October 14, 2018

The Reputation of the Catholic Church

The Conjuring 2 logo
The Church's ability to help people depends on its reputation.
- Line of dialogue from The Conjuring 2

I really liked The Conjuring. I liked it so much so that I added it to my pathetically small Blu-ray horror collection several years ago. Not surprisingly, I was eager to see The Conjuring 2 when it came out. I thought it was good, but I couldn't help being somewhat disappointed as a result of the high expectations I had based on the first one. As much as I liked it, I did not think it was quite as good as the first. I watched The Conjuring 2 again recently and found myself enjoying it more than I had the first time. Once again, this seems to be a case of my unrealistically high expectations getting in the way.

October 12, 2018

Some Thoughts on the Hellraiser Franchise

Hellraiser puzzle box
I was in high school when Hellraiser (1987) was released. Although I was seeing a lot of movies in those days, I do not recall hearing about it at the time. Maybe it never came to the movie theater in the small town where I lived or had a trailer included in any of the other films I saw at the time. I first heard about it from a friend in college, and a small group of us rented it one night to watch in a crowded dorm room. It blew me away and remains one of my go-to examples of a film I've always liked even though I'd have trouble considering it one of the true greats of the genre.

Even compared to other horror films being released at the time, Hellraiser had something of a b-movie vibe to it. It did not look nearly as polished and professional as many of the others, and the acting was merely adequate. Fortunately, this seemed to work here, lending some added realism. The low-budget feel was one of the things I liked about it (not unlike The Evil Dead). The story was simple but compelling, and the same could be said for the set. In addition to a creepy atmosphere and a great sense of dread, what Hellraiser really had going for it was the originality. I had seen plenty of horror movies, but I had never seen anything like this. I wouldn't say that it was much scarier or more disturbing than other films I had seen (although it held its own in these areas), but the tone was darker and more serious. It was like a nightmare coming to life on screen.

October 11, 2018

Mississippi is Doing Its Part to Promote Global Climate Change

gas station sign
Like most U.S. states, Mississippi charges a gas tax. The tax of $0.18 per gallon is supposed to go toward repairing and maintaining our roads. I see little evidence that our roads are being adequately maintained. They seem to be getting progressively worse and quickly. In the town where I live, it has become increasingly difficult to get around without hitting a pothole serious enough to cause significant damage to one's vehicle. Something as vital as commuting to work can result in expensive car repairs.

Fortunately, the Republican lawmakers who control every branch of government in the state of Mississippi recently decided that it was time to raise additional funds. They even decided to do so by creating a brand new tax. Before you applaud such an uncharacteristic move for Republicans, you'll want to hear a bit more about this new tax. Everyone in the state who owns a hybrid or electric vehicle recently received a letter in the mail informing them that they would be subject to a new tax. Hybrid owners will now pay an additional $75/year beyond their vehicle registration fee. For owners of fully electric vehicles, the annual tax will be $150. Evidently, the Republican legislators decided that the owners of these vehicles were not paying their fair share because their vehicles were either too fuel efficient or did not use gas at all.

October 10, 2018

Redeeming Qualities of Violence?

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The BeginningWhen I finally got around to watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006) in 2008, went into it with some trepidation. In fact, I'd been avoiding it because I figured it would be bad. As a fan of the original, which now has a 40th anniversary edition out, I worried that this could ruin it. It wasn't great, but it did manage to be much better than I was expecting. But this is not a review of the film. I am just using it to pose the following question: Can the depiction of graphic violence for the sake of violence have any real merit?

I'll admit that I found the film entertaining. I probably wouldn't recommend it to others, and I have no burning desire to see it again. Still, it wasn't a terrible way to waste an evening. Is this enough to redeem what was a brutal and nasty film? That is, are films like this okay because people like me find them entertaining?

I suppose I could try to argue for some sort of artistic merit and claim that the film functions as art. I can think of some violent horror films where one could reasonably make this argument, but I would have a hard time doing so in this particular case. I have seen many films which were far more violent and disturbing but that genuinely worked as art. I'm not sure this one was up to the standard where it could be considered art.

If You Had to be Religious, What Religion Would You Pick?

What religion would you pick?

When I started Atheist Revolution in 2005, I used to receive one question from Christians over and over. It would be worded in somewhat different ways, but it tended to go something like this:
I know you are an atheist but if you had to have a religion, what religion would you choose?
The Christian would sometimes word the question to focus more on what god I'd believe in instead of referring to a religion. My favorite variation was probably the addition of a gun to my head and the idea that I was being forced to pick a religion. Such a wonderful image! But all the versions I remember boiled down to the same thing: if I was going to be a religious believer, what religious belief system would I select?