Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Other Originator

Yesterday I said I'd do a post on the originator of violence, Tommy Dreamer!


No, no I didn't. I said I was going to tell you about the other movie credited as an originator of slasher films. Have you guessed what it is yet? That's right, it's...

"He" of course is Michael Myers. There he is! Isn't he just as cute as a psychotic serial killing little button? Isn't he? This shot from the opening scene of the film explains what poor dear Michael was doing in the insane asylum to begin with. Of course, years later, when Michael has grown into quite the big boy, he escapes and returns home to go on a random murderous rampage. The plot really is just about that simple, like a campfire ghost story, right? Except with a Halloween mask. Oh yes, and good old Dr. Loomis, the psychologist (psychiatrist? I'm not sure the film specifies) who's responsible for Michael. Dr. Loomis quite seriously informs anyone who'll listen that Michael is nothing less than the bogeyman. And maybe he's right.

In any case, there are a lot more subtle things going on in the beginning of the film that I think make this one a classic. Michael's rampage is preceeded by an extended amount of, well, lurking. His mysterious shape appears almost randomly in the background and the affect is just a little disturbing.

Click on the picture to make it bigger. And see if you can spot him. Even in broad daylight, he's almost not there. Creepy. But the film doesn't stay in the realm of fear of the unknown. Oh no. You'll get to know Michael quite intimately.

Why won't he stay down?

This is the iconic Michael Myers moment. Our heroine is directly underneath him, and hurting badly. Will she escape?

You may be surprised that this film actually has very little blood and gore, especially compared to other "slasher films" that were to follow. In any case, this is a classic of the horror genre in general, and an originator of the "slasher films" specifically, and it's worth a watch, if you're up to it!

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Quote of the Day

“[I]t's not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.”

— Judy Blume

Something That Actually Scares Me

Ok, I was going to talk about the second originator of slasher films, and I will (maybe you'll get two posts today, exciting, yeah?), but first something important.

Apparently this week is Banned Books Week, and I didn't know it. And the Something That Actually Scares Me? Censorship. The American Library Association has compiled a list of the 100 most frequently challenged books of the last decade (1990-2000). They define a "challenge" as a "formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness." And they go on to state that, "According to Judith F. Krug, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, the number of challenges reflects only incidents reported, and for each reported, four or five remain unreported." So no, the ALA's list isn't completely accurate--it's actually a very conservative estimate!

Some of these books shouldn't be read by small children and certain immature people, but does that mean that they should be removed from the shelves of the local library? No. It means that parents should be regulating what their children are reading right up until the point you know they are mature enough to handle such themes appropriately. This might mean that the library should (and I believe most do) separate their stacks into age appropriate sections, but the ultimate responsibility for what their children read should still fall to the parents. Your 13 year old is not going to find Madonna's Sex in the teen section of your local library.

In my admittedly limited knowledge of the books on this list, I only know of one that might actually be dangerous. The Anarchist Cookbook actually contains recipies for drugs and explosives. In the wrong hands, this book could be dangerous. In the hands of a political science major, however, it could be intriguing, since it was written in response to the Vietnam War and represents a political view that violence is an acceptable means to a political end--a view which the author no longer holds. In fact, the copyright is not held by the author, but rather the publisher, and remains in print and circulated despite the author's requests that it be taken out of print. Again, your 13 year old shouldn't be reading this book, and it's not going to be found in the teen section of your local library!

The Anarchist Cookbook aside, there are many books on the most challenged list that have every right to sit unrestricted on the shelves of your local or school library. Several of them were required reading when I was in school, and rightly so. Some of them I simply do not understand at all why they are on the list. Maybe it's just been so long since I read How To Eat Fried Worms that I've forgotten the recipies for explosives hidden in there... I'm sure that there are books on this list that have been challenged on the basis that they're popular pieces from the Fantasy genre, or display some aspect of the fantastic. (And we all know how I feel about that.) But honestly, there are some that I would encourage anyone with the comprehension abilities to understand what they're reading to pick up right this instant. Everyone should read A Wrinkle In Time. Everyone should read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Books like Bridge to Terabithia deeply influenced me when I was but a boy...

Ok, I've said my piece. Here's the list. Read it and be scared.

Be good to each other
Rev. Josh

1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
2. Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
8. Forever by Judy Blume
9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
15. It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
19. Sex by Madonna
20. Earth's Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
30. The Goats by Brock Cole
31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
32. Blubber by Judy Blume
33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
37. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
40. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
46. Deenie by Judy Blume
47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
55. Cujo by Stephen King
56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
61. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
62. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
65. Fade by Robert Cormier
66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
71. Native Son by Richard Wright
72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women's Fantasies by Nancy Friday
73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
74. Jack by A.M. Homes
75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
77. Carrie by Stephen King
78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
88. Where's Waldo? by Martin Hanford
89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Three Halloweenies For The Price of One!

Of course, one is free, two are free also, and you guessed it, three! Free! so... anyway...

I grew up near Mystic, Connecticut, home of pricey tourist shops and summer getaway of folks from "the city." Oh, and fall getaway for leaf peepers from the city. Oh, and winter getaway for Christmas shoppers from the city.

Sorry... got a little carried away there.

Where was I? Oh yes, Mystic. Mystic is also home of the Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, where my father is now working part time, incidentally. And yes, they have some Halloweenies in store for visitors. They call it Seascare. You might even see my Dad there, all dressed up in his costume!

Mystic is also the home of Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea, and yes, they too have Halloweenies, known as Nautical Nightmares: Maritime Ghost Stories at Mystic Seaport I'm sure someone I know is likely to be there, too!

And finally... your Halloweenie of the Day!

I have most of these films on DVD, but far and away my favorite is the first. The rest of the series is almost completely schlock and all of them fall in the much maligned category of slasher films, but to be perfectly fair, Friday the 13th is often credited as one of the originators of the genre. For whatever that's worth to you. But here's what really makes the original film for me (without giving it away entirely). When I first saw the first Friday the 13th film, the only thing I knew about the series was this.
If this is all you know of the series, even if you don't usually like the plot of slasher films, you have to watch the first one. It will surprise you. Of course, if you don't like slasher films because of the blood and the gore... give this one a pass. After all, it really is one of the originators of the sub-genre.

Next time... the other originator.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Pile

I have been under the pile for way too long. But look! And gasp! The light of day, and a few moments to blog! We've already missed Talk Like a Pirate day, but since pirates are most definately in this Halloween, I still feel within my rights to share this video with you. Enjoy!

Be Good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Friday, September 08, 2006

Halloweenie of the Day!

Just to remind everyone. I'm sharing with you some of our favorite scary things because (a) I love Halloween. and (b) It is now close enough to Halloween to go nuts. If you want to see a discussion of why I blieve that Halloween isn't harmful in and of itself, go here.

And now, one of my favorite scary things:

Needful Things probably isn't my favorite story of King's. But it is the reason I began reading King to begin with... and the first time my wife and I really got to seriously talking it was because we were both reading King in a study hall... so in a way, Needful Things is responsible for my marriage. In any case, Needful Things is the last King novel set in the fictitious rural Maine town of Castle Rock. And I first picked it up because I saw the first half of the movie (which is the best half, by the way... read the book and leave the movie alone, in my humble opinion)--I honestly don't know if I would have continued to devour King if I'd read, say, The Stand first. But as it was, if this was the last Castle Rock novel, what were the others? And that's how my King phase began.

Needful Things also represents one of my first epiphanies about horror. I already instinctually knew that being scared can be fun in the same adrenaline rush kind of way that thrill rides are fun. But Needful Things taught me that the basic horror plot is, undertneath everything else, about Good vs Evil. So pick up a copy of Needful Things, and see if Evil wins out in the end.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Halloweenie of the Day!

The Blair Witch Project was released in 1999 in the midst of a television and internet campaign that managed to suggest that the amature footage used in the film was the result of a real event... without actually saying so. Some people were pissed about the film, some people were made physically ill from the camara work (although I suspect that these people were sitting in the front row... which would make me sick on a "normal" film)--but I think that the Blair Witch Project (A) Was the most brilliant attempt at facilitating the willing suspension of disblief in the history of the cinema. And (B) One of the scariest movies I've ever seen because it plays on what H.P. Lovecraft describes as the most ancient of fears: Fear of the Unknown.

I think that The Blair Witch Project struck me the hardest in the theater, but it's still worth a rent (heck, we own a copy). Put it in, tell yourself you're going to be watching a Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky documentary, and prepare to avoid wooded areas for about a month or so.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I read something really good that our Senior Pastor wrote for the church news letter. He was talking about looking for the image of God in one another as a spiritual practice. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, check out Genesis 1:27 at Faced with this scripture, the theological question becomes one of response. In other words, what do we do with the knowledge that every human being was made in God's image?

So here's where Ed picks up with the idea:
It's not an easy thing to do. But I've come to realize that we find whatever we're looking for.
If you look for dirt, you'll find it. If you look for God, you'll find God. I'm talking what you focus on in each situation you face and in each person you encounter. I nthe worst sinner, if you look hard enough, you will find the image of God. I can attest to that, having developed relationships with two men who were on death row. And I can attest that if you look hard enough in the holiest of saints, you'll find some dirt; or a demon they struggle with or something dark that haunts them. Trust me as your pastor. There are skeletons in everyone's closet and problems in the best situations; just as there are good things to find in the worst situations. The key, for each of us, is this. What are we looking for? After all Jesus said, "Seek, and you will find."

Personally, I'd rather look for the good. There's enough bad, and sad, and tragic in the world to depress me several times over. It's a whole lot nicer to find God.

Let's look for that, then.

Be good to each other.
Rev. Josh

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Halloweenie of the Day

So, as we move closer to Halloween, I thought I'd share some of my favorite scary things. And so with that in mind...

Silent Hill started off as a video game, one solidly in what is known as the survival horror genre. There's definately enough story in these games to keep my wife and I playing. Of course, playing in the dark with the surround sound on descourages us from sleeping. Again. Ever. So we may as well play a little longer, right? It's really little environmental things that catch us with the Silent Hill games. Like searching through a decrepit and abandoned public restroom and listening to the main character knock on a stall door-- and being answered, once, with a return knock.


And knock as much as you like after that, you can't get it to repeat. You just never know when something like that is going to happen. The monsters you fight are almost secondary. Almost. The mosters are seriously disturbing too. Imagine meeting one of these nurses in an abandoned hospital... *shiver*

Silent Hill has done well enough critically to warrent a feature film, now available on DVD. If you aren't into gaming but want to find out what the feel of the story and the environment are, I suggest you rent it. Then watch it with the lights out and the surround sound on.

Go on. I dare you. Find out why anytime my wife and I find ourselves someplace truly creepy, we turn to each other and say: Welcome to Silent Hill.

Friday, September 01, 2006


It's September! This means my brother's birthday is coming, fall is just beginning to fall, and the Halloween stores have been open for a week and a half.

And I couldn't be happier.

I love Halloween, I always have. I love costumes. I love being a little scared (adrenaline can be fun every once in a while) and I love not being scared because, well, I'm what's scary. I love Jack O' Lanterns and gargoyles. I love how happy the kids get, all hyped up and running, with flashlights and their pillow cases or plastic Jack O' Lanterns to hold all that candy. And if you're particularly clever, the flashlight goes into the loot bearing device, lighting it up from the inside. I love the yard decorations, the house decorations, the people decorations--

But, what about pagan elements? What about Devil worship? What's keeping Satan from stealing the very souls of our children as they run amok, transformed into candy crazed Halloweenies?


I don't think that Halloween is going to be what drives your children from the church. Be honest, which is more likely to regularly keep your child out of church on Sunday, Halloween, or team sports? And I'm not sure that I believe in literal evil spirits, but even if I did, many of Halloween's traditions are actually about keeping such spirits at bay!

Take the Jack O' Lantern. This tradition likely comes from the old Irish tale of Stingy Jack, who once tricked the Devil, trapping him and only releasing him if he promises to not come for his soul. To make a long story short, when Stingy Jack dies, neither Heaven nor Hell wants his soul. In some versions of the story, the Devil even throws a coal from Hell at Jack. In every version, Jack carves a turnip into a lantern (yes, a turnip, pumpkins are native to the Americas) and roams the countryside for eternity. I like the version with the coal, myself, as Jack of the Lantern uses the hell-coal to light his turnip lantern. In any case, folk in Ireland and Scotland began to make their own versions of Jack's Lantern, carving frightening faces into it to scare away Jack of the Lantern and any other wandering evil spirits.

So I don't think Halloween is harmful. And I rather think it provides a basic sociological need. Winter is on its way, the days are going to grow short, the leaves on the trees will soon be gone... The world gets cold, like death. I think we have a deep-seated need to cut loose a little before something like that. In that sense, Halloween is like Mardi Gras (which is the last big hurrah before we clamp down for Lent) -- only Halloween has always been very up front about centering around death.

I think maybe that's why it makes some of us uncomfortable. Some of us don't want to think about death and the fear it often brings. But death is a fact. Darkness is a fact. And both of those things will always have a certain amount of hold over us... or at least they will until the end of days. But you can steal some thunder from darkness and death, at least for one night. You can hide behind a mask. You can dress up as the dark. You can dress up as death. And in doing so, you can laugh at them. And run down the street with your flashlight in your Jack O' Lantern.

And for a little while you can forget your diet and eat lots and lots of candy.

The Wait

So here I am, it's about 10am, and the funeral I'm about to perform begins at 11am. It would be silly to go over there now. Besides, I'd better much on this "nutrition" bar that likely has too much sodium in it so my blood sugar doesn't crash at graveside. I kinda wish I had a toothbrush now, but I guess not passing out next to an open grave is more important than dental hygiene today.

I'm nervous.

It's a perfectly normal reaction to performing/public speaking, nothing debilitating or anything. It's just this one hour, really. It's the waiting that gets you.

I think I'll go read through the service one more time. I'll post again later, in celebration of September. Heck, by the time you read this, you may already be seeing what I have planned for the beginning of fall!

Be patient.
Rev. Josh