Intro, Television

Ghost Team – review

When is the last time you saw a decent contemporary movie without adult language and sex?

This low-budget film didn’t get any great reviews, probably because it wasn’t full of FX or what the industry considers to be high-concept. The plot was simple and solid if you stuck with it.

Our hero wants to break the mind-numbing monotony of his print shop job. Specifically, he wants to capture evidence of paranormal activity for a contest to get on a popular ghost hunting show. But he can’t do it alone, and doesn’t have any equipment. He manages to recruit other loser types to help, one of whom helps borrow/shoplift the equipment from the big box store where he works.

Following procedures from the television show (ingeniously fictionalized by a couple of the actual Ghost Hunters), the clueless team investigates a dilapidated property owned by one of the copy guy’s customers, without permission.

I won’t spoil anything except to say that all the paranormal activity they capture leads them to a far more dangerous discovery. And it takes every member of the team facing their insecurities and weaknesses to help them get out alive.

If you watch any of the ghost-hunting shows, you’ll enjoy the parallels without having to suffer through gratuitous sex and language.

 

 

 

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Beliefs, Day in the life, Television

Back to the Box

I love a great success story so I’m passing this juicy one along. After making my first blueberry pie of the season from our homegrown berries, I saw a piece on television about a woman who had shared my love of pie.

She’d lost her big job and broke the news to her partner with a half-hearted joke about ending up in the poorhouse. What to do?

They started baking pies in their home kitchen and quickly ran out of space. So they ditched the furniture, brought in more baking equipment and were all in. Then they put the finished product in a repurposed shed by the road. (Without anyone to man it!)  Customers pay by the old-fashioned honor system (dropping money into a metal box with a padlock) and selecting from a few varieties in a small fridge.

Poorhouse Pies in Underhill, VT proved that there was more than one way to make a living and sell their product. An unmanned shed by the road? Who would think that would work? I’ll bet a few folks told them that they were crazy.

Bored by the thinking “out of the box” reference? These ladies went back to the box and changed it completely  They transformed their home to a bakery, then set up an old tool shed as a store front.

Now, they’re doing far more than pie.

Hats off to a couple of Back-to-the-Boxers.

http://poorhousepies.com

23 Park Street, Underhill, VT (802) 899-1346

I need to do some of this kind of thinking myself.

Beliefs, Television

Monstrous Monday – Spiritual Responsibility

Zak Bagans’ latest television show Deadly Possessions brings up serious spiritual concerns. I’m not going to critique the show as much as what is not being broadcast.

After all, he’s not the first to open a museum stocked with paranormal objects. John Zaffis showed the world his museum on The Haunted Collector. But Zaffis also revealed some precautions he took to neutralize any spirit attachments after removing them from where they were found. Not all of the objects he acquired were placed in an open-to-the-public museum. Some were considered too dangerous to display.

Bagans doesn’t appear to have the same level of concern. In Deadly Possessions, he invites owners of possessed items to come to his museum to investigate the validity of the haunting, then interviews those who have suffered harm from having come in contact with the objects. A couple of objects had deadly stories attached to them as if even looking at the haunted object could kill a person.

He says “I” and “Mine” a lot about the collection of haunted items. In my mind, he doesn’t own anything. Those things own him. It’s a huge responsibility to be the caretaker of anything dangerous. It means being responsible for any harm that might befall anyone while displaying an item in your care.

Which brings me to an episode about an English doll that supposedly killed people who had merely gazed upon her face. Before revealing the doll’s face (covered with a black bag), a disclaimer was displayed on the screen that warned viewing the object could be dangerous. Look at your own risk. All right. After a few seconds, they revealed the face. I chose not to view it. I never cared for dolls when I was a child. I certainly had no curiosity about them now. But when the program resumed after the commercial break, there was no warning. Suddenly the face of the doll was the first image to flash in the recap. Thereby, exposing the audience whether they wished to view it or not. Highly irresponsible if the claims of death attached to this doll are to be believed. Exposing millions in the television audience with any level of belief in the possibility of harm makes everyone involved in the production responsible.

What other precautions are taken (or ignored) for the protection of visitors to the museum full of Deadly Possessions? I’m sure there are warning signs before entering the museum, but the only disclaimer for the television viewing audience at the opening of each episode is that the producers don’t share the views of the program.

Now you might be wondering, why watch such a show at all?  For me, the stories behind the items are the hook. Some might be nothing more than urban legends. But others provoke morbid curiosity.

I’m still alive.

Beliefs, Books, Film, Meta Stuff, Television

Do Your Beliefs Define You?

No god but God (Updated Edition): The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam

Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Reza Aslan, author of Zealot and host of Ovation’s Rough Draft with Reza Aslan, brought up a new idea when she asked him, “What is belief?” He answered, “Identity.”

I’ve spent my life sifting through various religions and philosophies in search of what I truly believe. From the time I was introduced to the Catholic Church, I’ve been trying to determine what is real for me. It didn’t do me much good to sit through a mass delivered in Latin if I didn’t understand the language. My high school didn’t even teach Latin. I only knew a deity that demanded obedience or else. No matter how well behaved I was I didn’t experience enlightenment.

I was born on Native American soil while being of European lineage. I got in trouble if I asked the priests or nuns about the differences in belief systems. Who was right? Like most people, I was in search of “the truth.”

If belief is identity, I didn’t know who I was for most of my life. I know now (or think I do), but what if you don’t? Are you void of identity if you don’t know what you really believe? I don’t think so. You just don’t know how to define it with clarity. Doesn’t mean that you don’t know your own mind.

When you ask a Jewish person “who” or “what” they are, they will generally respond with their religion instead of a nationality. “I’m a Jew.” I’m not sure any other group of people does this with as much conviction. Ask an Irishman the same question and he will identify regionally. I’ve always been a blend of several varieties like table wine. I’m not comfortable with labeling my belief system as any one thing. If I had to, I’d call it Open. Open to all systems of belief, understanding that even through our differences we share common ground.

There’s the old “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual” line. But being spiritual is not the same as believing in a deity. In my view, I am a spirit living in a human body. Being human is the perspective from which I view the world. As much as I can identify with other species, I am human and cannot view life from any other perspective. Just as the humans who penned all the religious texts on the planet. They identified their beliefs in human terminology, including their gods. Does this perspective define me? Of course it does. What I believe about everything defines me: business, politics, art, morality, etc. Stir all those things into a pot and you have a souffle as unique as the human who made it.

At last week’s RiverRun Film Festival, the film Heavenly Nomadic told the story of a dying culture of horse people who, when the leader of the clan died, killed his horse to go with him to the next life. Talk about a defining belief system. Indigenous people honor elements in nature, especially animals.

I adored this film by the way.

I envy Aslan’s ability to clearly articulate my own understanding. If you are as fascinated by belief systems and other world views as I am, check out his books as well as the series Oprah Winfrey produced last year called Belief, and Morgan Freeman’s current series running on the National Geographic channel, The Story of God.

Cover artBelief

The Story of God with Morgan Freeman logo.png

 

 

Beliefs, Television

Could You Face Your Former Self?

 

 

 

  The Dumas Hotel

The first episode of the new season of The Dead Files was an eye-opener. It was the first time I have seen an encounter with a living person who is presumed to be the reincarnation of the previous owner of the premises being investigated.

Dark things were happening to and around the current owner of The Dumas Hotel that had been a brothel for 92 years. His personality changed and he would lose time. A concerned friend contacted The Dead Files duo for help.

After researching the history of the property, a photograph of the original owner/builder was revealed. And the resemblance was uncanny, especially his eyes. The client looked like he could have been this man’s grandson. Yet, medium Amy Allen said the words,”This is you.” After her partner Steve’s neck cracked when he turned to her, she went on to say that when the original owner died, his soul had been fractured.

Now reincarnated, the owner has found his way back to the property and begun renovation and restoration, feeling a strange attachment to the building. But he never knew why. He was eerily calm about seeing his former face in the photo and said he felt relieved as if a weight had been lifted.

I can’t imagine feeling relieved to discover I had built a bordello where women were abused, forced into having abortions, or selling their children. Or that people around me had witnessed a metamorphosis in my personality when I was there.

Reincarnation is a phenomenon that you either believe or don’t. But if you do, you probably assume that you come back with your soul intact. But the soul can be whittled apart into pieces through trauma, aggression, and other emotional distress. Every energy exchange between two people can open the opportunity to take or leave soul fragments. This brings up a concern for me.

If I have reincarnated more than once, how many of my soul’s fragments are still out there somewhere? What if a big chunk of me is collecting dust in some dilapidated old silver mine? Pacing around a suburban culdesac that was once a battlefield? Or hanging around an Interstate highway where my old trading post once stood? Does that mean I’m walking around incomplete? Missing an important part of myself?

Amy’s advice to the client was to have a Reiki master absorb the fractured piece so that it could be healed and moved on.She did not get into what happened after that. But I know that fragment can be retrieved the help of a healer or shaman. He might not feel complete without it.

Day in the life, Television

Selfless vs Selfish

Proof 2

I’m a fan of TNT’s series Proof.

It employs actual Near Death Experiences reported to physicians by the patient after their heart stopped. The writers are not expanding facts into fantastical stories to make “better television.”

It had long been thought that when the heart stopped, the brain did shortly after, and the mind followed. Yet, thousands of cases have been recorded where the mind continued to record what it heard, felt, saw, smelled, and tasted after the heart stopped. It caught everything it would have while fully conscious. And in many cases reported things in the room others had not noticed or been privy to.

This week’s episode brought up a moral conundrum for me.

Negative or frightening imagery was rarely reported in NDEs. Most reported were filled with light and love, relatives to greet them, all things pleasant. So when the episode turned the dark corner, I was excited.

A killer, who murdered a police officer, had an NDE after flat-lining where he sees four young girls and the officer he killed. He’s afraid of what they want from him, and he shouts for one girl to go away and leave him alone. The killer knows his goose is cooked, and he’ll be spending the rest of his life in prison for his crime, so he shares the information with the doctor. Police automatically believe he killed them, too. How could he know where the bodies were otherwise?

His reason for surrendering the data was purely selfish – in hopes that it might score him a few points in the afterlife, so he might not spend eternity in, well, wherever he thought murderers went.

In general, I think we are all self-motivated, no matter how much we might enjoy putting others first or truly desire to help. Service at its core begins with self. We all have a self-driven motive for nearly everything we do. We only sell ourselves on the notion that we are self-sacrificing while we are also benefitting in some way. I think that is part of the human ego.

There was an episode of Friends where Phoebe made a bet with Joey that she could give away something to someone without receiving anything in return. Instead, she found that no matter what she selflessly offered, she received something for herself as well, even if was just feeling good.

phoebe

So what do you think? Is selflessness just selfishness in disguise? Is it possible to do anything for anyone without receiving something in return? And should a murderer be able to score a few points on the good side of his scorecard even though his motive was to serve himself?

Meta Stuff, Television

Is Proof Possible?

proof

TNT’s latest summer offering, executive produced by Kyra Sedgwick, has promise, provided that it’s offered the opportunity to grow. The life-after-death topic has not been edgy enough for prime time. In the past, audiences have responded more favorably to soap-opera drama, adult animation, and modern day fairy tales. And this subject often alienates conservative viewers with its less than glorious peek behind the veil. No saints at the gate or winged ushers to guide arrivals to the wizard in that great kingdom in the sky.

Being a realist, I am excited about this show and hope it will portray the real work doctors have done in researching the existence of an afterlife. Having studied the works of Professor Gary E. Schwartz, Ph.D., I know there is a mountain of material to support this theory. I am hopeful that some of the experiments conducted in The Afterlife Experiments and The G.O.D. Experiments will be brought to life on the small screen. Actual tests done with patients who flat-lined for a number of minutes who claimed to see and hear everything that occurred in the room after their heart stopped.

Proof follows a surgeon (Jennifer Beals) who has had her own unexplained life-after-death experiences since losing her teenage son. She remains a skeptic, as do most scientific people. But she is approached by a dying billionaire who promises to fund her disaster relief efforts should she employ her skills to aid his research. What happens to the consciousness after death?  Big money is too sweet a carrot, so she’s in, but unconvinced she’ll find much. Yet, she holds a kernel of belief that her son might not be completely gone. As long as she hangs onto that ounce of reasonable doubt that physical death is not the end, she can be propelled to consider ideas she once thought preposterous.

To my own mind, I don’t believe there is proof. Proof implies tangible, physical evidence. There is no such thing when dealing with the 21 gram “soul” that science has labeled as the weight of individual human consciousness. It is not physical matter.

My fingers are crossed that the producers can do right by the subject matter, and that it finds an audience open enough to give it a chance, at least for the ten episodes it has shot.