Bob Schwartz

Tag: Halloween

Why Trump Is a Horror Movie and Not a Reality Show

Reality shows dramatize and exaggerate “real” human behavior and situations. People do and say bad, even horrible, things. We may be repulsed, we may find it endearing and entertaining, but when we watch reality shows, we are never scared.

The most frightening horror movies are based on a powerful premise: Within our seemingly ordinary life in our seemingly ordinary world, there is an inconceivable terror lurking. It may emerge at any time without warning. We must be always on our guard because everything that used to seem benign is now menacing. What is worst, on top of the constant uncertainty, is that we have no defense.

That is why when we watch a horror movie, no matter how prepared we think we are, we jump out of our seats anyway. That is why in America, while we long for the benign ordinary, we prepare each day for what is lurking, and still jump when it arrives. That is why Trump is a horror movie and not a reality show.

Mitt Romney Midterm Mask

Mitt Romney Mask

When there’s not a big election with big characters, Halloween masks are not overwhelmingly political. Walking the Walgreens aisles a few days before the holiday, I saw only one official or candidate hanging from a hook: Mitt Romney at the bargain price of $9.99 (see above).

Best guess is that after 2012 there was a surplus of these, and with no big interest in anybody anyway right now, 2014 seemed like as good a time as any to dump them. Or maybe Walgreens is more politically savvy than most, and just wants to get on the latest Romney bandwagon first. Of course the mask doesn’t much look like Romney or anybody else in particular (maybe a bit like Prince Charles), so you could just wear it as a generic face, and when asked, take your pick.

As for Mitt Romney being  surrouneded on the shelf by scary skulls, sexy kittens, the Phantom of the Opera, etc., he does look out of place. But when Halloween 2016 rolls around, who knows?

Saints for All

Catherine Wheel
It is All Saints’ Day, and you don’t have to be Catholic, Christian or a believer of any kind to appreciate it.

Observed in the Western Christian church on November 1, it is the day that makes All Hallows’ (Saints’) Eve, aka Halloween, possible. Many denominations, including Anglicans, Lutherans and others, find a place and meaning for the holiday. But it is most associated with the Catholic Church, where it is a celebration of all saints known and unknown.

Saints are most specifically and tightly defined in the Catholic context. Saints are those whose lives allow them a special theological position and a special relationship with the divine after death, so that they may intercede on behalf of the faithful. You’ve no doubt heard reports about the two-step process of being designated a saint by the Pope: beatification (with the title “Blessed”), followed by canonization, based on the investigation and proof of intercessory miracles. It is usually a long road, though it appears that the very popular Pope John Paul II is on the fast track to sainthood.

The Catholic Church has had an historic problem with saints, one that continues to the moment. Two related problems really. The first is that from the beginning, people had a way of venerating those who inspired and who they admired, essentially developing cults around them, whether or not it was “official.” The related problem is that this enthusiasm was often based more on legend and even on superstition, rather than on actual biography or theological fine points. Early on the Church took control of saint making, though sometimes to little avail. As for saints whose life stories were questionable or constructed out of whole cloth, in recent years the Church has begun cleaning up the database, literally demoting some and stripping them of their sainthood.

Many religions, including Judaism, Islam and Buddhism, hold special regard for those we might call saints, ones whose holiness goes above and beyond those of regular mortal people. In Judaism, for example, a tzadik is one whose righteousness sets him apart and allows him to serve as a channel flowing between the earthly and the divine, or better yet, serving as a model for the divine in the earthly.

Even if you don’t like religion but love good stories, saints are for you. Take Saint Catherine of Alexandria. In the early 4th century, this pious Christian scholar attempted to convince the Roman Emperor Maxentius not to persecute Christians. He arranged for Catherine to debate great pagan philosophers, but she won the argument. He tortured her. He proposed marriage, but she claimed her only marriage was to Jesus Christ. He condemned her to die on a spiked wheel that was to break her body apart. Instead, the wheel was destroyed at her touch. Maxentius then beheaded her; she became a martyr and a saint. (The wheel had its own life. Now known as a Catherine Wheel, it is used to this day as a spectacular spinning fireworks display.)

Or so the story goes. Despite her importance as one of the most revered of saints in the Middle Ages, this is now regarded as legend, with no evidence of the events or even of Catherine’s existence. Though she still has a place in Church tradition, her feast day was removed from the official Church calendar in 1969, only to have her day restored to the list in 2002 as optional.

Besides good stories, and besides the miraculous aspects that some find outside the circle of their own tradition, rationality or belief, the saints often provide some inspiring modeling in their lives. It isn’t necessarily the difference between the sacred and the profane, although there’s plenty of that in cases such as Augustine, where the base and worldly give way to something greater. It is the difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary—no more or less than we might admire athletes, artists or anyone who excels in ways that make the impossible seem possible for us too.

In a way, it is a back door path to redefining exactly what miracles are. We might not be martyrs, we might not make a deadly instrument of torture disappear at a touch, we might not heal the incurably sick. Saints reach beyond grasp, and besides asking them for help when no help seems available, that is why people are excited by them. We have arms, we can reach too. We can help, even if it isn’t the kind that gets us listed in some official church roster.

Good stories. Some fireworks. Plenty of inspiration. Maybe every day can be All Saints’ Day.

Miley Ray Cyrus for Halloween

Miley Ray Cyrus
Millions of children and adults will spend Halloween dressed as some version of Miley Cyrus, which is a scary thought in so many ways.

The first suggestion to counteract this is that people dress as her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, as seen during the heyday of his popularity. But just wearing a mullet and spending the entire halloday singing Achy Breaky Heart seems cruel, with lots of pain and not much payoff.

Then an epiphany. Why not mash up father and daughter, Billy Ray and Miley. Dress as Miley Ray Cyrus. The most outrageous near-nude mullet-headed sex-crazed country dance pop tart in the history of music. Anyway, it’s all in the DNA.

For those who still don’t get it, and still need convincing, here are just some of the lyrics from the remix that you’ve all been asking for, know it or not:

Achy Breaky Wrecky Ball

You can tell my arms to go back onto the phone
You can tell my feet to hit the floor
Or you can tell my lips to tell my fingertips
They won’t be reaching out for you no more

We clawed, we chained our hearts in vain
We jumped never asking why
We kissed, I fell under your spell.
A love no one could deny

But don’t tell my heart, my achy breaky heart
I just don’t think it’d understand
And if you tell my heart, my achy breaky heart
He might blow up and kill this man

Don’t you ever say I just walked away
I will always want you
I can’t live a lie, running for my life
I will always want you

You can tell your ma I moved to Arkansas
Or you can tell your dog to bite my leg
Or tell your brother Cliff who’s fist can tell my lips
He never really liked me anyway

I came in like a wrecking ball
I never hit so hard in love
All I wanted was to break your walls
All you ever did was wreck me
Yeah, you, you wreck me