Category Archives: Media

Movie: The Road Within

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I just discovered this movie on Netflix. As I always say, I don’t get out too often, so most of you may have already seen this film. Not only do I like indie films, but I especially keep an eye out for ones that explore aspects of mental illness.

This particular film caught my eye because it qualifies as:

  1. a “buddy flick” – and I love those, and
  2. a movie dealing with characters who suffer from some sort of metal illness.

The Road Within is about three young people who don’t know each other, but they all escape from the same wellness center (I’m trying not to use ‘psych ward’). The main character, Vincent, suffers from Tourette syndrome; Marie is anorexic; and Alex, who they pick up at the last minute, has severe OCD. So severe that he constantly wears latex gloves and opens and shuts car doors exactly five times before entering.

They steal/borrow Vincent’s father’s Mercedes and head for the coast to spread Vincent’s mom’s ashes. Along the way they encounter adventures and moments of self-discovery and heartfelt sharing.

It’s not the typical buddy-movie formula: these characters are deep and they’re hurting. They just want and need some help and someone to love and understand them.

I didn’t realize this before watching the movie, but I didn’t know that anorexia was a disease of the mind. I was ignorant like most people probably are.

Alex tells his new friends that his OCD keeps him trapped inside a world of rituals that he cannot escape. He even pays a gas station attendant to chase him out of the store to make it look like Alex ran away without paying. He later confesses to his friends that he did this “to look cool” and to feel normal for a change.

Vincent explains that his Tourette syndrome is like a sneeze: you can’t stop the tics and outbursts of vulgarity no matter how hard you try.

One moving scene in the film shows Vincent’s dad confessing to the boy’s therapist where he went wrong:

It’s awful to say, but I was embarrassed by him… I wanted a different boy. And he knew it. He could see it on my face.

This film doesn’t offer any answers or self-help advice. It’s just a movie about three individuals who are not like the majority of society and how they learn to cope with and eventually rely on each other. I highly recommend it.

~t


Should Christians Watch Game of Thrones?

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As always, I’m a bit behind when it comes to the latest movies and TV shows. For instance, I finally broke down and watched season 1, episode 1 of Game of Thrones last night. Season 6 just premiered recently, so that shows you how much and how often I watch TV. But everyone seems to love the show, including Christians, so it piqued my curiosity, despite the gratuitous sex, nudity, buckets of gore, and extreme violence that I had heard about and read about.

However, after listening to a Catholic radio program where the hosts mentioned that they watched the show regularly, I thought, What the heck. If they, respected Catholic hosts, watch it, then maybe I should give it a try.

I have always been a fan (not quite geek-boy status) of anything involving the fantasy genre. I played D&D throughout high school, skipped college classes to play Dragon Warrior on my brother’s Nintendo, played World of Warcraft religiously (until my free trial ran out!), and now I am an avid player of the Pokemon card came with my sons.

Regarding Game of Thrones: Boy, was I disappointed. The show is well-written, a serial where the story arc expands over an entire season. And, yes, I’m aware that it was only the very first episode of six seasons so far. Nevertheless, I was sickened and appalled.

Am I telling you not to watch Game of Thrones? No. You can make up your own mind. Am I telling Christians not to watch it? No. Pray about it and follow your own conscience and convictions.

Here are the reasons that I will not watch a single episode more:

 

The Gratuitous Sex

Seriously, I haven’t seen so much doggie-style humping since I took our new pet to the dog park. I mean, it makes The Discovery Channel seem like Sesame Street.

There was even one scene where a fair-skinned maiden from one kingdom was married off to a barbarian. He practically ripped off her clothes, put her on her hands and knees, and started ramming her. Mind you, the whole time the young woman/girl was sobbing (rape, anyone?).

And the pointless nudity. Oh, man. In particular: The scene where the brother is caressing his younger sister’s nude breast? I thought that was only found in the manga that I saw when I lived in Japan. Sheesh. Was I aroused by all this? You may be wondering. Not really, just perplexed.

 

Severed Heads Rolling Everywhere

If I wanted to see chopped-off heads impaled on spikes or gory beheadings, I could just watch Daesh (ISIS) videos on Youtube. I mean, come on. Do the American people want to see more of this in their nightly entertainment? We have become neo-Romans in that case.

If you want to read about the above-mentioned points, then read the Bible! There, I said it. But, the Scriptures are based on true events. Does that give you the right to say the Bible is acceptable and Game of Thrones is not? No. Not really. But Thrones is written for shock value I believe.

Even the website DenOfGeek.com mentioned that the series is full of “gratuitous violence” by the way.

 

And, finally, to a lesser extent…

 

The Portrayal of Religion

In season 1, episode 1 (the only episode I’m going to watch), there is a scene that begins with what looks like a Catholic church, bells tolling away. Inside, stained glass is seen from a distance. Images of Jesus or the saints? I highly doubt it. Turns out it’s a pagan temple resembling a church in architecture (to me anyway). The priests look like they’re the latest incarnation of the Nameless Ghouls in a Ghost video, complete with paper-looking miters emblazoned with pentagrams. Oh, brother, I thought. Really? It’s a fantasy world. At least be creative and make it look like a funky fantasy temple, for crying out loud.

 

And there you have it. So, you decide. You have read my take. As they say in the fantasy world: What say you?

~t


Should Christians Listen to Ghost?

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Ghost (formerly Ghost BC in the U.S.) is a hard rock/metal band from Sweden. I started listening to them when I discovered their debut album, Opus Eponymous, on iTunes; it was rated best metal album of 2010. Back then my Catholic faith wasn’t very strong, so I looked past the whole anti-Catholic/Christian/religion image of the band.

Their music wasn’t run-of-the-mill rock/metal; it was good: a retro 70s vibe, and the mood and lyrics were haunting, like my Halloween trick-or-treating experiences from my youth.

However, the more my mental illness was taking me to those dark places (as mentioned elsewhere on this blog), the more I realized that, tongue-in-cheek stage gimmick or not, Ghost’s lyrics and inverted crosses just weren’t conducive for my walk with God.

Now, before you brand me a “typical Christian right-wing-nutjob-prude,” consider this: I have been a metalhead since the 80s. My first concert was KISS, and Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil was the first cassette (an early version of a CD for you young’uns out there) that I ever owned. One of my favorite live shows in the past couple of years was Kvelertak at a hole-in-the-wall booze hall in Dallas. My latest CD purchase was Cattle Decapitation’s The Anthropocene Extinction.

And I own all of Ghost’s CDs. I even have tickets to see them live in October.

And you still call yourself a Catholic, Topaz?

Yes, I do. And that’s why I finally came to the realization that I had to write this blog post and (reluctantly) cut off ties with this band once and for all.

Since their debut album, I have used every excuse to listen to and jam out to Ghost’s CDs.

Oh, fans say, the Satanic Pope imagery, ghoul robes, masks, and Satanic lyrics are all part of the fun. It’s no different than watching a horror movie.

Maybe. Maybe not.

But my conscience is finally taking the bull by the horns… since my intellect sure as hell isn’t.

Lucifer

We have come

For your praise

Evil one

These are the opening lyrics from “Con Clavi Con Dio,” the first track off their debut album. Oh, it gets worse than that.

I’m not here to rail against Ghost or to tell you not to listen to them. Believe me, up until today, I have found every excuse to listen to their songs. Hell, I even had two different Ghost t-shirts up until last year when my wife finally made me get rid of them.

I could quote all kinds of Bible verses about reasons not to listen to this sort of band. But I like the simple mathematic formula-style argument that my college students are so fond of:

Blatantly Satanic lyrics + anti-Catholic/Christian imagery = not a good idea for Christians to be involved with

I keep telling myself: Just go to the show. You’ve already bought the ticket. It’s on the mezzanine level! Take some Christian tracts and go under the guise of “meeting sinners where they are.”

But that’s just a bunch of BS. I would be going for my own selfish reasons whether I wanted to admit it or not.

Plus, with my fragile state of mental health, anything dark or negative sends me over the cliff. (Actually, I was just there this afternoon, contemplating suicide again.) As I said, I could quote all sorts of verses; however, there is one quote by Alice Cooper, the classic shock-rocker, that states it better than any verse I can think of:

Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian, that’s a tough call. That’s rebellion.

~t


Just Before I Go: A Must-See for All of You Who Are Like Me

  

  
I was at Target recently with my sons to look for a Lego Batmobile set (which, my youngest learned in horror, had since been discontinued). While the kids were playing games on iPad demos in the store (How they quickly forgot about Batman), I took a look at the newest DVDs on a nearby shelf.

Not surprisingly, none of the titles rang a bell since I practically live under a rock. However, one title caught my eye: Just Before I Go. The actor’s melancholy expression and the tag line, Ending It All Was Only The Beginning, led me to believe that it dealt with suicide. Sure enough, I flipped the DVD over and read the synopsis. Sounded intriguing.

There was only one problem: Seann William Scott. Really?! He plays a total idiot in all his movies. Nevertheless, I jotted down the title in my iNotes (or whatever it’s called) to watch it at some point.

Tonight was the night. Friday after work. Wife and kids gone. Amazon rental. A nice bowl of Lucky Charms for dinner. I was set. I can always turn it off when the flick gets juvenile, I thought.

But… It didn’t.

Not an Oscar contender by any means, but it was GOOD. All the poignancy that I was hoping for.

**SPOILER ALERT**

I even started blubbering like a baby when Scott’s character met his deceased father on the lake during a near-death experience. 

**SPOILER OVER**

The movie is about a man who, before committing suicide, goes back to his hometown to confront some painful childhood memories “just before he goes.” I don’t want to reveal too much, except that this is not a screwball comedy. It tackles several thorny issues effectively I think.

Bottom line: If you are feeling depressed or even suicidal, do yourself a favor and watch this movie. Do it for me even. Screw what the film critics say about the film. They get paid to tear things apart. 

I loved the Emerson quote at the end:

When it’s dark, that’s when you can see the stars.

Just look up and they will always be there.

~t


How Silver Linings Playbook Affected a Blogger with Mental Illness Who Didn’t Quite Know What He Was About to View

The Weinstein Company

And if you say to me tomorrow, oh what fun it all would be.
Then what’s to stop us, pretty baby. But what is and what should never be.
–Led Zeppelin

 

Lately I don’t want to write unless there’s something totally pressing on my mind.

Like now.

I started watching the first 30 minutes or so of Silver Lining Playbook. I haven’t looked into it, but it seems like it’s billed as a nice romantic comedy. Well, the first 30 minutes was enough to trigger all sorts of feelings in me. (The movie was released in 2012, so that shows how “hip” I am regarding pop culture.)

The main character, Pat (played by Bradley Cooper), is bipolar, and his father (played by Robert DeNiro, a nice surprise since I only knew Cooper was in the movie) has issues to a certain extent such as OCD and anger.

I had to stop watching after the scene where Pat was having flashbacks of assaulting his wife’s lover while the soundtrack played “What Is and What Should Never Be” by Led Zeppelin. Ironically,  Zeppelin happens to be my favorite band of all-time, and their songs and mystique have weaved themselves throughout my life since I was in middle school.

I’m not criticizing this movie (I’ve only seen the first 30 minutes); on the contrary, this post is just a half-hearted rant about wanting to see a basic romantic comedy between two people who suffer from various mental issues — and instead being subjected to scenes from my own darkest days in a theater from hell.

I’ll probably continue watching the movie now that I know what to expect — and deal with the triggers as they come. How wise is that, though? I don’t know.

Wow, I started watching during my lunch break, then I had class, and now I’m back at the desk, and it’s still with me — or maybe it’s because I’m still writing this post. However, this movie definitely hits home because Pat is so much like me — heck, the story is so much like mine.

(By the way, at the beginning of the movie, Pat is at the psychiatric hospital wearing a hooded sweatshirt with strings. Those strings would be the first things to come off when one is admitted to such a facility, along with shoe laces.)

I don’t like to write reviews. I don’t consider myself qualified to inform people about such things as movies. Books, maybe.

So consider this an anti-review.

Whatever that means.

~t

 


Laughter is the Best Medicine

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I recently read this article about a type of OCD called scrupulosity. It’s basically the fear of sin or punishment from God. The article is definitely worth the read.

Of course, I’m not saying that it’s suddenly okay to throw caution to the wind and start sinning. Far from it. However, the article got me thinking about how uptight I may be; I tend to be a living example of the ironic process theory: If someone tells you not to think of a pink elephant, you are automatically going to (like you did just now).

While I continue to deal with habitual sin, I’m learning to make an effort to enjoy life and trust God as I go. For instance, my two young sons and I have been playing soccer in the backyard after dinner each night, and it’s so much fun! I have also come across some comics and memes on the Internet that make me smile.

Laughter and fun times are a welcome reprieve from the daily spiritual battles that we face.

Nuns at Six Flags

Last night, my sons and I were trying to steal the ball from each other in our scrimmage. As we battled against each other, my kids were giggling like crazy. Afterwards, my oldest, who is quite serious and emotional, suddenly asked me, “Daddy, why is laughing good for us?”

Taken aback, I replied, “Well, because it makes us feel good. Plus, we forget our problems while we’re laughing.” It was one of those moments where I inadvertently taught myself something.

So, in the spirit of all this, I have posted some comics and things that I’ve run across in the past few weeks. They are entertaining to me, but, after all, my sense of humor is a bit twisted. 😉

 

 

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If you’re a fan of this series, I apologize!

 

 

Since I’m an English teacher, I particularly like this one:

 

 

This one isn’t a comic, but it has really spoken to me during the past week. My dear sister in Christ, Jet, recently posted it on her blog:

 

 

Have a great week, and remember to laugh periodically.

 

~t

 


11 Things I Learned From the Ordination and Installation Mass for the New Bishop of Fort Worth

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend the ordination and installation of Bishop Michael Olson over in Fort Worth. I didn’t merely attend: I volunteered with other Knights of Columbus members as security personnel. FWPD made their presence known on the outside of the convention center. However, the diocese didn’t want any demonstrators to interrupt the proceedings or to desecrate the Eucharist, so some of us volunteered inside.

As an “insider” during this historic event — a new bishop isn’t ordained and installed in one’s region very often — I wanted to share 11 things that I learned from working behind-the-scenes at this event.

1. Priests are not always serious

Maybe it’s because I’m a fairly recent convert, but I’ve never seen priests joke around with and make goofy faces at each other. Just before the procession into the arena began, a priest came up to me at the entrance and said comically, “Run away! This is your last chance!” Scared the heck outta me, actually.

2. Seminarians are just regular college guys…

As I “guarded” the seminarians (young men who are studying to become priests) before the procession, they were a bunch of giggling chatterboxes. A priest had to yell at them to settle down, and the young men’s faces displayed the same embarrassed satisfaction that I often see on my six-year-old’s. Boys will be boys.

3. …who love their Starbucks as much as the rest of us

I mean, man, do those guys slug down the lattes. It wasn’t a question of how many were seen with the white cups and the green logo; rather, I had to ask myself how many didn’t have one. But, hey, as long as it’s consumed one hour before communion, right?

4. We are not alone

By this, I mean the Knights of Columbus. One of my security duties was to guard the vesting rooms that contained the personal belongings of the clergy and choir. I saw the vesting room for the Order of Malta which was pretty cool. Even more cool was to see the room for the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. Granted, the Knights of Columbus outnumbered these other group 10 to 1, but I hadn’t realized that there were other Catholic fraternal orders out there and that we were all unified with one common purpose.

5. Catholic schools are definitely not dying out

Since teaching in Japan, I had never seen so many young people in school uniforms! It seemed like most of them had volunteered to give directions to people: Everywhere I went, about two students were assigned to every single door in the convention center… and the place was HUGE.

6. Standing for eight straight hours isn’t always a bad thing

I think the secret is to keep busy. I was surprised to know that, while stuffing my hungry face with cheese and crackers during the reception, it was nearly 6:00 pm. Time really does fly when you’re having fun.

7. 15,000 Catholics in one place does not always result in alcohol

I have to admit, I was ready for an ice-cold beer by the end of my duties. Making a quick dash to the reception hall before anyone else (Transporting gifts for the bishop was my excuse!), I quickly scanned the gigantic hall for any sign of beer or wine. Nothing! (The lemonade did hit the spot, though.)

8. If a behind-the-scenes meeting is scheduled for 1:00, it really means 12:30

I was supposed to help guard the priests as they offered communion to the masses. The meeting was at 1:00. I arrived at 12:51. On a tight schedule, I suppose I was considered late. Everything happens for a reason is what they say. I was able to greet members of the procession as they made their way to the arena entrance, though. So, the awesome photo below wouldn’t exist had I been earlier to the meeting.

Lots of bishops!

9. Volunteering makes you feel great

My mind was occupied and my schedule was packed. Somehow, though, I felt like a million bucks. I’ve never been one to show off or to draw attention to myself. But, somehow, being engaged in an activity (church; K of C) that I really enjoyed did wonders for my mind. It said, “I enjoy this and I’m having fun. You’re not gonna take that away from me, Mind.”

Try it! You don’t have to be “religious” to volunteer. Seek out a local food bank or homeless shelter. Opportunities to serve are all around us. By helping others, you help yourself feel good. It’s a win-win.

10. An ordinary convention center can be temporarily converted into a cathedral

11. Alternate versions of the trendy 13.1 and 26.2 car stickers do exist

I saw a car in the parking garage with this sticker on the back. I’m a serious fuddy-duddy who never smiles, but this made me LOL. A refreshing sight since every other car (seemingly) has the real versions.

~t

(photos by Topaz)