Sunday Sermon

Brothers and sisters, inquisitors and BCPs, deacons, apostles, and alter bois - our little family has grown. Growth is a good thing, but we must make sure that our organization grows along with our membership. To that end, we are going to be redesigning our web presence in the near future, and we want YOU to be a part of the action!

(dramatic pause)

We are very proud to announce the Ministry's official Logo Contest! We are looking for an eye-catching graphic that symbolically represents the Ministry - and there will be fabulous prizes for the designer of the winning logo!

Your entry must be sent as a jpeg to the Email address listed in my profile. We are hoping for something that captures the spirit of the Flock. It would be great if it could be rendered both simply in black and white, and with greater detail in color.

You may be thinking, "Screw you Linus - design your own damn symbol you lazy freak." I understand, but I'd like to remind you of the parable of the crusty bagels...

(I'm sure you're all familair with the parable of the crusty bagels, but I've included it here to refresh your memories. It was originally told to the Plagiarites in the 2nd Epistle To the Californians, chapter 6, beginning with the 9th verse:

"And lo the Lord didst make bagels available unto them, as they were day-olds and thus half price, for the Lord God is a frugal God. There were some who ate their bagels, and some who didst cast their bagels into the weeds when they thought the Lord was not looking. When the Lord returned and asked, "didst you enjoy your bagels?", those who ate them said, "yes Lord, they were crunchy" and the Lord didst make them prosper and grow fat from the carbs. When the Lord asked those who didst cast their bagels into the weeds, they said, "Um... yeah. They were, like, great and stuff." Hearing their lies, the Lord didst fetch their bagels from the weeds and smite them with them, and there was a great wailing and gnashing of teeth, as the bagels had grown even harder overnight, and the edges were sharp and crusty.")

I'm sure the message there is obvious to us all; we should each ponder it deeply.

Ok - enough pondering; eat your bagels, and get to work on those designs!

Go in Peace.

What Now?

Ahh, the sweet smell of success. I should be basking in it right now, though I am uncertain if one can actualy bask in a smell. Instead, I feel hollow...

I knew that it would take patience, perserverence, and giving 110%, but I stuck to my guns, put my nose to the grindstone, burned the candle at both ends, and used up my supply of cliches for the year to get it done. And done it is.

(I'd appreciate it if you guys would read this next sentence in a booming dramatic voice, with a bit of echo...)


Our beloved Sluggy Freelance exploded onto the web on August 25th, 1997. A web comic is always an ambitious project, but from the very beginning, Sluggy was a daily. The artist, Pete Abrams, committed himself to posting a new comic 7 days a week - no small task when you aren't getting paid to do it. Pete has not always posted a comic every day, and he has taken a few vacations over the years, but his productivity is still truly impressive. His dedication to the daily schedule makes some other web comic artists look like pussies by comparison... I'm not going to name any names (Ramon)... I'm sure they have good reasons for not meeting their own deadlines (Piro)...

At any rate, I have now read them all. The exact number is a bit nebulous as I'm not sure if I should include guest comics in the total, and I don't know precisely how many days of vacation to subtract, but my official S.W.A.G.* is that the total corpus of Sluggy is 2600+ strips. That's based on 7 years of 7 strips per week, plus 129 days of 1997, plus the 28 days so far of this January, plus 1 because 2004 was a leap year... for the sake of discussion, we will assume that Pete has taken two weeks of vacation every summer for 7 summers, which gives us 98 days off, making the total 2615. But who's counting?

It is a strange feeling. I don't know what to do now. When I reached the current strip, I couldn't believe it... I tried to click the arrow that makes it go the next strip several times, but there was no more. NO MORE. Those words landed heavily upon my heart.

You see, for months now, I have been able to retreat into the alternate world(s) of Sluggy whenever I needed a break. I have spent many happy hours in a place where ferrets talk, and the Easter Bunny wields a switchblade and a Glock... where people pay good money every year to go to a Halloween party with real demons, vampires, aliens, and ghosts. This land of screw-on kneecaps with ligaments and tendons on the side and brainwashed knife-wielding gymnast assassins who can't be killed has been my refuge - my happy place, if you will.

It will be hard, but I will press on. There is always the option of becoming a paying subscriber to the strip, which gives you access to extra storylines - in fact, I'll probably do that in the morning. For now, the knowledge that Pete is working on tomorrow's strip gives me hope. He better not take any vacations in the near future...

For those who have yet to learn of the crispy golden goodness that is Sluggy Freelance, click here. NOW. No, not after your homework, click here right now! DO IT!

*S.W.A.G. = "Scientific Wild-Assed Guess"

An Infomercial

RELI 1000 Intro to Religion
ENGL 2170 Bible as Literature
RELI 2200 Contemporary American Religion
RELI 2320 History of Islam
RELI 2040 Middle Eastern Religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam
RELI 4000 Theory of Religion
RELI 4090 Film and Religion
ENGL 4190 Milton
RELI 4500 TPCS: Eastern Thought
RELI 4500 TPCS: Sociology of Religion
RELI 4900 Independent Study for Senior Project (6 credit hours total)

Does this sound like a great time to you? Do you long to wade through Freud, Jung, Hume, Otto, and every philosopher, anthropologist, historian, and theologian from the last few centuries who ever wrote on religion? Do you long to conduct research on NRMs? (It means "New Relgious Movements - the proper technical term is "cults" but that's considered too pejorative today...) Are you willing to push and shove until you get the major you want, even if the University doesn't offer it?

Perhaps you have what it takes to make it in the exciting world of Religious Studies!! You could be spending your days discussing the faiths with "true believers" (who frequently aren't even sure where the Middle East is, but they are certain about events that took place there 1000-4000 years ago). Picture yourself in the wee hours of the morning, sifting through functionalist, substantive, experiential, and 'family resemblance' type definitions of what religion IS. Imagine taking 4000 level classes in which we still haven't really got any solid definition of what we are studying, while enjoying the nebulous status of "student without a department!"

If this sounds like your idea of Heaven (by which, of course I mean in no way to imply any preference for any particular Heaven(s), nor do I wish to imply that the concept of heaven(s) or, by inference, hell(s), is a necessity for any faith), contact the University of Wyoming Religious Studies Program for details!

The UW Religious Studies Program
Where God is watching, even if the Administration isn't...

Sunday Sermon
(dedicated to the Ministry's new Alter boi, Brittany)

"Never think that I believe I should set out a "system of teaching" to help people understand the way. Never cherish such a thought. What I proclaim is the Truth as I have discovered it and "a system of teaching" has no meaning because the Truth can’t be cut up into pieces and arranged in a system."

These words, from the Diamond Sutra, are attributed to the Buddha. The subdivision of reality into tiny fragments is part and parcel of Western Academic practice. We who study philosophy, literature, religion - all the humanities really - have a tradition, centuries long, of slicing and dicing human experience. Many of us can't even conceptualize the Truth of which the Buddha speaks, the kind with a capital T. Everything is situational, distinct, thoroughly analyzed, and segregated according to the theoretical position of the scholar. My chosen field and my chosen religion clash in a most uncomfortable manner...

I call it my "chosen" field, but really it is simply the only academic pursuit for which I am suited. I am hopeless at mathematics, and though I enjoy scientific pursuits, in class there was always a bit too much memorization and not enough mixing of things that change colors or blow up to keep me interested.

My "chosen" religion is a different matter. After being unable to reconcile ("swallow" is the word I wanted to use there) the dislogic of the various forms of Christianity I was exposed to as a child, I began an informal search. I talked with Jewish friends, read up on Islam, had a brush with the local Hare Krishnas, read the Satanic Bible (much to my grandmother's chagrin), I will even confess, sheepishly, to reading L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics. It wasn't a constant effort - it wasn't until about 4 years later that I read Taking the Path of Zen by Robert Aitken Roshi. At once, the difficulties I had experienced with previous faiths cleared. Here was a path that didn't ask me to believe in anything other than the possibility that perfection exists within us all - a far cry from the doom and gloom offered by the various sons of Abraham. I made the decision to be a Buddhist about 6 months after that first reading.

Yet, here I am, 19 years later, still forcing the Truth into subsets. This red box here is called Marxism. The stack of folders on the couch is known as Freudian theory, and the tea crates and gin bottles by the door - that's Orientalism. For a few more years at least (grad school) I must wander through them, taking from them and adding to them like all those students before me. The search for Truth becomes secondary to the quest for a string of letters after your name, and soon you're subdividing and segregating like a pro.

Luckily, Truth abides. It will still be there when I am done with this academic steeplechase, and all of the boxes and crates can be stacked in the front yard for a great bonfire.

Go in Peace.
(Just step over that jumbled pile on the floor - that's Post-Modernism.)

Better Than Well

The boys in Ministry's R&D department tell me that in order to get our cybernetic bodies built more quickly, we need to integrate the folks at the World Transhumanist Association into the Flock. Their declaration states that they "advocate the moral right for those who so wish to use technology to extend their mental and physical (including reproductive) capacities and to improve their control over their own lives. We seek personal growth beyond our current biological limitations."

If the purely scientific approach leaves you cold, perhaps you are a Promethian. The religion of Prometheism, officially founded on October 12th of 2000, claims to be "the first sovereign transtopian & neo-eugenic libertarian religious-state."

The Flag of Prometheism

These movements are also known as "posthumanism" (this should not be confused with the literary theory of the same name that is a 21st Century update of Renaissance Humanism, and practiced largely in European colleges). In essence, the idea is that the next stage in human evolution should not be allowed to develop by accident. Using terms like "Conscious Evolution" and "Human Potential Enhancement," transhumanists believe that man should actively choose what the next step in our evolution will look like. Some writers on the topic have pointed out that once individuals begin to compete using neo-eugenic technology, speciation will not flow along any one line. There may be dozens of viable new "species" of human, and Transhumanists want to help them all hatch.

I'm torn on this. There is an elegant simplicity about evolution that seems to be violated by intelliegent mutation, but I must admit that their motto - "Better than Well" - is mighty appealing right now (I'm still coughing up a lung every few hours). What does the Flock think?

I'm Overdrawn

It's been about 2 weeks and I'm still sick. I have a sore throat and a cough that has wrecked my voice. It has this wierd gravelly quality - in a matter of about an hour last night I went from Tone-Loc to Michael Wincott (the bad guy in "The Crow") to Tom Waits... to mute. There was a half-hour period where I could only manage a whisper accompanied by a choking, clicking sound. Cool, huh?

"Childhood's over the moment you know you're gonna die."
-Top Dollar, The Crow

I guess I had this coming. Regardless of who you are, you eventually start to write checks that your body can't cash, and my account is now in the red. For many years I lived hard and gave no real care to my body. I ate poorly, scarcely slept, played with swords and guns and motorcycles, chased women, ran from doctors, drank a lot, smoked up occasionally, and generally tried to insure that I didn't miss anything that might be fun. And by fun I mean dangerous and adrenaline-inducing. Despite all of that, I was one of those never sick, always lucky SOBs. I usually came out of my adventures none the worse for wear - and even if I was hurt or sick, I pretended I wasn't until it got better.

When I withdrew from that life to go back to school, I settled into an equally damaging pattern of deadline stress, little to no exercise, and truly bizare sleep habits. This lifestyle yields less bruises and fewer hangovers, but it takes its toll just the same.

Yankees outfielder Mickey Mantle was credited with saying, "If I'd known I was going to live this long I'd have taken better care of myself." Indeed. I have never thought that I'd be long-lived, and neither did my friends. When I was 16, a close friend told me that he'd be surprised to see me make it to 30. Of course, his attitude might have been skewed by the fact that we were "bridge jumping" at the time (diving off of overpasses into the saltwater estuaries around Seal Beach - a dangerous, stupid, and highly illegal activity that we used to do regularly). I accepted that death sentence - my grandfather only made it to 46, so I figured that I'd be lucky to do the same.

Now that 46 is not so far away anymore, I am realizing that there is a lot that I'd still like to do before I go. I'm thinking I need an extension. I guess I'm going to have to bite the bullet and actually take care of myself.

My friends, the times they are a changing. Once this cold is kicked (I'm going to Student Health today), I'll be making some alterations. I will be eating out less, and ordering more carefully when I do. Two of my oldest friends, Jose Cuervo and Hope, won't be seeing me for a long while, and I'm going to try to build a better relationship with Morpheus (that's Sleep, not the guy from the Matrix). It probably won't make much difference to most of you, but I'll keep the Flock posted anyway - I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings if I turn down an invitation or two.

Don't worry, I'll be returning to my carousing, boozing, life-of-the-party ways - just as soon as R&D gets that cybernetic body built...

Dig the Threads

1970 was an ugly time to be too young to control your own wardrobe.

That's me in the white shirt. Although the striped pants are ghastly, I am positively stylish compared to the two in plaid. They both seem to have a problem with hem length - perhaps they should trade.

I'm not sure why I am posting these pics. I guess it is some sort of tribute to my grandmother. These pics and many hundreds of others were all in her collection. When she died this past summer, many of the boxes from her home In North Carolina came to live at my mother's place in California. During the Christmas break my sister and I were supposed to go through them and sort the wheat from the chaff, but we didn't get very far. Mixed in with the bric-a-brac of nearly 90 years of living we found countless envelopes and boxes and bundles of photos. They brought the sorting to a halt, and we just burned the afternoon in a binge of remembrance.

Many were ancient black and whites from World War II, when Nanny served with the WACs. She always complained that she never got to go overseas during the war. Grandpa Bill got to go to France, and she was really jealous, as she badly wanted to see Europe. Instead, she took a lot of pictures of her duty station in Desmoines, Iowa. There was even one of her sunbathing on base - she was probably about 25 at the time. In all the pics from that era she has dark hair, and her own teeth; it was sort of startling to us, as her hair had passed into a platinum white and she wore dentures for as long as my sister and I can remember.

There were pictures of my grandfather also, earnest and handsome in his uniform. I can see why Nanny fell for him; he was attractive, but in a decent, dependable sort of way. He died when my mother was only 13. The look on his face makes it clear that no one was more shocked by his early departure from this plane than he was.

Their wedding photos were in there as well. She loved to tell the story of how her commanding officer had purchased her wedding dress for her. The pics were very tattered and worn - I figure that Nanny must have looked at them often during the 40+ years that she was a widow.

She fervently believed in heaven. The simple sort of heaven where you get to walk the streets of gold with everyone you ever loved who went on ahead. She knew in her heart that Grandpa Bill would be waiting there for her, and they would be young and happy and together forever. The wedding photos of the two of them, embarking on the marriage journey with their heads held high is sort of like a glimpse into that heaven. He's there, looking sharp in his uniform, and she is dark-haired and 25 again. I hope he gets to show her around Europe.

An Archaeological Find

Although many members of the Flock may be shocked to hear this, I did not burst from my mother's chest "alien-style," then scuttle into the heating ducts. I was, in fact, born by the usual method. A recent dig in the boxes of pictures from my grandmother's home turned up this photographic evidence of my childhood...

Based on the clothing and the setting, the boys down in the Ministry's Archives have dated this to the late 1890s, but I'm guessing it was actually taken sometime in 1966...

Blessing for a New Semester
For the members of our Flock who are returning to school tomorrow...

We ask the Divine that the first day of class be a light one, and may there be a lenient attendance policy.
May your classes all begin after 10:00, and end before 3:00.
May that attractive person that you never quite got up the nerve to talk to be assigned to a group project with you, and may you discover that the guy in your discussion classes who needed a ball gag has changed his major.
May your profs be the sort that bring cookies to class, and buy you a round of drinks in the bar after each test.
May your grad school applications get mailed by the deadline, and may all previous profs get recommendation letters done on time.
May your midterms be open-book, and your finals be take-home.
And please Lord, if it's not too much trouble, may we all graduate this semester.

In the name of Academia we pray,


(The Sunday Sermon returns to its regular schedule next week...)

When, Where, and How?

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

Linus is Sick

No - I mean physically. I have a sore throat, muscle aches, and I sleep about 16 hours a day. Aside from seriously cutting into my winter break enjoyment, this condition is also undermining my blog creativity. I have always tried to avoid the type of post that says, "sorry for not posting, but I'm a lameass..." - and yet, here I am making that very post.