HBO Hires 160 Lawyers in Preparation for Release of its Scientology Documentary

HBO will soon be releasing its documentary on Scientology, Going Clear, based on the book of the same name by… Read More

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Christopher Owens on the Children of God and His ‘New Testament': “It’s My Own Take on Pop”

The video for Girls’ “Hellhole Ratrace” was released in June of 2009, throwing the band’s frontman, Christopher Owens, into the indie-rock spotlight. Owens was perhaps too willing to talk about everything in his early days, detailing his time spent in the Children of God cult, his since-kicked opiate habit, and his years spent with the late Amarillo art pioneer Stanley Marsh III. Girls had three excellent, critically acclaimed releases — two full-lengths, one EP — with influences that ranged far and wide: surf music, old-school country, King Crimson, Randy Newman, Felt, the Everly Brothers, and somehow others. And then, citing “heartbreak” from the band’s constant turnover of members, Owens called it quits in 2012. … Read More

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Powerful Portraits of Modern-Day Witches

Polish photographer Katarzyna Majak celebrates the alternative and unconventional spiritual paths of women in her home country, which is predominantly Catholic. Modern-day witches, Druids, healers, and others are featured in her series, Women of Power, each subject empowered by her talisman of choice. Majak’s “fascinating journey from woman to woman (the youngest in her early 30s, the oldest in her late 80s) led her all over her native land as she sought female wisdom and the plurality of spiritual paths hidden within Poland’s mono-religious society.” For some of the women, whose photos we first spotted on Beautiful/Decay, this is the first time they have gone public to reveal their beliefs. Take a closer look in our gallery, and visit Majak’s website to learn more. … Read More

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Fascinating Photos of Mexican Faith Healers

A curandero is a faith healer or native shaman who treats any number of maladies, including mental and spiritual “illnesses” that are more commonly handled by a clergyperson or psychiatrist in the United States. Photographer and documentary filmmaker Scott Dalton, whose work we first saw on Beautiful Decay, has captured the life of the curandero during healing sessions and pilgrimages across Mexico and Latin America. While some faith healers rely on herbs and natural cures, others use Catholic elements, such as idols, paintings, and holy water. Dalton’s visually striking photos reveal a beauty and vulnerability shared between the curandero and the people seeking healing and guidance. … Read More

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10 Takes on the Pontiff in Pop Culture

You needn’t be Catholic to know a new Pope was elected earlier this week. The 266th pontiff is Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who has taken the name Francis and is best remembered for washing and kissing the feet of AIDS patients. Meanwhile, human rights activists (and the Internet) are criticizing Pope Francis for a possible link to Argentina’s Dirty War in 1976 and his stance on same-sex marriage. Yesterday, we also reported that Bruno Ganz has been cast in Showtime’s upcoming series The Vatican as the fictional Pope Sixtus VI. Inspired by the lingering white smoke, we wanted to look back at the hilarious and fascinating ways the Pope has been portrayed in pop culture. Head past the break for more guys in funny hats. … Read More

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50 of the Greatest Jon Stewart Quotes

Everyone’s favorite silver fox with the rapier wit and passion for political puns turns 50 today. Happy birthday, Jon Stewart! The Daily Show satirist has brilliantly conquered “bullsh*t mountain” with his insightful and hilarious commentary on the media, American pop culture, politicians, and more. The boy from New Jersey — who later studied chemistry and psychology at William & Mary, rose through the ranks in New York City’s comedy clubs, and found a home as a writer and host for Comedy Central — has delivered some of the best, no-holds-barred commentary of our generation. We’ve gathered 50 of his greatest quotes after the break. Feel free to celebrate along with us by adding your favorites, below. … Read More

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Fascinating Portraits from a Mexican Catholic Pilgrimage

Award-winning photographer Alinka Echeverría captured a six million man spiritual pilgrimage to the Basílica de Guadalupe in Mexico City. The Catholics journey to the church on the anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin of Guadalupe in 1531 as seen by a devout, indigenous Mexican named Juan Diego. The story says that her image miraculously appeared on his cloak while he was walking to church on the hill of Tepeyac. Pilgrims gather from all around the country to make the arduous trip and pay homage to the Virgin, asking for favors of healing, love, wealth, and blessings in the afterlife. They walk on foot for days, often with their families, some wearing traditional costumes. The most striking aspect of the journey are the images of the Virgin pilgrims carry on their backs: statues, blankets, paintings, and even entire altars encased in glass. Echeverría is interested in exploring “the relationship between image and belief, and the power of iconic images from an anthropological perspective.” She tries to understand why “images are needed at a psychological level in order to believe and how they have been used throughout history at collective level to instill or evoke faith in religious or political beliefs.” See the artist’s moving series, The Road to Tepeyac, in our gallery after the break. Pick up a copy of Echeverría’s HSBC Prix pour la Photographie book over here. … Read More

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What’s On at Flavorpill: The Links That Made the Rounds in Our Office

Today at Flavorpill, we discovered a new Bible translation that has been formatted like a screenplay. We were happy to see cartoonist Chris Ware and literary comics mainstay D&Q get behind Rookie Yearbook One, which will be published next month. We looked at images from Joss Whedon’s low-budget take on Much… Read More

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Watch ’90s Christian Nerds Decry ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ as Witchcraft

If you thought that far-right groups claiming Harry Potter is evil and the Muppets are communists was a purely 21st-century, Fox News-related phenomenon, we invite you to enjoy some hilarious proof that there’s nothing new about decrying popular children’s entertainment as a tool of Satan. Rich Juzwiak has edited together some highlights from a ’90s VHS called Not Just Fun and Games, in which three middle-aged men play with — no, strike that, absolutely freak out about — a whole table full of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys. Pop musicians aren’t safe from the trio’s wrath, either: Michael Jackson and MC Hammer (“not a role model we as Christians should emulate, though he claims to be a Christian”) also get the thumbs-down, while Vanilla Ice is judged to be “talented at making money.”

This is obviously a funny video, but we can’t help seeing something a little sad in it, too. There’s something about the part when the guy with the mustache and mullet is excitedly explaining how the Ninja Turtles’ “white magic” is just like the light side of the Force that made us think, “What this poor man really wants is to be a hardcore sci-fi nerd, but he’s repressing that urge because he’s pretty sure God hates Star Wars.” Anyway, maybe that’s just what we’re reading into it. Judge for yourself after the jump. … Read More

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Scientology Made a Hip-Hop Video

Children of the ’90s, tell us if this scenario sounds familiar: You’re doing a group presentation in middle school, and someone has a brainstorm. Everyone else is just going to drone on in front of some poster board with a handmade chart glued to it. What will really set your team apart from the others is presenting your information as a rap song. Remember that? Well, that is basically what the Church of Scientology has done in a new video that was apparently never meant for public viewing. According to The Village Voice, the song was probably created by Scientologist rapper Chill EB, although you won’t see him in the clip. Lyrics include such stunners as “Psychotropic drugs we make a thing of the past/ Expose the fraud of the psychs and watch them dwindle real fast,” and while we won’t ruin the visuals for you, we will say that quite a bit more breakdancing happens at Scientology events than we would ever have guessed. Watch the video after the jump, and learn more about it at the Voice. … Read More

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