Reviews

Joker Review – Dionysus Rising (Spoilers)

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I am not the first to compare the relationship between the Joker and Batman to the Ancient Greek legends of Dionysus and Apollo. (Jays Analysis) (Pop Philo and Literature) (Research Gate)

In Ancient Greek mythology, Apollo represents order, law, beauty, reason. Dionysus represents chaos, drunkness, primal instincts, sexual urges. The battle between them is one of order versus chaos.

And the sources I mentioned above frame the battle between Batman and the Joker as one of order versus chaos.

What is very interesting to me is that in every Batman versus Joker movie/show I’ve seen so far, Batman is always framed solidly as the source of good, and while the Joker (who is obviously evil) may wreak havoc for a while, before law and order get restored at the end of the day.

Yet Todd Phillips’ Joker tells a different story.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!

Joaquin Phoenix plays a sympathetic Joker. While the things he does are certainly destructive and evil, the way the movie plays out, we the audience, the typical proletariat layman living in the day-to-day grind, we can actually find ourselves empathizing far more with Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker than the Waynes (Batman’s parents) who isolate themselves from the problems of Gotham in their own world of wealth and privilege.

Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) is struggling to become a stand-up comedian in Gotham City in 1981. His day job is as a clown, in which he gets beat up by the hooligans on the mean streets of Gotham. He works this crappy job to take care of his ailing mother Penny (Frances Conroy). She calls him “Happy,” while deep down, Arthur is anything but. Yet he does his best to “smile and put on a happy face” to please her. But life has not been kind to Arthur. He’s had at least one stint at Arkham Asylum, was abused as a child, and because of his childhood abuse, suffers from a neurological disorder that causes him to break out in maniacal laughter whenever he is anxious or stressed (which is often).  (Ars Technica)

Todd Phillips’ Joker is not a diabolical mastermind, but a troubled man who fell between the cracks of a society that has betrayed him. He goes to court-ordered therapy. But when the funding for that therapy gets cut, he has nowhere to go to get help or medication. And that’s when his further descent into violence and madness begins.

Eventually, he gets fired from his day job being a clown. And while still in clown makeup, he kills three Wallstreet executives on a train. The three men started to physically assault him because of his neurological disorder. When Arthur fights back, it’s self-defense at first. But when the third guy flees the scene, running and screaming for help, Arthur gleefully pursues and kills this man. No longer out of self-defense, but because it made him happy to do so.

Immediately after the attack, Thomas Wayne (Bruce Wayne’s dad) who is running for mayor, publically condemns these three murders. Yet many of the people of Gotham rejoice because they’re tired of living in poverty, and tired of living under a wealthy elite that clearly doesn’t care about them. Protesters put on clown paint, hold signs that say ‘Resist!’ and start rioting in the city.

End the end, Arthur Fleck makes the transition from an unsuccessful, lonely comedian who no one knows about, to becoming a symbol of the city’s Dionysian rage. He stands triumphant with a circle of protesters celebrating him, protesters who are burning and destroying the city. While Bruce Wayne and his parents flee this destruction, only for a masked protester to kill and rob his parents.

The Ancient Greek Bacchae is very similar. It is a story of drunkness, intoxication and self-destruction. In this story, the cult of Apollo reigns over all. It is a cult of order and society. Yet where it once represented ideas of enlightenment and knowledge, it later came to represent a politically corrupt authority, an authority that was drunk off of power and wealth. The ruling authority was a senile group that was far removed from the people and stuck in their own ways.

The God of chaos and hedonism, Dionysus, enters the situation to shake things up. There is a vacuum of power into which he surges. As a long-haired, non-conformist, he arrives at the capital city with an angry mob. This demigod is arrested, interrogated, mocked and thrown into prison.

Yet the authorities could not imprison the violent forces of the primeval. An earthquake leveled the royal palace, destroying the symbol of the Apollonian World Order. Wild women tore cattle to bits with their own hands. Then these women proceeded to dismember the current authorities just like cattle. They played ball with their arms and feet, and then impaled their heads on sticks.

While Todd Phillips’ Joker takes place in 1981, it relates far more to our world today than any other movie I’ve seen this year. I walked out of the movie theater with chills. The character of Arthur Fleck managed to personify a rage/nihilism/antipathy of an increasing number of people who feel that the forces of law/order/society are failing them. Fleck represents a rage that is a powder keg waiting to explode.

Though Todd Phillips’ movie is not at all a glorification of nihilism and violence. Clearly, the violence caused by Arthur Fleck’s insanity is shown as deranged and evil. Rather, the movie is a character study in how these traits arise and manifest in a man who society has abandoned.


Netflix’s Dark Crystal – Worth Watching! (Review)

Let me tell you a secret about myself. I hate puppets. So I thought I was going to absolutely hate this show, since I was never a big fan of all Jim Henson’s puppet stuff back in the day. I didn’t even like the original Dark Crystal movie. I got bored and fell asleep. (Don’t throw things at me).

But on August 30th, 2019, Netflix released a show based on the original movie, and I begrudgingly gave it a shot.

I was very pleasantly surprised. First of all, the show is way better than the original movie IMHO (Seriously. Don’t throw things at me, it’s rude).

There’s more plot and dialogue. I feel like 85% of the script of the original movie was the Skeksis (the bad guys) making their weird HMMmmMMmMMmMMmM sounds.

Now, I will say that the show can get a bit cheesy (I mean, it’s puppetry mixed with CGI, what do you expect?) And sometimes the dialogue is a bit “As-You-Know-Bob” (characters explaining things to each other that they would already know purely for the audience’s benefit).

But aside from that, the show did a great job of creating a fantasy that is a true fantasy. It immerses you into a world that is just as magical as it is alien. And like any good fantasy, its theme is a battle between good and evil, a battle cast against the beautiful and varied landscape of Thra (the world our characters inhabit).

Like the original movie, Thra is inhabited by the Gelfling (the creatures closest to Thra). And the evil Skeksis are abusing the powers of the Dark Crystal to suck out the essences of the Gelfling. The Skeksis abuse of the Dark Crystal has also started “The Darkening,” an event in which the animals and plants of Thra are corrupted. I think there are many parallels to the environmental destruction of our world today. Just like the same parallels found in Tolkien.

There are seven different Gelfling tribe, and they all inhabit radically different terrain of the world Thra. The Dousan Clan who revere death more than life sail the Crystal Desert in their sandships, amazing constructs of crystal and bone. The Drenchen inhabit the overgrown swamp (Sog). The Sifa sail the seas. The Spiriton are a warrior race who inhabit the rolling fields south of the Dark Wood. The Stonewood Clan has made their home in Stone-in-the-Wood. The Vapra are the oldest of the gelfling, a race of white-haired gelfling who inhabit a snowy region in their city Ha’rar. And then there’s my favorite, the Grottan, gelfling with large black, marsupial-like eyes who live undergound, away from the light of the sun, in caves filled with fantastical glowing, bioluminescent creatures.

I’ve gotten sick of the fantasy genre lately because a lot of fantasy television shows just feel like modern people wearing elf ears and carrying swords. And of course, there is the epic disappointment of the way Game of Thrones ended.

Netflix’s Dark Crystal has reignited my love for the fantasy genre. Looking forward to more!

Dark Crystal Official Site


A Better Ending for Game of Thrones

As someone who was a huge fan of Game of Thrones for the nine years it was on television, I joined the rest of the television watching world by being incredibly disappointed and feeling betrayed by the rushed and thoughtless ending provided by the shows writers. It’s very clearly they were eager to just be done with the matter and go off to work on the new Star Wars trilogy, which I will not be watching because of this disaster.

People keep saying, “Oh, well they didn’t have time to make a good ending because they only had six episodes.” First of all, HBO would have given them as many episodes as they wanted.

But anyways, in the video above, the YouTube personality Overlord DVD, very eloquently describes how he would have written the last few episodes of Game of Thrones.

It’s so good. And if fulfills the prophesies of the story.

Even though there is a petition with over a million signatures to remake the ending of Game of Thrones, I doubt it will happen, because hundreds of millions of dollars would be needed for the purpose, and already the actors are going on to do other things.

HOWEVER…

I think it would be very possible for someone to animate the ending described in the video above. And if disappointed fans can’t have a remake, they could at least have an animation that fulfills that purpose.

 


Nile Unearths Heavy New Album (Review)

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Nile’s newest album “What Should Not be Unearthed” opens up like a blast of fire melting the face off a demon. They’re back heavier and faster than ever. This is quite a feat considering that Technical Death Metal has been on the way out recently. And many Death Metal bands have gone towards a more progressive or groove driven direction; which is understandable, because it’s often hard to be even heavier than what already exists, especially after Death Metal has been a genre for 20+ years.

But Nile delivers a fist full of death metal that punches you in the face with its heavy riffs, dynamic tempos, and liquid hot solos. Some of the riffs are familiar, but there are definitely some clever new licks thrown in. And of course, this album brings together what Nile fans love – fast, death metal riffs mixed with middle eastern instrumentals and scales.

KARL SANDERS DISCUSSES HIS INTENTIONS AND OPINION OF NEWEST ALBUM

In an interview with Metal Wani, Karl Sanders (Nile’s Vocalist and Guitarist) said he wanted to take a different direction than their last album, “At The Gates of Sethu.” Sethu was a very clean and technical album, written for studio perfection. But as Karl says, this newest album was all about the fans, and giving them what they want. It was also more about feeling than technicality. “Is it heavy, does it emotionally move me?”

Many interviews and reviews have already dealt with the technicalities of the music. In short, I will say in this album there are more mid-range growls than the low growls of the past (I can actually understand the lyrics!). The guitars and bass are also turned up a bit higher in volume than previous albums. As George Kollias (the drummer) is quoted as saying, “I can’t hear my fucking drums!” (Metal Wani). In terms of skill level, the song “What Should Not Be Unearthed” was apparently one of the hardest songs George Kollias has played in his life.

But what I’d like to delve into is the meaning behind the music – the vibe – the soul of the album so to speak. Topically, this is about things that shouldn’t be unearthed (yeah I know, the title says that, duh!)

The following was said about the artwork: The story behind the title goes deeply beneath everything we have already known, and we may not be ready to face.  With the art I excavated the theories of an elder ancient civilization which could give the origin to ancient Egypt. That’s why you can find a new ingredient in the band imagery, pointing at some higher obscure intelligence, eroding and covered with time. (Nuclear Blast)

So there is definitely this theme of an eerie, and an ancient spirit being accidentally unleashed like some horror movie mummy.

But what no interview has discussed is the modern middle eastern implications as well.

CALL TO DESTRUCTION – OPENING ALBUM TRACK

The video for “Call to Destruction” very deliberately shows video footage of terrorist groups (like The Islamic State) destroying ancient relics. The lyrics very obviously point to this.

Call to destruction of the symbols of paganism
Grand monuments of idolatry
We must tear down these blasphemous edifices of heathenism

We must annihilate all that is pre Islamic
We must complete what the ‘Amr ibn al-‘As could not
We must tear down these relics of infidelity

Great and mighty works of blasphemy
Mountains of ancient heresy
Sacrilege encased in stone
From thousands of years before the Prophet…

So there is no mistaking that this is a theme (at least for that song). 

Nile doesn’t just discuss the ancient Middle East, they also discuss the modern Middle East as well sometimes. For instance, in the “Those Whom The Gods” detest album, there was the song Kafir, which is the word for “heretic” or “unbeliever” in Islam.

So now it’s time for my conjecture (JUST MY OPINION, NOTHING OFFICIAL): I think the Islamic State’s destruction of ancient relics is relevant to many of the themes of other songs in the album. That may have been unintentional or intentional on their part (I don’t know). I just saw a theme: a theme in terms of unearthing or destroying relics of ancient history that should remain untouched. And the actions of IS/ISIS fit into that theme. “Rape of the Black Earth” discusses destroying entire blocs of history, objects that have not been disturbed for millennia, and temples of the Gods defiled. “Age of Famine” also references unheard of atrocities, noble women becoming slave and whores, and children being dashed against walls, and people turning against each other…hmm that sounds familiar to what’s in the news.

Now am I saying this is what this album is all about? No I am not. Karl himself said this wasn’t a concept album.

Or maybe the whole album was really just Karl describing his hatred of unearthing the precious Earth metals that create cell phones (see interview).(Or maybe that’s a joke…)

The last song is “To Walk Forth from the Flames Unscathed.” So perhaps this is somewhat of a hopeful ending to an album with several songs about the destruction and violation of ancient history.

Evil to Cast out Evil is a killer track. Check that out to get a further taste of the delicious mayhem that is Nile’s newest album.

EVIL TO CAST OUT EVIL


RELEVANT LINKS

Official Nile Site

Get new album here

2015 Europe Tour

2016 Tour Dates


Rik Garrett’s “Earth Magic” Photography Book – Witches of the Earth

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Rik Garrett‘s “Earth Magic” photo series has recently been collected into a book, and is now for sale here (US) and here (International). “Earth Magic” portrays women in nature, in a raw, but very natural way. The women are one with the landscape of the wood, mysterious weavers of the weird within the forest’s primordial depths.

In the making and binding of the book, Garrett was inspired by the style of the Malleus Maleficarum, which was a sort of pocket-book for witch hunters in the 15th century. Garret’s intent is obviously more positive, but his theme is similar. If you are looking for witches in the forest – this is what they might look like.

Each book contains 13 photos (like the number of members in a coven) and each book is different. The pictures are picked from a pool of 30 total photos and randomized. So even if you buy two books, they will most likely be different.

Here are some photos from the Earth Magic series:

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The Remaking of the Galdraskræða (Icelandic Book of Spells)

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The tradition of magic among the native Icelandic population goes back to ancient times. Magic was an important part of life, and mastering it was vital to interacting with nature and controlling one’s destiny.

Jochum M. Eggertson (better known as “Skuggi” meaning shadow) collected these spells into a book called the Galdraskræða. The first edition of this book was published in the year 1940. It was only published in a limited edition of 150 copies. The book contains nearly 200 spells and an ensemble of runic letters. Since there were only a few limited editions of this book sold onto the market, the book was very difficult to find for several years.

The book has been republished recently with easier to read designs drawn in red (in order to represent blood).

Read More About The Book 

Purchase The Book (Note, it is written in Icelandic)


Druidcraft by Phillip Car-Gomm – A Merger of Witchcraft and Druidry

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Book Available on Amazon

A Podcast about the book from Phillip Car-Gomm


THE BOOK STRUCTURE: 

PART FICTION, PART REALITY, PART SPIRITUAL JOURNEY

Phillip Car-Gomm’s “Druidcraft” is a must read for anyone who is interested in both Druidry and Witchcraft. Now, in writing this book, Car-Gomm is not insisting that Witches and Druids everywhere must join forces together. Rather, he is saying that it is fine if you prefer to be just a Witch, or just a Druid; however, if you are interested in both of these paths, that it is perfectly reasonable to combined them together.

Druidcraft is an easy to read guide for those interested in this synthesis of spiritualities. Rather than being an Instruction Manual, it is part fiction, part non-fiction and part spiritual journey all blended together.

Each chapter begins with a Bard telling a story, just as the teachers in the old Bardic schools did. Some of these stories are old Celtic tales with their structures intact, and then with some of the tales, Car-gomm tells them in a new way. Car-gomm refrains from explaining the stories too much, stating that the power of each tale lies in their ability to sneak past the rational mind. Car-gomm takes the reader to a mythical school in the Otherworld named “Avronelle.”

Each tale is followed by a colloquy – which is a dialogue between a teacher and student. This was a common technique for learning among the Ancient Greeks and (theoretically) the Ancient Druids. After the colloquy is a practical section with a series of lessons that give suggestions on how to work with the presented ideas. Car-gomm makes it clear that these aren’t ideas set in stone, but a set of guidelines. The practical section is then shortly followed by the Historical Section.

Through this structure, Car-gomm explains the Druidcraft approach to magic, healing,  and seasonal celebration – as well as giving a brief history of Druidry and Witchcraft.


WITCHCRAFT AND DRUIDRY

HOW ARE THEY SIMILAR? HOW ARE THEY DIFFERENT?

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For those of you unfamiliar with the ways of Druidry and Witchcraft, they may seem like one in the same to you.

How are Druidry and Witchcraft Similar?

Both are Neo-Pagan paths that explore the Pre-Christian world of magic, the elements and nature spirituality. Both paths even follow an 8-fold, wheel of the year of holiday festivals that are connected with the rhythm of nature. Even more striking is the fact that the Neo-Pagan versions of these paths were founded around the same time – somewhere in the 1960’s. To clarify, I know that the revival of Druidry happened about 300 years ago during a period known as the “Druid Revival.” Yet much of the way that modern Druidry is practiced today has been shaped by the founding of OBOD by Ross Nichols in 1964 (and ADF arrived later in the 1980’s). Wicca, alternatively, is a religion based on witchcraft, was founded  by Gerald Gardner in 1954.

How are They Different? 

Phillip Car-Gomm summarizes the differences below.

“Wiccans were interested in magic and spells, while Druids were more interested in history, the old Celtic myths and a ‘spiritual’ rather than ‘magical’ approach to life (page 14).”

In my opinion, Wicca has a more standardized version of spirituality: there is definitely a God and Goddess, there is definitely karma (results of the magic and energy you put out into the world), there is a specific way of doing magic that involves specific tools, there is the “threefold law,” and the “do as you will as none are harmed” rule of ethics.

Druidry is much less regulated, with more of an emphasis on spiritual exploration and learning magic through a journey. Most of the Wiccan texts I’ve read have had a “1,2,3” approach to spell craft, while Druid texts end up telling an old tale that reveals the lesson. The specific worship of a God and Goddess is less emphasized in Druidry. ADF is a much more, clear-cut polytheistic Druid organization. OBOD on the other hand, leaves the decision on how to see the Gods up to the practitioner. For this reason, it is not unusual to bump into a Christian Druid who is involved with OBOD.

Yet Druidcraft is a path for those who would like to combined both aspects of Druidry and Witchcraft together. Phillip Car-Gomm has the following to say about this spiritual synthesis:

“Many Wiccans have become interested in the history of the Druids, in Celtic myths, and in Druid animal and tree lore. At the same time, many Druids have become interested in the more intuitive and magical approaches to life that are found in Wicca. If you talk to people who are interested in Wicca or Druidry you will find that most of them are drawn to these spiritual paths for the same reasons.   In the past, subjects and disciplines were kept within defined boundaries. Today, we understand the value of synthesis, synergy and interdisciplinary studies. This is the spirit in which this book is written – to contribute to the field, not to detract from the uniqueness of each approach.”

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