The Year in Review

Here is the obligatory lame-ass review post of the year 2005.
(Weak, dude - you should just give in to your lameness and start a Live Journal...)

"Imagine you are Jesus Christ, and your second coming is planned for 2005. When, where, and how would you reveal yourself to the world?"

"Religious experience, in other terms, is concerned with a “Somewhat.” But this assertion often means no more than that this “Somewhat” is merely a vague “something”; and in order that man may be able to make more significant statements about this “Somewhat,” it must force itself upon him, must oppose itself to him as being Something Other."
-Gerardus "Please, call me Jerry" Van Der Leeuw

"I made a new family - the Ugolinos. There was dad (the Count), and four sons - the youngest being little Anselmo. I locked them in a single room, with only a tiny, high window, and bricked up the door. As planned, they slowly went mad and died of hunger... but to my disappointment, those who lived the longest never turned cannibal."

"I spend a lot of time alone with myself. Four hours every night. I think things. I sift out the inane and blog the rest. If I didn't sift, my blog would be the mental equivalent of a bareass Camel cigarette; you'd cough and choke on the first drag, and promise yourself that you'll quit."

"The facade is weak here. If I look hard at the edges of my vision I sometimes catch a glimpse of a stagehand. Sleep is when they do maintenance - they tidy up and patch holes to keep everything looking real. If you don't sleep, they can't work on it. So I say we all stay awake for as long as possible..."

"Ultimate Post Modern Cocktail...
Muddle crushed ice with oleander leaves in a tall glass. Add equal parts disillusionment, absinthe, and bile, poured through a Republican's linen handkerchief drenched in the tears of my generation. Serve with a jaunty umbrella, handmade in an Asian sweat shop."

"Many of you know my distaste for Rap. It's not that it's all bad, it's just that most of it is. However, I recognize that it is a powerful force in today's culture, and that it reaches millions of young people with its vitally important message of guns, bling, hos, hydraulic suspensions, and... the Dharma?"

"Why do we believe in forever? It's a bizarre concept really. Excluding the particles that we learned about in Physics class, NOTHING lasts forever. Yet we continue to talk about things like "best friends forever" and "true love always.""

"We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog to bring you this breaking story...
The Hopeless Romantic, well known webcomic artist, penguin fighter, and noted metrosexual is, in fact, straight. Film at eleven."

""It's ok to cry."
"But I hate crying."
"Me too, but you have to let stuff out. It's like going to the bathroom - I don't really look forward to it, but I feel better afterwards."
"What the... are you saying that not crying is like emotional constipation!?"
"Yes - crying is just like pooping from your eyes.""

"This teaching cuts to the roots of what it means to "practice" a religion. It speaks to a radical shift in the practitioner's perception of the world, a turning away from old patterns and a dedication to a new way of seeing. When Alan Wallace says above, "right then" he is referring to a time that is also right now - every moment is an opportunity to practice."

"What they are talking about is not pride - it's relief. They are relieved that they are American, because being from somewhere lower on the ladder is crappy. In a sense they are saying, "I know that we are giving the rest of the world a raw deal, and I'm really glad I don't live there; better them than me.""

So there you have it - the standard mix of religion, academic ennui, and sarcasm that you have come to expect from me. I wish that I could boil down 2005 to some pithy nugget of wisdom, but I can't. I can't because there is no wisdom unique to 2005. It's the same wisdom year after year, and I fail to learn it, year after year.

I'd love to say that 2006 will be the year that I finally learn, but starting the year off with a big fib seems to set a bad precedent. It's likely that December 31st of 2006 will see me sitting right here at my mother's kitchen table, typing on these very keys, with just as little to say. I'd be surprised if I'm not just as pissed off at our government, just as baffled by fundies, just as unhappy with my body, just as tired, just as jaded, and just as unenlightened. To top it all off, I will almost certainly be bothered more by the fact that I have less hair.

Now for the good news. Some old Zen master once said, "a man can live comfortably, even in hell, if his life is organized" and he was right. Because I already know most of what's coming, I can be organized and ready to flex around the things that do change. Philosophers always point to the way trees bend in the wind rather than breaking, and hold this up as some ideal for man to strive for - but they seldom address the fact that the tree can't move to get out of the wind, and thus has no choice. Man almost always has three choices, bend, break, or get the fuck out. Whenever we decide to not exercise that third option, it's not about bending to avoid breaking; it's about bending because you chose to be here. The real message then is "since you must bend, do so gracefully and with a minimum of bitching."

So, here's to a graceful 2006. I'm sure I'll bitch plenty, but I'll try to at least make it funny bitching...

Gods, Demigods, and my little cell...

This evening, I finally made some decisions about grad school.
Although I love the idea of getting financial aid for two years while I work on an MFA and write the Great American Novel, I am also enamored of the idea of having a job when I am done with my degree. Because very few MFAs lead to lucrative book deals, I have decided to pursue a PhD. I also have decided that getting a traditional PhD in Religious Studies is not the best path for me, because I am unlikely to suddenly acquire the proficiency in French and German that such a degree requires.

(Artist's rendering of the author pursuing a traditional PhD in Religious Studies)

I am currently looking at two different programs to avoid that unpleasantness.

Claremont Graduate University
Claremont is offering a very interesting Religion PhD program based on an interdisciplinary model. They refer to it as "academic trespassing." The program description says "by trespassing, we mean migrating across disciplines as theoretical or applied questions demand. Or jumping boundaries between theory and application, as when addressing a problem outside the academy leads to new discoveries in academic terms." To get in, you have to be recommended by a Claremont grad, which one of my mom's friends just happens to be (ahh, the sweet stench of privilege). Although the Claremont program offers a very lucrative financial aid package (Full tuition plus $20K a year), I am actually more interested in going to...

Baylor University

The Sociology department at Baylor offers a PhD in the Sociology of Religion. The big selling point of this program is that the program chair is Dr. Rodney Stark. I based my study of the Bahai conversion process on a certain aspect of the conversion model that he and John Lofland developed while studying the Moonies in San Francisco. That article, plus his 1996 book entitled, "The Rise of Christianity" helped refocus my study of religion overall. He is something of a demigod in my academic pantheon... not on a par with the Venerable Bede or John Milton, but impressive nonetheless (see below).

Venerable Bede - god.

John Milton - god.

Rodney Stark - close, but not yet a god.

I began the application process for Baylor this evening (the deadline for Claremont was December 16th - they are my next year fall-back plan). The general deadline for the graduate school is February 15th, so I have time to get the letters of recommendation and take the GRE. The first few weeks of the semester will be busy, and then we wait...

Chrismahannukwanzaka 2005

Now I can begin to give thanks - for my faux Catholic family, the main celebration of the hollowdaze has passed without major incident. I returned to the unHoly Land safely, the presents were well-received, and the tensions created by having too many people in the house (including a squalling infant) have yet to errupt into the drunken name calling and cane fighting for which the Irish are so famous. Everyone seems content to leave each other alone and play with their new toys.

I am composing this entry on my new toy, a shiny new iBook G4 laptop! My mother - I mean, "Santa" - knew that my desktop pc was slowly dying, but I had no idea that a new laptop was what I would be getting, much less a Macintosh. My mom's hetero life partner, Jan, is a Mac believer and it's always been a bone of contention in their relationship. For mom to be buy me a Mac is almost like she's admitting that there are many ways to heaven, and each man must find his own path... I think I wept.

At any rate, it is very sleek and glossy, and it has many bells and whistles with which I will bore you in later posts. For now, a picture will have to suffice.

Now we can all start worrying about New Years... Happy Hannukah!

Thesis Defense

3 40 90 12 300

I wore black from head to toe, in keeping with the solemnity of the occassion. The inquisitors three gathered at the appointed hour, like the three wise men (well, two wise men and one wise woman), called to the spot by portents and signs - by portents I mean doughnuts, and by signs I mean coffee. Of course, I had none - caffeine would make me jumpy, and munching on sugary snacks would ruin the serious, scholarly, almost mendicant look I was cultivating. Each of us held a 40-page packet; the result of my last year's toil.

After my opening remarks, the questioning began. It went on for 90 minutes, but it wasn't as bad as that sounds. At some point, it became more of a conversation than an inquisition. The room grew lighter and the barrier between student and faculty became less defined. I became less a student, and more like a colleague...albeit a junior colleague, but a levelling of the playing field was evident.

In the end, the paper was approved with minor revision. They discussed various ways to turn it into an article for publication, and possible future studies I could do as a follow-up project. At some point in all of this one of them said, "So, does this complete your Major?"

Yes. Yes, it does. The Self-Designed Major Council has to meet and ask me the same questions, but basically it is done. My twelve credits next semester are a bit of a formality at this point... I will complete the requirements for my English degree so my diploma will show a double major, but that's really an afterthought to me. The degree I wanted is done - and I now begin pondering that achievement.

Ironically, this is also my 300th post on this blog - another achievement of sorts. For about a month now I've been watching my post count, wondering what to put in this auspicious spot, but I kind of lost track while I was trying to get the paper ready. 300 entries has to be the longest journal I've ever kept. To think it only takes an audience to keep me writing - my ego knows no bounds.

Achievement is not really the right word for either of these events, though. It feels more like survival to be honest. A plane full of students crashes on this island called "College." Some academic careers survive, and some get killed. Today, I ducked the Iron Giant.

Sigma Tau Delta on the Air

In addition to running the Black Vatican, His Sinfulness is also an officer of UW's chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the International Creative Writing Honors Society. Check out the chapter's blog (link on sidebar) for poetry, articles, and news items like the one below:

KOCA Radio has made the mistake of giving the officers of Sigma Tau Delta airtime. Tune to 93.5 on your FM dial at 4:00pm on Thursday, December 15th to hear Luke, Levi, and Reverend Linus talk about poetry, upcoming slams, and how Luke doesn't get girls...

Paper Post Partum

After a year of gestaton, it's over. My water broke last week when Dr. Newell finally said that the working draft looked "pretty good." The final contractions came in the form of nearly 160 pages of printing and $2.45 worth of binder clips. G-Fresh, acting as midwife, delivered the three weighty packets - still warm from the printer's womb - to the mailboxes of my committee members while I sucked on ice cubes and kept doing those breathing excercises. I hope I can get my figure back...

And now, I have no idea what to do. I have carried this thing within me for so long that I feel empty and antsy without it. I know that I could just play online poker and read webcomics all evening, but I can't seem to relax and enjoy the slack. There are no more journal articles that need to be read, no more statistics that need to be researched, no further revisions to make... and that feels very wrong right now.

I'm sure that it will all make sense soon enough. I probably just need a good cigar and an old-fashioned drunk to kick this feeling. Thank the gods for textbook buyback...

Candid Ajax

To divert attention from the clearly unpatriotic and possibly commie sentiments in the previous post, here are some pictures of Ajax being cute.

Ajax, playing with his marble toy.

Ajax, looking smooth...

Patriotism Revisited

In the past, I have ranted at length about patriotism. I have pointed out that if you were born here, being patriotic is like being proud of having blue eyes; it's an accident of birth and nothing more. I have pointed out that we are all in this together, and no amount of arbitrary line drawing on maps will ever separate Us from Them in a meaningful way; what happens inside our borders affects those outside, and the reverse is true as well. I have even given examples of the historical legacy of rampant patriotism - the Holocaust, dozens of communist pogroms, the Cultural Revolution, and McCarthyism, to name just a few. In short, I think of myself as a citizen of the world who happens to reside in America.

Today in class I ran headlong into internalized, old school, conditioned response when I suggested that perhaps patriotism might not be a good thing. I suggested that perhaps the Us vs Them mentality that patriotism generates is not what the world needs right now. I asked my classmates to just think for a moment about why they were patriotic, and see if their reasons were really good ones. Their responses were pretty disheartening.

One guy said he was proud to be an American because we can go to McDonalds and have cheeseburgers or go shopping anytime we want. A girl said she was proud to be an American because that was the way she was raised.

I didn't have the stones to say, "So you are proud of being the gluttonous pig at the top of the food chain, and you are proud because your folks told you to be proud."

I couldn't bring myself to bust them in the mouths like that. They are young, and trying to overcome rural Wyoming upbringings. I tried to tell myself that at least I made them think about it, and planted a seed in their minds... but it wasn't a very satisfying rationalization.

The truth is, these kids aren't thinking about it, and many of them never will. They don't see that we are the beautiful Eloi to the third world's Morlocks, and that our pleasures come from their misery. They don't care that our lifestyle is killing off the workers that make it possible. They certainly don't care that the country they are so proud to be part of is a bloated monster that feeds on the carcasses of poor, mostly brown people everyday. In fact, their beloved America would gladly consume them too if they ever fell to that social strata.

What they are talking about is not pride - it's relief. They are relieved that they are American, because being from somewhere lower on the ladder is crappy. In a sense they are saying, "I know that we are giving the rest of the world a raw deal, and I'm really glad I don't live there; better them than me."

If they aren't thinking about the interconnectedness of the world now, when they are college students, it's likely that they never will think about it much. If being surrounded by the diversity and intellectual intensity of a university community doesn't wake them, what could? As dear old Dorothy Parker used to say, "You can lead a whore to culture, but you can't make her think."

Geek Shopping

I am adverse to gift registries; it seems too much like sending your loved ones out to do your shopping for you. I think that gifts are only really meaningful when you can tell that the person who bought them has paid attention to you, and actually sought out something that they know you will enjoy. This is a grim prospect for some of us... it means actually TALKING to your family (shudder).

In some cases though, the gifter has listened closely to the giftee, and still the gift is not quite right. This is not a failure to communicate, but rather it may be that the giftee has highly technical likes - in other words, you are shopping for a geek.

If, for example, I were to mention in passing coversation how much I admire the performance of the Lam Hoac Sea Devil Deluxe Light, especially if you install the 5 PT LS, few of you would have a chance of knowing what I'm talking about (maybe Jim and Britt would know, but only because I made them watch many videos of said item...).

Or, hypothetically, you might hear me say, "I sure wish I had the FA118A#ABA keyboard to go with my HP iPAQ rx1955 Pocket PC."

It's unlikely that you'd be able to remember all that technical jargon, much less actually locate the items in question. I guess we geeks will just have to make do with gift certificates - lots of gift certificates...

Let's plan ahead...

When I die, I'd like to have a really big wake - lots of liquor, lots of food, a pipe band, the works. To make this easier to organize, I'm using this nifty device - Death Clock - it calculates your day of death, and even tells you how many seconds you have left to live.

Assuming my weight loss continues and I reach my goal weight, I'll be checking out on Dec. 14th, 2038. Mark it on your calendars now. (I hate to ruin Chrismahanakwanzayule for everyone - I'm trying to get an extension until after the hollowdaze, but you know how difficult that can be...)

Go and check your own date of death - I don't want any of us to conflict. While you are at it, feel free to page through the new Cofanifunebri calendar. I'm partial to the one for July...

Lojong #8

#8 Three objects, three poisons, and three seeds of virtue.

Alan Wallace:
The next verse refers to the three objects: agreeable, disagreeable, and neutral objects. As we relate to these three types of objects, the three mental poisons arise: attachment, hostility, and confusion. The point is to use these poisons as opportunities to nurture the roots of virtue.

As we engage in the affairs of daily life, as soon as we become aware that attachment, craving, or clinging has arisen, right then is the time to recognize that there are an immeasurable number of sentient beings who are subject to the same mental afflictions. Expand your awareness of this right on the spot, and let the aspiration arise: "May those countless sentient beings be endowed with the root of virtue that is freedom from attachment. May they be free of this attachment that I am now experiencing." The aspiration itself is a root of virtue.

Geshe Rabten and Geshe Dhargyey:
Worldly beings regard objects in three ways. Agreeable objects are looked upon with the poison of attachment, or desire, disagreeable objects with the poison of aversion, or hatred, and indifferent objects with the poison of ignorance of their true mode of existence, emptiness. In our meditation we should imagine accepting these three poisons, the source of all misery, from every being in cyclic existence, and replacing them with the three sources of virtue and happiness: nonattachment, non-aggression, and non-ignorance. This is the abbreviated final instruction. If we seriously practice giving and taking, little harm or suffering comes to us. When it does, we accept it and, by realizing that its deep cause lies in a past unwholesome action, we transform it into the path to liberation. Just as a bird flaps its wings to fly higher and is further assisted by the wind blowing from beneath, in the same way we too are assisted by two vital forces as we develop the awakening mind: these are accepting all the trouble and suffering of others upon ourselves, and giving them all our merit, virtues, and excellent qualities such as wisdom and compassion. We should practice this not only in our imagination, but when circumstances arise and there is a chance to help others; in fact, we must spontaneously do whatever we can to assist them. If we do not apply our practice to our everyday actions, we are being hypocritical and deceiving ourselves.

Linus Furious:
This teaching cuts to the roots of what it means to "practice" a religion. It speaks to a radical shift in the practitioner's perception of the world, a turning away from old patterns and a dedication to a new way of seeing. When Alan Wallace says above, "right then" he is referring to a time that is also right now - every moment is an opportunity to practice.

If you missed the explanation of the lojong sayings and tonglen meditation, click here.

The Pope Demands Nostalgia

Frequently, the Dampyre Zombie Lord has great blogging ideas, and today was no exception. So, instead of another angst-filled rant on the soul-killing enui of academia, I have instead lifted the following directly from him:

Memory lane Message: If you read this, even if we don't speak often, you must post a comment on my page with a memory of you and me. It can be anything you want -- good or bad, just as long as it happened Think long and hard now!! Then post this up yourself and see what people remember about you.

See? I told you it was a good idea. Make it so.

Lojong #7

#7 Sending and Taking Should Be Practiced Alternately. These Two Should Ride the Breath.

Pema Chodron:
It's useful to think of tonglen practice in four stages:
1) Flashing openness.
2) Working with the texture, breathing in dark, heavy, and hot and breathing out white, light and cool.
3) Working with relieving a specific, heartfelt instance of suffering.
4) Extending that wish to help everyone.

The first stage is flashing openness, or flashing absolute bodhicitta. The slogan "Rest in the nature of ALAYA, the essence" goes along with this flash of openness, which is done very quickly. there is some sort of natural flash of silence and space. It's a very simple thing.

The second stage is working with the texture. You visualize breathing in dark, heavy and hot and breathing out white, light and cool. The idea is that you are always breathing in the same thing: you are essentially breathing in the cause of suffering, the origin of suffering, which is fixation, the tendency to hold on the ego with a vengeance.

The third stage is working with a specific heartfelt object of suffering. You breathe in the pain of a specific person or animal that you wish to help. You breathe out to that person spaciousness or kindness or a good meal or a cup of coffee - whatever you feel would lighten their load. You can do this for anyone: the homeless mother that you pass on the street, your suicidal uncle, or yourself and the pain you are feeling at that very moment. The main point is that the suffering should be real, totally untheoretical. It should be heartfelt, tangible, honest, and vivid.

The fourth stage extends this wish to relieve suffering much further. You start with this homeless person and then extend out to all those who are suffering just as she is, or to all those who are suicidal like your uncle or to all those who are feeling the jealousy or addiction or contempt you are feeling. You use specific instances of misery and pain as a stepping stone for understanding the universal suffering of people and animals everywhere. Simultaneously, you send out spaciousness or cheerfulness or a bunch of flowers, whatever would be healing, to your uncle and all the others. What you feel for one person, you can extend to all people.

You can bring all of your unfinished karmic business right into the practice. In fact, you should invite it in. Suppose that you are involved in a horrific relationship: every time you think of a particular person you get furious. That is very useful for tonglen! Or perhaps you feel depressed. It was all you could do to get out of bed today. You're so depressed that you want to stay in bed for the rest of your life: you have considered hiding under the bed. That is very useful for tonglen practice.

If you missed the explanation of the lojong sayings and tonglen meditation, click here.

Past Life Regression

When NerdyGirl left the immediate environs of the Black Vatican there was a great wailing and gnashing of teeth, but she was actually on a secret mission known only to His Sinfulness, Darth Furious, and myself...

Through dilligent effort and painstaking research (mostly on Craig's List and Alt Personals) she has located this, the only known portrait of the Black Pope in a previous life.

As you can see he's always been a looker, and a snazzy dresser too. Nice to know that some things never change.

Happy Halloween

Have an assload of fun!

Lojong #6

#6) In Postmeditation, Be a Child of Illusion

Jamgon Kongtrul:
After meditation, do not allow the experience of resting evenly to dissipate, no matter what form of activity you engage in. Continually foster the feeling of knowing that all appearances, yourself, others, animate or inanimate, appear though they seem to be nothing - be like a child of illusion.

Chogyam Trungpa:
Illusion does not mean haziness, confusion, or mirage. Being a child of illusion means that you continue what you have experienced in your sitting practice [resting in the nature of alaya] into postmeditation experience.

You realize that after sitting practice, you do not have to solidify phenomena. Instead, you can continue your practice and develop some kind of ongoing awareness. If things become heavy and solid, you flash mindfulness and awareness into them. In that way you begin to see that everything is pliable and workable. Your attitude is that the phenomenal world is not evil, that 'they' are not out to get you or kill you. Everything is workable and soothing.

Linus Furious:
Since no one reads these entries anyway, I thought I'd put my two cents in on this one. Trying to take the meditative state with you when you leave the cushions is very difficult. A simple way to begin is to use the labeling practice commonly taught by Tibetan meditation teachers. When something siezes your attention, label it without judgement, and then let it go. So as you are walking down the street you might say to yourself, "tree" or "mailman" or "sidewalk" as these things catch your eye, but you are not making judgements about them. The tree, mailman, and sidewalk are not good or bad or pretty or ugly or anything other than what they are. You can use this to label thoughts as well; when your mind has wandered off, simply label that "thinking" and let it fall away.

If you missed the explanation of the lojong sayings and tonglen meditation, click here.

Fall Warnings

Be careful out there - this could happen to you...

Also, watch out for the Jedi squirrel turf wars.

Lojong #5

#5) Rest in the Nature of alaya, the Essence.

(alaya; 'Source consciousness'. Pure, primary awareness untainted by life experiences, judgements, or preconceptions. Called in Zen 'the face you had before your parents were born'.)

Alan Wallace:
Once we have arrived at this point honestly, with insight and intelligence, the nature of the meditative practice shifts. Now we free the mind of the conceptualizations we were using before, free it of any kind of ideation or discursive thought, any conceptual grasping to past, present, or future. The mind relaxes in the nature of non-grasping, and yet we maintain a state of vivid clarity, free of dullness or agitation.

Jamgon Kongtrul:
Let go and rest, without the slightest idea of a nature existing as something, with absolutely no mental clinging, in a state distinguished by nondiscursive clarity and pure simplicity. In summary, for as long as you are able, follow no train of thought, but rest evenly in a state in which mind in itself is clear and free of discursiveness. This is placing meditation.

If you missed the explanation of the lojong sayings and tonglen meditation, click here.

Quote of the Week

"It's ok to cry."
"But I hate crying."
"Me too, but you have to let stuff out. It's like going to the bathroom - I don't really look forward to it, but I feel better afterwards."
"What the... are you saying that not crying is like emotional constipation!?"
"Yes - crying is just like pooping from your eyes."

Fighting Machine

Who says my blog isn't fun anymore?

The Dark Acolyte Emerges...

The Black Vatican is happy to announce that the sister of His Sinfulness is delivered of a baby girl. The Dark Niece, dubbed Brienna Vivian, arrived last night after a few hours of very easy labor. Mother and little wog are both doing fine, and will be going home from the hospital tomorrow.

Karmic Debt Management

I look about me and see my room, the books and things,
and behind it all in shadow, the relationships and deeds,
making up this lifetime accumulation.
I reckon and tabulate, seeking an accounting of the years so far;
the things I've done and the places I've been crash by in a rush,
every sin and every success is put through the formula
and falls to the floor like register tape,
adding or subtracting from the total.
Jobs done well and goals met
vie with broken promises and outright lies,
pulling the final sum from red to black and back again.

Through it all there's this futility,
like balancing a checkbook you know is overdrawn.
Good deeds just aren't as weighty as transgressions -
they lack that leaden density that sin carries.
It takes a lot of public radio memberships
and donations to the United Way
to make up for shots fired
in the line of a duty you never really believed in,
especially when you hit your target.
How many charity walk-a-thons does it take
to overcome a single broken oath,
a single untruth to a trusting lover?
I don't need to hit the enter key
to know the last number will be printed in red;
I'm not checking to see if I'm in the hole,
I just want to know how far.

More information please...

I have been researching grad schools. Each one has a glossy web page, filled with info on the admission process, financial aid, faculty, housing, and about a dozen other pertinent topics. None of them really answer my questions, though. I think these sites should include the stuff that grad students really want to know. If I designed these sites, they would answer questions like...

-How kilt-friendly is the student body?
-Does the administration spend more on football than libraries?
-Are there any good flea markets around for cheap furniture?
-Is there a decent vegetarian/vegan restaraunt near campus?
-What's the going rate for pot?
-How active is the greek community? (and is it easy to avoid them?)
-Red state or Blue state?
-Are there any good local bands in the area?
-How far from campus is the nearest gaming/comic book store?
-Do faculty members sleep with students? (and if so, are they hot?)
-Is there a Zendo nearby?
-Is there an active queer community? (I've grown very fond of my 'mos...)

and most importantly
-What's the wind like near campus?

Lojong #4

#4) Self-liberate even the antidote.

"Now please don't cling to the remedy, to the method... Methods are dangerous only if you are unaware. Otherwise they can be used beautifully. Do you think a boat is dangerous? It is dangerous if you are thinking to carry it on your head for the rest of your life, out of sheer gratitude. Otherwise it is just a raft to be used and discarded.

My approach is : use the boat, use beautiful boats, use as many boats as possible, with this awareness: when the shore is reached the boat is abandoned with no clinging. While you are in the boat, enjoy it, be thankful to it. When you get out of the boat, say thank you and move on."

Alan Wallace:
"The next verse of the root text continues on the subject of ultimate bodhicitta*, or realizing the nature of reality, as a practice during meditation sessions. The direct realization of ultimate truth is the fundamental antidote and ultimate healer of the distortions that afflict the mind. The author is saying that even this realization itself is "liberated in its own place." And here "liberated" means lacking intrinsic existence. Even the notion of ultimate truth is itself devoid of inherent existence."

*Bodhicitta - "Enlightenment Mind." Bodhicitta is the desire to win enlightenment not ultimately for oneself but for the benefit of all beings. This is a key concept within the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions with their emphasis on compassion. Many Buddhists seek to generate Bodhicitta as a means of developing compassion for all living beings without exception.

If you missed the explanation of the lojong sayings and tonglen meditation, click here.

Winter in LA(ramie)

I try to enjoy it, to see the beauty in it. I try to reflect on the crisp air, the turning leaves, and the chance to wear my wool sweaters. I try, I really do... but I'm not so far removed from my LA roots that I don't remember what October can be like.

Current Conditions for Laramie, WY:
40 degrees (31 with windchill).
Wind is NNW at 18-20mph (shitty for kites)

Current conditions for Seal Beach, CA:
95 degrees
Wind is E at 6mph (pretty much ideal for kites)

You do the math.

Lojong #3

#3 Examine the nature of unborn awareness.

Pema Chodron:
"The real purpose of this slogan is to pull the rug out from under you in case you think you understood the previous slogan. If you feel proud of yourself because of how you really understood that everything is like a dream, then this slogan is here to challenge that smug certainty. It's saying: "Well, who is this anyway who thinks that they discovered that everything is like a dream?""

From Osho:
"Look into it, look deep into it. Shake yourself into as full an awareness as possible. Wake up and see! and you will start laughing - because now you will see there has never been a birth, and there is never going to be a death.
This is unborn and undying consciousness. It has always been here. It is eternal, it is timeless. And how afraid you were of death, and how afraid you were of old age, and how afraid you were of a thousand and one things! And nothing has ever happened: all was a dream.

Seeing this, one smiles, one laughs. Your whole life up to now has been ridiculous, absurd. You were unnecessarily afraid, unnecessarily greedy, unnecessarily suffering. You were living in a nightmare and it was your own creation."

If you missed the explanation of the lojong sayings and tonglen meditation, click here.

Long Day

Time is not "marching on."
His gait is not nearly so organized or purposeful -
more like the drunk's surging stumble,
or the aimless shuffle of the homeless.
Some days pass at a dead run,
bulls over tourists in Pamplona -
others linger, refusing to end; today is one of those.
He's like opera when you are ten years old,
this abcessed root canal of a day;
his possibilities have drained away
leaving the bloodless corpse of a fat Valkyrie,
and nothing will make that final aria come any faster.
He leans over the pit of night, arms flailing for balance,
as his light clings to the windows, a syrup ooze,
fighting the long shadows for every inch of darkness.
I'd give him a push if I could.

Lojong #2

#2)Regard all dharmas as dreams.

(The word 'dharma' has a host of meanings in Buddhist and Hindu teachings. In this case, a good translation would be 'effects' or 'phenomena'.)

Jamgon Kongtrul explains...
"Actual phenomena - that is, the world and its inhabitants - are objects that we grasp at with our senses. These appearances are simply our mind's manifestations of confusion. In the end, they are not actually existent in any way whatsoever, but are like the appearances in a dream. By thinking along these lines, train yourself to have some feeling for looking at the world this way."

Pema Chodron tells us...
"Everything you experience in your life - pain, pleasure, heat, cold, or anything else - is like something in a dream. Although you might think things are very solid, they are like passing memory. You can experience this open, unfixated quality in sitting meditation; all that arises in your mind - hate, love, and all the rest - is not solid. Although the experience can get extremely vivid, it is just a product of your mind. Nothing solid is really happening."

If you missed the explanation of the lojong sayings and tonglen meditation, click here.

The Widow

As I waited outside a classroom today, I read from a textbook (any book with words printed in it is, by definition, a "text" book, but I digress), and a passage in it broke me.

"Imagine you're an 80 year old woman whose husband has just died..."

and suddenly I was there. I was her, grieving at the graveside, sorting his things, hearing his will, and sleeping alone for the first time in 55 years. I felt the tears of loss well up inside me, turn into crushing frustration at our mortal condition, and finally come boiling to the surface as a forceless, helpless rage. Anger is my idiom, so even as an 80 year old woman I'm angry.

How and why, did I suddenly have this powerful feeling of compassion and empathy for an old woman I've never met? (I swear I will break off a size 12 in the ass of the first person who suggests that it is because I am old as well.) Could it be that all the years of meditation have finally soaked in? Perhaps I am actually beginning to put down the warrior role, and move into something more nurturing...

Even just typing that feels odd. Part of me wants to know if there is a way that I can be compassionate and empathetic in a really angry, kick-ass-now-and-take-names-later sort of way... it's a comfortable old suit I've worn for most of my life. Couldn't I be some kind of "nurturing warrior"...?

That's just fear of change talking there. I'm comfortable with being grumpy and ready to fight, but the path is not really about being comfortable, now is it?

Lojong #1

In the 12th Century, a Tibetan monk named Chekawa formulated existing proverbs and aphorisms into a set of 57 sayings known as lojong ("mind training"), designed to help seekers connect with the world in a way that is unconditional, possitive, and fully aware. The process of meditating on these sayings came to be called tonglen (in Tibetan 'tong' means 'sending out' or 'letting go' and 'len' means 'receiving' or 'accepting') and it has proven to be a powerful technique for helping practitioners take full responsibility for their experience of the world.

I'll be putting a new saying up at random intervals. Unlike my usual blog posts (which you can forget about almost before you finish reading them), take a minute to think about these.

#1) First, train in the preliminaries.

There are four preliminaries (also called the four reminders):
1) Remember the preciousness of human life.
(only a human can become a Buddha)
2) Remember that life ends; death comes for everyone.
(it sounds obvious, but how many of us actually think about it?)
3) Remember that all actions have a result.
(karma is a bitch)
4) Remember that as long as you are focused on self-importance you will suffer.
(just getting what you want and avoiding what you don't like will not bring happiness)

*The comments that I'll be putting up with them are rarely my own. They are drawn from a host of authors - Pema Chodron, Osho, HHDL, and others.

Star Wars is for Everyone

...but maybe it shouldn't be.

I'm sure faithful readers recall this charming photo of Lord Gayder, buckled up and ready for "battle."

(Remember? Hell, I bet Jim and Zeus have it saved to their Favorites...)

In the interest of fairness and equal time, we are pleased to bring you Darth Vulva...

The (not so) Great Stupa

On Sunday, I visited the Great Stupa at the Shambhala Center near Red Feather Lakes, Colorado, with my friend Kim. I'm not sure what I expected, but I was very disturbed by the experience. I have visited many other religious sites, Buddhist, Christian, and otherwise - never have I come away with so little sense of the sacred or the holy. I am disturbed still.

The shape and structure of the building is ancient, but there are modern elements that clash awkwardly; like these doors...

I think the smoked glass and brass fittings just scream "Welcome to the First National Bank of Buddha."

I also found the windows very distracting.

(Click on this one for a better view)
The rest of the structure is very ornate, but the windows are the sort of boring industrial glass you expect on a high-rise. It seems like poor planning - so much time and energy went into the design of the thing, the least they could have done was find windows to match the feel of the building.

Kim pointed out, and rightly so, that a much more sacred feeling could be found by turning your back on the stupa altogether and looking at the trees and hills surrounding it. The immediate setting is beautiful, rugged, and quite tranquil. I really wish there had been some attempt to incorporate natural materials or colors into the design. Instead, the exterior of the building is apparently shaped concrete. There is virtually nothing that could be less spiritual and more jarring to the senses than a great hunk of cotton candy-colored concrete in the midst of the Colorado Rockies.

The whole experience felt very much like a trip to "Epcot Tibet." It reminded me of the little fiberglass cottages around the Matterhorn ride - there was that kind of artificialness to it all, and I couldn't help thinking (as I always do when confronted with gigantic religious expenditures) how many people they could have fed and clothed and educated with all that money.

I realize that this is the resting place of Chogyam Trungpa's skull relic, and as a very important and influential teacher here in the West, he needed/wanted/deserved a burial monument (maybe)... but I just can't get past the idea that the Buddha wouldn't want a 20-foot statue of himself inside a 108-foot structure to be that monument. I'm certainly in no place to speak for the Buddha, but he insisted that his students keep sight of his humanity. ONLY a human can be a Buddha. He was NOT a god, and as such, he has no need of worship. I know that stupas and statues and the rest are supposed to be indicative of remembrance and respect, not worship, but that line has gotten very blurred.

Cancel my sepulchre - the Black Pope will be planted in a plain pine box...

News Flash

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog to bring you this breaking story...
The Hopeless Romantic, well known webcomic artist, penguin fighter, and noted metrosexual is, in fact, straight. Film at eleven.

(Actually, we don't have any film. Sorry.)

Another Mystery Revealed

This explains a lot about my ex-wife's spending habits. She's not irresponsible, she's just made that way...

Don't They Smell That Way Already?

I like perfume, particularly vanilla scents. I love the flavor of vanilla, so it stands to reason that if a woman smells like a dessert, I'll enjoy it.

While surfing, I discoverd a perfume that might be working on the same flavor/scent principle. I love the flavor, but I'm not so sure about it as a fragrance for women...

It Makes Me Feel Better Somehow...

The falling woman has a new buddy! Very therapeutic...

Surfing Rots Your Brain

*Bottom of page is NWS (once you figure out what you're looking at)

In the future you'll be notifyin' me of such holidays in advance, savvy?

Asian movie extras practice leaping before an explosion? I got nothing here...

Scary doll. Scary doll in pink. Scary doll from Mandyland. With encephalitis.

One for all the fans of Aqua Teen Hungerforce and um... balls.

By the way, the black template is temporary. I've been wanting to change my template for some time now - maybe sommething with naked nuns killing heathens - and this will force me to get it done. Gone are the crappy Haloscan comments and trackback. Links to other blogs will be back as soon as possible.

Big Lift

Click to enlarge

In honor of my biggest kite's first flight this evening, we have this cautionary tale about big kites and big wind ...

Both photos by Gina


Since The Hopeless Romantic called me out, here we go...

1. Robin
2. Linus Furious
3. HSBP (His Sinfulness the Black Pope)

1. Linus - despite the obvious coolness of the name, there are damn few folks named Linus out there. Once you rule out Torvald, Pauling, and Van Pelt, I'm next in line.
2. LFurious - Sometimes a Peanuts fan registers before me.
3. Rene Michel - In a previous life I used to fence dressed as a poofter from France...

1. My mind
2. My multitude of sins
3. My boundless rage

1. My mind - It's hard to be happy when you're smart enough to see through the BS.
2. My multitude of sins - True forgiveness is hard to grant yourself.
3. My boundless rage - I used to be an angry young man... I'm not so young anymore.

1. Irish - We are quite proud of our genetic predisposition to mental illness and addictive behavior.
2. Scottish - Kilts, pipe bands, and throwing heavy objects for sport - what's not to like?
3. Southern - Being from North Carolina leaves a stain on the soul that no amount of snow can wash away.

1. Airplanes
2. Grad School
3. Meeting Christin's mother.

1. Nalgene bottle
2. MP3 player
3. a knife

1. Kilt - Forest green Amerikilt today. I love the matching sporran.
2. "Jesus helps me trick people" t-shirt - Diesel Sweeties rocks.
3. Baby powder - Must avoid the stickiness...

(This question is ridiculously hard. Ask me tomorrow and the answers will all be different.)
1. The Beatles
2. Counting Crows
3. Rush

(See comment above.)
1. "Across the Universe" by the Beatles
2. "Free Will" by Rush
3. "Rain King" by Counting Crows

1. Traction kites - Kite surfing, buggying, land boards, etc.
2. Driving to Ohio
3. A vegan diet

1. Love I can count on
2. Good Great Sex
3. Intellectual compatibility

TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE (in no particular order)
1. I was in a fatal car accident
2. I was in a train accident
3. I was an accident

1. Some of them find me amusing/appealing
2. They can sing higher than I can.
3. They usually smell good

1. Get off the internet
2. Manage money properly
3. Turn down a good fight

1. Kiting
2. Boomerangs
3. Gaming

1. Fly my new kite
2. Have lunch
3. Graduate (is it December yet?)

1. Professor
2. Kite tester (I hear this pays big bucks...)
3. Writer

1. Japan
2. Tibet
3. India

1. Rimshot
2. Thumbelina
3. Ditto

1. Publish a book
2. See the lands the Buddha walked
3. Live in Ireland

1. I have many stuffed animals (Secretly I talk to them. Some answer.)
2. I cry at the movies the drop of a hat
3. I love to cook

1. I'm big as a house
2. I scratch myself inappropriately
3. I am constantly girl watching (You should see the brunette who is working in the student learning center here in Washakie right now... wow.)

1. Christin
2. Gina
3. Rachel

Best of '83

The Hopeless Romantic suggested this... and I think it's a good idea. You go to
this site and get a list of the top 100 songs from the year you graduated. You post that to your blog, with a strike-over through the ones you don't like.

By Black Papal Decree, there shall be no comments about the year His Sinfulness graduated from high school...

Top 100 Songs of 1983

1. Every Breath You Take, Police
2. Billie Jean, Michael Jackson
3. Flashdance... What A Feelin, Irene Cara
4. Down Under, Men At Work
5. Beat It, Michael Jackson
6. Total Eclipse Of The Heart, Bonnie Tyler
7. Maneater, Daryl Hall and John Oates
8. Baby Come To Me, Patti Austin and James Ingram
9. Maniac, Michael Sembello
10. Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), Eurythmics
11. Do You Really Want To Hurt Me, Culture Club
12. You And I, Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle
13. Come On Eileen, Dexy's Midnight Runners
14. Shame On The Moon, Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band
15. She Works Hard For The Money, Donna Summer
16. Never Gonna Let You Go, Sergio Mendes
17. Hungry Like The Wolf, Duran Duran
18. Let's Dance, David Bowie
19. Twilight Zone, Golden Earring
20. I Know There's Something Going On, Frida
21. Jeopardy, Greg Kihn Band
22. Electric Avenue, Eddy Grant
23. She Blinded Me With Science, Thomas Dolby
24. Africa, Toto
25. Little Red Corvette, Prince
26. Back On The Chain Gang, Pretenders
27. Up Where We Belong, Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes
28. Mr. Roboto, Styx
29. ,strike>You Are, Lionel Richie
30. Der Kommissar, After The Fire
31. Puttin' On The Ritz, Taco
32. Sexual Healing, Marvin Gaye
33. (Keep Feeling) Fascination, Human League
34. Time (Clock Of The Heart), Culture Club
35. The Safety Dance, Men Without Hats
36. Mickey, Toni Basil
37. You Can't Hurry Love, Phil Collins
38. Separate Ways, Journey
39. One On One, Daryl Hall and John Oates
40. We've Got Tonight, Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton
41. 1999, Prince
42. Stray Cat Strut, Stray Cats
43. Allentown, Billy Joel
44. Stand Back, Stevie Nicks
45. Tell Her About It, Billy Joel
46. Always Somethmg There To Remind Me, Naked Eyes
47. Truly, Lionel Richie
48. Dirty Laundry, Don Henley
49. The Girl Is Mine, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney
50. Too Shy, Kajagoogoo
51. Goody Two Shoes, Adam Ant
52. Rock The Casbah, Clash
53. Our House, Madness
54. Overkill, Men At Work
55. Is There Something I Should Know, Duran Duran
56. Gloria, Laura Branigan
57. Affair Of The Heart, Rick Springfield
58. She's A Beauty, Tubes
59. Solitaire, Laura Branigan
60. Don't Let It End, Styx
61. How Am I Supposed To Live Without You, Laura Branigan
62. China Girl, David Bowie
63. Come Dancing, Kinks
64. Promises, Promises, Naked Eyes
65. The Other Guy, Little River Band
66. Making Love Out Of Nothing At All, Air Supply WTF?
67. Family Man, Daryl Hall and John Oates
68. Wanna Be Startin' Somethin', Michael Jackson
69. I Won't Hold You Back, Toto
70. All Right, Christopher Cross
71. Straight From The Heart, Bryan Adams
72. Heart To Heart, Kenny Loggins
73. My Love, Lionel Richie
74. I'm Still Standing, Elton John
75. Hot Girls In Love, Loverboy
76. It's A Mistake, Men At Work
77. I'll Tumble 4 Ya, Culture Club
78. All This Love, Debarge
79. Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy, Sammy Hagar
80. Heartbreaker, Dionne Warwick
81. Faithfully, Journey
82. Steppin' Out, Joe Jackson
83. Take Me To Heart, Quarterflash
84. (She's) Sexy + 17, Stray Cats
85. Try Again, Champaign
86. Dead Giveaway, Shalamar
87. Lawyers In Love, Jackson Browne
88. What About Me, Moving Pictures
89. Human Nature, Michael Jackson
90. Photograph, Def Leppard
91. Pass The Dutchie, Musical Youth
92. True, Spandau Ballet
93. Far From Over, Frank Stallone
94. I've Got A Rock 'N' Roll Heart, Eric Clapton
95. It Might Be You, Stephen Bishop
96. Tonight I Celebrate My Love, Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack
97. You Got Lucky, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
98. Don't Cry, Asia
99. Breaking Us In Two, Joe Jackson
100. Fall In Love With Me, Earth, Wind and Fire

It's been years since I've heard "Electric Avenue"... and what ever happened to Dexy's Midnight Runners?

I make no apologies for the Journey songs on this list, and I proudly claim Hall and Oates, Cluture Club, and the Tubes as some of my favorites. Actually, when you add up the songs on this list by Bowie, Joe Jackson, Tom Petty, Jackson Browne, the Clash, Adam Ant, and the Stray Cats, 1983 looks like a banner year for pop music. Pass the dutchie, indeed.

Be Prepared

I was playing some mahjong with the boys down in Legal the other day, and things got ugly. One of the lawyers accused a paralegal of cheating, and knives were drawn. After some quick cutting, we were down one lawyer.

It was as they were stuffing his corpse into a couple garbage bags that I realized that the ministry was soon going to face a problem. After your personality is transplanted into one of our cybernetic bodies, what will become of your mortal coil? We here at the Ministry continually strive to prepare the Flock for the future, but we failed to take this into account. We have to do something with all those bodies...

I kicked this around with the lawyers a bit. We talked about various possibilities -cadaver sculpture, selling bones to billiard ball companies, soylent green - but discarded each for liability and/or PR reasons.

Eventually we came to the conclusion that members of the Flock want to experience everything life has to offer. They want to have it all, drink it deep, and push it to the extreme - and physical death, decay, and even funerals are a part of that vast panorama (I think some guys from Advertising must have been there too). We made some calls, and it turns out that funerals are big business, so naturally the Ministry wants to be there when your bereaved whips out the Visa.

The conversation kind of broke down at this point... some of us were pretty hammered by then, and before I knew it I was drinking mezcal off a stripper's boobs in Guadalajara, betting on a cock fight. Hell of a weekend. The tattoo removal alone is going to cost me thousands - but I digress. We did come up with a way to help the Flock prepare for their physical passing...

Behold - the tombstone generator. I whipped up this little beauty for myself:

Ok, so it's still a work in progress, but it's a start. Show us what you want on your tombstone - because you never know when you might want your friends to know that sort of thing. Your next mahjong game could turn fatal too...

Happy Birthday

It's time to wish a Happy Birthday to Big Gay Jim!

Crossing the Atlantic

If you think buggying naked is crazy, check this out...

An adventurer by the name of Dom Mee set sail Tuesday from St. John, Nova Scotia in an attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a 14 foot boat powered by a kite. The trip is expected to take anywhere from 30 to 75 days.Read a brief newspaper article about it here.

The vessel, "Little Murka", is equipped with a satellite telephone, e-mail access, a water purifier, and a 60-day supply of food. Mee also has an iPod filled with songs so he can "chill out to his tunes." Should the boat go off-course while Mee is sleeping, an anchor attached to a water parachute will shoot into the ocean and keep the vessel in place.

The coolest thing about this is that Mee is maintaining a blog while at sea. You can see his daily posts here and GPS location here.

Sunday's Addiction

If you don't already check Post Secret every week, you should. It updates on Sundays.

Story Time

All of us have at some point had to "come out" about something to our family and friends. Whether it was your orientation, religious beliefs, political views, or that you don't like lima beans, it is probably a story worth telling. So go to the Flock Forum and tell it to us. Now. No, not after you read your webcomics and check your Email - NOW!

While you're there, check out the other topics or start a few of your own. These conversations can help keep our collective friendships going strong, regardless of where life takes us all after graduation.

What's that? Not a member of the Forum yet! Why the hell not? Click here to register.

Toss Me a Cold One

Nothing refreshes like the blood of a martyr...

(NOT photoshopped - taken on 8/20/05 in front of an actual church in Denver)

Hang on to Your Childhood

Origins of AoxomoxoA

"...a sort of perfection in life, a moment of purity..."
- Dean Jordan

My post entitled AoxomoxoA generated a lot of questions from friends and readers all over the blogiverse, so I went looking for better answers than I had. Here's what I found...

On June 20th, 1969, the Grateful Dead released a studio album entitled "AoxomoxoA". The liner notes say it "derives from the palindromic preoccupations of Rick Griffin, the brilliant artist who designed the cover art." Rumors abound regarding its meaning. One theory is that it is from a Pre-Columbian Central or South American language, possibly Mayan, or Aztec. Another holds that Griffin created the word for a comic he drew years earlier - it was the response of an alien surfer to a human surfer who yelled "Cowabunga!" How Griffin came upon it may never be known; he died in a 1991 motorcycle accident.

It is a superbly constructed palindrome, as it not only reads the same forward and backwards, but each letter is also reversible (i.e. an A, O, M, or X still reads the same after you flip them over). Thus, AoxomoxoA is readable from left or right, even if you are looking at it from the back.

Using the Pythagorean method of numerology (the most common method in the West), the nine letters are valued as 166646661, which, when added together is (not surprisingly) 42...

At any rate, the album has received critical acclaim as has Griffin's art, but I was curious about how this term came into kiting jargon. It turns out that Dean Jordan, one of the early pioneers of sport kiting was a fan of Griffin, and he saw the term in the aforementioned surfing comic. He adopted it as his model when he started making kites professionally. Jordan wrote on rec.kites, "we are an aoxomoxoa centered company, each kite has some aoxo built into it, and I always sign some form of aoxo somewhere on anything I do."

Now you know...

Photographic example of AoxomoxoA by Rachel (also my new desktop wallpaper)


The Popemobile is in pretty bad shape. A brake job is imminent. A little crack that began on the upper right side of the windshield is now sprawling all over it. The interior is in serious need of a detailing, and the transmission has begun slipping in reverse. The solution?

The new Popemobile. It's not gonna' pay for itself people; tithe early, tithe often.


We flew kites in big wind again yesterday; we've been flying pretty regularly of late. All of the kiting faithful showed up, and we had 4 dual line kites in the sky at once. I think that's a record for Laramie... maybe for the whole damn state.

We also were joined by a Chinese family from the married student apartments. Their little boy put up a realistic duck (a Jackite, maybe?) behind us. It eventually worked it's way down wind until it was way up over our heads. They stopped and talked to us about dualies - they were especially amazed by the venting on our high wind kites.

Usually when a curious onlooker comes up I end up talking with them, but Big Gay Jim handled their questions like a pro. It was quite a picture - Jim (a BIG TALL guy) kneeling to talk to this little kid who was probably about 7 or so. Sometimes we need to be reminded that it is the 7 year-old in all of us who is fed by this hobby...

We call this AoxomoxoA. Its many definitions include the following:
(courtesy of rec.kites)

If you fly stunt kites to win competitions, you won't understand, but if you fly to give pleasure and entertain the audience, you might find AoxomoxoA

If tangled lines are an irritating frustration, you won't understand, but if you find untangling relaxing and theraputic, you might find AoxomoxoA

If you buy rare and expensive kites and hang them on the wall, you won't understand, but if risk hand-painted washi-paper or one-of-a-kind kites in the elements, you might find AoxomoxoA

If you're struggling to be the fastest buggier in the country, you won't understand, but if you dream of buggying across dry lakes in the gentle zephers at 2am, you might find AoxomoxoA

If you build your own kites to save money, you won't understand, but if you sew to try new ideas, you might find AoxomoxoA

If you wouldn't lend your kite to a stranger, you wouldn't understand, but if you're ready to loose or destroy anything you fly, you might find AoxomoxoA

If you enjoy buzzing noisy stunters on the beach, you wouldn't understand, but if you've found the pleasure of a simple, reliable single-line delta, you might find AoxomoxoA

Seek your own form of AoxomoxoA... and until you find it, buggy naked.

Another Saturday Night in Laramie

The results of random surfing - two pics and a toy...

Your kink is between you and your gimp...
Pimp my Gimp

Kiss rules.

Who Will You Be?

As you may already know, I don't plan on dying. Not ever. The boys down in R&D tell me that the CAVs (Cybernetic Afterlife Vessels), including standard Aesthete, "Spartan Boy" and "GI Jane" models are all progressing nicely. There are some bugs in some of the more militant models which have caused some minor shooting sprees at Ministry HQ, but the techno-priests assure me that these minor coding errors have been corrected. Soon the zealous believer will be able to enjoy the "Black Sheep" model without any fear of accute violent psychoses or spastic trigger fingers caused by righteous indignation...

We at the Ministry continually strive to give you the best quality of afterlife possible, but we anticipate that the shift from organic to mechanical life form may be difficult for some. To aid the Flock in transitioning to their new post-biologic-life bodies, Zeus has located this. It not only helps the transplantee find a name for their new CAV self, but also acts as a career councilor for the Faithful, giving helpful hints on possible afterlife paths. Give it a try yourself - who will you be? It was pretty accurate for me...

Dam the Man

This is an actual letter sent to a man named Ryan DeVries by the
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, State of Michigan.

SUBJECT: DEQ File No. 97-59-0023; T11N; R10W, Sec. 20; Montcalm County

Dear Mr. DeVries:

It has come to the attention of the Department of Environmental Quality that there has been recent unauthorized activity on the above referenced parcel of property. You have been certified as the legal landowner and/or contractor who did the following unauthorized activity:

Construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond. A permit must be issued prior to the start of this type of activity. A review of the Department's files show that no permits have been issued. Therefore, the Department has determined that this activity is in violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, annotated.

The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially failed during a recent rain event, causing debris and flooding at downstream locations. We find that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted. The Department therefore orders you to cease and desist all activities at this location, and to restore the stream to a free-flow condition by removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the stream channel.

All restoration work shall be completed no later than January 31, 2005.

Please notify this office when the restoration has been completed so that a follow-up site inspection may be scheduled by our staff. Failure to comply with this request or any further unauthorized activity on the site may result in this case being referred for elevated enforcement action.

We anticipate and would appreciate your full cooperation in this matter.

Please feel free to contact me at this office if you have any questions.


David L. Price
District Representative, Land and Water Management Division

This is the actual response sent back:

Re: DEQ File No. 97-59-0023; T11N; R10W, Sec. 20; Montcalm County.

Dear Mr. Price,

Your certified letter dated 12/17/04 has been handed to me to respond in regarding to the above mentioned file. I am the legal landowner but not the Contractor at 2088 Dagget, Pierson, Michigan.

A couple of beavers are in the (State unauthorized) process of constructing and maintaining two wood "debris" dams across the outlet stream of my Spring Pond. While I did not pay for, authorize, nor supervise their dam project, I think they would be highly offended that you call their skillful use of natures building materials "debris." I would like to challenge your department to attempt to emulate their dam project any time and/or any place you choose. I believe I can safely state there is no way you could ever match their dam skills, their dam resourcefulness, their dam ingenuity, their dam persistence, their dam determination and/or their dam work ethic.

As to your request, I do not think the beavers are aware that they must first fill out a dam permit prior to the start of this type of dam activity.

My first dam question to you is: (1) Are you trying to discriminate against my Spring Pond Beavers... or (2) do you require all beavers throughout this State to conform to said dam request?

If you are not discriminating against these particular beavers, through The Freedom of Information Act I request completed copies of all those other applicable beaver dam permits that have been issued. Perhaps we will see if there really is a dam violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Co implied Laws, annotated.

Being unable to comply with your dam request, and being unable to contact you on your dam answering machine, I am sending this response to your dam office.

Thank You,

Ryan DeVries & The Dam Beavers

Random Friday

New Crack for today...
Just when the falling woman has lost her appeal, here comes Peekaboom. Try it - it's more addictive than a 64 color box of edible body paint...

Musical moment for today...
"No one in the world ever gets what they want and that is beautiful.
Everybody dies frustrated and sad and that is beautiful."
- from "Don't Let's Start" by They Might Be Giants

Deep thought for today...
"Is real life really stranger than fiction, or is fiction about real life being stranger than fiction stranger than real life being stranger than fiction?"
- from Paradox Lost

Zen proverb for today...
"No seed ever sees the flower."

Warning for today...
"An ulcer is an unkissed imagination taking its revenge for being jilted. It is an undanced dance, an unpainted watercolor, an unwritten poem."
- John Ciardi

Blog Between the Lines

Through diligent reading of Blogs and (ick) Live Journals, I have learned how to see the subtext in a post - the unspoken admissions and carefully worded landmines that are present in the posts of all hardcore bloggers.

In the example below, I've added the subtext for you...

Don't you hate it when this happens? (Dear gods, I hope I'm not alone in this...) You're at work, minding your own business, (You're at work, surfing for pr0n as usual) when you get an IM, despite setting your status to busy. (I set my status to busy but my close friends know that it's ok to interrupt me - and every single one of the 45 people on my contact list is a "close" friend) Reluctantly you click on it (You click on it immediately, hoping your friend has found better pr0n than you have) and find something like this... (you figured it was something involving shaved genitalia and a large vegetable, but this will do) and the rest of the afternoon is shot. (Finally! Something to do) You HAVE to play with it. (She is close to naked and you are pathetic) She lands in these hilarious positions, (positions that remind you of the hot, wild girls you dream about but will never EVER fucking meet, much less actually get naked with) and when she gets stuck, you can grab her ankle or wrist and give her a pull to keep her going. (Hey... that's kind of hot. It's like you're touching her...) Soon it is 5:00 (about fucking time - now you can go home and surf for pr0n openly) and you haven't done half of what you were supposed to do today. (you hate this job and hope they read your blog and fire you) Don't you hate that? (I'm so lonely...)

I think we can all see from this excerpt that knowing the subtext of a blog post can give us a deeper understanding of not only the poster, but also the genre. I figure there's a grant out there somewhere for this work...

Sunday Sermon (special Tuesday edition)

When is Now?

Why do we believe in forever? It's a bizarre concept really. Excluding the particles that we learned about in Physics class, NOTHING lasts forever. Yet we continue to talk about things like "best friends forever" and "true love always."

We can't seem to stand the idea that things will change, or worse yet - come to an end. When they do we are stunned. We look back and wish we could be there again, back in the day.

Recently, I've been surprised by how much the changes taking place around me have stung. My family has sold the two condos in California that I think of as home, my sister's baby (coming very soon) is putting an end to our mellow, "no kids" style family holidays, my friends are moving away, and more importantly, everyone is moving on. Several of my closest relationships have faltered, and a few are in scary growth phases. As if this isn't sufficent angst for one summer, my usually youthful body has decided to cop out as well.

In honor of my 4oth year on this earth, my hair has staged a walk-out. I have known for some time now that I was thinning on top, but it has become more obvious of late. My female friends all say that it's not that noticeable - it's sweet of them, but I would like to respectfully remind the BCPs that lying is a sin...

At times like this, we need to recall that some things really do get better as they change with age. I had a leather jacket once that was faded and distressed at the elbows, and so broken-in that putting it on was like getting a hug from your grandmother (without that weird "old person" smell).
It was a trusted friend who kept me warm on long motorcycle rides up and down the California Coast, until the day in '86 when it laid down its skin in lieu of mine on a rainy street in Long Beach. I can still remember seeing it wadded up in an emergency room trash can, ripped and cut to shreds. I saw in it the wreckage of an old warrior, wearing his scars with pride.

I wish I could say that I'm becoming like that jacket, but I too would be lying. My breaking-in process is proceeding at an uncomfortable pace, with an alarming emphasis on the breaking. The only thing I have in common with that old coat is that I too will be a discarded wreck some day.

"Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha." If your Sanskrit is a little rusty, it's something like, "gone, gone, totally gone, totally completely gone, enlightened, so be it." It's found at the end of the Heart Sutra, and it speaks to the ultimate emptiness of form, and the futility of our clinging to it.

It's good to know that we will all be spent some day. That knowledge compels us to let go of each moment as it passes. We can stop clinging to everything as it was, stop worrying about how it might be, and actually see how it is now. Change is the constant, and now is so brief a time as to be almost an illusion; we are wasting it by looking back or guessing about tomorrow.

Go in Peace.

Saint Morticia

In keeping with my field of study, I like to stay abreast of new developments in the world of religion. I find it fascinating that the religious impulse continues to be expressed in so many unique ways.

With that sense of awe and wonder in mind, I invite all of you to point and gawk at this little gem I found last week...

A prayer to Carolyn Jones.

Morticia was the first Goth chick I ever fell in love with, and she is still a tough act to follow. Maybe they are on to something here...

Web Comics Update

Last December, we listed the Black Pope's 11 favorite web comics. A short time later, I added a few more to the "Pope Tested, Ministry Approved" list. Since then, a summer of relative inactivity at work has caused the Dark Pontiff's comic habit to expand just a little. The number of "Pope Tested, Ministry Approved" comics has grown to about 30...

To aid the Flock in finding quality web-based entertainment, we are compiling the list here. It's even alphabetical and stuff.

Aikida is the tale of a half Irish, half Japanese girl who turns out to be all demon. This one has a plot, some violence, lots of nudity and sex, and still manages to be funny.

Fabulous art, Windows bashing, and a cybernetic hottie named Eve.

Bunny is usually cute, often obscure, and frequently poignant.

If you can put up with a very sketchy posting schedule, you will enjoy Butternut Squash, which chronicles the adventures of Ramon, Rob, Evan, and Vince - with special guest star Cola, sweet ginger pony nipple kitten...

If you like hot anime girls in school uniforms (and who doesn't?), then Chugworth Academy is the comic for you. Sally, Chloe, Ellice, and even Rabbit Girl are all hot, and the storylines are oddly appealing.

Clan of the Cats is a serial with spooky subject matter. It's kind of like Mary Worth meets Charmed, with a dash of Buffy for good measure. I know what you're thinking - "Oh, Hell! Not ANOTHER neo-pagan/lycanthrope/necromancy/vampire/love story comic!"

the Devil's Panties is the closest I'll ever get to really liking a raging feminist. Somehow, Jen manages to be angry and cute at the same time.

Diesel Sweeties
Pixelated robot love stories where everyone gets laid regularly. Except Metal Steve; he still has a mullet.

the Doctor Pepper Show is a bit different. I'll let the creator, Rachel Smythe, tell you about it. "This is a comic set in a world where evil doctors rule, girls wear frilly underpants and people use their manners. *May I please blow your f**king head off?* This comic features Gothic Dandys, EGL (Elegant Gothic Lolitas) and medical fetish fashion."

For those who prefer their hot anime girls with a side of tentacles, there is Ghastly's Ghastly Comic. You just can't pass up a comic with the tagline "Tentacle monsters and the women who love them." This comic is worth reading for the "Zipper Ninja" storyline alone.

Go For It is filled with scathing social commentary and angry college humor - perfect for those times when everyone on the planet is bothering you. I read it daily...

"In Soviet Russia, webcomic reads YOU." Or so the creator of Krakow promises. It's a simple tale, of two guys who share an apartment. One is dating a succubus and the other is seeing a nazi... wackiness ensues.

Little Gamers provides some of the harshest criticism of video games on the web. They also make a lot of masturbation jokes. Sort of like Penny Arcade without Tycho's stable hand on the tiller.

Loserz is the tale of highschool outcasts Ben and Eric (geeks) and Jodie (geek slut). If this all sounds disturbingly familiar to you, then you must know the members of the Flock pretty well...

Fabulous art and a strong command of the male psyche makes Mac Hall required reading, but I must confess, the almost total lack of female characters sometimes bugs me...

Sure, Marilith has hot girls with guns, but it's not that simple... which makes this relatively new comic from the creator of Krakow well worth your time. The recent side story about a date rapist getting a bit of his own medicine was great.

MegaTokyo is a towering giant among web comic pygmies. It tells the story of Largo and Piro, trapped in Tokyo, surrounded by hordes of mindless zombies and beautiful anime voice actresses. Poor Piro and Largo. See Largo hack nekkid. Hack Largo, hack.

Oh My Gods! is basically Little Gamers meets Charmed - only funny. Nice, normal, queer pagans trying to deal with the Pope, Clowns for Christ, the Booby Vampire, and a Unitarian.

the Order of the Stick is here solely for the tabletop RPG players among us (you know who you are). If you have ever thrilled to the sound of d20s hitting the table, or been inordinately pleased when your character got a new skill slot, then this comic is for you.

Ah, sweet Penny Arcade. The home of the Fruit Fucker 2000, the Carboard Tube Samurai, and radioactive scorpions - need I say more?

Questionable Content
Indie love stories where only the supporting cast gets laid. Faye lives with Marten, but he can't get anywhere with her. Dora likes Marten, but she can't get anywhere with him. Pintsize is like an iPod with legs, and the last time he got anywhere with anyone, it was with another dude (and he didn't notice 'til it was over).

Joshua, the main male character in Sanity Check tries to tell us that it's his wife who's crazy, but he has his share of neuroses as well. It's funniest if you've ever been married to a crazy person... naturally, I find it hilarious.

This next strip is just plain fucked up. It's not work safe, not parent safe, not kid safe - hell, I'm not even sure that I'm old enough to read it. (These words coming from His Sinfulness, the Black Pope himself. Think hard about that before you click this link.) Sexy Losers is a healthy mix of incest, necrophilia, coprophagia, face shots, and obsessive masturbation. Despite that, it still manages to be funny - sort of.

Sluggy Freelance was my first webcomic love. Although the passion has cooled, Torg, Riff, Zoe, and the switchblade-wielding minilop Bun-Bun are still good friends. "Stay good Riff, stay good!"

Toy Division is nearly the most fucked up webcomic I've ever loved. Join Pepsi Von Hellswine and friends for some good old-fashioned leather fetish, sadism, pearl necklaces, and child rearing.

The now-concluded Surreal U features me as a minor character - that should be reason enough for the sycophants among you to read it...

I'm not sure, but I think laughing at the miserable life of Ugly Girl makes me a bad person. Still, I read it and chuckle - who hasn't been the ugly kid at least once in their life?

For those of us who are now post-college, there is Wapsi Square. It's a tale of five friends who are trying to figure out what to do with themselves now that school is over and they are in the real world.

A World Like My Own is a slightly saner view of the female psyche, and is a sister comic to The Devil's Panties. Push through the first few comics (which are lame) and you'll get to the good stuff.

Sandra, the main character of Zebra Girl is another hot girl who's a demon, but unlike Aikida, she's stuck with the horns and tail all the time... and she can fly.

Honorable Mention
These almost made the list...

Altermeta; Sex, Dragons, and Rock n Roll!

The creator of Clone Manga is seriously deranged. Start with "April and May" - it's the sanest. Once you've read it, try the others... but be prepared.

There are so many more! If you have a favorite that isn't here, please feel free to offer it up in comments.