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Some Thoughts on Once Upon A Time in Hollywood

Finally sat down and watched it. I would put it squarely in his Western Phase, that he’s been on since Django Unchained. It’s more of a meta-Western, but it has that tone and that feel to it, and the main character is a down-on-his-luck Western Star. Anyway, here are my thoughts:

  • Quentin Tarantino is the Last Great American Director. He’s the only big-name auteur left in town, and we’re gonna miss him when he’s gone, and talk about him the way people talk about Kubrick or Hitchcock.
  • Hippies turning on a dime from quirky to feral makes 1969 real in a way that no other film I can think of ever has.
  • Everyone who complained about Margot Robbie not getting enough lines in this movie absolutely missed the point. She’s meant to play an elegy of Sharon Tate, and she nails it. Call this objectification/iconography if you will, but that’s what we’ve been doing to Sharon Tate for 50 years. Tarantino gave us a look at her observing her imminent iconostasis, and he did it with the language of cinema, which is primarily a visual medium.
  • I would totally watch a DiCaprio and Pitt in a buddy cop movie.

“Mindhunter” is going on ice at Netflix. Variety has confirmed that the show’s cast members have been released from their contracts. The streamer is not ruling out a third season of the series, however, depending on executive producer David Fincher’s schedule. Fincher is currently working on directing the Netflix film “Mank” as well as executive…

via ‘Mindhunter’ Cast Released From Contracts, Season 3 Put on Hold — Variety

Womp womp.

A link to my Quick Review.

The New Year For Unnamed Journal

Unnamed Journal has finished four volumes and is about to start its fifth. It’s gotten into a nice steady rhythm now. I enjoy the process of creating it. Short fiction and essays are always a challenge worth grappling with.

But it wouldn’t be UJ if we weren’t thinking about how we could improve it.  A couple of things have been under serious, two-beers-in discussion:

  1. Opening Up Submissions. We’ve been producing everything in-house so far, except for one or two outside-written pieces. We’re open to having a place for other people’s wierd fiction, driven snark, and long-form jokes.
  2. Charging for Subscriptions. There’s a point at which giving it away for free loses its luster. Producing a literary magazine and a podcast does take some work. So we’re looking at Patreon as a possible solution, as well as others.

I suspect that if we do one of these, we’ll probably do both, as they both kind of fulfill the need to grow UJ to the next level. But everything’s on the table at this point, including staying the current course of a quarterly free lit mag.

In the meantime, links to all our currently available issues is found on the UJ page on this blog.

On the Shores of Cevalon – New Story in the Works

I have often mentioned my interest in epic fantasy, and that I have been working on my own homebrew world, in fits and starts, for a long time. I have put in some drawing time using the aforementioned Fantasy Maps drawing guide, and I’ve already started constructing a story on my new map. It’s part of the overall world of Cevalon, which I’ve been expanding to include more lands beyond its shores and a more clearly spelled out mythology & history.

And as part of getting myself back into actually writing in the world, I’ve outlined a new small project to start on for the new year. I actually started it without an outline, then junked the start and went back and did the scut-work. I was trying for a first-person narrative, which is usually fun, but for some reason didn’t work for me. A bit of Robert Howard (“The Black Colossus”, to be specific) and I decided to avoid a self-overhearing ironic approach, as is common to the Drunk Vampire Hunter stories (which really need a post of their own), and play it a little more straight. It’s kind of an experiment in world-building.

What’s it called?

The King’s Ransom.

What’s it about?

A bastard prince finds redemption in rescuing his full-blood brother, the King, from fiendish enemies. A trio of scheming princesses round out the family as a kingdom beset by enemies human and demonic dances on the edge of chaos.

It’s got the shape of a novella at this point, but who knows. I’ve got an outline.

I Love it When the Ignorant Lecture Me About Jesus

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This is the kind of rhetorical nonsense that people who think they’re moar SMRTer then dem stoopid Xtians love to share. It’s so full of irrelevancies, absurdities, and flat-out mischaracterizations as to represent a Perfect Storm of Woke-Signalling. It cries out to Heaven for a Fisking.

Original in Bold, my responses in italic.

Jesus was a radical nonviolent revolutionary

Lemme stop you right here. “Radical” is one of those words, like “fascist” that has been overused to the point of meaninglessness. He was certainly not a “revolutionary” in any accepted meaning of the term. In the first place, claiming to be a Messiah, the Heir of the House of David, is if anything a Reactionary position, as restoring the Davidic Kingdom would by definition be restoring a long-honored past. In the second place, dude was quite clear that his Kingdom was Not Of This World, and had very little to say on proper political arrangements, other than everyone should pay their taxes, which is the least revolutionary political statement of all time.

As for the “nonviolent” bit, we’re talking about the guy who kicked the money-changers out of the Temple and promised that he was “bringing not peace, but the sword,” right?

…who hung around with lepers, hookers, and crooks…

Which, as he explicitly said, was in order that these people be healed, forgiven, and brought back into the fold. Not as a statement that leprosy, prostitution, and theft were valid choices to be celebrated.

…wasn’t American and never spoke English…

Your strawman, it burns so beautifully. I’ve heard versions of this chuckle-witted applause line a million times if I’ve heard it once, and always comes from someone mocking the idea. I have never in my born days heard a grown adult Christian of any denomination claim that Jesus was American and spoke English. Find a new line, will you?

…was anti-wealth, anti-death penalty, anti public-prayer (Mt 6:5)

Y’all just love that line about the difficulties of a wealthy man entering the Kingdom of Heaven. True, love of money is a sin. But most of the Bible treats wealth as a blessing from God, to be dispensed with in a Godly way, but by no means wicked in and of itself.  And if we’re being honest, you don’t think YOUR money is bad. You think the other guy, who has Too Much Money, is bad. There’s a whole commandment just for you.

I’m gonna need a citation on that anti-death penalty thing. Because Jesus was real big on casting people into the fiery Gehenna, to the point of telling people to cut their hands of and gouge their eyes out to avoid it. And when Peter told Jesus NOT to go and have himself handed over to death, Jesus called him Satan and told him to get behind him. It’s almost as if this guy was working on a meta/cosmic/spiritual level, and doesn’t deserve to get shoehorned into your modern political demands. But whatever.

Matthew 6:5 does indeed tell people to pray in their homes rather than make a loud show to their neighbors of how Holy and Good they are. If you think he was talking about punishing high school kids for saying a prayer before their football games, because an atheist might be downwind, then you’re deliberately taking Matthew 6:5 out of context. A guy who publicly taught people his message about God, to the point of preaching to thousands at a time, was 100% not saying what you’re trying to squeeze out of him here.

…But was never anti-gay…

Being “gay”, like America and the English language, didn’t exist in the first century. Jesus didn’t speak about “gay issues” because there was no subculture seeking validation for them. What Jesus did say was that the Mosaic Law (which is blunt on homosexual acts being contrary to God’s Will) was to be retained and followed, and unless your righteousness exceeded that of the Phariseees, (meaning you followed the Law even better than they did)  you weren’t getting your Golden Ticket. He also rather publicly stated (Matthew 5) that marriage existed in order to bring together male and female, and that such was what God intended from the beginning, in case you’re planning on updating this screed to include same-sex marriage or the 57 new genders.

…never mentioned abortion or birth control…

Again, because this wasn’t an issue for Jews of his time. The Mosaic Law (which again, Jesus said he was all about) applies the death penalty to men who by violence cause an unborn child to die (Ex 21:22-23). No Jewish sect of Jesus’ time was pro-abortion or pro-birth control, and the Early Church was foursquare in its condemnation of Roman practices of both. He didn’t have to mention it; everyone was on board.

…never called the poor lazy…

“But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. ‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. ‘Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.
“For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. “Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

-Matthew 25:26-30

This also doesn’t sound like a guy who’s “anti-wealth”. Huh.

…Never justified torture…

See above, regarding cutting your hand off and poking your eye out to avoid Hell. Jesus’ pronouncements about Hell as a Lake of Fire and a Second Death, are pretty vivid and horrifying. But you do you.

…never fought for tax cuts for the wealthiest Nazarenes…

Nazarenes weren’t wealthy. Nazareth was a half-Samaritan backwater that no one thought anything of. It was the Flyover Country of Judaea. If anything, Jesus endured the snobbery of Hellenized, globally-aware Jerusalem urbanites who scoffed at the notion of anything good coming from those dirty fishermen.

Sound familiar?

As for the statement that he never specifically advocated for tax relief, for the wealthy or otherwise, that’s probably because of his general lack of interest in political questions. Is that a stance you’re going to be emulating anytime soon?

…never asked a leper for a copay…

He also never demanded that Caeser Augustus and the High Priest create a control board rationing care to lepers and demoniacs. He just healed them. Because he was God.

..and was a long-haired…

Every single artistic depiction of Jesus of the last two-thousand years has shown him with long hair. What secret do you think you’re uncovering?

…brown-skinned…

I promise you, no one is shocked by this. Everyone knows Jesus wasn’t a European. I’m pretty sure Chinese Christians know that he wasn’t Asian and African Christians will admit that he wasn’t black. This is another strawman, and says way more about you than it does about whoever you imagine you’re calling out.

…homeless community-organizing…

Precisely what did Jesus organize the “homeless community” of Judaea to do?

And while you’re answering that, you can go ahead and tell me what Barack Obama’s community-organizing accomplishments were. I’ve been waiting for about 12 years for that state secret to get declassified.

…anti-slut shaming…

Tell that to the Woman at the Well. 

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

John 4:15-18

Now, I know you’re really talking about the Woman Taken in Adultery a few chapters later, in John 8. But you’re taking the wrong lesson from that story, as almost everyone does. Jesus didn’t say “The law is wrong and you shouldn’t stone her,” he said “Let him who is without sin cast the FIRST stone.” Not all the subsequent stones, just the first one. He was making a point that he often made about casting out your own sins (hence the aforementioned hand-chopping and eye-gouging) before dealing with another’s. And when the crowd dispersed, Jesus didn’t say “You Go Girl!” to the woman spared, he said “Go forth and sin no more.” As in “Get your life together, sister, or next time I won’t be here to slow them down.”

…Middle Eastern Jew.

Hey, you got one right. Good for you!

 

Quick Review: The Rise of Skywalker

SWsplatterEverything in here is SPOILERS, because we’ve reached that reality in Star Wars movies. The guys at Red Letter Media have been saying since Rogue One that there are only so many things that can happen in Star Wars, so even if you technically haven’t seen the ninth (and final?) episode, you’ve seen most of the things it has on offer. There are escapes and jumps to lightspeed and blasting stormtroopers and epic lightsaber fights and grand space battles. Heroes will be tempted to turn to the dark side of the force. The villain who’s been THE villain will be THE villain again, and he will do the same villainous acts. There are one or two mild surprises, but even these are predictable. This is a Star Wars movie that approaches an almost mystical reverence for itself as such.

Thus, it veers hard away from whatever Rian Johnson was attempting to move towards with The Last Jedi, almost apologetically giving the fans every emotional touchstone they could want. Of course, such a course precludes any possibility of expanding on the Saga. What we are left with amounts to a do-over of Return of the Jedi, minus the Death Star (or with a million Death Stars, depending on your point of view). The only real emotions in it are feelings of being haunted by the weight of past actions and past glories, an unavoidable meta-commentary on the state of the story and the fandom and everything else. This movie, and Star Wars itself, is a run-down mansion haunted by ghosts.

Just to beat this point home, the climax of the movie is determined precisely by the past flooding back in to save the world from the past. Just as THE Villain (yup, it’s Palpatine), is back, standing in for *every* Sith, so Rey hears the voices of *every* Jedi. No one at Lucasfilm can think of doing things any other way. It’s either desperate or cynical and possibly both.

None of which is to say that it’s a bad movie. It moves along snappily. You’re not ever confused as to what’s happening and why. You never have a scene end and think “what was that all about?” J.J. Abrams’ trademark visual energy is very much present. I’ll even cop to one or two moves bringing about genuine emotion. But once it’s over, it feels entirely forgettable. It’s Star Wars: A Star Wars Story: Featuring Star Wars. It’s exactly what Scorcese was talking about with movies becoming theme park rides.

Which leaves us with that show about not-Boba Fett and not-Yoda. I’ve heard its pretty good. If they can keep that going a few more seasons, that galaxy might grow after all.