A Couple of Movies

“- Colonel Kane: Maybe we’re just fish out of water.

– Col. Richard Fell: What was that?

– Colonel Kane: I just think about sickness, cancer in children, earthquakes, war, painful death. Death, just death. If these things are just part of our natural environment why do we think of them as evil? Why do they horrify us so? Unless we were meant for someplace else.”

—-The Ninth Configuration

Dallas Arboretum

I had a very busy and stressful week at work and it kept going until late Friday. It left me enervated and exhausted. There are things that I need to do and things that I want to do but I wasn’t up for anything. To unwind and decompress I decided to sit my lazy ass down in the living room and watch a random movie or two from the Criterion Channel.

For no particular reason I picked a film from 1980 (though it felt very sixties-ish) the directorial debut by the author of the Exorcist, William Peter Blatty – The Ninth Configuration, starring Stacy Keach and a pile of character actors from the time.

My reading group is plowing through The Brothers Karamazov (and I am really enjoying it). As I’m sure you know, one of the themes of TBK is the question of the existence of God and, if he doesn’t exist, what is the basis for morality, if there is one. Very heavy stuff. It turns out that is the theme of The Ninth Configuration also – musings on God and Morality and Sin and Redemption. It’s the same themes, but instead of 19th century Czarist Russia the story is set in a castle in the Pacific Northwest that has been converted into an asylum for soldiers left insane by their experiences in the Vietnam War. Plus one patient – an astronaut that went raving crazy with fear on the verge of his flight to the moon.

It is a movie of its time – it doesn’t age all that well – but it is an interesting work of genius. It starts out silly and clunky – I was on the verge of giving up – but around the halfway point it veers off into new territory. There are revelations and surprises and a really crackerjack bar fight.

When it was over I made the mistake of clicking around the Criterion Channel menus and ended up watching a second film – the 1922 silent version of Nosferatu. I have, of course, seen the imagery from the movie – but had never sat through the film itself. It was fun to see the original vampire film. Count Orlof (Dracula, really, the names were changed due to the fact they never obtained rights to Bram Stoker’s story) is what a vampire would really be like – terrifying, yet strangely sad and pitiful. Vampires have become cool and sexy – that doesn’t make much sense to me. The undead should be shabby and wretched, like in Nosferatu, even if they are terrible and incredibly dangerous.

So it too, if dated, was fun to watch.

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – The New Gods by Bill Chance

“Gods die. And when they truly die they are unmourned and unremembered. Ideas are more difficult to kill than people, but they can be killed, in the end.”
Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Dallas Museum of Art
Dallas, Texas

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#87) Getting closer! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

The New Gods

Baruka had been a priest in The Religion since he was a teenager. He had been a high priest for two decades.

The Religion was thousands of years old. One of the tenets is that no one can ever speak the true name of The Religion, and Baruka has never heard it. Nobody alive for many generations had ever heard it. Nonbelievers made fun of The Religion for that, and many other reasons, but that never bothered Baruka. Every religion looks ridiculous when viewed from the outside.

There were forty eight thousand Gods, Deities, and Demi-Gods recorded in The Religion. The Volumes of Faith are the record of this holy menagerie. A large cadre of Priests exist solely to keep the Volumes of Faith up-to-date, researched, and answer questions about the various gods of The Religion. Copies are made, and old volumes are destroyed after new versions are created.

Baruka had seen the Volumes of Faith. They were arranged like an Encyclopedia, with an article about each God, Deity, or Demi-God. The text was written in elaborate, ancient scripts with detailed information about each, including rich illustrations. Every God, Deity, and Demi-God had an area of responsibility, personality quirks, powers, and weaknesses, all carefully recorded.

The problem is that there had been no updating of the holy menagerie for several centuries. Many, if not most, of the characters where no longer relevant

For example, Huroda, the Demi-God dedicated to the Buggy Whip is never called upon. Obviously, at one time, the terrible God Variola – the God of Smallpox, was feared, worshiped, and sacrificed to. Now, she is forgotten.

And there is no God of Vaccines. And the people believe there should be.

So a council was called at The Religion’s largest monastery. Invited were all the high priests, the entire group of priests from the Volumes of Faith, and a large organization of clerks, calligraphers, artists, and bookbinders ready to produce new volumes containing the new gods. The coterie was so large that the monastery overflowed and filled a local Motel 6 and a La Quinta Motor Inn.

The first order was to decide on formats. There was no doubt that the tradition of having the Volumes of Faith in physical, book form would continue. But Baruka was happy that the council decided to also publish the material digitally. There would be an online database and the work that they did would be available to all. There would be a sort of Wikipedia of Gods from The Religion – complete with scanned illustrations.

There was much excitement and brotherhood and everyone fell into working groups and began to brainstorm the new gods.

Baruka was in a large group dedicated to the gods of digital technology. They had even hired a gaggle of local skateboarders to sit in and ensure capture of all the most cutting-edge deities.

They started with the two key digital gods – Ides, the God of Zero and Yrdon, the God of One.

After that, the deities started falling into line:

Uasis, God of Programming

Aanh, God of Voltage

Xiean, God of Semiconductors

Biion, God of Bloatware

EtdisBars, God of Cellular Phone Reception

Iisyn, God of Flatscreens

Oses, God of Instant Messaging

Phoktis, God of Swiping Right

And so on.

Baruka remembered as a child how delighted and complete he would feel when he thought of the forty eight thousand gods and how they were all looking after them.

Now he knew this was truly the best of all possible worlds and a hundred thousand or more new gods were on their way to make sure everything was going to be all right.