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.

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