They put up the last part of my interview on Buddhist Geeks. So go give it a listen if you’re into that sort of thing. I listened and did not puke, as is my usual reaction to my own interviews.
I’ve been going to the LA Film Festival this week. It’s sorta kinda related to my “real job.” But mainly I’m just watching the movies that seem most interesting. So far I’ve seen Escape From LA, a trash classic in which Kurt Russell escapes from Los Angeles, which, according to the film, was turned into a penal colony in 1998 after a fascist religious nut president got himself elected ruler for life. I had no idea. I was in Japan in 1998, so I guess I never heard about this and the people I know around here now don’t seem to like to talk about it. When I think how this town operates, though, it kinda makes sense now…
I tried to get tickets to the Transformers premier tonight, but they were all gone and even the connection I have at Micahel Bay’s office proved useless. But there’s still a slim chance I’ll get in one way or another.
On Monday I saw a very interesting film called Join Us. It’s a documentary about a religious cult in South Carolina. According to the movie, the new brand of cult is not a giant international organization like the Moonies or Scientology. What’s more common these days is little cults you never hear about in rural areas. The film follows the fall of one of these, a fire and brimstone Christian cult led by a charismatic German immigrant named Raimund Melz.
I’m gonna try to work up a review of the film for my next Suicide Girls installment. But just very quickly here, whenever I watch a film like this these days I tend to focus on the wrong things. Meaning, I tend to focus on stuff the film makers seem to want to relegate to the background. In this example, the “heroes” of the picture are the brave souls who got out of the cult and taught their bretheren inside what an insidious organization they were participating in, eventually succeeding in toppling the church. The “villains” of the piece are cult-leader Raimund and his wife.
Me, though, I tended to focus more on Raimund. As the leader of a cult of my own, I can see his side of the story more clearly than I can the side of the supposed heroes of the film. I’m thinking, how can I get my followers to buy me a fleet of sports cars and build me a whole subdivision full of houses for free which I can then rent back to them at inflated prices? How come I gotta pay my own money to rent out the Hill Street Center for retreats and Zazen classes and take a huge loss on the thing every month when only five people show up? What’s up with that? Shit, maybe I should charge $185 a session and hypnotize everyone into thinking they’ve been enlightened by the end of the day like some other Zen Masters do.
NO! NO!! NO!!!!! I am joking. Joking. OK? But seriously, I do see Raimund’s side of the story more clearly than his followers’ side. I can see exactly how a guy can get sucked into that. Because, unlike what the film-makers seem to want us to believe, the followers of a cult are not simply poor innocent little creatures who get duped by big, bad, dirty, greedy guys. They are generally very manipulative people who desperately want to get duped. Man, I can feel it from people who come and see me sometimes, how they are seriously searching for someone exactly like Raimund, or like Charles Manson, or bin Laden, or Hitler. And they won’t stop till they find him or some poor sap like Raimund who they can turn into the corrupt leader they so desire. Of course, it takes two to tango, so the leader has to be a fairly bad guy as well. But he never works as a solo act. Never, ever, ever. Nope. Not even one example. Cuz the solo cult leaders, they’re just crazy people yelling on street corners that everyone ignores.
Anyway, I’m gonna spend some more time developing this little thesis and premier it on Suicide Girls this weekend. So forgive me if I steal some of my own words and use it in the piece.