Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Some Ramblings on Evil, Halloween Movies, the "Great Physician," and "This Political Climate"

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[This movie poster is misleading, because there's far more naked ugly ladies and goats and other early Colonial goosebumps and (fun fact!) the dialogue comes from actual transcripts of witch hunts!]
One of the most spiritually meaningful R-sie movies about Colonial America I ever saw was The Witch, or as I like to call it The VVitch. All kinds of spoilers here that don't matter to the enjoyment of the film, but the general plot is that a family, exiled from the settlement, because of their father's heterodox ideas, finds themselves on the edge of a dark forest. A literal witch literally steals and literally eats their baby, which is bad news all the time, but this dumb family blames their teenage daughter, who does regular teenagery things like tries to scare her annoying siblings. But everything she's done becomes interpreted as witchcraft and one-by-one everyone in her family begins to turn against her.  But the main thing is that everyone --total spoiler--dies horrible deaths and the teenage daughter, alone in the woods, with nowhere to turn uncertain whether there are witches says aloud that she wants to sign in with the devil and join the witches. Which she does. (Or "Witch she does"?)

The striking thing for me is that this stupid family is right; there are witches. It's just the witch is in the woods and not in the home. Let that sentence sink in a little: the witch is in the woods and not in the home.

There is a lot of awful and a lot of evil in this world, but it comes from Lucifer, "our common enemy," and not from each other, per se. It's not popular to talk about Satan and there's shaky doctrinal bedrocks on the topic, but here's my own take on it, informed, at least, by Mormonism. When you watch movies like The Possession of Emily Rose  ("Possession is 9/10ths of the law!"), you think of evil spirits possessing people as contortionists who love speaking backwards in Latin and freaking out people in remote areas. But if you saw a possession like that, it would be pretty hard to deny that something supernatural was happening and then it's a natural progression to believe in supernatural good (e.g. God). More likely, evil spirits lead people to thinking, "I'm smarter than she is," "That's none of my business," and "There's nothing wrong with what I'm doing." They are not insignificant thoughts. These kinds of thoughts, building on each other, lead to everything from great acts of depravity to everyday snotty brattitude.

But think about how dramatic these possession movies are. What if you lived a life of such kindness and generosity that a snide comment or a selfish act would be as unusual as walking up the side of the walls backwards on your hands and knees? What if you assumed that when someone did something snotty, it wasn't because they naturally were a snot, but because there was some circumstance or influence making them act like a snot? Would you be as eager as a scare-night exorcist to help them and heal them?

Christ fashioned himself as the "Great Physician," but many people in politics, religion and culture are looking to be executioners, cutting others off forever. Executioners do their job behind a mask, never closer than an axe's length, while a physician stands close, even TMI-close, to the body of the sick. That was the great downfall of the family in The VVitch--once they let themselves think that no one else could be a witch beside their daughter, their daughter had to be the witch. They cut her off. And while attempted filicide aside, this young woman finds no other choice than to become what she has been made into. There's a classic stalker-management book called The Gift of Fear that describes how to deal with a spoken threat after someone loses their job. Instead of calling security and having them publicly dragged out by armed men, you sigh and say, "I know you only said that because you're upset right now; you're too good of a person for that." (They also recommend firing people on Friday afternoons, so they have an entire "normal" weekend to process their feelings instead of stewing at home alone--pro tip!) The idea being that when you make someone the Bad Guy, you escalate the situation and make it difficult for them to back down. In fact, it may increase the stakes for them--they already have a blot against them, so why not go whole hog? When you're a physician, you anticipate someone getting well again; when you're an executioner, you're only waiting for them to stop twitching so you can go home.

And the ironic thing is that I think this family could have taken the witches if they hadn't been fighting each other. They never thought to look for the witch outside their family and instantly forgot all the good their daughter had done before this witch hunt began. I like to imagine an alternative ending where the family says "Hell, no" (pun intended), gather their pitchforks, and drive out that witch. Probably wouldn't have been as good a movie, but it's what we need right now. There's enough sorrow, suffering, pain and sickness out there that we need everyone. We can't afford to look for witches in the walls of our homes.

Friday, July 28, 2017

DIY animal bookends

Okay, so here I give back to the Internet, but this is more of an apology to Krystian because this took longer than I meant it to be. I thought I'd do this with my 10-year-old niece when she was visiting, but it took a lot longer than I thought.

It started simply enough with three dollar store toys--two deer and a polar bear. The polar bear split nicely in two with a little effort and a pair of scissors.


Once the bears were split, that's when things got hard mostly because my first kind of spray paint never seemed to dry in the Houston humidity. So maybe not the primer and paint in one for this. Then, after much shame, I just got the regular kind, which worked great. Or maybe it's just better drying outside than in the garage.

Anyway, about a month of neglect later, I spray-painted the things, but it was okay because in that time our neighbors had replaced their fence! This means SCRAP WOOD! Just what I had been looking for. I also would have taken river rocks, but this is Houston, I didn't want to steal from anyone's landscape.

I cut up some fence-post ends and 2x4s with my reciprocating saw and stained them with one of those awesome stain wipes I was telling you about. Then, when they were dry, I glued my animals on.

The deer looks very handsome, but also a little like a trophy. I wonder if I should put a plaque on it.

If you're worried about the wood being heavy enough, you could always drill a hole in the bottom and weigh it down with marbles, Pinewood Derby style. Or you could just glue some washers on the back. Personally, though, I find the pine is heavy enough as is.

The bear had to be glued in two places--the bottom and the side, and the 2x4s also had to be glued in an L-shape bookend. I quite like this one, though.

Krystian says it looks like a wiener dog bear.

DIY wood poster hangers

I've been doing a lot of DIY lately because
  1. Summer
  2. I now own a house
  3. I am cheap
Because of this, I spend a lot of time Googling and Pinterest-searching DIY projects that I think ought to exist. Usually they do. Sometimes they don't. When they don't I have to do my darnest to make it up.

Now, while I'm waiting for some wood glue to dry, I've decided it's time to give back to the Internet. I don't think anyone is going to find these, but they might.

So first project came because I found some awesome vintage style posters, but then when I looked up poster hangers, you get something like this. Look, you don't have to follow the link, I'll tell you:

Includes: • Two 29" half round oak dowels • Pre-attached cord and nail for hanging • Easy-peel adhesive for mounting your favorite Cavallini wrap • Mounting instructions

And it's $15. Plus $7 shipping. F-H-no! They are charging you $15 for DOWELS!
quarter-inch molding

So I went to Home Depot. Or Lowe's. Something like that. I got these sweet quarter round moldings for a couple bucks. Then I measured out my posters, added an inch for overlap and cut them and stained them. Because I was going with more of a "gentleman naturalist" vibe than "seventh-grade bio class," I used a mahogany stain. 
Staining the wood
Specifically, I used this kind of finish, which rocks my socks off--stain in a WIPE. They include gloves, which I used, but you can also just stick your hands in a grocery bag, if you're going to be doing this not all in one day. When you finish, turn the back inside out--viola! 

Be careful to glue evenly as possible

Then, instead of easy-peel adhesive, I just used glue. Wood glue because I love it, but I think you could use a good dose of Elmer's to the same effect. I did most with the second flat side AWAY from the main picture (so flat side top on the top and bottom on the bottom) to give it a smoother look, and to insert the hooks later like this:

Flat side down on the bottom

 But for the map, I wanted to be able to keep a pencil there. Lets guests mark where they're from that way:
Flat side up on the bottom

 On the top, I put in screw eyes on the top flat side and tied on twine. For a step more steampunk, you could use copper wire.

 For a more rustic look, I skipped the screws, and just tied the twine to each end.

 And here's the ones with the screw eyes:

So there you have it. Three portrait and 2 landscape posters hung (and enough extra hangers for 2 more posters, when I find more I like). Whole project cost me around $24, including extra screw eyes and LOTS of extra stain, which you will see in all of the next projects.