It seems that what a person stands for and is recognized as being is out of their hands, especially after they’ve passed  on. If you move into the spotlight at all and as such are remembered by more than just your circle of friends and family, the public will classify you, label you and “box you in” in some form or another.

I recently read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley.” It’s one of those books that has set on my shelf for years, and although I’ve watched the film several times I’ve never actually read the source material until now. If you’ve never read it, I highly suggest you do. The film version is excellent, but the book itself allows you to spend much more time with the person’s own words and delve much deeper.  I could write an entire article about it just quoting some of X’s great lines. His story allows you to see what he as a person was actually like and how he differs from the way he’s been publicly perceived. He comes through as a man willing to “accept the truth wherever I see it,“ to grow and change based on the facts as he discovers them. A man who with his whole heart wanted the best for his entire race, his people and ultimately all people. He was unafraid to speak his mind, wherever he was and to anyone that was present. In his own time he was labeled many things, and public opinion of him following his death has changed several times as the decades have passed. It took 30 years for a general support and celebration of his life and accomplishments to be acknowledged by the mainstream press and public, resulting in a USPS stamp bearing his image and an Oscar nominated and successful film which depicted his life story. I think that at this point the reality of the man himself has grown to become two opposing archetypes- – his detractors label him as an angry black man who espoused racial prejudices. His supporters depict him as a civil rights warrior who was the flip side of the coin to Dr. Martin Luther King. Both sides have truth in them- – he was angry, he was strongly and proudly black, and for a time he did espouse racial prejudices. There was a lengthy time in his public life in which he called all white people “devils.” Certainly he had personal reasons and motives for doing so, and arguably this time in his life was also very important and good things occurred as a result of his words and actions (such as a strengthening of “his” communities in inner cities, rehabilitation and sobering up of many drug addicts who became involved with NOI through Malcolm and an establishing of a new surge of “Black Pride”). But Malcolm would later come to regret all racist and separatist sentiments he had espoused. So both archetypes miss the full and better description of Malcolm-he represents the willingness to change opinions when presented with new information, he represents inner strength and the ability to fully transform yourself for the better (in his case 2 times). He represents total commitment to a cause and the struggle for equality and fairness. In short, he was so much that it’s impossible to “box him in.”

So as I thought about this I began to think about how most important cultural figures, especially those that die violently, became an icon, an archetype or a symbol after they die. Often there’s a split opinion as to what that symbol represents. This is the case with President Kennedy as well as Malcolm X. Kennedy died violently, early in his presidency. Decades after his death he is remembered as one of the greatest presidents in history by some, while others regard him as a womanizing young playboy who would would not be much remembered if not for his assassination. Once again, both views capture a portion of the truth but miss out on the full picture. He was young and charismatic, had extra-marital affairs and was beloved more for his image than his policies while he was alive. But to write him off is to overlook the things he did and the potential he had. He told the public America would land on the moon at a time when such things were outlandish, even setting a timeframe for such an accomplishment and it happened. He was beginning to actively address the civil rights movement. He was quite possibly in the process of withdrawing the US from Vietnam, a motive that may have played a part in his untimely death. Rather than being “the greatest President ever,” or an inconsequential president he should more accurately be remembered for the ideals he represented and the potential he had– a very wasted potential; a life cut off before his true worth and work could come to fruition, cut down by the meaningless violence that takes away far too many potentially great leaders in their prime.

These two-sided symbols aren’t exclusive to cultural figures from the ‘60s either. In more recent years we’ve seen Reagan’s image take on whole new levels in the years following his presidency and death. On the right, conservatives view him as the tough-talking and strong willed model to strive to be like while on the left he’s remembered most for much less inspiring qualities. Outside of politics and in more recent years, certain musicians become icons following young deaths. Kurt Cobain became a sort-of “voice of his generation” and Nirvana were heralded as being extremely important and relevant following his suicide; Tupac Shakur became the ultimate “thug messiah” figure in hip hop and fans literally considered he may have faked his death and would return, listening to his music for clues. Such events have long been a part of popular music, and as in the above two cases most of the time the core music is very good, but it takes on an entirely new level once the public fixes these artists into a certain role and place.
Quite often the image and symbol the person becomes grows much larger than the person themselves.  The face of Che Guevara has graced T-shirts for years as a symbol of revolution in and of itself. Che was a historical figure I knew little about, but based on his image and how he’s expressed today I assumed he did a lot of positive social work and aided in third-world progress. After viewing a documentary and reading a little about him I had to revise my opinion. Che may have came from wealth to aid the poor and live without his wealth; he fought to overthrow a corrupt system but became part of another corrupt system, one which eventually killed him. He too had potential, he cared for the poor and felt the urge to fight and risk death to advance them, but ultimately became just another cog in the machine. Today, teenagers everywhere sport his face as a support of revolution, a concept that for most of them is fairly vague and undirected.

Then of course there are those cultural figures most of us wish to keep in our minds as shining examples of their best qualities. Dr. King as a strong, peaceful civil rights leader. Gandhi as the ultimate pacifist and activist who led the people of India to topple the British stranglehold on them without lifting a single weapon. Mother Theresa as the ultimate humble, selfless service to the poor for the glory of God. People like these three have earned a place in modern sainthood so high that most of us wish to ever hear anything negative about them. In fact, their critics sound spiteful, petty and ignorant when they attempt to point out negative qualities of them. Critics of Gandhi have accused him of breaking his abstinence with teenage followers and using derogatory terms for the people of Africa. I’ve heard critics deride Mother Theresa for either doing all of the service to the sick and poor as a matter of religious conversion or for having crisis’ of faith. Those who refuse to give Dr. King his dues accuse him of extra-marital affairs. I discredit many such attacks of the above mentioned people, but I also think sanctifying them loses the point sometimes. Did Gandhi ever use a racial slur or sleep with a teenager? I don’t know; furthermore, I don’t care. His teachings, writing and actions speak volumes  in themselves and can’t be erased by any human faults. Did Dr. King have an affair? If so, that was a matter between he and his wife and it doesn’t take away from the great work he did and it doesn’t keep him from being one of the single greatest workers for human rights in all of history. Whatever motivated Mother Theresa, she did some of the most selfless and inspiring work with the poor this world has ever seen.

The point of all of this is that human beings are human beings- no matter how great or how terrible their actions are, they are still human and thus capable of excellence or failures, pertaining inspiring qualities and human error. People are so may things that it does their memory a disservice to try to lock them down in the history books or in public perception as one specific thing. Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Mother Theresa (to name a few of the figures I spoke of) were amazing, inspiring strong human beings who lived lives and did works that go well above what most of us ever think we can aim for. Yet they were human beings, people who had many sides and qualities and as such they can never be fully comprehended or briefly described by those of us that never knew them. We shouldn’t try to sum up an entire life with a single image.


I have to begin by stating that although this article attempts to actually look at homosexuality from a Christian perspective, one thing should be clear: even if I came to the conclusion that homosexuality is undeniably “wrong” from a Christian perspective, this does not mean it should be stated as wrong and reacted to as such by the political, secular and multi-cultural world. Because, even if a Christian can irrevocably “prove” such a thing based on scripture and its modern interpretations, it must be remembered that not everyone is a Christian and this country has no official religion, therefore laws and public treatment of  “moral” issues must be created for and proper to  all people, regardless of sexual orientation or religious beliefs.
Okay, so moving forward, what does the Christian faith actually have to say in regards to homosexuality? Scripturally, the stance of anti-homosexuality stems from a few select passages. A few in Leviticus that condemn ‘man laying with man, woman laying with woman,” (Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13)  a verse in Romans that speaks of the people being handed over by God to their desires in which they did things that “were not proper,” ( Rom 1:26-28) and the following verse from 1 Corinthians, 6:9-10:

“  Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

It’s worth noting that different translations substitute different words where “homosexuals” is located, this particular verse is from the King James translation. Of course, homosexuals are lumped in with drunks, swindlers ad thieves here, so it appears that would make it a sinful condition according to this Old Testament passage. But are drunks and scam artists railed against as heavily in conservative churches as gays are? I don’t see that homosexuals are listed in a separate, “worse” tier than the typical “fornicator.” I would also suppose that “fornicator” would apply to anyone having pre-marital sex as well, and if we think briefly about the statistics that state the average person in America loses his/her virginity by the age of 19 and the average age of marriage in America is much closer to 30, well I guess a lot of us are “fornicators.” Also, I don’t think “homosexuals, drunks, etc.” will inherit the kingdom of God, but neither will Baptists, Episcopalians, Unitarian Universalists, overweight, underweight, war-mongering or pacifist people will either–once we die and “inherit the kingdom of God,” I would think that all of these adjectives would fall away from us and we would enter as only a child of God, not a label. Anyway, of the verses describing homosexuality in scripture, there is much debate. When an admonishment of homosexuality is followed by a chastisement of “spilling your seed” (masturbation), many scholars point out that both admonishments were place and time specific, that in the context the writer was urging God’s people to procreate and have as many children as possible because their people  were dying off. In the “Sodom and Gomorrah” story Jewish scholars for centuries declared the sin to be “inhospitality” rather than homosexuality. The point is, there are a few select passages that are debated ad-infinitum, most of which are rooted in Old Testament law. Old Testament law also had laws for how women are to behave, how slaves and slave masters are to interact, and strict dietary laws. Once again, very culture orientated, very time and place specific.

A huge factor to remember is that many issues like homosexuality are dependant on a person’s position on scriptural interpretation. It’s impossible not to bring this into the debate; the subject of “inerrancy” and scriptural interpretation is incredibly weighty, so I’ll discuss it as briefly as possible. There’s a strong movement in Christianity dealing with “Inerrancy.” It’s followers maintain that the Bible is infallible, 100 percent accurate and almost always meant to be read literally. The strongest supporters of this viewpoint leave little room for ideas such as “cultural context,” evolving social mores and norms, allegory and non-literal approaches to scripture. It’s easiest to break this argument down this way: for some, the Bible is seen as an unchanging, constant and literally accurate book of history and prophecy containing rules, laws and  a detailed guide on how to live our lives– it never changes, there aren’t areas of greater importance in relation to other areas. It’s all true, all equally true, and to dispute any one area of it is to dispute all of it, like pulling a card from a card house. For others, the Bible consists of dozens of books collected over time into one tome, and each of these books are different in tone, style and intent. Some are history, some are poetry, some are allegory, a few are letters and so forth. These books are collectively known as the Bible, and although they are inspired by God (as Christians believe), they have been translated and passed down throughout long periods of history by man: thus, God-inspired, man-written. For Christians taking a non-literal approach to scriptural interpretation, there are many important lessons in the Bible, the moral center and intent remains and we can learn a lot by reading it. But since generations of mankind have translated and written the Bible (with their own feelings, beliefs and perceptions), it’s not a word-for-word literal book on which to base all of society’s rules and laws on. Christ’s teachings, life and message are what remains most important for non-literalists, not quibbling over the details in the historical books of the Bible that are very rooted in the time, place, culture and feelings of the transcriber who translated each bit at each given time. Unless God literally spoke to each and every transcriber, there’ s no way a verbatim account could be passed down for centuries,  but it is possible for the message and meaning to remain true and relevant.

We have to consider the overall importance of issues. It’s hard for literalists who take a “flat” approach to scripture and spirituality to approach moral issues in terms of relevance.  In the overall scheme of things, shouldn’t compassion vastly outweigh most other things? Reaching out to someone rather than pointing a finger at them, tolerating other viewpoints and lifestyles rather than passing judgment– these sort of things seem to be more in tune with Christ than much of the prejudices passed by the anti-homosexuality crowd.

What the root of homosexuality is should also be considered before anyone makes a sweeping, moral judgment. Despite what many vehemently anti-gay crowds want to believe, the majority of homosexuals are not gay due to experiences of childhood abuse, exposure to other homosexuals or as a result of a whim or sudden choice. Most evidence in the scientific and sociological communities point to the fact that people are born gay. Realistically, if someone wasn’t naturally attracted to the same gender, why would they actively choose to be gay and face the added challenges and potential hardships such a choice is liable to provide them with? Even though many areas of the country and the world have made great strides in regards to tolerance, equality and acceptance, a lot of places haven’t. In a lot of places a homosexual will have to face openly angry and sometimes violent actions by prejudiced people and environments. Even in some of the more progressive environments gays still are fighting for equality and the same basic rights all of us deserve, from hospital visitation rights to marriage rights. Common sense is enough to know that a large majority of homosexuals would not choose to go through such things if they were simply “choosing” to be gay.

I know that what I’ve written in this article doesn’t successfully argue the point to literalist and inerrantists that there is room in Christianity for tolerance of homosexuality. First of all, by stating that much of the Old Testament is entrenched in it’s cultural environment, time and place, I lost anyone who feels it’s blasphemous to ever view scripture from any viewpoint other than complete acceptance as the deciding tool of moral dilemmas. But, if any of you with such a viewpoint are still reading, let me try to sum up my overall argument as politely as I can. Christ never spoke of homosexuality directly. Christ spent much of his time teaching and speaking of social justice issues rather than “moral” issues. He was more concerned with helping the downtrodden–he urged his followers to concern themselves with feeding and clothing the poor, treating the sick, and helping the persecuted. Love, kindness, and our love of God and neighbor were much more important than a laundry list of do’s and don’ts. So even if you interpret the Bible literally, you must realize that there is much debate over just a few verses, and that even if those few verses did condemn homosexuality, they did so mostly in relation to it in perversions—as prostitution, as wild random orgies, as rape and misconduct.  Now, even if you want to stretch this out to be a broad indictment of all homosexuality, do you think Jesus would spend much time actively condemning gays? Why have “pet sins” in many churches, where it’s okay to rail against homosexuality, abortion and “negative” popular culture but other sins–like greed, apathy, heterosexual misconduct, racism, and inappropriately passing judgment  are left alone?  Why actively persecute an entire group rather than love and reach out to them? Churches all over America have fought over this issue, and in many you can now find openly gay members, workers and ministers, while in others you will find open condemnation of the gay rights movement. While it’s fine to dispute moral issues in churches, it’s more important to actively work to make this world a better place–a more loving, more peaceful and more tolerant place. I recently heard of a new documentary, “For the Bible Tells Me So,” which explores openly gay clergy and church members, their families and much about the modern views on these topics, so I recommend it to anyone wanting more on this, I plan to watch it soon as well.

“Preacher” is not an easy story for most people. It’s offensive and vile at times. The British comic scribe Garth Ennis writes it, and Ennis as a writer is cocky, sarcastic and rebellious, and he’s built a career on pushing ideas to their point-of-tension…the shock ending, the curve-ball twist, the sudden eruption of shock and gore are all somewhat common comic techniques today, but Ennis played such methods in original and ground breaking ways. Many great and newer comic writers owe Ennis credit for being the inspiration for their work. Ennis has attempted many times to shock and thrill readers on the surface while expressing much deeper and realer underlying meanings, themes and emotions. “Preacher” is the moment when Ennis nails his style most effectively. His work also tends to be best when his writing is partnered with the art of Steve Dillon, and Dillon pencils the entire series. Dillon’s art isn’t flashy–it’s straightforward and basic, yet compelling and effective. His characters look real and un-exaggerated. He brilliantly conveys Ennis’s intentions, and does what many artists often fail to do; he gives each character a unique and defined appearance and allows their facial expressions to convey their emotions accurately. To top it all off, artist Glen Fabry graces each issue with a cover of his original work. Fabry’s art is grotesquely beautiful. His pencils and paints look like classic Southern Gothic writer Flannery O’Connor’s prose sounds–macabre and ugly yet oddly graceful and pretty at the same time. Lucky for readers, each cover is reprinted in the trades, placed before each issue is that issue’s respective cover. Speaking of the trades, “Preacher” works well in collected form. The entire 66 issue run (plus all of the one-shot specials) are collected in a 9 volume set. Each individual comic works as a chapter, each volume collects a full storyline, and the overall tale sprawls out over the entire 9 volume set.
“Preacher” focuses on Jesse Custer, his ex-assassin girlfriend Tulip and their new friend Cassidy a vampire that’s overly fond of alcohol. Jessie is on his way to find God in a very literal sense of the phrase. God has abandoned his post in Heaven, and as such no one is watching over the world and things are getting progressively worse. Custer plans to track down God and persuade him to resume his post and heavenly duties in Heaven.
I suppose it’s a very secular humanist type of philosophy coming through in Preacher. Most religions hold that ultimately our strength, drive and purpose come from God. Frankly, many people do what good they do in their lives because of their faith in God. In the world of “Preacher” that reason and source is removed– God exists, but in a form that has rejected the real role of God.
Despite the negative factors, this isn’t a faithless or nihilistic story. Social and Religious institutions are broken down. Custer and Tulip have no faith in the church, the government, their family or modern American society. They don’t trust most of those that cross their path, and a betrayal or two down the road shake them even more. But Jesse and Tulip love each other deeply and spiritually. The faith they lose in all that surrounds them is reinvested in each other. Their love for each other, physically, emotionally and spiritually helps them survive through the weirdest and worst types of scenarios. At times this love manifests itself in metaphysical and miraculous ways.
And there’s also great strength of character on display. Jesse is driven, dedicated and strongly believes in taking responsibility for his actions, doing his job and keeping his word. He’s a proud Texan, believes in American ideals, freedom of speech, equality and choice. He’s a chain-smoking Clint Eastwood Archetype, but he owes just as much to his briefly mentioned idol, late Texas comedian Bill Hicks– not for his sense of humor, but for the way he carries himself and speaks what he knows to be truth.
I think the early volumes are the best; volume 1, “Gone to Texas,” is such a strong start. It introduces the central characters, lays out the basic plot, and everything seems so wild and unpredictable that a complete air of mystery hangs over all of it causing you to wonder where this story will possibly go. Volume 2, “Until the End of Time,” is my personal favorite part of the series. We meet Jessie Custer’s family and see what made him, and it’s completely terrifying. It’s while reading this volume you really see that this story is going to lead to totally unexpected places. In many comic review articles it’s volume 3 that earns top ranking, “Proud Americans.” As Ennis pens a detailed history of the Church and it’s multiple-centuries long conspiracy and true mission…well, the church leader and the Christ descendant will be what make you abandon this series as offensive if you are going to at any time. If you can make it through that, nothing until the last page of volume 9 will truly shock you. Well, except for a scene in which a Marquis de Sade character may or may not be eating Chocolate ice cream…
“Preacher” can only be enjoyed by those of us with a strong interest in religion and spirituality if we just shrug and take it for what it is–shock value and over the top entertainment. The “God” and his followers in this story are not the real God and his true followers, they’re merely intentionally offensive fictional characters created by a brilliant writer to express very real and satisfying concepts, but more importantly they’re just trappings used to tell a great, shocking, wild action story that deals with literally EVERYTHING on an epic scale.
It’s funny, because “Preacher” seems to be interpreted by everyone to fit their own needs. Kevin Smith in his guest introduction to volume 1 says it reaffirms his Catholic faith. Penn Jillete in his guest intro to volume 3 says it re-affirms his vehement atheism and states that his only fear is that someday someone will unearth a copy of Preacher and mistake what was meant to be a fun and exciting fictional story for a holy book and start a religion (a claim he makes for the original Bible).
So pick it up if it sounds like something you can dig. I think that after reading this review you know enough to decide whether this book is for you or not. If you like Ennis and Dillon, try their run on Marvel Max’s “The Punisher,” which is as mainstream as Ennis gets yet still very provocative. Try the current Ennis series, “The Boys” which aims to completely deconstruct superhero comics a bit more crudely than Watchmen, or “Crossed” which Ennis claims to be his most over-the-top work yet.

(Note: The illustration at the top of this article isn’t by “Preacher” cover artist Glen Fabry or interior artist Steve Dillon, I just liked it an had never seen it before. Below is the cover of volume I, illustrated by Fabry.)


It’s been a long week, and as such I’ve written quite a bit less. I’ve been working on my first “Christianity And..” piece and my book review, and hadn’t planned on making a full post here until next week when I could post those articles after their completion. But then, I sat down to watch the final presidential debate on Wednesday night; I wasn’t planning to comment on it, and really nothing of much relevance occurred during the course of the debate. I felt Obama had the best answers and plans, and that of the 4 debates he and Biden were a part of, I feel they had the best responses to the majority of the questions asked. I just have to mention “Joe the Plumber” though. Anyone watching the debate could foresee that as many times as Joe’s name was invoked, he would be getting his 15 minutes of fame. And he did, using them on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday to say that although he wouldn’t reveal who he was voting for, he felt that Obama’s tax plan was “very socialistic, and that’s incredibly wrong.” After hearing that I felt I had to write a piece addressed to Joe (although he himself would likely never read it) detailing how the 3 % (from 36% to 39%) tax increase for those making more than $250,000 a year would still leave him better off than the majority of Americans and still better off than he himself was when he was working those long hours trying to “build himself up.” It was at that time of hard, thankless work that, as Obama stated, he deserved a break and he didn’t get one. I crafted a piece that went into detail about how the revenue of his business, the way he filed and the state of health care and the economy would all be factors affecting his actual tax level. But then…give someone their 15 minutes and the truth soon comes out. First it came out that even if Joe’s new business made $280,000 a year, the actual taxable income of that amount under Obama’s proposed plan would remain under the tax increase threshold and Joe would actually benefit from Obama’s plan. Then we find out that Joe is exaggerating a bit about his readiness to purchase the said business and as such he would benefit even greater from Obama’s plan. Then it came out that Joe isn’t even a licensed plumber, and earlier today it was reported that Joe owes $1200 in back taxes to the state of Ohio. So really, a detailed message to Joe seems kind of pointless at this time. What remains important from Joe’s statements, however, is his comment on Obama’s plan being socialism. Although people nowadays don’t tend to go around shouting “Communist!” and the “Red Scare” is a thing of the past, there is an increasing tendency for conservatives to label any liberal idea or policy as “socialist.” Perhaps a study of the political spectrum is needed. At the very center of the political scale is the moderate. To the left of moderate is liberal. To the right of moderate is conservative. Extreme liberalism is socialism and at it’s extreme, socialism becomes communism. To the right of political conservatism is fascism. Now, even though modern American conservatives tend to be moving further to the right all the time, we don’t hear shouts and accusations of “fascist!” too often. And honestly, fascism is the extreme opposite of communism and both lead to destructive and dangerous forms of government. There aren’t too many tried and true Communists and Fascists involved in modern American politics. As for socialism? I think it’s very possible that a viable and strong form of democracy incorporates aspects of socialism as well as aspects of capitalism. See, although Capitalism isn’t really a form of government, it has steadily become like one in America today, one that offshoots from the political spectrum somewhere to the right of conservatism but to the left of fascism. As damaging as Communism can be to a group of people when the controlling government becomes too strong and corrupt, free-reign, social-Darwinism forms of Capitalism can be just as bad. Extreme capitalism in America has resulted in millions of people suffering and/or dying by not receiving adequate health care because we’ve turned health care and health insurance in this country into a major profit industry where social-Darwinism runs wild. We’ve allowed oil companies to ravage the environment and drain our wallets at the pump while their CEOs post record profits. We’ve allowed shady mortgages and bad wall street business to lead to foreclosures forcing senior citizens out of homes they’ve worked their whole lives to pay for. This list could go on indefinitely, but the point is that capitalism in its extreme form, allowed to control areas of basic human needs and rights, well that is just as evil and just as dangerous as full blown communism is and we’ve allowed it to take root in America. People shout “socialism” at a plan that aims to control wild unreasonable profits by large corporations and the extreme wealthy. People shout “socialism” at a any type of health care plan that aims to ensure that no one dies because they can’t afford their medicine. British scholars have commented that they’ve had universal health care ever since rebuilding their cities due to the bombs dropped on London in WWII. They established it at that time as a way of coming together, “taking care of their own,” and it’s never been viewed as “liberal” or “conservative” in England for a wealthy nation to provide all of it’s citizens with the health care and treatment they it easily afford to provide. Which brings me to another point–that most of what is called “socialism” here in America isn’t even true liberalism, and most candidates and policies that are labeled “liberal” here are really just “moderate.” One of the only liberal politicians that is even recognizable by name to the average American citizen is Ralph Nader. If Obama ran for office in any other wealthy, industrialized and democratic nation he would be considered moderate, even slightly conservative. Here he’s demonized by the GOP and supposed “moderates” for being liberal, as if that’s a bad thing.
If you go on You Tube and search around for “Economics 101 Pt. II: Dear Mr. Obama,” you’ll find a video in which a waistline shot of a man who never reveals his face goes on a ten minute speech about economics addressed at Obama. The man stands in front of an American flag and speaks in tones of sarcasm and cynicism, addressing Obama as if he were a child about “basic economics.” This man trots out a lot of conservative talking points and it proves that if you repeat the same falsities to the right people regularly enough, they will buy it as textbook fact. He says that since Obama wants to cut 95 percent of the peoples tax, that to make up for all of his proposed plans and spending he will have to tax that top percent a “ginormous” amount, and that as a result the companies that make up the top 5 percent and who “employ most people” will have to do massive lay offs, double the price of goods for all of us to make up for their profit loss, and as such, double the “misery index” of the American family. Then they trot out a picture of Carter and accuse him of being the last to try such plans as Obama and that we all suffered as a result. Well, putting aside the fact that Carter is often too maligned for things he shouldn’t be held responsible for and also putting aside that conservatives demonize and overlook most of the great things he did and would have been capable of doing in a second term, I have a correction for those who say no one’s attempted to try a tax system like Obama since Carter–wrong. Most of the exact tax cuts Obama plans to make are the same as those enacted by Bill Clinton. In fact, the jump from 39 from 36 percent for those over that 250 K threshold will be a result of simply peeling back the Bush tax cuts and allowing the Clinton system to fall back into place. Under Clinton’s economic plan, the middle class was stronger and more vibrant than it previously was under Reagan and after under Bush, unemployment was low, health care was more affordable and the economy was strong. Goods didn’t’ “cost double” because when huge corporations have to pay a bit more in taxes, they cut back on CEO salaries before they double price because they know they won’t sell as many goods at a ridiculous price. Clinton embraced politically progressive economic plans–like LBJ, FDR and Teddy Roosevelt. Political Progressivism can be bi-partisan, Republicans like Teddy used such plans to get our country on track to aid all of its citizens, regardless of income. It’s just that we haven’t had a Politically Progressive Republican since Teddy. I tire of hearing the claim of “class warfare.” Honestly, are the very rich being persecuted for making money? No. The reason someone making a lot of money can pay 39 percent of their profit compared to a poor person paying only 36 percent is simple. That extra 3 percent would hurt the poor person very much by taking it away, yet it wouldn’t even yield very much money for the government to use in it’s programs, programs that are most likely needed by that same poor person anyway. That extra 3 percent taken from a wealthy person will not only yield more in dollar value for the government to use, it will also hurt that person very little, if at all; they’ll still have quite a lot more money than the poor person who gets to hold onto his 3 percent.
That’s it, I’ve said all I have to say about this; thanks for the inspiration, Joe.

Last night I was watching game one of Major League Baseball’s National League Championship series where the LA Dodgers faced off against the Philadelphia Phillies. All of my teams have been trimmed away on the road to the World Series, but if I were to root for a team in this particular game I’d have to go with the Dodgers- – I’ve caught a few LAD games since Manny joined their roster and have liked what I’ve seen. Anyway, it was about midway through the game and the Dodgers seemed to have a lock on the win at 2-0; the Phillies seemed to be getting progressively worse and it seemed certain they were going to lose. So it came time for the new Thursday night edition of SNL Weekend Update, and I changed the channel to that…seeing as how I only get the networks with my antennae, my selections were unusually jam-packed (more on that SNL episode later).
Then, this morning I’m reading the latest sports section and I find out that shortly after I quit watching the game the Phillies slammed a home-run to bring in two runs, tying the game, and they went on to win game one. It seems like that in at least half of the cases in which I call a baseball game and quit watching it, I later find out that I was wrong about the winner and the game turned and went the other way. Finding out about the Phillies victory in this game today made me stop and think about one of the things that makes baseball great– it’s unpredictability. Where in other sports the clock is as much your opponent as the other team, in baseball you only have yourself to blame if you lose. The game will continue until someone makes a mistake. If you tie the game up in the bottom of the ninth, extra innings will sprawl on, untimed, until someone on one of the teams makes a mistake. Thinking about this made me stop and consider baseball in comparison with a few other things.
Baseball is one of the truly great gifts America has given to the world. Another of which is Jazz. Personally, I feel that jazz hit it’s stride starting with Miles Davis’s release of “The Birth of Cool” in 1949 and lasting most strong until after John Coltrane released “A Love Supreme” in 1960. During this period jazz was at the height of improvisation and unpredictability with “bebop,” but it also maintained the melody and beauty in it’s songs. A lot of people often consider the other great American creation to be our Constitution. It’s hard to argue with its presence on such a list, but my thoughts drift to modern American politics in conjunction with my above mentioned subjects–now maybe modern American politics pay attention to the constitution and maybe they do not, I guess that depends on the party and the politician that you look at. But one thing the modern political process does indeed share with both Baseball and Jazz is improvisation– – unpredictability.

So back to that SNL episode. It was great, condensing what’s best about the current season’s Saturday episodes into a short, quick effect. One exceptional skit parodying the latest presidential debate and an extended edition of Weekend Update. This season, the presidential campaign parodies have been classic, the weekend update segments have been hilarious but each episode has been filled with a lot of sub-par skits as well. If SNL wants to keep the viewers they’ve gained (ratings are up 50 percent this season) they need to trim the fat and make all of their output this good. Anyway, during the debate skit, Fred Armisen as Obama said “Now I have to tell you, William Ayers, the domestic terrorist, is my best friend. I only tell you this because I’m so far ahead in the polls it doesn’t matter.” I laughed but now I’m thinking about that remark not so much as a joke, because it is good parody, but in how the real news behind that parody is being used in an attempt to sway the election. It makes me think about that element of unpredictability that modern American politics shares with baseball and bebop. I’ve been close to calling this election at many times; every time I’ve felt the votes were certain to go one way or another things have changed to tilt the outcome in the other direction. Now, after phases of tilting back and forth it seems that current economic issues have shifted the lead in full force to Obama, and I think there is actually a chance a Democratic victory is possible. With less than a month until the election both parties are now going for broke and such a close and hotly contested election is probably not safe to call until the votes are all counted and even then we may have to wait if other recent elections can be cited as examples. The “I’m so far ahead I’m telling you this and it doesn’t matter” joke was funny, but the McCain party scrambles around the real news that inspires such jokes and attempts to use them for all their worth. It’s actually very silly that the Ayers’ relation to Obama has become such a “newsworthy” issue for the McCain-Palin ticket. Ayers was a member of a radical organization in the sixties. He and his group set off bombs that blew up statues in protest of the Vietnam war; no one was killed as a result of the bombs the group set off. Now, it’s fine and understandable to condemn acts of bombing–Ayer’s has expressed mixed viewpoints concerning his such actions, once saying that his bombs never killed anyone but the actions he was protesting resulted in bombs that killed millions. He’s publicly condemned all acts of terrorism; well, it’s understandable to have the viewpoint that such a person condemning terrorist actions and never fully admitting that his own past actions can be considered domestic terrorism as being naive- – but things should be kept in perspective. Ayers never killed anyone. One of his bombs could have gone wrong and accidentally killed someone, so he is guilty of committing actions that were thoughtless. But Ayers is no longer a member of the Weather Underground, he’s an Education Professor in Chicago. He isn’t Obama’s best friend, he’s a man who worked on school boards with Obama and shared his viewpoints on education reform. When Obama ran for senate the first time, Ayers held a “coffee” to show Obama support. Now, how is this such a troubling and newsworthy matter? Is it odd that a man living in the same neighborhood and working on some of the same school boards as Obama would show his support for his neighbor when he ran for the senate? Does it mean that Obama embraced every past decision Ayers made by allowing him to host a gathering in his support? Let’s be honest and reasonable here- – Ayers was a distinguished college professor at this point, not an underground terrorist hiding from charges. I really don’t even want to give credence to such nonsense by discussing it in depth, but these are the types of things that make-up the McCain strategy these days. A recent study reported that nearly a full 100 percent of the recent McCain campaign political advertisements have been negative compared to only 33 percent of the Obama campaign’s advertisements. McCain is on the attack, and his supporters are shouting for blood–at a recent Palin speech a man shouted “kill him,” when Palin railed against Obama, and she never batted an eye. A man stood up at a recent McCain speech angrily shouting and honestly befuddled that “Barack Hussein Obama” may very well be the next president. “How did this happen?” he asked. I couldn’t help but shake my head knowing that worldwide it seems incomprehensible that anyone would logically vote for McCain Palin, yet in several states here in the U.S. millions of people just like that gentlemen feel the exact opposite.
It’s been a wild electoral season. I’ve referenced baseball and jazz in relation to the political race to the white house in that all of these things are rooted in the arrival of the unexpected. The homerun when no one sees it coming, the song shifting when you thought you knew what note it would take next, the shift in votes when the one great moment or one huge misstep occurs. There was a shining moment during the second presidential debate when Obama was asked if health care was a privilege, a right or a responsibility. McCain had already answered “responsibility,” and Obama stated what I had hoped he would state–that health care is a right, and put forth the reasoning for that view with great strength. That’s the note, that’s the homerun I was waiting for. I want plenty more of those so that the focus doesn’t slide all the way into the gutter allowing the negative approaches to work. The reason Obama’s campaign commercials aren’t negative two-thirds of the time are because he has good stated plans and goals– the McCain commercials are left with nothing but negative to say because they have no new and good plans to fix what is wrong with this country: talking the loudest but saying the least.
I’m waiting to see how it all turns out. The road to the White House has been far short of the coolness of Miles Davis or the spiritual heights of John Coltrane, but there have been Charles Mingus-like moments of civil determination and elements of Thelonious Monk’ s off-time yet perfectly-on-time approach and that’s something. I can’t help but think that the road to the World Series is a bit more polite and inspiring at times, though.

That’s it for the central article here. Just want to make two quick recommendations and a brief preview-plug for upcoming blogs. As recommendations, check out “Somebody Scream!: Rap Music’s Rise to Prominence in the Aftershock of Black Power” by Marcus Reeves and “The Power of Progress: How America’s Progressives Can (Once Again) Save Our Economy, Our Climate, and Our Country” by John Podesta. “Somebody Scream” is an good hip hop music study from a sociological perspective and “Power of Progress” is an excellent book detailing important strides made by Progressive Politicians on both parties- Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Johnson, Carter and Clinton as well as missteps made by the emerging conservatives- Reagan, Bush, etc, and it lays out plans for repairing the damage done by those anti-progressive policies.
Okay, coming up soon is a brief article that kills two birds with one stone, acting as a link in a chain between two different threads of articles I’m working on here. Way back a couple of months ago I posted a blog about 10 examples of excellent comic book art and literature. I mentioned that I would periodically publish a book review for each of those 10, and I haven’t done so since my “Watchmen Book Review.” Well, coming up is the book review of “Preacher.” This will be soon followed by the first in a new thread of articles dealing with Christianity. Since “Preacher” touches on a lot of religious themes, albeit controversial and often offensive ones, it’s book review will hopefully help segue into the first of these new articles. The first one will be “Christianity and Homosexuality,” and it will be up at some point in the near future. Thanks for reading.

Oh, how I loathe Wal-Mart. I know several people who mention Wal-Mart in almost every conversation I have with them. Not as the central topic of conversation, it just comes up–”I was at Wal-Mart,” “If you’re ever at Wal-Mart and…,” “I need to go to Wal-Mart and get…,” etc. I used to vehemently rage at Wal-Mart at random moments, but hypocritically found myself shopping there after weeks of avoidance. Well, I finally just made the decision once and for all to avoid Wal-Mart as best as I can. I haven’t been in over a year and I see no need to go to one anytime soon. I also no longer randomly rage at it at the drop of the hat. I do my part in what I feel is the right thing– I don’t give my money to a business I feel does nothing but harm to the world around it. If someone realizes I don’t shop at Wal-Mart and asks me why, I’ll tell them first by trying the short answer–they’re one of the few businesses I do my best to avoid because I feel they areunethical.
If someone wants to get into a lengthy discussion as to why I feel that way I’ll discuss it with them.
If you’re unfamiliar with with the main problems with Wal Mart I’ll briefly mention them: they operate like a monopoly by cornering the market on as many products and services as they can, undercutting costs on certain items to push other businesses out of business. The victims initially are the local business owners who can’t keep up with the giant corporation; of course, once a Wal Mart runs every local business out of a small town they own the market and can charge whatever they like. Even if Wal Mart continues to charge a “reasonable” price for it’s goods once it’s the only game in town does that make it okay? This is how after the small business owners suffer and go under the rest of us continue to be negatively impacted. Small towns across America have dead downtown areas. Downtown, which for decades in small towns was a place for people to congregate, eat, shop and socialize–people supported their own locally owned and operated businesses. These local business employ local workers, make money from the local community and contribute back to the same community. Now, many if not most downtown areas in small to medium sized towns are deserted. Towns lose local community, regional character and individuality. In a successful market if one place doesn’t have what you’re looking for you can go somewhere else to get it. If you’re left with only one major option and they don’t have what you’re looking for you’re out of luck. They get to not only set prices for a local market but in essence also set “choice” and “taste.” They can determine what they see fit for your consumption. And when that company takes it upon itself to be somewhat of a moral and cultural guardian like Wal Mart does, their supposed “family focused conservative values” will determine what is suitable for your purchase potential. Go into any Wal Mart and you’ll probably see most in-store TVs tuned to Fox news broadcasting Rupert Murdoch’s propoganda-of-the-day, you’ll find an ever decreasing selection of CDs and DVDs, “explicit” music will be available only in an edited “clean” version. Most R rated movies will be available but if that movie came “unrated” it won’t be carried because like Wal Mart, the MPAA is a cultural guardian which determines what’s safe for your consumption. At Wal Mart you’ll also find a lot of clothes and toys made in China, Vietnam, Korea and other foreign countries by people working 6 and 7 sixteen hour workdays a week for very little pay. At one time you would find a lot of items bearing the American flag, stamped with “Made in America”. Wal Mart got called on that so they’re a bit more careful with their “made in America” claims now. You’ll find a lot of meat and vegetables that have been shipped hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from their point of origin but locally grown and produced fruits, vegeatables and meats? Not a chance. Now, most other grocers are guilty of this as well but as the largest and wealthiest Wal Mart leads the way by bad example.

An excellent documentary is available if you want details– “The High Cost of a Low Price,” and it thoroughly details Wal-Mart’s wrongs: their mistreatment of employees, how they’ve urged employees to take advantage of government help programs instead of paying them more. Wal Mart’s thousands of employees are a picture perfect example of the working poor. Employees may work 5 and 6 days a week, 8 to 12 hours a day and still not make enough to afford neccessities such as adequate health insurance, and most of their paychecks get dumped back into Wal Mart for their own groceries and goods. Watching this documentary you will also see details of the environmental damage Wal Mart is responsible for; you’ll see their union busting activities and their suggestions to their employees to vote GOP to avoid those unions. You’ll see interviews with and depictions of the lifestyles of the foreign workers who are paid slave wages and suffer from Wal Marts global mistreatment. The list of grievances perpetrated by Wal Mart could span hundreds of pages but there is more that I want to specifically cover here than that.

Really , my central focus with this article is on how we can all make a difference in regards to Wal Mart. I realize that there are a lot of towns where Wal Mart may very well be one of or the only affordable option. But many times I think people have let themselves be fooled into believing that this is the case. People quite often say and feel that Wal Mart is their only realistically affordable option. “I don’t like to shop there but I can’t afford not to,” they say. I’m not unreasonable enough to say that the people who don’t have access to an affordable alternative to Wal Mart should suffer; if Wal Mart is your only affordable choice, shop there. I think that leaves a lot of us with other options though. I stopped shopping at Wal Mart during the last 6 months or so of living in a city of about 386,000 people. There were about 4 Wal Marts, 3 Krogers and an assortment of Fresh Markets, Publix and local grocers to choose from. For other goods we had a large variety of chains and local stores at comparable prices. So obviously avoiding Wal Mart in that city wasn’t difficult. I moved from there to a much smaller town, a place of about 55,000 people. Much smaller of a town, but I still have a variety of places to choose from. I’ve heard the argument from others that choosing another chain isn’t much better, that they would be as large and controlling as Wal Mart given the chance to be as “successful.” This may or may not be the case, but I know that several of Wal Marts competitors operate much more ethically. Also, by choosing other chains you stop giving your money to increase Wall Mart’s leading position. If you feel leary of giving money to yet another chain you can search out locally owned stores if you have that option. You can also rotate from chain to chain, helping to build up a lot of other chains and “equalize” the market. The point is, if you disagree with Wal Mart’s practices and policies, do your best to avoid shopping there and contributing your money to their growth. I did like a lot of people for a long time, complain about Wal-Mart but shop there anyway. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you have to shop there, that’s how they want you to feel. I’m far from wealthy, heck as a college graduate still looking for work in my appropriate field and working for much less at the moment I’m far from even being considered “middle class”- – but I find it easy to avoid contributing my money to a company I feel violates every law of ethical business and moral conduct. You can too, so if you feel like I feel, try to support local businesses when possible. When that’s not an option, spread your business amongst other chains that are comparable in price but a bit better in business conduct.

Halloween is fast approaching. I think the start of fall and the month of October is a great time to re-watch the horror classics and catch up on the latest the horror genre has to offer. In honor of the Halloween season I’m going to list my top ten Horror Films.
Horror is a unique genre–it has the potential to produce greatness, films and novels that rank with the best of any genre. Horror also quite often produces a slew of throw-away celluloid. Stephen King wrote an excellent non-fiction book fairly early in his career, “Danse Macabre,” which details his history with the horror genre from a fan’s perspective–the films and books that work for him and which ones appealed to him at different periods of his life. The book does a great job at providing a “history of horror” and offers many reasons for the genre’s appeal. One good point King makes is that horror fans become used to being disappointed– they often make their way through a lot of garbage before finding a gem. Meaning both that the field is full of sub-par output and you wade through much of it to find that one great film or novel, but also that any one particular film or novel in the horror genre can be bogged down in bad qualities and just when you are about to write it off as trash, one moment of greatness and effectivess may emerge. I’ve thought about what I feel are the best horror films of all time, so here goes.

10) Scream— This one may cause you to roll your eyes. After all, it’s a pop film in that it cast the young WB type of crowd that would draw in the teenagers in droves. It’s helmed by Wes Craven who’s very hit and miss and often maligned by horror critics, and it’s very polished. Regardless of these criticisms the original “Scream” (ignore the sequels) is great in that it turns the horror film on its ear. Craven has done three excellent films and scores of terrible ones. For excellence, the original “Nightmare on Elm Street,” although it had its faults was truly original and frightening, and “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare,” is his other great film. “New Nightmare” is like the flip side of the coin of Scream in that it focuses on the horror genre; it’s pure meta-fiction: Craven and the original cast of “Elm Street” play themselves in the “real world” where the creation of Freddy Krueger has actually come to life. Well, where “New Nightmare” cast its camera on the actors and crew behind a horror film, “Scream” focuses on the fans of horror films. It’s filled with references to other horror films and visual homages to some of them; it provides a genuine mystery as to who the killer actually is, and it has some very scary moments. The opening sequence with Drew Barrymore is very frightening, easily ranking with other great horror moments. Although “Scream” caused the unfortunate reaction of inspiring a slew of copycat films which aimed to help rake in some of the cash, taken in its own light the original film was pretty much flawless from direction to acting, lighting, special effects and score.

9) The Devil’s Rejects–Here’s another more recent film some may question being on here. I can’t help but not put it here–it’s easily one of the most terrifying films in recent history. There are moments of intense violence, but the terror comes primarily from its focus on the killers as its protagonists. Director Rob Zombie wants to hone in on the psychological aspects of terror and as a filmmaker and a writer it’s an exercise in which he tries to see if he can make characters who do unrepentantly bad things into protagonists that you begin to root for in their efforts to get away. He tries to humanize deplorable people and put them up against ‘heroes’ that aren’t that heroic and who may be just as bad as the villains. It’s an action packed film that meshes horror with old-style Western “outlaw” pictures. As brutal as it is at times it never becomes exploitive…it’s unlike any film you’ve probably ever seen.

8. Seven– David Fincher is one of the few director’s today that I would claim has any chance of ever being considered as being in the same vein as Hitchcock. He needs at least one huge success and a lot more output before it would be fair to truly weigh in on this though. “Seven” is his scariest film. Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey and Gwyneth Paltrow all deliver terrific performances. “What’s in the box?” may be what’s most remembered about this movie but it deserves credit for much more than just that. There are plenty of “Hitchcockian” camera shots to study, plot twists and surprises, terrifying moments, great detective work moments and an excellent yet troubling twist ending. It’s a dark film, yet a popular film and at many times a borderline art film that could stand its own in any film class. If you enjoy “Seven” check out Fincher’s other notable work: “Panic Room,” “Fight Club” and “Zodiac.”

7)WaitUntil Dark – This is Audrey Hepburn’s finest performance. It’s a pleasure to watch her play a blind woman who goes up against a heartless killer and thief and outsmarts him. The final 15 minutes of the film, primarily dark with very little lighting, is a textbook example of suspense done right.

6)Silence of the Lambs– Another film notably remembered for one specific line- “ I ate his liver with a nice Chianti.” Hannibal Lector is one of the realest and scariest movie villains of all time, perfectly portrayed by Anthony Hopkins. Ignore the sequels and just rewatch the original to remind yourself how great and scary it is.

5)Night of the Living Dead— The original “Dead” film by Romero is the ultimate zombie film. It’s also the ultimate Romero film. All of his films strove to terrify as well as display cultural commentary, but where his anti-consumer culture and mall attacks in “Dawn of the Dead” were okay, the anti-racism moments in “Night of the Living Dead” are much more powerful. The grainy black and white film fools you into thinking your watching an older, “safer” film–thus making moments like when a certain child awakes as a zombie in a cellar only to be beheaded by a parent all the more terrifying.

4)The Birds– Hitchcock made a lot of amazing films. Great spy and action films, suspense thrillers, but only a few strictly “horror” films. Most of his films had at least one great scary moment and most of his films attempt techniques or concepts that are wholly unique and original. “The Birds” is disarming because in theory it sounds very silly. In execution, however, it becomes Hitchcock’s simultaneous version of a monster movie and an apocalyptic vision–both which are done to perfection. Beautifully shot, wonderfully acted with more than a few scream-worthy moments (such as the scene in which we discover the man with his eyes pecked out).
3)Rosemary’s Baby– For my money, “Rosemary’s Baby” is the best truly scary “satanic threat” film of all time. Most will point to “The Exorcist” but what makes “Rosemary” the more frightening for me is that whether or not the actual Satan events are going on its equally frightening. Does Rosemary really share an apartment building with elderly Satanists or is she losing her mind? Does her husband really offer her up to birth the antichrist in exchange for career success or is Rosemary simply feeling the psychological effects of a rushed and new marriage gone wrong? Is this antichrist business real or are the elderly couples in the apartment just evil and crazy? This film is frightening regardless of what view you take away from it and it does leave a bit to your interpretation. Roman Polanski makes one of the ultimate films of all time with this one, full of frightening moments, excellent pacing and perfect scenes.
2)Psycho– This is the other great horror film by Hitchcock. “Psycho” birthed the modern horror era, taking horror out of the grandiose and mythic trappings of Gothic horror (castles, ghosts, cape wearing vampires and the like) and placed it firmly in the area of everyday modern life. A roadside motel run by an odd and unbalanced young man with “mother” issues. The shower scene is the ultimate horror scene; the case study of Norman Bates is the first truly psychological horror experience. The score is an ultimate horror score with perhaps only one other in close contention (see number 1).
1)Halloween– John Carpenter’s original “Halloween” is a triumph in understated independent filmmaking achievement. The main musical theme in the score to this film may very well be the best and most effective in film history. Lighting and pacing do their part to establish mood, but whenever the main instrumental piece sets in signifying Michael Myers prescence, the mood closes in perfectly set. In this original film, Myers is presented almost as a primal force of evil– unknowable, indefinable, un-understandable. In a cast of young unknown’s it’s still a bit surprising that John Carpenter managed to snag an actor of such caliber as Donald Pleasance to play Dr. Sam Loomis. His portrayal of Loomis would be hokey by almost anyone else, but he nails it–in the world of “Halloween” things are pretty much black and white so Loomis’s steadfast conviction that “that boy is pure evil” is only fitting. “Halloween” is to blame for the slew of eighties slasher pics with rip-off Michael Myers villains, but although the rip offs dump buckets of blood at every opportunity, “Halloween” pretty much foregoes the gore. We see the knife in Myer’s hand but the terror is in our mind; the camera cuts as the slash goes, continually flashing back to the knife but it’s never really shown entering a victim. Instead we see Myers pin a victim to the wall and then the camera zooms out to display Myers studying his work, cocking his head to the side and looking at the person like he’s some new type of species. “Halloween” is a film I appreciate with each yearly viewing I give it. I love the characters, the camera-work, the score, the town and the time it captures. The late seventies are the perfect setting for a horror movie, director Rob Zombie, who directed the remake of this film, has noted–it’s a time in the recent past which feels like a world ago. No cell phones, no internet, no constant connection between people. Many horror movie threats seem all the more difficult of a scenario when you remove the character’s ability to instantly call, page or email someone for help. “Halloween” was filmed during that time and inspired most horror movies that would follow it. Most of the sequels are skip-worthy, but the 2007 remake by Rob Zombie is a great film in its own right. It ups the gore and switches the focus to a psychological one–Zombie tries to detail what happened to young Michael to make him into the monster he became and his film is a much more troubling one as a result. Side by side though, as a beacon of the genre I stand by and prefer the original. In a culture in which everything has to up everything that came before it to be noticed as most things seem to be these days, the remake may very well effect and terrify people more. I guess I have to admit that my list is geared more to what I feel are the best films the genre has to offer, not always just the scariest.
Horror films work like the flip side of the Comedy film. These two genres are the hardest to do effectively and appeal to the widest range of people…after all, what scares someone and what makes someone laugh is often different for every person. Both genres produce a few excellent films for every hundred terrible ones, and both genres effect you on a physical level. You laugh when you watch a great comedy, but when you watch a truly great horror film your pulse may race, your eyes may widen and your heart rate may increase. Where the comedy film works by causing you to laugh out and forget your worries, the horror film often exercises those worries, channels them, places them on a “monster” or event and leads you to “defeat’ that monster. Plus they make you feel something, which is what all good art aims to do.

Last night I watched the Vice-Presidential debate. So, before I move on to posting articles I’ve put on the backburner during the current news blitz that has gone on this past week or two, I have to make a few points about that debate.
First of all, I do feel like both candidates proceeded with politeness and dignity. This is worth noting, because if you watched the first debate between Obama and McCain, you must have noticed the total lack of eye-contact by McCain. He never looked Obama in the eye, he never really even looked straight at the moderator Jim Leherer either. While Obama was politely addressing McCain as “John,” which is common for senator-to-senator, McCain never called Obama by name and spent most of his time glaring and staring at the floor while Obama spoke. So, it was very nice to see both Senator Biden and Governor Palin treat each other with dignity.
The next important point worth noting is that the “meltdown” by Palin never occurred. Many of us who had seen her disastrous interview with Katie Couric thought there was at least a chance that Palin would stumble and err grievously. She maintained her composure and made no large, noticeable “screw-ups.”
But, I must say, although I felt after watching the Obama and McCain debate that both sides had stayed fairly well toe-to-toe debating the issues and that a clear victory was shaky for either candidate, I definitely feel that this VP debate ended with a clear winner-Joe Biden. I know that conservatives reading this will say that I feel this way because I’m a supporter of Obama and Biden already, and yes I do support them–I do share their viewpoints on most of the issues at hand. But simply looking at the debate in terms of arguments and points, it seems clear that Biden won. He kept his focus on McCain and the mistakes McCain has made. He pointed out specific plans that would help America with the economy, foreign policy and the environment. Biden never backed down from a question and he always had facts on his side. Palin supporters and people who feel that she “held her own” during the debate commended her for answering what she wanted to answer and for “controlling the conversation” at certain points–this is something I feel shows how Biden was superior. Quite often Palin would change the subject–if a question came about that she didn’t know the answer to, or if the answer would display the validity in the other side she skirted around the question; she changed the topic completely, quite often never addressing the actual question put forth. Palin resorted to “style” and “lingo” to prove her “just-like-your-neighbor” demeanor. “Joe Six-Pack,” “Darn right,” “Say it ain’t so, Joe,” “I was at a children’s soccer game,” “hockey mom,” and many other similar phrases poured out of her. She complained about “wall street greed and corruption” several times, and called the McCain ticket the “maverick” ticket a half dozen times. Biden turned the ‘maverick’ comments back at her by pointing out the fact that McCain has not been a maverick on the economy, on the war, on the environment and on practically any matter that actually matters to the American family. Seriously, which is more ‘maverick?’ Continuing the Bush tax system that gives the top 5 percent of the wealthiest Americans the biggest tax breaks or the alternative, the Obama/Biden plan to give the biggest tax cuts to the middle-class and taxing that top 5 percent more to cover the plan? Biden was even asked if taxing the wealthiest more is “class warfare,” and he correctly pointed out that where he is from, it’s just ‘fair.’ If you make $250,000 a year, even if you were taxed 8 percent of your total income each year, you would still make at least 150,00 a year more than many in the middle class– you can afford to be taxed more to help get the economy strong again, how can that not be fair? It makes sense that by giving the majority of Americans (the 95 percent that make below that $250,000 threshold) the most incentives and the best tax cuts, it will aid that 95 percent and the economy will grow again. If the majority of Americans are working, spending and prospering, the top 5 percent will probably do even better as a result. It’s much easier to see wealth ‘rising’ to the top and reaching the top 5 percent and thus benefiting them as well than it is to imagine the wealth of 5 percent “trickling down” to the rest of us– we’ve had that economic policy for years and it doesn’t work.

A few other things worth mentioning from the debate:
*Palin stated that by working with folks like Giuliani, Romney and Lieberman, McCain has shown how “diverse” and “bi-partisan” he is. Well, all of these people are very conservative and share the same basic political philosophies. Only one, Lieberman, is a Democrat, and he has always been a Democrat pretty much in name alone.
*There were two moments during the debates I felt disappointed. One, when asked if he would support equal rights for homosexuals in America, Biden responded with an enthusiastic “yes, of course,” and went on to mention that his ticket would work to implement policies that bring about the necessary equality, in working to ensure gays can receive medical benefits for partners, hospital visitation rights, etc. This was great, but when asked if he and Obama would ever suggest gay marriage he responded that they would definitely not. Well, Palin stated that she and McCain would “of course” want gays to have rights such as hospital visitation and would “be able to sign contracts” and such but emphatically stated that marriage was between “one man and one woman.” I think Palin wants to support only the gay rights she absolutely has to, but I feel Biden shied away a bit to maintain the support of moderates and conservatives. I think his stated plans with Obama for gay rights are great and I was proud of his positive and strong support. I think that Obama and Biden would be liable to support equality in all forms by allowing some sort of gay marriage if it weren’t such a “controversial” issue for middle America.
The other troubling moment was when the candidates discussed Israel and Palestine. “I’m glad we both love Israel, that’s something we have in common,” Palin said during the debates. The blind support of Israel as a nation is troubling not because Israel shouldn’t be our ally, but because we refuse to acknowledge any wrong-doing by them. Both Biden and Palin stated being strong Israel supporters. It’s considered in poor judgment to state anything else in American politics. But how can a man like Jimmy Carter, who knows more about the history and policies and politics of the middle east than any other modern American leader, be one of the only American speakers to come forward and acknowledge that wrong is being done on both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict? How can his claim of Apartheid in Palestine be overlooked and ridiculed by so many when what is going on there can be called nothing but apartheid since the separation of the Palestinian people is apartheid by its very definition? This should not be considered racist to state–both Israel and Palestine have done wrong and both sides must be brought together to provide peace for that region.

Anyway, many people said that Palin “tied” in the debates simply by not making any major blunders. So not embarrassing yourself in front of the American viewers is enough to “tie”? If that’s so, we are in very sorry shape as far as standards go.

Okay, a break from current events for my next few posts. In honor of the rapidly approaching Halloween season I plan to post an article about the best in Horror Films and Books of all time. I also plan to post the article I promised a few blogs back, the “Why I Loath Wal-Mart and What Can be Done” piece.