The Comic Wisdom of ‘Erik the Viking’

MV5BMTU1OTc4NzQwMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTY5NjYzNA@@._V1_SX214_AL_I highly recommend you watch Erik the Viking if you haven’t, or re-watch if you have. I got to watch it again last night and it is still a fun movie – although I was watching it specifically because I wanted to refresh my memory on what I wanted to discuss here.

This little known movie from 1989 was written, directed and even starred (briefly) Terry Jones – of Monty Python fame. There are two aspects of the film I want to concentrate on and how they relate to our world today. However, in order to do that I need to try to give you a brief synopsis.

The main character of Erik the Viking was played by Tim Robbins. However, he is a gentle Viking and does not see why everyone must fight, rape and pillage. Freya, a wise woman (Eartha Kitt), tells Erik that the age of Ragnarök (an ice age of darkness) and the ensuing violence is caused by Fenrir the wolf who had swallowed the sun. The only way to bring Ragnarök to an end is to travel to Asgard and awaken the gods, who will chase her (Fenrir) away.

Erik decides to take Freya’s advice and recruits members of his village to undertake the voyage to Asgard with him. Among those is a Christian missionary named Harald, who opts to go along in hopes of finding people to convert.

This brings me to the first aspect I want to cover. It is philosophical and a unique way of looking at religion and its followers. Harald is a Christian while the Vikings believe in the Norse hierarchy, led by Odin. So, Harald is unable to see anything that the Vikings believe in, like this scene when they reach the doors of Valhalla.

It is a fascinating concept and one I think we need to take to heart. There are a lot of religions out there. Not everyone believes what you do. And therefore not everyone sees the world in the same way.

Prior to reaching Asgard and the Hall of Valhalla, Erik and his ragtag team needed to travel to Hy-Brasil in order to get a horn that is needed to wake the gods. Hy-Brasil is a peaceful island where King Arnulf (Terry Jones) is in charge of some very odd ducks indeed. But that is beside the point. The point is that Hy-Brasil is under a curse that states that should a single drop of blood fall upon the land, the island would sink. Needless to say shit happens and blood is spilt. The island immediately begins to sink.

Now we arrive at my second aspect. King Arnulf and his people are in complete denial and instead of trying to evacuate or do something, anything, they decide to have a sing-song and ignore the rising waters.

This is vitally important because this is what the Republicans are doing in regards to climate change. You can pretty much kiss Norfolk, VA goodbye. The city is now second only to New Orleans in terms of being threatened by rising seas. It regularly floods at high tide. But climate change is a hoax and doesn’t exist.  “It’s alright.  It’s not happening.”

The response to global warming and climate change that has emerged from Crazy Town (aka Texas) pastor Matthew Hagee is that it is not anything environmentalists have spent years researching, but the imminent return of Jesus.  Although we should respect each other’s beliefs, we cannot in good conscience do so at the peril of others.

See, even pretend Vikings are smarter than the right wing.

 

*This post was originally written (by me) and posted on June 4th, 2014 on All Things Democrat.  You can find the direct link to this post here.

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Life After Death – A Review of the WM3 Case and Book

life-after-deathLife After Death is the second book by former death row inmate Damien Echols. The first book, Almost Home, was released in 2005 and had such a small printing that I cannot find a copy in my price range!

Back in 1993, Damien, along with Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., still boys themselves, were accused, tried and sentenced in the brutal killings of three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis, AR.

Echols, Misskelly and Baldwin mugshots

Echols, Misskelly and Baldwin mugshots

I became acquainted with the case late, when I first saw the 1996 HBO documentary ‘Paradise Lost’ probably sometime in 1999. I was immediately aghast. It was beyond obvious in my opinion that the three accused, dubbed the West Memphis 3, were the victims of what was essentially a lynch mob. A horrific crime was committed against the innocent and the police needed someone – anyone – to pin it on, to appease the local outrage.  Damien was zeroed in on because he was different.  In the small, church-going community anyone who stuck out was an easy target and a young man who liked heavy metal music and wore mostly black – in the community’s eyes – was surely a member of a satanic cult.

It may seem crazy to make such an unlikely leap but this is exactly what happened.  People were so upset and the atmosphere so charged with hysteria that this conclusion was made.  And it was made with no evidence what so ever.

The three murdered boys

The three murdered boys

It is funny to go back and watch the first Paradise Lost because Damien seems so cocky.  But he was young and still idealistic.  He says he acted that way because he had complete confidence that there was no way anyone could convict an innocent person.  That faith was shattered very quickly and a form of innocence was lost forever.

Since my initial exposure to the case I became rabid about getting more information. I read the book Devil’s Knot, concerning the case and have watched the two Paradise Lost sequels that were produced. I became a frequent visitor to the website WM3.org, dedicated to their cause.

Even though I was not in a position to contribute much in the way of donations, I feel I provided moral support if nothing else. I exposed my friends to the case and wound up enlisting others.  However, there were many people who came out on the side of the WM3 including Eddie Vedder, Natalie Maines and Johnny Depp.

Natalie Mains

Natalie Maines

On August 29th, 2011 Death Row inmate Damien Echols and life without parole inmates Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr entered an Alford Plea and were immediately released. The thing that doesn’t make sense is that the Alford Plea involves pleading guilty to the charges while maintaining innocence. From my understanding the purpose of this is to release the state from any wrong doing, meaning they will not be able to sue to state of Arkansas for wrongful imprisonment. And I firmly believe that the state would not have accepted this bargain if they truly believed these boys- now men – had murdered and mutilated three little boys. And I am not the only one (roughly 5:25 in the video below).

Eddie Vedder

Eddie Vedder

The West Memphis 3 website is still up and active, now trying to get their names cleared. It is a wonderful source for anyone who is interested in the facts and/or supporting the cause.

I was riveted by Life After Death in one of those morbid, watching-a-train-wreck kind of ways. I was fascinated by Echols life prior to imprisonment, an area in which I had no previous knowledge. But his descriptions of life behind bars is just as compelling. I have no idea how he is capable of taking all this chaos and discussing it so calmly.

Johnny Depp with Echols

Johnny Depp with Echols

I do not want to go into too much detail, as I do not wish to rob a reader of the absolute roller coaster of events.

However, I will say that through strong adversity has blossomed a beautiful soul. I find his strength staggering and I feel honored to have stood behind him and his friends for so long and I don’t plan to stop now. I wish them endless happiness although I know they deserve so much more after the hell they have suffered.

Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin 8-29-2011 entering Alford Plea.

Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin 8-29-2011 entering Alford Plea.

Welcome to the Land of Hypochondriacs

Signature:baed3687aecc9fc02b05e033f52ab04b5ac34144c6f0702c4e0cfe36f9d34041 It is my impression that the American society is living in a state of abject fear.  And this constant mental state has bred a whole country of hypochondriacs.

 

Almost every form of media – due to medical advances in many cases – has become more aware.  From magazines and TV to the Internet you can find all sorts of information regarding symptoms and signs of our growing list of diseases and ways to die.

 

Now do not get me wrong, it is good to be aware and keep your health and well-being in mind while going about your life.  The areas that spark fear are coming from reliable people.  People we trust.  Like Web MD, news channels and Dr. Oz.

 

I just got back from a stay at my Mom’s house where this bizarre thing called “cable” exists.  (Me?  The only thing I get is a blue screen.)  Anyway, one of the things she liked to watch was the Dr. Oz show.  He covers some great topics including nutrition and exercise routines.  The problem is that every other show is a new way to die.  “You may be dying right now and not even know it!!”  (Note: not an actual quote.)

 

PainFor example, I was woken up at 5 AM this morning with really bad neck pain and a migraine.  The first thing I thought was, “Oh, God.  I’m having a stroke!”  The only reason I would ever have thought this was due to an episode of Dr. Oz!  He had a couple of young women on to discuss the signs and symptoms of a stroke that we tend to overlook and the signs that are different for just women.  Now, under normal circumstances this information is good to have.  But with the prevalent state of fear we have it morphs into being hypochondria.  So instead of thinking, “Man, I must have slept wrong,” it has become “Dear God, I’m having a stroke!”

 

We experience the same thing with news sources.  All those lunatics out there that are shooting, knifing and running over people.  And you know what, it could just be your neighbor!

 

Scared-turtleThen we do it to ourselves, too!!  Due to the sky-high costs of medical care in this country we have bred a special hypochondriac – the self-diagnoser.  Admit it, we’ve all done it at least once.  We have the flu with some unusual headache pain so we hop on the Internet and go to Web MD.  We type in our list of symptoms – and BOOM – we are dying of brain cancer.  Got to love this one.  We ignore the ones that say “flu” and “migraine” – all we can see is that damn brain cancer!  Just the fact that it is on the list, good Lord!!

 

So all in all, there seems to me to be a very fine balance between knowledge and hysteria.  Maybe as we have evolved into such a technology-based world that we can no longer separate ourselves from the knowledge that is bombarding us 24/7.

 

Anyway, food for thought.  Kissy, kissy, snog, snog

Tourist Season . . . No Voting Season

Voting season is upon us once again and although I don’t do a lot of political posts, I felt I should do one now.

I would like to start by saying that if you are not already registered to vote, do it now.  Voting is important and it is one of the ways we get to have our voices heard.  And as so many people have pointed out prior to me, if you don’t vote, you don’t get to bitch.  Basically, this means that if it is not important enough to you to go to a polling place every few years, then you are in no position to complain about the government.

I know someone who does not vote and I asked one time why that was.  Their reply was that they have never found anyone worth voting for.  My reply was that there are plenty of people to vote against.  Now, I can see their point.  Long gone are the days of Teddy Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy.  I have a feeling we may never encounter another candidate of their caliber again.  But is that any reason to sit back and watch things disintegrate as a passive observer?

My point in bringing this up is that we are in the midst of a crucial competition for the presidency of this country.  On the one hand, we have a candidate who is trying to repair eight years of disaster upon disaster.  His progress has been slower than I would have liked but at least there is movement in the right direction.

Please note there is no symbolism in the fact that Romney’s picture is on the far right of this post. 😉

Then on the other hand, we have a candidate who not only looks out for himself and his kind (the uber-rich) he wants to send this country marching backward into the 19th century – where women have no voice and no rights and the little guy is filthy, poor and hungry in the streets.

It is important to me as a woman and a student of history not to go back to those days.  But even if those nightmarish days were upon us once again, one thing this country has always stood for is separation of church and state.  So how can any American with a fifth grader’s understanding of the Constitution allow a man who adamantly believes that he has magic underwear run this country and to do so according to those beliefs?  Now, don’t get me wrong.  You are allowed to believe whatever you choose.  But you are not allowed to impose it on the entire country.  If Obama follows a religion I couldn’t tell you what it was as it – rightfully so – rarely comes up.

The last point I would like to bring up is that the Obamas are human.  They eat out and take their dog Christmas shopping at PetsMart.  Meanwhile, Romney cannot understand why you are not allowed to roll down the windows in an airplane; and  he cannot even visit our closest ally without insulting them.
You do not need to be a Mensa member to figure this one out.

Kissy, kissy, snog, snog

Vacation Endnotes – Part 2

Knowing our plans for the Saturday, my mom called ahead of time and arranged to have a parking place held for us at the National Zoo.  So I made sure I packed everything but the essentials Friday night.  We set out on time and arrived at the zoo on schedule.  My mom really didn’t want to drive in DC, but I am sure she was bolstered after having to drive in NYC only six days previous.  Hehehe, I still get such a kick out of that!!

Anyway, back on target!  We enter the zoo at what is called the Panda Plaza.  I am psyched and ticked all at the same time.  Those who know me are aware that I don’t like two things (that are of relevance here :)) – crowds and children.  And what do you get at a zoo on a Saturday?  Yup, in spades.  But I try to not be a misery and after a preemptive potty break, we set out down Olmstead Walk.  And it wasn’t too long before my brain kindly pointed out that I have let my body get way too out of shape.  After all, there are actual hills here.  Anything over 100 feet above sea level is considered a hill around my neck of the woods.

Click to enlarge

Anyway, we get to the cheetah exhibits and guess what?  No babies!  The babies can be viewed on exhibit between 10 AM – 11 AM and 1 PM – 2 PM.  Oh, well.  I guess we can swing by on the way out, as it wasn’t too terribly far from our parking place.  So we continue on our way.  We curve around and enter the Asia Trail.  The first exhibit we encounter is home to the Sloth Bears.  Now here is something that chaps my ass.  The viewing windows were etched with leaves and only left small clear viewing holes.  Now what moron came up with this idea?  The etching served no purpose.  It offered no extra privacy to the bears and only inhibited patrons – which I am sure has increased their heathen need to tap on the glass.

I was shooting through a mesh fence and trying to blur it out. That is why there is some color distortion and faint lines.

But just past the bears was our first glimpse of babies!  We had found the fishing cats.  And the babies were having a blast.  They were pouncing on each other and rolling around while mama stood by and groomed herself.  We continue on and while at the otter exhibit something happened.  I, in my infinite wisdom, had decided to bring my whole camera case with me.  It was secured around my waist.  However, after taking my photos of the otters, and mom had already started to walk away, I went to move away and nothing happened.  A wave of panic rolls over me as I realize that one of the zippers on my case now contains part of the otter chain link.  Mom comes to untangle me, but I get caught again later as the zipper had been bent just enough to make it easy for the fences to slip in.  However, this also made them easy for me to detangle.

We finish the Asia Trail and sit down for a strategy meeting.  Mom pulls out the map and we assess that our exhaustion is far disproportionate to our distance traveled.  I think I said, “That’s it?  Dear God, we didn’t even make

One of our lunch companions.

it that far?”  Since we are rounding around to our starting position, we decide to have another potty break, ditch the camera case in the car and have a spot of lunch where we were joined by some feathery friends, including this little guy.  I also “accidentally” dropped two french fries and enjoyed yelling at some miniature heathens to stop chasing the birds.

After lunch, we decide to cut to the bone and go for our goal.  Since we both love the big cats, we opt to head straight there – clear across the zoo from our location and if we had the strength or energy after that we can look at other exhibits.  So by the time we get close I have been puffing like a steam engine for the last 20 minutes and my body lost part of its ability to produce sweat somewhere near the invertebrates.

We get to see four adult female lions, one adult and one teenage male lion, and the tip of an ear of a tiger.  However, on the way back to see if the cheetah cubs were out, we saw an amazing thing.  The zoo has Orangutan crossings.  There are tall towers that have ropes attached.  Then the orangutans can use the ropes to walk to different areas of the zoo.  We happened to see this huge male crossing.  It was wonderful to watch!!

Once we get back to the Panda Plaza, we knew the cheetahs were right around the corner.  Or so we thought.  We get part way there and we are both like, “Good Lord, I didn’t remember it being this far!”  When we finally find the exhibit the babies were in – they were playing in the plants and it was difficult to get a good look at them.  These cubs looked to be about six months old while the fishing cat cubs were around four months.

Anyway, the visit was a success!  We got to see both sets of babies and we probably improved our lung capacity by a good 10 percent.  We pour ourselves into the car and head for the airport.  By this time, my poor mom was doing her Popeye impression, as one of her contacts was giving her problems.  We sit around the airport for a while with nothing much to do when a monsoon struck.  We sat and watched the rain pelt every possible surface.  Once the rain had slowed I told my mom to head home.  I was concerned about her driving with the contact bothering her so much.  And before you ask, she couldn’t just take it out.  She has one for close up and one for distance.

I must admit I was a little nervous going through security this time.  You see, I had picked up Beau a homemade catnip toy from my mom’s vet office.  And I figured ground catnip probably looks a lot like good ol’ Mary Jane.  To my surprise I had no trouble.  Probably because I declared it – meaning I pulled it out of my bag for visual inspection.  I then make my way airside and am struck dumb by a huge display of duty-free alcohol.  And it hit me.  You are allowed to take a small lighter on board.  And what does almost every passenger have in their suitcase?  Socks (or undies).  Can anyone say Molotov?  Yet they won’t let you take tweezers on board.  Go figure.  Way to go Homeland, you are doing a bang up job from what I can see.

Anyway, I find a seat at the gate and begin my journey of waiting.  It would not have been too bad had it not been for this one heathen.  No, heathen is too mild a word, hell spawn is more appropriate.  He was running amok and one time he ran past me, he leaned in and made a move to hit me.  I moved slightly and that was that.  Or so I thought.  Then later the little bastard hit home.  He hit me!  I couldn’t believe it.  His mother said something to him in their language but that was all.  I knew I should have clothes-lined him when I had the chance.

To make matters worse, our pilot and co-pilot were already on board but we were delayed because our “crew” had not arrived.  At this point, I was like “Fuck the crew.  All we need is the pilot.”  But we wait.  And we wait.  Finally a group of cabin crew sauntered over to the desk and volunteered themselves for the flight, as apparently our crew was redirected to Richmond.  Finally we board and I am crammed in a row with three people, although I am on the aisle now.  Then this nice lady leans over and says there were some empty rows behind us and she hated to think of me crammed in that row.  Thank you lady!!!

To make an (already) long story short, I get home, take the Shuttle – this time with three stops – and collapse at my door about 10 PM.  My roomies had waited up to greet me and Mac1949 kept my dinner warm (so nice of him).  Beau, I am happy to say, was glad to see me and did not feel the need to show his displeasure at my absence with feline aloofness.  However, after a few days of tripping over him I began to wonder how much a proctologist would charge me to remove my cat.  Alas, I have resigned myself to the fact that for many years to come I will never be able to go to the bathroom with the door shut.  Beau has become obsessed with having visual confirmation of my whereabouts at all times.  Even if I answer his “knock” (he rattles the door handle) it is insufficient and only serves to make him try the handle with more vigor.  But I love the little bugger and wouldn’t change a thing.

Until next time, kissy, kissy, snog, snog

PS – Beau loved his catnip toy!