Obligatory Thanksgiving Post (2015 Edition)

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turkey-carcassHere we are, the week of Thanksgiving. Which means that I’m in the midst of the Holiday Edition of my periodic Downward Spiral, something that begins when Halloween breathes its last at the strike of Midnight, and continues steadily until some time after New Years. By that time, I’ve blocked all of the light emanating in the domicile I reside in, and have a special soundtrack that features the likes of Dead Artist Syndrome, L. S. U., Saviour Machine and other darker stuff playing on an endless loop, while I sit on the couch and read ancient Gothic literature to the candle light to stave off the creeping darkness. Fun times.

But, if you’re worried you’re about to read a bunch of self-pity-ing whining that you would normally find on a blog of some emo kid, far from it. I’m currently at the part of the overall Holiday Clusterbomb where I like to refer to my level of depression as “whimsically melancholy”.

This year, due to the scheduling algorithm, I work on Thanksgiving. Which, for me, is fine. I fear that, in my middle age, Thanksgiving–along with Christmas–have lost all cohesion for me in terms of celebratory importance. They’re just days on the calendar for me.

Certainly, I enjoy gathering together with the family, sharing in a meal of some sort, and enjoying everyone’s presence. All of my memories of Thanksgiving gatherings with the family have been pleasant ones, and I actually look forward to any time we can spend together in that capacity. Only…we can do that at any other given day out of the 365 that comprise the year, and not just on one Thursday at the end of the second-to-last month of the year.

However, instead of focusing on the secular trappings of the holiday, let’s focus on the spirit of the day. And by that, I mean the “Thanks” in “Thanksgiving”. And thus, I share with you all a bit of a list of things I’m thankful for, things that may not be on your typical “I’m Thankful For…” lists. Also, they’re in no particular order, as these are more brain droppings than an actual structured list (as most of these blog posts are):

– ATHEISTS
Without them, I wouldn’t be challenged into thinking logically as to why I believe what I believe. You might say my Christian faith is stronger because of my unbelieving friends. And I’m stone-cold serious about that. No sarcasm whatsoever.

– HORROR MOVIES
Contrary to popular belief, horror movies don’t cause fear, but releases our fear. It’s the perfect genre for Christians to get creative in. And no, I’m not going to explain myself. It would take too long.

– GOTHIC LITERATURE
The old stuff, from the mid-18th Century to the early 20th Century, have a certain charm to them that seems to appeal to me more than a lot of modern horror literature. And I can look pretentious reading them, too.

– SCI-FI
Such bloody good yarns, such imaginations, such thinly-veiled commentary on present issues done in future tense. Also, robots and space ships and aliens, oh my.

– BOOKS
Do I even need to explain this one? Physical books; old, new, paperback and hardback, of all shapes and sizes…er, that didn’t sound as weird in my head as it does written down…anyway…

– QUORN NAKED CHIK’N CUTLETS
I’m no vegetarian by any means, but at those times where I need to cut back on the tender flesh of the innocent, I find the Quorn brand of meatless products to be more agreeable with faking out my brain into thinking I’m still consuming meat. And their “chicken” patties are the best ones going.

There we are, a lovely list to contemplate for our thankfulness of the season. Or whatever. I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with good things and happy memory-making. Me, I’m going to catch up on my reading and some writing at work. It’s dead, I’m told. Maybe pick up some pre-prepared turkey to at least overdose on tryptophan. Some traditions I like.

::END TRANSMISSION::

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Movie Review: GOD’S NOT DEAD

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Gods-Not-Dead-406x620Pure Flix Entertainment
2014
PG

“How can you hate someone that doesn’t exist?

Present-day college freshman and devout Christian, Josh Wheaton, finds his faith challenged on his first day of Philosophy class by the dogmatic and argumentative Professor Radisson. Radisson begins class by informing students that they will need to disavow, in writing, the existence of God on that first day, or face a failing grade. As other students in the class begin scribbling the words “God Is Dead” on pieces of paper as instructed, Josh find himself at a crossroads, having to choose between his faith and his future. Josh offers a nervous refusal, provoking an irate reaction from his smug professor. Radisson assigns him a daunting task: if Josh will not admit that “God Is Dead,” he must prove God’s existence by presenting well-researched, intellectual arguments and evidence over the course of the semester, and engage Radisson in a head-to-head debate in front of the class. If Josh fails to convince his classmates of God’s existence, he will fail the course and hinder his lofty academic goals. With almost no one in his corner, Josh wonders if he can really fight for what he believes. Can he actually prove the existence of God? Wouldn’t it just be easier just to write “God Is Dead” and put the whole incident behind him?

I can just imagine the volume of emails and possible Facebook messages rebuking me for this review already. Because, if we Christians are anything, we’re fiercely loyal to any kind of attempt at pop culture evangelism put forth, no matter how lousy the execution. And when someone like myself comes along with the audacity to say they don’t like it…well, I still have that scar from the ill-fated conversation with that casting Crowns fan from a while back.

For this reason, I never intended to watch the movie God’s Not Dead. I always got the feeling when it was circulating in theaters that I wouldn’t like it, and since I have a strong “watch it and review it” policy, I didn’t feel like justifying my existence to my fellow brethren and sister-en. I do that enough the way it is. However, just recently my youth group decided to watch the DVD, and being the dutiful youth leader that I am, I stayed and watched. And thus, here is my review. Deep breath, here we go (it’s like ripping off a Band-Aide)…

God’s Not Dead is not a good movie. It’s not a terrible movie, as some of you reading this may have translated that as. No, what this is, is a movie that has the look, feel and execution of an Aaron Spelling prime time soap opera. Meaning, it’s homogenized, non-offensive, and designed to rely more on emotional responses in lieu of actual substance.

In the case of God’s Not Dead, I’ve been describing it as Evangelical Christian Clichés: The Movie! And by that, I mean instead of characters with a fleshed-out story, we have more of a cast of archetypes thrown together like a game of The Sims, written into situations that play out more like overly idealized concepts than slices of life. Mind you, as a fan of horror and sci-fi movie genres (and just fun cheese in general), that’s not what bothers me. What really made God’s Not Dead rather a chore to sit through while mentally forcing myself not to constantly be making my usual MST3K riffs every five seconds (which I could have, I should point out), was the fact that the story itself came off as maybe a point or two better than your standard Chick Tract in the execution. Only, we all know that the actual Chick tracts would never condone the usage of a Christian rock band like the “Newsboys” in such a positive light.

But, just to show that I’m not just some jaded curmudgeon looking for reasons to not like something, I will say that God’s Not Dead was shot pretty well, and the cast does does do well with not making things come off as amateurish as some of those Church Group Shooting A Film productions I’ve suffered through in the past. The story itself flows pretty evenly, and there were really only a couple of lag parts that were brief. And Kevin Sorbo looks pretty darned sexy in that gotee he was sportin’.

Overall, while it was produced much, much better than a lot of independent Christian films that are out there, I don’t agree that God’s Not Dead had enough clout to really contend with the other theatrical blockbusters that came out at the same time. Not because I think that Christians can’t produce movies of high quality–they exist, believe it or not–but because even at the best moments, God’s Not Dead is more of a glorified Hallmark Channel movie that works best in church group settings. So, in that sense, the manner in which I watched this was perfect. But, because I strive to give my honest thoughts on something, regardless of if it’s universally loved by the very body of believers I am a part of, I personally have to say that God’s Not Dead is not good enough for a second viewing. At least worth a cursory look, not much else.