Thursday, November 30, 2006

Celebrities are bonkers. (part 1: Scientology)

Celebrities are bonkers. I stand behind the statement. With fervor.

It's a thing I say out loud more than one normally exclaims against a grouped body of individuals of distinction, because I'm exposed to a bit more of their antics than I'd care. Maria is an avid reader of celebrity gossip, via blogs, magazines, and some weird seething chemical inside her brain that attracts her attention to mindless bullshit of minor consequence (I think they call it estrogen). So naturally, being her boyfriend, I am one of the first in line to get all the updates on what Britney is up to, the stupid shit Paris Hilton is wearing, how much of a loser K-Fed is, and whatever slut Madonna made out with for her latest publicity stunt. It's the same qualification that also entitles me to instant and lengthy updates on irksome situations at past and current places of employment, and gives me the honor of being allowed to take out the trash every time it's full, or just a bit stinky. The conversations will involve various stars and their grievances, and inevitably result in me professing my creed that heads this very diatribe. A winding path with many divergences, always leading to the same defiant proclamation uttered in dismissive yet fascinated bafflement. It usually goes like this:

Her: Jon! Britney Spears was hanging out with some gross weirdo last night!
Me: ...
Her: Jon!
Me: You mean that K-Fudge... dude?
Her: It's K-FED! And no, they broke up. A new guy. He's gross.
Me: Shit. That's a bummer.
Her: I know! Look, here's a picture.
Me: (Not looking) Wow he's pretty gross looking.
Her: I know! He's totally gross! I feel sorry for her. Also, Posh Spice said no to the Spice Girls reunion. Can you believe it?
Me: Posh Spice was the hot one right?
Her: Not anymore! She got all this plastic surgery! Look at her!
Me: (Looking) Oh my god.
Her: She looks like melted plastic!
Me: How can anyone think that looks good? How can anyone give a doctor that much money to make you look like a life-sized Bratz doll?
Her: Ha! Look at her forehead!
Me: Celebrities are bonkers.

I don't necessarily mean it as a blanket rule that if one is to be deemed a "celebrity" in whichever caliber of stardom they have succeeded in, they are then "bonkers". No. It's not an X = Y situation. There are plenty of "celebrities" that I respect and would consider completely capable of having a conversation that doesn't involve the hardships of having a shitfuck load of money and/or how much it sucks being famous enough to have magazines argue over who gets the rights to print pictures of you sneezing. I'm sure that's lame, but come on. Buy a house. I'll be in the office kitchen fussing over another lunch of complementary string cheese and pretzels. If I'm lucky Dave might not want all of his burrito. Truly, there are a good amount of fame-enhanced individuals that aren't necessarily surfing the same wave of drugs and hysteria as Anna Nicole Smith or Courtney Love. The John Stewarts, the Matt Groenings, the Will Farrells, they all seem pretty even keeled to me. I'd even go as far as saying some of the ultra huge celebrities like Tom Hanks and Dr. Dre that are dangerously within the realm of massive ego explosion keep their shit pretty chill. But then again, I don't know them. For all I know those two arm wrestle bears covered in butter on giant piles of precious gems. All I can do is ascertain.

Now that I've given a somewhat lengthy disclaimer, I can get into the meat. The proof that sits so obviously in front of us all, like a steaming turd garnishing a plate of dinner rolls, that celebrities are indeed fucking bonkers. I'm not quite sure exactly what happens in the psyche, but somewhere, somehow, something goes wrong. I'd like to be able to finger a certain religion that is becoming very popular amongst Hollywood notables as the definitive culprit, but alas, Mel Gibson throws that theory completely out of his anti semitic window. Nevertheless, said religion/cult can be credited as the "gateway to loony shit" for many of the people this post targets. Allow me to indulge.

Scientology is the fruit of one man's labor, starting roughly in 1952 as an outlandish self help philosophy and extending to it's modern day culmination of Chef getting killed on South Park. The man I speak of is American Science Fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, and he is completely and utterly bat shit crazy. However I suspect he's actually a brilliant, manipulative, businessman who targeted successful artists and their displacement with reality as a source of income, and if this is true he should be celebrated as a hero, not a messiah. The other day I took the time read the entire Wikipedia page on Scientology, which is a great read if you have the time (it inspired this post). From a strictly neutral standpoint I have come to the conclusion: "Dem fuckers is crazy". I mean, like most people I knew Scientology was a bit ridiculous, that it dealt with spiritual connections with aliens, that breast feeding babies was not encouraged, and that it considers reincarnation and immortality factual events and places heavy emphasis on events that happened in past lives. Pretty nuts, but it's on the level with circumcision, Heaven and Hell, and the fucking rapture (I still can't get over that one), which are all central elements of established and widely followed religions today. It all stems from a weird (and ultimately primal) human tendency to explain things we witness but don't necessarily fully understand (ie: birth, death, weather, gay marriage) by making up fairy tails and using them as an excuse to rape and destroy those who don't agree. The big difference that I see between Scientology and more accepted and practiced organized religion is the origins and the justification of practice in the face of adversity.

The origins of current religions are very old, and were established when human interaction in the world was very different than it is now. I'll say now that I'm a staunch and bitter atheist bubbling over with cynicism and doubt, but I can understand the need for people to have some kind of explanation for life that goes beyond science. If the only concept of thunder I had was that "God is pissed", and then some dude in a fancy red cape came around and started telling me he saw Jesus cure leprosy with his touch, I'd probably be the first to spit on the corpse of my neighbor's daughter who had just burned for charges of witchery. Of course it makes sense, that dude's cape is fucking nice. The good shit. But there are no such capes shrouding the mystery of L. Ron Hubbard's pay to play pyramid scheme. No, he was not a humble messiah from ages past that lived a life we can merely speculate over, rather he was a science fiction author. I'll say it again. Science fiction author. As in, he was paid to write stories about space ships and aliens. If one were to read L. Ron Hubbard's Wikipedia page, one would come across a number of allegations that call his morality into question, which would then lead one to the conclusion that he is an alleged bastard. An alleged bastard that started a religion that charges money of it's followers for 'enlightenment', and it is obvious that this is the get rich quick scheme of a manipulative con-man... that wrote fantasy stories about aliens and space ships.

When Christianity is called into question, regardless of how critical or fact ridden the opposing argument is, the defense always reverts to a simple, child-like yet extremely effective rebuttal. Faith. Examples follow:

There is no physical proof that God exists, and Jesus was just a dude with a few good ideas.
I believe God exists and that Jesus is our savior.

The fence is green.
I have faith that although this fence does indeed appear to be green, when I die it will be red.

You don't actually have an "argument", you're just telling me about stuff you believe.
My faith in my faith will get me into Heaven. I don't have to make sense in Heaven. In Heaven we call those kinds of ideas "sin".

And so on... So it's ludicrous, but impossible to argue against because you can't tell someone what they believe. If you could, the republicans would have figured it out a long time ago and we'd all be in factories branding platinum oil piping for 2 pesos an hour. It is a logic that will forever justify their beliefs and the more it is argued against, the more they rally that their faith is being tested and that they must hold true. The only way that argument is shaken is if the individual questions it themselves. Scientology, however, has no such fortifications. Their logical arguments against criticism are like listening to a 6 year old interpret the future. First of all, when the church's recommended practice of not breast feeding infants and instead supplying them with a "Barley Formula" (barley water, homogenized milk, corn syrup/honey <--- seriously?!?!) was first called out by nutritionists, Hubbard's official response was "I picked it up in Roman days." See the quotes? He said that. He was serious.
Let me lay this out:
Nutritionist: This "Barley Formula" has no nutritional value to a growing human and honey has been known to cause infant botulism if given to babies under 12 months. Why do you recommend this as a substitute for a mother's breast milk?
Hubbard: It's a recipe I picked up in a past life in ancient Rome. If it worked then, it'll work now.
Another choice rebuttal comes from Scientology's compatibility with other religions. While at entry level awareness church members are told that Scientology is very compatible with other religions (obviously to appear more inviting), it has been alleged that Hubbard's higher level teachings state that (again, quotes here--->) "Jesus had never existed, but was implanted in humanity's collective memory by Xenu 75 million years ago, and that Christianity was an "entheta [evil] operation" mounted by beings called Targs. (Hubbard, "Electropsychometric Scouting: Battle of the Universes", April 1952)." The logic here is beyond absurd, it's insulting. This is like claiming that unicorns not magical horned horses, but are actually flying Big Foots in disguise.

OK, so all I've really done here is illuminate the obvious: Scientology makes about as much sense as voting Ren /Stimpy in '08. Time to bring it around. Time to rip the lid off of it.

People believe it! People think it's true, that it's reality. Did Hubbard believe it? Really believe it? I doubt it. But other people, educated people with college degrees that live in cities around other people with college degrees actually believe it. Jerry fucking Maguire BELIEVES that 75 million years ago an intergalactic alien ruler named Xenu brought billions of aliens to Earth in a DC-8 jet plane, stacked them around a volcano, and then blew them up with hydrogen bombs. John Travolta subscribes to a religion that uses a pyramid scheme of monetary payment for enlightenment, that directly states that higher levels of awareness are taught by invite only and are distributed based on individual "contributions" to the church. Isaac Hayes sincerely believes that the events leading up to World War II are caused by alien soul clusters that attach themselves to living humans. Kirstie Alley and Beck agree with teachings that have "documented" such past life experiences as "being run over by a Martian bishop driving a steamroller", and "being transformed into an intergalactic walrus that perished after falling out of a flying saucer." It's seriously wacked, and it's even becoming trendy in Hollywood to join up and start writing checks. My only comment: Celebrities are bonkers.