Why does Chaos reside in the spiders lair?

The tagline for my website, blog posts, podcast and videos is always Welcome to The Spiders Lair, Where Chaos Resides. I have spent a lot of time ensuring the branding and message is uniform across all platforms. I do this to ensure consistency, it’s the first rule of design they teach you in college. The capital C in CRAP. When I was in college my teacher told me she was going to teach us CRAP I was intrigued. I was drawn to the idea of using a catchy acronym that relied on irony to get the point across.

I chose to make the theme of my website chaos for a number of reasons. The most important reasons I see my work as a reflection of the chaos we experience as humans in this universe we try to make sense out of. I mostly use the lens of pop culture and geek culture to filter out the chafe and get to the heart of the human experience. Thus I like the idea of a site branded around chaos. It gives me the freedom to pick and choose the topics as I see fit. I don’t have to shoe horn my thoughts into a theme like movies, video games or what have you. I can keep the topics fairly open ended. I enjoy that. I decided on naming my website The Spiders Lair, no punctuation, because I want to demonstrate I am appealing to basement dwellers and rebels. The rebellion against punctuation is not so much a concerted effort, it’s laziness on my part but that can be a side effect of rebelling. I am a loner. That is not a word I band about lightly. I literally live lone and spend my life alone. I rarely get out and socialize. Yet I do not feel alone. It’s a concept some members of my family struggle with relating to. Nonetheless I continue to live my life my way. It works for me for the most part.

I originally used the tag line To Organize Chaos. I felt it worked on a marketing level because it conveyed the idea I was trying to get across, that is a website with no central theme to speak of out side my own experiences and observations. I didn’t exactly want it to be a personal blog so to speak, just centered on my personal experiences and observations.

There is an episode of the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond where Frank Barone tries to write a column for the newspaper called I was just thinking. In the episode he jots down random thoughts with no connection to anything. As a writer this is clearly not the way to keep an readers attention.

On the note of punctuation, I do my best all things considered. That being I dropped out of high school, earned a GED and then studied journalism at university. Between the quirks of AP style, my own deficiencies and well that pesky laziness I mentioned before, I often make grammatical and punctuation mistakes. I’ll admit I make an effort to look up a rule I broke after it is brought to my attention. I just don’t make much of an effort to learn the rules I am fuzzy on.

One thing that does appeal to me is writing a disjointed article with a few random, smaller topics to catch your attention. I suppose if one were to use sub heads to keep it organized it could work. Here are some random thoughts THE RAT would like to share with the world.

What makes Degrassi so damn appealing?

I first encountered Degrassi High when I was in middle school. I started out doing some detention during lunch and those kids who were considered at risk or prone to getting into trouble, like myself, were offered an opportunity to sit and watch Degrassi during our lunch period as a way to keep us, and our victims, safe from the violence we exhibited among one another. I wasn’t exactly a bully but I took my own frustrations of being bullied out on those weaker than I. It was not something I am proud of today. However it introduced me to a Canadian TV series I can honestly say shaped my life for years.

Once I grew up I decided to give Degrassi a second chance. I started at the very  beginning with Ida Makes a Movie. I enjoyed it enough to go through the next several iterations from Kids of Degrassi Street to the aforementioned Junior/Senior high incarnation. Then out of morbid curiosity I kept going well into Degrassi The Next Generation. I was several seasons in before I snapped out of my trance and walked away. I don’t know what it was that hooked me on this Canadian treasure but somehow it spoke to me in a weird way. I have contemplated going back to review the original series but I haven’t yet found an economical way of going about it. In a way it kind of makes me feel like a jerk asking friends and family to buy me the DVD’s for say Christmas or birthdays because I made a fuss about that one time I got a Jay and Silent Bob Do Degrassi DVD for Christmas. It was, at the time, a touchy subject because I was forced into the show for disciplinary reasons originally. Still, now that I have settled into my fate as an oddball I suppose I can go back to one of the shows that helped inspire my oddball behavior in the first place.

The Mortal Kombat, Freddy Krueger and The Mask connectivity

The story about how Mortal Kombat changed the video game rating industry is well documented and much discussed. The lesser known story is how Freddy Krueger is to blame for the famed film adaptation being slapped with a paltry PG-13 rating when the studio making the video game famous for its gore was itself famous for gore.

New Line Cinema chose to censor Mortal Kombat on the the grounds they already had A Nightmare on Elm Street as a violent, R-rated franchise. During the negotiation stage New Line picked up the rights to adapt The Mask, bloody/gory comic book series. Due to Wes Craven’s New Nightmare being a darker, gorier fare for the famed Springwood Slasher’s recent theatrical outings, the studio opted to use their new shiny prize, the recently signed rising star Jim Carry, to make a kid friendly comic book adaptation of a gory comic property. This worked so well the studio repeated the formula by scrubbing almost all the gore necessary from the big budget Mortak Kombat picture toning it down to a PG-13 action/fantasy martial arts flick rather than an R-rated horror/fantasy film it could have been. This has left a sour taste in the lives of fans the world over as the film, while a success, spawned a not-so-beloved sequel. Oh well.

Still, as someone who was always a fan of Freddy and became a fan of the Mortal Kombat video game independent of all the stuff New Line was plotting to do, I can say it was a strange twist of fate learning how interconnected these three properties became. I was already an instant fan of The Mask upon first viewing. Years later upon learning how it was loosely connected to the franchise that spawned, literally, my favorite film of all time, well that was a treat in itself.

Discovering Doctor Who for the first time was a thrill

I don’t often get into British shows. To be honest aside from the above mentioned Degrassi, I rarely find myself entertained by any foreign TV shows. One day I was flipping through the cable channels when I stumbled upon the Sci-Fi channel, before its rebrand. I saw a blue telephone booth smash into the side of a building and a disoriented man stumbled out. A blond woman asked a girl who the man was, she replied the doctor, and the woman asked “Doctor Who?” Then the opening credits began to scroll.

The theme song caught my attention so I figured I would give it a shot. I had heard references over the years to a time traveling space alien science fiction show called Doctor Who so I was curious to check it out. Following the first commercial break I lost interest. The so-called “doctor” was pointing a “sonic screwdriver” at a killer Christmas tree that was attacking the family. I rolled my eyes and changed the channel thinking I would never go back.

A couple of months later I was again flipping through the channels and once against landed on the SyFy channel, as they had since rebranded. I was puzzled by the odd spelling so I figured I would watch a little until I came across a bumper that might explain what I was seeing as networks often advertise rebranding. There was a British man talking to a young girl about her son who was killed by a bomb that wasn’t a bomb. The exchange between the two characters caught my attention. The next scene an American gentleman was sitting atop an invisible space ship hitting on that same blond I saw from before. I figured this was another episode of that Doctor Who but this time it didn’t seem so juvenile.

The episode, I found out later, was called The Empty Child. The episode got me instantly hooked. I sat there for what I quickly learned was a marathon. I followed it up with The Doctor Dances. The two-parter was all it took to get me sitting there for the rest of the day. Immediately following the end of the season the show began to unravel. The doctor had died at the end of the episode and suddenly a new man appeared in his place. It was that goofy looking fellow from the Christmas episode, which this time I watched to the end. Having some context, and a heart beat for Rose Tyler, I decided to give the show a chance.

It didn’t take long before I became a die hard fan. I ended up, thanks in part to Neflix and some other shadier portions of the internet, going back and watching the first 40 or so years of the franchise. Oh it was an instant love affair. I had been craving a science fiction show of this sort and here it was running not only the course of my entire life, but once I discovered it I learned my mom had watched it when she was a kid. So it became a tradition for the two of us to sit and catch the latest Doctor Who episode each week on BBC America. One of these days I hope to go back and cover my favorite episodes more in depth. I am only saddened by the way Netflix has discarded the show making it harder for me to view.

More Than Meets the Eye revival ignites the interwebs

The year was 2001. I had just finished my tumultuous high school education and was beginning to branch into the wild west of web design. Once online I discovered a community of Transformer fans who called themselves “TransFans.” Needless to say bonds were made, friendships were crafted and things were going good. Then as time went on the word Trans began to take on a new meaning, leaving Transformer fans unsure if they should continue using the moniker. Despite the growing tensions between the car-robots “trukk not Monkee” blow hards and the “Beasts are better” cult, things got heated. Eventually Hasbro discovered a way to tap into the community’s need for nostalgia by launching several retro lines intended to milk money from those fans now beginning to enter the work force. Everything culminated in the launch of a live-action series that started in 2007 with a love letter to those same fans. Finally the main stream was willing to recognize what me and my friends had known all along, giant alien robots make good entertainment.

This is only a small sampling of the insights THE RAT stores up here at the Spiders Lairs, Where Chaos Resides. For more deeper thoughts, unfiltered uncensored and completely uncut be sure to check out The Dark Web Podcast, a show made by a basement dwelling oddball for other basement dwelling freaks. Stay Cool.

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!