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We Hate To Say We Told You So, But…

22/05/2015

…we told you so.

DuggarsThe people most obsessed with policing the private morals of others are typically those with the most skeletons in their own closets.

Seriously, who didn’t see this one coming?

If you didn’t, if you thought these were good and blessed and wholesome people, then you are a major part of the problem.

It’s time we Christians start discussing the very large elephant defecating and trumpeting loudly on the altar:

Modern mainstream Christianity has become infiltrated by a bunch of pious conmen who are in it for their own benefit — financial / political / emotional — and not to share the teachings of Christ.

When we’re lucky they are merely lying sociopaths who are putting one over on the rubes.

When we’re not lucky they are very dangerous, very delusional people who truly believe the obscenities they spew & do.

The Church — i.e., the body of believers — needs an exorcism.

Now, let’s be clear that I am using the term metaphorically but accurately. Classic demonic possession could only occur when the person possessed invited the demon in.

We invited our legion of evil doers in long ago.

The tension between the church of power and the church of piety had existed since the earliest days of humanity, but we are now at a crucial nexus in our faith’s history.

More and more people are abandoning religion.

By and large, these are not people who never grew up in a religious background, but people who were raised in so-called “Christian” homes and churches and have turned their back in disgust on what they have seen and experienced.

These people can read.

They see what Christ taught in the Bible, and they see what those who have crowded onto the pulpits and in front of the cameras and over the Internet claim is what Christ taught, and what they see is the difference between a life of love and compassion and service to others and self-serving / self-enriching / self-empowering drivel spewed from the lips of liars and sociopaths.

The more famous a minister, the more widespread his or her reach, the more intense their “moral” message, the more likely they are undermining the teachings of Christ and they are the ones actually destroying the fabric of our culture.

[“Surely you can’t mean Billy Graham!” I hear some say. Fuckin’ A I include Billy Graham: He endorsed and enabled two presidents’ lies that got us into and grossly extended one unjust & unjustifiable war, and said nothing as another president openly embraced white bigotry as the base of his party and yet another president lied us into another unjust & unjustifiable war, all the while lining his own pockets to the tune of $25 million. Jesus taught very explicitly on this topic, folks; it don’t bode well for Billy to be enjoying anything past the millions he’s already raked in. And full disclosure: I am acutely aware of what I might have done to contribute to the gestalt that produced Iraq et al, as well.]

So what do we, the people who do want to follow Christ’s teachings, do about the situation?

First, we have to live the kind of life Christ taught.

That means we cannot put our nation, our race, our culture, our city, our church, our friends, or our family above justice. This is not to say we must treat any of those with contempt, but they have to be second to the calling. If we love all equally and with compassion then our own will be well taken care of, but if we favor our own at the expense of others, we are just perpetuating the misery of the world and guaranteeing a fraught-filled future for those we profess to love.

Second, we have to be vocal when people attempt to practice injustice in the name of Christ.

When I grew up in the Old South, polite Southerners refrained from calling out bigots and haters because it was impolite to do so to people in our social circles. As a result, the victims of those bigots and haters who were outside of our social circles suffered and died. We Southerners failed our duty as Christians. When we see hate and exclusion and supremacy and selfishness being extolled from pulpits and blogs today as virtues, we need to step up and challenge those viewpoints point-blank and loudly.

Finally, we need to acknowledge that the institution of churches as we in North America have used them (i.e., ersatz social clubs for local insiders) is over and done with.

We need to shutter the doors — literally — of any institution that is self-supporting. Churches should be charities at all levels, not businesses. Stop supporting multi-millionaire pastors. Stop buying “Jesus junk” (their own term, not mine) at “Christian” stores. Stop consuming “Christian” media that’s just watered down imitations of secular pop culture with the occasional reference to Jesus thrown in.

[Seriously, there should be no “Christian” media whatsoever. Some of the greatest works of art and literature and music were created by Christians who put their faith into what they were making, not fast buck artists hoping to ride a fad to riches. Stop it. Stop trying to put Jesus into everything you do; put Jesus in your heart and you won’t be able to keep him out of what you do.]

The concept of church as it existed in the 19th century began splintering in the early 20th century when the first means of mass media were introduced. The old idea of church was a local meeting place where like minded people gathered to support and comfort one another, and to learn how to apply what they had learned in their daily walk.

That concept has been supplanted by the Internet in all its myriad forms.

Where it was once possible to silence critics and doubters with double talk or hand waving vagueness in local 19th century churches, now in the 21st those people can find others sharing their thoughts and concerns with a minimum of keystrokes.

The people clinging to the concept of 19th century church are the ones who have resolutely refused to enter the 21st — mainly because they can’t figure out how to commoditize it.

We don’t need any more professional preachers and teachers and youth ministers, we need people who are willing to walk the walk and support others trying to do so. We need amateurs in the truest sense of the term — people who do what they do because they love to do it, because they cannot fathom not doing it.

Today only 77% of the nation self-identifies as Christian,
down from about 85% around 2000, and over 90% in the 1960s.

Honest to God, I wish the numbers were truly reversed. I would rather have 23% genuine dedicated Christians who live lives of love, compassion, mercy, and justice (not retribution!) in a nation that’s 77% non-believers, than 77% who claim to follow Christ but deny everything Jesus stood for.

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The Frustrated Communist Architect Blues

18/05/2015

Any resemblance between the following and
any actual real life tour guide we had on our
trip to Central Europe is purely coincidental.

diesel-factory

I’ve got those frustrated
Frustrated communist architect blues
[oh, lawd]
I’ve got those frustrated
Frustrated communist architect blues
[yes, I do]
So let me tell you, comrade,
You don’t
 want to be in my shoes

When I graduated from college
It was in the highest rank
Then the iron curtain fell
And I’m designing septic tanks
[oh, lawd]
I’ve got those frustrated
Frustrated communist architect blues
[oh, lawd]
I’ve got those frustrated
Frustrated communist architect blues
[yes, I do]
Roll over, Friedrich Engels,
And tell Karl Marx the news

I said I would always follow
The dictates of the proletariat
The only thing I’m saying now is
“Do you want fries with that?”
[oh, lawd]
I’ve got those frustrated
Frustrated communist architect blues
[oh, lawd]
I’ve got those frustrated
Frustrated communist architect blues
[yes, I do]
I wanted a revolution, baby,
But they sure put out my fuse

I toed the party line
I agreed that more is less
But all that leaves me now
Is a great big Brutalist mess
[oh, lawd]
I’ve got those frustrated
Frustrated communist architect blues
[oh, lawd]
I’ve got those frustrated
Frustrated communist architect blues
[yes, I do]
You cannot build with concrete
Any abstract political views

© Buzz Dixon

 

 

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Everything Else Is Bullshit

3/05/2015

meet Jesus

There is only one way to love God, and that is by following His teaching thru Christ:
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

Anything other than loving one another as God loves us thru Christ is bullshit (Jesus’ words, not mine). Love never seeks to harm, love always seeks to help and, if help is rejected, is prepared to help if the person changes their mind.

Past that, we are to mind our own business, live as peaceably as possible, and look out for those in need. Period. End of discussion. That’s it. Everything else is commentary; fun to discuss but pointless without love.

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Ward Sutton sez “Do The White Thing”

2/05/2015

Ward Sutton says Do The White Thing

more. here.
right. now.

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“Thou Art The Man”

21/04/2015

We’re going to examine a Bible story but — surprise! surprise! — not for its theological content.

Rather, we’re going to look at the way all stories convey deeper, hidden truths; and how the best stories pull us in to get us to identify & empathize with the core theme.

The story in question is actually a story within a story, so we’ll start with the broader context:

King David, from his palace, spies a woman bathing on her rooftop. He asks his servants who she is; they tell him she’s Bathsheba, the wife of one of his soldiers, Uriah.

Instead of saying “Whoops! Married lady — no can touch!” King David invites her up to the palace to, y’know, chat & whatnot.

The whatnot results in her getting pregnant.

No biggie, thinks King David. He calls Uriah back from the front, purportedly to have him report on the situation, but in reality hoping he’ll spend his off duty hours boffing his wife Bathsheba so David’s genetic contribution will be overlooked.

Only Uriah is a real straight arrow and refuses to go home, saying he can’t betray his fellow soldiers by enjoying his marital bed while they’re slogging it out in the field.

So King David sends a secret message back with Uriah to his general, telling him to launch an attack but leave Uriah in an exposed position.

The general does so, Uriah gets killed, and David moves Bathsheba into the palace to “comfort” her.

He thinks nobody will know about his shenanigans, but if you want to keep a secret from your political enemies, don’t employ a palace full of servants. The word spreads, and discontent rises in the kingdom. Murmurings of civil war start circulating, and people outraged by David’s behavior go to Nathan, the prophet on duty, and ask him to do something about it.

What Nathan does is to tell King David a story:

“There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter.

“And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him.”

And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”

And Nathan said to David,
“Thou art the man.”

thou-art-the-man_peter_rothermel_david_nathan_bYowza! Were there ever four words with a more chilling impact than that? And again, we’re putting theological implications aside; what Nathan did was to present a fiction that David identified so closely with from his humble beginnings as a lowly shepherd boy that his heart instantly leapt in outrage and a cry for justice –

– and then Nathan lowered the boom on him and made him realize he was judging himself for his own crime.

That is what fiction is meant to do.

Not specifically convict us of our own sins & shortcomings, but to make us identify with another point of view so that we are then drawn to an inescapable application to our own lives.

If Nathan had approached David with a straight on attack as to why betraying a trusted subordinate by schtuping his wife and then having him killed to cover it up was A Very Bad Idea, David would have produced a battalion of priests / philosophers / poets who would have explained that oh no not in this case; in this specific case it was not only justifiable for David to boff Bathsheba and kill Uriah but it was actually a good thing — a very good thing! — and that Nathan was a party pooper for even daring to bring the matter up.

Don’t believe me?

Spend five minutes scanning political headlines;
see how many people justify behaviors
they decried as crimes the day before.

All great stories do that. Call it the moral of the story, the theme, the subtext, the point; whatever it is, it’s the underlying unspoken truth that lays unseen below the surface, but like great rocks in a flowing river shape the current of the story.

Recently there have been calls by some to stop promoting stories that openly tackle certain topics and themes.

It’s one thing to criticize a story for being so ineptly written that the theme jarringly intrudes on the narrative — though truth be told, you can do anything you want in a story as long as you do it entertainingly.

It’s another thing to say the only stories worth reading or viewing are those that strip away all moral & ethical content and are just paper thin mono-dimensional characters engaged in a series of spectacular but ultimately pointless conflicts with other paper thin mono-dimensional characters.

I got in trouble a lot when I was writing Saturday morning cartoon shows lo these many years decades in the last century moons ago, and vey often it was because I would rather insistently demand to know why our characters were doing what they were doing.

“What difference does it make to Batman and Robin if the Joker steals the Eiffel tower? Are they going to miss a meal if he does so? Is anybody going to suffer because of it? I’ll grant you’re the Joker is crazy and does crazy stuff, but why would that involve Batman and Robin?”

The suits would look at me and say “they’re superheroes” and I’d say “yeah, so? What motivates them personally to get involved?”

Because that’s where the theme, the moral, the subtext comes in. It’s all a pointless chase unless the characters’ actions reflect some deeper symbol of truth. [1]

You cannot escape subtext; it will be there no matter how hard you try to drive it out. The human mind craves meaning, and even a random arrangement of images will spark some linkage in our brain, some sequence that conveys some sort of deeper meaning than the mere arbitrary arrangement of pictures.

Indeed, the more you try to drive it out, the more you will reveal what causes you to fear subtext.[2]

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art by Peter Rothermel 

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[1] Too often the shows we did were crap because we’d try to shoehorn a motivation in after the fact; we’d come up with a great gimmick and then try to find a way of justifying it. You see that in overly clever murder mysteries and sloppily plotted superhero stories; characters who go to insane lengths to commit not-very-profitable crimes when applying the same effort to a non-criminal endeavor would enrich them greatly.

[2] Back in the 1970s/80s there was a concept among fans of psychotronic films called Bad Truth. Bad Truth was what occurred when there was no censorship between the brain and what ended up on the screen. And by censorship I’m not referring to the morality police, but rather the inhibitors of taste brought about by adequate time and money. Most Bad Truth films were ultra-low budget / no budget affairs hastily thrown together with no time to polish the extreme rough edges; as a result they tended to be pretty naked reflections of their film makers’ ids. Bad Truth can be found at the far other end of the economic spectrum as well; big budget productions helmed by a film maker with enough clout not to be answerable to the studio funding them.

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Ode To A Christianist Screechweasel

6/04/2015

today you shout Muslim!
yesterday you shouted Communist!
and before that it was ******-lover!

shut up
we’re tired of hearing it
we’re tired of you

I’d tell you to go to hell
but you’re already there

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Ruben Bolling on Indiana

2/04/2015

Tom the Dancing Bug

find more of Ruben’s strips at GoComics.Com

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Die! Die! DIE!!!

1/04/2015

Angelo Torres - vampire hunter

The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear Stan Lee Media’s case against Stan Lee and POW! Entertainment, bringing to a definitive end at least one part of a legal battle that’s been waged for the better part of a decade.

story found at Comic Book Resources
art by Angelo Torres

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Roger Slifer [1954 - 2015]

30/03/2015

Roger Slifer was killed by a hit & run driver on June 23, 2012.

He died today.

Roger was a born & bred Hoosier, an Indiana lad ala John Wickliff Shawnessey from the novel Raintree County.  He was a quiet, self-efacing, hardworking writer / editor / creator.  While not as outsized a character as many of his friends and co-workers — imagine Harry Dean Stanton mellowed out with two fingers’ worth of smooth Kentucky bourbon and you’ll have a good idea of his personality — he was well loved and highly respected.

Roger-Slifer-e-Lobo-586x305Roger & his creation, Lobo
He also wrote My Little Pony 
Deal with it

Roger assumed a cornerstone position in any creative team he worked with.  He was one of the “go to” guys in both comics and TV animation, somebody who was not only trustworthy and reliable, but a pleasure to work with.

We are all shocked and saddened by this news; shocked because his death came quite suddenly and unexpectedly after slow but steady progress in recovery after the accident crime that left him comatose and brain damaged, saddened because our last hope of seeing him regain even a moderate portion of his once razor sharp mind is now gone.

I feel like a character in an Agatha Christies novel.  One by one all the people I know are getting bumped off and I have no idea when it will be my turn…

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4 (or Perhaps 54) Odd Movies I Saw Recently

28/03/2015

For reasons too complex to go into[1], I usually watch a movie or two late night thru the early morning hours. Recently I saw four films that rank among the oddest I’ve seen.

Charlie Victor Romeo is a series of six staged vignettes, using the same group of actors and the same minimalist airplane cockpit set, that recreate the final moments of six doomed flights via dramatizations of the black box transcripts.

This is definitely one of the oddest movies I’ve ever seen;
not strangest, not weirdest, not most outrageous, just…odd.

There’s virtually nothing to be gleaned from this other than a voyeuristic look into how the last few moments of six seemingly random flights went down.

Literally.

Some of the air crews appear to be more professional and less hysterical than others, but there is virtually no characterization (other than one pilot who goes back to chat up with the stewardesses). There are schematic drawings of the aircraft, but nothing else: No documentary footage, no computer simulations, nothing except the exact same dinky little set.

CVR1w_BobBerger-520x428The same high production values found
in Plan Nine From Outer Space…

From a forensic POV, I suppose it has its merits: Flight crews can analyze what others did wrong.[2]  I can see how this might have some dramatic punch in a small intimate theater, but as a movie? Odd.

Not bad, just…odd.

Holy Motors is the first feature by director Leos Carax in over a dozen years, a film seemingly evocative of Louis Malle’s Black Moon, Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle, and Paul Bartel’s The Secret Cinema, yet at the same time not strictly derivative of any of them.

The film is a series of vignettes in which an actor (played by Denis Lavant) is driven in a long white stretch limo to various locales where, after changing costume and make-up in the limo-cum-dressing room, he acts out a variety of disturbing / violent / insane improvised scenes, occasionally in public but often in deserted buildings or tunnels. In the course of these scenes, it is learned he is an actor performing a wide variety of roles for an organization that uses tiny hidden cameras to record his performances — but then that scene is revealed to be another role he is playing!

Holy-Motors-612x300Say what you will, Denis Lavant
knows how to make an entrance…

It’s a well mounted film, and while some of the vignettes are violent and bloody with copious male nudity, others are funny.[3]

In the end the stretch limo has a conversation with other stretch limos who carry other actors performing other scenes; the cars realize their own days are coming to an end and soon the digital world will remove the need for them to actually carry actors about.

Thought provoking and never boring.
There are far worse ways to spend two hours.

The ABCs Of Death & The ABCs Of Death 2 are two anthology films in which 26 teams of film makers[4] produce short films / vignettes that each illustrate some point or aspect of death based on a particular word.

NOT a double bill for everyone.[5] Unrated — and for damn good reasons — the vignettes run from sophomoric excursions into gore and torture to genuinely insightful and chilling meditations on death and fate to outrageously funny odd ball examinations of the macabre (animator Bill Plympton, the only recognizable name in the two films, contributes a funny example of extreme kissing).

ABCs 8053_5Simultaneously the safest, cutest, and
most disturbing image from the two films.

The good segments are very good, the gross segments are very gross, the Japanese segments are so fncking Japanese you won’t believe it, but the worst & weakest are still solid C+ material and the best are A+.

The shortness of the mini-films forces a stripped down narrative and character construction; you get straight to the point ASAP and then move on to the next story. As I find myself becoming more and more easily bored by long form stories (including feature films, mini-series, and even hour long episodics), The ABCs Of Death were welcome excursions in efficient streamlined story telling and for that I give them all high marks.

Would that somebody use the same format for other types of stories: Comedies, love, etc.

As the film makers were working independently of one another there is a certain overlap of ideas and themes, but nothing that detracts from the final films. In the first film I was particularly impressed with “Dogfight”, “Hydro-Electric Diffusion” (see above), “Klutz”, and “Pressure” (arguably the most disturbing of all the short films even without explicit gore and violence); while in the second my favorites were “Capital Punishment”, “Questionnaire”, “Roulette”, “Split”, “Vacation”, and “Wish”.

But remember, if I think a movie is pushing the
boundaries, it’s really pushing the boundaries!

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[1] Okay, here’s the deal: We inherited Jeffrey Cat from my late aunt. He is set in his ways, and those ways require somebody to be in the living room with him late at night or else he starts meowing and raising a ruckus. No, he cannot come into my office and lay quietly while I work; no, he cannot let Soon-ok sleep and simply join her at the foot of the bed; he has to have somebody downstairs with him or else he makes enough racket to awaken Soon-ok and then I catch hell. From the moment Soon-ok turns in to the wee hours of the morning, I have to go downstairs and cat sit. Jeffrey Cat, we luvz ya and we’ll take good care of you for the rest of your days, but we will shed few tears when you finally shuffle off this mortal coil…

[2]  Or what they did  right; the last vignette recounts the truly heroic efforts of United Flight 232 to bring their craft down as safely as possible, thus managing to save the lives of over half the people on board.

[3] Whether in spite of or because of their outrageousness is a question best answered by each individual viewer.

[4] The movies promote the directors primarily, but these films required writers and actors and tech crews and animators and special effects teams to make their impact, so let’s hear it for the teams!

[5] In January of this year, Ohio substitute teacher Sheila Kearns was convicted of four felony counts of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles after she showed the first ABCs Of Death to five different Spanish language classes (the film has Spanish language segments). She had been charged with five counts, but the jury was inclined to think she didn’t know what was in the movie when she showed it to the first class, but that she should have then realized it was inappropriate and not shown it to the remaining classes. Personally, I think the average high school student would probably enjoy both films, though I am sure plenty of teens would rather avoid it as is their right. It was a bonehead move on Ms Kearns part, and while her punishment is excessive, she had to expect some sort of blow back.

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