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Fred Schneider as Jesus...

First it was drugs. Then religion. Then everything was forgotten with a blast from the 80s. Welcome to my weekend.

Friday night, I got a small group together to go see Requiem for a Dream. The movie is about four people who each have an escalating drug addiction. One of them is the mother of one of the others and is played by Ellen Burnstyn. Mark my words: she's getting an Oscar nomination. She was unbelievably good as a sad, lonely woman who gets addicted to weight loss pills and gradually loses her sanity. The rest of the movie was mind-blowing. Andy and I had watched Pi on DVD a long time ago and became instant fans of Darren Aranofsky. He's got amazing visual style and by the end, when all Hell breaks loose and the movie turns into essentially a private Hell for each of the four characters, it never fails to lose control. When the movie was over, Greg, Rebecca, Andy and I got up and we were just completely stunned. Greg summed it up best. He said he wasn't sure if he could like a movie like that, but there was no denying it was a great movie. Aranofsky is supposed to be directing Batman: Year One, the adaptation of Frank Miller's great graphic novel that should finally wash the awful taste of those last few Batman movies from our collective palate. Check out that Requiem for a Dream site, by the way. It's a trip in and of itself.

After the movie, we walked back to the car and I found two copies of this on my windshield:

I was about to toss it, and then I saw one of the headlines: "Deliverance from Crack Rock!" The whole Alamo Christian Ministries newsletter is essentially letters from people who have been saved by Pastor Alamo (who incidentally looks just like James Belushi).

One of the letters reads in part:

"During the Christmas season, 1996, I was a homeless man struggling to survive the mean streets of Newark, New Jersey. I was an alcoholic and strung out on the crack rock. My life had spiraled down to nothing."

Lest you think this letter ends on a down note, it goes on:

"I came upon literature from the Holy Alamo Christian Church that I was going to use to start a fire that fateful December evening. Something made me read the words so eloquently written, and it changed my life. From that day forward I stopped smoking the crack rock and only 10 months later weaned myself off the Wild Turkey. Today I am a proud and changed man thanks to the Holy Alamo Christian Church."

The writer goes on to say he is going to Suriname, a place in South America, to spread the gospel. He also requests more literature and "VHS tapes of any Tony Alamo sermons you may have." It's signed, "M.S. in Dallas, Georgia."

Okay, first off, I hate making fun of anything religious because it's usually pointless to do so, it's been done to death (if I ever hear Robin Williams do his holy rolling evangelist voice, I'll scream) and it usually is a very petty thing to do. But several things struck me about this newsletter. First off, all the cities of people writing in sound suspicious. Dallas, Georgia? Suriname? Zomba, Malawi? Swaziland? Ljubljana, Slovenia? Now, I respect that this church's reach must be vast, but damn! Can somebody get me an atlas? I'm thinking all these places can't possibly exist.

The other thing that struck me (if it hasn't already struck you) is that this former drug addict from the mean streets of Newark refers to it as "the crack rock." Correct me if I'm wrong, but nobody in the history of crack who has actually used it has ever referred to it as "the crack rock." That's just silly. Come on, Pastor Alamo, you can get better ghost writers than that!

It made for a weird vibe, though, coming right after seeing Requiem for a Dream. Let me just say once and for all that I'm very glad I'm not hooked on heroin and I'm very glad I'm not dating a crack whore.

The other thing that happened this weekend was that I got invited in a roundabout way to a concert thrown privately by a company with operations in Austin. They apparently have enough money to rent the Erwin Center, a huge concert venue in town and to book the Go-Go's, the B-52's and Wayne Brady from Whose Line is it Anyway? (and who sadly doesn't have an apostrophe in his name) The guy who invited me to this concert is a really nice person and when I greeted him there, he said to sit wherever I wanted.

Third row, baby.

So after this strange and bizarre corporate presentation (very motivational, "We did it, team!" kind of stuff and a video of the CEO and president of the company congratulating employees for making it a $10 billion company (I heard lots of snickering from employees behind me), the concert started.

Wayne Brady came out and he's just hilarious. He was really amiable and fun. He introduced the Go-Go's, who came out and just played some straight ahead rock and sounded pretty good considering all of them looked like they were old enough to be mothers of sons older than me. Belinda Carlisle came out wearing this black sweater and short skirt that only accentuated the scientific formula "time + former rock stardom = width." But she was still cute as the dickens and she sang well. One of the women in the group had green hair and another of them was wearing one of those little Catholic school girl outfits with the loose necktie. It was at about that point, I was wishing I hadn't had any of the free nachos they were serving.

They said they're working on a new album due out in April. The new songs were pretty lost on the audience, who waited through their entire set to hear "We Got the Beat." They got it at the end and the band left as confetti rained down on the crowd.

Wayne Brady came out in the middle and did some improv with the audience and got absolutely no help from the engineers who couldn't even get him a second microphone for audience members he brought on stage. He soldiered on and sang some funny songs.

Next up were the B-52's. No exaggeration: people around me gasped when they saw Kate Pierson. She was a lot wider than Belinda Carlisle, but unlike the "I'll wear black and pleated skirts" strategy, Kate instead chose to wear tight stretch pants and a big multicolored bustier top thing. But her voice was a thing of beauty.

The rest of the band was pretty amazing, too. Fred Schneider danced around and made cute innuendoes and by the time they got to "Love Shack," they had everybody worked up. "Good Stuff" and "Private Idaho" were crazy fun and the encore was "Rock Lobster." What a great band. It made me want to dig out my old Cosmic Thing tape and listen to "Channel Z."

It all made me wonder why the B-52's don't start their own religion, or at least a religious newsletter. If Pastor Tony Alamo can reach an audience in Ghana, there's no reason why a small sect can be formed around the lyrics to "Roam."


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