The Far Side

I used to live for the Far Side and did a dance of joy when I heard about Gary Larson’s return. For a trip down memory lane (back into the ’80s), these are probably my three favorite classics: (1) “Faster Fifi!” because I can never stop laughing when I see it; (2) boa-baby because it’s just so sick; and (3) “Cow Tools” because it’s so famously controversial.

A Fundamentalist argument against Racism (from the bible and DNA)

Pastor Steven Anderson, who believes that gay people should be executed by a righteous government, is also passionately anti-racist: “I’m probably the most non-racist person you’ve ever laid eyes on in your life,” he says. “If half of this nation was Hispanic, or if 75% of this nation was Hispanic, or if 99% was Hispanic, or black, or anything, I would be thrilled.” I suppose it’s a consolation that Anderson is enlightened on some issues.

Just as he easily justifies his homophobia from the bible, so too he proves that racism is anathema in the eyes of God. “If you are a racist person, you need to get right with God,” says Anderson. Here are the essential points from his recent sermon:

1. Racism has always been around and always will be around. Despite our progressive efforts to rid of ourselves of institutionalized racism, it is natural (sinful) for human beings to think tribally, and that “their group” is better than another. Witness the “segregated dining hall” phenomenon in Genesis, where the Egyptians refuse to eat with the “dirty Hebrews”:

“And they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians, which did eat with him, by themselves: because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians” (Gen 43:32).

Also the famous “segregated dining hall” at Antioch, where Peter capitulated to the men of James, who believed that uncircumcised Gentiles shouldn’t mix with Jews at the same table:

“When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.” (Gal 2:11-13)

“Whether it’s Egyptians or Jews or whoever,” says Anderson, “it’s easy to demonstrate that through every phase of human history, on every continent, one nationality has puffed itself up against another. This is part of the sinful nature of humanity. You don’t have to teach your kids to be racist. You have to teach them not to be racist.”

2. God, however, is not impressed by anyone’s nationality or ethnicity; it means nothing to Him — indeed, less than nothing. “All nations before him are as nothing. And they are counted to Him less than nothing and vanity.” (Isa 40:17) “How do you get ‘less than nothing’?” asks Anderson. “The bible was ahead of its time.”

3. The heroes of the bible were never troubled by “mixed” or “interracial” marriages. Abraham had a child with Hagar the Egyptian; Judah was married to a Canaanite; Joseph was married to an Egyptian. Most notably, Moses married a black woman (a Cushite/Ethiopian), and when Aaron and Miriam got angry about that marriage, God explicitly took Moses’s side, going so far as to strike Miriam with leprosy for her racist attitude (Num 12:1-12).

4. Even in general, the Hebrews didn’t take much care to keep their “bloodline pure”. See Ezra 10:18-44, where the priests, levites, and Israelites all married foreign women.

5. The idea of any “pure bloodline” is a myth in any case. Anderson invokes ancestry tests which prove how mixed everyone’s DNA is. In Anderson’s case, his top three DNA matches are (1) Moroccan Berber, (2) Spanish, and (3) Arab — even though he was raised to believe that he was mostly Swedish. Anderson’s father has “Alabama black” in his DNA chart. Etc. Scientifically speaking, “race” is an illusion.

6. And why would you be proud of your race to begin with, when you did literally nothing to achieve it?” Or, as the apostle Paul said: “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (I Cor 4:7). “Why,” asks Anderson, “are you glorying in something that happened to you automatically, that you had no control over? Losers take pride in their ethnicity since they have no actual achievements.”

7. Those “in Christ” derive their identity from precisely that, not ethnicity. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal 3:27-29) Anderson concludes the sermon by saying that he has rebuked many people for being racist — black people for playing the victim card, white people for their sense of privilege — and he will continue to so, especially in his church, which God intends as a “house of prayer for all nations” (Mk 11:17).

From an exegetical point of view, some of Anderson’s points are more convincing than others. But from a fundamentalist point of view, he deserves credit for representing the clear pattern in the Old and New Testaments which show God as a respecter of no one’s ethnic background. He may have chosen the nation Israel to play a special role in the OT, but the deity didn’t favor the Hebrews or Israelites as a race or ethnicity or for how they look or appear.

I find the example of Moses and his Cushite wife (in point 3) very interesting, but I’m not as confident as Anderson that Aaron and Miriam objected to Moses’ marriage out of racist attitudes for a black woman. That could be what’s implied, but scholars seem divided on that point.

(Note that Anderson has also sermonized on behalf of immigrants (and fervently against Donald Trump), showing how the bible is pro-immigration.)

The Full Stranger Things Soundtrack

At last I finished the soundtrack for the entirety of Stranger Things, by which I mean the three TV seasons plus my six fanfiction novels. Six of these songs are from the official Stranger Things soundtrack (#s 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 12); the rest are my own picks. Explanations follow for each, and you can click on the right-hand image to hear the song.

TV Season 1

1. Space Age Love Song, A Flock of Seagulls
2. Atmosphere, Joy Division
3. When It’s Cold I’d Like to Die, Moby

TV Season 2

4. Just Another Day, Oingo Boingo
5. Louise, Clan of Xymox
6. Every Breath You Take, The Police

TV Season 3

7. Baba O’Riley, The Who
8. Best Adventures, Thinkman

Endless Night

9. Here is the House, Depeche Mode
10. Worlock, Skinny Puppy
11. The Battle of Evermore, Led Zeppelin
12. Heroes, Peter Gabriel (Cover for David Bowie)

The College Years (A)

13. Black, Pearl Jam
14. She Sells Sanctuary, The Cult

The Witch of Yamhill County

15. Jane Says, Jane’s Addiction
16. We Will Become Silhouettes, The Postal Service

The College Years (B)

17. Pictures of You, The Cure
18. Losing It, Rush

The Black Rose of Newberg

19. Silent Shout, The Knife
20. I Grieve, Peter Gabriel

The New Generation

21. Name, The Goo Goo Dolls
22. Backwards with Time, The Avett Brothers

World’s End

23. Graffiti, Chvrches
24. Skeletons (Acoustic Version), Yeah Yeah Yeahs

 

Space Age Love Song

1. Space Age Love Song. A Flock of Seagulls. This song is for love at first sight. It summons how hard Mike fell for Eleven during that fateful week of November ’83, even if his twelve-year old self had moved mountains to admit it.

Atmosphere

2. Atmosphere. Joy Division. This one is on the real Stranger Things soundtrack, played in episode 4 of the first season, when Joyce is at wits end, believed by no one and dismissed as a lunatic for insisting that Will is still alive. It’s a fitting theme, since the song is about abandonment, and “walking in silence” alone.

When It’s Cold I’d Like to Die

3. When It’s Cold I’d Like to Die. Moby. From the season-1 finale, when Will is rescued from the Upside Down and resuscitated back to life. It’s about giving up and being resigned to death in the coldest place; sadly beautiful and haunting.

Just Another Day

4. Just Another Day. Oingo Boingo. Season 2 is the year of estrangement. Everyone is alienated in some way, whether from others or themselves, and suffering traumas they can hardly speak of. Eleven is isolated, torn between a new father figure and a mother she wants to find; Mike is a shell, believing his girlfriend dead but unable to let go; Will is possessed; Nancy is drowning in guilt from Barb’s death. Yet everyone tries to go on — like it’s “just another day”.

Louise

5. Louise. Clan of Xymox. The perfect song for the season-2 Mike. He has suffered a year of depression following Eleven’s death/disappearance from battling the demogorgon, and is shattered to the extent that he has essentially stopped growing as a person: “My heart used to beat, now it only weeps; and I shiver, I quiver, into these strangest things…”

Every Breath You Take

6. Every Breath You Take. The Police. Mike and El’s dance song at the Snowball. That it’s a stalker song is fitting, not only because Mike and El’s relationship has been weird from the start, but also because El had been stalking Mike for a whole year in the Void, when he thought she was dead.

Baba O’Riley

7. Baba O’Riley. The Who. From the season-3 trailer, it should have been the official theme song of the season. It sums up the “teenage wasteland” feeling of the Summer of Love, when the kids were going through growing pains, quarrels, and breakups.

Best Adventures

8. Best Adventures. Thinkman. I chose this as another Summer of Love theme — a farewell to childhood. “Is it time to say goodbye?” (To the adventures of childhood.) Somehow this song sounds exactly right for the endgame season 3 is pointing to.

Here is the House

9. Here is the House. Depeche Mode. At this point we enter the world of my fanfiction. “Here is the House” is the theme for my novel Endless Night (essentially my version of “TV season 4”). It’s set in January 1987, during the kids’ sophomore year in high school, by which time Mike and El are frequently banging each other in his bedroom. The song envisions a complete mutual surrender, and a physical-spiritual bond between two lovers. Halfway through the novel, that bond is cruelly shattered.

Worlock

10. Worlock. Skinny Puppy. In Endless Night the kids confront a real mind flayer — the humanoid kind described in their Dungeons & Dragons manuals — which makes the “mind flayer” of seasons 2 and 3 look tame. “Worlock” evokes the terror of this creature.

 

The Battle of Evermore

11. The Battle of Evermore. Led Zeppelin. This is the showdown song for the battle that kills Mike Wheeler at the end of Endless Night, right before he is resurrected into a life of torture and slavery in the Upside Down. The Zeppelin classic is about the eternal war between day and night, which is a suitable song for the final clash between the Hawkins kids and the Upside Down during their high school years.

Heroes

12. Heroes. Peter Gabriel (Cover of David Bowie). I use this as the departure song for the end of Endless Night. Believing Mike to be forever dead, Eleven says farewell to the other boys as she and Hopper leave Hawkins and move out to Oregon. In the TV series, “Heroes” plays at the end of season 3, when Eleven leaves Hawkins with the Byers family. In my stories, it is Joyce (not Hopper) who dies at the end of season 3, and everyone stays in Hawkins until the end of “season 4” (the novel Endless Night), when Eleven leaves with Hopper, after a much worse tragedy than the Battle of Starcourt.

Black

13. Black. Pearl Jam. Mike Wheeler’s back-in-the-world song. My novel The College Years tells of his escape from the Upside Down and return to Hawkins. He is hunted down by the creature who held him in captivity for three and a half years, and though Eleven destroys it, it manages to tear out Mike’s eyes (“turns his world to black”), cripple his leg, and eviscerate his psyche even more. And though Eleven takes Mike back with her to Oregon, things are never the same. He’s been too reduced, there is too much hurt, and he constantly fears another round of rejection (“all the love gone bad”). This is Mike Wheeler’s salvation: physical and emotional blackness.

She Sells Sanctuary

14. She Sells Sanctuary. The Cult. Mike’s sex song, about the simple act of finding refuge in shagging someone (Eleven), as everything else in the world — blindness, irrational terror, hyper-anxiety — drags him down.

Jane Says

15. Jane Says. Jane’s Addiction. My novel The Witch of Yamhill County is set in 1992, around the middle of the period spanned by The College Years (1990-1993), before Mike turns suicidal. He’s the lead guitarist in a band that performs at strip clubs, and he writes music that sounds like Jane’s Addiction. “Jane Says” is the obvious theme for this story, as it’s also Eleven’s real name. Mike pretty much does everything El tells him in order to get by as a blind cripple.

We Will Become Silhouettes

16. We Will Become Silhouettes. The Postal Service. Somehow this song captures Mike Wheeler in his final months before his downward spiral into suicide. The song is about a guy in a bomb shelter who is afraid to go outside. I imagine this playing during Mike and El’s final scene together in The Witch of Yamhill County, foreshadowing the full deterioration of Mike (when his “body finally goes”).

Pictures of You

17. Pictures of You. The Cure. The Cure’s masterpiece hit is about someone who relies on pictures to capture the forgotten feelings for a person. Mike Wheeler can’t do that being blind, but oddly enough, this song applies to his deeper tragedy, as he starts to lose all feeling and emotional connections to El and his friends, while trying to retain them in his mental breakdown.

Losing It

18. Losing It. Rush. Mike’s suicide song. Rush may as well have written it with him in mind: “For you, the blind who once could see, the bell tolls for thee…”

Silent Shout

19. Silent Shout. The Knife. In my novel The Black Rose of Newberg (set in 1997) I explored Eleven’s vulnerability as a woman of power. She doesn’t take danger seriously, and this ends up getting her best friend Nicki killed. The lyrics of “Silent Shout” describe someone vainly trying to be understood, and in the end just being grateful to have friends who stand by her. In El’s case, her friend pays the price for that.

I Grieve

20. I Grieve. Peter Gabriel. The brutal slaying of Nicki forces Eleven to confront what it means to live responsibly in the world. Peter Gabriel’s song is the purest I can imagine about grief.

Name

21. Name. The Goo Goo Dolls. My novel The New Generation (set in 2009) focuses on Eleven’s 15-year old son, Mike Jr., who has strange powers over time. He has a strained relationship with his mother and is troubled by issues surrounding his father Mike Wheeler whom he never knew. “Name” touches on a lot of Mike Hopper’s backstory, especially in the theme of parents taken too soon. The song is about that nameless obscure person from our past who won’t let go of us, and feels right as the theme song for The New Generation.

Backwards with Time

22. Backwards with Time. The Avett Brothers. When Mike Hopper is rescued from the clutches of the Llaza (a shadow creature that travels through the internet), his mother uses her powers in a way that causes his time powers to mutate, and him to age backwards. This song is for the final chapter of The New Generation, during which time (2009-2025) Mike Hopper “grows” tragically from a 15-year old down to an infant.

Graffiti

23. Graffiti. Chvrches. My post-apocalyptic novel is World’s End, set in 2037 when America is under a shadow holocaust from the Upside Down. Mike Hopper is now 12-years old (for the third time in his life) and he is now able to time-travel. Technically he’s 43 years old, but he has never gone beyond the biological age of fifteen and a half. “Graffiti” is the ultimate Mike Hopper song, capturing his tragedy in full: “I’ve been waiting for my whole life to grow old… and now we never will, never will…” It’s a sad and haunting song that fits a lot of Mike Hopper’s scenes in the novel, especially his heartbreaking sacrifice at the end.

Skeletons (Acoustic Version)

24. Skeletons (Acoustic Version). Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Another sad and haunting piece, for Eleven in the final pages of World’s End. She’s 67, robbed of both her Mikes, and Lucas and Will are dead too. She’s hailed as a savior in the Hawkins Colony, but just wants to be left alone. This song has a funereal feel to it, and the singer asks another person (or people) to “skeleton” her — she wants to be considered effectively dead to make things easier, and to close the door on more pain.