Monday, December 22, 2014

Intergalactic Planetary: Interstellar and the Duality of Everything. Philosophical Bifurcation at Its Finest

Excellence, or the perception thereof, is the kind of knife that can cut both ways.  On the one hand, it drives forward, inspires the same in others, and garners accolades from the layman and master alike.  It also elicits a higher degree of scrutiny and larger scale of criticism because the statues of heroes lining our Hallowed Halls must not be commissioned without due cause lest the bar be lowered and standards be plundered.  Either way, blood will be drawn.  To be held up as a paragon in any field requires a significant blood sacrifice: first willingly on the part of the potential candidate and second painfully at the hands of the gauntlet.

In the world of film, Christopher Nolan is no stranger to these grotesquely beguiling cultural rituals and is perhaps one of the best examples of the costs required for entry into the fellowship.  It is, perhaps, small comfort that these sadomasochistic cultural tendencies mirror elements of life for which there is no safety word.  Nolan's films have been subjected to increasingly rigorous critical analysis, and his latest opus, INTERSTELLAR, is no exception.  While it's sometimes frustrating--even infuriating--listening to never-ending criticisms of the most minute details of Nolan's work, a level of scrutiny usually reserved for lawyers, smarmy British food critics, and war crimes tribunals, it's also a sort of validation.  Movies made by Michael Bay, par example, don't receive the same amount or quality of criticism because it's generally accepted through historical precedent that there's nothing really substantial there to critique.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

There Is No Fate But What We Remake

Mangled.  That was the only word that seemed close to defining the upcoming TERMINATOR GENISYS.  The trailer for the next addition to the TERMINATOR franchise hit last week, though in the wake of the public's first peak at both JURASSIC WORLD and STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, it seemed to lose some of potential impact.  Not that there were any early indicators that there was much potential to begin with, but sometimes with movies as with ejaculation, the timings the thing.  I wouldn't necessarily argue for the supremacy of the artist when it comes to his or her own art; however, in this case, I think it's clear that trying to make a TERMINATOR film without James Cameron is like trying to make an ALIEN film without Ridley Scott (unless you make one with James Cameron, in which case it somehow turns out awesome, a rare phenomenon otherwise known as the Cameron Anomaly).  At least, that is the most reasonable conclusion to draw based on the available evidence so far.

 

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Super Secret Sequel Teaser Trailer Roundup... Jurassic Wars Episode XI: We Can Sell Your Childhood Back to You Wholesale

This past week there was a great disturbance on the Internet, as if a million souls watching movie trailers cried out and then all reason and productivity were silenced.  In Hollywood* (*Now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Disney corporation), there is no such thing as luck because the inhabitants of that strange land have tapped into a power even greater than the Force: cold hard cash.  And it seems like they are intent on using this diabolical power to serve us up another heaping helping of franchise frozen dinners.  If revenge is a dish best served cold, then Hollywood is a dish served boiling hot around the edges but still frozen in the middle no matter how long the instructions on the box say to leave it in the microwave.

Two cinematic juggernauts are being brought back from the dead, though whether they turn out to be abominations akin to Frankenstein's monster or thoroughly awesome like Neo in the last five minutes of THE MATRIX (who totally would have beat the shit out of that impostor Neo in that weird alternate universe of the two sequels (That's the only way the world still makes sense!)) remains to be seen.  Both the JURASSIC PARK sequel, JURASSIC WORLD, and the seventh feature length STAR WARS film (not counting BATTLE FOR ENDOR and CARAVAN OF COURAGE), STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, both started peaking down their respective birth canals.  For now they are still floating blissfully in those delicious placental juices, but far sooner than we realize, they will arrive in the world, kicking and screaming and soaked in various, life-giving, vaginal fluids, and be set on the path towards becoming president of Earth or an overweight stripper strung out on amphetamines.

Jurassic World


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Of Dead Mice and Men

It was a massacre.

And it was one of my own design.

I had been left to my own devices, somehow.  Sent on an expedition to replenish the pantry.  My mission was to acquire the necessary foodstuffs to keep the family going for one more week.  So, of course, my first stop was to the hardware store.  Lowe's.  There was a line that needed to be drawn, and the time had come that I could no longer ignore past transgressions.  Accounts would be made.  Payments made in full.  Balance restored.  That was the way it had to be. It wasn't for sport; I took no pleasure in it.  It was a grim responsibility.

"Where do the mice go after you catch them?" she asks, eyes wide.

My children were both looking up at me, their faces the very definition of childlike wonder.  They knew only curiosity.  They didn't know where it might lead or that they might not like where it took them.  They knew only that they must follow wherever it beckoned.  That is the Childhood Creed that we are eventually all guilty of breaking.  Payment made in full...

Standing with one hand on the garage door and the other holding a knotted plastic Walmart shopping back to keep its contents sealed, "Outside.  I set them--they go outside."

"Can I see?"  My son this time.  Looking down into his eyes, his face, life, how can I tell him that I am a dealer of death?  How can I explain my grizzly business?  Convince them the monster is really still a man?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Amazing Spider-Balls 2: The Quest For More Cash

a·maz·ing
adjective
  • causing great surprise or wonder; astonishing.
  • e.g., "an amazing number of people attended the community orgy"
informal
  • startlingly impressive.
  • e.g., "she takes the most amazing dumps"
synonyms: astonishing, astounding, surprising, stunning, staggering, shocking, startling, stupefying, breathtaking

Putting the word "amazing" in the title of, well, anything will inevitably invite a certain level of criticism based on the incredibly high bar of quality that you set for yourself.  Indeed, it is a descriptor that should be used sparingly lest it lose its impact.  And you had better make goddamn sure that any product bearing that moniker can--if not live up to--then at least aspire to such a lofty ideal, a paradigm of excellence.  
The seemingly premature rebooting of the Spider-Man franchise back in 2012 was met by many through a wearily skeptical lens, and it could effectively be argued that this was rightfully so.  By now, the licensing issues surrounding major comic book properties have come so much to the forefront of public consciousness that they have become practically taken for granted.  It's become part of our core understanding of the movie industry that Sony has to make a Spider-Man film every couple of years in order to maintain the movie rights.  Come hell or high water and sometimes in total disregard to standards of quality or basic human dignity.

The first movie in the culturally unnecessary yet legally required rebooted series was solid, but THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN retread a lot of the same ground from Sam Raimi's wall-crawling trilogy and didn't do too much in the way of innovation or trailblazing.  Were it not for the charisma of the leads, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, much of the otherwise middle-of-the-road script might have fallen flat.  It was also super frustrating watching them tiptoe around and have Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) say, "With great power comes great responsibility," without actually literally saying, "With great power comes great responsibility."

Friday, November 07, 2014

The Avengers: The Next Generation

For the past several weeks, fanboys and girls, a variety of geeks, and corporate execs and their usual trains of cronies at both Warner Bros. and Disney have been involved in a strange sort of cultural orgy after several (sort of) major developments in the ever-expanding genre of comic book movies.

With an almost orgasmic glee, Disney and Marvel released their upcoming superhero movies up to the third and fourth Avengers films, spanning all the way until 2019.  No to be outdone, Warner Bros. and DC announced their slate of superhero films to be released until 2020, well after the predicted time period where we'd have self-tying laces on our shoes, miniature hair dryers in our jackets, floating boards of moulded plastic, and an entire new legal industry based on the unforeseen (but undoubtedly substantial) liability issues involved in the widespread proliferation of flying automobiles. Assuming we all survive the onslaught of Skynet and various murderous cyborgs (not to mention the latest TERMINATOR sequel, which will be an ordeal in and of itself), audiences will be "treated" to a literal slew of superhero films, an onslaught in its own right.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Good News Everyone! Feed The Voices in Your Head Now Available in Archaic Book Form

Of all the blogs that have ever existed, Feed the Voices in Your Head can certainly said to be one of them.  Born during the hazy, half-remembered, alcohol-steeped days of my time served in a medium security academic institution (where I learned the hard way to keep tight guard of my scholarly corn hole), Feed the Voices started out as a casual and non-confrontational way to self-publish vast quantities of random writings without having to worry about dealing with the traditional authoritative literary vanguard.  With a complete disregard for traditional writing styles or the medium of blogging, I headed out into the No-Man's Land of the Internet, blissfully unaware of where I might be headed or by what means I might get there. I knew only that I wanted to write, editing and quality control be damned.

In what can only be described as a stunning turn of events, my seven-odd years of blogging have not garnered me the greatness that has not been thrust on so many before me. I'm not sure what my expectations had been back in the tumultuous spring and summer months of 2008 when I began my misadventures in cyberland, which is clearly evident from my early body of work.  I’ve tried to structure my blog thematically around movies as well as, to a lesser degree, other forms of entertainment (TV, music, video games, etc.).  Eventually, a mandate seemed to form out of the online mists, and I began to write with the somewhat clearer purpose of situating whatever cultural artifacts came into the view of my distorted crosshairs within some kind of relevant social context while trying to maintain some sort of my trademark Sarcastic WitTM.

Whether I have achieved that goal to any significant degree is a matter of debate (or not); however, I feel like in the past several years I have made substantial progress in my goal of fucking a stranger in the ass becoming a “legitimate” writer, if only in my own mind.  In keeping with that overall goal, I recently undertook a (significant from my point of view) project to put together a compilation of my writings and publish them in book form.

That book is now officially available over at Amazon.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Bullitt to the Brain and Other High Octane Tales

BULLITT is one of those classic films that never seemed to reach the heights attained by other classic films but remains an unquestionable staple for any serious collection.  It’s unique in that, by no stretch of the imagination, would it be considered a “great” film in the traditional sense but has reached iconic status based (mostly), from what I can tell, on two essential components of its mythology: the now-famous car chase scene and Steve McQueen's legacy for being fucking cool.  In the grand scheme of things, it's hard to refute the validity of these two points.

The film itself is fairly boring, though I'm not sure whether it felt that way due to the temporal disparity between the time the film was made and the generation of moviegoers to which I was birthed (leaving my mother with a hideous scar as a result of the limited surgical knowledge of the 1980s and the vast amount of cocaine it was later discovered to be in the doctor's system) or whether it was intentional on the part of the filmmakers, who were trying to deliver that slow burn that noirs are notorious for.  I know that the general aesthetic for movies has changed a great deal over the last half century, and movies from the '50s and '60s seem much less kinetic by today's standards, and, as a result, I have been unable to engage with several otherwise great films without the need for mind-altering substances of various varieties (Roughly ...two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a saltshaker half-full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers... Also, a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls... etc.).        

Thursday, October 09, 2014

The Merits of Metal Versus Bone and the Ethics of Time Travel According to Old, Bald, Wise Men

Watching X-MEN DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, it suddenly dawned on me how all of the X-Men would have been court-marshalled and/or Vulcan neck-pinched into a goddamned coma for the temporal mission that lay at the heart of the movie. This may seem like a particularly geeky thing to say (or if you are unfamiliar with either cultural reference, like complete honkey jibber-jabber), but it actually represents a useful dichotomy when considering the moral implications of the movie, moral ponderings--of course--being the primary consideration for shelling out one’s money to see a blockbuster comic book movie. Well, that and attractive young actresses wearing nothing but blue paint and some (in)conveniently placed prosthetics/skintight blue body suits.

While the thematic core of the series has always remained constant with respect to the competing tensions of discrimination and exploitation of segments of the population based on genetic/cultural differences and a hopeful vision of peaceful cohabitation and cooperation (and fucking women with blue skin whose dermal hues are not the result of becoming recently deceased due to (totally accidental according to the official coroner’s report) asphyxiation), DAYS OF FUTURE PAST also ventured into the philosophical quagmire of time travel as an added bonus. 

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Prepare to Be Truly Haunted.. Are You a Double D Cup Half Full Kind of Person?

This Halloween...

Nothing can prepare you...

When everything you know is wrong.  When everything you believe is a lie.  When you don't know who you can trust.  Not even yourself.  Experience the supernatural terror when one man's world becomes a nightmare.  But this is one nightmare you don't wake up from.  From the creators of every single tired quote unquote horror movie from the past twenty years and and the people who keep regurgitating genre tropes so sickeningly familiar and overused that you feel like sticking a shotgun in your mouth just to escape the inanity, comes the most genuinely terrifying movie you will likely, possible, probably, maybe not experience this Halloween season:

Ghost Tits...



Friday, September 26, 2014

Second Star to the Right and Straight on 'Till Robin Williams

In many ways, Robin Williams was a man who defied definition.  There are few people in any arena who could lay legitimate claim to the title of Unique, but if there were any more deserving of the title than Williams, none come to mind at present.    Perhaps that was one of the reasons that on August 11, 2014, I found myself sitting in my cubicle at work having to hold back tears; with the death of Robin Williams it seemed that the world had lost something truly irreplaceable.

Though almost invariably associated with comedy, for me Robin Williams always stood for his more dramatic (or at least non-comedic) work, i.e., AWAKENINGS, GOOD WILL HUNTING, THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, THE FISHER KING, INSOMNIA, ONE HOUR PHOTO, WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, DEAD POETS SOCIETY, etc.  He was one of those few who was able to so completely transcend the boundaries we set.  Williams was one of only a handful of people, along with other greats like Bill Murray or Steve Martin, who could successfully cross--seemingly at will--the dreaded No Man's Land that separated genres.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

This Town Deserves a Better Class of Celebrity... Apologetica Celebritatus

Apology accepted, Kanye.
There is a lot to be made of our relationship with the concept of celebrity. In a lot of ways, this
relationship has become a cultural barometer, and the current forecast is slightly hazy with a seventy percent chance of bullshit.

In a recent example of the current climate, one Jason Biggs (you know, the pie-fucker), was slammed by a bunch of… bored assholes (I guess?) for a comment he made on Twitter about the recent Malaysia airlines crashes and/or acts of aggression. The first reaction for many people was probably the obligatory jokes about Biggs’ current level of popularity in comparison to the AMERICAN PIE days, followed by jokes about various articles of food that he’s probably fucking these days, followed by making up culinary-inspired titles of porn movies in which Jason Biggs could conceivably star (PIGS IN A BLANKET, PEANUT BUTTER JELLY TIME, DONUT HOLES, DONUT HOLES 2: BOSTON CREAM, TEA BAGGIN') followed by resurfacing memories of Shannon Elizabeth topless, followed by a hurried, late-night Internet search for her playboy spread when you’re sure the wife and kids are soundly asleep, followed by a relaxing 3 a.m. shit, followed by a few episodes of Breaking Bad, followed by calling in sick for work, and finally followed by--for some people--righteous indignation.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

AssassiNation: Tales of Consumerism, Souls Ablaze

I awoke to the sound of the World grinding her teeth.  It was a low rumble: sand and rocks rubbing unevenly together against a smooth surface: the crunch of dry, old bones under the feet of some monstrous predator.  I was at the roof of the Earth, in a house that was and wasn't mine; I lived in a State of Flux, and every second threatened to crumble around me.

I was hungry.  But not for food. 

The rumbling was getting closer.  Soon I was enveloped in it.  Wrapped in it, like a deep-fried pogo at the state fair in the sweltering heat of July.  There was no cooling off.  Not at times like these.  Even my piss was like a stream of scalding hot magma, hissing as it hit the stagnant waters of the mine-but-not-mine toilet.  The air shimmered around me.  I couldn't swallow.  Couldn't think.

I was hungry.  This time, for food.

Captain Crunch.  That was all I could think.  I hated that shit, and I doubted we had any in the house, but I checked anyway as the sanity was slowly being ground to a fine powder in the red-hot cauldron of my skull.  What the fuck is this?  Who bought Captain Crunch on my watch?  Who brought it into my house, right under my nose?  Who would stock my cupboards with this junk?  The same people who would stalk the ferris wheel.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Life Lessons from Robert De Niro

Life can get confusing sometimes. Sometimes it’s difficult to know where to turn to get some answers. Thankfully, there has always been one, unwavering source of inspiration and guidance that has been counted on throughout the ages as a pillar of Truth and Right Living: Robert De Niro.  The De Niro has spread his gospel though his generous ministry of full-length feature films through which he has depicted a multitude of everyday, average men just trying to make their way in this crazy, workaday world of ours: gangsters, comedians, gangsters, taxi drivers, gangsters, parents, jazz musicians, gangsters, professional boxers, war veterans, mental patients, Frankenstein’s monsters, gangsters, cops, priests, anthropomorphic animated sharks, bank robbers, low-level street thugs, ex-cons, and gangsters.

The De Niro works in mysterious ways, and though the characters he portrays are often morally questionable for the most part, each one has one or more life lessons to impart to those of us who didn’t always want to be a gangster for as far back as we could remember.  For those whose minds and hearts have been opened to the Word, then prepare yourselves for this small taste of the bounty that THE GOOD SHEPARD has prepared…

Friday, June 27, 2014

Lacking an Alternative: Sherlock Holmes and the Best of All Possible Worlds. Deduction is as Deduction Does… Life is Like a Scratched iPad

You're probably an idiot.  The odds are stacked incomprehensibly against you.  Unless, of course, you happen to be Sherlock Holmes.  Next to him, however, no matter how smart you are, you are still a total fucking moron by comparison.  The version of Sherlock Holmes as portrayed in BBC's Sherlock (co-created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss)  is something of an insufferable prick.  Despite the fact that he exists at the very centre of a veritable whirlpool of arrogance and narcissism, there's something universally endearing and relatable about this modernized take on the Sherlock Holmes mythos, and we seem almost inescapably drawn into those swirling, mruky waters.  Inexorably, like a man on death row about to be hanged (not hung).  There's something about Sherlock Holmes that transcends his Victorian trappings and speaks to the very core of the human experience.

Even though the titular character of Sherlock represents the epitome of cold, hard, logical reasoning and stands as an ideal both for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence and startlingly anti-social behaviour, he is also more relatable to the common man than he may appear at first glance than other more apparently "human" versions of the character.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Surrogates for Intelligence... Missing Links, Hated Avatars

I'm pretty sick of this shit, Bruce Willis.  We live in strange times.  On the one hand, we're constantly being sold on the idea of progress and the achievement of human potential, while on the other hand, we're being bombarded with conflicting ludidtic, anti-technology propaganda.  And it's a total crock of shit.  I was watching the Bruce Willis vehicle SURROGATES the other night in an effort to use up my stockpile of nearly expired, military-grade popcorn that I had accumulated in my lead-lined underground shelter that I had constructed so I could watch movies in peace during whatever apocalyptic view of the future that Roland Emmerich has envisioned came to awful fruition.

SURROGATES started out with an intriguing premise; the advent of advanced robotic and AI technology provides people with the opportunity to experience the world through cybernetic avatars that allow them to experience all of the pleasure and none of the pain through some kind of neural interface.  The vast majority of the human population embraces "surrogacy" while a few hold-outs led by The Prophet (Ving Rhames) prefer to live on reserves, embracing a low-tech agrarian lifestyle devoid of most forms of technology except for an ass-ton of fire-arms and accompanying unlimited supplies of ammo, because apparently the only technology worth embracing is the kind that you need when you absolutely, positively got to kill every last motherfucker in the room.  (Accept no substitutes.)

Friday, June 06, 2014

Where Have All the Good Ant-Men Gone? Send in the (Corporate) Clowns

No, not Aunt-Man, Ant-Man.  Yeah...
Last week, a bomb was dropped in the Marvel cinematic universe even larger than FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER.  It seems that the upcoming ANT-MAN movie based on nobody's favourite (sort-of) superhero is short one director now that maverick British director and beard connoisseur extraordinaire Edgar Wright parted ways with the Marvel juggernaut over "differences in their visions of the film."  And because in the official press release it stated that the split was "amicable," we can be all but assured that the opposite is in fact true.  It's one of those things that we'll never know all of the details about even though we actually do know all of the details.  Like when that nice couple from next door whose yelling and arguing you've tried not to eavesdrop on out of a sense of propriety finally breaks up and you feign ignorance to be polite.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Growing Old But Not Up With King Arthur: Hanging out at The World's End

There are very few things that most people can agree upon, but one of those things is that growing older generally sucks big old deep-fried grizzly balls.  The inevitable ebb and flow of time causes us to drift towards that final unimaginable expanse of ocean until we are finally swept out into the unknown by the tide or, if we're really lucky, a tsunami that lets us take a lot of innocent people with us.  One of the most commonly occurring and overarching themes in human culture is the tension between youth and old age.  That dichotomy between childhood and maturity is pretty readily accessible by almost everyone because, unless you're Cher, aging is a pretty universal human experience.  It's an easy way to mark our progress through life, and that sort of temporal delineation has become a common trope to draw upon when constructing one's identity.

In Stephen King's introduction to the latest edition of his seminal Dark Tower series (which I've recently delved into with the gusto of a fiend desperate for his next fix of devil grass), he taps into what I think is a pretty fundamental cultural sentiment regarding the temporal forces at play in the very bowels of our collective souls:

"Another thing about being nineteen, do it please ya: it is the age, I think, where  a lot of us somehow get stuck (mentally and emotionally, if not physically).  The years slide by and on day you find yourself looking into the mirror with real puzzlement.  Why are those lines on my face? you wonder.  Where did that stupid potbelly come from?  Hell, I'm only nineteen!  This is hardly an original concept, but that in no way subtracts from one's amazement"

What King's insight illustrates is that Cusp between childhood and maturity, a sort of balance that we struggle to attain between the shit-kicking, conquer-the-world mentality of youth and the world-weary pragmatism of experience that alludes so many of us. I think that sometimes we tend to fall into the derogatory with the denunciation of middle-aged men or women "acting like they were teenagers," but I think what's at issue in that case is an imbalance, with youthful exuberance and its accompanying stupidity winning out completely over the tempered wisdom that comes only with age. Of course, this may be small comfort when the subject in question ends up fucking a coworker or spending Junior's college fund on some shitty American sports car, but the point remains that the goal is neither the eradication of youth nor the total denial of one's ever-accumulating chronology but a balance between the two.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Speak Softly and Wail on a Big Guitar. Treadlightly into the Future

An old friend of mine, Andy, recently informed me that he had joined a band.  At first, knowing Andy, I had assumed that it was a euphemism either for going on yet another of his famous heroin binges, drinking the menstrual blood of a Bengal tigress, or getting a pop rock blowjob from a French Canadian drag queen.  Considering his propensity for strange code words, drugs, and bizarre sexual fetishes and the look of pure, unbridled ecstasy bursting from the depraved depths of his eye sockets, none of these would have surprised me.  It took some explaining on his part, but I was finally made to understand that in this particular instance "joining a band" actually meant "joining a band."

Andy had recently beat a bad rap and a long jail sentence by instead agreeing to direct his energies into an amateur musical endeavor as part of a Work Release Program for the Criminally Disenfranchised.  In yet another "misunderstanding" after a series of unfortunate circumstances in which Andy's propensity for going out in public wearing nothing but a bath robe and public urination coupled with his relative inattention to his geographical location--in this case, in front of an elementary school full of young, impressionable youth--served as that Perfect Storm of probable cause that whip police into a killing frenzy as they are all but guaranteed to arrest and/or beat the living shit out of various levels of miscreants and scoundrels.  Somehow, Andy had talked himself out of serious jail time in one of only two cases in recorded history where playing a bass solo in the courtroom was accepted as a closing argument for the defense.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Ben Affleck was the Bomb in Phantoms

"Batman?"  Oh yeah, he sounds like a real badass.  He
dresses like a flying rodent; I've modelled my persona
on the Prince of Darkness.
I never realized how much people seem to completely despise Ben Affleck until it was announced a while back that he would be the next actor to don the mantle of Batman on the silver screen in the upcoming and as-yet untitled sequel to MAN OF STEEL.  The Internet exploded in a veritable orgy of insults, inflammatory comments, and libelous denunciations that made it seem like Affleck had committed some terrible atrocity or defiled people's mothers en masse.  It seems as though there was a good old fashioned feeding frenzy, and all it took was announcing that  an award-winning, commercially successful actor who had tapped asses most mortal men could only dream of would be taking on the role of a fictional billionaire who dresses up in a bat costume and uses his ninja skills to beat the shit out of killer clowns and alligator men.

In what now seems like an eerily prophetic turn in JAY AN SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK, Affleck, reprising his role as Holden from CHASING AMY, aptly boils down the seeming triviality of our use of new digital media: "The Internet is a communication tool used the world over where people can come together to bitch about movies and share pornography with one another."  And in one sense, it is trivial to complain about which overpaid Hollywood actor best fits within the confines of preconceived notions about what a fictional character would actually be like.  It seems people tend to get caught up in the futile pastime of trying to prove themselves right on the Internet - a medium that by its very nature seems to thrive on dissent - and forget the fact that "These are fictional characters. Fic-tion-al char-ac-ters. Am I getting through to you at all?"

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

In Space No One Can Hear You Scream, but on Earth Everyone Can Tweet Your Death


I had never heard the name H.R. Giger until watching the special features on my ALIEN DVD a few years back.  He was the man most directly responsible for the iconic design of ALIEN's titled antagonist, which, like life itself, was equal parts horrifying and beautiful.  I suspect that most people who don't have time for DVD special features (you know who you fucking are) might not have even been aware of his existence until it ended on May 12, 2014 and his name made the news in connection to his most famous creation.  He was a visual artist, though I can't personally speak to his success in those circles as I don't typically follow the "art world" to any meaningful degree (read: at all).  All I know about H.R. Giger is that he created one of the most innovative and memorable character designs to come out of Hollywood from a time when film makers were still allowed to do cool shit, and that his name itself sounded like it came straight out of a sci-fi movie.

I'm not sure what H.R. Giger was like in real life or even in a workplace environment, but for me his alien design represents a fundamental shift in the way Hollywood and raconteurs in general approach their material now and common audience expectations. Back in 1979 when ALIEN was first released, there was a different ethos that existed around narrative art forms than exists today. With the modern propensity for sequels and franchises, the current trend it toward mythology-building instead of storytelling. The mythology-building tendency is perhaps best exemplified by the recent onslaught of Marvel movies chronicling the (mis)adventures of everybody's favourite (and not-so-favourite) Avenging super heroes.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

May the 4th Be With Us All

Suck my balls Episode II can.
May 4, 2014, marked the annual unofficial celebration of an indelible part of pop culture history that has - for better or worse - contributed to the psychological development of countless grown men and women including, perhaps most notably, the proliferation of the "slave girl" sexual fantasy. May 4th has proliferated as an international day to recognize anything and everything related to the STAR WARS property (as if it needed any more recognition) due in large part to the date's name being easy fodder for geeky punsters ("May the Force/4th be with you.") who don't mind taking the chance of sounding like an offensive homosexual stereotype and the ability of the Internet to propagate information faster than people can effectively evaluate its relative worth.

In honour of the occasion, I decided to watch the originator and slapped STAR WARS (no fucking Episode IV bullshit) into my Blu-Ray player.  As I watched what had undoubtedly been a formative text in my own personal psychological library and recited entire scenes word for word (much to the chagrin of my wife), it dawned on me what imperfect movies STAR WARS and all of its sequels and (even more so) its prequels actually were.  In fact, even as a huge fan of the series, there is still a lot of stuff, even in the original trilogy that I had grown up loving, that is either really laughably bad or patently ridiculous or some combination thereof.  

Despite the fact that STAR WARS was (aside from the special effects) quantifiably a B movie, it was - and still is - pretty fucking awesome.  It wasn't because of the originality of the plot, which is filled to the brim with cliches, convenient coincidences, and (perhaps unsurprisingly frequent) lapses in logic.  Let's face it, STAR WARS is not exactly the epitome of storytelling genius.  It wasn't because of the acting, because even Sir Alec Guinness and Harrison Ford, the arguable acting heavyweights of the film, could only elevate the dialogue only so far.  As a moral tale, it didn't really say anything that hadn't been said before or present the nuances of morality.  In fact, it does the exact opposite, simplifying morality down to a really basic good versus evil dichotomy exemplified, of course, by the Light Side/Dark Side of the Force.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Turtle Power and Life on the Edge

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1990
Living down here is great except for
those C.H.U.D assholes.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon show was pretty much required viewing for any child born in the 1980s.  By the time I was in grade 4, Ninja Turtles merchandise had become more ubiquitous than the ill-fated and short-lived Pog phenomenon that would threaten to overwhelm parents' wallets in a deluge of cheap cardboard and surprisingly painful plastic and metal projectiles ever would.  During the height of Turtle-Mania, you couldn't walk into someone's house, a school, a store, a bar, a prison, a brothel, a 1960's style barber shop where the barber shaves you with a straight razor and the endings are always happy, a Somali pirate ship, an opium den, the MIR space station, OJ's white Ford Bronco, or a brothel without being inundated with or tripping over some product proudly bearing the resemblance of or branded with the characters or symbols from the Ninja Turtle Universe.  It wouldn't surprise me if the Ninja Turtle phenomenon later inspired an entire sector of the porn industry, though the possibilities of what the final products of such nostalgic fascination might resemble fill me with a certain kind of Terror that prohibits me from actually soliciting Google for such potentially mind-warping fare.

The TMNT animated show seemed by far to garner the largest following and, I think, did the most to ensure that the brand was enshrined in the hearts of the youth.  However, the Ninja Turtles cartoon show was a candy-coated version of the live action movie and the ultimate source material in the comics that was decidedly aimed at a much more mature audience with sufficient intestinal fortitude and adequate steel content in their genitals.  The Turtles of the comics (at least the early ones) were serious assassins-in-training, and, unlike their counterparts in the neon-bright, bubble-gum flavoured cartoon show, actually put their weapons to good use, helping their enemies shuffle off their mortal coils in a fashion that would make Paul Verhoeven proud.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Problem Solved: STFU Environment

Well, we can all sleep a little sounder at night now that one of the major problems plaguing our species has been thoroughly dealt with.  That's right, world governments, leaders of industry, NASA scientists, Tibetan monks, and one super-intelligent chimp have come together in order to solve the environmental crisis known as Global Warming.  And in a surprising twist, they have actually solved it.  You heard it here first: we have officially Saved the Environment.  "But how?" you might ask.  Was it monumental social and legal reform on a massive scale?  Was some new form of free, clean, and infinite power discovered?  Did world governments cast aside the petty bickering, political maneuvering, and senseless exploitation and the slaughter of innocent civilians for their own twisted purposes in order to work together for the common Good of all Humankind?  Did Logic and Reason finally win out and keep us from destroying the only planet that we know of within reasonable travelling distance that can actually sustain human life?  Well, it was actually a lot simpler than we had originally thought.

Behold, the instrument of your salvation:

Why?  Why was I programmed to feel pain?
That's right, the environment has now been solved.  And it's all thanks to these new "eco friendly" DVD and Blu-Ray cases that have been so graciously bestowed upon us.  Well, to tell you the truth, I sleep a lot better at night now knowing that my children and their children after them will have one less thing to worry about.  If only we could travel back in time and tell our grandparents about this marvel of engineering, the height of Human Technological Innovation, that would bring about their environmental salvation, we could have saved decades of debate, uncertainty, and stress.  What fools we've all been!  The answer was so obvious, we must have just been too smart to see it.

So what the fuck is all this about?  What the fuck is wrong with this picture (both literally and metaphorically)?  How could any free-thinking, socially-conscious citizen be opposed to any effort, no matter how small, insignificant, and stupid, to work towards a viable solution to global warming?  Well, besides the fact that the solution people have come up with is a total crock, there's plenty to be bothered about by this sort of shit.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Summer Anthems and the Outskirts of Humanity... Many Things To Many People

It's not always a given, but typically each year around the time the world emerges from the winter thaw and slowly coaxes Her children back to life, I tend to get obsessed with a single song that essentially becomes my Summer Anthem. This tradition is not enshrined in stone tablets for the Masses or anything so rigidly formal, though it does in some ways inform the themes and narrative structure of that particular season of my life. I'm not sure why the annual Great Thaw inspires me to be more receptive to musical stimuli. Perhaps it is symbolic of the endless cycles of Life and Death that permeate the natural world and my constant destruction and rebirth like some kind of Dark Phoenix, but as I get older I am becoming increasingly bound by a grim inverse relationship where as age increases enjoyment of winter decreases.

The problem is that this relationship is increasing exponentially, and though the winter in my particular geographic region was particularly long, I find that my yearly cycle of depression and withdrawal in the winter months is worsening, and my psychological barriers that protect my mind from the ravages of ice, snow, wind, and various other forms of arctic sorcery seem to be weakening at an alarming rate. This year, I was getting close to Giving Up, whatever that meant. But I knew that this year I was dangerously close to that vague boundary, and I was overcome with the vague sensation of slowly being dragged to the depths of some watery abyss like my innards after consuming any quantity of Chinese food.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fall of the Mighty... A Long Way to the Bottom with Iron Man. Third Time's a What Now?

What did you say about my mother?
There was a viral video phenomenon back in 2007 - 2008 known as Two Girls One Cup.  From what I've been told, it depicted two girls each repeatedly taking turns consuming the other's shit and vomit, which, depending on your particular proclivities, was either a window into the depths of human sexual depravity or "just another Saturday night."  I, myself, never bore witness to this cultural phenomenon.  When it was described to me by others with the inevitable epilogue, "Dude, you've got to watch it for yourself," I never felt the urge to follow up on that imperative. Based on the descriptions I heard and my conscious evaluation of what might fall into my normative range of pleasurable stimuli, I decided that I wanted absolutely no part of that.  I've seen a lot of crazy shit in a variety of media, but the Two Girls One Cup video definitely seemed to fall outside the boundaries of anything I wanted to willingly subject myself to.  It was a mature decision that I was proud of, and one of the few that I look back on with absolutely no regret.

Until now.

A little while ago, I was subjected to IRON MAN 3, the cap on Marvel's Iron Man movie trilogy and its cinematic follow-up to THE AVENGERS.  There was a lot of hype built up surrounding the film, with IRON MAN 3 shattering box office records and many fans of the genre favorably comparing the movie to Joss Whedon's massively successful AVENGERS ensemble.  I wasn't holding out much hope of greatness considering Marvel's typical appeals to mediocrity, but considering the positive energy from fans surrounding the film, I thought that perhaps we'd get a decent action film that, if not on par with the first IRON MAN, would at least provide the same level of mindless entertainment as THE AVENGERS.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The Quest for The Rock and Youth Lost in the 90s

The heart of INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE is, of course, the father/son dynamic between Indiana and his dad. It's significant to note, however, that the movie title employs a certain ambiguity and specifically leaves out mention of the object that serves as the catalyst of the crusade. By evoking the word "crusade," which itself is rife with numerous socio-political and historical implications, and then introducing an artifact central to the Judeo-Christian mythology, the filmmakers effectively misdirect the audience. The "misdirect" here, however, is more in line with its use in relation to a magic trick rather than, oh, I don't know, distracting someone so you can slip something into his drink and unwittingly make him the host of an alien life form of unknown make or model.

By the end of the movie, though, it becomes clear that the grail was a metaphor for what both Indiana and his father were really searching for, which was an emotional connection (People... People who need people...).  THE LAST CRUSADE is actually thematically similar to FIELD OF DREAMS, insofar as the main characters were on a quest for something they thought held some form of Ultimate Meaning, but really they were looking for reconciliation with dear old dad.  For me, one of the final scenes of THE LAST CRUSADE, when Henry Jones Sr. gently urges his son to "let it go" is almost as emotionally poignant as when Ray asks his dad to play catch at the end of FIELD OF DREAMS.  There's a certain catharsis in those moments.  Nothing's really solved per se, but in that moment there's a connection, and all of the shit kind of melts away and there's something Real and raw and significant.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Spring Break 4 Eva... Cultural Dysphoria Armed to the Teeth. And Bikinis to Boot.

"Just pretend it's a video game. Like you're in a fucking movie."

This is the immortal advice given by one of the young protagonists of SPRING BREAKERS to her three partners in (future) crime as they make their way towards their first armed robbery. This is not the rousing call to arms that one might expect from warriors on their way to find glory on the field of battle, unless, of course, those warriors were four, young college-aged women in the early twenty-first century on their way to commit a felony, and the field of battle was a crowded restaurant filled with unsuspecting part-time employees, slack-jawed customers, and enough MSG to satisfy a village in China for a month.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Death of Dusty from Twister and Other Sad Tales

TWISTER is a seminal addition to the cinematic landscape of the 1990s.  Not because it was a particularly great flick.  It was pretty standard, contrived summer blockbuster fare, with precisely timed action beats to which the narrative was completely enslaved, a treasure trove of stock characters, a semi-ludicrous premise, and the typical will-they-or-will-they troubled romantic relationship that gets the focus at the most inappropriate times (like in the middle of a goddamned tornado) and that everybody in the audience knows will be resolved by the end of the (ahem) story.  It was also the movie that introduced a great many in its audience - myself included - to Philip Seymour Hoffman, though I wouldn't become aware of it until much later.  And oddly enough, it was the first role of his that I thought of when I heard of his death on February 2, 2014.

In TWISTER, Hoffman played a character named Dusty: a lovably loud and outgoing pseudo-stoner archetype with a beat up baseball cap and clothes that had rarely seen the inside of a washing machine who was almost innocently devoted to his friends and would vehemently denounce those he perceived to have compromised their integrity.  The character was essentially an exposition machine, educating the audience on such scientific concepts such as the "suck zone" and the past nude exploits of Bill Paxton.  Dusty wasn't a starring role, but it was a memorable one.  And the main reason it was memorable was because of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Looking at Hoffman's later filmography, it's hard to believe that the same dude who played Dusty in TWISTER went on to star in movies like CAPOTE, SYNECDOCHE NEW YORK, and THE MASTER and provide memorable turns in countless others like THE BIG LEBOWSKI, ALMOST FAMOUS, and MONEYBALL.  He played Ben Stiller's friend in ALONG CAME POLLY, the bad guy in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III, and even showed up in the HUNGER GAMES movies as a character whose name I never bothered to remember.

The thing is, though, that whether he was playing Dusty the gravy-obsessed stoner or a cultural icon like Truman Capote, the dude was fucking present in a way that most of us never are.  It seemed that, at least in a professional capacity, he could never not go all in.  He seemed able to invest in what he was doing, or, perhaps more accurately, unable not to invest.  A lot of Hoffman's smaller roles might just have easily have been phoned in (to use the parlance of our times) and not really affected the quality of the final product in any meaningful way, but even when he wasn't in the spotlight, he fucking gave it everything he had.

There was a certain refreshing quality in the way Hoffman seemed to approach his life's work, and it wasn't in some self-sacrificing way, though passion and dedication in any context has a way of inspiring others and encouraging them to better themselves.  No, in Hoffman's case it seemed to be something far more personal.  He was refreshing because he seemed not to really give a shit about what anybody else thought.  He was never in the running to win any awards or accolades by playing Dusty (or any other character for that matter) in TWISTER.  Hell, he probably wasn't even making that much, at least not in comparison to bigger names at the time.  But he owned that shit like nobody else could (or even would).

Forty-six years on this spinning, blue orb seems like far too short a time for anybody let alone somebody like Philip Seymour Hoffman, who embodied the adaptability and commitment that seem to elude so many of us so much of the time.  For me, there are few greater things that can be said of a man than he gave it everything he had, even when it seemed unnecessary.  Because the thing is, at the end of the day, when you're lying in bed alone with your own thoughts on the precipice of twilight, sometimes the only redemption comes from the knowledge that despite all of the shit and all of the things that were beyond your control, you still made the choice to give 100 percent.  Not for any external recognition, but because it was the only thing you can accomplish with any degree of certainty on any given day.  And that's why, in moments of silent contemplation at the end of the day, my thoughts will now sometimes turn towards the man who played Dusty in TWISTER.  See you on down the trail.        

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Superman Unbound: A Tale of Two Fathers (And a Bonus Messiah Complex)

Suck it, Brandon Routh
There are some things that work great on paper but seem to have some internal mechanism that prevents them from bridging the gap with implementation.  For most of us, this might manifest as everyday, mundane activities like orchestrating a simple kidnapping or arson, or a three-way with your girlfriend's hot cousin, or the impregnation of your impotent friend's wife at the couple's behest.  Then, of course, there's Superman.

I have a Superman shirt.  And it is fucking awesome.  And when I wear it, my awesome quotient invariably increases.  I always loved the idea of Superman, but I hated the character of Superman.  As a cultural icon, Superman is pretty powerful (even more so than a locomotive or a massive load shot out at Mach 3 from Ron Jeremy's massive cock).  He represents strength: not only physical, but also moral.  Invoking the tropes specific to the mythology of Superman is to draw inspiration to be our best selves.  We can look towards him as an archetype of incredible physical feats and endurance or the epitome of "good guy" morality in situations that have (comparatively) more clear ethical boundaries and we might be tempted to falter.  Superman as a symbol works great.  He's an ideal; something to strive towards but never to be attained.  Superman tracks down the owner of the lost wallet full of cash and returns it personally.  Wolverine drops the wallet off at the cop shop with all of the ID and credit cards in tact but keeps the cash as a finder's fee.  Lobo keeps the wallet, then tracks down its owner and beats the shit out of him for being a dumbass. 

Thursday, February 06, 2014

A Wolf in the Hand is Worth Two in the Street

What's in your wallet?
On a large enough scale, the profane and the sublime eventually intersect and become indistinguishable.  It's one of the countless indefinable, constantly shifting, and oftentimes unrecognizable lines from which the tangled web of both our cultures and our psyches are woven.  Human perception is sort of a paradoxical endeavor in that it is dependent upon creating boundaries and making distinctions that are always arbitrary and subject to constant change.  It's kind of weird to think about, but our understanding of the world and ourselves and every achievement and failure, every triumph and tragedy, every altruistic deed and act of pure debauchery is dependent upon absolutely necessary yet completely meaningless distinctions.

Which is not to say that I embrace nihilism or believe that everything is meaningless.  Well, actually, everything is meaningless.  People, places, events, natural phenomenon, etc., are only meaningful insofar as they are attributed meaning by us.  We are the meaning-making animal.  We are a species of Prometheuses, bestowing that mystical fire of relative significance upon all that we see, and our gaze stretches far indeed.

Now I wish to follow the gaze of Martin Scorsese and his latest film THE WOLF OF WALL STREET.  This is, by far, his most postmodern work as it serves as a deconstruction of the subjectivity of morality.  While there are hints throughout, the real key to the cipher was the final shot of the final scene.  The movie focuses on the exploits of the real-life Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), a Wall Street savant who made millions swindling people, often blue collar workers spending their life savings on the desperate hope that was peddled to them on the edge of a diabolically mesmerizing sales pitch.  However, the final scene is a reversal as the camera is turned on the audience of a get-rich-quick seminar run by the only slightly hard done by Belfort.  And as we look at their blank, eager faces, we see a twisted reflection of ourselves.  At the same time we despise men like Belfort, we are also fascinated by them.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Santa's Hos, and Other Fine Holiday Traditions

The condom was hung on his chimney with care...
In one sense, Santa Claus represents a pretty shitty model of morality.  It's basically the Stockbroker
Mentality, where everything is OK as long as you don't make the cardinal (and only) sin of getting caught.  It's a morality dependent on the constant threat of surveillance and punishment from some kind of ubiquitous Authority Figure in whose absence all manner of depravity is all but guaranteed to take place because it is completely dependent on external forces and does not require any sort of deep internalization or encourage independent thought, which, for some, is kind of the point.  It's safe to say that the concept of Santa Claus is not particularly conducive to any form of Modified Altruism, where an individual can critically analyze a situation, empathize to some degree with a variety of other social agents (both immediate and potential), and make some kind of a decisions based on the nebula of concepts surrounding the dictum "the most good for the greatest number of people"...

But on the other hand, the tradition of Santa Claus is something of a cultural boon for atheists and all manner of freethinkers from various walks of life.  I admit that recently after I had freed my mind from religious tyranny, I quickly added a clause to my worldview that took a hardline stance against teaching fairy tales and superstitions in any way that conflated mythology and reality.  Yes, for a short while I was among the ranks of douchebags who don't let their kids believe in Santa Claus.  Thankfully, a little perspective and a lot of booze helped me on the road to enlightenment and to not strip my children's childhood of all Awe and Wonder like a selfish prick.  In fact, upon further consideration and a healthy dose of whiskey in addition to the beer (and a few Tylenol 3s, because fuck it), I realized how the tradition of the myth of Santa Claus was, in fact, the perfect atheist tradition and counterpoint to the rigid application of religious dogma and blind faith.

The myth of Santa Claus is a secular parable in rational thought.  Santa Claus has about as much in common with religion as Justin Bieber does with that lion at the zoo who tried to pee on us last year, which is to say absolutely nothing.  There are two main reasons why Santa Claus is tha shit when it comes to positive life lessons, dog:

Round 1: I Am the (All-Knowing and All-Seeing) Walrus

God - whichever of the thousands of deities that humankind has worshiped and/or continues to worship - is always held up as an absolute.  That is, figures of religious authority outrightly discourage any critical analysis of their god and any and all related paraphernalia.  Critical thinking, logic, and reason in all their wonderful forms have been and are actively disparaged by religious authorities and other true believers while Blind Faith is actually encouraged as a legitimate paradigm to construct an effective worldview. 

On the other hand, Santa Claus encourages critical thinking skills in children.  Well, the myth of Santa Claus fosters these skills not Santa himself because that portly motherfucker doesn't really exist.  From a culturally objective standpoint it does seem a bit odd that a large segment of our culture spends the amount of time and energy it does to convince our children that some magical dude with a sled and flying ungulates annually delivers presents only to all of the well-behaved children of the world whose families can already afford to get them presents, the Santa myth is great. 

The great thing about the Santa myth is that when our children get old enough to critically analyze the myth and realize that it's bullshit, we verify that it is, indeed, bullshit.  And furthermore, we don't penalize them for questioning the myth and using their evolutionarily-bestowed mental faculties to question the world around them.  Santa Claus is like a code that kids have to learn how to crack.  As children grow older, they start to examine the quantifiable, empirical evidence and weigh it against their own beliefs to see if the two are compatible.  And once they get to the cognitive point that they cannot reconcile observable reality with a deeply-held belief, they fucking change or abandon that belief.  And what's more, they are encouraged to do so. 
 
All you haterz can lick my North Pole.
A 35-year-old man who legitimately believes in Santa Claus would, in today's world, be looked at as suspect and potentially mentally unstable.  Belief in Santa Claus requires the same Blind Faith that belief in a god or gods does; the only difference is that the faith in one is dogmatically defended despite no supporting evidence and in the face of all evidence to the contrary.  The Santa Claus myth represents the perfect model for one important component of self-actualization - the willingness and requisite mental plasticity to modify one's worldview based on critically analyzing and weighing all available evidence and drawing conclusions based on the countless forms of logical thinking and scientific inquiry at our disposal.

Round 2: Because Because, That's Why

Religious beliefs are based on hierarchy.  Especially here in Western Civilization, religion has a particularly useful tool for establishing the "inherent" authority of some human beings over others.  A belief in god, and particularly the Judeo-Christian version of the bloke, necessitates a similar belief in a natural order where each member of a given community has a clearly-defined role within a hierarchy of authority and upward mobility is not tolerated.  A few related concepts include the Great Chain of Being, the Divine Right of Kings, and the conflict between the AIs and humans in THE MATRIX.  (Also, to a lesser extent, the slaves on Tatooine in THE PHANTOM MENACE that Qui Gon Jinn chose not to help for some reason.)  However, the purpose is always the same: to justify imbalances of power, particularly in the oppression of the common majority for the benefit of the elite minority.  Without these kinds of social systems in place, people might object to being fucked over while their king owned more land, and collected more taxes, and just fucking told people what to do or while bankers, stockbrokers, and executives squandered the future of the many to fund the present of the few.

The concept of a god or gods emphasizes not just Blind Faith, but specifically Blind Faith in an unquestionable and "right" figure of authority within an equally unquestionable and "right" chain of command.  The purposes of espousing this sort of worldview are strictly for the manipulation, exploitation, and oppression of one group of people by another.  I'm not saying that religion or a belief in a deity or deities is the absolute cause of all institutionalized social systems of manipulation, exploitation, and oppression in the world today, but I am saying that the mindset of those who do embrace the notion of gods is thoroughly and completely in line with those systems. 

Those in positions of power have found religion to be a useful tool for maintaining social hierarchies for three main reasons.  Firstly, most religious beliefs involving deities also incorporate some variation of the Perfect Plan trope, which is to say everything that happens in the world is driven by the conscious design of some sort of higher being.  Secondly, a great deal of religious dogma revolves around strict adherence to the status quo and hence a resistance to change in any shape or form.  Thirdly, most - if not all - religious belief systems include some concept of Supernatural Justice, whether that be some variant of the heaven/hell dichotomy or karma or spiritual enlightenment.  On the basis of these three ideological tenets alone, a belief in a god or gods, then, can be easily exploited by those who know how and for those whose best interests lie in exploiting it. 

How do you quell rebellion from the masses?

Step 1: Convince the exploited that their exploitation is, in fact, not exploitation at all but instead part of a larger plan that they just can't comprehend.  Bonus points if you can convince them that everybody's station in society is preordained by a deity or deities.

Step 2: Simplify all of the complexity of human social interaction into two extremes - Order and Chaos.  Use some variation of the "it could always be worse" trope to make the subjugated majority believe that any change is away from the Order of the current social system towards the only viable alternative that is Chaos.  Bonus points if you can actually get the exploited people to fear change so much that they actively work against their own best self interests and allow their basic human rights to be violated.   

Step 3: Persuade the huddled masses that their suffering is transitory and that they should endure suffering without question because it's either a test from a Higher Power or because True Justice awaits everyone after death.  This is a key step, because people will endure a lot of shit if they believe that the people inflicting the shit on them are due for some kind of cosmic comeuppance and they are due for some kind of eternal reward during the final reckoning.  Bonus points if you can get them to freely give even more money/possessions than are already stolen from them by institutionally established means.

The Santa Claus myth, on the other hand, is pretty much the polar opposite (some North Pole humour for you there) of this sort of dogma.  Santa Claus is established among children as an omniscient authority figure that arbitrarily metes out justice.  However, the social negotiations surrounding Santa Claus as a child ages provides a model for entering into effective dialogue with figures of authority.  This is a rite of passage that not only teaches children to question what they're told but also how to challenge authority in a constructive way.  Within this particular cultural model, people are encouraged to call other people out on their bullshit but in a negative way like "You've been lying to me for 12 years, motherfucker, and I'm going to carve your dead, black heart out of your chest with your own broken femur," but in a rational, thoughtful way like "Based on the available evidence, I don't believe that your assertions of one man's supernatural toy distribution system should have any bearing on my worldview and I respectfully challenge the validity of this dominant social narrative." 
But you see, abortion is wrong
because then we have less
children to molest.

That's the fucking brilliance of Santa Claus.  Without even realizing it, the model for peaceful social progression has been sitting under our noses.  Rational, logical thought based on effective interpretations of available evidence coupled with ongoing dialogical processes.   


The point is not to deny our children fairy tales; it's to make sure they develop the critical thinking skills necessary to not confuse myth with reality.  Neither is the point to deny our children a sense of wonder or awe at the universe.  Fairy tales are OK when they're used to inspire or for entertainment or educational purposes but not when they are proselytized as facts in order to foster blind adherence to potentially harmful and regressive dogma for some ulterior motive whether that motive be some kind of financial or material gain, the abusive exercise of power, the subjugation or alienation of fellow human beings, or, in the case of the Catholic church, the raping of young boys.  In a nutshell, as long as we acknowledge fairy tales and myths as fairy tales and myths and don't elevate them to the status of religion then we'll all be a lot better off.