The Best We Can Hope For (28 Days Later)


      Most zombie movies the beginning of the movie doesn't matter. It's generally about what happens after the horrible catastrophe. The virus, nuclear accident, or whatever it is: is almost an excuse for the rest of the plot to move forward, not that that's a bad thing. There is something unique to the beginning to "28 days later."  It begins with radical animal rights people breaking into a scientific facility, and freeing an infected chimp. The scientist tries to stop the three intruders, but he is outmanned. 
 28 Days Later
It plays into the theme well because the film is really about ideals. What is the norm? What is the best we can hope for? Near the beginning Selina, the main female survivor, says that staying alive is the best they can hope for. This is right after you witness her murder her cohort a few seconds after he gets bitten. The main character has been thrown into this world after he wakes up naked at a hospital. He seems much more thrust into this new world of zombies than the others, who seem to have been slowly moved into it. This gives a black and white conflict between cold stone pessimism, and warmer idealism. 
Near the end of the film they arrive at a small base: where about 7 soldiers live. Probably the most philosophical scene is the dinner scene. They discuss what normalcy is, and the head of the soldiers says that this is normalcy. What do we have now: humans killing humans, and now we have humans killing humans. 
The soldiers betray their guests in a rather cruel way, and they pay the price by the hands of the main protagonist. The implication here is that the cruelty of the zombies, and the cruelty of the soldiers are looked upon as one, and the same. 
This seems to ask the question that Richard Mattherson in his book "I Am Legend," attempts to answer:"What is normalcy?" So, I'll try to answer that question in terms of a Christian worldview. This has two answers. First, in terms of his/her life on earth. Do you remember when you were younger, and you took you're bike up that monumental hill, so that you could rush it all the way down? The first part of Christian normalcy is sort of like that. You have to change the way you're heart works. You have to want things that it's not programmed to want at first. You also have to work on your mind so that you can reach people, and equip others. 
The second, is the ride. It's where the things you've trained your heart to want are fulfilled. It's like the retirement after the long career. Never forget about the ride. I think you'll find that the people who have done the most for this world have ben the ones thinking about the second one. 

   

Experience Isn't Everything (Interview With A Vampire by Anne Rice)

         
 Before I go into my usual philosophical stuff I want to make it very clear that none of the comments damage the work, itself, as a whole. It had depth, it kept coming at a wonderful pace, and the style was superb. The story itself is not lacking in the least.
     It starts out with a young reporter asking questions to a vampire, and as the story progresses it keeps coming back to the boy asking  the questions. The story,the vampire tells him, is about his journey into his new vampire life. In his immersion the question "Am I the devil?" keeps coming up.
The person who turned him becomes his mentor who he begrudges, and hates deeply. Both characters play off of each other: while one tries to preserve his humanity, the other's goal is primarily attempts to reject his passion, used throughout the book to represent humanity.
     Throughout the book, there are allusions to scripture the most striking of which was the mentor vampire saying "For no creature under God are as we are, none so like him as we are." This seems to echo the serpent from Genesis saying, "You will be like God knowing good and evil."
     When we read fiction we bleed our own ideas about what the author is saying, and this can be damaging to ourselves as well. It means not learning from someone's ideas. This can make it so that we get effected by them later. If Christians are to be world changers they have to understand what they're trying to change, and why.
     I wanted to ask the author why she used so many Biblical, and Christian allusions, if she was so against Christianity.  Fortunately for me, modern technology exists, and people like me can ask questions of people like that through the internet. So, I asked her that question, and she answered "I have a life long involvement with it, and obsession with it. I was brought up intensely Catholic." So, there are allusions to Christianity, but they're purpose for being there is based on attacking it.
     The book's main theme has to do with evil, and good. The book does, however make a very unique claim: that experience is the ultimate good, at least for the immortal. "Only a hunger for new experience, for that which was as beautiful, and devastating as the kill." She replaces God with experience. This is plain, and simple existentialism.
     Lets take a look at this philosophy through a purely logical standpoint. Is rape good? No. Are the murders in this book good? No. I do understand that the character is trying to do his best with his urges. However, is his nature on a whole good? No. These are all experiences. Correct? Haven't you been judging them this entire time? If there is something above them judging experience: how can experience be the ultimate?
       Ok, I know I just bashed this pretty hard, but I loved this work. If we want to reach a lost and dying world: we have to understand what a lost and dying world is like. Read the books in the slums because in the slums we find the things that make us stronger.


What Would Jesus's Playlist Look Like?


       I don't plan on doing many more posts like the one I'm about to do, but it's so close to the spirit of what I want to do here that I simply can't resist. Christians have this sort of slant against new music that to put it in the most blatant words: disturbing. To be honest, the Christians that object to certain genres of music aren't the Christians who I generally hang out with, and the first time I heard that there were certain genres that were not to be listened to by Christians. I assumed that it was a stand against the ad content in a lot of modern music.
     This was a little different though. I was in fact shocked when they replied that they didn't want to worship the beat instead of God. They not only rejected the genres like metal, but disapproved of the far softer bands like "Newsboys," and "DC Talk."
     In the moment I was to dumbfounded to respond, but now I think I have my wits gathered about me. C.S. Lewis talks about the reason for music in his book Mere Christianity saying; Music is the expression of the infinite for some people. So, stylistically what a Christian should be listening to, as far as genre goes. It's a whole other subject to talk about message, but I'll get to that.   
      There was also something else I wanted to say, but didn't think of till much later. How would the logic play out in other areas? Should I not eat good food because i'm worried it might taste good? Of course not, God meant us to take pleasure in his creation, and in creating we take place in this sort of imitation of himself. If you haven't read the book Desiring God by John Piper go read it. The book takes a look at the Idea of Christian Hedonism, and how pleasure in a Christian's life should work. 
     Something else that needs to be looked at is the message of the band. Another blogger  Jon Acuff said "I love the band with the name Demon Hunter. It's like naming your band Satan groin kickers." I not only love the Demon Hunter band, but their words are amazingly powerful. They have lines like "Save sorrow for the souls in doubt," "Hell hath no furry at all," and "The deliverance of blade and flame, your love and greater is the blood." 
      A lot of their stuff is really powerful, and got me to think about things. Although i'm unsure about Demon Hunter, there are certainly Christian metal bands that have a small part of the concert that do gospel speakers. 
     So, why would we deny the gospel being preached? Why would we deny people being touched by a Christian message? Weren't we ordered to be all things to all people? 

Side by Side (Feeders and Eaters by Neil Gaiman)

      First off, I love Gaiman his style is impeccable, and sets his style apart with a sort of elegance that you don't normally find in many modern authors. Most horror authors like Stephen King have a very jaded style. I'm not saying one is better than the other, but it certainly fits him very well. He reminds me like a sort of modern Lovecraft: showing gruesomeness, but at the same time being very elegant about it.
     If you haven't read his other works; American Gods, or Anansi Boys, go read them. They aren't horror, but they're just as excellent.
     The work "Feeders and Eaters," is especially good. It focuses on this man who is telling the story, and an old lady in the same apartment building. The woman at the beginning of the story seems only delusive, and not sinister as she seems at the end of the story. She gives the man some ink mushrooms, but the guy doesn't eat them.
     She asks the man to go down to the market, and get her some raw meat, and he watches her eat it. Later, he accidentally runs over her cat, and he feels it his duty to kill it: given its current condition. When he tells the old lady she says something odd: that it was her meat.
     It's made clear that there is no sexual attraction between him and the old lady at the beginning of the story, but this appears to change at the end when the main character walks off with the lady, and she seems much younger than at the beginning.
     Also, near the end the character that has been telling the story stands up, and you can see that he has lost meat on his arm, and you can see the bone below. The inference is that he has become her meat.
     The ending paragraph is the guy listening to the story, and who sees the startling bare bone walks down to the train and rides home. He sees a woman in the train who has a body of a baby in a jar filled with formaldehyde. It gives a good ending to the theme.
     The over all point seems to be that the supernatural evils exist side by side with the mundane evils; the evils you see on the ride on the subway home.
     I think that this story did what Twilight never could. Because, it deals with the same type of addictions with a real world approach. I want you to imagine how Twilight would really happen. The closest thing we have is a far to old cult leader taking a way younger girl away, and stalking her the entire relationship. It's self-deluding at best.
     The reason I like this story is that it shows something with similar dynamics in a real world context. Remember, they exist side-by-side.
     A short story is like a kiss in the dark with a stranger, and a novel is like a long satisfying marriage. We need to read short stories though. They can be cathartic in a way. It can give you a small flash on insight: the same as a shot of adrenaline. So, for goodness sakes don't stop kissing.


   



Look At My Monocle And Top Hat (The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe)

       Poe is one of the classier horror author, and when it comes to Poe there's probably two pieces that come to mind "Quoth the Raven," and "Tell-Tale Heart." I want to take a look at "The Tell-Tale Heart," because it deals with so many questions of human nature.
 Tell-Tale Heart
       The horror genre is generally split into two categories: the pre-destined, and the free willed. The predestined is where some cosmic force steps into nature, and since it's horror terrorizes the occupancy. Free-willed horror is horror that people do to each other. The serial killer stories that Dean Kootnz created like "Darkness Under the Sun," and "Intensity," but the Godfather of all these stories is Poe. It implies that the real werewolf is much closer than we think. The real werewolf is inside.
       The story starts with the question, "Am I mad?" The question re-appears throughout the work. In the story the main character murders the man he lives with, for what appears to be no reason at all.
       The inference seems to be that we have to believe he's insane. Evil for evil's sake is so alien to our reasoning that maybe we have to believe he's insane, maybe even for our own sanity.
       Even so, he seems to indicate his own insanity by saying: "The disease has sharpened my senses." In either case he kills him, and buries him in the floorboards. The police come, he hears the sound of what he thinks is the old man's beating heart, and confesses to the police in the hopes that the awful noise will stop.
       It's fairly clear that the heart doesn't belong to the old man in all reality: him being dead, and all that jazz. It would seem that the heart is truly his own: giving  guilt a sort of phenomena in nature. Because, only he can hear it, and the haunting beating noise starts right after he kills the old man.
       The point is on human nature, and evil. The point on nature is that the human heart was made for good. It starts to malfunction, and rebel against its possessor's will when it has done evil. The point on evil is that, if you boil evil down to what it is it's madness, nothing more.
       There's one last question: How many steps are we away from this. When will the reasons for evil simply dissolve, and when will evil get back to its true nature? When will it become evil for evil's sake?  


Thing From the Other (The Colour Out of Space by H.P. Lovecraft)


No one has influenced the modern world of horror more than H.P. Lovecraft, other than maybe Poe himself. Neil Gaiman once said that once said that Lovecraft built the stage on which all modern horror is played, and Stephen King echoes his sentiments.

                Lovecraft created a grand mythos, in which each story has a certain cast of cosmic monsters. The mission of most of his works is to attack Empiricism: the belief that there is nothing outside matter, and anything real and objective can be observed through the senses.

                Lovecraft gives off the essence of this most clearly in another work called ‘The Tomb.’ “It is an unfortunate fact that the bulk of humanity is too limited in its mental vision to weigh with patience and intelligence, those isolated phenomena, seen, felt only by the psychologically sensitive, which lie outside the common experience… the prosaic materialism condemns as madness the flashes of super-sight that penetrate the veil of obvious empiricism.” All this means is that when the supernatural is portrayed: it is dismissed as madness.

                He blames empiricism for this spirit of intellectual superiority, and punishes them by giving his unbelieving characters gruesome ends. Although, to be fair, most Lovecraft characters meet an awful end, regardless.

                In his story “The Colour Out of Space,” he continues his cynical attitude toward materialism. It starts with a beginning similar to Dracula: a modern man coming into a myth ridden culture. Unlike Dracula, he finds no reason for myths to exist, because the culture is so Puritan.

                The main bulk of the story is the telling of how, a meteor from outer space, touched down into a field making it desolate. The rock is branded with colors from colors off of the human color wheel. “It was nothing of this earth, but a piece of the great outside, and as such endowed with outside properties, and obedient to outside laws.”

                Two different professors look at the rock: only to find that no chemical will break it down. What’s left of the rock continues to ravage the land, terrify animals, and turning people insane. One character tries to send their troubles to “The Gazette,” and is given nothing but ridicule. The underlying point is that humanity can’t seem to own up to the big parts of reality.

                Schliermacher, one of the liberal, German theologians said that Religion is the feeling of the infinite inside the finite. I think he’s wrong, but only slightly if we change the context. The supernatural is, or can be the infinite inside the finite, and Lovecraft’s work certainly carries the other-worldly coming into this.

                Christianity would certainly agree with Lovecraft that things from beyond nature step into nature, and interact with it. They do, however, differ at one key point. Lovecraft’s creatures are at best ambivalent to the plight of human nature.  So, the question becomes: is the real other-worldly ambivalent.

                The answer is no. why do I say that? Is there any purpose in ambivalence? No, however, in the real world we seem to have a sense of purpose that goes far beyond our own lives. We have a sense of the way things ought to be.

                If this world were without purpose, I don’t think we would know it, or understand what purpose was. In a world without light there would be no creatures with eyes.

                Like the rock in Lovecraft’s story: purpose comes from beyond, and like that rock its nature is totally different from the place it landed in. What’s different is that one destroys and the other gives power.        

                    

My Productivity is Unproductive (Insidious)

       I love a good ghost story, and a good demon possesion thriller. So, Insidious was a really good crossover between both those plotlines.
In the story, when a family moves to a new house their son goes into a coma, and the mother sees strange spectors throughout the house. They move; hoping to be rid of the spectors and on some levels the coma. When they move they only find that the coma, and the ghosts are still present. So, the father’s mom reccomends the psychic, and when the psychic comes she explains that the boy has the ability to leave his body. This is attracting unwanted potential occupance like ghosts, spectors, and demons.
In a somewhat odd twist the empiricist and rationalist father learns that he too can leave his body, and he must do so in order to redeem his son. He does this, but at a cost.
      On a whole I enjoyed the film. It’s suspenseful and imaginative. However, there’s no clear philisophical message like the Buddism of “Avatar,” or the blatent naturalism of “Jurrasic Park.” It’s simple and clear job is to simply thrill you. Does this mean it’s not worht our time? Is it enough for a piece of media simply to entertain us? At least when it comes to the genre of horror, I think it is.
       Let’s take a look at the genre of horror from a historical standpoint. When was it popular? You would expect during a time of less social turmoil. We’ll you’d be as wrong as I was when I made that assumption. Horror is popular when there is some sort of massive social upheaval. Stephen King talks some about this phenomina in his book “Danse Macabre,” but why is this? When I go to a horror movie I find a world with troubles far greater than my own. What do I feel at the end? I feel relief. It puts my own life into perspective.
       Fiction should seek to entertain then teach. A greater man than me once said that, and he’s right. I hardly remember anything from my science textbooks, but I remember every book from Mr. Jenkins literature class. Why: because, it entertained me, and I ended up learning in the process.
My third point is for artists, and especially artists with a message. Being entertained is a way of being swept away, and how can you hope to sweep someone away unless you yourself have been swept away. So, read, watch, and absorb your art, and above all be swept away.
        Going back to Insidious; watch it. Determine what you think. If you like it; great. If you don’t that’s fine too. It’s about finding out what sweeps you away.