The value of exploring religion in movies

The first thing I noticed when I was being raised in my Evangelical upbringing was how Hollywood always portrayed Christians as superstitious Catholics. This was used by some in my circle to prove the error of Catholicism by pointing out the “World” represented by Hollywood, only viewed Catholics as Christian thus proving Catholicism was born of the world, so to speak.

Recently I began watching The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. As a faithful Christian I have always struggled with TV shows and movies that glorify the occult. I have a strong ability to separate those things that are entertainment and those that are offensive with the intent to offend. I don’t enjoy politically biased documentaries for this reason. I prefer politically neutral documentaries that present the facts and allow the viewer to make up their own mind. For this reason when I see something like Sabrina I am torn. I enjoyed the original show tremendously and watched it regularly despite warnings from my ecclesiastically focused friends it was allegedly satanic. I dismissed many of their claims and went about watching the show.

This presents a problem for me. The new show is a whole lot more obvious in their devotion to “The Dark Lord” and makes claims that the Christian God is the “False God.” Even though it is a TV show, this does not sit well with me. Yet, I find myself going back and watching the show. Why?

This is where it gets complicated. I am not going to present this from a doctrinal or theological perspective, I will reserve that for the individual to make up their mind. Rather I am going to present what my view is on the role of religion within movies. I have come to accept the Hollywood portrayal of Catholics is as far from reality as their portrayal of Evangelicals. Thus I can conclude there is probably some similar exaggerations taking place in a show which features a clearly pagan religious perspective. For example, there are Wizards in Lord of the Rings. They are not pagan in the classical sense, meaning they don’t believe their power is sourced  by the pantheon of the gods. Rather, they believe their power comes directly from the energies of the universe. From the perspective of entertainment, that is the precepts contained in something like D&D or even Final Fantasy, there are distinctions between science, arcane magic and religious magic. There is tremendous overlap but from the context of the fantasy game set they are clearly distinct from one another.

This is where I stand on movies. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe I accept that the Asgardians are mortal beings in the material plane with access to and knowledge of manipulating the powers of the universe using what humans on Earth refer to as magic and thus they are worshiped as gods. They, the gods of Asgard, do not forbid or forsake the worship as gods they in fact welcome it despite knowing full well the reality is to the contrary. Still, I accept that within the context of the MCU the Asgardians are not gods, merely super heroes no different than the X-Men or Spider-Man. This is easy to accept.

From certain eschatological perspectives this is going to become a problem. I am not going to discuss those at this time. Rather I am going to preface this by saying I can accept that in the context of the MCU Thor is NOT a god, while in real-world Christianity he is akin to a false god, or even a demon depending on the Christian perspective.

This anything that is not Christian is pagan and anything that is pagan is satanic is often used to condemn basically anything a person could choose to do so.

Then why do I not give the same benefit of the doubt to Sabrina? For starters within the context of the show the Christian God is the villain. He is represented as a monster, a liar, and a false prophet. The Dark Lord, as they refer to him mostly, is glorified and in the context of the show, is the true god. This doesn’t sit well with me. But I can dig further.

In the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise the Christian mythology is evoked equally with heathen religion. There are multiple instances of the Christian God being supreme while the heathen gods having power, an example would be the cursed gold from the first film. The movies remain ambiguous on which power is at play. There is a balance but since the films are set in a parallel film universe based on but not set in our physical universe I can accept that.  Basically it comes down to reverence for the Christian God.

There are scores of horror movies that have evil represented by the devil, or some spiritual force that could be a stand in for the Devil. This is acceptable to me because we, as Christians, accept the Devil as evil. The forces of Good are combating the forces of evil thus any allegory to that structure is permissible. I liken it to referencing the Slasher films as morality tales. I don’t have an issue with that.

Why, then, do I draw the line with Sabrina? Or rather, should I?

It comes down to personal preference alone. I use this example. I can enjoy the Omen, the Exorcist and even The Shining as works of literature. No problem. I go a step further and often proclaim my favorite film of all time as the horror movie A Nightmare on Elm Street. This is clearly something I cannot shy away from. But even in those instances there is no reference to the origin or source of the powers, be them evil or good. This ambiguity allows me to place the art or literature into it’s own category, in my view a movie universe parallel to our own with similar, but slightly modified laws of physics. This is how I can accept a film with an extra-terrestrial Superman flying around powered by the solar rays that give cancer to ordinary inhabitants of our planet.

At first I was able to compartmentalize Sabrina and place it in the same box. In this universe thus is so. However something didn’t sit well with me. In this universe MY God was not being given the respect and devotion he deserves but rather being proclaimed a false god. I have seen horror movies that take this same approach but they present it as such, the divide between Protestantism and Catholicism, in other words they usually have a form of religion, a symbol of a church, but because it is the “false church” their proponents don’t have the power of God thus they are often portrayed as false. For example Dracula and other Vampire movies. They borrow heavily from European myths mingled with superstition and Christianity. There are often Christian symbols, holy water and the Cross or crucifix depending on the portrayal, being used to defeat the vampires, or forces of evil.

As I examine this I pull it back and let this be the deciding factor for me, not based on an intellectual argument or even a theological argument. I base it on what I am comfortable with personally.

As I watch Sabrina I hear them exhaling Satan and demonizing My Lord, I feel a twinge of disgust. It doesn’t sit well with me. I am not going to make the claim it *IS* Satanic and thus forbid or implore anyone to not watch it. Rather I am going to state why *I* have decided it is too much for me and invite others to either defend it, with in reason and not using personal attacks or logical fallacy, or I would ask that in this case my views be respected and I not be expected to defend my point other than it makes me uncomfortable to watch so I am recusing myself from it, for the time being.

This is not to say I will apply this analysis to other works of literature or artistic expression. After all, you have to draw the line somewhere of what is acceptable and what is not. For me, I can accept a movie about a pedophile being condemned to hell and sentenced to invade the dreams of the relatives of those who judged him using illegitimate means. The basis is on the fact that neither Mans law (Justice) nor God (Church law) judged him accordingly, thus despite him being evil in life, his death was unjust opening the door for the spiritual forces in the context of that franchise to provide a middle ground. He remains in hell tormented for all eternity, but he is permitted to get revenge upon those who were also unjust in slaying him. It’s acceptable to my perspective because it fits the real of what is to be expected. God demands, in the real of Christianity, to adhere to mans laws as placed in jurisdiction over us. The exception is when those laws prevent a person from expressing their obedience to God’s commands. Thus, it is my perspective, based on purely my own understanding, that disobeying God’s law does not justify disobeying mans law. In other words, the parents who murder Fred Krueger are as guilty of the sin of murder as the man they killed. Rather, if the courts, appointed by man respected by God, permitted him to trial and he was sentenced to death, he would not be justified in returning to this world, either in physical or metaphysical form, he would be firmly condemned to Hell.

This is how I can accept A Nightmare on Elm Street without a twinge of strong guilt but, currently, cannot do the same for The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Maybe upon further examination I will change my mind. At this point, and in the future, I will not ever condemn another for their choices. Watch the show if you find it acceptable, while I am going to currently refrain from such until further notice.

I didn’t want this to be entirely focused exclusively on Sabrina. After all there was a certain amount of nostalgia at play tugging me into the desire to see it. I also rather enjoyed the few episodes I did watch of it.

Happy New Year!

This is it, the end of 2018.

Some people are going to say it was a good year for them. Others will argue it wasn’t. It was certainly a roller coaster for me.

I am still planning on recording a proper, New Year’s Special Anniversary episode of The Dark Web Podcast. Think of this as my not preview of that but the stuff that isn’t likely to get deep discussion on the podcast.

I can’t confirm this because I haven’t dug deep yet but this could be the first year in video game history a new console or platform hasn’t launched. I did a closer look a year ago and I discovered, even if you restrict yourself to the United States, there was a new video game product or platform (new machine or way to play games) every single year since the first game consoles launched, those being the Pong and Odyssey system’s respectively.

I didn’t find any information on anything significant launching this year. Granted, in my previous analysis I did not count retro consoles that played only old games, so the Playstation Classic or other Plug and Play systems were not on my list. Surprisingly enough I still discovered a new, even often failed, console launched in some form every single year.

Even still, for me, the year was more about reconnecting with my retro roots than it was about discovering new games. Most of the year was spent trying to get back on my feet after a shake up in my personal life left me unemployed for nearly three months of the year.

I purchased a Sega Genesis earlier in the year and then by the end of the year I picked up a Nintendo Entertainment System. The best part of those two consoles was they were the two systems I owned as a kid. Technically we had a machine that played Atari 2600 games but since it wasn’t officially mine and it wasn’t an actual Atari branded product, I don’t count it as something I wish to explore. Maybe someday, as I expand my collecting but for now I want to focus on the systems I have an emotional connection with.

I started with the Sega Genesis because it had a profound impact on my upbringing. It was the first system my parents gave to me that was mine alone. I didn’t have to share it with my sisters at all. They were relegated to the NES. This didn’t stop me from inviting them to enjoy it nor did it stop me from going backwards to the Nintendo, it just meant this was a starting point for me. I can also say the Genesis, along with Sonic 2, played a role in my first exploratory encounter of a female partner. I won’t dig into the details but I will say it helped introduce me to new experiences in that regard.

Then there is Mortal Kombat. I talk a lot about the impact this game had on me as a teenager. Specifically as an angry teenager who was tired of being picked on at school I finally had an outlet for my aggression that wasn’t going to land me in detention, or worse. This game became my therapy for a good many years. I was fortunate my parents purchased me Mortal Kombat 1 and Mortal Kombat 2 on the same Christmas morning. Oh it was a great day for me.

Over the years my love for the Sega Genesis continued to grow. Unlike, say a Turbo Grafix 16 where a person would have to defend it entirely on the basis of nostalgia, the Genesis was a true contender to the crown. It didn’t have every exact game it’s competition did, but more often than not it had a comparable counterpart, and in many cases a superior alternative to boot. The system is quite easily a true equal to the Nintendo machine it fought against.

I went through the middle part of the year in a slump, so to speak. I left my job to pursue a new career. I migrated from Texas to California in the hopes of getting back into Television. I studied Broadcasting in college and got my start in the media business working for a TV station.

I ended up taking a detour to hell, known by locals as Jackpot, Nevada. I can’t quite wrap my head around how exactly it happened but in the end it was the motivation I needed to get my life back. I turned right around back to Texas and landed a better job than I left to pursue. It worked out in the end but it was a rough couple of months in the middle.

Once I got financially back on my feet I made a conscious decision to begin collecting NES games again. I made a payment plan with a local used video game store to get an NES and I picked it up the week of Christmas. It was perfect timing too. I got my first NES for Christmas in 1988. This was exactly 30 years later and it was such a sigh of relief being able to wash my depressing year away with a fondly remembered item from my childhood.

I didn’t get all the games I wanted but I got only good games with a meaningful attachment for me. Look for a separate YouTube video soon on the pickups and then an in depth article closely behind on what each game means to me.

The year was also a time for trying new ideas. I stated the year strong with a brand new podcast and a YouTube video series to go along with it. I started The Dark Web Podcast as a replacement for The Spiders Lair Podcast I killed only months prior. I also began doing a broadcast TV style news show called The Dark Web TV. It proved to be too cumbersome to produce a 30 minute broadcast and a 2 hour podcast each week so I had to kill the videos to keep the podcast alive.

Facing burn out I stopped doing YouTube videos entirely outside of a couple vlog’s here and there. I did a few pick ups throughout the year but nothing meaningful.

Things improved when I got motivated to start The Dark Web Daily Show, a daily radio style news broadcast once a day to supplement the weekly podcast and replace the lacking web videos. I finally killed that off once I went back to work full time at a daily newspaper. By late October I found a new format for videos to breath new life into the channel.

I am now doing those consistently with a format I can manage. I took a little break to spend some time with family over the holidays. I am now going into the new year refreshed and revived.

In a personal development I dated a girl for a couple of weeks before realizing it wasn’t working out for me. I had to restructure my church life too. As a result I began exploring denominations I had previously considered off limits. I won’t get into the details here but I had a calling awaken me to a new spiritual light. I am trying to go into 2019 with a renewed focus on my faith. That shouldn’t have any impact, negatively I hope, on the work I am doing here, on the podcast or over at the YouTube channel.

That is all for today. Check out the podcast by visiting http://www.thespiderslair.podbean.com and watch my Christmas movies video here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WqbYuBra8k

Subscribe to the channel for more Christmas and New Year’s videos coming soon!

Why HOUSE music is NOT TECHNO music

The birth of Techno music is often attributed to an isolated DJ in the slums of Detroit while it’s counter-part, “house music” is attributed to an isolated DJ in the clubs of Chicago. Both alleged movements describe their music as the definitive origin of modern Electronic Dance Music. These distinctions are often very divisive among aficionados of electronic music. However to divorce both techno and house from the origins of Hip-Hop is doing a disservice to the pioneers of the techniques that would evolve into the diverse strands of EDM music techno-nerds constantly fighter with each other over on the interwebs to this day.

This is an analysis of the evolution of the terms as they relate to the styles of music we have today. This is all from the perspective of a lonely DJ whose understanding comes from the studying of the roots of the movements, independent of any agenda, or even more importantly, ties to a movement.

The claims go as such. Someone in Detroit was mixing disco records with electro records and developed this into the musical style techno-nerds will call “techno” music. The so-called attributes of the music are singled out as they are defined solely by how closely they resemble the benefactor with no regard to the reality of the techniques being developed for nearly a decade previously by DJ’s in the Bronx, Southern L.A. as with elsewhere. The so-called purists make every attempt to white-wash Techno music by making the claims it strictly evolved out of the ashes of the discothèques from the late 70’s who’s audience had moved on.

The addendum to this alternate reality account of the rise of the dance music disregard the techno moniker entirely, going out of their way to stringently insist it only applies to a very narrow, very precise set of rules determined arbitrarily by the followers of a cult-like DJ who they credit with creating, what they refer to as ‘house’ music, which bears a striking resemblance to the music the uninitiated refer to as ‘techno’, which they deem either unworthy or inferior to their beloved house term. Both sides equally ignore the development of the music Hip-Hop DJ’s were doing elsewhere, while simultaneously accrediting, incorrectly, developments to DJ’s who severe ties with the urban roots of Hip-Hop. This is not to say the author himself believes white washing is inherently a sin. However, in the context of the evolution of electronic music, it is a disservice to blatantly neglect the work of the ghetto disc jockeys and their obnoxious rhyming emcees who popularized the music being created by mixing records on turntables. This, in fact, requires a serious bending over backwards on the logic of those holding to the false narrative.

Thus it is now THE RAT, who shall bear witness the truth of the birth of electronic music, henceforth correctly identified as Techno for all purposes. Partially based on the erroneous neglecting of the connection to Hip-Hop music the cult followers of the Detroit/Chicago narrative stubbornly adhere to. Also partially birthed in the fact that words actually matter but only in that they are defined. Consider this. Rock N Roll music is the bas moniker for Hard Rock, Punk Rock, Heavy Metal and Speed Metal. Yet, none in the rock community disregard the black roots of their music. The undeniable reality is Rhythm And Blues, born out of the same ghettos that would give rise to rock n roll, bears little sonic resemblance to modern rock n roll to the uninitiated. Still, those who can rightly follow the path from blues to rock to metal ought to also be able to follow the same path from R&B, to funk/disco to Hip-Hop/Techno. It’s not exactly rocket science. Of course ignore the obvious auditory similarities still requires one to disregard the science of linear time. That is, Chicago House and Detroit Techno could not exist in a vacuum with no ties to the developments of electronic music taking place in the Hip-Hop community. Rather it allows certain individuals to disconnect their beloved ‘European-based’ music from the taint of American urbanism. That is to say, a narrative that proclaims techno or even house, began in the white suburbs of the Midwest completely ignores the existence of the disc jockeys mixing disco and funk records into what would become colloquially as rap music.

Disco music itself was a white-washing of the funk music being produced. There are two different paths which interconnect, dissect and reconvene throughout. The short version is this. Funk was stripped of its hook and verse, reduced to the simple break, then mixed with another break, layered upon with scratches, 808 drum beats and other elements to become Hip-Hop music, one of the four elements of the Hip-hop culture.

Disco music began winding down in the cities as rock n  roll was making a resurgence. Clubs and radio waves were cluttered with New Wave bands and imitators who were mixing pop, rock and electronic music to form the basis of the synth pop that dominated the decade. Eventually disco was also stripped in a similar fashion and also layered as funk was being turned into Hip-Hop, disco underwent the same process becoming what those who are not afraid of the cult followers simply call techno. Techno music became an offensive term as it was entered into the lexicon and became short-hand for all electronic produced music. Thus in retaliation the cult followers began impressing upon society an effort to restrict the usage of the term until such time as nothing left could be classified as “techno”, they were so offended by the utterance of the word they not only cringe upon hearing it they shift into belligerent attack mode in an effort to contort history to belittle the pour soul who elected to mistakenly use the word they fear so much. Thus the re-writing of history ensues in an on-going barrage of misinformation used to scare people into accidentally using the wrong term. Coupled with a culture born from being as Politically Correct as humanly possible and this fear of words limits their ability to express themselves without accidentally offending those who adhere to the cult.

This is the truth. Electronic music created using the same methods as Hip-Hop, be it old school turntables with mixers and the like, or combined with synthesizers or even created using loops, if it is in fact electronic and is produced in the same manner at all, as in NOT by playing of actual instruments to create new, original compositions, it is in fact Techno. House music does not exist in the mind of this technophile. It is a make believe term retroactively applied, falsely to a genre of music whose very existence has been under attack by the cult of a single DJ from Chicago.

All of this can be proven by listening to a handful of Hip-Hop acts Break Dancers cling to, mostly who fall under the banner of Electronic Funk (a cousin of Hip-Hop) which is what the cult of house followers will point to, falsely, as what they call ‘Techno’. If one listens to Soul Sonic Force “Planet Rock” and calls that ‘techno’ then listens to TECHNOtronic and calls that house, dismiss their unsound logic and believe the truth, Techno is what they cult of house refuse to utter for some weird hang up. Techno Syndrome is not even correctly label a “techno” song on wikipedia because the cult of house are hard at work scrubbing all references to the word, even when used itself by those making the music. They adhere to a false doctrine perpetuated by a lie to hold up their weird, twisted belief that some disco DJ sitting in Chicago was somehow insightful enough to create his own style of music with absolutely NO prior knowledge of what was already being done elsewhere in the country at a time when radios and MTV were prevalent. Let the haters bring their wrath upon the one delivering the truth. Stay cool friend.

–THE RAT

Billy chokes on a peanut- A Short Story

It was sometime in the early 1990’s. The Phrogs were on their family vacation. Billy was the oldest of the cousins. He was one of those scrawny kids who was always getting into trouble.

Billy Phrog was walking around the campsite chasing lightning bugs when he tripped on a stick on the road.

“Damn it!” he shouted.

He scrapped his knee on the way down. He picked up the stick and noticed there was something strange about it. It was in the shape of a cane. He figured it was a wizard staff so he began pretending it as such. His imagination used to run wild.

He quickly lost interest in the lightning bugs as he ran around waving his ‘wizard staff’ and everything and everybody.

“Would you stop that, Billy, you look like a jack-ass.” his dad hollered.

“I zap the evil from within you! Magic Spell do your…”thud.

It was momma. She smacked Billy in the back of the head.

“You mind your dad you hear me.” she said.

Billy was shaken but not deterred. He tossed the stick down onto the ground. He sat down in the grass, leaned up against a tree and began humming to himself.

Later that night it was getting cold. Dad had let the fire burn. Billy was wrapped up in his sleeping bag trying his darnedest to stay warm. He wasn’t having any luck.

Billy Phrogg got out of his tent and began pacing the campsite. He was trying real hard not to make any noise for fear of waking one of the adults.

He walked over to the lake. There he sat down at the very edge of the dock. He dipped his toes into the water, looked up at the moon and began day-dreaming once again.

“Some day, I’m going to live in a big mansion at the top of a tall mountain and everybody is going to take me seriously then.” he muttered to himself.

There was a splash in the water. It was a fish leaping to get one of the lightning bugs. Billy remembered back to earlier in the weekend when his sister Brandy was trying to fill a jar with those magical little critters.

A few minutes go by. Billy quickly realizes he wasn’t exactly getting away from the cold by dipping is feet into the cold water. He had forgotten how he had gotten out of bed because of the cold in the first place.

“I wish I had my wizard cane. Then I could summon some warmer weather.” he said.

Billy began walking back towards the campsite. He heard a dog howling off in the distance. He decided he wasn’t ready to go back to bed just yet. He slowly began circling the campsite looking for his cane he dropped earlier. He heard a crackling. He looked up. It was his dad. Standing there with a flashlight in one hand and a belt in the other. Billy new what was about to happen next.

“What in blazes are you doing out of bed, boy!” his dad exclaimed.

“It was too cold.” he said with a quiver of fear in his voice.

“How’s about I warm up your back side with this here belt. That might take care of the cold now won’t it.” he said. Billy took the swatting on the bottom and crawled back into his tent.

The next day Billy was sitting on a tree stump eating breakfast. It was cold eggs and toast. Mom always cooked the eggs and toast before she woke the kids up. Dad had to have his hot, the rest could eat cold food.

Brandy walked up to Billy and asked if he wanted to go play by the beach. He nodded in excitement.

He knew the grown ups were going fishing. He always hated going fishing so he would rather explore the beach with his little sister anyways.

“What you so sad for? she asked.

“Nothing.” he whispered, with his head looking down at the ground as he walked, kicking the dust along the way.

“Are you sure? I’m your best friend you can tell me.” she said.

“I said it’s nothing can you forget it?” he snapped.

“Geesh, don’t bite my head off will ya, I was just trying to be nice.” she said

“Hey, I, um I am sorry Brandy. Dad woke up last night and whooped me for being out of bed. I was kinda dwelling on it that’s all. I didn’t mean to snap at ya.” he said.

Later that day the kids were digging in the sand when Billy came across a bag of peanuts buried on the sand.

“Hey lookie here, still a few fresh nuts in this bag you want to share, Brandy, Sally?” he asked?

“Ew, gross put that thing in the trash you sicko.” Sally snapped.

Brandy’s only response was to shake her head with a look of disgust on her face.

Billy sniffed the bag.

“Smells okay to me. Suit yourself more for me.” he said as he swallowed a mouthful whole.

Suddenly Billy began chocking on one of the nuts. Brandy started crying, rubbing her brothers back while Sally darted back to the camp site looking for a grown up.

She ran into aunt Tammy.

“Aunty, come quick Billy’s chocking!” she exclaimed.

The woman ran to the spot where her nephew lay gasping for air.

Billy was holding onto his throat when he saw his aunt leaning over him. Then he blacked out.

Billy woke up in a hospital bed. He noticed his dad was sitting on the little chair next to the bed. He looked sad. Billy smiled seeing his dad there crying for his sake.

“Hey dad, look I’m okay. How you doing” he asked.

His dad didn’t even look up. He laid his head in his hands sobbing. Billy looked over and saw his sister was also crying on the floor. His gaze kept turning towards his right hand. There by his bedside was his mother holding his hand. He couldn’t feel her hand upon his. Nobody was responding to to his pleas. Fear was beginning to sink in.

Then he noticed something. The doctor came in and tapped mother on the shoulder. He could hear the doctor telling his parents Billy wasn’t in a coma anymore. He was completely brain dead and they were going to have to take him off life support. He was in shock. How could they not see him laying there, alive, awake in the hospital bed.

He followed his parents out of the hospital as the doctors covered his body up. He walked beside his mom to his own funeral where he watched his family members all sobbing over his being gone.

“Hey, what the hell are you doing out here.” a voice called.

Billy turned around and it was his dad. He looked up from the water. Fear in his eyes.

“Dad, it was cold so I walked down to the lake. Please don’t be mad at me.” he pleaded.

“It’s okay son. I was just worried about you. It’s late you know. This lake is dangerous for a young boy at night.” his dad said.

Billy sat there with his dad thinking back to the day dream he just had of dying.

“Dad, can you sit here with me for a bit before we go back to bed? he asked.

“Sure thing son.” he said.

The two watched the fish jumping up to snag them some lightning bugs. Looking back on his life Billy regarded that camping trip as one of his best memories in life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Doll in the Kitchen: A short story

The rotting flesh dangled from her arm, bone exposed, blood squirting. There was a searing pain tearing through her as picked herself up off the ground. As her vision began to return the world around her to her senses she realized the terrible truth. She was not injured, she was dying.

As Natalie got to her feet it became clear. She had lost too much blood. She couldn’t quite stand. She was able to pull herself to the side of the road. She lay there against the curb squinting as the sunlight scorched her eyes. There wasn’t much time left, she knew that much was true. Instead of worrying about what was coming next she tried to focus on the positive things in her life. The pain was too much to allow her to even shed a tear for her last moments on this earth. She knew her time was up even though her life didn’t flash before her eyes.

It wasn’t long till the bleeding would cost her the remaining senses she hadn’t lost yet. She could see but her vision was blurry. She had no hearing at the moment though. Just a ringing in her ears. If these are going to be my final moments in life, I want to try to remember the things that brought me joy, she thought to herself. It wasn’t like she had much of a choice. After all she was looking right at the severed head of her mother while she lay on the side of the road. Despite being clearly dead, she still felt the warmth of her mothers gaze looking upon her. She knew she would be joining her mother in the afterlife quite soon so it was oddly comforting, her mothers detached head titled in a way that made it look like she was providing comfort for her daughter.

Another thought entered Natalie’s mind. This was certainly not how she planned spending her 10th birthday. Seeing her dead mother under the car, her arm torn in two, blood all over the place, no hearing, no sense of smell and blurred vision, Natalie knew she was about to face her creator. She wasn’t thinking about her dead mom or her short life being cut down. All she was thinking was how her best friend would have to attend her funeral instead of her slumber party. Now she could finally feel a tear slither down her cheek. It would be the last tear she would ever cry.

Daniel was sitting on the porch clutching his baby girl’s favorite doll. He was blinking back the tears as he remember the moment he first held his little girl in his arms.

“It’s not right baby Natalie. It should have been me.” he cried to no one in particular.

Daniel wasn’t ready for this. The car accident decapitated his wife, threw his ten-year-old daughter from the car with a broken neck, arm and spine. He wasn’t so much sad for her passing, he felt sick thinking about her suffering.

“Dad, it’s time.” said Billy, his older child. He reached out his hand to grab his son. The two walked to the car. As they drove to the chapel, Daniel kept holding that doll even tighter.

“Mom can we stop and get something to drink?” Natalie asked. She had been sitting in the car all day. Her mother had been running her around town getting her hair and nails done, buying balloons and party favors. Veronica was doing everything she could to ensure her little girl had the best 10th birthday party ever.

“Sure sweetie, we can get something to drink at the station when I stop to get gas.” she assured her child.

Natalie was fiddling with her new earrings. She was so excited. Her only concern was if her dad would like them too. He threw a fit over her getting her ears pierced. She finally got her mom to win that fight for her, she just hoped he would like them. She picked out dolphins for her earrings. Her dad worked in the zoo and even though he never got to see the ocean, he loved dolphins.

Victoria heard one of her favorite songs come on the radio so she reached over to turn it up.

“Hey baby, this is one of my favorite songs, wanna sing alon…

…she didn’t get to finish her sentence. The trailer of the semi truck her car slammed into tore her head clean off. Natalie reached for her mother to try to save her when her arm was sliced in two and she was thrown from the vehicle.

There was a dog in the middle of the road running down the street. It had a leash behind it but no owner. The young woman walking the dog had been flattened by the truck. Natalie was tossed to the side of the road.

Her mother’s head rolled under neath the car while her body remained inside the car, now on fire. Natalie was instantly sad to see her dead mother, yet somehow she was relieved her mom wasn’t burning up inside the vehicle.

“She only took her eyes of the road for a split second,” the preacher was recalling the final moments of the two lives lost in the terrible tragedy.

“The mother was killed instantly. We thank God for that as her body was stuck in the car burning up for nearly 30 minutes as crews cleaned up the wreckage. The poor little Natalie, we know she suffered for quite a bit. Her suffering is over now as she enters the arms of her Lord Jesus.”

Daniel was trying to find comfort in the preachers words. Nothing was going to work. Not now. Not today.

Later that day Daniel was sitting in the kitchen holding that doll. He just finished doing the dishes. His mother always told him to keep busy following a family tragedy. She used to say “Idol hands are the devil’s playthings.”

“Daddy, why are you so sad?” he heard his daughter’s voice coming from the other room. He dropped the teddy bear and quickly turned to see his son standing there.

“Dad are you okay, you look like you could use a nap.” Daniel was looking around frantically for the source of that voice.

“Where is she? Where is Natalie/ I heard her voice just now she was right here talking to me, wha, WHERE IS SHE!” He was yelling into his son’s face, grabbing his collar.

“Dad, I, what are you talking about? We buried her this morning.” Billy said with a look of fright on his face.

“I heard her son. She was right here. Didn’t you hear her? Didn’t you see her? She was”, tears swelling in his eyes, “she was right here.” Daniel finally fell to his knees and let the tears out.

Laying on the side of the road Natalie noticed the dog. She couldn’t turn her head to see where the owner was. She just thought to herself, I hope they’re both okay.

Natalie was trying to look into her mind to find a happy memory. As she closed her eyes she formed an image in her mind, that of her father sitting at the kitchen table, looking so sad. He was holding her favorite doll.

She whispered to her father, “Daddy, why are you so sad?” Then she slipped into heaven.

Political discussion now fair game on Dark Web podcast

I tried to keep politics out of the podcast. Not because I can’t defend my point of view, because I certainly can. Not because as a journalist I felt the need to keep my political views to my self. To be fair journalists can have political opinions, we’re just supposed to be unbiased in our reporting.

This week something took place that twisted my arm. The last several episodes I have been making it a point to discuss the new Roseanne reboot, or Roseanne Season 10 as it has been called. Then out of the blue the show was cancelled. The reason for the cancellation was because of a personal Tweet that was labeled as racist.

I tried not to get into the political side of it and then, I broke into another political tirade as a result. This wasn’t the first time I broke my rule because of something relating to Twitter. And so I went full in. I revealed many of my personal political views. During my angry rant I realized there just isn’t any way to do a show like this without getting into politics at some point.

By the end of the episode I settled into a rant about the origins of native English words currently considered to be vulgar by modern standards.

As a matter of reality I knew this was going to take place sooner rather than later. I mean, as someone who studied political science in college and has spent the last 3 years working in the news media, it was inevitable my show would deteriorate into political ranting. All I can say is if there really was some grand conspiracy to silence conservative voices, how the hell is Rush Limbaugh still on the air?

Interview with Congressman Beto O’Rourke (Aug. 13, 2017)

Rep. O’Rourke draws large crowd in Sherman

By Richard A. Todd

Beto 1-Photo by Richard A. Todd

GRAYSON COUNTY DEMOCRATS HOST TOWN HALL MEETING– U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) was invited to speak in a town hall meeting at the Grayson County Courthouse in Sherman on Sunday, Aug. 13. 2017. Organizers included, in no particular order: Lander Bethel, Dan Pucul, Genna Mitchell Bethel, Roger Sanders, Andra Petrean, Mark Ewig, Beto O’Rourke (center back blue shirt), Barb Rush, Glenn Melancon, Christina Johnstone, Glen Johnstone, Rajendra Wagle, Terry Templeton, Dinesh Wagle and Marion Morgan. O’Rourke is running against Sen. Ted Cruz (R) for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

A Town Hall meeting that took place on Sunday, Aug. 13 at the Grayson County Court house drew a crowd of over 300 people. The focus of the town hall, U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke, (D-El Paso), speaking to potential voters in Grayson County. O’Rourke brought out the big guns and used strong words to take on his political opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz, (R- Houston), currently sitting Senator from

Texas. In a heated story about immigrants from South America that flooded into Texas during the previous administration O’Rourke fired up his base by directing harsh words towards the current administration. “Who would have thought that in 2017 we’d be having to hold marches for civil rights?” he asked to a fired-up crowd.

 

Beto 2

-Photo by Richard A. Todd

FULL HOUSE– Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) spoke to a crowd of over 300 attentive listeners at a  town hall meeting on Aug. 13, 2017 at the Grayson County Courthouse. Rep. O’Rourke is running against Sen. Ted Cruz (R) for a seat in the U.S. Senate in next year’s mid-term election

“We can’t wait until 2020. We need to start to unravel the policies this president has started now.” – Rep. Beto O’Rourke

Gordonville residents Clyde and Barbara Reynolds were in attendance.

“We came to hear what he had to say,” said Barbara. “We heard enough. This man is getting my vote.” she said.

O’Rourke has an uphill battle if he wants to persuade Grayson County voters. In the previous two elections Grayson County voted nearly 75 percent for the Republican candidate. In 2012 when they elected Sen. Cruz, and again in 2016 when they contributed to sending Donald Trump to the White House.

“I’m not looking just to voters who supported the president. I have had people come up to me who said they voted for Trump who are supporting me.” he said.

He took a hard stance on a few key issues. When asked about a woman’s right to choose,

“That’s non-negotiable for me. A woman has a right to make her own decisions about what she does with her body.” he said to cheers.

Other hot button issues were education, healthcare and immigration. He went so far as to say he favored universal healthcare and that it was the next step. On education he wants to do away with and replace the No Child Left Behind Act. When faced with a question he didn’t have a response for, he was quick to suggest he would better serve the voters by doing further research.

At one point he took down the name and information of a young man who asked a question about animal rights the congressman didn’t have a definitive answer for.

“I will have to do more research and get back to you, but I want to make sure I get it right.” he said.

He told stories of children, some Hispanic, others Muslim, who asked him “why doesn’t the president like me” referring to Trump. When asked if police should be allowed to arrest people who attend protests in military garb his response was a firm defense of all Americans’ first amendment rights. He did not condone the use of violence and called the incidents that took place in Charlottesville over the weekend acts of terrorism.

“We need to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem” he repeatedly said during the event. He added, “We need to move forward, not backwards.”

He told stories how people need to live in communities with downtown districts where people come face to face instead of living in gated communities.

“We need to invest in down town projects” he said.

“These [gated communities] separate us versus them. Communities are part of how we became so divisive in the first place.” he said.

He also proclaimed he wants to invest more in alternative energy, suggesting he sees the fight against the oil and natural gas industry as being similar to the whaling industry, a fight he claimed his side won.

He also said he favors term limits going so far as to indicate he would serve his two terms then step aside. It was not clear if he was counting his time in the House of Representatives as a part of that claim. The event was organized by members of the Grayson County Democratic Party. There were people in attendance from Grayson, Fannin, Cooke, Collin and Denton counties, and at least two who indicated they were from Rockwall.

O’Rourke announced his candidacy to unseat Sen. Cruz in March of this year. He will continue his tour of the state until the end of the month when he will return to his home district of El Paso, a city he referenced many times throughout the day.

Editors note: This story originally ran in the Aug. 18, 2017 issue of the Whitesboro News-Record. It is recreated here for posterity sake.

Richard A. Todd is a journalist, photographer and podcast host. He is currently writing stories freelance for local newspapers in the Magic Valley of Southern Idaho and Elko County, Nevada.

New theme live, new features on the way

First, I updated the theme. That was long over due. I am not entirely done customizing it to fit the tone and mood of the website, so be prepared for more changes soon.

I also added a couple of social media buttons. As of right now all I have set up is a Facebook page and a Twitter account. I don’t know if I will be setting up any other social media accounts for the site or not. I might add a few additional share buttons but I haven’t gotten around to that just yet.

The Youtube channel is getting closer to launching. I don’t have any firm plans on what video content is going to be on the channel, just throwing around a few ideas. I want to make sure if I do any video content that it’s worth watching while also easy enough to produce so to not interfere with my other projects. I do have a full-time job that takes up a lot of my time.

I am thinking about doing two podcasts instead of just the one. The primary podcast is going to continue being the casual podcast where I sit and play a video game and leisurely talk into the microphone each week. I am working on getting a second podcast together that will shoot for a once a month schedule. This one will be more “polished” with a few guests and a video feed to accompany the audio. This one is going to take me a little longer to get up and running. I have an idea what I want to do, I am just working on getting a few regular guests that are willing to sit in and make it happen. I have at least a couple of people willing to do it and a few others I am trying to get on board.

I am also branching out in the types of articles I write. I don’t want to be a theme blog where the theme determines what I write about, I want it to reach an audience who appreciates the tone of my writing and the topics I write about. I don’t want to have a site dedicated to a specific theme, topic, or genre that forces my hand while limiting my creativity. And yes, that does mean politics are certainly not off limits.

Notice how the site is, mostly, devoid of photos? Part of that is I have no interest in stealing photos from other websites or photographers. I might occasionally download a public domain photo or something that is easily under the fair use category, but for the most part I want to ensure any photos I run on this site belong to me, either photos I took with my own camera, created myself using a photo editing software, or photos a contributor directly provides to the site.

Music reviews and movie reviews are coming. I want to do this, I have a lot of thoughts on a lot of different audio recordings that I think I need to get written down. Movie reviews are a little harder to get motivated to write. I don’t want to do anything that is going to bring any copyright notices against the site. As such I am working on finding out how to get licensed clips directly from studios for the purpose of reviews. I know you can do this, when I worked at the TV station we were able to do that so I know there are services out there. I remember a previous website I ran I had a paid subscription to a file video service so I know they are out there. I will look into what I need. I hate it when people just use other people’s IP without permission and then cry fair use when their ability to make money off other people’s works gets prohibited. It’s always better to just get permission first and then you have nothing to worry about.

That is the latest site update. Be sure to check back often and tell all your friends to share this website, follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.