Monday, July 23, 2012

The Fallen Rise- TDKR review

In Batman Begins, Bruce fought a man that had deep, obscure connections who would try to bring down Gotham City using everyone's deepest, darkest fears as their own weapon.
In The Dark Knight, he fought a man who would push him to break his only rules of no killing and bring him into anarchy, no matter the cost.
This time, things are brought farther than ever before.
This would be a hard to do, review-wise, considering how impressively complex the film is, in every aspect. Story, character development, plot twists, technical, everything. Christopher Nolan's become a big name for a good many reason. Not the least of which has been recreating Batman for this new generation while retaining to Bob Kane's original idea.
When the news was unveiled tht Chris would be coming back, there was speculation of who the villain would be, with the popular idea being the Riddler (played by Johnny Depp). Finding out it'd be Bane, I admit, I was VERY hesitant, namely because of how Joel Schumacher had ruined Bane. I admit, even though I loved watching the 90's animated show as a kid, I never actually read the comics as a kid, so I didn't know how Bane was- a master manipulator, strategist who knew a couple secrets to bringing Batman down. And he's best known for his iconic image of breaking Batman's back in the first issue of the Knightfall miniseries.
For this film, things had to be taken far. Very far. Farther than we could imagine.
And Bane was incredibly well-done as a terrorist who actually was intensely terrifying, even if he wasn't completely faithful to the comics (he was Hispanic, not a Brit). Nonetheless, he was a mystery to behold, with bits and pieces of his past being told, and just enough to get under my skin.
It's been 8 years since the Joker and Harvey Dent/Two-Face went on an anarchic rampage through Gotham City, and though Batman wasn't the that did it, everyone blames him for killing Harvey Dent, Gotham's White Knight. To make sure Harvey's image was never tainted, Bruce made sure Batman was seen as the criminal everyone sought him out to be. And make Harvey the impeccable, noble lawyer he set himself up to be in everyone's eyes. And, in the process, Bruce has become a recluse, with rumors of how he may look.
Things get off to a strange start when, at an 8-year anniversary held in vigil of Dent's death, a woman dressed as a maid tries to get something and is caught doing so, but more than one thing is being set in motion. The obvious was what she was caught trying to steal. The less obvious... I'll leave you to see the movie for those details.
Nonetheless, we're introduced to Selina Kyle in a very classy way. And she does prove to be a mystery. As does the other potential love interest for Bruce, Miranda Tate.
Somewhere else int he world, a new terrorist has set in motions plans that complex meaning and many factors that will play into it all, not the least of which if painful fear.
Very soon after the anniversay vigil, we find out how manipulative Selina can be, and without any revealing details, I'll simply say there are many ways to get what you want if you know your way around.
Something else I really appreciated was the nods to the previous films. If a film in the end of a series didn't include nods to its predecessors, I would find it irritatingly stupid. In this case, it had appropriate nods to both previous Nolan Batman films, as well as substories from Alfred. Beautifully done, Christopher. Very beautifully done.
Something else I noticed (though after the film), that I don't think the director intended, was a Biblical theme that's next to never thought about. The world think s of political reigns and regimes as "rise and fall of", whereas the Bible (and now this film) has the theme of "fall and rise", even when "rise" is more of a challenge. Batman has many challenges of falling (including a horrifyingly great homage to one of the most notorious comic book images between Batman and Bane). And only from finding where his true strengths lie rising up to meet the challenges can he truly become stronger.
DKR also has a dystopian theme that, like any other dystopian films, presents the flaws of a society run by a truly crippling and terrifying dictator (in this cas, not a politician, jsut someone who's the epitome of ruthless).
In the end, this legend does have to end, and though I won't say how, loose ends are tied, mysteries along the timeline get hinted at and explained in different ways (not a single way was done wrong). Along with the last 30 seconds showing hope for the future, no matter what. All of it, beautifully done.
Only gripes I have were Bane's vocals, through the pretty loud background music, or just on his own, there were times I couldn't understand Bane. That's it.
Now, if you'll excuse, it's time I go back to watch the second movie I've ever watched more than once in theaters that count at all. And third Batman movie I've ever watched in theaters (great job, Chris!).

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Thoughts on religious ignorance

I've been hearing it since college (shows how isolated I am) that Christians are uneducated/ignorant. Well, when I first heard/read that, I was understandably off-put. Ironically, I was ignorant of that stereotype. In the last couple years of living in the Bible Belt, however, I have come to realize how true that is... just not in entirety, rather, in general areas. Like certain parts of Oklahoma City having decently educated Christians while the WBC in Topeka, KA, is notorious for their ignorance on literally anything. So, while the saying is true that "there are extremists in every religion", we should consider not just extremists in doctrines and how some interpret those doctrines, but also extremist in intellect or ignorance.
If one were to ask me how smart I think of myself, I'll be honest on how I see my own mind: "Not as smart as some, nor as dumb as some, I'm as smart as I am, and I'm okay with it." Some have looked at me very weirdly for having flunked the 4th grade once (my brother still pokes jokes about that one), nearly flunking high school, and and doing so in college twice. My excuse? I'm not fit for academic requirements and felt pushed to learn what didn't interest me. What interest me? Foreign mythologies (which has confused my mother deeply at times, though some are uniquely connected to Christianity and Judaism in different ways), foreign languages (not the typical ones likes French and Spanish, but Latin, Norwegian, Gaelic, Russian, and more ancient ones likes Babylonian, Sumerian, and ancient dialects of modern languages), and different types of puzzles. Oh, yes, and one thing that definitely confuses people- different cultural taboos. So, yeah, I simply know things others don't while people know things I don't. And I'm okay with that.
Now, as for this Age of "Enlightenment", I've noticed something about using "science" as a way of knowing things, at least, in the way "enlightened" people (like atheists and skeptics) use, something that late Christian apologist/author had noticed as well- science has become less about knowledge and more about control. At times, that control seems to also mean degrading people who don't see things their own way. I would know, one of my bosses at my current job, Wal-Mart in Alva, constantly talks to me as a child, degrading me in literally every way he can think of. He's a preacher's son who says he's Christian, yet his attitude, etc., proves otherwise, and he does constantly say he knows more than I do, yet none of what he knows seems to be related to work knowledge of Wal-Mart ("Dude, I've been around Wal-Mart all my life, I know how things are run!") Yeah, well, I suppose I should know how to take complete care of rigs since my father was a big rig driver- oh, wait, sorry, he believed he was only to drive them, not take care of them, so I guess that doesn't matter. Not a single person at W*M (as I've taken to calling it on facebook) believes he's worthy of being a leader, let alone an unworthy boss.
Now, there is something I'll agree with atheists about, there are some churches that show some stereotypes and cliches to be true. Unfortunately.
Aside from Westboro Baptist Church, there's also a website called that takes extremist literalism (in other words, not recognizing symbolism and poetry for what they are and not reading entire parts, just reading the convenient parts) and degrades many who see/do things differently than the curator does.
Example, while it's true that rock 'n roll does have some dark roots and so many heavy metal bands are actual devil worshippers (and there are some that use front as a getup, they really don't, they satirize the idea, but the religious elite doesn't recognize the joke and condemn them vehemently), there are Christian rock/metal bands that are full-out Christ-followers. Yet the curator loathes them and condemns them for many reason. One constant thread of condemnation is that they're rock bands. Period. I guess he never heard of, started by former lead Korn guitarist Brian Welch, who says "God and Jesus is first, I am second.", and Brian lets his complete faith be known throughout his music, without shame nor reserve. And also reveals how dark his life had been through some of the lyrics (like in his song "Chemicals", there's a line that goes "You're the kisser and the killer" in reference to the drugs he used to take). And that's just one thing the guy condemns throughout the entire website. He literally tackles every issue. Sad thing is there's no "contact" button anywhere so anyone can reveal the truth about what he's saying.
Nor is that the only website that reveals why people see Christians as ignorant/stupid.
The next is called The onyl good thing is that there's not been a single update in two years this coming September. Why's that good? Just go to the Mall Mission to find out why. Certain stores are condemned as evil/Satanic. Cinnabon for sounding like "Sin Upon", Hot Topic for promoting gay lifestyles and "any guesses as to why they have 'hot' in their name?" Uh, yeah, they go with whatever is "hot" (slang for current topic of social thought), not for temperature of Sheol. J.C.Penny's for being reminescent of Jesus Christ and having- WHOA, WAIT A MINUTE! Is it just me or is that misspelled? Oh, yeah, j.c.pennEy's is named after the founder of the store, James Cash Penney. The site claims that "Penny" is how little value the store sees in Jesus, and claims that even Judas valued him at 30 pieces of silver. Okay, that claim just showed a couple pieces of historical/Biblical ignorance. Not ignorance coming from the Bible, but ignorance of certain details within the Bible. For one, which Judas? In His circle of twelve disciples, there TWO men named Judas (since I'm an originalist, I'd rather call them as their original name, Iuda), that's why some called him Judas Iscariot, or literally, Iuda of Kerioth-Hezron, now a haunt of jackals. And plus, he didn't value Jesus at 30 pieces of silver. Maybe he just went for a random piece of fortune, maybe he wanted a grand amount. Whatever he wanted, he was chosen by the Pharisees to bring in who they saw as a blasphemer (it all started when he told a paralyzed man that HE forgave him, not what everyone else had normally said, "May the Father forgive you") and gave him one. single. day's wage as an offer to bring Jesus in. So, I really don't know, maybe Iuda saw no value in him and was only in it for whatever price he had coming to him, but he went with it without complaint (likely). So, just with that one store, that church showed quite a bit of ignorance in their own sacred text and national history. They also condemn Sears for the name sounds like "seers", what happens to the flesh in Sheol.
I guess some churches have too much time on their hands to take down anyone who thinks any way different than them. Then again, they have "ways" of being different and "witnessing" to regular shoppers. And many of those ways borderline on total incredulity. Read it and find out. I suppose it's like that Blue Stahli song says, "force-feeding, misleading." And all that's just for the Mall. They also have a section exclusively for video games, and they're just intensely ridiculous. All (save one) M-rated games are rated 0 crosses (MGS2:SoL is given 1) out of 5. Things is, they don't play them, they admit it, they say the games aren't allowed to be played on their university campus, so they go by second-hand information. That's like making a review on a possibly great game and saying it's terrible because someone else said so while not trying it for yourself. All games they deem as Christian (save one) got 5 crosses (including Minecraft, which looks like a 3D, 8-pixel version of the Sims to me, but what do I know? It's not my thing, so I won't play it), with the exception getting 4.
It's become a sad state of mind that we've become. Our Lord was known for His unqiue creativity in storytelling (and those stories of His were rather dark- virgins being left behind, a man going to Hell for ignoring a beggar's plea for any water, then begging himself for a single drop of water, weeds choking the life out of seeds, etc.), and partying with the... worst of them (the Pharisees saw Him as a glutton), and here we are worried about what our brethren would think of us. Are they judging you? Would they listen to your reasons? If so and if not, then that's not where you should be.
Personally, I'd read the Bible not only through a guideline lens, but also for psychology, prophecy, mystery, suspense, maybe even a horror story or two. When I think about it, it's not only full of guidelines for how to live an interesting life, even if you don't believe in it, then it's full of literally every single type of literature and genre there is. Seriously.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A few reviews on mind

I know it's been a while since my last post (considering work, hulu, and feeling like time works differently here in Hicktown, USA), I'll make this short.
Just letting you know that I'll be posting movie reviews, spiritual and normal, on a few select movies. Here's what I have in mind to write on, just not in this particular order:

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete
Men in Black 3
The Hunger Games
The Avengers
The Woman in Black
Gran Torino
Green Lantern

And I'm sure there will be a few others in the meantime between now and later.
Oh, and I won't only be doing movie reviews, I also have several book reviews in mind to do. Get ready!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Living unrated in a rated life

My brother and I have a little inside joke about movies and coffee. It goes like this...

If there's a movie that has a rated and an unrated version, the rated is like decaffeinated coffee, in that it has less than potential, less to it. An unrated movie has extra stuff in it, making it better. When I think about it, I realize I've been living a rated life as a Christian whereas so many immensely faithful people in the Bible didn't care who was looking nor how they'd react- they lived an unrated style with an unrated love for God. They made people's jaws dropped. They infuriated the religious (rated) elite. So what's wrong with me? Routines can often times bring me to become rated (*yawn*) when I want to do so much more.
I've come to realize that, in this day and age, words with specific meanings have become loose terms that people have forgotten the original meanings for. In example, "unrated" brings to people's minds horrific horror movies with even more guts and blood, plenty more swearing, and this junk and that crap. For me, it should mean more substance.
I've noticed this about unrated movies, there are two kinds- the kind that has extra content that would've been too graphic for theaters (if it were released in theaters), and the kind with extra stuff that makes the story itself (and maybe even the characters) much stronger.
A good example of this is Kingdom of Heaven. Yeah, it's a politically correct film about the Crusades that show Christians in a bad light, but skipping over that detail, the Director's Cut has extra scenes that provide extra information about the main hero as well as provides support for someone who was a secondary character in the theatrical version, making her integral to the story alongside the hero, not just a living prop.
So? Living unrated helps people see that life can be about so much more than a few flimsy words in a day, helping someone or cursing someone, eat, sleep, do nothing, wait for the day you die then that's that. If that were true, Christianity wouldn't be needed because life would have no leniency in its existence to allow the thought of a Creative Creator with ironic wit have any part of us (no matter how lowly we make ourselves to be, no matter how much of a blessing He tells us we are).
So I don't feel like living the first kind of unrated, the world has enough problems with people doing things like that. I want to live like the other unrated- be a living example of extra content, let God be my Director, who doesn't make deleted scenes, but keeps moving the scenes forward.
I want to be like King David, who danced in the temple (and I imagine the Pharisees were like today's churches, seeing dancing as the 8th Deadly Sin) for the glory of GOD, not man. I want to be like Jesus, who flatly told off the cheats at the temple (after whipping tables and knocking them over) to never do it again then give a very forward reason without beating around the bush. I want to be like the Apostle Peter, who told off the status quo when they questioned his antics (thought him drunk and he told them it wasn't even the right time of the day to be drunk!) and tell religiously suppressing government that they can't stop him from telling the truth about how he sees life with the Christ.
Those are just the better known examples of people pulling off unrated lives that shocked everyone because they broke the social rules, gave living a new meaning, set an example for others to consider, rather than go through a bland living (think Halloweentown's version of the mortal life).
How do you want to live your life? Bring on the unratings, and get ready for the special fatures.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Tale of Selfish Self-Righteousness, A Reminder of Christ

Once upon a time, as the very old saying goes, there was once a boy raised in a tug-of-war between a degrading society and rigid religion. He decided to go with the religion, feeling he may have hope going that way. As he became an adult, he realized the society had challenges against his faith, his chosen religion he never heard when he was younger. Then, while in college, he heard about the devastating truth of religion- a total contradiction to what he had always heard being a Christian was about. As he read the Bible, he was stunned that even Jesus was against the religious mindset and acted nothing like the religious people he had known all his life.
That young boy that became a man would like to thank you for reading this story (and hopefully not falling asleep). Now for the reason for that short story.
Do you remember that earlier post about Eric Wilson? It turns out that the Christian publishing industry has a Pharisaic heart when it comes to entertainment, it must be "pure" (no swearing, no reference to alcohol, smoking, drugs, porn, no reference to magic of any sort, etc.). It's getting me to wonder how any Christian is supposed to get anything book that isn't Amish fiction out there. Or any movie that's like Passion of the Christ, Book of Eli (with the language and heavy violence), Soul Surfer (with the bare skin showing) done and out. As Eric Wilson put it on his facebook, "Have we become too sensitive?"
I dare say we've let the spirit of timidity (something God said in the New Testament to not ) let in (at all). We're ashamed to let people know we're Christian (unless we live in a church-driven town like Alva, OK) and we feel ashamed to watch R-rated movies and read "dark" books (like Stephen King, romance, Dean Koontz, etc.).
Or are we Christians conditioned to feel ashamed? Not long ago, on, I made a group for readers of Christian horror and other kinds of heavy (and gritty) Christian books called Hardcore Faith, open to anyone, whether they were Christian or not. I made it since I was shocked that, for a site centered on reading books, it had nothing for one of my favorite genres. It's growing slowly, but people are finding each other that like the same kind of books. We're out there, finding each other. Giving suggestions and commenting (with respect) to each other's literary tastes. The point? The Christian publishing industry may end up noticing something about us readers- we don't go with the rules of expectancy. We're Christians, so that means we HAVE to enjoy nothing but Christian Amish fiction, watch Little House on the Prairie, always talk Christianese, blah, blah, blah, right? No. I don't know if I get it from my father or whatnot, but I've always been a rulebreaker on many levels- I read horror, mystery, sci-fi, contemporary drama, and YA. Not Amish (nothing against them, it's just not my taste). I used to watch Little House on the Prairie as a child, now I watch Supernatural, Fringe, The Walking Dead, Touch, 7th Heaven, Spartacus, and even Person of Interest. I don't watch tv for tv sake (besides, nearly all tv shows these days are nothing but filler filling people's carnal desires for swearing, sexual crap, and "tv-friendly" violence, very few shows catch my attention well, the abovementioned are just about half of what gets my attention).
And I'm familiar with how kids talk (though I don't say it all, I have an aversion to swearing like a sailor) and can speak slang without trying to figure out what kids are saying, not even online lingo confuses me anymore.
No longer self-righteous about my faith, now I'm reminded of what it really means to be like Jesus- even to the point of giving other people a chance.
How about you?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Volunteering for your life

I'll admit something no shame. As a human being... I was born with tear ducts. Big whoop. Actually, yeah, it is. It comes in use with emotions, something of a taboo word for us guys and men (never understood why). Whenever I watch the trailer for The Hunger Games (the trailer convinced me to check the book out, glad I did), right when Katniss volunteers for her sister, it's not just that she cries it out... it's that she's giving up the possibility of living after one round of an extremely corrupt and manipulative, hyperviolent game. She volunteers to take the place of her own sister to ensure that Primrose will live another year. The reason it gives me chills every single time is because, I'm convinced of this, of the culture I live in.
What do I mean by that? Everyone knows how to speak, but not everyone knows all them fancy edumucated words (the ones that are at least 3 syllables- like that one I just used). This society we live in no longer is based on the Biblical tenets of our Founding Fathers, it now has a foundation of what's called hedonism: "All for me and none else." We're literally taught in nearly every way of everyday life to be selfish. Live longer at the expense of others. Make money for yourself and do what you can to forsake others. Or if you have to take care of others, try to look out for yourself first and take care of "problems" later. I've had issues with the basic tenets of this society for such a long time, that I was glad to find a trailer of a movie where someone selflessly volunteered to take the place of someone else for the possibility of death.
In fact, Katniss volunteering seems to have a Messianic resonation in her character. She loves her sister deeply. Immensely. She encourages her sister to keep living on. When the dreaded Hunger Games celebration chooses her (randomly) to be the tribute for District 12, her sister immediately takes her place. That, in itself, is rebellion in the eyes of the government of Panem. Still, they got someone. Only who they've got turns out to be someone who's a new level rebellion and will eventually become the symbol of a new type of rebellion. Sound familiar?
When most think of Jesus, they think of peace-talks, a couple pep rallies, and hardly anything else beyond his death. Still, people chose him to be the advocate replacement for a well-known criminal named Barnabas. The people chose the tribute, yet he went along with it anyway, to take the place of all others. The Hunger Ga- I mean crucifixion was a suffocatingly deadly torture/death sentence that, along with its notoriety was also called the Shameful Death because you were elvated and (this part is NEVER revealed in all the paintings nor movies) naked. Total humiliation, pain, and shame. Simply seeing it was a way to keep rebellion under control. Yet it still wasn't easy. People had their own ideas of rebellion. Different styles, different angles. Even the patriot Judas of Kerioth (you know him as Iscariot) had a few ideas of how to committ illegal rebellion against this blasphemous Roman Empire, yet didn't act upon it. Jesus had what one could call a polar opposite style- he was open about what he would do, yet he never had a pep rally to strike the government down. It was more gradual. Very subtle. And, as leader of a whole new kind of rebellion that was unheard of in literally every way at the time, he had t be forced under control. The people chose crucifixion, something that the emperor was opposed of doing in the first place (wanted the second opinion of the Egyption Pharoah Herod, successor of Jesus' first attemptive murderer when he was a young child), and the Pharisees forced the Romans' hand to do it. I've heard churches say "If you were the only person on earth, Jesus would die for you many times." Like once wasn't enough? Maybe it's because I'm terrible at math, but to claim that Jesus would die OVER and OVER and OVER makes no sense when he only had to do it once.
He volunteered ONCE for you in all of history. That Hunger Games record is still not erased from history. Why should his volunteering for you ever be forgotten? Whether you're a guy or not, you're his sister. He's Katniss. He's volunteering for your place as tribute. And, in this "game", he plans on winning for you all the way using all the resources available. You going to be his sponsor for him being your tribute? Or bet on some miscellaneous legend like Gilgamesh (who went for treasure, personal gain) or Thor (becoming a god like his father and beating his brother, Loki)?

Friday, March 16, 2012

The little moments in this anomaly of life. Touch, a review

There's been something on my mind for a while, something that would be considered almost a nonissue to some, yet could potentially seem life-and-death important to others. How life works.
As a child, I had a gift to understand words. It was how I was able to get straight-A's in spelling and understand what words meant. It's what enables me to understand what I read and what I type. It's how I learn about the world- through written word more than anything else, except hands-on. Yet as a kid, I hated numbers, I would find out eventually I have a form of dyslexia for numbers, called discalculae. No one in my family's familiar with that term, so no one could understand why I was great with words (in the 5th grade, my reading level was already in the college level) yet terrible with mathematics while my brother was the exact opposite. I felt that the public education system was always trying to force me to be like everyone else, something that's never ever worked.
With the opening of Touch, a young boy explains how the world works with the universal language of mathematics, focusing on patterns and how they're everywhere in life yet only a few people on the planet can see them. Then he reveals the exact amount of time he'd been alive, then throws the punch- "In all that time, I never spoke a single word." From there, this episode seems to be a sequence of little moments that, at first, seem disjointed while showing the realities of life, including social prejudice when it comes to autistic children ("Your kid should be locked up in a cage!" "What'd you say!?"). And yet, there's another plot going on, literally around the world dealing with a lost phone that, while the owner's trying to get back because of the photographs on it, other people are using it for their own solicit gains.
The boy, Jake, has a beautiful talent with numbers, seeing them in many numerous ways yet using them in specific ways. When his father starts seeing a start to the pattern, he starts to wonder what his son is seeing altogether.
The phone subplot could be a plot all on its own with how people are shown to have disconnected dreams and different backgrounds of life, yet are all connected in some way or another, whether in life or through an unseen connection in life.
Life may seem trivial to many. Like a cruel cosmic punishment for simply existing. Like it's trying to push you to your own extreme edge with loss, confusion, pain. These Jake's father is seen to suffer, yet he never loses hope, even when he's on the brink of losing hope with an agency. And an agent in said agency finds out Jake's talent when he reveals a number he couldn't have known but is familiar to her. Then, moments later (show-wise), that same number ends up in what seems like a chaotic mess, only for that chaotic mess to end in hope for someone else eventually. I once read recently a short story of a man talking to God about how bad his day's been and asks where God was. Post-complaints, God reveals what all He was doing for the man. Even in when it seems like tragedy, it doesn't mean there's nothing dealing with God in it.
And one of the hardest emotional scenes deals with a teenage boy in the Middle East being forced to wear a suicide bomber's vest. With that one man's phone as the battery for the vest. The boy gets a call to let him know the phone isn't his and he needs to give it back. The boy reveals that it isn't his fault, he's not a bad person he has a dream and almost believes it lost when he's given a chance to achieve it. The way it plays out, even though you can very well guess what's about to happen is tear-jerking anyway. The boy achieves his dreams, the woman who calls him has helped him, and everyone who's had a connection with the phone has had more than just connection by touching the phone, they just won't realize it.
Young Jake reminds me of the character Holden from Karen Kingsbury's book, Unlocked. People see him differently, don't understand him, even when he has a close connection to the world around him, just differently than we would expect. I've never been tested for it, though I have a few suspicions about having Aspberger's Syndrome, a high-end autism disorder, which explains how I miss certain social cues, get socially awkward, yet in my own little world, I see everything immensely different. How something is simple to most can be difficult for me to grasp and vice versa. Jake doesn't speak a single word in the episode, yet he helps immensely with connecting people in unseen ways through the use of what I once loathed with a passion, helping me understand (and remember) that mathematics isn't strictly formulas and basic structures with a couple symbols and whatnot, but something I can understand more easily- a pattern within life.
The creator of the show has gone from showing how evolution can make people have unique powers once only in comic books to how God is in life from looking into its bizarre complexities that we can NOT escape from, no matter how hard we try.

A spiritual warning for all: a re-post

This is a message from my Sister-in-Christ, Leah Baguinon, and post it on facebook. With permission, she's let me post it here for you to see.

Get The Beam Out Of Your Own Eye

Who can deny, with all of this overwhelming evidence, from the most reliable of sources, that the days of the great American dream are swiftly coming to a close, as well, the end of days for mortal man and the soon return of Yahshua our Messiah.
This is a short message from our Commander-In-Chief, but His short messages are greater and more meaningful than the longest message that any man could give.

   As always, my message to you is to consider your ways before Me, and repent where necessary, because time is so swiftly running out. This goes for those of you who call yourselves My "Christians" also, and to you most importantly, as you are too pre-occupied with everyone else's sins and the sins of the world and not your own.
Being given nearly 2000 years, you have yet to build up My congregation according to My blueprint. There is no all things common among you and there is great inequality and the grossest kind of pride, false humility, envy, strife, contentions and even excused sexual immorality in your midst.

   You cloak your own sins by pointing fingers at the unbelievers, not realizing that they are not who I am most concerned. What good would it do if all the unbelievers stopped being unbelievers - AND SUBSCRIBED TO YOUR APOSTATE BRAND OF CHRISTIANITY?

   Many of you worship your long held errant beliefs and peer-pressured traditions, you worship pastors, church leaders, corrupted counselors and the status-quo, not Me.

   You call yourselves saints, but the definition of the word saint means SET APART, but you are not set apart, but aligned with the same flawed and errant thinking that is rampant upon the earth in these the darkest of times.

   Be quiet and stand still - consider your ways before you speak in your defense. Many of your hearts are not right with your brothers, yet you are so quick to want to accuse others of their sins, who are not even of My fold, neither are they subjected to the laws of My Kingdom, as you are, but will be judged according to their works, as they have no part in My gift of grace to you.

   You desire to picket and protest the sins of the unbelievers, but you need to be picketing and protesting your own churches, for therein lies the grossest of sins—disobedience and an unwillingness to build up My congregations according to the blueprint set forth in the Book of Acts!

   The edict states, If MY PEOPLE WHICH ARE CALLED BY MY NAME (not everyone else) would turn from THEIR wicked ways, I, NOT YOUR GOVERNMENT, would heal their land, but you have made your government your false god, thus I have, as I have spoken, turned you over to your false idol, and now you are beginning to see the wickedness of your idol and you are now living in fear of what you have created.

   You have subjugated yourself to the beast and its lies, and what is worse, you defend the lies out of fear of being branded a saint - BEING SET APART. If you deny me before men, out of fear, I will deny YOU when we meet face to face.

   Get the BEAM out of your own eye, before you try to remove the splinter from everyone else's or you will suffer with the unbelievers, because that is what you truly are.

   I urgently advise all of you to read Revelations 18 and Jeremiah 51 and repent quickly. Turn to me in sincerity that I may guide you through the coming days of GROSS darkness.

   You may have helped create the beast that now stalks and oppresses you, but I, NOT YOU, will destroy the beast for my names sake and for the sake of those who love me. When that day comes whose side shall YOU be on? Shall you continue to defend the kingdom of Satan or remember your citizenship in my Kingdom and be warriors for righteousness and not darkness?

He Is Not A Jew Who Is One Outwardly
   NOW LET ME BE PERFECTLY CLEAR to those of you who bow your heads and bend the knee to the Pharisees that run and control Israel. Israel, the land mass IS NOT MY PROPHETIC CLOCK as you have been told. YOU ARE MY ISRAEL OF WHICH THE PROPHECIES SPEAK - YOU ARE MY PROPHETIC CLOCK, YOU ARE MY CHOSEN PEOPLE, NOT ISRAEL!
Who has bewitched you into thinking that I still show favor to the landmass of Israel and the bloodline of the Pharisees? Is it not written in your scriptures, "That he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, but he is a Jew who is one INWARDLY?"
For he is not a Jew (Yahudim), which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew (Yahudim), which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
- Romans 2:28-29
   The word JEW is an abomination of the name YAHUDIM, followers of Yahuweh. You are not my followers if you reject the teachings of Yahshua whom I sent, thus you are not a JEW, though you may claim to be so by your bloodline, yet JEW is not a race, but a belief in the teachings of Yahuweh. Thus because you claim to be Israeli-Hebrew does not excuse you from the law of salvation to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

   Yahshua is coming for His Bride - not the Greeks nor the Jews, but an ISRAEL made up of every nation, kindred and tongue. He is coming for THE ISRAEL OF GOD, NOT MAN.

   You are my chosen people - AND NONE ELSE! Stop allowing yourselves to be manipulated by the Pharisees who claim that you owe them obeisance because they are the seed of Abraham. Did not Yahshua say to these vipers and hypocrites...
I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.
- John 8:37-38
Did not John the baptist speak these words against the very spirit that you are being manipulated to bow down before:
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
- Matthew 3:7-10
   How much plainer can it be written in your word for you to begin to turn away from the lies and deception of these obvious end time deceivers who teach contrary to my word, that you would give your support and substance to the very Sanhedrin spirit that crucified Yahshua, errantly thinking that this pleases me?

   Call upon Me my wayward and whoring betrothed with a new and urgent fervor, and I, even as I made of Hosea an example, shall embrace you as my betrothed once again, and I shall forgive your harlotry and wash you clean, as judgment is at the door and many of you are still playing church in a building scheduled for demolition.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Thoughts on Quantic Dreams' "Kara"

In strictly modern American sense, reference to a procedure that brings forth a human fetus before it is ready to be born on its own time, normally to be killed off.
Other actual definitions: (to fail, cease, or stop at an early or premature stage), (to develop incompletely)

There's a chance you've heard of this tech demo at a recent video game convention, called "Kara," which literally creates a video game model as though a robot. Part by part, internally to externally. With every part brought to its being (I'll refer to "it" as "her" since she's being made into a female body anyway), a disembodied voice asks her to do certain things to see if she's working properly. When the voice asks her to tell the audience what she does, she makes a list of things she does... one of which involves being a sexual slave. When the production is complete, and she's having flesh color added to her being, and she gets a bra and panties, she finds out she's only a product, which shocks and dismays her. "I'm a product." The voice affirms it and asks what else could she have been.
"I thought-"
"You thought?"
Then the voice commands the production to disassemble her, which truly frightens her, and she asks why she's being taken apart, and the voice says that she wasn't designed to think, she was designed to do, and that thinking indicates she must have a glitch in her system, something that's unacceptable. Things finally come to a denouement when she yells out "I'M AFRAID!" All the equipment suddenly halts. She asks to be remade into what she was and the voice relents, even if reluctantly, and tells Kara to behave, that he doesn't want any customer complaints.
That whole film is 7 minutes long, and does more than just show off the latest CGI developments for video game development companies, it also has a deep story dealing with what life is. The video I watched, I noticed a lot of people comparing the short but deeply thoughtful story to the overly lengthy and very shallow storyline of the Twilight series. I won't say "Now I'm not saying..." because truth is, as much as I enjoy horror stories (including some vampire stories), I truly hate Twilight. I couldn't read even half of the first book, and could barely suffer watching the first three films. Why? Not just animation (it had good bits of cinematic techniques and technology), but the story is very shallow, to the point of a needless reduction and remake of vampires. Too much style, nowhere near enough substance for a horror fan (and occassional romance fan, I'll shamelessly admit) to enjoy. This seven-minute production seems to have referred not only to abortion, however. That line about being a "sex slave" brought to mind what people expect in pornography. Specific body styles, a certain look, the ability to say empty nothings, able to handle literally anything any number of men can do to them. If you've ever seen the movie Taxi Driver, I'll use a familiar line, "If you were happy, I wouldn't be able to use you." Jodie Foster's first film and she was a child prostitute (aka, an illegal prostitute being underage), and her pimp tells her that he can't use her if she enjoys being basically raped. There are many secrets the industry never wants revealed lest the industry comes to a halt- which is what the ex-stars wants to happen (including Shelley Lubben and Jenna Jameson, believe it or not, they've both got books outt here about the devastating reality they lived through), but we're all taught that, since they're human, they'll get over it and enjoy it, right? That's what all the movies say. What about when a robot is being designed to fulfill her "master's" wishes? And she becomes self-aware? Even having the ability to cry actual, liquid tears? Will we pay attention? Or still be, as I call it, "social robots"?
As I like to tell people when they question my faith, "I'd rather be a Jesus Freak than a social robot." This tech demo does illustrate mankind's selfishness and the contrast with people who don't want self-aware people.
Check it out, let me know what you think.

Oh, last note: if you think you can get onto David Cage (the director of Quantic Dreams) about the use of teh word "abort" in the tech demo, remember, he's not American, he's French, our hooker-loose standards of speech is horrendous compared to other languages.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The little things that can happen

It seems there's little in little Alva, Oklahoma. A Wal-Mart that's just barely over half the size of a supercenter (which I've been hired as an overnight stocker), a small theater/video rental store, a pharmacy with soda fountain, and a youth center that opens 3-5:30 pm where kids can (gossip) play video games, go online, skateboard, play sports, and pig out with food that, like the soda fountain at Holder's, is like Ohio- no tax on it.
Yet it's at that last place, called the eXtreme Building, that something really amazing happened (in the scope of this small town, 5 miles square) this past Wednesday- a concert featuring radio-steady Christian prog-rock band Fireflight with a couple guest stars- Cory Lamb and Rapture Ruckus. I was asked by the youth pastor, Jeremy Little, to help out with the band set-up. As much as I love Fireflight's music (they're not my favorite, but nonetheless, I love their stuff [my faves are As I Lay Dying, Skillet, and Demon Hunter]), why would I pass up a priviliged opportunity? So I came by expecting to help out. That I did, and so much more. Warning, I didn't treat the members of each band like some rock gods, I did greet them, hung out, and asked stuff. Not like "Where do you get the inspiration for your songs?" or "Where do you get your instruments?" Rather, stuff like "I imagine you had a few normal jobs before being in a band, huh?" and, when I saw the logo of Rapture Ruckus (it looked like an old-school video game "sprite" character), "You play video games?" Turned out, yep, many of them do. When I was asked (by the guitarist for Cory Lamb, who was wearing the shirt) what my favorite video game was (yes, I'm a hardcore lifelong video gamer), I first asked if old-school or new-school. Old-school. "That one's easy- Super Mario Bros." And I agreed with his answer, "Can never go wrong with that one!" Spent an hour getting their equipment out of their trucks and setting up inside.
Got to meet Glen from Fireflight (the band member that day I met), and he figured out pretty quickly that I'm a huge Skillet fan while he was getting his guitar ready, while Dawn, it turns out, doesn't need to look any different than she does in the videos. As someone commented on their latest video (Stay Close), "Is it just me or does she get more and more beautiful in every video?" Impossibly, it turns out to be true, And just a little talk with her showed how passionately compassionate she is, and (believe it or not), how human and humane she is. Then, onto their new drummer, Adam. While he and a lady who goes with them on the road, Katy, were getting his drums ready, all three of us talked... and talked... and talked. If they ever got annoyed of my incessant blabbing, they showed no sign, they just went along with it, and with loads of great humor. Especially when another roadie got out a huge, all-wooden tambourine, sat in it, and started playing it. I asked Katy to hold my glasses, asked the guy to keep playing, then started to headbang with a Rock On gesture shooting out and bobbing up-and-down. At that, everyone who saw it cracked up.
Believe it or not, even roadies and bands have misadventures and funny stories while on the road. The guitarist with the Rapture Ruckus shirt? It turned out that at another venue, while opening a door, was afraid he'd be slammed under, so he asked for a little assistance this time. While Rapture Ruckus was getting all their stuff set up, knowing they're from New Zealand (you don't have to know that to know they're foreign, their accents make it obvious, but I almost thought their lead singer was from Ireland!), I decided to make jokes with my "professional" linguistic skills (spoke a touch of Japanese, Norwegian, and Russian, along with English) and it got everyone surprised and amused.
Cut to 5 hours later, start of concert. Rapture Ruckus was up first, it'd been four, maybe five years since the last concert I was at (Skillet's Comatose concert at the Veteran's House in Huntington, WV), so it took quite a bit of time for me to get myself loose enough to headbang and Rock On with my fist in the air (I still feel it in my neck and right elbow...). Nonetheless, I was immensely surprised at all the energy the dude has! And anyone who wonders why a Christian music artist keeps praising God, it's not entirely because it's "in the contract" as the cop-out goes. I did a little research on the band, and their singer, Brian, had suffered from drug abuse when, at 18, he was challenged by a good friend who's a Christian on where hise life was heading. At that, he went to a church, committed his life to God. So, why constantly praise God in the music? As a public celebration, an energetic acknowledgement that your life is no longer the same, and that you have no shame about it.
Yet, the biggest thing that happened to me wasn't all the intense energy that kept flowing out and everybody rocking it out, it happened about five songs into Fireflight's playing time. Saw a little girl that was anxious to get up front, so I shifted to the "side" (if you can call it that in an open area like a mosh pit) and let her go on. A few minutes after she thanked me twice (the first time I was headbanging and she didn't know I saw her), I had the feeling she wanted to get further up, so I tapped a guy ahead of me on his arm, then tapped the girl on her shoulder, gesturing to her to go on ahead, the guy got the hint and waved her to go ahead, then she started going crazy right up front (there was no security guards at the stage). So, even with all the immense intensity and that electrifying concert that sparked this tiny town, it was helping a little girl from Enid, Oklahoma to have a better time than she would have if I hadn't let her go ahead.
After the concert, I was stunned to find out my own mother had been headbanging, while my stepdad couldn't (stiff back from work), but we all had a great time afterward nonetheless. Even managed to get pictures of the lead signer of Rapture Ruckus (my mom is in the picture, she got a picture of me with him on her phone), as well as with Cory Lamb (never heard his music before then, turned out to be really good inspirational rock). Post-concert, even had a great time helping the bands get their stuff packed up to get ready to hit the road. Told them all, "Wherever you're going after this, have a great time there."
And Adam from Fireflight? He told me to finish up on my book. Though he doesn't read fiction, it was awesome to hear a member of a great band say that to me anyway.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The testimony of yours truly

Before I post anymore posts (and I have many in mind), I do believe it's more credible to know who the speaker is than to simply take the words of the speaker to heart (so many dangers can happen that way).
So, onward I go to explain who I am and how I came to believe what I believe.
I was born in in the county seat of Muskingum County, Ohio- Zanesville, a rather large place, but not quite big enough to be considered a major city (it doesn't have any major skyscrapers, just plenty of  landmass). I was born to two different kinds of people-the religiously devout and the spiritual skeptic-and had a lot of pain growing up, mainly through my father (who turned me off from swearing, so if you met me and I hate cussing, it's not solely from my beliefs, it was from my father). My mother tried raising my brother and me in church, though it felt more like a religious obligation than out of goodwill or out of the heart. In other words, my brother felt like we were being forced into church. Personally, I wanted a way to get away from the pain.
At 11 years old, I found that way through my mom's boyfriend (Mom and Dad divorced in the late 80's, when I was just a toddler) who told me about being a Christian and asked me if I had ever been "saved". Funny thing is, even at that age, when no one had told me about the process, I knew deep inside how it worked, I hadn't heard about the concept of sin, yet maybe the pain had something to do with my already knowing something about it. So, instead of getting saved in a church, like most of the world would expect, I was saved in my mom's boyfriend's apartment in New Philadelphia, Ohio. Saved...
Or so I thought.
There were other concepts I hadn't heard of or would know for a while that I needed to know about- including false faith (psychosomasis, you could say), religiousity, being Pharisaic, etc.
For a full ten years, things would seem to happen that, logically were impossible- including times and incidents where I just knew-knew-that I shouldn't have lived through. At least three of such an event happening, yet I did live anyway. And other bizarre events that should have been impossible if life were as boring and expendable as I've heard in public school (yep, I was raised in a battle for the mind between creationism and evolution) had left me to believe.
Even though I hadn't read the Bible as much as it felt required to read (you know, at least some daily), I did know bits and pieces and when certain people would challenge me about what the Bible said (okay, it was just one person who had a degree that called him "Reverend") about homosexuality, I told him, "You're the reverend, you tell me." Really, I was onyl familiar with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and their widely-known acts of perversion, not solely homosexuality, but also gang rape, pedophilia, etc. Yet, from the things that I did read, I decided to take a hint from King Solomon and do a prayer I had never heard anyone else do at that point- pray for wisdom over riches.
And I would get it in college, through the help of a great friend, Gerhard Esterhuizen. The leader of Marshall University CRU, he explained the many finer points of Christianity without sounding like a know-it-all theologian, he brought the Truth of the Scripture to us in a down-to-earth style that was easy to comprehend without watering it down (like I'd seen so many televangelists do, which disgusted me), including one MAJOR thing I was guilty of-legalism. I'd judged people in my mind for the slightest of things, even if they did those things by accident.
I hated and judged gays.
I hated science.
I hated. This. That. These. Those.
I was the epitome of what people hate Christians for without ever realizing it.
That year in college, I gradually changed. Then, at 21, when I moved to live in Huntington, WV (ever since the first time I saw it back in my Upward Bound days in high school, I knew I wanted to live there irregardless of how), it happened.
I picked up a copy of Christian Apologetics author Lee Strobel's new book, The Case for the Real Jesus, without knowing he was a Christian, just knowing a vague thing about him yet not remembering if he was a Christian or not. The moment before I opened the flap to read it, I knew and felt something- my mind was opening.
When I say felt, I don't mean in a metaphorical way, I mean literal- feeling something like a temperature shift in a specific area of my brain.
The moment before I opened that book, I thought this thought:
There will be one of four things that will happen when I'm done reading: I will either be an atheist, an agnostic (again, I was one for half a week, most depressing time in my life, and I was chronically depressed as a teen), or a Jew (thinking of believing in God, but not Jesus), or be a stronger Christian.
I would find out later that I had only "thought" I was a Christian. I had finally learned of false faith, and it was when I read an article in my Apologetics Bible titled "How can I really know?" that it finally clicked what I should do- stop being a fake and become a real deal for people.
I already had edgy Christian shirts, a decent selection of Christian books, knew (some) Scripture, always praying before meals, etc. Thing was, I realized I was being religious, which was never prescribed by Jesus to do. I was going by the rules more than anything.
I knew that it was, by far, time to change. So, right after reading that article, while keeping something in my that Gerhard had said ("when I gave my heart to God and Jesus, I didn't pray, I didn't say amen, I simply confessed and accepted him in my heart") and remembered how much of a strong, faithful Christian he was, I didn't put the "madatory" amen at the end of what I thought- I simply mentally confessed and accepted, and did feel something else- that burden Christians talk about? It felt like my body had a few pounds lifted, something like a spiritual Slim-Fast, essentially put.
Since then, I've come to learn much, oh so very much. Especially that there is an area where all those degrading stereotypes about Christians are true- at least in certain churches and areas. In fact, I'm living in such an area- the "Belt Buckle" of the Bible Belt, Oklahoma. And it's been a test of my faith to see such a terrible thing that some churches simply do not know how to operate spiritually (at all) while others are down-to-earth, Scriptually sound (and never watering it down), and get ripped left and right by the world. One such church I've been to operates as a coffee shop in OKC, called Valley Brook Vineyard Community Church, or Joe's Addiction Coffee Shop.
So, if anyone tries to offend me about being a Christian and get shocked that I can offend back, I just say this, "The world's been trying to offend me all my life- it's my turn now."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A new thought on horror

Quick word test, what do you think of when you read this oen word: horror?
Something like torture? Demons inflicting torment upon people? Serial killer doing mass murders? Something ritualistic and satanic? There are many things that one word has the potential to get us to think, btu these days, it seems to indicate cheesy ways bring in the money, show off new cinematic techniques of stripping flesh off, using weapons to kill people in some weird and disturbing ways.
It's sad what horror has become: a trivial laughable shadow of what it had once been.
When I was watching American Horror Story, I realized one interesting reason I enjoyed it- it was a throwback to old-fashion horror- not all the way obvious, but much of it in your mind. A lot of the horror is literally in your head. Kinda makes you think I'm calling you crazy, doesn't it? Well, True Blood tried to hard to get "mature" audiences to get scared... and get off. It turned me off. Despite all the rave reviews, it barely held my attention through the first season. Second season, since it dealt with cults (and one thing I like to study is cultic mindsets and mentalities) got my interest better, but all the sex talk, over-the-top swearing, and useless horror... it just couldn't keep me reeled in, so I was struggling to the last episode. Then the third season. Okay, okay, I only watched halfway through. It ended up having too much sex (felt formulaic), way too much swearing (who was coming up with the show? College frat boys trying to best each other's mouths?), and very little true horror.
AHS doesn't rely on the totally obvious. Yes, there's a naked man in the first episode, who's doing something with himself, but you don't see it. It's implied, plus he's crying. Grown "men" these days would be confused at why he's crying, after all, he has a smokin'-hot maid (literally in his eyes, she's old and ugly to everyone else) that he just about had sex with, so why's he crying? When you realize the multi-layered context (the cheating that occured beforehand, the family psychology, his problems with lusting, his desire to desire his wife, and so many other issues happening at once), you may come to realize what all really is happening. And that's just one element in this deep, thought-provoking horror show. After a couple of episodes, people suddenly thought it was ruined in its taste. Why? The start of the episode "Piggy, Piggy" starts with one of THE most controversial topics in modern America- school shootings. Columbine, for one. VA Tech, for another. And, very recently, a school in Cleveland, OH. It's tragic. Immensely. I have no kids yet, but Columbine happened when I was in the 5th grade, and it truly shocked us all how far the bullied would go. Do others in, then theirselves.
The start of the episode starts peacefully in a school library-
wait, I should start in the last few minutes of the previous episode, when a group of kids, during Halloween, start messing with Tate and his girlfriend, who's his psychiatrist's daughter, Violet. The kids really have no itnerest in Violet, but they want to torture Tate, who thinks they have some really good makeup. Then they realize he doesn't remember.
Remember what? Start of next episode, silence until a couple shots are heard, worrying the small group in the library, the sounds get closer and closer, the doors get blocked and everyone hides. The blocking's useless. Tate comes in, wearing makeup to make his face look like a skull, finds a student, doesn't say a thing, aims his shotgun and blasts away. You don't see it, but the body twitching and a sharp BANG says it enough for your mind to work the details. Everyone gets it. He never says a word in the process, which makes it even creepier. Effective horror.
Why include something so devastatingly tragic in a well-rated show? Well, for one, it is called American Horror Story, but for another, it's working our fears, the things that truly shake us, down to our bones and psyche. Its subtleties and layers truly give those who really pay attention massive chills. It also reminds me of Christian suspense author Travis Thrasher, known for bizarre stories like 40, Admission, The Solitary Tales, and Isolation, among others. In an interview, he was asked what he loved tow rite about, his response was very different from what I'm used to- he wants to explore our fears. Even in his early, love-based stories, he dealt with the theme of fear, even if as a subplot, he still wrote about it. And he does have a LOT of stories.
Essentially put, I've gotten fed up with how modern-day "horror" works and am glad for movies like Don't Be Afraid of the Dark and shows like American Horror Story, which rely on throwback methods and subtleties.
I'll admit, I even love the Paranormal Activity movies because of how subtle the demonology is in them. It has a much more realistic feel to them, showing a family that is as normal and American as can be, yet something's happening to them, demonic in nature.
Still horror, but another angle of it, and still effective.
I'm working on a lot of book ideas, most of them are Christian horror, and I want to write in the effective style, not rely on the cruddy formulas that Hollywood, anymore, goes with, which seems to predictable to even have a thrill factor, let give your spine chills like it did in the 70's and 80's (as far as I'm concerned, the 80's was the last decade of intelligent filmmaking before everyone wanted to grow up and lost their common sense along the way). Why write stories? Not just because I want to, but because I want to explore the harder questions (why do Christians expect people to go with the rules yet break them on their own? What really is real? What's the nature of demons and satanism? What drives our fears into existence? How does perception work? Why does the Church get so arrogant about "knowing" things when the Bible does state there are mysteries only God can know? What was the origin of the Pentagram before it became a Wiccan symbol? And on and on) and the best way I've found to do it is by storytelling. Granted, not all my stories are horror (there's a bit of sci-fi and historical mixed in), but why couldn't a Christian ask the real tough, stickler questions that shock us, or, as I've heard it put about the Bible, scare the HELL out of us? Because traditional Christian shouldn't ask the questions lest be rebellious?
Good thing I'm no traditional Christian, isn't it?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Christian horror- any merit/reality to it?

Try to imagine this, since I was a kid, I've enjoyed horror movies. Some I believe(d) are great masterpieces, others, I knew, were a waste of time and production money (remake of Piranha stands one of them). As a teen, I got into murder/mystery books, starting with Ted Dekker, then discovering Steven James, and even indie sci-fi author Kirk Outerbridge (his two books, Eternity Falls and The Tenth Crusader have immense and intense twists that ask real hard questions we should consider). The enjoyment lasted a pleasuring 5 years, then I found out something I had never really known before- some suspense had supernatural horror in it. Ted Dekker's "Adam" and Robin Parrish's "Nightmare" are great examples. So is the classic Christian masterpiece "This Present Darkness" by Frank Peretti, whatwith vivid descriptions of demons that can influence in specific ways and descriptions of actual battles of angels and demons fighting each other for the choices we humans make, from the mundane to the utmost important.
And then, I found out there's a controversy over Christian horror. What kind of controversy? The kind where traditional churches consider anything that's "horror" as Satanic. I have something to say to that: the Bible is filled with horror stories, many of which the church have no problems preaching on:
1. The most well-known, the Crucifixion of Jesus, dealing with grotesque public torture of an innocent man, wrongly accused and tried, beaten and stripped of flesh (literally) and forced to handle a truly heavy piece of wood that bears down on Him. Even when He's raised while nailed in the wrists (the Jewish view of that part of the arm is called the hand) and ankles, people are sneering and jeering at Him, challenging His divinity, especially the thief next to Him.
2. After a king has an affair with one of his soldiers' wife, he has his loyal soldier killed off, then starts to lose his sanity, and even goes to a spiritist (in the Bible, she's called a psychic or a witch, depending on the Version you read). What she summons is not what the Bible calls her "familiar spirit," but the actual spirit of king Saul's fallen soldier, which literally scares the living Hell out of her. This spirit wasn't supposed to appear, which could have made her wonder where her spirit contact was and how this one appeared. And what the spirit said shocked both the witch and his king.
3. A possessed man in a graveyard, no clothes at all, with superhuman strength no one can comprehend, tortures anyone who gets close to him, yet One manages to rid the demons within without harm.
4. And though there are literally hundreds of other horror stories, I'll leave with one last example, the very first: when perfection was tempted by evil incarnate and every perfect thing in this universe no longer knew perfection. Immortality, eradicated. Literal walks with God, etched out. Pure, untainted knowledge of anything, suddenly tainted and distorted where demons could play with people with twisted religions and rituals and reasons to hate one another.

All that to say, if you're goign to hate Christian horror, which does have Biblical ground to it, why not hate the Bible? Because you don't read it as horror? Many have and have painted terrifying portraits of the Crucifixion and Sheol, and worse. Now that I think about it, there was even a poetic description of an actual medical condition when Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He was so strained with suffering, His own pores started bleeding, and he had to be tended by angels.

A great author underrated

Question for you: what kind of authors do you read? I don't mean genre-wise, I mean reputation and renown-wise?
Do you read extremely well-known authors like James Patterson, Ted Dekker, Stephenie Meyers, Cassandra Clare, and Anne Rice?
Or maybe widely-known yet not-quite-as-well-known authors Steven James, Stephen R. Lawhead, and Jim Butcher? The difference between the two sets? One set is mainstream known, the other is known on a more underground way, even though they're New York Bestsellers.
Then there are very lesser-known authors: Mike Duran, Kirk Outerbridge, Melanie, Jack Cavanaugh, Randy Alcorn, and Eric Wilson.
I'd like to have attention paid to that last author. I first heard of Eric Wilson when myspace still have popular life in it (once upon a time, I had one) and he sent me a friend request. I can only suppose he saw me on Ted Dekker's friends list and decided to take a chance. Why put it that way? At the time, he was on his way to release his fourth book (which was still a couple motnhs away from street release). At first, I wasn't sure what to think, books with titles like "Dark to Mortal Eyes," "Expiration Date," and "Best of Evil" seemed like very unusual titles to me. When I saw the cover of Expiration Date, I literally thought it dealt with zombies (it was during the start of that whole zombie-crazed movement in pop culture, not too long after The Dawn of the Dead remake came out on DVD), so I decided to try. Noticing that, somehow, it was the sequel to Dark to Mortal Eyes, I figured I'd read from the beginning. I'd read the Left Behind series and a couple of Ted Dekker books... but I was in no way prepared for what the pages in his debut book held: a deep story about a woman coming to find her father she never knew about, a man suspicious about this woman he'd never known of that's saying he's her father, and the timing with a vintner competition coming along making even more suspicious of her, and an old woman that knows too much about the man, not much about the young woman, and yet is about to unleash literal Hell on Earth in a very bizarre way.
How would this relate to a zombie book? Turned it doesn't, because Expiration Date had nothing to do with the crazed pop culture obsession with zombies, it dealt with something heavier, darker, and so much more important- whether we're dealing with fate or if we truly do have free will with a unique spiritual story: a man coming back to his hometown, only when he starts touching people's hands, he feels numbers burned onto his skin, yet nothing's there. I takes him a brief while to figure out what they really are, but dark spiritual forces are trying to trick everyone into no longer believing what he says (and using a different kind of trick than I've ever heard of) as well as a demon portraying a cruelly personal trick on him dealing with something tragic from his past.
A few books later, I start to notice something- his novels are interconnected in both overt and subtle ways. I got used to that with Ted Dekker's books, then found out that was inspired by Stephen King, but the connections between Eric's books blew my mind away. Characters that seemed to be one way in one book turn out to be something entirely different in another book, additional background given while kept  consistent in a "timeline" of sorts. And what I didn't know, I found out on his website. The connections I didn't pick up on threw me off, then I thought back to the stories and specific scenes and I realized how I hadn't picked up on them.
He has a few different series based in different genres: horror (Jerusalem's Undead Trilogy, The Senses Series [tragically short-lived for the talent he proved to have in the pages]), and suspense (The Aramis Black Series and the By The Numbers Series).
At this point, only his novelizations based on three Kendrick Brothers films (Flywheel, Facing the Giants, and Fireproof) and his latest two books (One Step Away and Two Seconds Late) I haven't read, I haven't had a chance to get my hands on them. The saddest part is, with how stickly the publishing industry's getting due to the digital revolution, it's getting harder for his books to get noticed.
Luckily, I'm a shameless author and book promoter, that's why I'd like to ask you a favor:
Check out his books and consider his latest book. An industry full of double standards and other such issues won't find much reason to publish something all the way if not too many people aren't interested (a couple good authors got lost in the mix a few years back because they didn't get attention at all).
If you'd like a link to his latest book, here it is:

Friday, February 24, 2012

Piranha, a spiritual review

You know that typical thing people say about movie remakes? That they're normally terrible? I tend to agree, whatwith the intelligence of original classics being dumbed down for my generation (in which illiteracy's rampant, let alone near lack of common sense). So, for this, I'll admit I haven't seen the original Piranha. And, for the most part, I wish I hadn't seen the remake. So why did I see it? My stepdad saw it, without his glasses, saw a review saying it was better than Jaws, and he saw (and loved) the original, so he figured it'd be nice.
What a waste of $3.27 at the local rental store.
Yet, I won't focus on the graphic sexual content, nor the drug use, nor the majority of the story. What I will focus on is relevant to the elements that seem spiritual, even if in a subtle way.
First off, part of it does seem pretty typical- a young, teenage guy wanting to join a huge party (think American Mardi Gras on steroid overdose), especially since he's been hired to be a cameraman. A cameraman for something, I suppose for copyright reasons, can't be called Girls Gone Wild, yet it is essentially that in every way. Just one problem for the guy, his mother, who's the local sheriff, expects him to babysit his younger siblings (neither of whom are even pre-teens yet). So, being the typical rebellious teenager, he and his siblings find a way to go around their mother's system so he can join the party and get paid.
However, the director of this shot is... how can I put it lightly or politely? Well, I don't think there is a way, so I'll just say it. He's Mr. Prideful-Hotshot.
He wants things done his way, with no leniency. He expects the cameraman to work, but also enjoy... as well as the enjoyment has no sense of decency at all.
Rather sad, but that's how he is. In fact, when the cameraman's two siblings get stuck on an island without a way to get back inland, and they realize there are thousands of piranha waiting for them to enter, they scream for help, incessantly, until any help will arrive. What they least expect is their own brother to notice them while filming a shot involving a topless lady in a paraflyer, sees them, and is shocked. The director, who could care less if they the President's kids, doesn't care who they are, just yells at his cameraman for "ruining" his shot... even after the "object" of the shot gets chewed in half.
And that's just on that side of the lake. On the other, the sheriff and her one-man-crew are trying to get the rowdy pack of anti-authoritative partiers to abandon the beach. Before they even listen to any reason why they should, they basically give the "screw-you" treatment and continue to party, until one of them gets nipped at, then eaten, leading (very quickly) to mass chaos. Chaos, mind you, that involves the sheriff trying to help as many people as she can on her boat (which leads me to see her as a decent human being trying to look out for the well-being of others, no matter how they live their lives) while piranha are enjoying the mass buffet. Then again, there are those who don't want her help, they want their own way to get away.
One man demands and yells at a topless woman (who's crying out anyway) to "GET ME OUT OF THIS WATER!" She's unable to before he meets his demise, but not from being eaten, but his getting smashed by a reckless boat.
Another guy, on a jet ski, is trying to get out, screaming at people to get out of the way, not letting them have time to swim out of the way before he chops people apart with the ski propellers. Then his engine gets stuck. He's so focused on self-preservation and selfishness, he doesn't hear the woman screaming, the woman whose hair's stuck in the propeller, all tangled up.
*Yank* Hair's tugged.
*Yank* Hair's tugged again, "AH!"
One or two more yanks, he kills her- her hair, along with all the skin on her head, ripped off.
Yes, it's bloody graphic, with people not caring about the help offered to get them out of danger. Help offered by people willing to throw away comfort and safety to go out into the danger theirselves to save others.
Oh, that guy who yanked the woman's flesh off? His jet ski's engine goes bad, leaving him stranded, and a mass of people climb onto the jet ski until can't hold anymore people, leading the boat to tip over, leaving no one to safety.
The only other safe spot that turns deadly is a platform the ends up having too many people on top of it. The sheriff recognizes the eventual hazard, knowing she can't save them in time. And when the wires are snapped apart, one whips a girl in half, who was in isolated safety, only to slide in perfectly clean-cut half.
The sheriff seems to symbolize those willing to put their neck out on the line, knowing the risks that come with the job, but will not give up on what they know they must do.
The director (who's other crew member blatantly says "We're making a porno, not a drama!") is the epitome of selfishness, not caring who's in danger as long as he gets his shots, not even caring that he uses extreme swearing around a couple little kids (maybe he's one of those people who think "They'll learn cuss words eventually, right?" Such apathy has already caused a major downfall in America, so why not in a movie?), and his worst show of selfishness is when he dragged out of the water after being half-eaten by the piranha only to notice... a beloved part of him gone.
The total ruin of the movie- a graphic shot of his part, severed, floating in the water, then swallowed by a piranha, the immediately belched up and left alone. Seriously? An immense waste of production money.
So, overall, despite the sheriff who's looking out for her family (no matter how rebellious they are, and she does rescue them from the flesh-eating fish) and the selfish director (they're the essence of the spirituality in this film, the conflicting nature of humanity as well as spirituality), this film is not worth seeing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Am I so simple?

First off, for my first post, I'd like to discuss something gritty and realistic: the persecution of what I believe. See, my life as a Christian hasn't just been bumpy and complicated, it's been a real doozy of a roller coaster ride in life. If it weren't for how hard Jesus had promised life would be (He hadn't included any vague terms that it would tricky nor left room for possibility, He spoke of it as happening now and grit-your-teeth-and-bear-it tricky), I would have decided to do the same as David Kinnaman said in his thought-provoking (yet really good) book, unChristian, and that is "I actually made the official decision to quit Christianity three or four times." One may read that and think "If you thought about it, why not do it on the first try?" Because, thought it's not in the Belief Contract (may as well act like one with how everyone acts like it's a short-term belief system), having the Faith doesn't include quitting as an option, that'd be more of a liability.
But what kinds of things would have Christians quit? Back in the Early Church days, they would have gotten death threats (no, wait- promises) to renounce their faith or die... or maybe watch their family members get killed. Today, it's as simple as calling someone "uneducated", "stupid", or even a taboo word in our culture- "retarded." Why call anyone that?
For one, our American education system sees any kind of faith as superstition. And superstition has no place in well-learned people nor places.
For another, believe it or not, it's mentioned in the Bible, but differently. If an atheist were to say "Christians are stupid, the Bible says so," only technically would be they be right- the Bible says SOME Christians are "uneducated", which, in American slang, can equal stupid, etc. The Apostle Paul announced to the Early Chruch, after his conversion from Judaism to the Way (as it was called originally) that he did know some were uneducated, some were rich, everyone from different regions, and he was okay with that (keep in mind, Paul, originally Saul, was raised as an extremely well-taught Jewish Pharisee, no room for any thought about any other religion nor people who weren't Jewish, no matter what, and he was sharply educated). Above all, every single person had a talent, given by YHWH, to be used for His glory. All that, spoken by a well-educated, very eloquent man with a dark religious past (just as the Catholic Church had assassins during the Inquisition, the Synagogue had professional hitmen like Saul back then, killing of Way followers).
Now, what's that got to do with me? Funny thing is... though I wa raised by a religiously devout mother who tried to raise me on the Bible from childhood on, I was also raised in a divorced family, where my father was a religious skeptic, so I was essentially left on my own to decide what I wanted to believe. And I did believe. I believed in paranoia, paranormal stuff, and other things that, in the eyes of the Traditional church, would make no sense in view of believing in the Bible, yet I didn't know much about the Bible from the start, not even the part of Paul telling the crowd what they were like yet encouraging them to use their talent. Not until after I read a statement from someone that "...Christians are supposed to be stupid!" I told that person that I was in college, and colleges don't accept stupid people, not even Clown College. Since then, I've been learning many interesting, many disturbing, many beautiful mysteries about my faith. To this day, things have never been the same way people expect me to see it. Life is just too bizarre and personal, too full of uniqueness and complexities to let a ruining faith of anti-belief ruin my spiritual life. Am I simple? Maybe, but that's just because I don't know everything, yet I'm willing to learn.