Sorcerers versus Shamans

imagesHave we hit the saturation point with violence in the media yet? Not even close, I’m afraid, although a few signs do point in that direction. While many heralded the arrival of Quentin Tarantino, I find no joy in violence, so while I found his comedy refreshing, I could have lived without the gore. The Cohn Brothers surfed a camp/gore paradigm with more class and less graphic violence. But I’m at the point now where I can hardly watch TV as it has become so saturated in violence to be unbearable. The only cable channel I trust is TCM because the films mostly pre-date 1969, which is when the first big amp-up of violence took place post Sam Peckinpah’s Wild Bunch. But Tarantino is like Wild Bunch times two. Even if society hasn’t hit the saturation point, I have, which is why you won’t find me in line buying tickets to too many movies, although I did cave in and take my kids to This is the End (they loved it—”best movie ever”).

And forget about HBO and Showtime. They suck. Sure, The Sopranos was great but that’s over and even though Boardwalk Empire is okay, it plays the same game of chucking history out the window so they can manifest gore scenes to amp up the violence. This is a great disservice to the real Nucky Johnson, who deserves better. In real life, Nucky got into a huge confrontation with William Randolph Hearst over a showgirl and Hearst devoted his life to bringing Nucky down, the same thing Hearst did to marijuana when he invented reefer madness.

I’m so glad The Borigas is cancelled. The Showtime version sucks, and is blown away by the Euro version available on Netflix which is going on for another season and rightfully so. Reason being? Better sense of history. Can you see that you media moguls? People are getting sick of the gore and want real stories about real people, not the violence porn all the little Tarantino wannabe’s are spewing out. The reason people like historical drama so much is because they want to surf the actual energy of someone’s spirit, something that can only really be done if real facts are respected. So when facts are thrown out the window for the sake of gore, then you are disrespecting those spirits. And what goes around comes around.

We live in a society that prizes warrior spirit above all things and while I respect warrior culture and would never seek to banish anyone’s chosen vibrations (as long as they harm no one), I also hope people can learn to put a little more ceremony into manifesting peace instead of just worshiping violence like our society does almost all the time.

3095-e1345566450626To give an specific example, over a hundred thousand will soon be attending two 150th anniversary ceremonies for the battle of Gettysburg. The actual participants in this ceremony will number over ten thousand. They will fire canon, musket and rifle, ride horses and play dead at the appropriate moment while reenacting the bloodiest day in American history. So of course, this is a wonderful opportunity to dress up like noble warriors and celebrate that glorious march into the jaws of death? There will be two separate reenactments book-ending the actual battle date, and each one costs around $20 to attend. It’s great when you can get all your actors to show up in full costume on their own dime just because they want to experience some real human carnage up and close and personal. The events will be surrounded by vendors charging outrageous prices for food and drink and most people will surely be close to dead drunk by night’s end, just the way many a true warrior likes to end all their battles.

Meanwhile, at the same time, on the other side of the country, a few thousand will be gathering to honor peace, The National Rainbow Family Gathering. The price to attend this ceremony will be free and the many kitchens will be serving free food. There will be zero vendors. Just everything free. But this ceremony will also get zero national media, much less the sort of fawning the Civil War 150th reenactments are going to enjoy in the next few weeks. No, the peace worshipers will not get any positive press, and, in fact, the sparse coverage in the local Montana media over the next few weeks will likely be mostly negative as shop owners worry about theft and vandalism and barefoot hippies using their rest rooms for baths.

And that’s just one indication of how out of whack our country has grown. If only we could direct some of our ceremonial energy towards manifesting peace instead of violence it would be a huge step in the right direction, and maybe even slow down some of the shootings that have been going on around us. Because you know what? You get what you pray for. And if you got too many shootings going on, maybe your ceremonies shouldn’t involve shootings for a while.


The Better Borgias?

Blason_famille_it_Borgia_revI was enjoying Showtime’s The Borgias until I discovered a prior German-French production (available on Netflix) that was produced only two years earlier and already took the world outside the USA by storm. This is the show that actually inspired the current Borgia revival, having been sold in 85 countries.

Yes, Showtime has slightly higher production values, more men in the battle scenes, and a slightly better cast in some, but not all, roles; but the best script award clearly goes to Tom Fontana’s crew, who present something much closer to the historical record. And Fontana also does a better job of capturing the unique Vatican styles of the period.

Alexandre Dumas was one of the first to realize money could be made exploiting rumors about the once powerful Borgia family. Murder, incest and simony always top the lists of sins, even though the Borgias produced two well-respected Popes in their lifetimes, although today, that reign is portrayed as the most corrupt in history? This is a joke! Eventually, the Borgias lost their long struggle with the Medici and other powerful Italian families (a coalition they’d been able to forge because they were Spanish, not Italian, so they represented an impartial referee for the various factions). So history has been written by their enemies, and not their friends, and the Borgias have slowly transformed over time into evil Frankenstein monsters they probably never were.

b548eec59788791e1f0f6a7067006ca0I suggest you divert away from the Showtime series and check out the more intellectually stimulating version on Netflix. And you’ll only have to get used to one minor flaw: John Doman (The Wire) does an admirable job portraying the cunning and complex Pope Alexander VI, but he plays this role with his American accent, a mistake, especially considering the rest of the cast is European and speaking in English, so Doman’s Americanisms stand out. Doman may not have the training of Jeremy Irons, but he is powerful and believable in the role, I just wish there was a trace of a Spanish accent for some reason.

A recent revisionist history of the Borgias by G.J. Meyer concludes the sordid tales of incest and murder were likely invented by rivals to discredit the Borgias and most of these stories didn’t even appear until decades after the deaths of the principles involved, like the rumor Cesare killed his brother Juan.

Like 50 percent of all priests (then and now), the Borgias were not celibate and produced illegitimate offspring, most of whom were granted legitimacy by various Papal decrees, yet they still carried the mark of “bastard” and “outsider.” They were Spanish living in Italy, so no insult was too low not to be hurled in their direction as long as it was behind the back and under the breath.

In fact, Alexander VI was remembered during his lifetime as a great communicator and facilitator of unification and commerce. Showtime projects a somewhat bumbling Alexander receiving the idea of selling indulgences from an ambitious Cardinal, when, in fact, that corrupt practice began hundreds of years before Alexander’s arrival at the Vatican.  Alexander did not invent corruption, nor was he anything close to being its worst offender. He is portrayed as buying his way into becoming Pope, when, in fact, any Cardinal seeking that position at that time in history would have had to make promises to fellow Cardinals to get elected.

I also prefer the European production for its portrayal of Catholic rites and rituals, which I really enjoy studying since I’m not Catholic. I don’t follow dogma from any religion, but I enjoy learning the theatrics of their rituals because I believe all spirituality is composed of the same magic. When threatening excommunication, Cesare cites “bell, book and candle” as the primary tools in that ceremony (as they are in many pagan ceremonies). And make no mistake, excommunication is a ceremony that surfs the dark side and the Catholics developed many over the centuries.

When Alexander VI married his 12-year-old daughter to a Sforza, he kept this newly minted couple inside the Vatican and forbade them to fornicate. This issue is not addressed in the Showtime series, but according to most theories today, Alexander did this because the marriage was intended to hold the Sforza family loyal to his shaky alliance. But since he did not trust the Sforzas to remain friendly, he kept his young daughter chaste so he could nullify the marriage should the Sforza’s side against him, which they eventually did, of course. Instead, in the Showtime series, the daughter is shipped off to be tortured and abused. I appreciate historical drama so much more when it preserves some shred of accuracy, which Showtime obviously does not.

Of course, among the many crimes hurled at Alexander VI was his supposed Jewish heritage. Considering he had royal European genes from many dynasties stretching back for many generations, this claim is the most laughable of all. And yet, you’ll find this charge trumpeted on Alexander VI’s wikipedia page as if it must be true. The charge exists no doubt only because he treated Jews in Rome much better than his Italian cousins. After his death, the Jews were herded into a ghetto and their real mistreatment in Rome recommenced. But the Borgias had earlier devised a scheme to keep the Jews in Rome protected by baptising them all and claiming they were no longer Jews.

imagesThe stories of incest began after the marriage was annulled and the Sforza’s claimed the reason Alexander forbade Lucrezia from having sex was not to annul the marriage but because he was having sex with her himself at the time. This does not seem credible without any supporting testimony from outside their clan, however, and was likely invented simply because of the immense power Lucrezia eventually achieved, as she presided over the College of Cardinals in his absence, which made her briefly one of the most powerful women in the world at the time. There’s no evidence she poisoned, murdered or slept with any members of her family, yet these tales continue to spin through the pages of history. At least in the European version, Lucrezia’s character develops and matures, while in the Showtime version, she just grows more evil. I think we are missing the boat on what should be Lucrezia’s true legacy as a trail-blazing feminist who took a stand for women’s rights.

Religion is just magic with a different name

Blason_famille_it_Borgia_revI don’t know why all the critics are raving about Game of Thrones when Borgias on Netflix is clearly the best show on TV right now and they just posted the third and final season. Ok, sure, I love the fact Peter Dinklage has broken through the stereotype to create a full-fledged little person for perhaps the first time in media history. I don’t deny this as an important development. But, honestly, the fantasy world created in Game of Thrones cannot compare with the real-world intrigue of the early days of the Catholic Church, the oldest reigning power structure on the planet.

Does anyone else notice the theme that binds these two shows is opium? Opium became the world’s biggest profit center at one point in history (replacing sugar).  Now petroleum holds that position, I guess, but probably not for long.

Religion is just magic with a different name, and nothing makes this more clear than The Borgias, who engage in magic ceremonies against their adversaries at every opportunity. Notice these ceremonies often involve 12 Cardinals standing in a circle holding lit candles? Almost looks like something Aleister Crowley cooked up, doesn’t it?

Speaking of which, Crowley was a great mountain climber but his attempt to prove the science behind magic fell short and he lapsed into hoodwinks after his drug addictions made him vulnerable. Crowley surfed the dark side his whole life and paid the price. Those who live by the dark, die in the dark. Crowley was actually a faithful servant to the British crown, and frequently offered his services to MI6, but this partnership became somewhat comical at the end.

Many people vied for Crowley’s crown, none harder than Michael Aquino, but all have fallen short. The closest thing to Crowley today is David Icke, who holds his own ceremony to cast an evil magic spell during the Queen’s Jubilee. Only problem is Icke, like Crowley before him, is undoubtedly a tool of SIS.

But don’t get the impression I have a problem with the British. Hell no! They are certainly some of the brightest, most talented people in the world and they own the arts of secret societies and dark magic and easily conquered over a quarter of the world. And also produced some of the best music of the 1960s.

And speaking of spirituality, one of my biggest regrets in life is that around 1989, I was walking down Columbus Avenue around the Museum of Natural History when I passed within two feet of George Harrison, who was all alone and who had stared at me from a long way off as I approached him. I was wearing Beatle boots at the time, and faded jeans with psychedelic patches. Both Ken Kesey and Patti Astor had commented on how cool these customized jeans were and I could tell George was checking them out with a sense of appreciation. And even though George was the most spiritual of all the Beatles, and even though I felt a deep connection with his work, I respected his privacy and just walked on by instead of inviting him over to my nearby pad to check out the latest Cannabis Cup winner.

I’ll likely never forgive myself for this lapse in judgment and it’s just another instance of how my shyness worked against my better instincts.