promises are kept

thoughts from the mind of Mitch Brown

Month: December, 2013



Sure as shit as TNT will show the Christmas Story, and your local supermarket will stock tasty egg nog, a new holiday tradition has arrived, one in which Fox News pundits will complain about the (false) notion of a “war on Xmas.”

I really didn’t think it could get any better than last year when David Silverman made an appearance on the “O’Reily Factor,” and Bill O’Reily said Christianity is a “philosophy” not a religion. (Wouldn’t that contradict the Christian right’s narrative about the “war on Xmas” being an attack on religion?)

But this year, at least on an entertainment level, it has gotten better. As you might know, Silverman’s American Atheists organization put up an electronic billboard in Times Square with the message Who needs Christ during Christmas?… NOBODY. Of course with the whole free-speech and free-market economy thing, they paid for it and have a right to put it up. Other more traditional holiday tidings also flash on  the electronic billboard, but the Who Needs Christ one is causing all the controversy.

New York State Senator Andrew Lanza compared the billboard to the Third Reich’s Holocaust. If that’s not slippery slope fallacious reasoning, I don’t know what is. Let’s see, putting an electronic billboard in Times Square with an Atheist/secular holiday greeting is somehow a precursor to a reenactment of the Final Solution and the ovens of Auschwitz being fired up again!? Yeah right!  Lanza

In the face of perceived attacks, the brave Xian soldiers mount a resistance—the resistance is to tell people “Merry Christmas” and give the old heave–ho to “Happy Holidays.” I’m not offended by either greeting, nor do I even care which one is said.

So who is the type to make an issue over “Happy Holidays” becoming a new norm? It’s someone who desires cultural hegemony, which is the idea that one voice, one ideology, one people should dominate over a society, and all other voices are to be marginalized and relegated to a lesser status. The opposite of cultural hegemony is pluralism.

“Happy Holidays” is a pluralistic umbrella term, and Xmas is included under that heading, not excluded. So where is the problem? How is Xmas being attacked when it is a factor in the “Happy Holidays” equation?

The myth of the war on Xmas is part of a larger narrative, the myth of the modern persecuted Xian, which I find to be VERY bizarre. It doesn’t add up. Christians make up around 78% of the U.S. population, and Atheists make up around 6-7% of the U.S. population.

Which group has a greater probability of being ridiculed, ostracized, or discriminated against? Do the math and calculate the results.

Another resistance call you are likely to hear around this time of year is the call to “keep the Christ in Christmas.”

But, doesn’t Xmas have its origins in European polytheistic Paganism? Xmas is essentially a synthesis of Roman, Celtic, and Germanic Pagan traditions ( see Sol Invictus, Saturnalia, Yule, the Cult of Mithras, etc.) with the Christ narrative sprinkled on top.

After the Edict of Milan, as Christianity began to spread through Europe, the dates and customs of the old winter-time Pagan holidays were kept, and the Christ narrative was injected into the mix.                                            Thor in Thursday

Such historical knowledge deflates the whole “Christ is the reason for the season” narrative. The origins of Xmas pre-date Christianity.

What is the reaction from less-educated evangelicals when you bring this information to their attention?—I’ve found they usually ignore it or dismiss it and continue to cling on to the Christ birth narrative.

Telling Christians that their most holy of holidays has its roots in Paganism is going to create cognitive dissonance, and when cognitive dissonance gets too heavy, a stay on or jump off moment occurs.

I’ve seen how some Christians will disregard the origins of Xmas because it doesn’t sync up with their narrative. The former managing editor of the campus paper I write for in December of 2012 wrote an idiotic column entitled “The Corporate controversy of Christmas” that is an illustration of what I’m talking about.

The denial in the face of cognitive dissonance was present: “Apparently, Christmas trees, mistletoe, holly wreaths and yule logs have pre- Christian origins. But none of this changes the fact that I, as a Christian, believe that the origin of Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Bible.”

Just by believing something doesn’t make it true. You can believe the origins of Xmas are the birth of Christ, but the origins are found somewhere else, and that actually has been documented.

An understanding of history as a linear timeline is a basic, rudimentary intellectual skill, an understanding of cause and effect and how preceding events effect that which follows. And with what she wrote, dumb ass Ellen Becker displayed she has trouble grasping such a concept.

The delusions of persecution were on display too–”I don’t discriminate against those who celebrate other holidays, yet I have been discriminated against for celebrating Christmas as a Biblical holiday.”

I saw that and thought yeah fucking right!

The kicker was the closer–”In a time when all things religious are being discouraged and swept away, I still hold strong to my convictions, and will forever keep Christ in Christmas.”

What in the fuck was that shit? It was a declaration of personal resistance in the face of imagined persecution.

It’s not that we are witnessing a concerted effort to “sweep away” or ban religion, like in Communist countries, but rather a social shift in which religiosity is declining in some segments of American society, particularly among educated Millennials.

A similar social shift happened in Western and Northern Europe after World War 2. Countries like France, Norway, and Sweden have high numbers of non-religious citizens, and that shift did not bring about the downfall of these nations. As a population becomes better educated and more stable, their level of religiosity tends to decrease. The social shift of this sort makes the evangelical who wants to maintain a cultural equilibrium feel uncomfortable.

So with all of that said, I will not tell anyone to keep the Christ in Christmas or to take it out. I don’t care how you celebrate Xmas. For me, it’s the time for egg nog and Kahlua and to watch that movie about Ralphie and his Red-Ryder B.B. Gun. Merry XXX-Mas, MOTHER COCKSUCKER!!

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Lords Of Salem SUCKED!!

Lords Of Salem1

What can be said about Rob Zombie’s Lords Of Salem? I finally got around to watching it, and my reply can be summed up in two words—IT SUCKS!!!

Never before had I been so psyched up about a movie only to be so let down. Give credit where all credit is due– Rob Zombie was a revolutionary force in the world of horror throughout the oughts.

The late ’90s into the early 2000s was a dark time for the horror movie genre, and I don’t mean dark as in evil. I mean dark as in desolate, devoid of a vitality that once was. Think about it—That was the era in which Wes Craven served up the triple decker shit sandwich known as the Scream movies. Horror itself became like a dirty word, as sanitized PG-13 crap was being released under such euphemistic labels as “supernatural suspense.”

Then along came Rob Zombie, and the creature was alive once again. When I heard Rob Zombie was going to do a horror movie, I just sort of shrugged and thought that I might check it out. I was never a big fan of his music, but I became a huge fan of his movies:House of 1000 Corpses had just the right blend of camp and menace, I was blown away by the Devil’s Rejects, his Halloween movies brought a greater psychological depth over the originals. I even enjoyed the Haunted World of El Superbeasto, Rob Zombie’s Fritz The Cat/Ren&Stimpy style animated feature.

When I heard about Lords Of Salem, I waited with baited breath. Zombie was being super hush-hush about plot details, which added to the suspense. When I heard him say in an interview that Lords Of Salem was going to be the “darkest” movie he had yet to do, I anticipated something better than the Devil’s Rejects, but what I got was a hard- u-turn into suckville.

Lords of Salem is Rob Zombie’s attempt at psychological horror, and it falls flat on its face. I do not have a problem with a director changing his style. That’s what made the Devil’s Rejects so great. Rob Zombie established these characters in one context and then shifts them into another, which varied from the vibe of the first. The Devil’s Rejects was not simply a continuation of the House Of 1000 Corpses.

This movie is a fail: Because for psychological horror to work well, a strong emotional depth needs to be present with the characters, and Sherri Moon Zombie, as the main character Heidi, just doesn’t have the acting chops to pull it off.

Let’s see if I can explain–  Good Psychological horror relies heavily on the use of cinematic tension, those moments in which the build-up before the blood splattering can be more unsettling than the actual act, the calm before for the storm. But so much of this movie is like the calm before a light drizzle, which doesn’t create the nerve–racking tension needed for effective psychological horror. The whole movie felt like it was dragging on and going nowhere.

The best horror movies transfer the feeling of terror by proxy from the characters to the viewer—The first Nightmare on Elm Street movie is a prime example. You feel the danger Nancy is in, so much so it’s unnerving. With Lords of Salem, you know Heidi is in danger, but you don’t feel it.

Throughout much of the movie I was left thinking WHAT!? or “so what.” For example, the older women, aka the modern witches downstairs from Heidi. Why are they taking an interest in her? I assumed she was to become a sacrifice, not a proxy for some satanic hellspawn that looks like a cross between a lobster and a wacky wall walker on steroids to be birthed, allowing the witches of Salem from 1696 to be transported back into the present, leaving the decedents of the original witch–hunters dead in a huge pile. And roll credits?!….

So much was wrong with this movie…

A lot of the trippy surreal scenes that were supposed to be sinister and foreboding came off like disjointed stock footage. Dialogue and chants that were supposed to be blasphemous and shocking sounded cornball and unintentionally funny.

The setting of the movie really fucked with the space time continuum, not like how old man Biff gave young Biff of the ’50s the Gray’s Sports Almanac, allowing him to become rich and powerful and completely fuck up Hill Valley.

No! Upon first watching Lords Of Salem, you would think the movie might be taking place in the 1970s, the fashion, a reference to Issac Hayes, the radio station receptionist has an Afro. But…towards the beginning of the movie Heidi and the radio crew are interviewing a walking parody of a Norwegian Black Metal singer. ( named Count Gorgann) The characters use contemporary slang.( “don’t be jelly.” “whateve”) It’s like the movie was taking place in some type of alternate universe that was a hybrid of contemporary and retro, and that was a little distracting.

Even Rob Zombie’s use of music, which is usually superb, was off. There is something to be said when the right track is matched to the right scene at the right time– The music then sort of takes on a life of its own. Zombie has proven to be a master at this, from Foghat, to the Moody Blues, to the Bad Brains, to the Allman Brothers. He’s displayed an astute ear for sonic synergy with his movies. But with this movie, it’s like the tunes he chose are just background sound, as opposed to being an integral part of the scene.

And speaking of music, one thing I noticed—Even though Rob Zombie is a hard-rock/metal musician, many nods to old school punk and hardcore are sprinkled throughout Lords of Salem: A Slapshot poster is on display at the radio station Heidi works at, two Black Flag stickers are on the refrigerator in her apartment, and Brandon Cruz, lead singer of Dr. Know, has a brief cameo in what appeared to be an NA(Narcotics Anonymous) meeting. That’s all well and cool, but it’s not cool enough to save this movie from being shit.

I heard somewhere that Lords of Salem is to be Rob Zombie’s last horror movie. If that’s the case, it’s a damn shame he went out with a whimper and not a bang.

Somebody should have told Mr. Zombie that endless still-frame shots of a hallway does not a horror movie make. Let me reiterate– This movie SUCKED!