Wednesday, February 25, 2004

After walking into the Carmike 12 Cinemas in Athens, Ga., I felt that "The Passion of the Christ" was a sort of "Lord of the Rings" for Christians. Here and there, I saw smudges on foreheads, bookmarked bibles under arms and people scribbling in notepads. The scribblers I pigeonholed as sharp-eyed atheists or ministers because the average moviegoer rarely documents what they are watching, and merely wades in it. Once I realized that it was Ash Wednesday, I felt at ease.

The movie, which runs two hours and covers the last 12 hours (plus one resurrection!) of Jesus' life on Earth, is a cinematically gorgeous film that reveres the Son of God and the slow-motion technique. An hour is devoted to his torture at the urging of Jews and by the hands of Romans. The theater was packed and the mood was somber. It was the most crowded cinema I've ever been in at 1:30 pm on a Wednesday.

For months, almost since its inception, people have been discussing the repercussions of putting out a movie like this, pointing fingers at the Jews and easing the blame on the Romans (Pontius Pilate specifically). For the most part, I felt it was incredibly gutsy to take ideas that have been discussed for centuries and put them into a medium that will qualify as "the truth" for millions. Not only will many Christians be so moved as to consider it jaw droppingly accurate (which is impossible to prove), many non-believers will view it as propaganda.

I have no ground to say whether I felt the film was historically accurate, so I won't. Yes, the Jews were portrayed in a bad light. But, if accounts say that they felt threatened by Jesus' influence, and did indeed nearly exhaust themselves getting him crucified, the film is dead on. In terms of storytelling, you could not find a better villain.

But was it anti-Semitic? No. If the movie portrayed Jews as a race of killers, that would be anti-Semitic. Broken down to the bare essentials, the Bible is a story. Did Jews act like that? Really? They did? Then show it. Is there evidence to the contrary? Show that.

The adage that you must not place the sins of the father on the son rings true for all groups. The majority of critics out there don't believe that the film is anti-Semitic, they just think it will evoke anti-Semitic feelings. The only way to stop that is to encourage people to be more open-minded, but in the end, that's left to the person.

It's a fine movie, although it is sometimes a bit too quick to employ the slow-motion technique. Will it usher in a new wave of Christian thought, or maybe just devotion, or will it gently fade into the "good movie" tier of films, like how "The Conversation" is good, but not as good as "The Godfather?" We'll see.

In a conversation with Peter Bart and Peter Guber, Gibson offers some insight into his views on the film. He plans on keeping it intact for the DVD (no unreleased footage or multiple angles), imposing a clause for no-commercials when it comes to network airings and maintaining a watch on the subtitle translation for foreign release. Maybe Gibson's epic is more art than capitalization, as Andy Rooney questioned on 60 Minutes.

I just hope this film doesn't make him smug in all his henceforth interviews. Like Tom Hanks after "Philadelphia." But he's gotten better. Love ya', Tom.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Time heals all wounds and anxieties. Shortly after my last posting, my book, "The Language of Fear" by Del James arrived, without a scratch and in pristine condition (which is along the same lines as mint condition). Riding on its coattails were four (4) tickets to see Air at EarthLink Live on April 6 in Atlanta. Elevating myself in the travel-weary metal box with flashy, pressable buttons to the ninth floor, I had a feeling of exuberance and finality. Like two anticipated babies, left by the stork. For me and me alone.

The book, which is a collection of short stories dealing with the unseen and unwanted elements of our society -- mainly, drug addiction, street life, substreet life -- is more or less Sunset Strip poetry. The author makes references to the female anatomy in snarled lip callousness, referring to a vagina as the cliche "flower." Bloodstains are referred to as "HIV graffiti." You get the drift, I presume. It's a run-of-the-mill slice from the dark-mind turkey. But it sings in certain areas. James has a clever mind and several stories are actually worth reading. One in particular...

One of the last stories (depends on your edition...though out of print now, there were several runs of "The Language of Fear") is titled "Without You." The story is the inspiration for the three (or four if you count the alternate version of "Don't Cry") videos off the insanely classic Guns n' Roses albums, "Use Your Illusion I & II."

What is most interesting about these videos, as Chuck Klosterman superbly points out in "Fargo Rock City," is that they seem to be in no particular order. The child I was, and in many ways still am, was hungry to wrap my developing fingers on a copy, crease the book in half and flood my eager brain with details of syringes and domestic abuse, crashed wedding cakes and cliff-defying automobiles, as the videos showed me in their nonsequential splendor. My searches would turn up nothing; the book was already hot and gone. Rare book sellers were perplexed by a fifth grader asking for such a title. My mother was equally embarrassed by my request.

I have only glanced at it, and will get to it once I can muster the courage and tact to read it without ruining it. As we speak, it's choking in a Ziploc bag on my bookshelf, a victim of my paranoia and captor of my desire to one day cash it in.

It stinks like an old book. All I know of its lifespan is that I got it from Kentucky (thanks, Pam Baker, whoever the hell you are), and it must be a late printing (date says early 90s, I believe). The foreword is written by Axl Rose, lead singer of the now defunct and never-to-return (embrace the truth, folks) band who acted out James' stories. Plus, Rose describes probing James for video ideas for their stale and tired "The Spaghetti Incident" EP (works great as a coaster). Still, I finally got the book. Thank you, eBay. I am no longer horny in the bidding war (see below post).

To toss it in the ring real quick: 90s rock books are a strange genre...although it probably isn't worth anything on the market, a book by Mark Sperry was the ultimate in f*cked up fiction. Fifth grade is not the age to read about setting bums on fire and ripping off people's flesh. So, I gave it to the seventh grader up the street. Today, he is a filmmaker in NYC. I'm glad it helped him, because it made me want to wash my eyes.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

I have a deep, dark secret that burns inside me like a fireball in a fist. It has for years plagued my conscience, mind and spirit all at once, while maintaining its vicious burden even when other evil feelings attempt to take its place. It sees through new additions. It roars through them like fists through tissue.

Dark enough for you? Eh? After losing my eBay virginity in the UGA Main Library, I have turned into the lovestruck deflowered one. No, I haven't ventured back to the hub of online auctioneers and memento jettisoning. I haven't been poring through the listings, becoming turned on by eye candy, such as trucker hats and old Stryper backstage passes. I have not become an eBay slut, eager to do it again, but this time dirtier, and quicker, right down to the last minute, maybe where someone will catch me.

This writer has become the girl waiting by the phone. Waiting for the love to arrive. It's only been four days.

Opening up my mailbox this afternoon, hoping to find my rare copy of Del James' "The Language of Fear," I was greeted by bound pages.

It was my eagerly awaited Kingsize catalog; the have-it-all tome for men of mass with style. You can't go wrong in size 68 pants with an elastic waistband. You must look good in the gym (either these men are getting bigger or trying to get smaller) in your workout pants with the Hawaiian flower/Japanese script hybrid racing stripe. While the denim fade should come natural for these men, it is available for a couple of dollars more.

I'm so eager for enlightenment, I've read the catalog through and through. And still I sit, lonely by the mail slot, horny in the bidding war.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

In Tom Sinclair's Entertainment Weekly piece "Do The Beatles Still Matter?," he questions whether, 40 years after their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, if they do in fact, still matter. Gathering opinions from a variety of artists, it turns out they still indeed do. And they always will. They're just too damn good.

The Beatles formed the mold of pop artists and then consistently broke it after every album, constantly evolving their sound and lives in tune with their music. They began as floppy-haired Sunday callers and ended as rooftop poets, with marijuana hangover beards and visions of their own.

As Andre 3000 (perhaps one of the most verifiable contemporary mainstream artists) intelligently states in Sinclair's piece, "They didn't have one style. You can hear their growth from when they were covering American rock & roll songs to writing their own songs, and then going off on their own trippy creations. I can identify with that." The Beatles were mavericks, striking oil with boyish pop that made girls swoon, and then rejecting the sound and moving to a more abstract place, filled with echoes, sitars and mellotrons.

They basically found the formula for gold and decided they didn't need it.

The Beatles' career as The Beatles (and respecting the projects and efforts put out by the members after 1969 as separate and apart) is almost impossible to compare to anything, be it an amusement park ride (too consistently good to be a roller coaster; too dynamic to be a full-circle ferris wheel or parabolic swing) or means of transportation (perhaps a plane, but not all the tracks were soaringly epic; not far-reaching enough to be a catapult). Perhaps that is what makes The Beatles the closest example to an artist in that explaining them only clouds the truth.

In the long-running debate (and understood; every time needs its healthy rivals) between the Rolling Stones and The Beatles, one must give in and end the argument all together. The Stones were bluesmen, music to kick teeth in with, music to get drunk and laid to. The Beatles were musicians, explorers, alchemists and poets. The Stones have essentially been playing the same songs since "Exile on Main Street" (their finest), and should have quit and left their legacy as the greatest screw you band. The Beatles quit when their personal visions became too much to mesh. Blame it on Yoko if you must, but the truth is that it's better they broke up. I can only imagine the tacky stage antics they would employ if they did an arena-sized version of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," with special guest Mark McGrath.

Mr. Sinclair, I hope The Beatles do still matter. In the age of halftime nipple peeps, and May-December diva lesbian kisses, it's vital that artists remember them. There were bands who knew that their hearts and brains combined could intrigue the souls of people with honest efforts alone. Bands such as Wilco, Radiohead, Air, Outkast are some of today's examples. The Beatles were unafraid of offering something, and then offering something entirely different. Their artistic path was brilliant: begin simple, and then build on it, craft it, mold it, multiply it, reverse it and then kiss it all goodbye.

The Beatles changed the art world for the best and forever.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

I'm not the guy you see on ESPN, shirtless, with a specific letter that corresponds to my university on my chest. It doesn't strike a chord with me. In fact, you're lucky to find me actually at a game. Or watching ESPN.

However, it pains me not when my school loses an athletic contest. Glory in sports is ever fleeting, so said a wise man. It pains me more when my school is presented in a false light, or when it is embarrassed by some idiotic misstep by the administration. However, the truth hurts, and you sadly have to embrace not only to save face, but to right some kind of wrong.

Last month, three fraternity brothers of Phi Kappa Psi found a raccoon acting in an erratic manner (see "rabid") next to a dumpster in their parking lot. So, they did what any rightminded citizen would do: they skinned, burned and then ate it. Somewhere in the mix they actually put it out of its misery.

Since the incident, people have been up in arms, with the majority voicing dissent at what occurred, and calling for criminal charges, which appears what happened today (

The students involved have apologized, but that doesn't seem to be enough.

Because of the interesting mix that makes this great city, you have down south (I won't call them rednecks) purists yelling that it is no different than hunting, to others saying that those protesting obviously don't know the absolute gourmet appeal of raccoon meat. Some voices in the fray want the students prosecuted and expelled. One voice questioned those speaking for the raccoon's rights, wondering how they felt about abortion when compared to the murder of an animal ( The local intelligentsia are involved, plus the townie movement.

You'd think it was local, but it just made The Drudge Report ( Dear God help us.

It's nice to know that when I finally get my piece of paper from UGA, and I hand my resume to a hopeful employer, the first thing that will spring to mind won't be "That University of Georgia is a sound school with a top-notch journalism program and excellent professors, and a vibrant and eclectic surrounding town whose culture is unparalleled."

No, they will think, "Oh, geez, this kid comes from UGA, where they put checkered-past thugs on the athletic teams, let bobos run rampant in administration who siphon funds from deserving teaching positions (take a pay cut, Mr. Adams), and have kids eating raccoons out of dumpsters." Oh, excuse me, next to dumpsters.

I can only hope this won't be the case. I can only hope that Athens will shine once again. Or at least regain a little bit of that luster it proudly boasted when I first arrived.

For your information and consideration...

My love and condolences to Mary Kent Anderson and the entire Anderson family, in Georgia and elsewhere, for the loss of their beloved James "Tommy" Anderson. My heart and support goes out to them, and promises steadfast to remain there.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Test...simply a test. Now go test yourself.