Old Fashioned and Repressed Sex

Old FashionedBrandon Ambrosino over at Vox tried to get to the bottom of an interesting question, Why Are Christian Movies So Painfully Bad? But I think he made it over complicated. The reason that “Christian” movies are bad is that they are made for a particular distribution channel — one that depends upon churches. So part of the reason that these “Christian” movies are bad is the same reason that most of the drive-in movies of the 1950s were bad. The other is that the people who go to see these films just want to be assured that they are the right kind of people.

One great film that is explicitly Christian is John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary. But the point of the film is not to sell Christianity to people who have already bought it. And, in fact, you see lots of Catholicism in Irish films. But the religion is not the point; it is just part of the lives of the people. It isn’t surprising that that there is a Christian Film Industry in the United States. American Christians are the most insecure religious people I’ve ever see. This is why they get so upset about “Happy Holidays,” because they need constant assurance that everyone believes the same thing they do.

And then there is the Amway aspect of it. I’ve been talking to Jehovah’s Witnesses for decades. They are the most fake people one on the planet. I know all their tricks. And they are the exact same tricks of Amway salesmen or car dealers. They try to find out what you are interested in so they can form a bond, and then they go in with their high pressure sales pitch. In the end, it is all about selling their very specific form of Christianity to you. They have no interest in you at all. They are just “fishers of men.”

But I was really struck by Ambrosino’s prime example, a new Christian Film Industry monstrosity, Old Fashioned. It is supposed to be a response to Fifty Shades of Grey. In this new film, a young man who “Jesus found” during his senior year of college now has very old fashioned ideas about courtship. And he finds himself attracted to the nubile and feisty Elizabeth Ann Roberts. And I’m sure they work through their problems and have a good old fashioned courtship and, just like in every secular romance, it ends where the actual hard work of the relationship starts.

But check out this trailer. Really. I want to talk about it:

I find the trailer of Old Fashioned kind of sexy with all the “I’m an inch away from your face” and “I’m shoving roasted marshmallows in your face.” So really, it’s a movie that is all about sex. It’s just one with sexual mores that are based some kind of Victorian notion of sexual propriety. The thing you find if you read about the distant past — of Christians in the distant past — is that these ideas about sex were never real. They were always about power and contracts. There’s nothing religious about them.

But as usual with repressed Christians, the sex is just bursting at the seams. And I find it ironic. I’m a sexual liberal. I think it is great that people have sex whenever they want how ever they want. If people copulate in the streets, I wouldn’t care. But sex just isn’t that big a deal to me and if you doubt me, you can ask my two ex-wives. But for people like writer, director, and star of Old Fashioned, Rik Swartzwelder, sex is apparently very important — so important he has to make a whole film about it. He is, in fact, just the same as the makers of Fifty Shades of Grey. And I don’t imagine him that different from Osama bin Laden with all his pornography.

Religion makes people very creepy when it comes to sex. It’s like conservatives when it comes to policy: they start every discussion of fixing a problem with everything they can’t do. And that’s a recipe for disaster. The world is about possibilities, not arbitrary limits. And the young man in Old Fashioned is not even practicing his faith; he’s just another cultural Christian with major sexual hangups.

Morning Music: What a Wonderful World

Joey Ramone - What a Wonderful WorldToday, we listen to Joey Ramone’s version of “What A Wonderful World.” The reason is because I’m thinking of trying to make some videos. I had been working on this thing called “Good, Bad, and Uglies.” But it got overly complex. The big issue is that I can write the material, but I can’t really act it — at least not without a lot of work that I don’t have time for. In addition, I have a strong tendency to make little projects turn big. For example, the first screenplay I ever wrote was supposed to be a little 2 minute joke, but within a month it was two hours long. So my video dreams all got set aside.

But last night I was Skyping with my boss and we mentioned the GIF image format and I went on a tear. I noted that everyone pronounced it with a “ga” and not a “ja.” But then GIF inventor Steve Wilhite came out and said that he always pronounced it “jif.” Well, that made absolutely no sense, because GIF is an acronym for Graphics Interchange Format, and unless Wilhite pronounces “graphics” as “jraphics,” he’s a complete loon. (Note: “giraffics” would be a wonderful word for images of giraffes.)

And then I mentioned “Linux,” which was always pronounced with a hard I. But then Linus Torvalds came out with a sound file with his Finnish accent and everyone thought, “Oh! It should be pronounced with a soft I!” But that wasn’t even true because the way he actually said it was “leenux.” Does anyone call it that? No! Should anyone call it that? Yes! People who speak Finnish should say it like that. But everyone in the English speaking world pronounces his first name “Linus” just like the Peanuts character. And that means that “Linux” should be pronounced with a hard I. But we don’t do that because people are just stupid.

I said all that in about 20 seconds. And I thought: I could just set up a camera and rant into it for hours on end about everything that I think is wrong in the universe. And then I could cut out little 20 second clips when I’m particularly “on.” Anyway, I generally started all the “Good, Bad, and Uglies” with Joey Ramone’s version of “What a Wonderful World” and then ended with the Louis Armstrong version. You can see what I mean in my video, These Are Not Very Bright Guys. Anyway, here’s the whole song:

Anniversary Post: Microsoft Starts to Suck

MicrosoftOn this day in 1975, Microsoft was formed by two computer mediocrities Paul Allen and Bill Gates. Thanks to them, the personal computer was held back for years. But they were successful as a company because they were ruthless. But let’s remember what these guys did. They wrote a BASIC interpreter in Intel 8080 assembly language. And I know that sounds impressive. But let me set you straight.

When I was in graduate school, I wrote my own text editor in 8086 assembly language. It didn’t take that long. And it was really fun to do. A BASIC interpreter is more work, but it isn’t that big a deal. But here’s the thing: I did that on my own, in addition to, you know, taking classes and trying to figure out how permafrost worked. But I had never taken a computer programming class. I didn’t and do not (despite having created huge and amazing software creations) think of myself as a computer programmer.

So I just don’t think much of people like Allen and Gates — or for that matter, Steve Wozniak, although being more of a hardware guy I give him some credit. And you know you don’t want to get me started on Steve Jobs. But the truth is that even most people who consider themselves technically minded get fooled about this kind of stuff. So what follows is the truth.

There are lots of brilliant programmers and computer scientists around and there have been since the 1950s. Even I could have been one if I had been so inclined (but I’m not ever interested in anything for that long). So the people who we hold up as masters of technology are almost always just technically oriented people who got rich. And that’s exclusively about ruthlessness and luck.

So what would have happened if Bill Gates and Paul Allen had never been born and there had not been a Microsoft? Well, IBM would have hired someone else to provide the operating system for their personal computer. (Note that I said “provide” given that Microsoft wrote almost none of it.) Would things have been better or worse? We can’t say, but I assume better, because I really think Microsoft held things back. Then again, maybe Apple would have been more successful and that would have been a similar catastrophe.