A HELL OF A COUPLE OF DAYS
I have just re-read and upgraded my review of Nick La Torre’s rethinking of the gospel of Jesus as if Jesus was only a non-entity invested by some kind of supernatural smoky being, if it is a being, looking for a man who could be a puppet that would be the vessel of his/its godliness that people would worship in this human form. And then I peppered this tale with a film about teaching in New York and Los Angeles reduced to a direct and unwinnable war between one teacher and one gang member or listed criminal under age who has to go to school to avoid being sent to prison, juvenile or not.
Enjoy the trip into the ugliness of a godless world entirely dedicated to the paycheck and the health coverage, in one word, the world in which there are no trump cards anymore, where the pawns you are have the obligation to navigate on a chessboard that has lost its white and black squares. We are living in a de-structured world and we believe life is a miracle in a universe of violence and death. The real miracle is that we are still here to watch such films because their logic is that the world should have been terminated long ago by its own intestine melt-down.
NICK LA TORRE — THE GOSPEL OF THE RAUSCHMONSTRUM — 2016
This is pure mischief and the author is enjoying it when you accuse him of being a mischievous and shadowy character, so much so that his Rauschmonstrum is nothing but dark smoke that can take any form it wants. In other words, this monster is smoking us up and out of our minds.
Now, what is the real nature of this monster? The first reference we can think of is Perelà, Uomo di Fumo (Perelà, Man of Smoke), an opera composed by Pascal Dusapin whose Italian libretto Dusapin himself wrote, based on the novel, Il Codice Perelà by the Italian writer, Aldo Palazzeschi and which had its world premiere on February 24, 2003, at the Opéra Bastille in Paris (France not Texas), conducted by James Conlon. And we can wonder how much the present Gospel owes to this opera and the novel behind. We could summarize this opera as follows, along with Wikipedia.
“The enigmatic protagonist, Perelà, is literally a man made of smoke, formed over thirty-three years in the chimney of a fireplace tended by three old women, Pena, Rete, and Lama, the three weirds sisters of Shakespeare of course, hence the triple goddess of all European cultures. One day he finds the fireplace abandoned. He gives himself a name made up of the first syllable of the names of his “mothers” (Pe-Re-La), puts on a pair of boots that will anchor him to the ground, and sets off for a city that he sees on the horizon. On the way, he is met by an old woman and then by one of King Torlindao’s guards who brings him to the royal court. Once there, everyone is fascinated by the strange story of his origin and by his “lightness,” which they consider a unique gift. He is admired and feted by all. So much so, that the Queen and the king’s minister ask him to devise a new legal code for their society, and a noblewoman who had previously sworn off men, Marchesa Oliva di Bellonda, falls in love with him. But one day, his fortunes change. The old valet, Alloro, sets himself on fire hoping to emulate the lightness of Perelà. The accusations by Alloro’s daughter turn the people against Perelà whom they now revile as a murderer. The Marchesa tries to defend him, but he is condemned to prison. After singing a final oration, Perelà escapes by removing his boots and floating out through the chimney of his cell to become a moving form in the sky.”
Back to the Rauschmonstrum, we have to say this supernatural being wants to become the master of humanity by providing them with a prophet they will believe in and who will be able to provide the barbarian human beings of this humanity with some kind of ethical and moral frame. He chooses Jesus as a worthy tool for his ambition.
Systematically he follows him and provides him with the miracles he needs to become the prophet. In other words, all these miracles are lies since they are not Jesus’ doing but the Rauschmonstrum’s. But at the same time they are miracles anyway, hence the tall-tale does not destroy or change the story. Jesus becomes the Son of God, though there is no God, hence there is no Son of God, but yet there is a super powerful being who is God in a way or another, anyway, the Rauschmonstrum himself. Then it turns God into nothing but a smoky shape floating in the air, but the super-powers it has makes it a real God. Who cares about the shape since it anyway is invisible, untouchable, totally beyond all our human senses, except the sixth sense of the Buddhists, the mind. God is an invention of man’s mind and yet the tall-tale here makes him a real character.
Another aspect of the tall-tale is that it insists on the responsibility of the Pharisees, high priest and other priests, in one word the top echelon of the priesthood hierarchy in Jerusalem’s temple, hence the Jewish religious elite, and since it is true that the High Priest took a valueless decision via the Sanhedrin summoned in his home and not in the Temple, this fact cannot be denied, the accusation sounds strange especially when it is accompanied with some strange mysterious nationalistic and patriotic language:
“But a certain one of them, Caiaphas, being a high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is advantageous for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” Caiaphas prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation and not for the nation only, but that he might also gather together into one all the Israelites and descendants of Israelites, many of whom were scattered abroad.” (Location 826)
I would say that it sounds a little bit warped as of the logic of the reasoning. The crucifixion of Jesus sure turned the Jewish people into a pariah people in the world for at least twenty centuries due to the subsequent events around the disciples and particularly the fate of James, Jesus’ brother and first bishop of Jerusalem appointed by Jesus himself, whose stoning decided by the Sanhedrin will eventually bring the destruction of the temple and the walls of the city and the scattering of all Jews away from the Middle East (the famous diaspora). And has the curse finally been lifted? I doubt it and some among the Jews today are geniuses in the art of making gentile goyim hate them.
Can we consider this rewriting of the Christian Gospels as a masterpiece or a fake parody? We are in a way forced to think of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet first published in 1923 and that I discovered fifty years later in the Bookstore of the University of California at Davis in fall 1973. There is some kind of distance-building tone and attitude that is supposed to insist on our freedom to act and at the same time on the vanity of this freedom to act. There’ is always behind us a prophet, a man made of smoke that is lurking in the corners of our mind. We are the puppets of such an evanescent and yet fundamental construct of our own human mind. Without it, we would not be human. Humanity is in our sense of transcendence and surreal vanity.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU
IDEM, AMAZON.xxx, September 1, 2016
Good appetite with these delicious drumsticks.
Sorry, Nick, you made me a cannibal since I devoured your Jesus as if he were a couple of Kentucky fried chicken drumsticks. I am ashamed of it and I beg you to forgive me, to pardon me, to excuse me and let me go to my doom in peace and quiet so that I can be destroyed by the fire of God without any more ado and pain than necessary.
But frankly what venomous spider carrying what un-healable epidemic bit or has repetitively bitten that poor Nick La Torre into rewriting the Gospel of Jesus, the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Mary Magdalena and the Gospel of Matthew, all in one go in a dark shade of some black, very black Jewish humor? We did not have the Gospel of Caiaphas so far, but now it is done, achieved, terminated and finalized along with the Gospel of Herod-cum-Salome. Welcome aboard the flat boat that is going to take you to the land of the mentally insane who pretend to be terminally inspired with the vision of some truth that does not exist. What is truth anyway, boy?
Some will say Nick La Torre (probably a relative of my father in law Nick La Notte, buried not in some Field of Blood but in the famous Arlington National Cemetery) is an iconoclastic blasphemous ranter and raver, or ranting and raving monster of the apish family who cannot understand the immense magnitude of the concept of God and the reality of the divine in this world. Ranting he is for sure when he makes Jesus believe he is the Son of God though he should know better, and raving he is when he is very unclear on his various Mary’s, remaining fuzzy about Mary the mother and Mary Magdalena presented by some as the lover and forgetting the third one at the foot of the cross.
Some will say he is a believer in reason and logic with the mind of a mathematician suddenly turned biologist and trying to find some architecture in the endless sequence of miracles. And he succeeds since these miracles are finally explained and logical since they are the products and production of a Spirit made of smoke. It is finally normal and the miracles are only the doing of an obviously identified power and force in this universe, even if it has the shape of a smoke screen. We will regret the sloppiness of this spirit who should know that in German “rauchen” does not carry an “s.” In fact “Rausch” means frenzy, intoxication, ecstasy, and giddiness. In other words, this monster is not really made of smoke as the author says but he is a plain drunk frantic inebriated individual practicing some kind of gospel-oriented onanism and tottering around like a sunflower on its stalk.
Some will say this author is insane and what’s more a very cultivated insane individual because a man made of smoke was used quite some time ago by Pascal Dusapin in his opera Perela, Uomo di Fumo (2003) adapted from the Italian novel Il codice Perelà by Aldo Palazzeschi (1911). That has always been a vast human myth that between the diabolical trinity of Satan-Beelzebub-Mephistopheles and the divine trinity of God-Jesus-Holy-Spirit there has to be some third force. The objective of this intermediary fantastic being is to manipulate humanity into committing all kinds of interesting misbehaving crimes. Here this Monster of Smoke is trying to invest in Jesus to create the most potent and active myth giving him, this/that in-between monster, full power over human history. Unluckily the author seems to have forgotten that Christianity is no longer what maybe it used to be and has a strong competitor in Islam, not to mention Buddhism or even Hinduism.
Some will say the author is fully obnubilated by Jesus that he has to make more human than the Christian tradition has him, in fact completely human with no special powers, except that of telling stories and preaching. All the supernatural deeds attributed to this young man are nothing but the doing of this Smoky Monster. Then the miracles are the caprices and tools of this half-evil or maybe even three times (physically, mentally and supernaturally) evil monster. This Smoky Monster is so evil that he dares call the human species a “race” running after some inspiring myth justifying any absurdity in behavior and thought.
If you accept that kind of depth, you will enjoy the very norm-breaking and even standard-shattering winks that have the power of real tornadoes, or rotten tomatoes. Let yourself be carried away by this delirium mystification and just add a little bit more from your own inspiration since we all have one little devil comfortably enjoying the cozy bliss of some dark corner in our shapeless minds.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU
SAMUEL L. JACKSON — 0NE EIGHT SEVEN — 1997
The film is not about the school system nor the teaching profession; It is about human relations and empathy or antagonism in a mixed community, and a high school is the acme of such a mixed environment. The teachers are just pawns on the chessboard of educational politics and eventually policies. The school system is managed by people who have been teachers less and less and are politicians more and more.
To bring together in New York City or in Los Angeles half a dozen or more ethnic groups, religions and other diversity like sexual orientation is like a daily miracle that can never find its balance, its equilibrium, its perfection. Do not believe it is the fact of all the students. It only takes one to three to transform a class and even a school into a real hell for students, teachers and everyone else. And what’s more, they double up their systematic aggressive disruption with the menace of civil lawsuits for the negation of or infringement on their civil rights of any sorts. The film only shows boys in that bullying disruptive game, but do not believe girls are different. They just use different tools and attitudes and particularly their sex appeal as a disruptive commerce on their skin.
Here a black teacher is left for dead, but he will survive, in a New York City school due to an aggression from a transferred delinquent from another school to this particular school. He moves to California and Los Angeles and becomes a substitute teacher for the greater part of a year. But the same situation and conflict will develop and it becomes a real open war between that teacher and the band of delinquent students who want to destroy him from the start. They are of Latino origin but hate the Blacks, the Chicanos, and the whites alike. If there were some Asians, they would hate them too.
What can a teacher do in such a situation?
Not much and the film shows there is no end but death. It is reduced at the end to the confrontation of the said teacher, Trevor Garfield, with one Latino student who has decided to come with two acolytes and shoot the teacher, but they have to show off to appear like manly masculine men, that they are not in fact. In that final scene the teacher will manage to challenge the boy in his masculinity and strangely enough, he will win.
But there is something wrong in this situation. It exposes the ugliness of politicized high school management, and yet the eulogy to this teacher will be delivered by the Chicana girl he had helped because she was appointed Valedictorian speaker for graduation day. But we do not know who took the decision, and if it is a victory for the teachers or the students over the over-politicized management of the school. It implies there was somewhere some kind of a possible negotiating in-between body that could and should have filtered the conflict to solve it before its final and lethal end. That’s what is missing in this film. The teacher is alone in front of openly criminal, aggressive and provocative individuals that could and should be isolated and negotiated officially by some neutral group in the school. The film shows racism and sexism as being absolutely unavoidable, impossible to mediate or moderate. And that is not true.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU