Thursday, October 27, 2005

Why Are All The Good Ones Christian?

As an eligible bachelor in Los Angeles, dating is never an option. In fact, L.A. has made dating the most soul draining act of masochism this side of taking oral composition in middle school. All this goes a long way to making the single mixer an attractive alternative (not speed dating which takes all the fun of dating and adds a raging dose of performance anxiety).

So it happened that the lads and I went to our first single mixer. It began well. First off, everyone there was single. Second, they were interested. Finally, there were some real cuties on hand. I started with a little small talk. "How did you find out about this sort of thing?" The response was constant. "Oh, I heard about it at church." (some variations involved "bible class" and, in one case, "bible college")

I was in a room full of single Christians. The next sound I heard was God snickering.

Yes, I believe in God. More precisely, I believe in a power greater than our own (whether it ends up being Jesus, Yahweh, Allah, the Deep Ones, or something born of quantum physics). I don't, however, place much faith in the man made institutions based on someones favorite supreme being.

Of all the faiths, Christianity (and all its spin offs) has been woefully behind the times . They don't see the need for choice. They think that stem cell research is an abomination in spite of it's potential to save lives (apparently lives are no longer worth saving once you can draft them). Religion in general is also responsible for the most blood shed in history. Whether it was the Crusades, the Holocaust, the Great Satan or this recent Iraqi quagmire, you know the name of someone's deity was praised before the bodies fell. Religion is also based on the most basic of fallacies. If your faith is absolutely right, that means everyone else is absolutely wrong. My old priest had a name for this kind of thinking. He called it arrogance.

So, why the sudden surge in Christianity over the last few years? The trend may not be so surprising for some. In their book THE FOURTH TURNING, authors William Strauss and Neil Howe describe a cyclical model for history that spins like this:

"The FIRST TURNING is a HIGH, an upbeat era of strengthening institutions and weakening individualism, when a new civic order implants and old values decay.
(ex.: the American family & economy boom after World War II - there was a lot of traditional values and church going in the 50s)

The SECOND TURNING is an AWAKENING , a passionate era of spiritual upheaval, when the (aging) civic order comes under attack from new values.
(ex.: the 60s)

The THIRD TURNING is an UNRAVELING, an era of strengthening individualism and weakening institutions, the (now) old civic order decays and the new values regime implants.
(ex.: The Me Decade of the late 70s, all of the 80s, and most of the 90s )

The FOURTH TURNING is a CRISIS, a decisive era of secular upheaval, when the values regime propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one."
(ex: this is usually a great war or even a cold one like the fall out after 9/11)

Now, if you use THE FOURTH TURNING model, we've just come round to a new First Turning and, right on schedule, people are strengthening moral values again. After the combined Crisis of 9/11, corrupt leaders, an unjustified war, reality TV and diminishing health and education, God's house may be looking pretty comfy to some.

A lot of these Christian types were already with us. They were either raised that way (usually in the South) or were latent children of God empowered by a President who claims he speaks to God every day (that sound you heard was God saying, "Me help me.")

The Christians I'm talking about, however, are ones begat from a different source. A lot of the thirty-somethings in America (including myself) are children of divorce. Now that we're ready to get married ourselves, some of us are looking for a kind of warrantee. Since Christianity doesn't believe in divorce (just the kind you file within the first trimester called an "annulment"), a marriage in the Church always has the club rules to keep it in line. If love can't keep us together, maybe God has a shot.

You don't believe me? Ask yourself this. Why are so many of these recent converts interested in family counseling? A great deal of their services tend to focus on support groups of this type. They even stage single mixers.

The rush to remake the Church in their image has blinded the neo-Christians to a few errors. Many describe their services as "non-denominational". I'm sorry, but when "Christ" is in the title or a cross is anywhere in the room it's pretty much denominational.

Some new churches want to differentiate themselves so much from the mistakes of the old, they pick fancy titles. One local sect calls themselves Morning Star. I don't want to be the ones to break it to them, but Morning Star was the nickname for ol' Hob (the Devil) before the Fall. I know "Morning Star" has many connotations, but when you're in the business of Heaven and Hell, do you really want the name of the opposition above the door?

Look, I wish these people all the luck in the world. In strange times like these, it's always good to have friends (as long as no one is going to hell for following their own beliefs). I just hope the new kids still listen to rock music, particularly The Who. Something about "... meet the new boss, same as the old boss..."

And with regards to that wonderful play on words that has Clarence Darrow dry heaving in his grave... intelligent design... well, some people are just plain silly.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Maybe my mouse went to Minibar

My mouse friend has taken it to a whole other level. My mouse is a dash and diner. He comes in through a hole in the baseboard, eats his cheese and leaves (apparently the wall heater is not his home).

I found the hole last night and, in a bit of investigative procedure, I spackled the hole over. After a full evening of tapas, I came home to find that my friend burrowed his way out. I'm not sure if I should be insulted. It would have been nice to see that he burrowed in. That would mean that he like coming over to my place for cheese. By digging his way out like a miniature Steve McQueen (and I know it was out because of certain forensic evidence -- the spackle was kicked out behind him, on my carpet, as he went through), I'm not sure what that says about my hospitality. Am I someone to escape from?

I've covered the hole once again. If Finnegan comes back (yes, I've now dubbed him Finnegan), then I know I mean something to him.

Okay, now this mouse fixation is disturbing even me.

A brief shout out to my parents who were forced to leave their Ft. Lauderdale home in the wake of Hurricane Wilma. Electricity and water are out for the foreseeable future and we all know how adept FEMA is now that Bush's Homeland Security has emasculated it. At least they get to stay at their favorite inn on Captiva Island.

Another mention is due to Minibar over at 3413 Cahuenga Blvd. West Los Angeles, CA 90068.

This is the place with some serious tapas. Rebekah and Ravel have established a fine kitchen with a retro 60s dining experience. The Cajun spiced steak with creamed corn, fried okra, and homemade Worcestershire would convert those non-red meat eaters (of which I am one). The Yucca Bread (with Gouda inside) is too good to be good for you. So are the desserts (guava cheesecake, anyone?). Check 'em out or visit their WEBSITE

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Mouse In My House

Our first meeting was hardly dignified. While working on my computer, I caught a small speck of brown movement out the corner of my eye. The last thing I expected to see was a mouse.

I did what most well adjusted men do in the face of something small and unexpected. I screamed (a nice high pitched one, too). That was my undignified moment. For his part, the mouse did a mid air 180 and scurried back to his home in the wall. I've since determined that he lives somewhere in the defunct heating ducts of my apartment.

There's been a lot of construction in the neighborhood recently and, no doubt, the mouse was summarily evicted. This makes him a homeless mouse (not counting the fact that he is now squatting at my place).

People's first instinct is to kill the bugger. But you didn't see how cute (and scared) he was. Yes, it's a rodent and is probably gnawing its way through many cardboard boxes of collectibles, but he hasn't shown me any harm. If I can just earn his trust, maybe I can lure him into one of those Have-A- Heart traps. So far, we're making progress.

The first stage of our detente was for me to leave little pieces of cheese out by his front door (the aforementioned heater). I was pleased to see that, upon my arrival home, the mouse ate every bit of dairy. He even left the paper towel I placed the cheese on intact. No droppings. No shedding. What a courteous house guest he's turning out to be.

Keep checking in for updates.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Some of my new film reviews can be read over at Monsters & Critics. I can't think of an odder pairing of screenings than these two films I saw this week. Please feel free to comment here or on the site if you think I missed the point of either of these films, though I think the addition of a Charlize Theron first person shooter scene would have done wonders for NORTH COUNTRY (just kidding).

The DOOM review can be found HERE


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Best of 2005 so far... and the clock is ticking

Let's face it. It hasn't been a banner year for Hollywood. Box office is down. Movies are either so-so or just god awful. It seems as if this is a trend that will be with us awhile. DVDs make it easier for people to stay home and save them the aggravation of having to endure lip smacking from the guy who brought in his home cooked bratwurst just to save a few bucks at the concession stand. If you're lucky, the lip smacking will stop long enough for him to answer his cell phone and explain at full volume that he has to be quiet... he's at the movies.

Add to this inflated ticket costs and films that make kidney stones seem like a better evening and you can see why Hollywood is sniveling.

Thankfully, if you are willing to do some digging, there have been some quality films out in 2005. Oddly enough, the best are documentaries. If reality TV doesn't kill Hollywood, just plain reality will.

Check these films out if you have the chance. Some are on video, some at your local theater (if you dare to go). They're worth getting out of the house for.

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Grizzly Man
Layer Cake (on video)
Everything Is Illuminated
Broken Flowers
Mad Hot Ballroom (on video)
Sin City (on video)
Inside Deep Throat (on video)
A History of Violence
Sky High
Green Street Hooligans
Travellers & Magicians
Unleashed (on video)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Of Masters, Bond and DVDs

One of the drawbacks to being a writer for a living is that, by the time you are able to write your own stuff, your mind is tapped out. Sadly, with this blog, that has been the case since I went to work for Anchor Bay and Monsters & Critics.

Not that I'm complaining. I have been fortunate enough to write film reviews and produce DVD "making of " pieces for some very high profile projects. The current one is MASTERS OF HORROR.

There are 13 "masters" in this series due to air on Showtime starting October 28 (the "masters" are John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon, Mick Garris, John Landis, Don Coscarelli, Joe Dante, Larry Cohen, William Malone, Dario Argento, Takishi Miike, Tobe Hooper, Lucky McKee and John McNaughton). Essentially MOH is an anthology series where each "master" directs an hour long tale of horror. When these come out on DVD, each "master" will get a DVD dedicated solely to them and their episode. That's where I come in. I will be writing, producing and directing what is, for the moment, being called a tribute piece. I interview all manner of actors, producers and writers who have worked with the said "master". Essentially this means I'm producing a series about a series. They'll be called WORKING WITH A MASTER and the first set of DVDs come out in March 2006.

For a film geek like myself, this is a dream. I get to meet many of the filmmakers I grew up on AND make a film of my own about them. So far (and these names may only mean something to horror film fans) I've had the privilege to interview: Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Sheryl Lee, Keith David, Ken Foree, Keith Gordon, Julie Carmen, Greg Nicotero, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Max Landis and PJ Soles.

For the upcoming EVIL DEAD 25th Anniversary disc, I am also producing a retrospective piece entitled IT SWALLOWED THEIR SOULS!! For this I was able to interview SHAUN OF THE DEAD director Edgar Wright. To say the man is nice barely begins to cover it. In addition to being quite a cinephile, Edgar is a well spoken interview and probably the most in depth I've ever conducted. Being a huge fan of SHAUN and Edgar's British series SPACED, it was a pleasant surprise to find that Edgar is as approachable as his work.

In other Anchor Bay news, my first pair of DVD featurettes for Bruce Campbell's MAN WITH THE SCREAMING BRAIN is on shelves now. I think Best Buy has it for $10.

Now... on to 007. Daniel Craig has just been cast as the new James Bond and he's been getting all sorts of flack on the bulletin boards. For those who think he doesn't have the charisma, check out LAYER CAKE. This man can take Bond the closest to Fleming than any actor yet. For those who think Craig has no talent, I say again... see LAYER CAKE. For those who think the world's first "Blond Bond" is physically wrong because Bond is a dark haired gent, Fleming also described Bond as having a scar on his cheek and bearing a remarkable similarity to Hoagy Carmichael. I don't know if any of you have seen a picture of Hoagy, but no Bond actor has ever looked as Fleming described (Thank God!). Give Craig a chance. He may just surprise you (that is if the script is any good -this is what hampered Brosnan in a lot of people's minds).

That's all for now. I promise a more constant stream of postings and a few more political rants (still pissed about Katrina response? So am I... and they still won't separate FEMA from Homeland Security! UGH!!!)