Part of the reason why William Peter Blatty considered The Ninth Configuration as a true sequel to The Exorcist is because they both attempt to address the “mystery of the good.”
Blatty, from my understanding of course, was a devout Catholic so he understood these terms from a very spiritual perspective. While I find the phenomenon of religion fascinating, I don’t view the universe in that particular way. Nevertheless, I think Blatty was attempting to address a very interesting question, particularly with The Ninth Configuration (the film. I haven’t read the novel)
Much ado is made about “the problem of evil”, but that’s only a problem from a religious perspective. If the the universe is indifferent to our plight, and life is inherently selfish, then there is no mystery. Furthermore, there is no good OR evil…it’s merely a projection of human perception.
Many philosophers have attempted to formulate a model for morality, notably Kant’s Categorical Imperative and utilitarianism, with varying degrees of success. I personally tend to favor something that I heard Bart Ehrman say: I just know it when I see it. However I do find it interesting that nearly every religion has some variant of the Golden Rule: do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.
I don’t think that I have many philosophical convictions, but one thing I am certain of is that I am not a “blank slatist”. If we were born as blank slates, then nothing we do would be possible. Language acquisition itself provides some insight into the a priori nature of our being. What language can tell us precisely about our morality is unknown to me, but I think it warrants further investigation as evidenced by the Golden Rule.
The Golden Rule may not be a “philosophically consistent” principle, but I think it’s intuitive enough that there could possibly be something revealing about it. Empathy might be an example. To my understanding, empathy is a phenomenon that’s scientifically falsifiable, but I’m just spitballing here. Maybe “good” and “evil” are a priori categories of human reasoning, I dunno.
Either way, from both a religious and secular perspective, “the problem of good” needs answering.
As 2021 comes to a close, I’d just like to remind everyone that if you think the world is getting worse, you’re dead wrong.
Things have always been shit. Always will be. To be alive means to live in tyranny.
Read ancient texts…Ancient Greece or Rome for example…you’d find the same old complaints: the decadence, the spectacle, the tyranny of the majority, the tyranny of the minority, the anguish of having to live in a society.
We’re in good company.
Maybe 30,000 years from now, humans might achieve a higher state of being…one that currently remains outside the realm of imagination. But none of us will see that day. For the time being, we’re just playing our role.
Sure, there are those that are WAY worse off than you or me. But I’d venture to guess that if you can read this blog, you’re doing alright. So look on the bright side, at least you’re not in the drunk tank, at least you’re not begging for your next meal, at least you’re not slipping some digits into the butthole of a paying john, at least you’re not being trafficked across the Pacific Ocean in a shipping container. Think on those people. Depressing? Yes. But with this despair comes opportunity to give a kind word, a shirt off your back, to be a ray of hope in an otherwise meaningless existence.
Face it, life sucks. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be.
“This proceeding has been a disgrace to the Los Angeles Superior Court, to the State of California, and to the justice system as a whole,” the judge ruled. “I have no choice but to rule in favor of the plaintiff. James ACHOO 🤧…excuse me, I sneezed…will get full credit for directing AND writing Like A Fart in the Wind. But do not count this as a victory James. With your reputation for belittling and suppressing governments and various newspapers around the globe, I deem you to be a menace to society. Unfortunately, this is a civil case and not a criminal one. But I have seen the final cut of this film. I am doing Dallas Howard Austin Antonio and Pee-Wee Weepee a favor for not giving them credit for this picture. I can’t think of anything worse than giving you, James, sole credit for this disaster.”
“Thank you for your ruling,” I said to the Judge. “But with all due respect, I believe you to be a bitch that wouldn’t know art if it bit her in the cunt. I believe this picture to be my finest work….far exceeding This Tastes Like Ass. Court stenographer, take note: Like a Fart in the Wind will be the greatest motion picture ever made. Thank you and good day.”
I walked outside the courtroom where Pablo greeted me with a cigar and bottle of brandy. “You were brilliant,” Pablo said. “With the attention that the case brought to the project, this movie is on pace for being the highest grossing film ever made.”
“Any publicity is good publicity,” I replied.
I lit up the cigar. “You know Pablo,” I continued, “I just want to thank you for bringing me back into the game. If I went on with retirement, I would have been dead in a year. Now I feel more alive than ever.”
Pablo cracked open the brandy and we began drinking at the courthouse. “James, you’re a rare talent,” he said. “After this film succeeds at the box office, I have the feeling that this will be the beginning of a beautiful partnership.”
We both patted each other on the back and shared a few laughs as we walked down the courthouse steps and into the beautiful California sunset.
From the Idaho Statesman
“He Will Never Work in This Town Again“ says Steven Spielberg
By Dick Shaftsburg
“Hollywood is in a panic over the abysmal opening weekend of Like A Fart in a Windstorm. It grossed $1,500 against a $10 Billion budget.
Produced by Kathleen Kennedy of Trainwreck Productions, and directed by (name redacted due to ongoing legal disputes between the individual and the Idaho Statement. Henceforth, he will be referred to as the “Director”), the project was fraught with problems from the beginning…from various court cases to the death of its leading actor, Christian Bale.
Critics panned Like a Fart in a Windstorm from the beginning. Leonard Maltin stated that, “I’d rather have tweezers shoved up my pee hole than watch this shit again. Christian Bale deserved better.” Even Roger Ebert came back from the dead to ask, “Who was the leading character? Was it Christian Bale? Or was it his disgusting ass cheeks?”
After her firing from Trainwreck Productions, Kathleen Kennedy has become the first woman to have been exiled from the United States to Saskatchewan, Canada, often called the “hairy taint of North America.”
Meanwhile, the Director has gone missing. Given his obscene wealth, he’s likely in Namibia where Prime Minister Wesley Snipes has named him Finance and Defense Minister, as well as Attorney General.
Given the poor box office performance of Like a Fart in the Wind, it is unlikely the Director will return to Hollywood. In addition to his professional troubles, he is also under investigation by the EU, UN, and FBI for allegations regarding human trafficking, racketeering, and bribery of numerous foreign governments.
“If I had known that I was going to be in the same profession as him (the Director),” explained acclaimed Hollywood legend David Lynch, “I would have prostituted my asshole years ago.”
“He’s a disgrace,” said Martin Scorsese. “Just a total disaster, just like Shutter Island.”
After Christian (Bale’s) funeral, I began lamenting some of my decisions at the production studio. “Maybe I shouldn’t have asked him to gain 150lbs,” I said.
“You’re one arrogant son of a bitch,” Jeffery Greco said.
“Don’t blame me for his death!” I replied. “Chris could’ve turned down the role!”
Kat was two sheets in the wind when she spoke up. “I’m finished in this town,” she said. “Because of you, I’ll never work again.”
“Lay off the sauce, Kat,” I said. “Now pour me a drink.”
“There’s no way we can release the film now,” Kat continued. “$7 billion down the toilet!”
“Now calm down!” I interrupted. “We’ll just have to do some reshoots. I’ll step in for Chris’s role. I’m an Academy Award-winning actor too, ya know?”
“Hold on there bucko,” Greco said. “There ain’t no way the studio will let you back on the set. Not after the lawsuit with Dallas and killing your leading man. That’s to say nothing about the numerous investigations into your international holdings!”
“If the film’s gonna be completed,” Kat said, “then your assistant, Pee-Wee, will finish production.”
“Well that Machiavellian son of a bitch,” I said. “I knew he had an ulterior motive.”
“Since we are 90% finished with filming, we’ll use CGI to complete Chris’s scenes,” explained Kat. “That will considerably jack up the budget, but we have no other choice.”
“Then I guess I’m fired,” I said as I stood up. “But I still want full credit for directing this picture.”
“Not happening,” Kat replied.
“Kat, you’ve crossed me for the last time,” I said. “I’m going to the Director’s Guild. If you want a court battle, you’ve got one sister!”
“Are you sure you don’t want to do another take?” Christian (Bale) asked.
“Nope, one is enough,” I said.
Jimmy Del Greco spoke up. “Chris is right,” he said. “You need to do more takes. At the rate we’re going to be seven months ahead of schedule.”
“Hey Jimmy,” I replied, “the donuts are over there. Why don’t you manage the crew while I handle the directing, okay?”
“Do another fucking take,” Kat interrupted. “We’re already $3 billion over budget. We built sets, you rewrote the script, tore the sets down, and now we’re in Bidwell Park with a one-man cast, no sets , and a minimal crew. We could’ve shot this thing for $1 million! Let’s get our money’s worth out of this thing!”
“Kat,” I replied, “you’re the money person, I’m the artist. I know what I’m doing, mmmk? Trust the process.”
Pee-Wee the Production Assistant came running up to me. “Dallas San Antonio Houston is here to see you sir,” he said.
“Thank you Pee-Wee. You’re the only one that listens around here.”
I excused myself to the production trailer. Dallas was pacing back and forth. “What the hell is going on?” he asked.
“Relax Dallas,” I said. “Take a seat.”
I offered him a glass of brandy, which he declined. I drank both glasses myself.
Dallas was livid. “Why is a 350lb Christian Bale running around naked in Bidwell Park?” he asked. “This was supposed to be a courtroom drama. My magnum opus! You completely re-wrote the script!”
“So I took some creative liberties with the script,” I replied. “I might’ve changed it from a courtroom drama into a man-against-nature story a la The Naked Prey. But ask yourself this: what’s the difference between a story about truth and justice and a story about one man’s survival in the woods while his cock flops around? They’re the same thing thematically! It’s still your script.”
“I think you’re trying to abuse the system for your own gain.”
“Dallas, I have more money than I know what to do with. I own governments that I didn’t even know about. Did you know that the EU is investigating me for extorting the Russian government? Can you believe that shit? So what’s $2.5 billion to me?”
“I’ll go to the Guild about this.”
“Listen to me. You don’t want to do that. If you do, that will delay the release and a lot of people’s money and careers are dependent on the success of this film. I’ll tell you what, I’ll cut you a check for $500,000,000 right here. Or how about Trinidad and Tobago? I’m not offering you a trip there, I’m offering you the country of Trinidad and Tobago.”
“You’re disgusting. You think you can bribe me out of this?”
Before Dallas could respond, Pee-Wee ran into the trailer. “Christian (Bale) collapsed!” he yelled. “Call an ambulance!”
“This Tastes Like Ass is obviously a modern classic,” said Bryce Howard Dallas Antonio, the screenwriter, “but I think it lacks the nuances of some of the earlier postmodern classics from David Lynch and Martin Scorsese.”
Dallas showed up to the pre-production meetings wearing a tweed jacket, a derby, and a walking cane. I wanted to smash that cane right onto his dick.
Sets were going up. I had enough on my plate. But Dallas insisted on following me around.
“Do you like David Lean?” he asked.
“Yeah, he was hott.”
“What’s your biggest influence?”
“I don’t know. Alcohol?”
I was signing papers left and right. I was too busy to listen to this shit. After Dallas called Smokey and the Bandit the most overrated movie of the 70s, I grabbed him by the jacket.
“Listen here shitwad,” I said, “you’re right out of film school. You know who I am? Google my name. I may have diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, and a venereal disease that doesn’t have a name, but I can still kick your ass. So listen to my advice grasshopper, watch your ass!”
The executive in charge of production, Jimmy Greco, saw what was happening and rushed out of his office. He waddled his fat, Jerry Stiller-lookin ass right up to my face. “You can’t touch the screenwriter!” he screamed. “That’s against WGA rules!”
He then straightened out Dallas’ jacket and ran a hand through his hair. Afterwards, he pointed his finger at me. “Listen here buster,” Jimmy said, “if you pull a stunt like that again, I’ll have your ass!”
“Oh you want my ass?” I replied. I dropped my pants. “You want my cock too?” I turned around and started twirling my penis.
“You’re a fool,” Jimmy said.
“I’M the fool? The only fool here is that idiot screenwriter!”
Jimmy escorted Dallas away. The cast and crew stood around gawking.
“Everyone back to work!” I yelled and pulled up my pants.
I took out a cigarette and walked up to Pablo. “Take it easy, James,” he said.
I lit up the cigarette. “How did the contract negotiations go?” I asked.
“Great!” Pablo replied. “You’ll be pleased to know that you’ll move up the billionaire’s list.”
“I’m a billionaire?”
“James, you’re one of the richest men in the world. You have real estate holdings all across the globe. You even own the deed to the Kremlin for fuck’s sake!”
“Isn’t that a bar in Tallahassee?”
I was having brunch with Brett Ratner when Kat slapped down a newspaper. The article read “NOTORIOUS FILM DIRECTOR EXPOSES PENIS…AND ASS…TO CAST AND CREW.”
I looked up to Kat and she began speaking in a monotonous, scripted voice. “The board wanted me to tell you that if you do that again, they will remove you from the project. Please be more considerate of the crew,” she said.
She never made eye contact.
“Kat,” I replied, “as you know, I run my sets a little differently. Besides, per our agreement, I was allowed to change the script so that the entire jury would be nude throughout production. Bare cock will be all over the set. What difference does one more make?”
“This is the position of the board and the production team,” she said, still refusing to make eye contact.
I shrugged. “Very well, will that be all?”
“That is all,” Kat replied and began walking away. Then she stopped. “There is one other thing…”
She turned around and looked me in the eye.
“We are already running over budget,” she continued. “We are having trouble securing funds from the European market. Would you be considerate enough to loan $900,000,000 to help cover pre-production costs?”
I thought for a moment.
“Sure I’d be happy to give you nearly a billion dollars,” I said. “But in return, I want to make more changes to the script.”
Pablo and I made the journey to Trainwreck Studios in Burbank. What a god-forsaken place. I swore to myself that I would never return.
“We’re here to see Kathleen Kennedy,” Pablo told the receptionist.
“And you are?”
“I’m Pablo Dunbar, the agent of James…”
The receptionist’s eyes widened when she saw my face. “You mean, James…”
“Yes, THAT James,” I interjected. “Tell Kat we’re here so that we can get this over with.”
“I thought you were retired…” she began to say as she stumbled through her words. “Anyway, she’s waiting for you. Fourth floor. The only way up there is through the air ducts. Elevator’s broken.”
So we climbed up the ducts into Kathleen’s office. “Damn it Kat,” I said, “when are you going to get that fucking elevator fixed?”
She turned around and was wearing sunglasses. She appeared to be somber over something.
“Hello James,” she said.
“Can I offer you gentlemen a glass of scotch?”
“I’ll take the bottle please.”
Kat sat down behind her desk and began to shuffle through some paperwork. Pablo and I plopped down in the leather chairs.
“So, what did you think of Antonio’s script?” she asked.
“To be honest Kat,” I said, “it needs some work. Too much talk. Film is a visual medium. ‘Show, don’t tell’ as they say. If I can do a second draft and clean up the dialogue…”
“James,” Kat interrupted, “Fart in a Windstorm is a court drama, there’s going to be a lot of dialogue. Besides, I already promised Antonio that he would get final say in the script.”
“Fine, whatever. But I need to put my stamp on it if this is going to be a film by James…”
“Look, I get what you’re saying,” Kat said. “But in agreement with the writer’s guild, he must get sole screenwriting credit. That’s going to put a limit on what you can do.”
I just stared at her.
“You don’t want to relinquish creative control to me,” I said. Out of my periphery, I could see Pablo getting uncomfortable.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Kat replied, “the studio is willing to put $1.5 billion into this project ONLY if YOU are signed on to direct. Once when this meeting is made public, Hollywood will be in a tizzy over the return of its most famous director.”
“Kat, you know I can’t make a small scale courtroom drama for anything less than $2 billion.”
She learned forward on her desk as she began rubbing her temples. She appeared as though she was about to be sick. I took a big gulp from the bottle of scotch.
“What’s with the sunglasses?” I asked her. “Did you have eye surgery? Did your husband beat you?”
Kat removed the glasses, revealing her puffy red eyes and makeup smeared from crying.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” I said.
“We haven’t had a hit since This Taste Like Ass,” she said as tears rolled down her face. “The board wants me out. I’ve become the laughingstock of this town.”
“It’s no fun when the rabbit has the gun, eh?”
“James,” Pablo said. “Mrs. Kennedy, James and I are both in agreement that this script is doable. Sure, there are problems that need ironing out, but we are committed to making this work. Right James?”
I just shrugged.
“Really?” Kat said.
“Absolutely, the gang’s back together. Let’s have a drink on it!”
We all stood up and Pablo forced a group hug. Kat’s spirits seemed to have been lifted slightly.
As we were climbing back down the air ducts, I grabbed Pablo by the ankle. “You better not fuck me out of this contract like you did last time!” I told him.