Sunday, December 12, 2010

My Hatred Of Christmas (And Why I Am Right)

Every year around this time, I find myself assaulted and assailed by the relentless good cheer of people who apparently are hell bent on making me break my resolve in re: boiling people in their own pudding.

For every person who is shocked by the notion that anyone, anywhere would so despise their Beloved Season Of Good Cheer, I wish to make this public, if ignored, comment: Fuck off. Thank you.

Leave us, now, to determine the causes of this "irrational" mindset, shall we? Or are you too timid, too cowardly to read on?

I care not. This is MY blog. Not yours. Neener, neener, boo boo.

For what it is worth: like all "irrational" hatreds, mine begins with ugly childhood memories. Every year, like clockwork, my father's family would gather on Christmas Eve. Good food, good cheer, all that: what's the problem?

Getting home at about 2AM on the 25th. Being an only child, being drug out of bed by parents and grandparents will harsh, barked (sometimes hangover induced) commands: Be Happy. (Or what? You'll beat me until I cheer up?) The moment was caught one time on 8mm film... a wee child staggering, sleepwalking into a slow wakeful state, and BAM! That horrific glare of a hand held sun explodes, and you can actually SEE the retinas burning. Cut to: staggering child (undoubtedly blind) moving from object to object, wondering what the hell is going on...

Bitch Number One: Enforced frivolity should be allowed, legally, to be responded to a single brutal, physical response. My fist, your nose. Why? Think: how would you respond to a happy clown showing up at the funeral of a loved one? See? A happy clown! Laugh, damn you! LAUGH!

A little over the top? Maybe. BUT: once a year, I am advised by some pinheads that want me (and I assume you) to believe they live by the credo Do Unto Others As You Want Them To Do Unto You.... do they WANT me to demand an emotional response? If that is what they are doing, and they are, then I guess I am going to have a team of clowns on retainer, and send them a group of names: Watch for next funeral....

Everyone likes to whine about the materialism in Christmas, and so, too shall I. No apologies, just the truth. Again: Only child. So many read that and say Ah Ha! Spoiled rotten! Got everything he ever asked for...


My parents started a tradition that my wife, and family, have made every attempt to follow. Demand (not request, demand, which is really fucking annoying coming from your kids, okay?) a list of material goods.... that will then be completely ignored. Completely, utterly. (As a child, this was devastating... even my friends that came from huge and impoverished families would get at least ONE thing from their list...)

Bitch Number Two: (and yes, this is directly related, Things I Have Learned The Hard Way)... there are more in the world who get nothing than those who get anything. Allegedly, we are celebrating the birth of Our Lord And Savior. (I am all about that!) Somehow, we have begun to ignore the homeless, the poor, the orphans and widows... say what? Is that (wait for it: Drum Roll) What Jesus Would Do?

Worst part of Bitch Number Two: Every damned year I get suckered into it. I fall right into the line to the showers: gimme. Gimme. Gimme. THAT is embarrassing. That shopping zombie look, the open drooling mouth... gimme. Gimme. Gimme.

I hate it when I do that.

As time went on, and I became less enchanted with This Idiot Season, I recall most distinctly hearing a (ready?) Pastor, a Man O' Gawd, going on at length about how the most pagan of rituals was accepted into the Christian faith, and thus, made Holy. He then went on about how one of the symbols of Christmas, the Tannenbaum, the Christmas Tree, was one of the most pagan traditions ever subsumed into the faith.

Every year, the world goes 'round the sun. Every year, the planet reaches a point where it appears that the sun is going farther and farther away. The darkness of the night becomes longer, the light of day less: the world was ending. Bring in a tree, that one that is ever green, and it will be a reminder of when the world was not ending. We will festoon it with candles, and chase dark away by bringing our own light.

Bitch Number Three: Christmas, in the way it is celebrated, and even when it is celebrated, has absolutely, positively nothing whatsoever to do with the faith. Nothing.

The Nazis... oops, sorry, their spiritual predecessors the Romans, kept rather accurate records. They marked their calendars with important dates and events, like we do now, and those dates can be easily if not flawlessly determined. According to the Scripture, Mary and Joseph had to return to their hometown for a census. This was recorded, and the date can be approximated within a week or less. Christmas did not happen in the dead of winter, folks.

If it did, "certain shepherds in fields where they lay" would have frozen to death, not too mention their flocks would have died.

Christmas, then, as it exists currently is nothing more than a materialistic pagan orgy of spending.

Oh, and by the way: while the birth of Our Lord And Savior is of vital importance, it was his blood, shed for us all, that we are saved. Not his birth. His crucifixion. Sorry. Hate to be the one to tell you the truth, but... tough.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Childhood memories of Adult moments (II)

Ever been driving down the highway, and see the spinning lights of police and rescue? Notice how the traffic slows, and how we'd all like to pretend that we are slowing to make sure no one else is involved in a wreck, but deep inside, most if not all of us are slowing to see the carnage.

Ever actually see it happen? That Naked Lunch moment, where everyone sees what is at the end of every fork?

Being either emotionally repressed to the point of sociopathology or emotionally retarded to the same point (thus not making a difference), it is my twisted nature to observe and remove myself. I cannot respond immediately. It is not possible. I don't know how, and when forced to respond in The Moment, the results are usually pretty unpleasant.

On the plus side, however, it does allow for the perception of a moment and place The Moment into a more condensed version that allows for a deeper understanding.

Watching my parents was most instructional on how Management and Labor behave.

Mom worked at the Pontiac World Headquarters on Wide Track Drive (or was it Widetrack? Who cares...), the front office. At one time, she was part of the pink-collar You're Just A Woman brigade of human fodder that the corporate fascists love to feed to their own version of Moloch of the Burning. As the years progressed, and slowly so did the corporate/social order, she moved higher in the ranks. Never in a position of what others would call "power," she was privy to inside discussions.

One evening, Mom came home in the typical Allard fashion: high dudgeon. Ah, the reddened face, the swelling of the cranial veins! How I remember it well, and still fall prey to it. The cause on this fine evening was the result of her watching Higher Ups return from the then-normal "three" martini lunch.

Enter the gentlemen of industry, and the topic of their conversation was the pending legal requirement that all automobiles built in the US had to have an impact resistant bumper. It seems that the model designed and being pushed through production had a minor flaw: the distance between the bumper and the vehicle was a little more than anticipated, and there was a gap, and nothing to fill the gap, so (Miss? Another round here) the decision was made to use a certain cheap ... inexpensive, sorry... plastic that was available, paint the plastic and pop it in. Problem solved!

Mom, whose intellect was never in doubt (and why I always prefer to associate with women of intellect), had read the reports of said intended plastic. Enter, Angry Woman, snarling and spitting with rage: The plastic was rejected because it didn't hold the paint, and even on the slightest impact it was known that the paint would come loose from the plastic and look like Hell.

The parental example was to allow the Spouse to rant and tirade, but not really focus. Really, was it all that necessary? Let them get it out, and move on.

Dad worked for the then GMPD (General Motors Parts Division), a warehouse for all of the extra parts sent out to the dealerships and all other outlets that sold Genuine GM Parts. He was an hourly employee, Union man.

One fine day, oh, a few months after the great Three Martini Lunch Decision, Dad came home, raving and raging. Mandatory overtime, more work than anyone wanted to do but with no options. Reason: all of these parts were flooding in, seems that on a low impact to the front end of GM vehicles, the paint flaked off the plastic to such an extent that the product owners (you know, the customers) were certain that the visual damage reflected greater damage than actually existed, so the company was cranking out replacements.

Mom = Management. Dad = Labor.

What did I learn?

1) Management does not fully understand what Labor does. In this case, if they had, perhaps a few more moments of (sober) conversation would have lead to, But what will happen later?

2) Labor does not fully understand what Management does. In this case, had Labor (Dad) asked, perhaps the end result could have been understood rather than merely a point of complaint.

3) Management can change the events in the life of Labor, but the reverse does not hold true. All Management can do is turn a deaf ear to what appears to be whining and complaining.

From that point on, I have yet to see a single corporation I have worked for, large or small, regardless of industry, that sees the problem may (gasp! Dast I suggest such a thing??? I dast, I dast) be at the top of the ladder and not at the bottom. I have also yet to see in the rank and file, union and non-union, a single moment of clarity that allows for a frank discussion of a problem that could help both Management as well as Labor come not merely to an understanding but a resolution for both sides.

While I am Labor, and will always be so (I'm okay with that), I place the blame more on Labor. Whining don't cut it: learn to speak Corporate. That is not the same as the Cheerleader Rah-Rah that some think, but rather that straightforward "Here is the problem, and here is how we should make it go away, and make more profit for the company as well as improve our lot."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Childhood memories of Adult moments (Part I)

I have often said that my home in Clarkston, MI, was the place where the event now referred to as The Culture Wars began. I am not referring to the town here, but the actual home. (I would put in the actual address, but there is a different family living there, and would not put it here without their express permission.) I double checked this with my father, and this matches his memory of the event, so, here then is the first real Adult moment in my childhood that I recall as clearly as if I were able to travel there and watch it like a movie.

My mother, Wanda (now gone, died 5/5/96) had returned home one evening from work, carrying her latest purchase. She opened it, pulled the long playing record from its sleeve and put it on the old Motorola. (Fine machine, had to wait a few seconds before using it: tubes had to warm up, don't you know...) She placed the album on the turntable, and played all of side one, and turned it over and played all of side two.

It was the then hot new release: Meet The Beatles.

She locked eyes with my father, and the two glared at each other, and I honestly don't recall a word spoken or an eye blinked. I know I had to be breathing, else I would have died! Regardless...

At the end of side two, my father, never speaking, just turned and walked out of the house. My mother put the album away into the family collection, which was a rather minuscule thing, as I recall. About an half of an hour later, my father returned with his newest purchase.

Like my mother, he opened the long playing record, pulled out the album, played all of side one, and then side two. Again: staring contest. Nothing was said, and when it was over, my father put his album next to hers. His: 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong.

Tension in the Allard house then at that time normally would reach a boil-over point, angry words would be followed by bitter recriminations, and on stand out occasions, air borne furniture. (Never any actual physical violence, no one beat on anyone else. I think they were afraid of not being able to stop once it begun.)

I could not understand the problem. After all, at the time, the greatest music I'd ever heard in my (very limited) life was home grown from Hitsville USA. Who needs some Southern boy or some long-haired hippies when you could listen to The Temptations? How silly!

Be that as it may, take into account that this happened when the first Beatles album had just been released in the US. This was 1964 or 1965. It remains the touchpoint to the way I look at the world, and that whole batshit insane time of the 60's and 70's.

Tensions built up over things that could so simply have been approached with a Live And Let Live response.

My parents never argued about those records, and I never even attempted to convince them of the obvious errors in judgment they were showing. There was no attempt by anyone to just talk. Better to be angry, and wasn't that America, then?

As Rodney King said, and I agree with him 100%: "Why can't we all just get along?"

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Collapse Of Culture In America

Andy Warhol once said that in the future everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes. That was before the internet. The fact is now everyone is famous for about fifteen seconds.

Art serves a purpose, to illuminate areas within the human condition, both good and ill. That notion has mutated into merely lighting an area, showing behavior. There is no illumination, as illumination would suggest an understanding or at the least an invitation to understanding. The human condition, when reduced to nothing more than mere recording of events without context, becomes an exercise in societal masturbation.

Assigning blame is mostly pointless, but in this case it underscores prior comments here in regards to the creation of a Police State in a formerly free and open society: we got what we asked for.

Writers of comedy have slowly been replaced by cameras focused on human beings in Skinner boxes; who needs context when the audience only wants to watch itself? People, when jammed together into tiny quarters and have behavioral options limited are nothing more than monkeys, and not very smart monkeys at that, but they are funny when slinging (verbal) excrement at one another. Mere vulgarity has replaced wit, and all that is required to "prove a point" is a snarky comeback.

Tragedy withered on the vine of gossip. The fall of kings is now nothing more than a Princess' auto accident. There is nothing to learn from circumstance, no growth of soul in the tabloids.

We did this. We allowed it by demanding more. It is so much easier to watch than read, easier to expel flatulence than wit, easier to gawp stupidly than to read. We did this.

Worse: we trained our children to do the same.

An informed populace is the strongest vanguard against tyranny, and the American populace may be many things but informed would not be one of them. We need Information, but In Formation. Factoids are not facts: an informed decision cannot be made from charting the fall of snowflakes.

One of the most important political events that happened in the United States was noted, underscored and commented upon, but apparently, no one caught the point: that event? The election results between George W. Bush and Albert Gore.

So much has been said that it may appear to be a pointless endeavor, but there were two salient points, one brought forth in the Micheal Moore film Fahrenheit 911, and the other (apparently) noticed by myself and damned few others.

The point Moore makes is shown in the U. S. Congressional Building. Over and again, Representatives are shown standing, demanding that the results be brought to a vote. Over and again, Moore makes the comment that all that would have been needed to bring that vote was one (mark that: ONE) Senator to agree to their call. Each time Moore shows that call, and each time Moore comments that only ONE senator was needed to allow a vote.... he cuts back to the President of the Senate, Albert Gore.... who does nothing.

Here, then, is an interesting thing: perhaps Senator Al Gore was acting in the best interests of the country rather than his own interests. (This would be reminiscent of the then Vice-President Nixon allowing the questionable count in Chicago to stand unchallenged.) That could be. The question Moore does NOT have the courage of his alleged convictions to ask is: there were 99 other Senators... did they not hear the call?

The other, more interesting point is the hew and cry about the alleged corruption of the Fox Network. All of the other networks, Moore shows, declared the race too close to call. Moore then shows Fox declaring Bush the winner. Ah ha! See? (say the ill-informed and intellectually suspect) See? Fox GAVE the election to Bush!! Foul! Foul!

Apparently, what is never seen, is the fact (sorry, too bad, get over it: FACT) that the other networks caved. They didn't say, Hmm... mayhap Fox is a tad premature, that the vote is just too close to call. No. What they did was bow to Fox and say, Fox has declared the winner.

The point, in case it is being missed, is this: the so-called professional journalists simply failed to do their job. They ignored their ethics and instincts and merely stood by and let someone call the vote over. Done, finit! Who needs to make follow up calls or ask questions?

Not the cowards at NBC. Not the cowards at PBS. Not the cowards at ABC. When I CBS, I know it for what it is....

This point is made not to return to that election for the pointless rage it causes the closed, stupid "minds" of the left or the right. It is made because: wait for it; drum roll....

We were there, we saw it happen and no one cried Bullshit!

We, the people of the United States just watched. We had already become so used to being fed a steady diet of crap that we, the people, did nothing. Moore showed us a small, angry group that tried, and nothing came of it, nothing was done.

Yet, still, there are those blind and foolish enough to feel that one party is better than another. Conspiracy? Doubtful. Mere laziness explains it so much better.

There is an old saw, a tale told in the basement of churches. If I boil a pot of water, and throw a frog into it, the frog will flee. If I put the frog in the pan and start to slowly heat the water, the frog will stay until it is boiled alive.

That point is no longer valid.

If I slaughter a monkey, and I train other monkeys to just watch and do nothing, they will eagerly come forward into the knife for their moment of glory. If the monkeys are inured to it long enough, even the most clever will fail to notice: the knife waits for them, too.

Think I overstate this? Am I serious?

The morning "news" programs are not part of the same news department that brings you the evening report, did you know that? They are ALL part of entertainment. NOT news. Watch them. Carefully. Take the time to note: what story is SO important, that it leads?

How many nations are currently at war? How is the economy faring?

Who won Dancing With The Stars? Who won (aptly named) American Idol? Who is sleeping with whom? Who is dating or breaking?

This is not news. It is Valium. Take a bottle full and wash it down with Busch Beer. Try to relax.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The End Of The Internet (as we know it and I feel fine)

Follow the money.

Reading or watching the manufactured infobytes that currently pass for journalism would lead one to be mislead. The recession is ending. Times are good. The recession is over, times are going to get worse. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Follow the money.

If a police state is to be created, what is the fastest, most cost effective means of such creation? The soon-to-be ruled must ask for it. Why bother with tanks in the streets and guns in faces if the people simple turn to an Almighty Big Government and ask to be controlled in every field of human existence?

Follow the money.

What happens in a free society when the populace surrenders all freedom, all sovereignty? The power that already rests in the hands of very few becomes stronger, and that power becomes a whip by which the people may be flogged. Give up, surrender and let us take care of you. We are from the government, and we are here to help.

Follow the money.

When corporate fascism corrupts the notion of capitalism to such a point that it no longer exists, when the corporate fascists erode the ultimate freedom of the free market to a point in which the market must be controlled, then the work place becomes a battlefield. From the Communists came the notion of "you can't say that! You'll get us all arrested!" The corporate fascists have mutated that into: You can't say that! You'll get us all fired!

Follow the money.

Freedom, at its most basic level, cannot exist without communication. The ability to say "2+2=4" is meaningless without someone else to hear it (in a deeper political sense). Truth must be spread like a virus. To spread the truth, it must begin, and then go forth. (QED) The internet allows this to happen at the touch of a button. Click: boom. Just that simple.

Follow the money.

Recently, in the United States, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has begun to make headway into the death of the internet. They have decided, and this is all but signed, inked and passed forth, to begin allowing broadband providers a tiered system. This means: the more downloads you are doing, the more you will pay. Here, voices will cry out: Why is that bad? Shouldn't you pay for what you are using, just like water or electricity?

Follow the money.

As of this writing, all of the newer HDTV sets are becoming Internet Compatible. Older, non-HD TV sets are disappearing, useless doorstops in the future HD 3-D world. Remember the commercial? "When I was a boy, we didn't have to pay extra for color? We feel you shouldn't have to pay extra for HD."

Dear jackass: When I was a boy, WE DIDN'T HAVE TO PAY ANYTHING FOR TV.

Follow the money.

Is it really that difficult to see coming? A day when NOTHING is broadcast for free, where if you want to watch TV at all, you will be given a surcharge. How much can the populace afford to pay? A new HDTV, more for internet connection to watch it. It adds up, and fast.

Follow the money.

How long before the internet becomes a place of only the select few, and not the entirety of us all?

Follow the money.

How long before broadcast TV becomes a rare and expensive item?

Follow the money.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Is retribution justice? Lex talonis and torture porn

Last evening, I had the opportunity to sit through a film called Law Abiding Citizen. (Released in 2009, directed by F. Gary Gray, starring Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler, written by Kurt Wimmer.) While enjoying the film, something began to nag at me, and when the thought occurred, it would not leave.

The plot, briefly: the home of Clyde Shelton (Butler) is invaded, his wife and daughter murdered and he is beaten. The assistant district attorney Nick Rice (Foxx), to get a conviction, cuts a deal, and one of the two guilty parties is given a drastically reduced sentence. Shelton then goes on a killing spree, following the Lex Talonis, an eye for an eye, killing those he perceives to be guilty. Rice is involved in the case, both in tracking and attempting to put Shelton behind bars. People are executed on screen in a variety of ways that are entertaining for those who find such things entertainment. (Like me.)

The film is well made, shot very noir-style, and the performances are nicely done. (Foxx and Butler own this film.) What brought my to writing this particular piece was the notion that I had seen the film before, but it was called The Abominable Dr. Phibes. A wronged man seeks redress, and those from whom he seeks it must suffer.

This plot has been used again and again, to varying effect: Dr. Phibes Rises Again, Theater Of Blood (my personal favorite), the Saw and Hostel series, among many, many others. Even the original Friday The Thirteenth can be seen as falling into this category.

What really cemented this was the DVD extra feature on Law Abiding Citizen that refers to the legal aspect of the film. While the legal portion of the film is far from flawless, the mini-documentary discusses the basic plot line and the focus of the film, which is the jurisprudence system in the United States, and the reasons why certain things happen, and must happen, and why it can be perceived as a complete failure.

This theme of Failed Justice is what brings us to the notion of Lex Talonis, an eye for an eye. There is a sub-genre of film called the Revenge Film, usually attached to a sexual assault. Here, we get to see something known as Let The Punishment Fit The Crime.

These films play on a fear, the fear that the system can and does work, but when the right unfortunate series of events take place, it not only fails but appears to mock itself. Villains are allowed freedom and safe passage while the victim is now sport, the punchline to a sick joke.

In the horror version of this type of plot, justice is meted out in the most brutal of means. Body parts are removed (in Hannibal, feet were going to be eaten off of a living human by ravenous pigs), death comes in a variety of peculiar, Rube Goldberg means and, most important for this genre, the villain is reduced to victim and knows that a painful demise awaits.

Make that: a slow, painful demise. Not only must the punishment fit the crime, it must now surpass it. Innocents are offered up as sacrifice; children, spouses and loved ones (dogs in Theater Of Blood) must be harmed, as the villain in question can stand anything and everything but not the pain suffered by others. This is Justice in Orwell's Room 101: what awaits is the worst thing in the world, and the worst thing differs from one human being to another.

The underlying notion then of Justice Failed must needs be turned to Lex Talonis has become a barometer of the audience's response, a societal pulse. Can we accept this? Has it become necessary in our 21st century life?

Taking this one more step back, and we find the point of crossover, as shown in the film Death Wish. Again, there is a home invasion, murder and rape, and the wronged man begins to hunt down and kill the villains... as a vigilante. Lex talonis belongs to the vigilante, and that then opens this concept to the entire mythos of two figures: Batman and Daredevil. Young men, parent/parents killed, life dedicated to justice: an eye for an eye, and let the beatings commence.

When we are treated (if that term can be used here) to the slow agony of destruction of the flesh, when the punishment seems to not only be attached to the crime but reaching into the play book of the Marquis de Sade, then we start moving from an eye for an eye and into an eye, a tooth, a foot.... just so the audience can see the blood and torment. However, going back to Law Abiding Citizen, we are shown the machinery of death, and often the results, but not the slow agony. Thus, we do not consider it "torture," because we do not see or hear the screams.

This, then, is the bottom line: there is no difference. If we see onscreen a man being buried alive, screaming and clawing and gasping for Just One More Breath, what is the difference is we only find his twisted corpse, the aftermath? Both images are the same: this person was buried alive. The death would be both slow and painful, and tormenting to the soul and psyche.

Why, then, are we being treated to long scenes of agony?

I think it is due to a sense of impotence, a complete loss of personal power. Any idiot with access to a credit card can rent a box truck and purchase enough chemicals to blow up a building and everyone in it; a jet can be overcome and used a human-guided missile. This is our world. When it comes home, when the chickens come to roost, we see ourselves as we are: powerless, wronged and angry. We want justice, and we have slowly but surely begun to surrender any hope of that being seen in a court of law, and in these types of films we are seeing the results.

This is both good and bad. Good as (hopefully, God willing) allows us a form of catharsis, an option to release the rage against the world without actually harming anyone. Bad in that is underscores the sense that the only true justice comes from the barrel of a gun or the point of a knife... or a chainsaw.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Grace (2009) Film review

Written and directed by Paul Solet (and dedicated to his mother, which only makes it creepier), starring Jordan Lad as Madeline Matheson, Stephen Park as Michael Matheson, Samantha Ferris as Patricia Lang and Gabrielle Rose as Vivian Matheson (mother of Michael).

This won't be for everyone. Slow of pace and going for the disturbing rather than shock and grotesque, it succeeds where others can only dream of attempting. The plot: Madeline Matheson is pregnant after two failed attempts, and has chosen to go to a midwife (Patricia Lang) who has had some kind of prior relationship with her, possibly a lesbian affair. Mother Matheson dislikes and distrusts anything not attached to a clean, white hospital, and goes out of her way to undermine every choice Madeline makes. There is a horrific car accident, Micheal dies, and her unborn child is declared dead in utero. Madeline decides to carry the dead child to term, and on birthing her (Grace, the title character of the film), holds the body and wills it to life. From there, everything turns sideways.

The film industry as a whole tends to shy away from showing strong willed women, and here all of the female characters are stronger than the men. This does not mean that the women are perfect, in fact they are all deeply wounded by their own decisions and pasts. As this thing progresses, the characters are all displayed, warts and all, and therein lies it greatest strength. There is a villain of sorts in the mother, but once the film shows her as both hateful and controlling, it then shows the agony of losing a child.

There are two intimate moments of sexuality shown in the film. At the opening, Michael and Madeline are shown trying to conceive. Madeline is totally removed from the sex, staring at the ceiling, no emotional response, and Michael is merely the donor. This chilling effect drains any type of erotica that may have otherwise been used to draw us in, and sets the tone for the rest of the film.

The other is when Vivian is shown slipping into her husbands bed. In an earlier scene, Serge Houde as Henry Matheson (father of Michael) is trying to comfort his wife, and she declares (note this) his (not theirs, but his) room is a pigsty, indicating a sock on the bed. When she later slips into his bed, reaching beneath the covers to arouse and waken him, I had a happy moment: Hurrah for the geriatric brigade! Still gettin' busy at that age, and when they start to make love, the scene takes a sudden shift, and it goes from a potentially erotic scene to a deeply disturbing display of just how nuts mother has become.

There is blood, and blood aplenty, but that is merely an underscoring of what the film is doing. Approach with a certain level of caution: as stated earlier, it is not for everyone.

There are a few plot holes, and a number of times when the limited budget shows through, but the overall effect is not unlike that of 8MM or Hard Candy. Creepy, disturbing and ugly, in all of the ways most films, again, only wish they could be when approaching distasteful topics.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Film review - Feed (2005)

Directed by Brett Leonard, starring Alex O'Laughlin (who assisted with the story) as Michael Carter and Patrick Thompson as Phillip Jackson.

Phillip Jackson works in a cybercrime unit, and was last involved in an arrest in which one man paid another for a strange sex act: the willing victim was to be eaten alive.

This film, obviously, has something to say about the human condition, for good or ill. At its' beginning, then, the underlying premise is established: this entire film will deal with the seductive nature of evil and how it slowly destroys more than flesh but soul.

The body of the film, the real story, begins when Jackson discovers a website that endorses the sexual/erotic act of eating, and a woman, gigantic in girth, is fed to death. The man doing the feeding is our villain, Michael Carter.

While the majority of the film focuses on the tracking of the villain by the hero, it is the villain here that is the most important aspect. Similar then to 8MM, there is a sense of the journey into the abyss, the journey not taken by the outsider but by the man who so chose his own destination.

It is most interesting to note that hero and villain meet more than once and have ample time to react to one another. The hero, the force for Good, is not ineffectual but often stymied by his own passion for justice, and his back story suggests that very passion has caused more than a little consternation form his superiors. Good is shown as persistent, but a matter of preference, differing notions of Good (in that Good is that which should be done) interfere with one another.

In the course of film history, the nature of evil is usually shown in some form of violence and in the last few decades that evil is superhuman. What should be a fatal blow or GSW merely annoys the villain. There is much running and screaming and flailing about (what this author thinks of as "normal response" to such external stimuli). Evil here is shown as a form of seduction, the gradual assistance of the victim to their own demise, one step at a time. The villain is a con man, unrelenting, unflinching and cold-hearted and cruel. He knows who he is and what he is, and he is quite okay with that. Evil is calculating, patient and consistent. Little in this film is done by force: the victims are shown as willing, walking into their own grave and happy for the choice to do so. The villain leads, and the victim follows.

From the very opening of the film: this opening, about characters that never again appear in the story, as stated above, is the touchpoint. While disturbing and often disgusting, it is an extremely moral tale. There is much here in this film that is unworthy of attention, to be sure. This author prefers the low budget end of filmmaking, as it requires the creators to be more resourceful, but that does not forgive sloppy technical errors. A lower budget generally means the high dollar acting talent won't be seen, and there are more than a few eye-rolling moments here.

Not for all audiences, but definitely worth notice. Not many mainstream films are so possessed of such a strong moral worldview.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Metropolis - 1927 incomplete restoration (film review)

Directed by Fritz Lang, filmed by Karl Freund.

From the Internet Movie Data Base ( In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city's mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences.

What follows, now, is a rant about the brilliance of this film. Much of this implies a certain understanding of the previously available versions.

The current version of Metropolis, now available from Kino Video, is an incomplete restoration. A recent discovery in South America of approximately 30 minutes of previously thought to be missing footage was edited into the existing prints. Prior versions had been found, and this new nearly-restored version made great use of everything that had gone before as well as the newly-discovered missing pieces.

The editing process was directly attached to the existing score that was written to accompany the performance of the film. The score makes references to certain events that transpire in the story line, and the result, incomplete as it is, is now the closest thing to The Definitive Version of this master work.

The first thing that was noticed by this author was that the new South American footage was not cleaned up, not remastered. That was a disappointment, at first. There is a torn, damaged quality that is, at first, more than a little annoying. Having seen several severely damaged classics on the Criterion Collection series, this author is very aware of how current digital technology can be used to restore damaged visual images to an approximation of their original quality.

This choice to NOT do so lead to a moment, however, in the opening of the film that startled this author to such an extent that there was a verbal outcry, and the companion (Mr. Scot Murphy) noticed it. Quickly using the formula of 24 frames per second, and the approximate time of that clip (about 1.5 seconds), this author determined that the piece of damaged footage was about 36 frames in length.

From that moment forward, the realization dawned: it had to be presented in its damaged form, as that was the only way for those who have seen the other versions could identify just how flawed every existing available print had been.

Entire subplots were woven into the fabric of what was a familiar story. This author has seen Metropolis many times, and the Giorgio Moroder re-creation from the 1980's (still unavailable on DVD!! Crime against film...), went so far as to colorize the film to the original specifications: the original was hand-tinted, a practice that is rarely identified. Several classic silent films have bursts of color.

One moment in the film, where our hero, Freder takes the place of a worker, is rightly remembered as one of the high points in all of cinema; the mindless physical labor of standing before a giant circular gauge, the worker has to move two hands on the face of the gauge to match a pair of flashing lights. What is returned to us is that worker's subplot. In the Morodor version, a recently dismissed employee, now working for the son, becomes seduced by the lure of a decadent night club. Here, we now see it was the worker the hero had replaced.

The recently dismissed employee mentioned above has a fuller story, and he is harassed by the hero's father via a thug. The thug has multiple parts, the same actor playing several roles, wildly divergent from the others but slowly integrating into one character. This, in itself, is something that modern cinema has attempted but largely failed to do with this level of coherency and poignancy.

The villain of the piece, a demented soul named (of all things) Rotwang. With a lengthy sequence found in South America, a previously missing back story comes into focus: both Rotwang and Joh Frederson (the father of the hero) were deeply in love with Hel, the mother of the hero. The sequence brings a level of depth that shakes a lot of the prior understanding of the film to such an extent that this author was forced to study while viewing.

The Whore Of Babylon sequence, now longer and more fully realized, has been elevated in the mind of this author as one of the most perfect example of what cinema, as an art form can do, and should be remembered and championed, as the infamous Shower Sequence is in the Hitchcock film Psycho. Brilliant, poetic, disturbing, it now underscores the depravity of those members of society who have access to enough disposable income that they can spare time, time that the workers simply do not have, to follow not a pleasure but a sin.

Sin is now exposed in this film, sin and redemption, in such depth, in such detail that by the end of the film, this author determined that this film is possibly the single most Christian of all films made in the 20th Century. Watching it, seeing the progression of the characters, following the new segments, this author was at one time actually possessed to begin "Hail Mary, full of Grace, blessed are you among all women..."

One sequence has always been troubling to this author: the Seven Deadly Sins and the figure of Death are shown as statuary that comes to life. Now replaced to its correct setting, and supported by a previously unseen exposure of the hero to the statuary, with his sudden, heartfelt prayer to the figure of death (as recollected, it was "Yesterday, I would not have thought of you, but today, I beg of you, please pass by my beloved.") the sequence is no longer just an oddity but a vital and important portion of the story.

The restored score, performed live at the Michigan Theater on original Barton organ, was in and of itself a revelation. The music has hints of music even now considered to be experimental. Several musical passages sound more like Philip Glass than anything else. This author had the great personal pleasure of meeting the performer (Dr. Steven Ball, ), the organist received two separate and well deserved standing ovations.

There are portions of this film that now bring tears to the eyes, as well as swelling emotional responses that have rendered every other existing print obsolete. This is a work of genius and should be enjoyed by anyone who holds the film experience a great pleasure.

With the incompleteness of the current restoration, this author holds in his heart the notion that someday, while he still lives, that the entire film will, someday, be returned to its fullest glory.

It is a Must See.

Suvai (restaurant review)

On 12 September 2010, I had to incredible pleasure to encounter an establishment in the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Located at 217 S. State Street, next to the State Theater, the front of the restaurant is easily passed by, but fortunately for me, and my taste buds, I was with a good friend (Mr. Scot Murphy) who suggested that we inspect this place, and I am most grateful he made that suggestion.

The menu that day offered a buffet at $9.95 per person, so that was the route that we chose to follow. Entering, the interior of the restaurant was inviting, the decor eye-catching and the space intimate where so many others would have been confining.

The wait staff was, to a soul, open and willing to assist. One in particular suggested certain dishes and a wonder combination of chutneys to improve the already superior displayed foods.

There is no way to single out a specific dish. The curried goat was a huge hit for both of us, there was a dish that included baby eggplant that was To Die For, and a vegetable stew that was described repeatedly as magnificent.

Buffet line style service is rife with potential to go horribly wrong, but not when the staff is focused totally on the dining experience. The staff at Suvai was attentive to everything.

Both Scot and I filled two plates and enjoyed cups of soups and stews. Seasoning and spices within Indian cuisine can be intimidating, on occasion reaching what I refer to as Test Of Manhood Hot. Here, the spices were flawlessly balanced, each bite an explosion of flavor and texture. This balancing act is not to be taken lightly; this restaurant is a perfect, flawless example of what can be done with a cuisine and menu that can often intimidate those inexperienced in the spices and cooking style.

The highest praise I can offer, then is this: if you have always wanted to try Indian cuisine, or if you have a taste for it and wish to introduce others to the wonders of India, Suvai of Ann Arbor is the finest example I have yet encountered for such an experience .

To miss out on this superior experience is to cause a deficit in dining pleasure.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Film review: Hard Candy - (2005)

Directed by David Slade, starring Ellen (Juno) Page and Patrick (Watchmen) Wilson, featuring Sandra Oh.

A cat and mouse thriller, mostly confined to one home and two characters. A harsh and disturbing examination of pedophilia: not for the squeamish. Nothing here too grotesque, just straightforward, and really, isn't that enough?

Page's performance here is amazing. The phrase "just a kid" takes on a whole new depth: think of Kids (1995), with its ugly and unrelenting viewpoint. Her character, and the way she presents it here, shows an Ellen Ripley (from the Alien franchise) as a teen: no bovine excrement accepted.

Wilson is sly, sneaky, creepy and weak, sick and tormented. Nuanced and subtle, his performance goes from the "I want this" to "I'm sick, please help" and everywhere in-between. A difficult part but done with style and substance.

Oh is mentioned because, well, she is Sandra Oh.

In the extras on the DVD, the director stated that the audiences that saw Hard Candy were evenly divided into thirds: loved it, hated it and "I'll have to get back to you on that." Slade said that response made it a total success in his mind, and I would concur.

This is the kind of film that should inspire long, intense conversations and fierce debate. Worthy of owning, but with the codicil: it is not an easy film to watch.

Psychedelic Soul by The Temptations (remastered) - Review

They could out sing, out dance, out perform and outclass anyone, anywhere, at any time. It is the harsh attitude malfunction of this writer that The Tempts were beyond a doubt the finest vocal group to come out of Motown (in itself enough to cause fistfights), if not the entire era in which they recorded.

The remastered version of this spectacular album runs two CD's long, and to hear it with the extra cuts, previously unreleased versions of classics will be a revelation for those who think that funk/soul and especially Motown was incapable of going into the Sgt. Pepper or Bitches Brew territory.

The Fabulous Funk Brothers were never so well served as they are here, and that includes the must-have 20th Century Masters Millennium collection. The FFB are given more room to run and their longer leads into the songs as well as their stronger backing of the five powerhouse voices is amazing.

This is the kind of musical revelation that is unworthy of downloading. It is the kind of re-working and remastering that makes the actual, physical purchase a requirement. It in and of itself renders greatest hits packages and the monster 5-disc Emperors Of Soul box set obsolete.

Ball Of Confusion here clocks in at 4:09, Psychedelic Shack
runs 6:22, Runaway Child Running Wild 9:35, and Papa Was A Rollin' Stone has been brought to 12:04. I cannot fathom having ever heard Papa Was A Rollin' Stone in the form here, more strings, stronger, fuller: how was that possible? It was flawless to begin with, one of the greatest shining moments of the era, possibly the single greatest moment in Motown: that bass line, the way the voices sneak in and around each other, taunting the lyrics... amazing.

The Tempts here also walk up to War, made famous by Edwin Starr, and claim it for themselves.

Front to back, a magnificent statement.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The thermodynamic miracle

The question in regards to human development has been ongoing and annoying for far too long. Is it nature? Is it nurture? As in most either/or debates, the most logical answer is somewhere in between.

How much of the human condition, in the form of personality and behavior, is genetic? The primary reason used to dismiss genetics as a driver of personality development is an open attack on fate. If everything is genetic, then everything is predetermined, everything is a much in place as the color of the eyes or skin.

How much of the human condition is from nurturing and conditioning? This would suggest a differing means of determination, human beings are no more than the combination of their influences.

Birth order, genetic make-up, Skinnerism.... this-ism, that-ism, ism-ism-ism...

Consider a few things, if you will...

We know, from the sad story of Thalidomide, that chemicals ingested during pregnancy can affect the physical make-up. Alcohol, tobacco, pretty much any form of chemical ingestion: the body can be changed while being made up.

We also know, from medical research, that the body changes, not only as it ages, but from external circumstance. Again, chemicals (or foods) ingested, but also circumstances; stress kills.

Two odd things, now...

One: there was an article in Psychology Today, back in the early '80's, that told of a child being born with an undetermined ailment. After much examination, it was determined that the child was born with a peptic ulcer, the type normally associated with long term stress. This was a tad difficult to explain in a newborn. Doctors began to assess the mother's life and lifestyle during the pregnancy, and discovered that the mother and father had separated shortly after she'd become pregnant. The father (or rather, donor) went a little, well... batshit insane, calling at all hours of the night, harassing the woman, throwing rocks through the windows, etc. (NOT a good role model...)

Two: on an episode of the television program CSI: the notion of the behavior of twins separated at birth was raised, and the (then) main character, "Gruesome" Grissom stated that it is no surprise about the twins. After all, he said, they see the world, literally, through the same eyes, hear with the same ears. Why is it so surprising that they would see the world the same, be attracted to the same type of person, be drawn to the same type of career?

Consider: the human body has a form of cellular memory, imprints made into the brain and body, electrochemical reactions invisible to the eye but deeply ingrained.

The human female, at birth, comes equipped with the entirety of her reproductive egg content. These eggs are present at birth, only so many to a customer, as it were. They remain a constant until menopause. These eggs, then, represent something suggested in Frank Herbert's Dune: the human female, being female, carries inside her a lasting echo of everything her life has brought her. Each new experience is added, cellular memories building, and thus, in a chemical form, attached to the egg, the pending generation.

The human male does not have sperm at birth. This is something that develops, and while the changes would be similar, the male creates billions of sperm, only to have them sent away. These seed cells are created every day, huge production but of only limited duration. It would appear that these cells are created as a form of cellular moments, created in a "now" that is ever-changing and at best temporary.

Perhaps, more than anything else, this is the primary difference between the XX (cellular memories) and the XY (cellular moments).

When in the graphic novel Watchmen, written by Alan Moore, one character speaks of the thermodynamic miracle of human life, he mentions the staggering odds of THIS woman meeting THIS man at THAT moment and somehow beating the odds and creating another human being.

Ask anyone that has had difficulty in conceiving and they will be glad to explain just how nigh impossible it is for a human female to get pregnant. Those odds are indeed staggering; the fact that there is human life at all is astonishing, but to see so many billions...

The only question you should be asking at this point is: So what?

Consider the family unit. Any family unit will do: yours, someone else's, whatever... A large family is best for these purposes. Ever wonder why one sibling is so different than the others? Not just the odd little physical quirks but those occasions when it appears that one (or more) is totally unlike the others that even the family themselves have to wonder: what the hell happened there? Everyone raised in the same house, same values, diet....

Well, how about: XX brought the past, everything up until that one moment of conception, and XY brought that moment of conception. That which was and has been and that which is combine, and at conception, each of us becomes in that instant that which shall be.

And then the process begins again...

This make more sense to me than most other theories.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Film review: 8MM (1999)

Written by Andrew Kevin Walker (after Se7en), directed by the hit or miss Joel Schumacher (Falling Down, A Time To Kill, Batman & Robin), starring Nicholas Cage, featuring Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini, Peter Stomare (Spun, Dancer In The Dark, The Big Lebowski) and Anthony Heald (Manhunter, The Silence Of The Lambs, Hannibal).

Tom Welles (Cage) is a private investigator, a quiet homebound man when not working, is hired by a Mrs. Christian to determine if an 8mm film found after her husband died is real or faked. The film is the by-now urban legendary snuff film. Off goes Welles, deeper and deeper into the pits of a most human based Hell. On his way down, he meets Max California (Phoenix), a porn shop employee who reads Truman Capote's In Cold Blood hidden behind a porn magazine. California leads Welles deeper and deeper into the under-underground porn industry, until he meets up with those who know the truth about the film, its making and its star. By the end of his journey, most of the people involved are dead, and his life is torn apart.

Schumacher's career is largely uneven, capable of creating fine bits of entertainment, but just as capable of creating the cinematic equivalent of fecal matter. 8MM is a dark, brutal examination into the notions of evil and morality. Possibly his best film (if not this, then Falling Down), it is unrelenting, allowing us as viewers to follow Welles' descent up close and personal.

Cage, also guilty of an uneven career, gives a performance that is perfect for the part. Cold, remote from his clients and his tasks at hand, a private detective that makes a name for himself delivering the goods and walking away silently. His home life is his true life (everyone leads a double life in this film), and at home he is an adoring husband and a loving father. He is also self-delusional at home, pretending to himself that his wife doesn't know when he has been smoking inside their home. This point is repeated, and to good, subtle effect: a man whose career is based on rooting out those things others want to stay hidden cannot see how his attempts to hide things away are just as meager and failing.

The script, the first film produced on a script written by Walker after his deeply disturbing Se7en, suggests that he had more dark territory to examine. One can only hope that there is something equally dark aborning in his twisted mind... or not. Where Se7en approaches the notion of the serial killer as renegade genius, 8MM gives the idea that we are all capable of levels of evil that we prefer to pretend are not possible. The idea that a snuff film (true torture porn, a pornographic depiction of an actual murder) is an urban legend is in and of itself a type of societal self-delusion.

If someone can actually make kiddie porn, is the notion of murdering someone on film for twisted sexual pleasure really be impossible? Has it actually happened? Most likely.

What really drives the script, again and again, is that notion that everyone has something they want to keep hidden, an addiction, a sexual preference, whatever... and that, for lack of a better term: Be ye sure, your sins shall find you out. The true difference between those who wish to live a life of (if only public) morality and those who are truly evil is that those who are evil simply do not care, and only keep things hidden to protect their income and keep themselves out of jail.

In fact, the film goes where few films ever go, and horror films occasionally approach but rarely examine deeply: the very nature of evil itself.

The question throughout the film begs to be asked, and Welles does, several times: why do people do these terrible, horrible things?

The answer, which only becomes more disturbing on repeated viewings, is pretty much the same: because we can. Nothing more, just that: we kill, rape and torment the flesh of our fellow humans for no other reason than... we can.

One character even goes so far to ask Welles "What did you expect? A monster?" That moment underscores everything that has gone before. Hannibal Lector is a true monster, a genius so far removed from any conception of morality that he is all but super-human (or should that be supra-human?) and we can dismiss that character as too far-fetched. In 8MM that monster is, as Walt Kelley said it best via his comic strip Pogo: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

There are differing levels of darkness throughout the film, what light comes in seems to become corrupt, dirty and dust filled.

Each supporting character drives the plot, causing Welles to continue, not only for the client at the beginning of the film but for the romantic notion of the Private Eye As Avenging Knight when he meets the mother of the girl for whom he is searching.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Racism and other forms of stupid human behavior

What is the essence of racism?

Some will say ignorance, and being ignorant and racist do indeed go together quite nicely. Ignorance, however, should never be confused with stupidity. I ignore others at my peril. That would be ignorant. Stupid, well: there is no cure for stupid, and from sad, painful experience I can say that stupid does leave a mark. In my case, often in the form of scars. Literal scars: stitches required; cause: stupidity.

Others will lean towards prejudice. That, too, goes nicely. To look at a person and judged them in advance (to pre-judge, the meaning of prejudice) does underscore the nature of this ugly issue.

What I have found, however, in long careful consideration, is that racism is founded on a more simple, more direct and far more destructive thing than either ignorance and prejudice combined. The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced of this. I began to apply this notion to other forms of human stupidity like sexism, ageism, sizeism (yes, there is such a thing!) and a goodly portion of other ills, like hatred based on religion, politics and sexual preference...


It starts at the very bottom, the most simple of things. First, we notice the differences: you and I are not alike.

That should be obvious, of course, unless you are a middle aged overweight bald-by-choice white man of *debateable* intellect... We are different.

The problem, as I see it, starts with two notions, either separately or together.

A) Because we are Not The Same, I Am Superior To You, and:

B) Because we are Not The Same, You Are Inferior To Me.

Again, this may seem like a hair-splitting contest, but the more I thought about it, the more true it became.

I began to see how these two mindsets would cause what would normally appear to be a rational being to treat a fellow human in an abominable fashion. Consider, then, the following racist, sexist, etc., things that I have heard spoken aloud, to me, to my face. Changing only a certain few words, it becomes clear how deeply this is ingrained into the psyche of my country and its citizens....

White men cannot dance.

White men can't jump.

White people have no soul.

White people cannot get to heaven, because they are white and God won't forgive that.

And, of course...

White men have inferior sexual organs.

That last is literally hitting below the belt, but it was the comment prior that really flipped the switch from "We can have a rational conversation" to "Fuck you and yo momma both!!!"

See, I confessed the truth, was laid beneath the water as a dead thing and brought back up as a forgiven, living person. What I was being told, straightforward, was that due to the color of my skin, the forgiving power of the Christ, His shed blood and His message of hope and redemption was not available.

Even God cannot save the white man...

Before I go any further, this is where I have to say, in all honesty, that I have also heard similar verbal bilge from white people about those who are not white: being non-white, the "others" were not fully human, and salvation is only for humans.

Seriously? What manner of madness inspires this horseshit?

The same then began to apply to gender (All men are pigs, because they are men), sexual preferences (Damned breeders are destroying everything), religion and politics (fill in the blank with the Stupid Thing Of The Day from just about everyone)... it just goes on, and on, and on.

What is the real difference between myself as a "white" man and a "black" man? (The majority of the screen about these words is truly white and the words themselves are truly black and, frankly, I don't know any human being that is either color.) The answer is simple genetics: a DNA pattern that says I am one shade and someone else is another.

Just like eye color.

Would we discriminate against someone because of the color of their eyes? Would we make some kind of value judgement, demand retribution... due to ocular pigmentation?

Gender? XX or XY.

It goes on, and on...

I am (A) and you are (B) and therefore we are not the same. Bullshit. We ARE the same, just with some minor appearance and behavioral patterns. That does not make either of us better than the other.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Horror as satire

On the Fangoria web site, while writing a review of what is imho the best film of the career George A. Romero, there was the casual mention of how satire need not be confined to humor.

Romero has made a series of films, starting in 1968 with The Night Of The Living Dead that are perfect examples of this notion. The Living Dead series, should your life been spent beneath some rock somewhere, has a basic premise: for reasons unclear, the recent dead are rising and consuming the flesh of the living. The bite of the recent dead bears a fatal infection (interesting: HIV was unknown in 1968, and yet casual contact via bite... Romero The Prophet), and the two best and reliable means of returning the dead to inanimate condition are fire and head trauma.

For lack of better words, but then Walt Kelly was a brilliant satirist in his own right, We have met the enemy and he is us.

We are the dead. We just don't know it yet.

When Romero released Dawn Of The Dead a decade later, the satire was so forcibly presented as to almost overtake the film entirely. Consumer culture was shown as an empty deathtrap. Again, interesting that a decade before mall culture corrupted the American landscape Romero saw it clearly. The only thing missing would have been some young thing doing the Oh Mi Gaw, gag me with a spoon...

Day Of The Dead shows the military having totally corrupted science, a film that was brought to us in the era of Star Wars technology. The military men have attempted to completely take over, but the dead are simply too great in number. Science, as shown in the character openly sneered as Dr. Frankenstein (Romero is many things but sublte falls short of that list), is at first shown as a doddering old fool, but later is shown as far more than that.

Land Of The Dead is a dead end corporate world, falling apart, and the dead slowing starting to show some level of intellect. Hopeful, that: I think Romero had the idea that We The People were starting to come to an awareness, but that hope was brief. Again, the corporate super rich sit in comfort and make everyone else beg. Point made, if with the subtlety of a flying sledgehammer.

Diary Of The Dead ... well, that could be the end of the series. Shot entirely on digital hand held camera, the story line advances with the characters, and the single camera is joined by another, then webcasts and surveillance cameras, until we are watching the characters, and thus by extension ourselves, from every possible angle. It is the ending, though, the last scene, the punch line of sorts, that allows Romero to put forth his current view of humanity, and it ain't pretty. The image at the end takes that digital camera Youtube type of image and becomes totally high def, and that last line makes the point that he has been making from the very start.

Are we worth saving?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Urinating Into A Hurricaine

The image from Americana is an enduring one, and it bears a form of witness around the world: the madman howling in public about whatever demons cause his torment.

In the U.S., this image is usually attached to the notion of a public park, with said raving lunatic standing atop a soap box. It is usually attached to a form of political diatribe, religious belief or something that falls under the generic category of Batshit Insane.

The ones that are really out of control (as in: call the police and asylum!) combine all three. Occasionally, they actually approach moments of lucidity, but as a social order, those fleeting moments of reason are dismissed; much like a broken clock that is correct twice a day, even the mad among us are capable of reason.

The madman on the soapbox is a charming relic of a time Long Ago, prior to the average person having access to the internet.

Now, apparently, the most dangerous of the Batshit Insane variety not only are howling from their electronic soapboxes, but are gathering followers.

When reading one of the most contemptible pieces of fecal rhetoric (for example: The Turner Diaries), in the privacy of one's own home, the foul verbiage can be considered for what it is. One must read page after page of racist diatribe, but, one cannot respond in that immediate sense that is now available via a few keystrokes.

Recently, I had written a review of a horror film, on a horror fan website. The attempt was to simply write about the film I'd seen and why I was impressed with it. Several comments were made, and I read each one, but the one that left the biggest impact was the writer who totally missed the point of what I'd written.

Thinking that at least 50% of that communication breakdown was my own fault, I responded to the response, and the capper was that the party simply did not want to think about it. To paraphrase, the disagreement was not about the film or my opinion so much as it was... "Dude, I don't want to read a novel."

Because I refuse to give a grade, numerical value or a thumb, preferring instead to simply write my opinion, this party could not understand the point I was making.

Leaving me to sound like a madman on a soapbox...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Freedom Cannot Be Taken

As a child, the following was drilled into my head: do not use a word within its own definition. For example, George Orwell in 1984 wrote: Freedom is the freedom to say two and two make four. That phrase, although very true, would not have been acceptable. Instead, it should have read: Freedom is being able to say two and two make four.

That is a quibble. It is the notion, though, of what lies beneath it that is of importance here.

Freedom does not come from a government. Freedom, as Orwell was saying, is based on the Truth. What many have failed to understand, apparently, is that the freedom of the truth does not imply any safeguard. Seeking the truth, and stating it as such, does not imply any protection from a response.

Peto primoris verum. Panton alius mos insisto.

Seek first the truth. Everything else will follow.

To seek the truth, one must confront the notion that there will probably be an answer, as Pilate is recorded to have said to the Christ: What is truth? Is your truth the same as mine?

Is truth subjective? In some cases, yes. Truth can be an elusive thing, and each truth will lead to another. It would appear that there is a Greater Truth, a thing that exists for all, but it is the perception of that Greater Truth that causes confusion and discord.

Take, for example, the political and economic viewpoints that guide various regions of human existence. Should the government hold sway over all things, a strong central core of individuals that decide the path of the nation in question, or should it be more open, limited control from the central core and leave more control with the populace?

Regardless of the control process in question, one thing, one guiding lesson has come to us through the history of this world: Human beings are spectacularly incapable of controlling themselves. The best forms of government are perverted in practice.

The guiding force in the West has been Democracy, and Capitalism. I am now, and have always been, a strong believer in capitalism. Sadly, what I perceive as capitalism has, like Communism, rarely (if ever) practiced in its most perfect form.

As understood by me: a product is created and offered for sale. The product is the point, the guiding factor. The highest quality product sold for the lowest possible price... the profit from the sales of the product is to be returned to the force of creation of the product, improving production, improving the product and increasing the labor force that assists in the creation of the product.

The intention, then, is to improve the product and the means by which the product is created, up to and including the increase of pay of the labor force.

Sadly, this notion has been perverted and sublimated to that one evil that has corrupted the world: the love of money.

I like money. I wish I had some. I wish you had some.

However, the pointlessness of what capitalism has been perverted into is carried in one ugly catchphrase: Greed is good. No. It is not. Greed is a cancer on capitalism.

The profit motive, to have a return on the initial investment, is what has destroyed the economy of the planet. Not the healthy, slow growth, but the despicable desire to have the largest return in the least amount of time. Using the symbolism from Jerzy Kosinski's brilliant Being There: tend the garden, tend it and allow it to grow. Seasons change, and so does the garden.

Consider as an analogy the field of animal husbandry. The animals can be force fed, locked and abused in such a manner that the very flesh for which they are being raised becomes unhealthy. This is the means by which the producer forces a growth that is morally bankrupt. This is exactly the means that is being held as "capitalism," and it could not be further from the truth.

Peto primoris verum. Panton alius mos insisto.

Slow and steady growth is the hope of the future. Force is the thing that prevents it.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Whispers Of Night

As of this writing, I have not yet had the opportunity to view two of M. Night Shyalaman's (hereafter referred to as MNS) films, Praying With Anger and The Last Airbender. The latter is merely a matter of time, and the former has yet to be released on DVD, his first feature length film.

Of his films, it is Wide Awake which I feel to be weakest, although weak is not really a fair assessment of the overall work. It is, however, the only film MNS has made that was not scored by James Newton-Howard. The soundtrack is fine, nothing against that composer: it is the collaboration between MNS and Newton-Howard that is a kickoff point for looking at the body of work of MNS.

There has not been such a flawless and richly rewarding pairing of composer and filmmaker since Hitchcock and Herrman.

A brief backtrack/annoying autobiographical pause: as an only child, I had a lot of time on my hands, and found the regular offerings of older movies to be a relief from boredom, as well as a means of avoiding loneliness. The more of them I viewed, the more I began to develop a cache of favorites, the blending of light and sound. At first, it was the actors that stood out, the studio system focused on faces that caught light and held shadow. Their voices were unique, and as I grew older, I began to deliberately speak with a slightly sibilant "S" like Bogart and Karloff did.

As I grew older, I began to focus on the genres. Bogart lead me to noir, and Karloff to horror. Certain themes and subtexts began to stand out, and fitted into my developing worldview perfectly. Just as important, I also noticed certain films were more to my liking, and rather consistently, the films I loved the most had the same thing in the opening credits: Directed By, and the actors were then paired with certain directors. Howard, Lang, Whale, Mamoulien... the list grew.

My tastes continued to grow, and the single name that consistently stood out was Alfred Hitchcock.

Even the Master's "lesser" works was worth at least one viewing, and the first film of his that I recall seeing, and it took my breath away was North By Northwest. My mother was a Cary Grant fan, and I liked his smooth, suave style, and there was James Mason, Eva Marie Saint and Martin Landau. It was here that I first noticed the editing of a film, the images pieced one by one, perfect.

It was also here that I noticed the opening titles of the film. The titles were in and of themselves entertaining, names and words merging into the visuals. More, and back to the point, was the music.

The images, the words and names and the music all fell together in a flawless, seamless and (seemingly) effortless manner. The titles of a film are often ignored, but here they were given up in such a manner that I was immersed.

Bernard Herrmann's name was added to a growing list of names to look for, names that would mean to me that a film, unseen, would be worthy of the time to not merely sat through but studied.

Back to MNS...

MNS makes "old" movies, and by "old" I mean he is returning film as a medium to its glory days. While others may not agree (feel free, I won't change my mind), I feel that MNS is one of the few current filmmakers producing work that I know I will want to see, and see again.

His films are gentle, even his horror films. They are smooth, and have a sense of timelessness that most other filmmakers reject. The characters rarely raise their voices and rarely if ever curse. Violence is hinted at, and often is off screen. Even when it is shown onscreen, as in The Happening, it is shown swiftly, enough to allow the audience to piece together the details and then move on. His films are not about flash and assault, but about telling a story, as fully and completely as possible.

There is a strong undercurrent in all of his films that suggests MNS has an understanding of the past of the medium of film, and a deep and abiding respect for his audience.

There is a deep and abiding sense of classicism to his films, bringing the sense that these films have been around for far longer than they actually have been, but also bringing with them the feel that they are 21st century in theme.

The scoring of Newton-Howard underlines this sense. Many directors and studios have fallen to simply using existing music for soundtracks, like Quentin Tarantino. I like QT's soundtracks, in fact I love them. With QT's success though, seems to have followed the near-death of the original, scored soundtrack, and Newton-Howard has brought that richer, fuller sound back.

A little known fact: Thomas Edison was focused on created a motion picture device, not so much as a medium unto itself as a means by which he could sell more of his audio recordings. This connection can be seen in the works of the best filmmakers when assisted by the scoring of a great composer. Again, Hitchcock created masterpieces, but with Herrmann, his works transcended his own creations, the blending of perfect sound with the visual component causing the mind to lock the film as the jointly accepted dreamscape of the audience.

MNS has created such deeply woven Hitchcockian tapestries of story, all character driven, that to casually dismiss his work is a crime against the medium of film itself.

While The Sixth Sense remains his most popular work, his film Unbreakable is to this writers sense, a far deeper, far more complex film.

Unbreakable is, first and foremost, part of a growing subgenre of the action film, the comic book movie. It is also, quite possibly, the single best and greatest comic book movie ever made, as well as the primary reason for this post.

Originally planned as the first part of a trilogy, it is considered a box office failure when compared to The Sixth Sense. It was damned with the faintest of praise at the time, and apparently for no better reason that it wasn't The Seventh Sense. It did not contain the now-infamous MNS Twist Ending. The audience was not "surprised."

Of course, we weren't: he was telling us the myth of modern times, the origin story of a superhero. Myth, according to Aristotle, is the primary focus of the dramatic art, and myth is part of the collective subconscious. MNS takes us down that path, leading us deeper and deeper into the greatest mystery of call, who we are and what our place is in the universe. The Samuel L. Jackson character underscores this, saying the "worst thing in the world is to not know who you are." Every frame is perfectly composed, and the soundtrack is astonishing. The music whispers, swoops and builds, bringing out every nuance and subtlety.

MNS took us into the cave and showed us the shadow on the wall, saying, Look: that is who we really are. Newton-Howard brought the music that (should have) prevented us from looking away.

What makes MNS such a personal favorite is that in watching his films, I always have the feeling that he is not pandering to us, he is a teller of tales, and he wants us to join into the process of storytelling, bringing our inner Self to the dark and letting him orchestrate a collective moment.

Friday, June 18, 2010

US Educational System Jumps The Shark And Why (part II)

I am not a Teacher. That needs to be said, right up front. Why?

First: it is the Truth.

Second: anyone who reads this and disagrees with me will want that Truth to be brought forward. (Insert howl of "You aren't a Teacher and thus don't know what you are talking about!")

Never having been a Teacher, and never having the desire to Teach, does not mean I am completely ignorant of what it is that they do, how they do that which they do or what nigh impossible barriers they must face every day.

I want this as a matter of public record: Teachers are, in my understanding of the United States educational system, Public Servants. We believe in a free educational system, that all children of a certain age be sent to publicly funded schools, and there the children will learn the basics: Comprehension, Expression and Logic. Having stated that rather boldly, I will then support what I believe with the following: Of all of the Public Servants to which our collective taxes supply a foundation for an income, the following, in reverse order, should be the single, highest paid Public Servants: Teachers, Police Officers and Firefighters/Emergency Medical Personnel.

To what extent?

The President of The United States should not make as much as they do. They should have the best benefits, highest pay and most available time off as needed.

They should also be the most vigorously inspected and regulated. (Like that would matter... consider the means by which we track our more highly paid, highly visible "public servants"...)

Returning to the point, however: I have passed through the United States Educational System, from K-12 to my BA. My wife and I have three children, and we have seen all of them pass through the system, K-12 for two, one in college, one with a degree and now seeking another. (The third is a US Marine, which I believe can be considered an education in itself, if only a "tad" more intense.) My wife also went from K-12 and has her BS.

My parental in-laws both taught, my mother in law taught kindergarten and my father in law taught high school math. My wife is the eldest of seven, all graduated, all have various degrees (I think... I could be wrong; it has been known to happen!), three have BS in education and one of the three has a Masters.

While pursuing my own degree, I often had to attend classes with men and women who already had a BS and were required by Indiana state law to gain a Masters to continue to be able to teach in this state.

Their collective experience, watching them progress forward, discussing the things they were learning, hearing their frustrations... as well as my own experience both as a student and a parent... I have come to the following conclusion: Teachers cannot teach if they are acting as the parental units of other people's children.

The notion of in loco parentis ( has become so perverted as to prevent the very function of Teaching.

Here, then, is personal experience number one, and it remains one of the most disturbing things I have ever experienced in the entirety of my life. (This includes three suicides, slow death by cancer of grandmother and mother...)

The event: A "Chili Bowl" was set up at a local middle school (junior high, for those unaware of what a middle school is...). There would be a meal (chili, go figure, right?), then a presentation, then an open discussion.

The presentation could have been titled: Why We Cannot Teach Your Children.

Social engineering is one thing; this was something else entirely. The classroom as we gathered parents knew it was a thing of the past, and not likely to return anytime within this or the next generation. Possibly never.

The single, primary reason: the family unit is no longer father/mother/children. The divorce rate, we were told, has become so high that in the majority, if that nuclear unit existed, it was as a blended family: step-parent/parent/child/step-child. In fact, we were told, the nuclear unit as we knew it was also outnumbered by single parent/child and/or step-child.

Jumping ahead, later that evening I was ranting full strength about how the profession of teaching was the only group of so-called professionals who cannot do their job without assistance. My wife (God love her) was biting her tongue, and when I was frothing about the Death Of The Nuclear Family Unit and what a crock of fecal matter I perceived, my daughter stopped me with one sentence.

"Dad, we are considered freaks in school because none of our friends have the same parents."

In other words, Dad had to eat some well-deserved crow. I had to think about it, and it was true. Looking over the family units of their friends, I saw nothing but blended families or single parent families. We, as a family, were indeed freaks. My wife and I brought forth all three of our children, and we, and we alone, remained as parental constants in their lives.

It was about this very moment of epiphany that I recalled an underscoring of this notion: one of my sisters in law, as mentioned, taught. To be precise, she taught in an elementary school, preteen students. She had already told us of the number of times the school would find children (preteens, remember) waiting outside the schools before the schools were open... because the parents dropped them there and left. Worse still, was the story that one of her students had attempted suicide by hanging.

Recalling, then, these tales of front line combat experience, as well as the others I had heard, combined with my own experience... something inside my soul was starting to boil.

The Chili Bowl (to return to that topic, the crux of the matter) ended with a discussion between parents and teachers.

Much was said, and many parents were sent off into a frenzy not unlike the one re: Satanic abuse and/or rock music (who needs an intellect when one can merely be prodded along by the media into a hysterical mob, right?). I listened, and frankly I fumed (not because of the chili, although that happened later). Finally, I looked at the teachers and principal that was at table with me.

Said I, "Look. I am not a teacher. I don't have the degree or the training. You all do. After all this time, and all this discussion, I cannot answer one question, and as I am surrounded by people that have Masters and at least one Doctorate, I am going to ask this question. What does it take for a person to be considered "educated?"

Before I proceed to the response, dear reader, please consider the following phrase: She (or He) is an educated person. That was a phrase that once held a certain meaning, a certain social weight if you will. An educated person was one with... education. So, the question, then (which I had to re-phrase in this manner) was: at what point can we, as citizens, say this person or that person is "educated."

The distressing thing was that I had to re-phrase the question several times. I only Comprehend one language (unless one allows me to revert to my original, native tongue of Gibberish), and I was struggling mightily with Expression (trying to keep from screaming never helps) and realizing that Logic was slipping away...

The final answer was: One is never "educated," education is a process.

So: by this standard, doctors, plumbers, mechanics et al... are not "educated," they are all either in process or have ended the process.

I refuse to second guess the profession of Teaching other than I have just implied. What concerns me more is the terrifying lack of responsibility, and as I have personally seen it, up close and personal, that is my real concern, and where I believe the issue begins and where it needs to end.

The family unit, father/mother/child is dead: requiescat in pace. So be it, selah.

I believe that blame is pointless, I have better, more important things to do with my limited life time left to point fingers. What I will do here, though, is approach the one issue that I can address, have seen, etc., and use it as a starting point.

man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man." -- Don Vito Corleone. (The Godfather, 1972)

We, as men, have allowed ourselves to become nothing more than a societal footnote. We have allowed ourselves to be put into the background. We have, for so long, defined what it meant to be "a man" via our means of generating an income that we have forgotten that the highest title a man can hold is that of Father.

Fatherhood is a profession, and any man who approaches it needs to do so with caution. A man does not enter into a boxing ring with no understanding of what may happen there or the political arena with no notion of the scrutiny one will face. We, as men, need no permission, need no accreditation or fanfare. To enter into Fatherhood is to enter into a life of sacrifice and service.

I could have begun a tirade against the notion of Feminism, but I have always been a Feminist, even when that term began to mean something more akin to Fascism than empowerment and hope. I will point here, though, to a "clever" saying, not as a form of blame, other than the point I am making: A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.

The blame is not on the women who endorse that mindset, but worse, on those of us men that have so utterly failed at being truly Masculine that the mindset exists in the first place.

We, as men, need to stand, to fight. We need that Fire In The Belly that brings forth Warriors and Statesmen, the giants among us that shake the earth when they walk past.

We need more men who want to be Atticus Finch of To Kill A Mockingbird. All men cry. We don't like it and are loathe to admit it, but we do. For myself, the single most powerful scene in all of film is when, in the film version of To Kill A Mockingbird Gregory Peck as Finch is left standing in the first floor of the courtroom, a man who has faced his most ugly and fierce opponent and been cheated. He turns, jaw set, taciturn and walks out. Above him, a gathering of oppressed people stand, one by one, and from their group, a minister of the faith touches his child on the shoulder and says, "Stand up child. Your father is walking past."

THAT, friends and neighbors, is a defining moment, the kind of glory all men seek, but have forgotten or worse, forsaken for mere notoriety.

If we want to save our children, we, the Brothers Of The Fraternal Order Of Fatherhood, need to be that kind of man. We need not seek the affirmation of others or the approbation of the populace at large. We do not need permission. We need to stand, one by one, and take responsibility for our own children, be involved, and rear them instead of merely siring them.

Any man can impregnate a woman. A Real Man sees the project through to the completion.

Until this mindset becomes part of the hearts and minds of all men, regardless of skin color, religion or lack of same, political view point... nothing is going to change other than change for the worse.

US Educational System Jumps The Shark And Why (part I)

Is there anything on the face of the earth more detestable or disturbing than to have a heartfelt belief expressed in words so stupid as to drive one to thoughts of rage and violence?

The subject here: What Is Wrong With The Educational System In America.

The thing hated: We need to get back to the three R's, readin', 'ritin' and 'rithmatic.

Egad. Do shut up. The basics are, indeed, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, but for the love of God, stop calling them 3R because only one word starts with the letter R. (Or maybe that is the point: to show how ignorant and uneducated one is... but no, that would be too self-effacing.)

Now, I understand. Truly, I do. I agree, wholeheartedly. However, I hate stupid people and the only thing I hate worse is when I find I am thought to be among them.

It is like being a true and faithful (fill in the blank with religion or political belief of choice here) and having to be compared with one of The Infinite Legion Of Yahoos that take to the soapbox and begin ranting and raving.

*Like this blog, for example.*

To be more to the point: Teachers are those who teach. Here, you, dear reader, should be responding with something akin to the guttural "DUH!" and perhaps following with "Yuh think?" I refer here, though, more to what Hemingway once said: A writer is one who writes. The profession, thus, is separate but permanently attached to the action itself.

Teachers cannot teach when they are not teaching, but are instead forced by the nature of both the educational system and our social order to take the notion of in loco parentis to the extreme, and the schools are used to fill in the gaps of failed parenting and a total lack of parental responsibility.

More on that later.

The 3Rs (shudder) are the first point, and I will babble here as I see fit.

To begin, then: Reading.

Reading, by the very nature of the verb, implies both identification and comprehension. One can read a map or a musical score as one can read printed words. The identification is tied to comprehension thus: I, personally, can read Latin, French, German, Spanish, Italian... but only in so much as I know enough of the languages as I can identify (for the most part) which language I am looking at, and have had enough exposure to them to pretty much be able to pronounce the words.

I will, of course, have no idea whatsoever what I am reading. I can do the same with certain higher mathematics and music.

Identification, while important then, is meaningless without comprehension. So, the focus of learning to read is: Comprehension.

One R gone...

Writing (or for the semi-literate: 'Ritin')

Writing, again, is a verb. While pen or pencil to paper is swiftly becoming a thing from a bygone era, the concept remains steadfast with fingers on keyboards.

Implied here, then: Expression. First, one must be able to Comprehend, then, one must prove that Comprehension via Expression.

Expression need not be confined to language. Again, music, mathematics, etc.

Last: Arithmetic.

The most basic, most elemental form of arithmetic is the most simple of all equations: 1 + 1 = 2. From this basic root, one will travel along until one reaches a x b = c, and from there, E=mc2.

What is implied here is thing most distressingly missing from the views expressed in the United States: Logic.

If one is given one apple (1) and then one is given (+) another apple (1) then one has (=) two apples. Simple. The Logic progresses along higher lines until one reaches Einstein.

Here, then, is the crux of the matter, the point if you will... Reading, Writing and Arithmetic are not what should be taught in the schools.

Instead, we should be demanding: Comprehension, Expression and Logic... from kindergarten forward.

Allow the Teachers to teach... which is the point of part II.

Monday, May 24, 2010

On The Invocation Of The Sacred Laws Of Hospitality

The Sacred Laws are mentioned more than once in the finely crafted written prose of Rex Stout, creator of the Nero Wolfe series. It is usually that character, Wolfe, who invokes the Sacred Laws. Sadly, these Laws were never delineated or explained. Thus, this situation needs be rectified, and this author humbly submits here his limited understanding of these Laws.

The Sacred Laws of Hospitality are simple, but not simplistic. They are all-encompassing but only in that the individuals involved understand that the Laws apply to all parties involved.

To begin: in the invocation of the Laws, there are two separate parties involved. These two parties have specific and well-defined positions. The are: The Guest and The Host.

Notice, first, that these two parties are gender generic. They carry no indication of skin color, religion, politics, sexual preference, etc.

The first segment then of the Laws: Know Thy Place. Are you Guest or are you Host?

This allowance for understanding of one's place is essential, as there are two, and only two, rules that follow. These two rules apply both to Guest and Host, and are not malleable, although they can be applied in a nearly infinite variety of form.

How does one identify one's place?

Are you approaching the door seeking admittance or are you about to open the door to allow admittance?

It is usually the Guest that seeks entrance, and it is usually the Host which allows entrance.

The Two Rules Of The Sacred Laws Of Hospitality then, are as follow:

1) Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
2) That which you would not have others do unto you, do not do those things unto others.

Is this not simple? Perhaps, but then again, perhaps not as simple as one would believe at first blush.

The simplest situation would be that of the Guest being Invited. The Invitation implies that the Invocation will begin.

The Invitation, in its many, varied forms, comes down to this: Please come to me.

The Answer, then: Yes (Acceptance) or; No (Answer. An Answer does not necessarily imply rejection.)

On Acceptance, then, the Guest comes to the door of the Host and knocks. As the Guest is expected, having accepted, the Host opens, and allows the Guest entry.

What if the Guest is unexpected or unannounced?

The same rules apply. As before, then: if the Guest comes to the door unexpected, the Guest should follow the two rules. If the roles were reversed, and the (pending) Host were to come to the door of the (unexpected) Guest, how would the (unexpected) Guest treat the (pending) Host?

Thus, one can see many social situations falling into place.

Upon admittance, the Host then bears a certain responsibility. If the Guest was invited, then, the Host presumably has an understanding of the Guest and the Guest's life/lifestyle/etc.

Example: If the Host is one whose dietary habits are unrestricted in any manner, then the Host must take into account the dietary habits of the Guest. Jews and Muslims, for example, would be ill-treated by a Host serving pork, vegans ill-served by meats, etc. Further: health considerations (i.e., diabetes, alcoholism, etc.) should also be included.

Further: If the Guest has such concerns, they should be made understood prior to arrival. If the Guest does not do so, it is up to the Guest to not consume that which is improper and/or unhealthy, and to guide any questions regarding the rejection with the manner in which the Guest would wish to be addressed while in the home of the Guest.

Do you begin to see? Is it not clear?