Friday, July 30, 2010

Don't Be a Schmuck, Save Your Bucks, This Film Sucks!

Usually, when I write about movies on my blog, they are good or great ones, the kinds that make you think or the kinds that just wow you in disbelief over its brilliance. I usually don't waste my time writing about mediocre films. However, I don't recall reviewing a movie on this blog that was so bad, ripping it apart is just too easy. There are lessons to be learned here. Its pretty obvious (based on the post's title) that I did not enjoy Dinner With Schmucks.

A friend had free passes to see this movie, and while I did not intend to see this film in theaters at all, you can't argue with free. I went in with the hope that it might be this summer's The Hangover (which I found to be a pretty funny, although not a great film) or even I Love You, Man. Paul Rudd is simply a likable actor, the kind of guy you have in your circle of friends, likely to be your best friend. That's the kind of vibe he puts out with many of his film role choices, lately. Pairing him with Steve Carell just seemed like a good idea. They were in The 40 Year Old Virgin together, where Paul Rudd played...you guessed it...one of the best friends a 40-year old virgin guy could have to help him through his "crisis."

Yes, there was hope that these two actors together could pull it off. I didn't expect much of the film Role Models (also starring Paul Rudd, along with Seann William Scott), but that film was surprisingly funny and heartwarming. Not so with Dinner With Schmucks. I walked out of the theater feeling like I lost major IQ points. It was awful, awful, awful.

The movie is based on a French farcical comedy, though I've never seen it so I don't know if the French original would be just as bad. The premise is almost vulgar: in order to please his boss for the much hoped for promotion, Tim (played by Paul) is invited to a special dinner party at the boss's castle...er, house. The catch is that everyone must bring a special guest. The guest must be idiotic, because these corporate execs love laughing at other people. Whoever brings the most idiotic guest wins. We're assuming, a promotion. Well, if I was invited to such a dinner party, my guest would either be George W. Bush or Sarah Palin, the two biggest idiots I can think of. We'd have pretty good laughs at their expense.

Tim meets his idiot in a car accident, Barry, who is an IRS agent with a taxidermy hobby (the most interesting thing about the film are the taxidermed mice used as models in famous paintings and diorama scenes). Steve Carell seems to be channeling his inner Dumb and Dumber, with the hope of joining Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels for a threequel of dumb! Despite the title, we don't actually get to the dinner party until late in the movie (the third act). In the meantime, the film goes off on a series of mishaps that continue to get worse for Tim as the night wears on. I started losing interest in the film early on, when an old booty call of Tim shows up and just acts outrageous. While I seemed to be in a theater full of hyenas, I actually thought the scenes were unfunny. Or the kind of funny that fratboy jocks are likely to enjoy.

All the characters are outlandish. Paul Rudd and his way cute French girlfriend are the only normal characters in the entire movie. I understand that comedies thrive on quirky secondary characters, but this film was getting ridiculous. Each scene progressed worse than the one before. Besides the freaky and obsessed floozy who thinks she still has a chance with Tim, there's an incredibly strange and narcissistic artist who calls some freaky theatrical style sex play his "process" (dressing up as Pan and prancing around in a "wooded scene" in his barn); the crazy guy from The Hangover playing a loser IRS guy who has special mental powers over underling Barry; an obscenely wealthy Eurotrash couple that Tim is trying to bring on board to the financial investment firm he works for; and of course, the dinner party guests. There's a blind guy who thinks he knows the art of fencing. There's another guy with a buzzard. One guy has a ventriloquist doll of some creepy looking lady that he refers to as his wife. And there's a lady who can speak to the spirits of animals that have passed over. She was one of the few moments that actually made me laugh out loud: when she mimicked the feelings of a lobster being boiled to death (which happens to be the special dinner that evening).

One of the difficulties for me in achieving a "suspension of disbelief" is that Barry is an inconsistent idiot. His character didn't ring true for me. At least in a movie like Dumb and Dumber, you got that the two guys were idiots (the fact that they turned down a bunch of Swedish ladies at the end of the movie perfectly captured their level of stupidity). In a film like this, though, Barry showed flashes of genius even during some of the zany disasterous moments. He also displays some level of sweetness, but the audience never gets to grasp what kind of idiot he is exactly. Forrest Gump had a more consistent characteristic in his idiot. My impression is that Barry was not developed very well in the script and Steve Carell played the difficult balance between conveying that his character was somewhat of an idiot alongside being merely a quirky guy who happens to need a good friend. Boom, another "bromantic comedy" is born!

Ultimately, though, I left the theater looking like Paul Rudd in the poster above. I just wasted a couple hours of my time. There is a moral to the story, but the "apostheosis" simply does not deliver. My friend said it best when she wondered who wrote the script. Chances are, the script wasn't well thought out. As a public service to my blog readers...I'll save you time and money: Don't be a schmuck. Save your bucks. This movie SUCKS!

Leaving the theater, I felt like the joke was on the audience. By paying money to see this film, studio execs in Hollywood who greenlighted this picture will be laughing at YOU in their fancy dinner parties. I hope this film bombs at the box office. Its the opposite of Inception. That film engages your mind and forces you to think on many levels. This one insults your intelligence and doesn't even make you laugh all that much. I'd venture to say that the only people laughing at this ridiculous movie in the theaters are probably idiots themselves. The movie simply isn't all that funny. I'd rather watch The Hangover again and get my laughs that way.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

More on Mad Mel's Mid-Life Meltdown

Last week, while waiting for the last of my rolls of film to develop at Fred Meyer's, I sat in a comfy chair and actually read a few of the celebrity magazines, People and Us Weekly, because both featured stories about Mad Mel's recent sojourn in the media spotlight. The articles were insightful and pretty much confirmed what I've suspected. You don't really know how true these stories are, but I think People Magazine tends to have stricter standards on the stories it runs. Its not as careless as the National Enquirer, a tabloid I find a terrible waste of paper and not worth anyone's time (*although for disclosure's sake, I did buy the issue that featured the massage therapist's allegations against Gore).

Based on what I read, things seemed to start going off the rails for Mad Mel in 2006, the year he got arrested for DUI. However, I think the firestorm of criticisms and allegations of anti-semitism during the theatrical release of his controversial torture porn film about Jesus really hit a deep nerve with him, because his father was brought into the spotlight (his father being a very bigoted and anti-semitic Holocaust denier). Though the movie was a huge hit (he put up $30 million of his money to finance the film and it raked in over $300 million at the box office, due in large part to evangelical Christian groups making his film a "recruiting tool" for their outreach ministries), it came at a huge price. Gibson either returned to drinking or he started drinking even more.

In 2006, he delayed the release of his Apocalypto, about the Mayans or the Aztecs (I forget which), from August to a Christmas Day release. I thought that was a strange move. That's exactly what I want to see on Christmas Day...an extremely violent movie that shows a massive genocide of people being sacrificed at the ancient pyramids in Central America. In addition to the DUI, Mel started seeing a younger lady, Oksana Grigorieva while still married to Robyn, the lady who gave birth to their seven children and was with him from the very beginning...before he was ever famous. After seeing paparazzi photos of Mad Mel frolicking on some Mexican beach with Oksana, Robyn filed for divorce. Good for her! He's been on a downward spiral ever since.

In the articles I've read, longtime friends of the Gibsons were shocked by Mad Mel's abandonment of his wife. Apparently, he suffers from manic-depression (based on how he comes across in interviews, I can't say that I'm surprised. He can get a bit manic at times, like Robin Williams). Robyn was supposedly a stabilizing influence on Mad Mel. Friends of the couple told the magazines that they were shocked by the way Mad Mel speaks to Oksana on the tapes, because they never heard him speak that way to Robyn. If this is true, it represents a huge descent into possible madness. Man, what a tragedy! Also, the friends of the Gibsons don't understand what Mad Mel sees in Oksana, as she apparently does not have a sense of humour and they have virtually nothing in common.

In listening to the released tapes of Mad Mel's conversations with Oksana, it is shocking to see a man so unhinged, at times unable to breathe because he's so angry with her. She has a lot of power over him. How did she get such power? What is it about her? Yeah, she's gorgeous. But so is Robyn. Why trade someone who has been there for you since the beginning and one you share a long history with for a younger model you have nothing in common with? It doesn't make sense. Or does it? The story is as old as the Bible. Remember Samson and Delilah? Delilah was an evil temptress who used Samson's love for her to destroy him. Is Oksana a modern day Delilah?

Since the tapes have been released, there have been claims that the tapes were doctored. That is a good possibility. Oksana is a musical artist with experience in sound mixing. In listening to the tapes, she comes across calm, cool, and reasonable to a crazed, unhinged mad man. Its quite possible that she doctored the tapes to make herself look good, redubbing lines in a calm manner. Perhaps in reality, she was yelling at him, too. There is something creepy about the unnatural calm she displays towards a man getting angrier and angrier in his demands. I have no doubt that Oksana probably knew all the buttons to push that would set off Mad Mel so she could record her "evidence". She's a beautiful woman who likely has experience playing men to her advantage.

The one constant that I heard in these tapes is Mad Mel's apparent need for fellatio. He threatens Oksana with the idea that her "friend" was making eyes at him that indicated she would "blow" him if Oksana wouldn't. Another fight occurred because Oksana had fallen asleep when Mad Mel wanted her to blow him first, before they went to the jacuzzi. He also threatened to burn the house up, but he expected her to blow him. Perhaps that's the reason why he left Robyn for Oksana. This young Russian beauty was willing to do what Robyn no longer wanted to do? This male need for fellatio in mid-life has gotten both President Bill Clinton and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in trouble, as they sought it out in willing younger women who weren't their wives. When I was in the Navy, I heard guys make exceptions to their marital vows. Supposedly, receiving oral sex from someone other than one's spouse was not really "cheating." If this is the reason why Mad Mel threw away a 29-year marriage to be with a lady he had very little in common with, he really is a stupid idiot. Now this relationship is over. I guess he'll have to find another young starlet wannabe who is willing to give him what he wants.

After I read the articles in the celebrity magazines, a thought occurred to me: what if this was Satan's revenge? In The Passion of the Christ, Satan appears as an androgynous being (and as a snake, if I remember correctly, which Jesus violently stomps to death). The movie inspired debate about Christianity and what Christians should focus on (the life of Jesus or the death and resurrection?). Many evangelical Christians saw this film as a perfect recruiting tool, which I thought was absurd. If I knew nothing about Jesus and this film was my first exposure, my first impression of Christianity would be, "Why do Jesus' followers seem to enjoy his torture and death a little too much? Where is the evidence that such a man lived a life worth following?" Its absurd to think that this torture porn film would inspire non-violent Buddhists to convert to Christianity. Many are happy thinking of Jesus as the younger brother to Buddha.

So, if Satan exists, perhaps he sent Oksana to be the Delilah to Mad Mel's Sampson. A great and powerful man, who claims to be devoutly religious, has fallen. Willing to toss aside a nearly 30-year marriage to a supportive woman who had been there for him when he was a nobody. All for the sake of a blow job?!? That's pretty sad. Its also sad that he allows himself to rage in heart attack territory, all because of his childish demand that she blow him when he wants it. I honestly don't know what to make of Mad Mel anymore. He lost his way, obviously, since 2004. Its proof of the absurdity of trying to convert other people to your religious beliefs. Mad Mel would have done his soul greater justice if he borrowed elements from Buddhism, which is all about conversion of self. After all, we truly cannot know another person and what their soul needs. We make guesses, oftentimes to validate our choices. "Jesus turned my life around, and he can do the same for you if you just do what I did!" Many Christians think its selfish to focus on your own spiritual growth. Actually, its not. Its quite liberating when you realize that you're not here to convert other people to your way of thinking.

A more introspective Mad Mel would examine why he needed fellatio all the time. Why he viewed women's role as lips on his appendage. In 2000, he scored a hit with the romantic comedy What Women Want. In the film, he played the sexist Nick Marshall, who was raised by a stripper in Las Vegas. A mishaps in the bathroom, where he nearly electrocuted himself in the bathtub, gave him the gift to read women's minds. Perhaps Mad Mel didn't learn the appropriate lessons from his own movie. Women are more than just their lips on your appendage, Mad Mel! Have a real conversation with them, get to know what makes them tick, and maybe get to know Colonel Angus! I'm sure Oksana would appreciate that lovely gesture, when you're the giver and not the demanding receiver.

With this scandal, I really hope Mad Mel takes some time off to refocus on his life's priorities. It would probably be best if he doesn't jump into another relationship...nor have a series of casual flings with willing young starlets (I'm sure there are plenty of Monica Lewinsky wannabes dying for the opportunity to blow Mad Mel). If I was a personal friend of Mad Mel, I'd have him travel to a place like Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, or India for a year. Read up on books about Buddhism and Hinduism. Learn about the introverted religions of the east. Find what resonates. Mad Mel is a likable guy. He wouldn't have been a huge success in Hollywood if he didn't have his charm and habit for joking (of course, having looks that many women find drop-dead handsome doesn't hurt, either).

I personally think that the unintended consequences of The Passion of the Christ (the phenomenal success alongside the controversies) had a negative effect on Mad Mel, thus why he has been on the self-destructive path since 2006. Though the media secretly desires it, I really do not want to see Mad Mel become this decade's O.J. Simpson. Oksana can push his buttons, but he can also walk away from it all. After all, a part of him recognizes it when he yelled at her that they had no spiritual connection. Well, its kind of hard to have a spiritual connection when Mad Mel is so far disconnected from his soul. There is a path out of the madness, Mel. If you don't get yourself back to saner pastures, I fear that the only career option you have in the future is thus:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Is Avatar Anti-Christian?

Last Saturday, a neighbourhood park in Northeast Portland featured the film Avatar for its "Summer Movies in the Park" series. I went with a church family that I'm good friends with. I did not expect such a film to already make the "free summer movies in the park" circuit. We can thank piracy for this! How so, you ask? Well, because of the piracy selling of illegal copies of movies on DVD while they are still playing in theaters, this has cut the time between theatrical and DVD releases to as little as three months in some cases (during the VHS era, the time was between six months and a year). I personally do not buy illegal copies of movies because I have a low opinion of people who make money off of the creative output of others. James Cameron and all the people he employed to make this fantastically, visually gorgeous film deserve every freaking dollar this movie earned at the box office. The pirates who sell illegally copied DVDs only know how to steal to earn easy money. I have never understood why people buy illegal copies. Why give financial support to thieves who made no creative input into the film?

Anyhow, off my soapbox. While I don't support the piracy of illegal DVDs, I am glad that it has forced Hollywood to release films on DVDs a lot faster than in the past. There is a stigma for a film to be called "direct-to-video", because a theatrical run gets movie reviews and earns money, with a chance of finding audiences and earning a nice gross. However, because of the high price of movie tickets, even I don't go to the theater as much anymore. If I had a family of four, you're already talking almost half a Benjamin Franklin for a family night out. Ridiculous! And that's before you buy any concessions, which are ridiculously overpriced. So, yeah, I usually wait to see most movies when they hit on DVD.

I had no intention of seeing Avatar when it was first released because I thought the trailer was boring. It looked like any number of brainless action flicks with a sci-fi angle to it. It was only after I heard Baby Boomer woman after Baby Boomer woman rave about this film that piqued my curiosity enough to see it. Plus, I had been wanting to see a movie in 3-D and figured that this was THE MOVIE to see in 3-D. So in February, that's what I did. I walked out of theaters, stunned by the visual beauty and the storyline. Many people dismissed the storyline as a retread, but I thought the film was different enough that it felt original. There are only so many storylines out there. Every movie is a remake of another movie.

Seeing the film for the second time, though without the three-dimensional effects was a different experience. All I can say is that 3-D spoiled me. If you did not see this film in 3-D, you truly did miss out on something incredibly amazing. Its simply not the same in two dimensions.

The family I went with had not seen this film yet. As we waited for the sun to set, a local covers band played some 80s songs by Billy Joel, the Eagles, and other bands. As I listened to them, I mentioned to the family that I wished they would sing a Huey Lewis and the News song. I was in the mood to hear a cover version of any song by my favourite band of the 1980s. Well, a few minutes after I made my wish known, the band started singing "It's Alright", a doo-wop song that Huey Lewis and the News had remade in the mid-1990s. They followed up with "The Power of Love" and "Walking On a Thin Line". Awesome!

Another cool surprise was that some guy was walking around giving free ice cream to people. He looked familiar, so I asked him if he was the locally famous Jefferson Smith, the founder of the Bus Project and a state legislator. He admitted that he was. I asked if he planned to run for higher office someday. I bet elected people hate that question! He said that he didn't know, but I hope he does. For those who don't live in the People's Paradise of Portland, the Bus Project is a non-profit organization devoted to getting younger people to vote (the critical 18-to-35 year old demographic). Each election year, the Bus Project has the excellent "Trick-or-Vote" event in which volunteers go around in Halloween costumes handing out flyers telling people to vote (they don't tell you who to vote for). According to Charles, who founded his own non-profit organization a decade ago and was the candidate I volunteered for two years ago, both of them were at Harvard University at the same time and the non-profit organizations they both founded were part of their Master's Degree program. Portland is such a small community, which is why I love this city (crappy jobs notwithstanding).

Since I already gave my review to Avatar in a February post, the main topic of this post is about Megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll, of the Mars Hill Church in Seattle (its on my list of church services I want to experience someday, but I can't seem to find anyone who shares my interest in visiting a megachurch). Earlier this year, a friend of mine posted on his blog a video clip of Pastor Driscoll just ripping apart Avatar in a sermon to his megachurch congregation. The young evangelical pastor called the spiritual, science fiction movie: "the most demonic, satanic movie I have ever seen!" Really? Seriously? Even more than the Saw movies? Or the countless Omen or Exorcist movies? Someone really needs to get out more!

So, after the movie finished (right at midnight), I asked the church family I was with if they saw anything inherently anti-Christian in the film. The couple said, "not at all." They called it a standard "mother earth film." A generic spiritual movie that preaches a universal spirituality that is currently in vogue in the Hollywood of Kabbalah, Deepak Chopra, and Scientology.

Even more amazing, Pastor Driscoll claims that Satan was behind this movie and its success, as a way to "trick" Christians into thinking that the "pantheism" presented in this movie is a good thing. He asked his audience how a Christian could go see this film and NOT SEE the "overt demonism". In his sermon, he reiterates the standard Christian dogma about God needing to save humanity from our sins, through the blood sacrifice of His literal son. Anyone who does not believe in "the Creed" is therefore not considered to be a true Christian. In Pastor Driscoll's world, Christians constantly need to be vigilent to all of Satan's attempts to trick us into accepting "the world system" that Satan supposedly runs.

Below is a clip from that sermon at his church. That he finds this movie threatening to his spiritual beliefs is an interesting insight into his mentality. He can't understand how a Christian would see this movie and think about the message its conveying through the filter of Christian dogma. Maybe he's just pissed because he identified with the muscular military leader and is in favour of annihilating a planet for its precious resources, but the movie made these into the villain. Pastor Driscoll does, after all, advocate a "muscular Jesus" and thinks that the standard image of Jesus is too effeminate to ever appeal to any hypermasculine man with hangups about gender roles.

Driscoll needs to get a grip on reality. Here's the message I took away from the film: authentic spirituality is the ability of a being to realize the interconnectedness of all life. There's a reason why EVERY religion (as well as Wicca, Satanism, and even scientific atheism) has its own version of The Golden Rule. If I hurt you, I ultimately hurt myself. There is no separation between you or I in a spiritual sense. The problem comes when disconnected people don't act from a level of awareness, but from a level of ego. In Avatar, the humans have decimated planet earth, so they have to travel 9 light years away, to a planet aptly named Pandora to extract an energy source that is far more valuable than oil ever was. No amount of sacredness is enough to get the military operation to question why they are willing to destroy something. All that matters is the energy source (unobtainium, I think its called).

If there was a Satan, why would he want a movie like Avatar to be successful and popular? The story runs counter to what Satan is supposedly about. If we are to believe that the highest human ideal is to love another being more than oneself, to the point where we would give up our own lives for the other person, how can such a view be demonic or satanic? Satan represents a selfish kind of love, where it doesn't matter who you hurt in the process. The ego's need is more important than the other person. Think Mad Mel Gibson demanding that his girlfriend blow him before bedtime and beating her up when she refuses. That's an ego demand, not a loving act.

One of the biggest problems I've had with evangelical Christianity is the obsessive need to find Satan in everything and blaming Satan for all that is wrong with our world and with our lives. When someone becomes a scapegoat, my sympathy naturally grows and I don't want to ever have "sympathy for the devil"! I'm no rolling stone. If we truly want to know God's intention for our lives and for the world as a whole, we need to ask ourselves which option looks best from a spiritual perspective. Do we side with the exploiters of the environment, which only cares about what we can get from the earth to maintain our lifestyles? We have the Gulf of Mexico oil spill as a perfect example of where our greed has led us. Seems to me that a Satan figure would be loving the actions of BP executives. They are doing his bidding by cutting safety measures to save a few bucks so that they can line their pockets with larger salaries and bonuses. Meanwhile, innocent animals are screwed by this greed.

Or would we rather have a society in which people see their connections to others, to the environment, and to animals, and act in accordance with the highest respect for all concerned? This is more than just a battle between a primitive, pagan culture versus an "advanced" culture with technology and power on their side. Given the two choices, I don't think anyone should be surprised if Jesus himself found a spiritually interconnected world to be far more spiritual than the souless extraction of precious resources to fuel one's lavish lifestyle.

Jake Sully made the right choice. He chose a beautiful Na'vi woman over his own race. The great spirit Eywa resides in all things. This is why I love New Age spirituality. There's complete freedom to explore any idea without fear or threats of hell. What resonates with you at your deepest level of being?

At the church congregation I go to, someone a few months ago showed clips from various movies over the years that featured God or discussed God. I loved the clip used from Avatar, in which the Na'vi greet one another with the simple, but beautiful: "I see you." This was borrowed from many Asian languages, in which their version of "hello" is actually a simplified translation of the more complex: "I see the god [or divinity] within you." This kind of greeting would be excellent to use, because it forces us to see the spark of the divine in every person we come across. This saying would remind us of it each time.

Please click below if you wish to hear the megachurch's pastor in a rant about a popular movie that he does not get. My advice to him would be, "stop using Satan as a weapon." Scaring people into your religion is not a good way to gain converts. Our world would be a better place if more people practiced a spirituality like the Na'vi. Its time to live life each day aware of the connections we have to each other, to our ancestors, and to the spiritual mysteries.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How One Man's Loneliness Inspired an Intense Debate

On Thursday night and into Friday morning, a comment I posted on Facebook broke a personal record when it inspired at least 71 comments. Amazing! I had no idea when I posted it that my status update would do such a thing. Most of my status updates usually don't inspire such a response. I'm lucky to get one or two, but many have none. That's okay, though. Its always interesting and educational to see what inspires debate.

Here's the story behind what inspired the controversial status update. On Thursday evening, I had just returned to my apartment complex after seeing the excellent film Inception. On Coast to Coast AM, the topic of conversation was going to be about dreams and if we have the ability to plant an idea in someone's subconscious while they are dreaming. That began at midnight. So, that left me about an hour to check my email and write my blog post that was supposed to be posted a week ago (the Flashback Friday on Spain). Since I don't have Internet access in my apartment and the apartment complex has free wi-fi in the lobby for residents to use 24 / 7, I headed down to the lobby area to hurry and write my blog post and check my emails.

As I'm deep in thought, writing my memories of Spain, an elderly man (I'd say he was around 70 years old) walked into the building and looked like he was headed to the elevator. He said "hello" to me, so I said "hello" back. I continued writing and he started talking about his life and life story (I caught that he was from Minnesota and finds city life to be strange because people keep to themselves). He noticed that I was focused on what I was writing and then ranted about our generation being more interested in computers than a real conversation. He sounded angry and basically trashed our generation and thanked me for "proving" his point. He left, ranting all the way. I was stunned. All because I didn't give him the attention he was seeking?

Such an act invites commentary on my Facebook wall. This is what I posted:

Nicholas..."was sitting in the lobby of his apartment building, writing on his computer and reading articles online when some old guy tried to start a conversation. I said 'hello' but wasn't going to stop doing my reading or writing to have a conversation. He got mad and started complaining about young people today not wanting to talk..."

and, "...I felt like saying to him, 'what, do you feel lonely? Ignored? Need attention?' Do I exist to give needy people the attention they crave? I consider it rude to interrupt people when they are reading. There are times to be social, too. That's why our apartment complex has brunch every Sunday morning. I'll talk then. When I'm writing or reading, though, I just don't have time to engage in a conversation with strangers."

Those comments above essentially inspired a verbal lynching of yours truly by people I would never have suspected...one friend I've known since Junior year in high school 22 years ago. Another, a fellow church member. I stayed in the lobby longer than planned, just so I could explain, clarify, etc. until I realized that they weren't getting my point and I decided to return to my apartment to catch the rest of the radio program. I did not expect such an immediate response. I simply posted, expecting that I might get some responses to read by morning.

When I did check in the morning, the dialogue had grown, with more people jumping into the mix. Including my dad, which was a surprise. He took responsibility for my "introverted" personality through his genetic contribution. A future post about what I inherited from both of my parents might be interesting, but for now, I want to respond to unfair criticisms made by someone I thought was a friend. The hostility in some and the defense from others was truly surprising. Jenet asked what lessons were learned from the debate. For me, it was definitely that I learned who my "true friends" are. If someone sides with a stranger they don't know over a "friend", they probably aren't a true friend in the first place. I know for me personally, I always side with my friend. If I feel that he was in the wrong, I'd talk to him privately, but in reality, that just doesn't happen. What is a friend if they can't trust that you'll be there for them in support? One of my favourite quotes about "true friends" is that a true friend is one who would be right there with you in hell. That shows commitment and loyalty, when you value your friend enough to endure the worst together. Everyone else is merely "fair weather friends."

Anyhow, I'm sad to say that once again, the church member friend has proven that he doesn't know a damn thing about me, even though he thinks that he does. His comments against me were the worst of the lot, because he was siding with a guy who got angry at me for not indulging in the conversation he wanted. If anyone knows anything about me, its that yelling at me is definitely not the way to get me to do what you want. It actually makes me more defiant. The church friend saw my posting of the situation on my Facebook wall was unfair to the elderly guy and that I was making false judgments about the guy for being "lonely and needy for attention."

I am truly baffled, though, that such a "friend" would take the side of a complete stranger in a situation he did not witness, and saying essentially that I should have indulged the guy's need for conversation because that's what being a Christian and a community advocate does. Ignoring people, in his view, is rude and hurtful. That's all fine and dandy, but I will say right now that he is being hypocritical and I have no problem saying so on my blog because there have been times when I've tried to engage him in conversation and he was non-responsive, so I got the hint and moved on to someone else. Other times, I've had a conversation with him and he was more interested in Texting (while driving). So, he has no credibility in my view to attack and criticize me for not wanting to indulge a stranger's need for conversation when he has done the same to me several times, and I'm not a stranger! If this is how you treat "friends", then you will likely never be anything more than just a church acquaintance. What is so hard about admitting that we are two different people and just because he would have handled the situation differently than I did does not mean that I was "wrong"?

It annoys me when I make an honest comment, revealing something about myself and then get harped on it. I have never made the claim on Facebook or on my blog that I'm perfect or holier than thou. My regular readers can see that I've written angry posts before. I'm fully human and therefore real. I don't pretend to be some pious, holier than thou saint who's perfect and just the embodiment of Jesus on earth. A person who can criticize my actions when he is guilty of doing the same thing to friends or people he knows is just ridiculous in my view. I don't treat friends that way. If a friend wants my attention or wants to talk, I will more than likely make myself completely available. If I don't, its because I am unable to for reasons beyond my control, but a raincheck for the soonest available moment is made. I value my friends enough to sacrifice writing time, reading time, or any other personal time. I won't even check my cellphone if it rings. I believe in being completely present for my friends, focusing the full weight of my attention on them and what they are saying in conversation.

This post isn't meant to criticize someone I consider a church friend, though. Instead, his accusations towards me on Facebook inspires what President Obama likes to call a "teachable moment." There have been several times where something I've posted on Facebook have sparked a "flare up" between him and I. I've sent him a lengthy email expressing my thoughts, but his response ignored the personal revelations I shared in the hopes that he would understand where I'm coming from, and emphasized once again that I was "in the wrong."

The first time I noticed his "out of proportion" response to something I had posted was when I had mentioned that writing wasn't stressful. The second time was when I had written about my disappointment that South African singer Johnny Clegg wasn't selected to sing the official World Cup song for the 2010 World Cup that was hosted by SOUTH AFRICA. He angrily debated my knowledge of South Africa. The response proved that he doesn't know me like he thinks he does, and that pisses me off. My friends from high school, college, and the Navy would all say the same things about me: my best talent is writing, I'm a huge fan of Johnny Clegg, and I'm passionate and knowledgeable about South Africa and its history. I don't understand why its an ego thing with him. There are things that he knows more than me, such as Country music, church politics, and the Pacific Northwest. I don't go around trying to strip that away from him.

On a more important point, though, I am the type of person where I seriously do not care if you like me or not. I've lost interest in the popularity thing back in high school when I realized that it was unattainable for me. I have my close circle of friends and most people don't know that I have a "ranking system" for my friendships. Its a "three-tiered system", though it should probably expand to four.

This is how I view friendships (this ranking system goes back to high school). In the top tier of five, are my two best friends (Nicholas, whom I've known since 7th grade and Nathan, a church member I've known since 1994, even though our families met in 1984), and my close friends Frank (another church friend) and Matt (my fellow BYU intern and roommate in D.C.). The fifth slot is reserved for whoever becomes my Lady Love / wife. What being in a "first tier" means is that they are on my Christmas and / or birthday gift list, they are people that I try to visit at least once every three years, and they have my loyalty for life. All four of these friends have had some kind of bonding experience with me that makes it unlikely that we'll ever have a "falling out". I treat my friends in this upper tier like royalty. Think of First Class service on an airplane or in a five star hotel.

The next tier is made up of college friends, Navy buddies, some friends from high school and various offices I've worked in, and a few church friends. Friends in this category usually make my Christmas card list and might get the occasional letter or phone call from me. I'll visit them if I happen to be in their area. The third tier is made up of acquaintances and new people I've met. Because I know them and consider them part of my friendship circle, I still make myself available if they need someone to talk to or need my attention or help. Think of this as the coach class of an airplane or a three star hotel. A "fourth tier" would be everyone else on my Facebook friends list who aren't part of the first three tiers. These are people who are unlikely to receive a Christmas card from me due to the sheer numbers (I try to keep my Christmas card mailings under 60, and I currently have 235 friends on Facebook).

I am the kind of person who believes that there are "benefits" to being friends with me and one of those benefits is that they have "the right" to get my attention whenever they want or need a conversation. A stranger does not have that right, though. If I feel like giving someone attention, that's my prerogative. I'm naturally guarded, though, thus why I don't understand how someone could get angry when the other person won't give in to your narcissistic demands. It is an imposition for someone to expect a stranger to drop whatever they are doing to indulge your need for conversation because you're feeling lonely. It sounds cruel and heartless to some, but some people don't understand a basic truth, which is this: a person who has a lot of needs is ALWAYS going to be at the mercy of the person who does not have a need. The person with little or no needs is going to have the power in any situation with the needy person.

Its a matter of energy. Needy people require other people's attention because they receive a dose of energy from the person who gives them attention. There is a reason why the most spiritual people on earth tend to be solitary people. They don't "need" a lot of human contact or other people's attention to give them energy. They receive energy from the spiritual source. This is also part of the introvert / extrovert dynamic. Introverted people feel their energy level drain when they are around people for too long (because the other person is taking the energy from them), whereas extroverted people feel their energy level increase when they are around people (and they feel drained when they are alone too long). This dynamic is not something I've made up. Many spiritual books say the same thing.

Therefore, its ludicrous for someone to blame a person for not wanting to indulge a stranger's need for conversation. I'm not naturally prone to small talk. In fact, I hate it. As my best friend Nathan often pointed out to me, I have a tendency to go "too deep, too quickly", which scares people away. I can't maintain a superficial level of conversation for very long, because I get bored. In group situations, when people finally notice that I haven't said a word, well, there's a reason why I'm quiet. Most people know me as a quiet person. The ones who find me talkative are likely my closest friends, because I feel comfortable having conversations with them more than anyone else.

Was I wrong to "judge" the elderly man as "needy" and "lonely"? I don't think so. Was it a wrong "judgment"? Well, what I am I to think when I'm sitting in the lobby of my apartment complex at 11 p.m. typing away on my computer and he approaches me to start talking about himself and his life? That's a bit narcissistic, isn't it? I can tell you that I certainly do not approach people who are writing or reading and start talking about myself and my life to them. When I do strike up conversations with people, I'm usually more interested in them and rarely talk about myself. In many conversations with strangers, the other person will finally realize that they know nothing about me. Well, its because they didn't ask and I'm more interested in their life stories than I am about sharing mine. This elderly man wasn't interested in knowing me. He just wanted someone to listen to him.

Here's something else I've noticed throughout my life. In several places I've worked, when I'm in the breakroom eating my meal, co-workers usually don't strike up a conversation with me. The times that I've tried to make better use of my time by writing in an old journal, such an act is 100% guaranteed to start a conversation. When I worked at GBI a decade ago, the lady who worked in the snack bar / break room was so "threatened" by my journal writing that she wanted to know if I was writing about her. People are weird about those who dare write in public. I get it all the time. I've learned not to write in public and prefer not to because of this phenomenon. I don't know why people get paranoid when they see a person writing in a journal. You're not that important enough to make my journal! (But piss me off and you might make my blog!).

Another interesting experience happened when I was at BYU. The first semester when I lived in the dorms, I ate in the dorm cafeteria due to my meal plan. Most of the time, I ate alone. One day, I got a letter that I couldn't wait to read. So, I sat down at an empty booth and read the letter while I ate. Amazingly, a young lady appeared and asked if she could eat with me. Of course, I was a little annoyed, because I was excited to read that letter, but I indulged the lady and put the letter away and had a conversation with her. Its amazing that in all the times I ate at a table alone, no one bothered to sit down and have a conversation. The one time I had a letter in hand, it acted as a magnet.

Once at work in my current job, I decided to read a news article I had printed from the Internet during my lunch. One lady got offended and actually asked me to stop reading. She was having a conversation with other people, but that wasn't good enough for her. She apparently required my attention as well. The times when I ate in the break room and did not read anything, people ignore me. When I decide to read a book or article with my meal, then they're interested in me all of a sudden. Its weird, but obvious to me. Needy people don't like it when people's attentions are elsewhere (in a book, a letter, writing). They want people to pay attention and listen to them. Frankly, I'm tired of it. My time is valuable and if it offends people because I don't want to be bothered, well, tough shit! Deal with it. Your neediness does not obligate me to pay attention to you.

So that's why I think that man was needy and lonely. He did not like that I was more interested in what I was doing than his life history. A petty officer in the Navy told me once: "You have no right to get angry over how another person spends their free time." That is true. Time is a precious commodity and its up to each individual to decide what they want to do with. People who are needy for another person's attention aren't an introvert's problem. That's what books are for and why man domesticated dogs and cats.

Another example of why I'm hesitant to indulge in a stranger's conversation, even when I'm open to it, happened a couple years ago. I was at the apartment complex's Sunday brunch in the lobby. I had worn my Navy flight jacket. An elderly man in a wheelchair struck up a conversation with me and found that we agreed on politics. After ten minutes of a political discussion, he changed the subject to ask a huge favour of me. He was looking for a young guy to help him get out of his wheelchair and into bed each night. That request FREAKED me out! For one thing, I hate ulterior motives and "bait and switch". Don't pretend to have a pleasant conversation with me if you're secretly wanting something from me. Its happened plenty of times. When it happens enough times, I become hugely skeptical when people approach me, because in my mind, I'm always wondering what they really want. Is that wrong of me? I'm a naturally guarded person. Always have been. I don't let just anyone into my life. I have to trust you on some level. Secondly, there's no way I would put myself in a situation to help some guy into his bed at night, special needs or not. That's not my interest or talent in life. That's why God created nurses.

In a followup post on my Facebook wall, one lady had asked if my hypercritical "friends" would view a similar situation on an airplane with the same criticism. However, I explained that my "rules for engagement" is different on planes, because I absolutely will not write on a plane. There's no privacy at all. I always have a book to read, but if a seatmate indulged in a conversation, I would put the book away and have that conversation. I actually enjoy meeting and talking to people while I travel. That's not an issue for me. The only issue is when I'm in my "writing space" and someone demands my time that they have no right to make. Here's where having the title of "Best Friend" comes into play. On Thursday evening, while I was busy trying to write my blog post so I could return to my apartment by midnight so I could listen to Coast to Coast AM, if Nathan had called me and wanted to talk, I would have stopped writing the blogpost, taken the call and talked for however long he felt like it, even if it meant missing the radio program I was looking forward to hearing. Nathan earned the right to have my undivided attention, as other friends have as well. The stranger I've never seen before does not. If any of my blog readers still do not understand the differences I've presented here, well, then you simply do not "get" what I'm about and probably aren't likely to make my close circle of friendships.

Remember..."Friendship has its privileges."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Music Video Monday: Huey Lewis and the News



For this week's Music Video Selection, I had to go with Huey Lewis and the News for a few reasons. On Saturday night, I went to a "Summer Movies in the Park" with a family from church. The movie was Avatar, which I've only seen once in 3-D, so it was interesting to watch it two-dimensionally. I'll write more on that this week. Before the movie, a local covers band entertained people with 80s songs by Billy Joel and Eagles. I actually mentioned to the couple I was with that I wish they would sing a Huey Lewis and the News song. Within a few minutes, they did! Three of them as a matter of fact: "It's Alright", "Power of Love", and "Walking On a Thin Line". Amazing! I love instant wish fulfillment...but can it happen with the more important things (hint, hint: a dream job in Portland!)?

Its actually been awhile since I've listened to any Huey Lewis and the News albums. They were my favourite band of the 1980s. In the summer of 1988, I was crazy euphoric for the pending release of their Small World album (one of only several albums that I've been excited about acquiring months before the release date). In the summer of 1985, that amazing summer of Live Aid and several big name bands and artists releasing theme songs to hit movies, Huey Lewis and the News had two songs for the popular Back to the Future. One of them was a huge hit, the other was actually a better fit for a theme song. I love "Power of Love", but that song could have been just a regular release for the band from San Francisco Bay. Lyrically, it had nothing to do with the movie. Its awesome, nonetheless.

"Back in Time", however, references the movie. Thus, it should have been the official theme song to the time-traveling movie. Since Saturday marked the tenth anniversary of the WORST DECISION I've ever made in life, this song is perfect to mark that day. What decision was that, which I consider to be the worst decision I had ever made? It was the decision I made on 24 July 2000 to listen to my parents and return to Atlanta instead of listening to Jenet, who practically pleaded with me to stay in D.C., having faith that I would find something eventually, if I didn't mind working any job I could find in the meantime. After all, she was working in a watch shop at the Tysons Corner Mall while her dream was to work for the State Department in Eastern Europe. For the past several years, she has been doing exactly that (in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Hercegovina). Who knows what career path I might have been on had I listened to her wise counsel?

What I most remember about that day ten years ago when I left D.C. is a fully packed car. Another car had done a hit and run on my car a week earlier and left me shaken. The heavy rain made everything worse. Jenet kept wanting to meet me for coffee before I hit the road for good. I wanted to, but that involved too many turns and I just wanted to get out of D.C. even though my heart was torn between staying or leaving. It was the saddest drive. The rain continued all the way through Virginia, and I felt as though the universe was crying with me, the end of a dream. A dreamer returning home in defeat. What I found odd about the journey is that the rain had stopped right along the Virginia-North Carolina border. Perhaps Virginia was sad to see me leave. It is my second favourite state after all (after California, naturally). Virginia is actually the state I keep dreaming about returning to. If I leave Oregon for Virginia at year's end or early part of next year, this move will likely be my last state-to-state moves. After a vagabond life of moving from place to place, I really am ready to settle down, find a career, and start a family. For real!

If I had a DeLorean with a Flux Capacitor to send me back in time, I actually would not return to that specific date, but a much earlier date (July 1999). The reason is because I feel as though I had made some decisions during that summer and fall that have had a huge karmic price attached. One of them was not studying as hard as I should have so I could pass Biology and gotten my degree on the original planned graduation date of April or August 2000 instead of December 2006. It might have made all the difference in the world.

Also, if I could go back to that day ten years ago, I would have listened to Jenet and stuck it out in D.C. It would have saved me a disasterous decade of low wage jobs in crappy organizations that do not match my interests with co-workers who don't share my interest in the deeper issues. As an intern in D.C., I had to pinch myself many times because the entire four months was practically flawless. It was better than my dreams. There were many times riding the Metro to work where I mentally thought: "I'm in the city of my soulmates!" I really felt like I belonged. It was my city. I never felt that way about Atlanta or anywhere else. I feel it about Portland, when I'm not at work. However, the length of this ridiculous, never-ending job search has drained my fondness for this city. Seeing other people my age or younger unemployed and looking for work, unable to put their university degrees to work is equally frustrating. What is it about this city that has a reputation nationwide of being one of the worst places to find a job? Its essentially a city full of small businesses, non-profits, and city government. With the best paid jobs being for the city government! What's wrong with that picture?

So, yeah, a time machine so I can go back and make different choices would be an awesome thing. It would mean giving up on all the friendships I've made since 24 July 2000 and the spiritual experiences I've had...but when you hate a job as much as I hate mine, I would willingly sacrifice all of that to be in a meaningful and living wage career the past decade. After all, I didn't invest in a $22,000 college education to end up working for low wages in an organization I hated since adolescence, with co-workers who are woefully ignorant about the world and happily so, just as long as they can continue to maintain their mundane consumerist lifestyles and celebrity gossip magazines.

I may not have a time machine, but I have choices. Thus why I'm likely vacating my apartment in August to go into a month-to-month leasing agreement with roommates. I also have an appointment next Monday to see a specialist who claims to have the ability to access people's Akashic Records, just so I can have some questions answered, which I hope will provide the catalyst I need to get back on the path I feel my soul wanted for this lifetime. I'm so far off the path that I've gotten lost in hell. I just want it to end. I never want to work in an office environment that has so many miserable obese women ever again. To me, that's exactly what hell looks like.

Here's to a more successful August (8 of the last 10 jobs I had were found or begun in the month of August). I'll be the happiest guy in the world the day I walk out of my office for the last time. That's worth celebrating.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Inception: A Deception Conception?

The film Inception was not even on my radar as a movie to see in this "Summer of Suck." I had heard of it, but the secrecy surrounding it wasn't enticing enough for me. The little that was revealed prior to the movie's release did not sound like something I wanted to see: Leonardo DiCaprio plays a corporate-contracted specialist whose job is to go into the dreams of rivals and steal their ideas from the subconscious level. I've never been into corporate espionage type of movies, thus why I did not see Duplicity, the Julia Roberts / Clive Owen film about dueling corporate spies who once worked for the CIA and MI6, respectively.

I felt that the ad campaign for Inception was trying too hard to be the next The Matrix, which actually had one of the best campaigns I had ever seen (the teaser trailers showed Keanu Reeves in super slo-mo dodging bullets that left ripples in the air that audiences could see while a voice-over asked: "What is The Matrix?"). However, once the reviews came in (some with mild spoilers), though, I was intrigued. I could overlook the corporate aspect and appreciate what the film says about dreams, the nature of reality, and how we know the difference between dreaming and being awake while we are in the dreamstate.

Besides the impressive reviews, director Christopher Nolan has a pretty good track record on films. He made the most perfect Batman film one could possibly make (I had been waiting since adolescence for a film that reflected the Dark Knight series of comic books, which Nolan managed to achieve with Batman Begins). The 2008 sequel featuring Heath Ledger as the Joker managed to earn $1 billion at the box office worldwide. How many sequels earn that much money? His Memento still blows my mind away. Simply put, Nolan knows how to craft an engaging, intelligent film that keeps your mind sharp while watching it. You can't ask any more than that.

So, I decided that I just had to see it, and I waited until Thursday night (the best times to avoid crowds at the movies are Monday through Thursday nights). Seems like many of my friends recommended it on Facebook. Since I like films that play with your mind and the nature of reality, I figured that this might be one of the best films I see all year.

As I watched the movie, one thought kept running through my head: this is so much like The Matrix. There's obvious connections between the two films and its quite likely that Christopher Nolan was inspired by The Matrix that he hoped to create his own film that covers similar ideas, with just as impressive special effects. My biggest concern about seeing this film was that I feared that the director would utilize too many shoot-em-up action sequences to cover up a lame rip-off, a la Equilibrium (a The Matrix knock off). However, I found that the action sequences did not take away from the film and it was far less outrageous and violent than The Matrix trilogy.

The similarities abound, though. They both feature a team of super-smarty people (with a token lady for the mostly male crew) who go into dreams together, all with their own skills and responsibilities. Think of it as Mission: Plausible. There are baddies after them, the subconscious projections of the person whose dreams they are operating in (I must say that I don't have many violent dreams. Is this common?). What I love about this film, in particular, though, is all the globe-trotting they do: Tokyo, Paris, Mombassa, and a 10 hour flight to Los Angeles.

The premise of the film is that Dom Cobb (played by Leonardo diCaprio) is given a job offer he can't refuse. Instead of stealing secrets from someone's subconscious dream state, he is tasked with implanting an idea into a person's subconscious. This procedure is called "inception" and those who don't know, think it can't be done. Cobb, though, knows for a fact that it can be done...because he's done it before. That takes care of the subplot, involving his wife, who has the nasty habit of appearing in the dreams to wreck havoc to the team's mission. This movie is as much about Cobb's inner demons as it is about implanting ideas in other people.

What is so important that Ken Watanabe wants to plant an idea in a rival's subconscious? The background info is only briefly touched on. Something to do with breaking up an energy company so it won't have a monopoly on the world's energy supplies. Sounds pretty okay to me.

The film took a little while to draw me in, but at one point, I was absolutely riveted. When they get to the dream sequences, the film shows its incredible depth. Its layers upon layers, dreams within dreams. I've heard talk that one needed to see this film a couple of times to understand it all, but I did not find that to be the case. While I will definitely see this film again, I was able to understand it on first viewing. I could keep track of the various dream layers. I liked how the story flowed and the tricks employed to give audiences a sense of time lapse. An hour long dream is actually five minutes of "real life time." There's an elaborate "wake up call" set up for team members, to let them know when its time to come out of the dream. I thought this sequence was the most amazing of all, as each layer experiences it before the final wake up.

Essentially, the film asks viewers to contemplate reality. For instance, how can you tell the difference between a dream and real life? I admit that there have been plenty of times where I have gotten lost in a dream because it was so real and my sleeping self thought I was awake. The characters in this film each have a personal "totem" that they keep with them, so they will know whose dreams they are in and if they are still dreaming or awake. Cobb's totem is a spinning top that never tips over. This is an important prop for filmgoers to pay attention to. Seriously.

The other day, I had the most amazing dream, in that I had gone back for a visit to my old office in Atlanta. The office was considered "the best place to work" and there was a long line of people wanting to apply to be on the waiting list to work there. I was offered a job there if I wanted it, and morale was high because the office manager no longer worked there. When I awoke, I actually had the impression that perhaps I should move back to Atlanta at the end of the year. This is actually not part of my ideal plan, so it feels like someone might have "planted" that idea into my subconscious. Weird.

In Inception, the characters discuss the difficulty in planting an idea into someone's subconscious, because the person has to believe that they came up with the idea themselves. As the film showed all too brilliantly, it really is a difficult thing to plant an inspiring idea into someone's subconscious.

I walked out of theaters feeling good and inspired. Definitely would have loved to discuss it with others who have seen the film. For years, I've wanted to do dream analysis, but it just seems difficult. Most of the time, I forget them right after I wake up. And since I'm normally rushing in the morning, I don't have time to write about my dreams so that I won't forget. The dreams I've had recently, though, I have remembered. The film shows a little bit about how dreams work, and how to analyze one's own dreams for information. A lot to think about. Love a film's ability to inspire more thought on the subject matter. I suspect that the sales of dream analysis and dream symbology books will see an increase this summer.

No deception in this conception: Inception is a brilliant reception for your perception.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Flashback Friday: Spain

In celebration of Spain's first appearance in the World Cup finals and first win, I wanted to write about my various trips to Spain. The first time was in 1987 for Spring break. My dad paid for the whole family to go on a week-long vacation to Spain's Costa Brava (the northeastern part) through the bus tour companies that offer trips all over Europe for American servicemembers stationed in Germany. Every weekend, there were bus tours to all destinations in Europe and my family took a few of them.

For the spring break vacation, we stayed in the resort town of Lloret de Mar (pictured above), which had nothing major worth seeing. It was simply a "tourist trap" of cheap hotels, restaurants, souvenir stores, and the beach. We did not do much laying out on the beach, because we wanted to see as much as possible. Besides, the sand was more like pebbles than fine grains. A pain to walk on and no ability to build sand castles. Instead, I spent my days going into one souvenir shop after another, looking for keepsakes of my trip to Spain. I found plenty. Mostly, I wanted a matador's hat for my hat collection, a flag pin to put on my German hat to represent every European country I've been to, a toy bull and matador, and postcards. At a flea market, I found an awesome reproduction of the Mona Lisa for 450 pesetas (about $4.00 at the time). That painting has been my favourite since childhood, so it was a real bargain to find (it came in a frame, so it looks like the real thing, rather than just a poster print). I also bought a marionette dog, which was pricier. It was one of those impulse buys that I regret. Didn't really play with it that much. It was one of those things to show off to guests whenever they visited, as an after dinner entertainment.

One of the things we did on this trip was attend a Medieval Times dinner. Had we known that they had these in several touristy places in the U.S., we probably would not have gone. We thought it was unique to Spain. Its the kind of restaurant where everyone shows up at the appointed hour, you're let in and find a place at the long rows of tables that overlook a jousting track. We got our picture taken, to buy later if we want, we eat chicken with our hands, and watch the jousting tournament. My dad got food poisoning, so he didn't have a lot of fun. I thought it was cool. Then again, I was 15 at the time, so of course that sort of entertainment restaurant was going to be cool. Today, if given the choice between attending a Medieval Times dinner show or a Renaissance Fest, I'd always choose the much more fun Renaissance Fest (of course, there's more to see and do, though I don't know how much fun it would be for a vegetarian craving a turkey leg).

Another excursion my family went on during this vacation was to Barcelona, where we got the standard drive-by in a luxury bus, with minimal stops. We saw the future Olympic Stadium being built, the strange looking cathedral (the one that looks like a gigantic termite mound), and stopped for a walk on the replica of the Santa Maria that was in the bay. As the bus drove around the city, I got excited when I saw my first prostitute and pointed them out to my dad. He said that they weren't, but I kept insisting that they were because they wore miniskirts and were just standing around, some leaning against a pole.

Part of our Barcelona excursion was a bullfight, which I had wanted to see ever since those Bugs Bunny cartoons. To my shock, I did not realize that the bulls were killed. There were five or six bulls killed for each "event", which occurred on Sunday evenings. It was brutal and my family couldn't believe the cruelty, as highly decorative spears were pierced into the bull and blood squirted everywhere. What a rude awakening...as I thought all bullfighting was about is a man in a gay-looking outfit throwing around a red cape to entice the bull to charge and charge again, on and on until the bull got tired. Nope. There was killing involved.

After two bulls were killed, my parents wanted to leave. It was funny that we began watching by rooting for the matadors, but after two bulls were killed, we started rooting for the bull. We left to walk around the area, until the bus picked everyone up to take us to the famous fountain, which had a light show with music, as the jetted water did some amazing choreography (photo above).

Also during that trip, we saw a flamenco show, which mesmerized my sister, who wanted to buy a flamenco style dress (which dad most certainly did). I think I even got to try some sangria, the national drink of Spain. It was a pretty good family vacation, and very relaxing. I definitely had a great opinion of Spain after that trip. In fact, I was still big on Madonna's True Blue album and her single "La Isla Bonita" was a hit at the time. That song always reminds me of the family trip to Spain (I listened to her album as well as the Club Paradise soundtrack on that trip).

My next trip to Spain was with the Navy. October 1991. The island of Ibiza became my first portcall (and Ponce, Puerto Rico in October 1995 would be my final portcall in the Navy). Ibiza is a big party island, which has only gotten moreso since the mid-1990s. As far as Mediterranean islands go, there's really no reason to visit there, though a lot of Brits love to vacation there in the summer. Its overrun by Brits!

During our visit, the tourist season was over. In fact, we missed by one week hoards of gay partiers, though there were quite obviously still some hanging around.

Since this island is my first portcall in the Navy, it will always have a sentimental value to me, though its not remarkable in anyway. Sure, there's an old fortress on a hill, with tiny alleyways filled with souvenir shops. However, its easy to get bored by the place after a couple days. The island is tiny. I can't remember the details, but I believe that it was only an hour's drive to the other end.

One thing I learned about Mediterranean port towns, the advertised photos of big, juicy hamburgers are not what you will end up getting. In fact, when our orders arrived and I bit into my hamburger, I thought it was the strangest tasting hamburger I ever had. One sailor who was experienced in portvisits said, "Its a LAMB-burger." I learned pretty quickly that it was better to eat the local cuisine, rather than their version of typical American fare.

Above is a photo of the main city on the island of Ibiza. I violated the rules of the Navy in that I went off on my own, exploring the city by walking wherever looked interesting (without a map). I was merely an E-2 and just a month on board the ship, yet I was walking around like I knew where everything was. In foreign ports, enlisted personnel had to travel under the buddy system, but since I didn't really get to know anyone yet, I decided that I preferred to explore on my own. I hate the buddy system, as I learned in later portcalls in other cities. It is difficult to find enlisted guys interested in seeing the same things as me. I had more in common with officers than enlisted men, but that was a big violation of the rules as well.

I only had to worry about coming across Shore Patrol, if they saw me off by myself. However, nothing happened. I explored this town and felt pretty euphoric, because I was back in Europe again after dreaming about it during my junior and senior years in high school. The one thing I wanted to buy was a bottle of Brandy that was in the shape of a bust of Napoleon. However, since we weren't allowed to bring alcohol onboard, I did not buy it. I asked after we left port about the rules and learned that we could buy alcohol, but we had to turn it over to the Master-at-Arms to lock up until we returned to homeport (in La Maddalena, Sardinia). Darn! I would've loved that bottle.

I signed up for a special barbecue, which was at a "theme restaurant" (similar to Medieval Times). This one was a hoe down. There were a lot of obnoxious Brits there. Some single officers (in the late 20s) from my command (Submarine Squadron 22) also went along. Later, one of the officers introduced me to a British girl they were talking to and wanted me to hook up with her. I talked with her, but she was incredibly boring. She was 17, I think. The only thing we had in common was that we found the hoedown to be embarrassingly bad. She was on holiday with her parents. We exchanged addresses. I actually did not intend to write to her, but was surprised to get a letter from her. We continued corresponding for a year or so, until she politely sent me a letter asking me not to write her again. I was actually stunned and impressed. Usually, people just stop writing and I eventually give up. She's the only one who requested that I not write to her anymore. It wasn't a big loss, because she and I had nothing in common. She was about as interesting as watching paint dry.

One New Year's Eve (I can't remember if it was the 1992/1993 one or the 1993/1994 one), the local MWR office at the La Maddalena Navy station offered an awesome New Year's Eve package. We would fly from Olbia, Sardinia to Ibiza to party the night away and then return the following morning. Many sailors signed up for this. The night didn't get to a good start, when an Italian man on the plane moved from the nonsmoking section to sit in the seat next to mine, which was on the border between the smoking and non-smoking sections, and lit up a cigarette. I tried to speak to him and even used my well known Italian profanity words, but he would not budge. It pissed me off. I've always had a strong intolerance towards smokers for polluting my right to breathe clean air.

When we arrived in Ibiza and were taken to the "club" to party the new year in, we were kept waiting in the cold outside, wondering when the doors would open. Finally, at the stroke of midnight, they opened the doors to let us "inside." When we realized that it was no warmer "inside" than it was outside, and learned that it was not even a building at all, but some kind of patio with fake walls, and worse of all, only the people from the plane were at this "club", it was not a pretty sight. We realized that we had just paid money for a scheme that someone concocted. To salvage the rest of the night, many of us got cabs (this "club" was out in the boonies) and asked the driver where the parties were. We were driven to the next biggest town of Sant Antoni and there, the streets were packed with partiers. Each club was full, with spillover crowds everywhere and music blasting. This was more like it! In spite of how everything went, I actually had fun and consider it the most amazing New Year's Eve I've ever spent.

In the early morning, when we caught our chartered flight back to Olbia, some of the shipmates complained about that fake club and planned to demand their money back. A few had stayed at that dead club on someone's patio, and had no idea that others found life and amazing energy elsewhere. I feel sorry for those who did not venture out. That fake club was the saddest thing I've ever seen. I can't believe someone actually thought it was a good idea.

Pictured above is the town of Cartagena, somewhere between Barcelona and Gibraltar on the Mediterranean. The USS Orion made a portcall to this sailor town in the summer of 1992. In the ship's library was an old Fodor's guidebook on Spain and the paragraph on Cartagena was most telling. The writer had nothing good to say about the town and even asked readers / travelers to send in any suggestions if they find something cool about the town.

I had planned to take a vacation to Sevilla to attend the Expo 92. However, I learned at the USO office that in order to get to Sevilla from Cartagena, I had to go out of my way to Madrid, first. Because the ship was only in port for four days, that meant that I would have no time to see Sevilla, because it was an overnight train to Madrid and a train to Sevilla, which would take the better part of a day. So, instead of Sevilla, I thought perhaps I'd sign up for the tour to Granada, which I wanted to see. However, it was fully booked. That left me no option. Madrid it was.

Of all the European capitals I've been to (London, Rome, Paris, Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Luxembourg City, Vaduz, Budapest), Madrid is my least favourite. I found the people there to be very unfriendly and rude. No one spoke any English, or pretended not to. It was also very xenophobic. There isn't a whole lot of noteworthy landmarks that other capitals are famous for. However, in spite of the problems, I did have a relaxing time exploring the city and finding interesting things to photograph. None of my photos of Spain are digitalized yet, so these photos here are lifted from Google image searches. Above is perhaps the best known "landmark" of Madrid.

I went to Madrid not knowing anything about its history or architecture or tourist sites, so this was one city that I truly got to discover for myself (no set of checklist drawn up by some tourist guidebook). Like nearly all cities, there's always one place that offers a birdseye view of the city. In Madrid, it was located in the university, in a funky looking tower. In the elevator, I overrheard to Spanish guys talking in English, which was interesting. They were probably practicing their English and likely had no idea that I spoke English, so I got the privilege of eavesdropping on their conversation. From the viewing platform, it was interesting to see that there is an actual line where buildings ended and undeveloped land began. I had never seen this before, as there usually is a gradual transition between civilization and nature. Not so on one side of Madrid. You can actually see the city limits in a straight line between buildings and grass/trees.

The above is an interesting building that is on many postcards of Madrid. I'm a fan of awesome architecture. Perhaps my favourite part of Madrid was a huge park that I walked through. There were several photo-worthy structures.

Despite being disappointed that I could not see Sevilla or Granada, I did enjoy being alone in a foreign city without bumping into anyone I know from the ship. Because of my ethnic diversity, I was able to blend in among the Spaniards, until I opened my mouth. Would I see Madrid again? I wouldn't mind, because I honestly don't remember a whole lot about it. I wouldn't mind doing a combined Spain / Portugal vacation, in which I would see Lisbon, as well as Sevilla, Granada, Toledo, and of course, Pamplona for the annual running of the bulls (on my list of things to see before I die).

On the right is one of the examples of Spanish "art" that I love: Bullfighting advertisement posters. These images have captivated me since I first saw them on my family's 1987 Spring Break trip to the Costa Brava. I think they just look awesome and definitely frameworthy. Too bad the actual sport of bullfighting is so violent and cruel.

As far as which country I like better (Spain or Italy), there's no question that I find Italy to be the far more interesting country, having the more beautiful language, and the best cuisine. Spain has its own cultural identity, though, and it was good to see them win the World Cup this year.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Masseuse Plays Loose With the Truths


Last week's Portland Tribune, a weekly free newspaper that generally runs on the more conservative side of the spectrum, ran yet another lengthy article explaining in more details why they did not break the story of Portland Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) Molly Hagerty's claim that she was "sexually assaulted" by Al Gore in October 2006 during a visit to our city to give a presentation on his An Inconvenient Truth documentary (the live show!).

This whole case is "an inconvenient truth." However, the credibility of Molly Hagerty has come under severe scrutiny, based on her behaviour. In fact, when I first saw a picture of this lady, my impression was that she was a middle-aged, prudish school marm who has no business being a massage therapist. She claimed to be "shocked!" that anyone would sexually proposition her. Shocked! Shocked, she says! Come on, now. Who do you take us for? Morons? Honestly. A luxury hotel has a V.I.P. guest who requests a massage at 11 p.m. Many people, even those who have never received a massage, know about the term "massage with a happy ending" due to popular culture references. For an LMT who was supposedly highly recommended based on previous high profile clients, she wants us to believe that she had never been inappropriately propositioned before? Yeah, right. Perhaps she's telling the truth, though, considering her age (54) and her physical unattractiveness. If a V.I.P. guest is going to take advantage of being alone in a hotel room in a city not his own, you'd think that he would at least "cheat" with an attractive, young lady.

Anyhow, last week's newspaper article revealed that the pants she wore the night in question, with his DNA supposedly still on them turned out to be an empty boast. She admitted, after teasing a national tabloid that she had "evidence" a la Monica Lewinsky's famous blue GAP dress with Clinton's semen stain, that she had it tested and the results came back negative. What a lying bitch! Not only did her bluff blew up in her face, but the article also revealed that she had failed a polygraph test. Granted, a polygraph is not admissible in court because the machine registers a body's reaction, which psychologists then interpret the person's level of honesty. You know who else failed a polygraph? O.J. Simpson! And everyone with a brain knows that he killed his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman.

Ten years ago, I had to take a polygraph test in order to work for the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. It was a nerve wracking experience to be hooked up to a machine and being asked personal questions and watching the needle move against the page. The guy who gave the polygraph told me how it worked. If he mentioned a dog and I was afraid of big dogs, the machine would register the reaction of my body in a fear response. If I had nothing to fear, then nothing would happen. The questions were primarily about criminal activity and drug usage. Since I had no experience in that area, it wasn't an issue. However, I was still nervous about the test. When the guy took the paper out of the machine and analyzed it, he returned and asked why I lied during such and such question. I got defensive, then he said, "Relax, I'm just messing with you. You passed." At the time, I thought "passing" meant that the machine found me to be a liar. Nope. Failing the polygraph means that your body registered fear responses to certain questions, and the theory is that you are only "afraid" of being exposed in a lie, thus why your body will "betray" your verbal denials to certain questions.

So, this bitch is a liar. Thou shalt not bear false witness, Molly! You understand that?

The reporter who investigated her allegations found several reasons to doubt her credibility. Most telling is that during the process of "negotiating" the terms of her allegations, she wanted certain details left out (such as her failing the polygraph), and the conversations she had with the reporter got more difficult. She even accused the reporter of "bullying" her and even of "screaming at" her. Like the good reporter, he tape recorded his conversations with her and there was no such raising of his voice. What a dumb bitch to falsely accuse a reporter, who has the power to trash her credibility in print! This pattern was repeated when she had also claimed that a well-known Portland attorney had "mocked" and "bullied" her and the polygraph administrator had "screamed and screamed and screamed" at her. Based on this pattern of accusations, I'd say that this woman seriously has deep psychological issues with men, possibly stemming from unresolved and/or repressed sexual trauma. She did accuse a former boyfriend of assaulting her and sought a restraining order against him, which was denied by the Multnomah County court.

There's a word for someone like this: "histrionics." An attention-getting personality trait in which the person will just make up shit (illnesses, attacks, being victimized, etc.) just to get people to pay attention to them. I know quite a few women like that at my work, which is why I can't stand working in a female-dominated office. Some women need constant drama in their lives to get any attention, and considering how hideous looking this Massage Therapist is, I would not be surprised if she felt "insulted" that Gore was not sexually attracted to her and rebuffed her fantasy scenarios, thus she concocted these crazy allegations, which she knows is a damn lie.

So, Molly Hagerty...if you "Google-searched" your name and discovered this blog post, I just want to you to know that I think you are lying bitch whose absurd allegations actually do grave damage to women who are really sexually assaulted and raped. If I ever cross paths with you, I would force you to read the story about the boy who cried wolf. Maybe I should write an update to that childhood parable: "the woman who cried rape!" It is bad karma to falsely accuse people of committing a heinous deed. I want you to think deeply about that. Finally, Molly, I think with your prudish, school marmish manner and the supposedly naive spell you're under that you can't fathom that a client might have ulterior motives for calling you for a massage at 11 p.m. at night is ridiculous. The fact that you stayed for 3 hours after fearing early on that he would rape you, means whatever happened was consensual. Was it merely a "happy ending" or did you give him a Lewinsky Special?

Seriously, whatever happened or happens from here on out, I hope that your career as an LMT is OVER. You have no business in such a field. A lady as naive and prudish as you should really become a school teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in Montana or something. Getting back to the boy who crief wolf scenario...you know what happened in the end? The boy cried wolf so many times, to test the villagers response, that when a real wolf came, the villagers ignored his final cry for help and he was devoured.

My favourite personal expression to people is: "Credibility begins with consistency." You, Molly, were never consistent, thus why your credibility was questioned and a local paper decided not to publish your story until a national tabloid you wanted a million dollars from published the allegations. Your allotted fifteen minutes of fame was spent on trying to be the next Monica Lewinsky. I bet your family and friends would be so proud that this is how you wanted to become known: as an example of a flaky, middle aged, homely looking woman making up a ridiculous story about a good man like some pulpy dimestore romance novel. Good job. Live with the consequences of that for the rest of your life!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Music Video Monday: Tina Turner



In honour of Mad Mel's mad couple of weeks, there was only one logical choice for this week's music video selection: "We Don't Need Another Hero" by Tina Turner, which was just one of many movie theme songs in the Summer of 1985 (Happy 25th Anniversary!). This song was from Mad Mel's third Mad Max film: Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. I love this song and I love Tina Turner (such an awesome lady!). I used the lyrics to this song at the beginning of my 2007 Christmas Newsletter, because I felt the lyrics were appropriate for what our country was going through at the time (namely, not making the same mistake in 2008's election as Americans did in 2000).

Because I didn't get around to writing a Flashback Friday post about my various trips to Spain, it should be posted this coming Friday. Also coming up this week are posts about Mad Mel (I'm not done with him by a longshot, so just bear with me) and an update in the case of the massage therapist who claims that Al Gore had sexually assaulted her. A week of scandal updates! Yeeha. In case you're wondering...no, I don't give a rat's ass about Lindsay Lohan. She's a non-entity...the kind who are famous merely for being famous. She's not worth any blog posts. I stick to the kind of scandals that set an example of a larger issue (for example, Mad Mel represents what usually happens when men ditch their wives for a younger model whenever they have a midlife crisis) or when it involves a major person (such as a politician) or my place of employment (which seems to be just about every job!).

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Good Aussie, Bad Aussie

The scandal continues...as Radar Online continues its daily release of the phone conversation between Mad Mel and his girlfriend Oksana. Each day's public release has been more mind-blowing outrageous than the previous day's. Just when you think it could not get any worse, it actually does!

Please click on the attached links to have a listen (if you dare). You may want to listen to them BEFORE continuing reading this post, because I'll be writing about choice comments that reveal the psyche of an enraged man deep in a major midlife crisis.

The first day's release was only mildly shocking. Mel seemed mad at his girlfriend for wearing clothes and walking in a certain way that reminded him of a "Vegas whore" and he did not like it one bit. He was angry, but it was a private conversation. Since he is well known to be an ultra-conservative Catholic, its not surprising that he would find it offensive and upsetting that his wife is dressing up to either make him jealous or to invite men to take a good look at her. Since I know very little about Oksana, and she seems a bit too "model beautiful" who wrecked a marriage, her motives are suspect as well. Its not cool to record private conversations and air them in public. However, on the flip side, she claims to be scared that he might actually make good on his threats to kill her. Perhaps she is aware of Nicole Brown Simpson's famous comment to friends that O.J. Simpson would kill her one day and get away with it because "he's O.J. Simpson!"

Anyhow, the first phone conversation that was released featured the comment by Gibson that if she "got raped by a pack of niggers", it would be her fault. This line naturally raised the ire of Jesse Jackson and the NAACP because the comment plays to the common fear that white people have about black men (that white women will be raped by them). What kind of person would say such a thing to someone he loved? Perhaps he was trying to scare her into dressing more conservatively, but went about it the wrong way. Whoopi Goldberg came to his defense, saying that she has hung out with him and he never displayed any racism. But then there's always that well-known denial: "I'm not racist! Some of my best friends are black!" Seriously, if you're referring to a group of people in animal terms ("a pack of...", as in wolves) or using the most vile, racist word...well, you probably have some deeply rooted, subconscious issues regarding race.

The second phone call recording that was released by Radar Online is eight minutes long and is surprisingly shocking in the amount of venom and anger you can hear in Mel Gibson's voice. It conjures up the "Mad Mel" we've seen in Lethal Weapon, Braveheart, Ransom, and The Patriot. From this segment, here are some noteworthy and surprising admissions that Mad Mel made:

He tells Oksana that he doesn't love her anymore because she is using him and only takes from him. Yet, in the next breath, he offers her "one more chance." Make up your mind, Mel!

He yells so much that he has difficulty breathing. I mean, seriously, how ANGRY does one have to be, to be so out of breath like he is? He's ripe for a heart attack with his violent rage. He claims that Oksana has no soul, and more surprisingly, admitted that he left his wife because they no longer shared any "common spiritual ground." That's what he thinks. According to Radar Online, Robyn Gibson filed for divorce when she learned that her husband was on vacation in Mexico with Oksana. What spiritual ground, Mad Mel? Maybe your wife did not agree with your using the money from The Passion of the Christ to build your own retro-Catholic (that rejects the Vatican II reforms of the 1960s) Church. Maybe it is you, Mad Mel, whose spirituality went off the deep end in the aftermath of being accused of being anti-Semitic like your old man and facing threats by studio heads (there are many Jewish people who work in the film industry) that "you'll never work in this town again" because of the way your torture porn film about Jesus alienated everyone who isn't a conservative, evangelical, fundamentalist Christian. However, it was the loyalty of the evangelicals that pushed your movie past the $300 million mark. From the same group of people who tried to censor Martin Scorsese's film about Jesus in 1988!

When Mel and Oksana argue about something, Oksana admits to "apologizing for nothing." Mel gets freaked out, asking "What? What?!? You apologized for nothing? You fucking, lying cunt!" What a moron. In listening to the conversation between them, its amazing to realize the huge age difference between the two of them (Oksana is younger than some of his sons). Oksana comes across as very mature, able to have an intense discussion without losing her temper and screaming her head off. Gibson is completely enraged and unhinged. Its amazing that he let a woman have that much power over him. He admits quite a few times that her behaviour is "hurting" him and "making" him angry. Anyone who has studied psychology knows, no one can make you angry without your consent. We can choose how we react to other people's behaviour. That Mad Mel cannot control his anger proves that he is powerless in that relationship. Oksana probably knows which buttons to push and since her intent was to capture his rages on tape, she played him like "a harp from hell" (to quote the Penguin in Batman Returns).

When Oksana continues to repeat "you need medication", he is set off again with his "What? What?!?" rants, this time saying, "I need a woman! Not a little girl with a fucking dysfunctional cunt!" Yow! I hate to break it to you, Mad Mel, but you are the one who left your wife for this woman. You left your wife, whom you have a shared history, begun before you were ever famous, and had several children with. You left a WOMAN to be with a much younger woman in her 20s, like the cliche of men at midlife. His comment gives credence that people really should stick with dating within their generation. Otherwise, you miss out on a lot of the cultural commonalities that make for a strong bond.

He also freaks out again when Oksana threatens to call the police after Mad Mel indicates that he would come over to HIS house if she dared hang up on him. When she offers to go to her friend's house, Mad Mel insults her friend and mentions that her friend was making eyes at him and would suck him in five seconds if he allowed it. Dang, what a thing to say to a woman you supposedly love. Even worse, he told her that she did not have any friends. Shocking revelation of all: Mad Mel admitted that he had no friends, thus why he wanted to make her into his one and only true friend. Seriously? No friends, Mel? Why is that? Did you alienate everyone with your runaway egotism and overzealous religious pomposity? Yikes. This man belongs in Arkham Asylum! I think we found our next Bat-villain! He also admitted that he believes that his career is over. Well, duh. After The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto, and his 2006 DUI arrest, he pretty much alienated all of Hollywood.

Most alarmingly, Mad Mel practically admits to hitting Oksana while she had their baby in her hands. He told her, "you deserved it!" Then, he menacingly said: "I'll put you in a fucking rose garden, you cunt! You understand that? Because I'm capable of it."

Uh-oh. Someone aspires to be the next O.J. Simpson. I bet all the media hoards were salivating at the prospect of another "Trial of the Century"! If Mad Mel were to make good on his threat, this murder trial would be a lot more of a circus, considering the stature of Mel Gibson (Oscar-winning director, plenty of blockbuster films with his name attached). O.J. was just a second-rate celebrity. Of course, if anything should now happen to Oksana, Gibson would automatically be suspected and these tapes would convict him before the jury even heard the opening arguments. And there wouldn't be any racial dynamics involved. Still, the media would eat such a murder trial up if it involved Mel Gibson.

In the third phone recording that was released on Wednesday by Radar Online, we get to what may be "the real reason" Mad Mel went off his rocker. Please click on the link for a listen before reading the rest of this post. It's three and a half minutes long.

Their argument in this segment is about sex. Mad Mel is in a rage because Oksana fell asleep waiting for him to come out to the jacuzzi. He yelled at her: "I should've woken you up and said, 'fucking blow me, bitch!'" In another part of the conversation, he yelled: "I deserve to be blown first! Before the fucking jacuzzi! Okay, I'll burn the goddamn house up, but blow me first."

What is with these middle-aged assholes? Both Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich violated their marital vows in the 1990s over blow jobs. Their wives probably did not want to do that anymore (if they ever did) and they found women who were willing to give them what they wanted.

I'm actually kind of shocked that Mad Mel seems a little too obsessed with women fellating him on demand. After all, Mad Mel left the Holy Roman Catholic Church because it was TOO liberal for him. The Catholic Church is consistently against all forms of birth control and sexual acts that do not lead to the potential for pregnancy, thus why the church is against masturbation, oral and anal sex, homosexuality, condoms, birth control pills, and abortion. The church mistakenly believes that each sperm is a soul and by committing acts in which the sperm has no chance of meeting the egg, the person is thereby committing an act of "murder." Its ludicrous that they still hold on to this Medieval mentality. As modern people know, there are millions of sperm in an ejaculate, so if souls did reside in a sperm cell, there are millions that will not become a fetus because it only takes one sperm cell to find and fertilize an egg.

The fact that ultra-conservative Catholic Mad Mel created his own branch of Catholicism from the profits of his Jesus torture porn movie, that rejects the Vatican II reforms (though it did not go far enough in modernizing the church), how can he square his beliefs against the mass murder he commits everytime he forces his girlfriend to blow him?

Mad Mel...you're about as authentically religious as Pat Robertson and all those other nutcases who can't live what you preach to other people. Given his lunacy, I wonder if he makes his girlfriend perform fellatio on him as an act of communion in his church? He's probably just twisted enough to make such an irrational demand.

After hearing these recordings, there is no way I can in good conscience ever pay to see another Mel Gibson movie. I have a few movies of his on DVD (Hamlet, The Patriot, What Women Want, and Signs), but I won't get rid of them. However, I think its safe to say that his career is effectively over. There is no comeback after this kind of ugliness. He was bankable for so long because of the fun-loving, prankster persona he projected. His last few movies have bombed and he was probably told after his most devisive film that common cliche we've all heard about: "You'll never work in this town again!" Besides, there are plenty of other Australian actors to take his place.

In fact, I move that we drop the expression "Good Cop, Bad Cop" from our lexicon and adopt a new one: "Good Aussie, Bad Aussie." If Mel Gibson represents the "Bad Aussie", who would represent the "Good Aussie"?

Duh! It would be none other than Hugh Jackman, who does have that incredibly sunny persona that we all love to see in our Australian actors. Its amazing to reflect that when I first saw Hugh Jackman on the cover of a major magazine in the summer of 2000, I had no idea who he was. I learned soon enough with his star-making role as the Wolverine in the X-Men movies. Hugh Jackman is the perfect example of the spiritual concept behind "the Law of Attraction" (as advocated by Jerry and Esther Hicks). In every interview I've seen of him, as well as when he hosted the Tonys and the Oscars, he has an amazing charisma with an enviable cheerful and positive disposition. He is someone who continues to attract good roles and opportunities into his life.

And he is a family man. Google-search him and you'll find plenty of pictures of him hanging out with his two children and his wife. He seems to really love life. I once read that he has a healthy view of the paparazzis. Instead of treating them as the enemy, he realizes that they have a job to do and he lets them have their shots before going about his day. Nothing seems to faze him. With an attitude like this, I'd hate to read a decade or more that he has turned into another Mel Gibson. That would not be cool.

However, I think Jackman has a good sense of who he is. I just recently watched a documentary called Oh My God, which is about one documentary filmmaker's journey around the world to ask a variety of people: "What is God?" The DVD features a bonus disc with extended interviews by certain celebrities such as Ringo Starr, Seal, Bob Geldof, David Copperfield, a few other people, and Hugh Jackman. I was impressed with Jackman's spiritual views. He was raised in the Church of England, but as a teenager grew frustrated when his questions were shushed rather than answered. He believed that accepting an idea based on faith alone is not good enough. He wants a logical answer for some of the beliefs he was expected to accept. In the interview, he mentions meditating twice a day, which makes him feel connected to the divine. He used the expression "the space between" a lot (a term I've been hearing a lot as well). He is what I would call an open-minded spiritualist, like me. He quotes from the Bhagavad-Gita, shares a zen koan, gave examples from his own life, and worries about falling into the "comfort trap." Based on that lengthy interview segment (about 20 minutes, I'd guess), I'd say that Jackman's spiritual grounding is pretty solid, especially in contrast to Mad Mel's warped, authoritarian-style ultra-conservative hypocrisy.

So, Mad Mel...you're the Bad Aussie whose career is effectively over. Good riddance to you! Spend the rest of your life reconnecting to your soul and finding the source of your rage. We don't need any of your ultra-violent movies anymore.

Besides, we have plenty of Good Aussies to take your place: Hugh Jackman, Eric Bana, the guy from The Mentalist, and Sam Worthington.