Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bill Maher's "Religulous".....Grow up, or die

I saw the new Bill Maher documentary "Religulous" last night.
I laughed until my sides hurt.
I cried. From laughing.
Film critic Roger Ebert occasionally has to explain why he gives slapstick comedies or slasher horror movies a higher number of stars than some symbolism-laden art film. Ebert says the question to ask is "Does the film accomplish what it set out to accomplish?"
Using Ebert's method, one of the "Jackass" movies can possibly get a higher rating than something filmed in Amsterdam featuring Meryl Streep speaking with an accent.
This movie accomplishes its goals.
It is a hilarious bone-rattling attack on religious fundamentalism. When the movie ends, you know that religious fundamentalism has been successfully attacked.

But enough about Roger Ebert.
Let's apply The Whited Sepulchre Standard Of Film Criticism to this movie.
The WSSOFC works as follows....ask yourself how badly you wanted the movie to end. Movies that are excruciating torture to sit through are a zero. If you didn't want it to end, ask yourself how badly you wanted the movie to continue. (The only "0" on this scale that I've ever sat all the way through is "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh". At the other extreme, the only "10" is "Pulp Fiction". You can only have one "0" and one "10" per lifetime.)
This documentary is a 9.5
I walked out of the theatre almost 19 hours ago, but I wish I was still in there, watching more "Religulous".

Religulous was directed by Larry Charles, the guy who directed "Borat". Charles is in the background of a few scenes, looking somewhat like Cousin It from the Addams Family. He also interviews Maher as the two go from Israel to the Deep South to Salt Lake City to The Vatican (to name a few).
The documentary has the same road movie feel as Borat, and according to the L.A. Times, the interviews were obtained in the same way:
So how did Maher manage to get all these people to actually talk to him? Since "Religulous" was directed by Larry Charles, who also did "Borat," I suspected that subterfuge and trickery were involved. I was not far wrong. Here's how Maher pulled it off:
On how he got people to talk to him: "It was simple: We never, ever, used my name. We never told anybody it was me who was going to do the interviews. We even had a fake title for the film. We called it 'A Spiritual Journey.' It didn't work everywhere. We went to Salk Lake City, but no one would let us film there at all."
On the element of surprise: "Larry Charles' theory is--just keep going till they throw you out. I guess he learned that on 'Borat.' The crew would set up and at the last second, when the cameras were already rolling, I would show up. So either they'd be seen on camera leaving the interview and lose face or they'd have to talk to me. It was like--'And now here's ... Bill!'

While many of the interviews were with Fundamentalists trying to explain themselves to Maher, others were more sympathetic to his cause. Like Father Reginald Foster, a Catholic priest and friar of the order of Discalced Carmelites. (Definition of Calced vs Discalced Carmelites: one group originally wore shoes, one didn't.) Foster is the Pope's principle Latinist, and the interview with Maher took place in The Vatican. Unlike many of Maher's interview subjects, Foster dismisses much of Catholic tradition, ritual, and authority as...."bunk".

Another surprising conversation was with George Coyne, director of the Vatican Observatory. Coyne compares the Bronze Age mythological view of the world with the scientific view and declares that there is nothing that religion has to say about science, and vice-versa. (This new insight could have spared Galileo a LOT of trouble.)

I don't know if Vatican employees have a union, or any other type of job security, but I doubt that any of the Church's higher-ups are pleased with Foster and Coyne. My prediction? Heads will roll.

Maher visits a truck stop chapel. He interviews his mother and sister about their family's blend of Jewish and Catholic backgrounds. He interviews a couple of Mormon apostates.

One of the funnier moments is when Maher interviews Mark Pryor, Democratic Senator from Arkansas and a staunch believer in Creationism. This moment was good enough for inclusion in the movie's trailer:

If you don't have time to watch the whole thing, Maher asks how people smart enough to run the most powerful nation on earth can still believe the Creationist story of the talking snake. Pryor answers that "You don't have to pass an I.Q. test to be in the Senate".

The audience howled at that one.

Then there's the segment filmed at the Orlando Florida "Holy Land Experience Theme Park". (Hit the link, and get back to's worth it. Imagine Jesus dedicating his life to simplicity and then having that abomination constructed in his honor.)

There's an interview with two pitiful gay Muslims. Yes, Maher was able to find a Muslim gay bar.

I could go on and on. The only real weakness of the documentary was the ending. Maher's premise is that most of our religious beliefs endanger humanity. Many fundamentalists Christians have a longing for the apocalypse, a belief paralleled by the Muslim desire for jihad and martyrdom. The last few minutes of the documentary feature a pastiche of explosions, martyrdoms, 9-11 footage, and Muslim protesters. Maher does a voiceover explaining his concerns for the planet. We're all in trouble if enough nukes fall into the hands of people who believe that earth is nothing but a culling ground where our gods separate the worthy from the unworthy.
The carnage on the screen and the brilliance of Maher's closing rant are like two incredible events cancelling each other out. You can pay attention to either one, but not both.

When the film ended, the crowd at the Grapevine Mills (Texas) movie theatre spontaneously started applauding. When the applause died, someone standing near the exit yelled "I hope you people don't think HIS vision of God is anything like the REAL God", and then ran for the parking lot. Unlike most of Maher's interview subjects, the guy didn't have the courage of his convictions.

Speaking as an unorthodox Christian who believes that the teachings of Jesus were hijacked within the first couple of hundred years after his death, I couldn't help but view this movie as a good thing for....the church.

Yes, the church. The christian church. People aren't going to gather on Sunday mornings to hear someone explain the talking snake story for much longer. People are starting to question whether or not God is allowing infants to be born all over the world so that they can grow up to be fuel for an eternal BarBQ.

The Vatican knows better than this. Professors at the legit seminaries know better, as do many preachers and other ministers. Get them off the clock, and they'll tell you so.

It's time for our churches to stop asking people to believe, in Mark Twain's words, "seven impossible things before breakfast". People are going hungry while we produce liturgical show-stoppers to flatter the creator of cancer. If there is a creator, I don't believe that he, she, or it is interested in watching us martyr ourselves. I don't think whatever made us cares if we eat shellfish, or wear clothes from blended fabrics. I can no longer imagine a creator who responds to flattery.... "We praise you O God, for all your great and mighty works, and by the way....I LOVE that jacket !"

But I can believe that 2000 years ago, there was an enlightened rabbi who totally despised the intertwined government/religious system of his day, and who did his best to point out its shortcomings. He taught that we should simply love each other, help the poor, and not worry about keeping score with the Joneses.

Wouldn't it make a lot of sense for the church to get back to that? We've got the space. We've got kitchens. We have lots of dedicated volunteers. Buried in the gospels is Jesus's rationale for doing so.

In the closing words of Bill Maher, "Grow up or die."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Browncoat Libertarian - Take The Red Pill

There's another Fort Worth Libertarian blogger in our midst: The Browncoat Libertarian. I think I met this guy at Pop's Safari Bar last week. He was the one in the cigar bar with a copy of Reason magazine and a copy of Henry Hazlitt's Economics In One Lesson, if I'm not mistaken.
(Yes, at these Libertarian get-togethers you can gain points by out-geeking your companions. I almost went back to the truck for my copy of Liberty magazine and Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics - 3rd edition. But that might have been too intimidating.....)

I'm scraping the first post on his site, and leaving a few CLICK HERE blanks in the appropriate places, just to be sure you visit this guy's site.
The Red Pill/Blue Pill references are from The Matrix movies. Remember Lawrence Fishburne making this offer to Keanu Reaves in the first Matrix movie?
You are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born inside a prison that you cannot smell, taste, or touch. A prison for your mind. Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself. This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends, you awake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth, nothing more....


When politics seeps into conversations I have with new acquaintances, it’s not long before I see curious eyebrows rise and the inevitable line of questioning begins:

“You’re a Libertarian? Really? Why? Aren’t you just wasting your vote?”
Yes. Really. I took the Red Pill. As of 2008, I'm a card-carrying Libertarian. Why? Because I'm through wasting my vote. In 2005, I threw up my hands in disgust and had a disturbing epiphany...the United States does not have a "Two-Party" political system, we have a two faction, ONE PARTY political system, a.k.a. "CLICK HERE".

After the ascension of George "Dubya" Knucklehead, I eventually realized that the Republican Party had abandoned everything that differentiated them from the big government, welfare/nanny state Democrats. It also became clear that the Democrats had finally caved and started pandering to the religious much for the party of "tolerance". I was past the point of no return...I had swallowed the Red Pill.

Clearly, the Democrats and Republicans are now one and the same...they are the CLICK HERE Party. Their similarities far outnumber their differences. They are the party of Big Government, irresponsible spending, and religious pandering, all driven by fear-mongering elitists.

Sadly, CLICK HERE voters blissfully fool themselves, as I once did, into believing they have a choice, that their faction is the right choice and that the other faction is wrong and must not be allowed to take power. Newsflash: no matter what faction a CLICK HERE votes for, or in many cases, against, they still end up with a big government, fiscally irresponsible, police-the-world nanny-state theocracy. A CLICK HERE government, fueled by truly wasted votes.

Most new acquaintances I talk with agree with the libertarian philosophy and the Libertarian Party platform of smaller government, fiscal responsibility, and enjoying personal liberty free of an Orwellian nanny-state, yet they won’t vote for Libertarian candidates for fear of “wasting” their vote, so they vote CLICK HERE.
Folks, it’s time to wake up and realize that a CLICK HERE vote is the real wasted vote. Take the Red Pill, vote Libertarian, and start putting liberty-minded people in office.
I hope this generates some traffic for your new site, Mr. Browncoat.
So next time I see you at Pop's, the drinks and cigars are on you, right?

The latest discussion between Mommy and Daddy about who is going to drive the family car over the cliff....

I got home from work just in time to watch tonight's debate, but didn't have the intestinal fortitude to liveblog it.

It's already been done.

The same lines, over and over and over again.

We had the introduction of Joe The Plumber, Bob The Builder, etc.

All I could think of was Dr. Ralph's McGregor The Fence Builder.

For a while, I considered answering the questions myself.... But most of the questions (from Fort Worth's own Bob Schieffer) had such an assumed bias of "how should government solve this problem?" that I blew it off.

McCain needed a home run, and he didn't hit it.

If you're wondering about the offensive anti-Sarah Palin T-shirts at the Obama rallies that John McCain mentioned? Click here.

I can't imagine anyone remaining excited about either of these guys.

We're 10 trillion in debt, the baby boomers'll be retiring soon, I can't find any high school graduates who can read a tape measure, the BiPartisans recently gave a trillion dollars to millionaires to keep the stock market from doing what it did today, we're in a war that won't be resolved in my lifetime, and the debate, once again, was over whether the candidates should be using hatchets or scalpels.

A pox on both their houses....

Go Bob Barr.

The magazine cover of the four dogs, like so many other good things in life, is from Counting Cats.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Let Us Spray....

We drove past this place in Athens, Georgia. A church with its own paintball facilities. Here's the background for their MySpace page:

Overall, it has a nice Mercenaries For Jesus vibe.
Mrs. Whited Sepulchre takes the church kids to play Laser Tag once every year, but this is the first church I've seen that was more or less centered around a paintball ministry.

"You will know fear. You will feel pain. You will be bunkered. You will be out. I will win."

Not quite the 23rd Psalm, but that section of the Bible is kinda wimpy to begin with.

There are lots of possibilities for devotional artwork:

And for children's ministries:

"Repent or else" could be taken to new levels:

Jesus pics from here and here and here.

More Ron Paul on Bush, Bernanke, and The Bailout

Here's a video of Ron Paul, speaking the truth as usual.

Damon's iPod, Part 4

An open letter to my daughter at Texas A&M:

Dear Mary,

Remember how I used to sing a harmony part to whatever song was on the radio or CD player? And you used to beg me not to, because you said it didn't sound good? And you would beg me to pull the truck over to the side of the road so you could get out and walk, instead of listening to me sing the harmony parts to songs by Tom Petty, or Willie Nelson, or (God Help Us All) Journey?

Damon and I have been singing harmony parts for 6 days now, through Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, and now we're on the return trip.

I now understand that singing harmony parts in a crowded vehicle can only be enjoyed by the person doing the singing.

Damon sings harmony PERFECTLY to the music on his iPod.

Anyway, I just wanted to apologize for doing that when you were a little girl, and to anyone else who has had to listen to me sing non-existent harmony parts to recorded music, regardless of the circumstances.

It's 1:00 a.m., and we're somewhere north of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I'm ready to be home. I'm very sleepy, and little things inside this Ford F-250 are starting to bother me.

-The Daddy