October 18, 2018

Some Possible Democratic Candidates for 2020

survey questions
If you were thinking of running for president as a Democrat in 2020, you would probably be encouraged by recent polls showing that the race looks fairly open despite Joe Biden's lead over other possible candidates. Biden clearly has some solid support among voters, but the numbers do not make it look like he has anything locked up. Hopefully, the mainstream news media will not begin referring to him as "the presumptive nominee" just yet! There is still room for you to enter the race and make an impact.

What should those of us who are not thinking of running for president but would like to see a Democrat win in 2020 make of these numbers? Probably not much. I think it is understandable that some will be disappointed that their personal pick does not have more support or that someone they don't like has as much support as he or she does. Fortunately, there is still time for these numbers to shift around and for new candidates to emerge. It is far too early to think that these numbers will be an accurate reflection of who runs or what kind of support potential candidates may have as we approach 2020.

October 17, 2018

Horror Favorites: The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist theatrical release
By Ross Dunn [CC BY-SA 2.0]
The Exorcist (1973) is considered by many to be one of the scariest horror movies of all time. While I can think of films I found scarier, I cannot think of very many that affected audiences quite like this one. Maybe it is not the scariest film ever, but it deserves its reputation as one of the scariest available (especially for those who believe in demonic possession). I'd also not hesitate to give it a spot in my list of horror favorites.

The first time I saw The Exorcist, I was probably about 13. I caught it on TV, and that means I saw a heavily edited version that first time. I was vaguely aware of the film's reputation, and I remember being very excited that I was finally able to see it. Despite my best efforts to turn off all the lights and give it my full attention, my parents were getting ready for a night out and kept turning on the lights so they could see what they were doing and interrupting me as I tried to watch. By the time they finally left, I felt like I had missed enough of the backstory that I was not sure what was going on.

October 16, 2018

Changing Public Attitudes Toward Atheists

reading the newspaper
Conservative Skeptic recently noted that atheists in the U.S. "are still not large enough to be of any real consequence within society." I think he's right, especially if we focus on atheists' political influence. Not only are there not enough of us to be terribly relevant in elections, but voter turnout among atheists is far lower than it is among evangelical fundamentalist Christians. We could organize like they do, but we refuse to do so. And so, I think it is fair to say that among the many challenges facing atheists in the U.S. who think we should have greater political influence, how best to encourage other atheists to vote is an important one.

As important a goal as increasing turnout among secular voters may be, we also need to acknowledge that public attitudes toward atheists are still extremely negative in the U.S. One implication of this is that even appearing to be tolerant or accepting of atheists can be a liability for politicians in some regions of the country. Someone running for office in Mississippi, for example, probably cannot afford to look as though he or she is even willing to be civil to atheists. Perhaps improving public attitudes toward atheists is as important a goal as increasing voter turnout.

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.