won't read, not a film I can't watch. Why won't anybody do the same for me? Why am I such a bad guy?

Here we have a character without answers. He is passionate and intelligent. He knows that his existence is not a mistake, and he wonders about it often. Keeping his own interests in mind, the last thing he wants is for people to suffer. Any lie that he tells is not a lie to him.

If you stopped reading already, I wouldn't be surprised. This is the beginning of my self. Why should you care about that? Oh well. I guess that's just my destiny. I guess I'm either omitted or co-mitted. I'm used to that.

But I don't quit. I'm still alive, and while I'm alive I will speak up for what I believe in. If you think I'm wrong, so be it. I have seen the power of truth too many times to assume your ears are deaf. I don't want you to be ignorant. Knowledge is something every human being deserves. If you would merely accept it, I will not charge any fee.

Pilate asked Jesus, "What is truth?" And Jesus did not answer him. 

That wasn't because Pilate's heart was hard, but because Jesus didn't have the answer. There is no answer. And that's how smart Jesus was. Because as soon as you tell people what the truth is, they tell you you're wrong. But I will tell you my truth anyway. If you want to tell me that I'm wrong, go ahead.

Thus we see the first difference between this character and Jesus. This character speaks in straightforward, easy to understand sentences. Jesus was cryptic, telling parables or not giving responses at all. Jesus was the epitome of wisdom, but he was not the epitome of knowledge.

I have knowledge. And it wasn't given to me. I worked hard for my knowledge, and it's only because of my experiences that I am able to share knowledge with those who need it.

So who will listen to me? Today, at this moment, who will take the time to walk beside me and talk with me? How badly I want someone to travel with, someone who will not think of me as a madman or a devil.

In order for this character to find a companion, he must introduce himself to another individual. And he will. He will wander until he finds someone willing to listen. An open-minded person will come along, and will hear him out. But before that can happen, our protagonist must abandon his station. He must go out into the world and look people in the eye.

I have been to many cities, and to many more I will go. I will travel by land, air and water. To the ends of the earth I will go for just a little bit of companionship.

I've seen so much loneliness in the world, and I'm tired of it. If a woman doesn't have a husband, I want to comfort her. If a man is longing for a wife, I hope to sympathize with him. There is nothing more distracting than love. That ache of the heart that prevents workers from accomplishing their tasks, and that pain of the soul that torments a man for yet another weekend. The most useless conversations are those concerned with love lives. It's not just whining, it's utter distraction.

They say that they've been in love with someone for years, but the feelings aren't mutual or that they aren't worthy of reciprocal love. They know that they waste their time on dates, but they feel pressure to do it anyway. They watch movies and read books that remind them of the love interest who laughed when they asked for a phone number. They cry at the thought of their lost love.

There's something that people need to know about love. And I'm going to tell them. But not if they turn their cheeks from me. The one who will converse with me is the person who will wander with me, adventure with me, and weep with me. Where is this person? When will I be accompanied?

He didn't know it yet, but there was a man walking in his direction at that very moment. A man in search of truth, knowledge and wisdom. Tired from the woes of the world, he felt like a camel halfway through the eye of the needle, stuck, not sure if it would be smarter to push ahead or back out. He would soon meet our confident protagonist, and they would take a journey through light and darkness, good and evil.

The setting has been formless, but take hope in knowing that the sun has begun to rise. This is not a story about chaos, but about the attainment of understanding. Three persons exist here, but their descriptions must remain disclosed for sake of misinterpretation. Remember Jesus' response to Pilate? There is no difference today than what took place 2000 years ago. There are but a few things: truth, questions, and silence. These are the things that propel every human being. These basics of existence linger in every heart until the last moment. And whatever remains, revels in longing for these three things.

In a journey, the questions must determine the route. The final destination must always be silence. And the truth has already been told.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I Got Robbed?


Cars are horrible. If we hadn't moved to Florida, I don't think we would have ever had to get one. But here we drive, fattening as we go. Of course there are good reasons to own a car, but I usually forget what they are. I think everybody should just ride bicycles.

I walked out to the car yesterday in hopes of making a trip to the grocery store. But I had to wait, because there was glass all over the front passenger seat. The window had been smashed. I figured that the CD player was gone, because there's nothing else of value in the car. But it was still there. So now I felt confused. Did someone smash our window by accident? Was there a drunken stumble late last night? Oh wait, I remembered, our GPS.

That was another device we had to buy in Florida. You see, Orlando is a horrible city, whoever did their urban planning was either mentally retarded or five years old. In Chicago, we have a grid of streets. Our streets run east-west, north-south, and only a handful angle northwest or southeast. In Orlando, everything is a curvy maze. And there are dead ends everywhere. If not useless man-made dead ends or gigantic gated communities, then lakes interrupt any possibility for a straight road in this idiotic city. So in order to keep our sanity while driving through this hideous hell-hole, we bought a GPS.

We used it in Illinois, it was a convenience. But now that it's gone, it isn't much to cry over. You can't really get lost in Chicago once you've lived here for a few years, the sense of direction becomes too strong. So I basically shrug. I wish it hadn't happened, it was wrong, but I'm more annoyed by the broken window than the lost GPS.

My dad has been ripped off at least three times. He doesn't lock his cars anymore, because he would rather the thief just open the door if they want to steal from him so badly. The inconvenience of broken glass is incredibly annoying.

A few years ago, the rear tire on my bicycle was stolen. Now THIS hurt. A bicycle is such a beautiful machine. It represents such positivity, healthiness, purity. A car is a death machine. It costs thousands of dollars and pollutes the world so we can get from point A to point B a few minutes faster. It deserves to be broken into. Whoever steals things out of a car, I can't really be mad at them. It's thousands of dollars sitting beside the sidewalk. But the person who steals a bicycle, now this is truly a disturbed individual. Just knowing that this person is interested in bike parts, it hurts my soul.

When you're stealing a bike, you're tampering with a small community of people who want the world to be a better place. The person who steals a bike basically says "I don't care about you, what matters to you, or why you have this bike. All I know is that I want to take this for myself, so I am going to do that." What's worse, this person never even shows his face to you. He takes the bike when you're away from it. He sneakily disassembles your method of transportation and turns it into junk.

Why we value the things we value is oftentimes a mystery. But stealing something immediately devalues whatever it is. And I don't mean value in regards to money, I mean that sense of ownership. When you steal something, you know you don't own it. You know that you stole it. You may sell it, or you may use it for yourself, but you'll never value it.

I have lost a few things of value on occasion, but I have also gained. As for my car? I'm still not sure how I feel about that one yet.

But if anyone ever steals my bike, I will become very sad indeed.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Cost of Blasphemy (Priceless)


There's been a mistake.

A couple days ago, I saw a 'Monetize' tab in my blogspot settings. When I sign my blog up with AdSense, I get a few cents every time someone looks at my blog (or something like that). It sounded like an easy way to make money, and since I am vehemently opposed to working hard for money, I went for it.

But now I have these awful little ads above my music player that read, "Free Study Bible," "Free Bible CD," and "How Jesus REALLY Saves." What the hell? I don't want this shit on my blog. If I ever write about the Bible it's usually quite blasphemous and heretical. Can't these automatic ad-placers figure that out? Is Google unable to compute satire?

And now I'm not sure if this particular post will make it better or worse. Apparently, this AdSense program recognizes the recurring words that I use in my posts, and thus attaches their ads based on my content. But, shit, if I'm ever making a post about the Bible or Christianity, it's usually pretty negative... I don't really want ads for wedding cakes and Bibles on here. Come on! I need to get these ads changed somehow. Maybe I need to do a quick blitz of anti-Christian sentences so AdSense will think that I hate religion... Let's experiment...

Christianity sucks.

Abortion is great.

Jesus was a homosexual.

Atheism is the best.

Download pornography.

The Bible is a lie.

Don't learn Hebrew.

I'm a philosophy major.

And a psychology minor.

Burn your Bible.

Embrace Satanism.

Evolution is correct and Creationism is incorrect.

Intelligent Design is also incorrect.

Disobey your parents as well as your Father in Heaven.

Fucking Goddamn Ass Shit.

Skip Church.

Nietzsche said, "God is dead."

Vote Democrat.

I love Christopher Hitchens.

You should masturbate regularly.

Yeah. That should clue them in. Come on AdSense, give me some better ads! This is Total Darkness vs. Blinding Light for crying out loud, don't you get the irony of that title? I don't want my readers to see the light, I want them to neutralize it.

Have you guys ever seen neutralized light? It is not a sight. And that's what we should be advertising on here.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Wha Happen?

Raise your hand if you're lazy. Oh, too lazy to lift your arm? Well that's just a conundrum, isn't it?


Since I've been getting paid to write, I've been writing less for free. And I don't mean that philosophically. There haven't been daily posts on my blog, and I'm starting to feel the effects of laziness. My creativity is dissipating. I'm an old slave ship, blown up by a cannonball. Pieces of wood are drifting out across the ocean. Directionless and useless.

So now it's time to dry all of my pieces off and put them back together. Greed is not my vice, I have no use for it. Two things will happen: I will write every day... again. And, I will watch documentaries.

I was on the internet yesterday, and I realized that practically all of it consisted of writing. This made me tired. Whether it was an article, a movie, a promotion, a menu, a sale, marketing, or facebook, it all relied on writing. Of course, pornography doesn't require writing. That can be a great vacation from the life of the mind. But a documentary is best. This format relies on the unknown responses of the interviewees. There's a chaotic aspect to the documentary, in that its outcome is not pre-written. And if it is, I don't want to watch that documentary. (Everybody go watch Hoop Dreams if you haven't yet)

A mockumentary is good too, because it usually relies on improvisational comedy. Do not write a mockumentary, play it out. Thank Christopher Guest if you ever meet him.

Maybe "I got a weel wed wagon!" was in a script. Maybe. But I hope not.

My wife and I took a walk around the neighborhood a couple nights ago. We wandered. At first I said, "let's walk to Walgreens." She didn't want to. She wanted to make it a short walk. But I convinced her. Until we got a block away and then I said "let's turn here." She replied, "I thought you wanted to go to Walgreens!" I didn't really. I didn't want a destination. I didn't want a plan. So now on a smaller, darker street, we saw a group of high school guys peeing up ahead. They were all lined afront a brick building. Shaved heads, Michael Jordan jersey and saggy jeans shorts. They noticed us walking towards them and they all zipped up. Jaclyn decided she didn't want to walk on this sidewalk that had just been miterated upon, so she tugged me over into the street. Once we had passed the hoodlums, I decided that we remain in the street. We walked back home, like we were a slow moving car without wheels.

Earlier this afternoon, I was riding my bike through the city. A car full of Cubs fans honked and threw a Taco Bell cup full of Diet Pepsi at my shoulder. I got a little wet. And very upset. They laughed at me, a couple young white guys with their girlfriends. They sped away, thinking that they had seen the last of me. But they hit a stop light. And I caught up with them. I was coming up on the right side of their car, and I knew that I wasn't going to stop slowly. I lifted my left leg up as I came, and kicked their right hand mirror off. Then I quickly hopped off my bike and leaned it against the bus stop pole. Their windows were open. I ran around to the driver's side. The light was still red. I reached in and gripped the driver by the neck. He tried to pry my fingernails out of his skin, but I wasn't letting go. I pulled his face into the door. I slammed it into the corner. I opened up the door and pulled him out of the car. I only let go of his neck for a moment, just to give me enough time to trip him down onto the concrete. He was on his back, and before he knew his neck was free I now had two hands on it. I was squeezing his neck as hard as I could. He wasn't breathing and his face purple. Whether it was from bruises or lack of oxygen, I didn't care. His girlfriend was screaming at me. His friend's face was full of shock, but he didn't do anything. He stared from his safe back seat. I started slamming the back of his head against the concrete. I felt the tight grip of his hands against mine begin to loosen with every slam. There was blood on the street below his head. As soon as he went limp, I stood up, kicked his teeth (probably broke a few. There was a hefty "crunch"), and then I walked back over to my bike.

I got on and rode off. And they never saw me again.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Put this Virgin Mary on a Cake


Religious Cake Decorating Ideas

Religious celebrations don't always have to be somber and serious. On the contrary, a special cake will make your next Christian holiday more fun than an overnight youth group lock-in. These ideas work best for Easter, Christmas (AKA Jesus' Birthday), conversion anniversary and the National Day of Prayer.

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    Lamb Cake

  1. A cake shaped like a lamb will be a reminder of the holy lamb of God. Most bakeries know what a lamb cake is, and often have them on display, especially around Easter. There are also molds available at most grocery stores today that enable you to bake your own lamb cake at home (see "Resource" below).
  2. Frosting Message

  3. Use frosting to write a Bible verse on the top of the cake. You can ask cake decorators at the bakery to write anything you want, but make sure the verse isn't too long, unless it's an enormous cake. For an exceptionally Biblical cake, you can now buy cakes in the shape of an open book. This will actually look like an open page of the Bible, and you can eat the sweet Word of God in reverence of its inerrant authority.
  4. Plastic Bible Character Figurines

  5. You've seen a plastic bride and groom on the top of a wedding cake. You can also put plastic Bible characters on your religious cake. Once everybody has gotten a piece, give the figurine to a child who can add a Christian influence into his collection of toys. Click on the "Cake Toppers" link below to find your favorite religious symbol or character for the top of your cake.
References

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Grant Park Films: Psycho


I've been looking for a reason to talk about Alfred Hitchcock for quite some time. Hitchcock is one of those rare examples of talent who can work in two different worlds at the once. He's one of the most popular directors ever, and not just within film-dom. He's a household name, period. Within film-dom, however, he's one of the most loved and revered directors of all time. Critics and film nerds couldn't care less about his popularity, they just love him for the brilliant works of art he created.

Last night at Grant Park, I experienced the popularity of Hitchcock firsthand. I don't know how many thousands of people were at the park last night to watch Psycho, but there were almost too many. All ages and types were on the lawn for the masterpiece of psychological terror, from high schoolers to senior citizens, dignified film lovers and drunk college kids. It was the motley audience of the summer.

When Norman Bates ran into the fruit cellar dressed like his mother, I was expecting to hear "Aw, HELL nah!" at any moment. While it never came, I still smelled plenty of weed. And all sorts of rowdy language.

But by the end, I really did appreciate the experience. I thought about Hitchcock's genius and how it was powerful enough to capture the consciousness of mass culture. I'm not sure if any other director has had as much success in this area as Hitchcock has. Maybe Scorsese comes closest. But as with any art, it's typically a deep chasm between creative potency and commercial success. I don't want to evaluate why that's true, but it just is. Michael Bay makes movies that will be popular, David Lynch makes movies for a more "creative" reason. But then we have Hitchcock, whose movies (miraculously) do both.

I think what really gets me about Hitchcock is the way he films an entirely understandable and digestible image, but only as a top layer of a deeper issue. Psycho was psychologically loaded, but to the highschooler smoking pot with his buddies, it was just a suspense movie. This is the genius of Hitchcock. If you want to take his work at face value, fine. You'll enjoy it that way quite easily. But if you want to dig deeper at themes and psychology, you'll find a wealth of that as well.

So many films get lost in their own symbolism. I love the "weird" movies, but even they don't stand a chance against Hitchcock. Synecdoche New York, The Holy Mountain, Stalker, etc. etc... You know the movies I'm talking about. On the surface, the story is cryptic. You can't watch it like you would watch Ghostbusters. You have to assume that what you're putting yourself through is avant-garde. If there's symbolism in Ghostbusters, you don't need to know about it. You can just enjoy the film for what you see, and that's that.

Hitchcock lets you decide. He is a filmmaker for all of mankind. Indeed, one of the best there ever was.

What if the main character in Synecdoche New York was played by Will Smith? That absurd thought might give you have an idea as to what Hitchcock actually accomplished in his films. Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo? How does America's most famous actor play a lead role in a story like that? Leave it Hitchcock. I don't know how he did it, but I'm so glad that he did.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Best Fest in the Midwest


No, it's not Lollapalooza.

Don't get me wrong, there were some great acts there this past weekend. Most of which you should have seen on their fall tours in 2007. Andrew Bird, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes and Animal Collective are great, but not while you're crowded by thousands of sweaty people in 95 degree heat. These are acts that need walls. Spaciousness is for U2 and Coldplay, not indie rock.

I found a festival that plans on doing indie rock right. It's like a mix between Pitchfork Fest and SXSW. It's called Pygmalion.

It's comparable to Pitchfork because of the lineup. A few mainstays and a swarm of up-and-comers fill the slots. The big names are Iron and Wine, Low, The Books, RJD2 and Ra Ra Riot. The up-and-comers are many: YACHT, Japandroids, Wavves, Lymbyc Systym, The Antlers, The Daredevil Christopher Wright, the 1900s and many more. And then there are a bunch of Asthmatic Kitty related acts like My Brightest Diamond, Denison Witmer, Jookabox and Liz Janes (no Sufjan though).

It's comparable to SXSW because of the venue(s). Pygmalion takes place over the course of four days, within the various clubs and venues that can be found on and around the campus of the University of Illinois. A college town, and home to the Polyvinyl record label, it's one of America's most beautiful campuses in the autumn. And even if it does happen to be a record-setting 90 degree day in September, it'll be cooler inside the clubs.

So it's basically indie rock as it should be. Dark venues, close proximities and inexpensive shows. So to all of the Midwesterners, make the road trip to Champaign-Urbana for September 16-19. (Sorry if you already blew your summer concert money on Lollapalooza this weekend...)

For the entire lineup of artists, check out Pygmalion's website.

For schedule updates, check the Pygmalion blog.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Farewell to Chicago's Director

"Love is not a big enough word."


Over the past 24 hours, I've been sharing a youtube clip with friends. It's the last scene of Planes, Trains & Automobiles, in which Steve Martin's character is riding the Chicago El, finally going home for Thanksgiving. He's remembering his previous two days and the looking forward to the family that awaits him over a perfectly 80s' score of soft synth rhythms. It's a brilliant montage, through which John Hughes poignantly shows us the very definition of emotional cinema. It's visual nostalgia. And proof of John Hughes' talent and legend.

I don't usually care that much when a celebrity dies. You'll notice I didn't make posts about Michael Jackson or Heath Ledger. So why John Hughes? Why the director of those teenager movies from the 80s? Simply put, John Hughes' movies moved me.

Did you watch that ending? Don't tell me you weren't moved too. It was beautiful.

I grew up with this movie about "getting back home to Chicago." Our family watches Planes, Trains & Automobiles every Thanksgiving after dinner. We all sit in the living room of my Aunt's house in Des Plaines, full from an evening of eating, yelling, laughing and blabbing. My family becomes an extension of the tone Hughes' sets in the movie. When the scene comes up in which Steve Martin is dropping F-bombs at the car rental desk, we have to mute it for the younger kids.

"I want a [MUTE] car, right [MUTE] now."

Today I mourn the loss of our family's favorite hometown director. He was so "Chicago" it was sick. And I loved him for it.

A parade through the loop and the Art Institute in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, "Run Run Rudolph" through O'hare in Home Alone, and making every sports fan in his movie a Bears fan. Chicago is a proud town, and Hughes always reminded us why. He made movies about friends and family. He wasn't artsy, but his style was subtly gorgeous. His movies movies helped us appreciate our own blessings as we related to his characters and the adventures they trudged through.

A family vacation across the country? We've all been there, and Hughes helped us laugh off the bad memories in Vacation (Hughes wrote the script). High school angst. Is there a film more fitting than The Breakfast Club? Even the life-altering moment of parenthood, Hughes nailed it in She's Having a Baby. He found those life moments that we all experience and put them on the screen.

But my favorite Hughes film has been and always will be Planes, Trains & Automobiles. Of course I love that it's a movie about getting home to Chicago, but more importanly, it's about getting home to family. Even more beautiful, it's about making new family on the way. Family is always growing, we just have to keep our hearts open for more love.

Hughes was a son of Chicago. He was one of us. Even though I never met him, I feel so utterly thankful for his work. I always feel like I'm in one of his movies when I walk down Michigan Avenue on a December night. There's even more deja vu whenever I steal a Ferrari for a joyride or create a hot, virtual woman on my computer. It's like I'm living out one of his scenes!

I was just talking with a friend about John Hughes a couple nights ago. We were sitting in my living room, enjoying some brews and going off on Stop Smiling Magazine. I have my reservations about some of that publication's associations, but I can't deny the Hughes' name.

I guess it always feels better when you know that the last word you said about someone before they died was something about how much you appreciate them.

But it's a sad day. Our beloved neighbor has passed on. We'll always have his nostalgia though. Hell, we had it the day each film came out in the theatre. Hughes' created timeless works of cinema. Their style is thoroughly 80s', but the themes always transcend time. He told us stories about love. About the strength that we can attain through our community, be that friends or family. And he made us laugh about it too.

Thank you for your life Mr. Hughes.

"Potato Chips... they're everywhere!"

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Two "Sacrilegious" Films for Christian Heretics

I've occasionally wondered if my vocabulary ever augments. It seems that I usually just replace some old items with new ones. I'm constantly making trades. Hopefully, I'm making good trades...


Netflix successfully stirred my soul this week. The two films it sent me were kind of blasphemous, but I don't think cinema has ever made me think harder about faith and spirituality than these two works of art.

First up, a long and provoking piece of fiction from Martin Scorsese. The Last Temptation of Christ. Controversial not only in its content but in its style as well, Scorsese becomes an explorer-director in what was probably the best "Jesus Movie" I've ever seen.

Last Temptation shows us the humanity of Jesus. We are put in his shoes, where we experience the torment of individual responsibility and are reminded of the confusion and difficulty that is the spiritual life. Jesus is not an icon of perfection in this film, but rather a man like any other. An existential man. The result of this gritty affinity is a greater respect and appreciation for Jesus' life. Instead of seeing him as an all-powerful God who rises from the dead with the greatest of ease, we relate to his weakness.

Temptation. We all know it. It is absolutely Biblical that Christ was tempted. Scorsese runs off with this. He visually wonders how Jesus dealt with temptation, and puts Jesus into created dilemmas. And he does this with immense esteem for Christ. There is no intention of offense in Last Temptation. So when you watch it, dear Christian, do not be offended. Think about Christ's humanity. I mean really think about it. Don't let yourself do the Christian thing and switch between his divinity and humanity whenever it's more convenient to attribute certain contradictory passages to one side or another. Wrestle with the doctrine you adhere to.

If Christ was fully human, Last Temptation is the only film that does this theology justice.

There were versions of Biblical accounts in Last Temptation, but most of them were re-interpreted through white, English-speaking actors. In Luis Bunuel's The Milky Way, however, almost every line of dialogue is theological verbatim. Whether it's coming straight from the Bible, various councils or marked heresies, it's all legitimate here.

I've never heard more historical theology in a film, ever. The Milky Way could only be understood by seminary students. But. It will not be understood by them unless they are heretics. It's a satire of church history, too dense to be understood by anyone unversed in Christian theology, but too surreal to be understood by the average Bible scholar. The audience for this film is incredibly small, but I feel privileged to have somehow found myself playing around with my new form of Gnosticism in time to "get" this one. I was raised up in Christianity, and currently dwell in surrealism. I thank you, Bunuel!

So, regarding my title. You Christians should watch these films because they are about you. They are about your history, and the confusing, scary, dangerous, problematic and absurd aspects of it. Now, nobody should give up a faith because of its former ills. On the contrary, be aware of your wounds so that you do not bleed to death!

One thing an artist will always do is tell the truth. Bunuel's tone in The Milky Way is both cynical and serious. You laugh on occasion, but you can feel how pissed off Bunuel is about the history of Christianity. Listen to him! His anger is not inappropriate. Give this artist credit for putting his feelings on display. And Scorsese, well, he is an explorer. He even said, when asked why he wanted to make this film, "I want to get to know Jesus better." When an artist explores, he does so without guile. There is nothing more noble, nothing more unworthy of condemnation than artistic exploration.

The Passion of the Christ has some nice costumes, but its copy-paper effect is dull. It is the gospels, transcribed for the screen. Great. We don't have to read the Bible anymore, we can just watch it.

The Last Temptation of Christ and The Milky Way ask questions. They are thinking about and challenging doctrine for the sake of spiritual (and artistic) progression. These films are not adding to the gospel, nor are they dismissing it. They are exploring. They are peaceably coexisting in two worlds of metaphysical torture.

If a Christian ever stops exploring his faith, he has ceased to be a Christian.

(Eternal security my ass...)

I am certainly a heretic in many ways, but I have enough faith to know that my heresies are worthless compared to the power of God. If I were a heretic in any other country, I would probably be a lot less comfortable. But who knows, if the old church leaders told me to renounce my heresy or be burned at the stake, I'd probably just renounce. Whatever they want to hear to make themselves feel better, whatever guys.


But I'd rather be a sincere and faithful heretic than a naive and hypocritical saint. I have no intention of intellectualizing any part of my faith anymore. If you disagree with me, I am not opposed to having some discussions, but, I will not argue with anyone about spirituality. If you haven't been called a heretic, that doesn't mean you're not one. If you're not a heretic in one denomination, you're a heretic in another. You just have to find the right denomination.

There is, was, and will be doctrine. In the beginning, none of it existed. In the end, all of it will cease to exist. Don't be afraid of your heresies, embrace them.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

What Came First vs What is Eternal

I went to church this weekend and heard some words thrown around.

"dualism"

"Gnosticism"

"pluralism"

"Christianity"

I remembered that I had all of these glasses at home.

When the service ended, I tried them all on. They all fit. I could wear them all at the same time even.

They were all glasses. They all had slightly altered tints, but they were all glasses.

Fighting off a cold, my wife asked if I still believed in Christianity. Of course I did.

But the dualism of philosophy is not quite the same thing as the concept of dualism. Back then, dualism revealed the physical world to be temporal, and therefore of less value than the metaphysical. I've toyed around with a new dualism. The metaphysical is our eternal curse, and we need to value the physical more since we do not have it for much longer.

Sometimes I wear bifocals.

Paul argued against so many things in favor of Christianity, and in order to make his arguments he used philosophies that had come well before his newfound faith.

Much came before Christianity, and Paul knew this. He was a brilliant thinker. Sadly, even more has come before the Christians of today, but they are ignorant. Is the Christianity of today the best form yet? What about King James? What about any other time?

If it is not the best time to be a Christian, that is because we are living in the last days. THAT's why things aren't so great anymore!

"The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual."

Said the wise apostle Paul. It should repeated. And understood.

A new Gnosticism is here.

Can we complain anymore? Can I write in the third person? Can we let the backsliders enjoy their ride and not try to stop them? Why are we still doing this? The natural came first!

And just what exactly was the natural?

Before Christianity, there was pain. Rape. Torture. Injustice. Foolishness. But dear readers... after Christianity, there is pain. Rape. Torture. Injustice. Foolishness. If Christ returns, will that make the victims feel all better? Will the resurrected say to him, "that gang-bang rape and murder of my child wasn't that bad after all! Praise Jesus!"

When we die, our children will experience pain. And Christianity will exist.

I'm not arguing against anything. Because I am stating that pain exists. There is pain, and not because I say so. If you choose to disassociate yourself and live a life of righteousness, take me with you.

How disturbing is the life of Christ. His hate for his own self was severe. Loving the world wasn't all he did. Just as light does not exist without dark, so love does not exist without hate. He knew what he was doing. He screamed at God. He died in pain.

And whether he came back to life or not, we live in pain. Accept him as savior, and live in pain. Reject the gospel, and live in pain.

If truth is only fact, then the only truth is pain. But if there is more than fact, history, philosophy, science, etc. If there is more to truth, please admit that you do not know it. Please, Christian reader. We're tired of you.