Travel Plans

BLACK VATICAN (VP) - The Black Pope will soon hit the road for the 3800 mile odyssey that is the annual pilgrimage to the unHoly Lands (Orange County, California). Reading from a prepared statement today, a Black Vatican spokesman said that His Sinfulness is excited to see Raksha and his relatives (especially the dark niece, who now has about 10 teeth), but he is less than thrilled with the snowfall of recent days. His Sinfulness insists that despite this latest weather attack by Rome he will depart on Saturday, regardless of the conditions, using all the might of the Ministry if necessary.


Vatican Staffers preparing the Papal Dog Sled

Sources close to the Sable Pontiff say that he is so irritated by the time lost to travel and weather, he has ordered a "temporary troop surge" in the R&D department to speed completion of his pet project, the Cybernetic Afterlife Vessel. When asked about the manpower reallocation at his daily press briefing, the Dark Primate spoke candidly about the decision. "This is not the first time those clowns in Rome have tried to use snow to impede the smooth functioning of the Black Vatican. This temporary troop surge may mean that some personnel will get less time to rest between deployments, but until that Star Trek-style transporter I ordered is completed, the jump packs on my CAV are the best hope for making these weather attacks obsolete. Of course, once the interstellar models are complete, I'll no longer have a need for any form of travel on this puny hu-man planet..."

At this point, the Black Pope began to stare off into the distance and mutter to himself. As he was led away by his specially chosen honor guard of 6 foot tall redheaded BCPs, he shook his fist and was heard to say, "Someday, Benedict... you think you're so damn special with your little bullet-proof car..."

Regularly scheduled Black Vatican missives will be suspended until HSBP can get to a secure internet connection - possibly until December 27th or even later. Until then, His Sinfulness wishes all of his Flock happy hollowdaze, and an infernal new year!

The Battle Within

Darth Furious speaks...


To bask in the warmth and order of light, or embrace the chill chaos of darkness; each must choose. Not once, but daily, in a million little decisions that all tally upon the soul. The path of least resistance - the path taken by most - is a smudged line that wavers where shadow and brilliance merge. A step into the light, two into darkness, a remorseful dash back into the light - a cycle of weak indecision that yields a dull, predictable sine wave of mediocrity. It is the rare few who stride unflinchingly into radiance, and even fewer who delve the deepest reaches of the blackness within. Most give in to that hazy grey, settling the internal combat with a sort of bland, ethical d├ętente.


Some, however, fight the battle still...







There is no emotion;
there is peace.
There is no ignorance;
there is knowledge.
There is no passion;
there is serenity.
There is no death;
there is the Force.




Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me.





Peace over anger.
Honor over hate.
Strength over fear.





Do not let your anger blind you.
Rather, let it consume you
and in the purity of your hatred
you will find the deaths of your enemies.

Adductor Longus



Eventually, everyone writes a check that their body just can't cash...

Do you know where your adductor longus is? Its origin is the anterior surface of the body of the pubis, just lateral to the pubic symphysis, and its insertion is on the middle third of the linea aspera, between the more medial adductor magnus and brevis insertions, and the more lateral origin of the vastus medialis.

In other words, it's in your inner thigh. I discovered mine only just recently, when it tried to tear itself free and leap from my body during a particularly spirited game of handball doubles. Most unpleasant, that.

Due to my usual hyper-competitiveness and the power of my boundless rage, I decided to continue playing despite the injury... for another 90 minutes. Though not as stupid as the time I went to the Estrella War with a torn calf muscle, it does rank in my top twenty-five list of personal asshattery. Maybe number seventeen - just ahead of the night I tried to drink Mezcal in Baja with the locals, and just behind the the time I went skateboarding on dirt without helmet, pads, or even a shirt (incidentally, we didn't have dirtboards back then...).

I am out of action for the nonce, but fear not - I am on a strict regimen of ibuprofen, amaretto sours, and whining - I will soon be back on the court. Until then, be on the look-out for a very angry, hobbling and cursing sable pontiff, and steer clear - I am particularly irritated by the able-bodied right now. If trapped in my path, it's best to affect a limp until I have passed...

Leisure Wear

The BCPs have a long and illustrious history of service to the Black Vatican. Over the years, their uniform has ranged from

the sexy...


...to the silly...


...to the, um, more sexy...


...but until now, they have never had a sanctioned garment for leisure wear. Thanks to Raksha, we are now ready to unveil the Bisexual Cyber-Priestess Tee shirt!

This Pope Tested, Ministry Approved garment is suitable for all the recreational pursuits that the active BCP enjoys - wet tee shirt contests...beach volleyball... wet tee shirt beach volleyball...

Currently available from Glarkware - the perfect gift for the BCPs on your Hollowdaze shopping list!

King of the Forest

In response to G-Log's bet on the Easter Bunny, I've got to put my money on Father Christmas. This is probably the best 7 minutes of video you'll watch this weekend...

By the way - no sermon this Sunday. I have too much to do in order to prepare for the arrival of Nerdygirl the Unbeliever, Inquisitor of the Black Vatican, Scribe to the Black Pope, and minor Curling Deity. She will touch down Tuesday morning; get your applications for audiences in soon to beat the rush.

Polarity



As many of the Flock know, I suffer from a severe case of gaming. In addition to my RPG addiction, I have a pretty good collection of "board" games. Of these games, my absolute favorites are the type loosely categorized as "abstract" strategy games - games with simple rules, unlimited play possibilities, and open-ended victory conditions. Things like Zendo and Space Traders (those little pyramid games that everyone but me hates) are excellent examples of this sort of game, but it is often difficult to involve my less game-crazed friends (i.e. those who lack the gaming gene).

Rarely do I get really excited about a new game. Even more rarely do I carry a new game around with me to work and all social gatherings in the hope of getting someone, ANYone to play it with me. Polarity is such a game. I have had it with me almost nonstop since I got it two weekends ago. It is probably the most clever game concept I've come across in a long time.

The basic idea of the game is to place the highly magnetic playing pieces on a canvas mat, balancing them on the magnetic forces of other pieces. Players attempt to lay traps for their opponent, setting up fields of magnetism across the board in ways that make it impossible for their opponent to play a piece without causing a magnetic chain reaction that rearranges the board. It sounds complex, but the rules are really quite simple - most new players pick them up in about 5 minutes.



A board in mid-game looks like some sort of abstract sculpture. You begin to feel the forces at work as you place your pieces, and regular players can "see" the magnetic fields created by various structures. Every game is unique - you can never play the same game twice. It's all very Jedi...



So far, everyone I've shown it to enjoys it, and some are developing little addictions of their very own. The really good news is that at about $22 a set it is around half the price of other adult strategy games. A perfect stocking stuffer for all the good little boys and girls who read my blog (all three of them).



For more information and pictures, click here. A nifty animated tutorial (that I tried ever-so-hard to steal and post on on this page...) is located here.

Worst PBF Ever

Rachelangela is back among the Redeemed (check the list on the right). In fact, she has been for some time now. The fact that I just realized that she switched to a new blog around Shalloween and has been posting regularly since qualifies me for the title of "Worst Platonic Boyfriend Ever".

So yeah, Rachel has a new blog and you should all go read it and stuff...

Sunday Sermon

I rose this morning to go and feed Big Gay Jim's dogs. I didn't shower - I was planning on coming right back home after the puppies had their breakfast so I figured I'd just cram a hat on my bedhead and go. Unfortunately, my mouth tasted like the military had conducted tests in it during the night, so I decided that something had to be done before I could leave. I took a shot of cinnamon Scope.



I am not one of those people who actually gargle - you know, put your head back and make that irritating bubbling noise. I just do the puffed out cheeks, swishing thing. On this particular morning for some reason, I decided to actually try to gargle. I leaned back, looked at the ceiling, and tried it out.

Apparently, this is one of those life skills you don't just jump into without some practice. Lacking said practice, I immediately began to gag. (Insert obligatory blow job joke here.) In my coughing and hacking a small fountain of Scope shot upward from my mouth and landed squarely in my eyes.

If you've never had mouthwash in your eyes, you are fortunate, as it burns quite intensely. I clamped my eyes shut, wich probably made it much worse. I was surprised by its sting, and this caused me to snork (Snork, v. "to expell liquids, ordinarily fizzy soft drinks, through the sinuses") some of the remaining Scope through my nose, with similarly painful results.

To rid myself of this mouthful of cinnamon-flavored death, I leaned forward to spit. Apparently I had stepped back from the sink somewhat, as my expulsion missed the basin almost completely. I don't have a vanity in my bathroom - the sink just sticks out of the wall - so the space below the sink is open. I keep my somewhat expensive electronic scale on the floor in that space. Once I managed to clear my eyes with a hand towel, I looked down to find the floor and the scale spattered with frothy Scope. Through the pink foam I could just make out the LED screen on the scale flashing "error".

Cursing incessantly, I cleaned up the mess and headed to Jim's. Once there, things went more smoothly - or so I thought. Little did I know that while I was playing with the puppies, the right front tire on my car was going flat in the driveway. Once the spare was in place I decided to spend the rest of the day in bed with the covers pulled up to my chin, lest I be struck by lightning or become a victim of spontaneous human combustion...

We have come, once again, to the part of the sermon where I tie all of this together into some coherent lesson on life.





Yeah - I got nothing.

Go in Peace.

Election Happy Dance

Democrats now control both houses!



That is, unless one of the close races is lost in a recount - but I'm not thinking about that right now. I'd like to thank all of the Flock who voted Democrat, and excommunicate those who voted for those other people.

If you didn't vote... what good are you? PuhLEEZE vote next time. We have to get an actual human being in the White House in 2008, goddamn it...

Sunday Sermon

Creeping Hollowdaze
(set phasers on "sarcastic")

Last Monday, I saw my first Christmas decorations. It was at Ace Hardware - a row of artificial trees in the front windows. I'm sure these were not the earliest decorations up, but they were the first of which I really took notice. It reminded me of my childhood, when the stop-action Norelco Santa riding a floating-head razor through the snow was the first sign of impending Yule (if you don't get that reference, you were probably born too late to experience the weirdness that was Seventies television...). I recall watching for that commercial, and for the arrival of the Sears catalog, "The Wishbook".

I fondly remember my sister and I going through the toy pages of that venerable tome, circling the items we wanted Santa to bring. It was always Barbie corvettes or dreamhouses for her, G.I. Joe's and skateboards for me. Those were magical times for us... much more magical, in fact, then the opening of the socks and underwear we actually received on Christmas morning.

My point in all this awkward reminiscing is that those harbingers generally arrived right around Thanksgiving, or maybe the week before. Now, Christmas ads begin just before Halloween, and retailers literally shove the ghosts and skeletons off the shelves and into clearance bins to make way for wreaths and candy canes; Thanksgiving has been almost completely run over. The reason for this is obvious - Christmas and Halloween are the number one and two holidays for retailers. As with just about every damn thing in our lives, it's all about the money.

I understand that many retailers make the bulk of their money in the last quarter of the year, and I am certainly aware that my ranting will make no difference, but am I the only one who wants Christmas to be confined to December?

The calendar is actually set up pretty well. There's about a month between Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas; I need that time! I have to rest up, to prepare myself for the traditional rites of guilt, innuendo, and public drunkeness for which Irish Catholics are so famous. There's even a special training regimen that I have to adhere to in order to stave off the arterioschlerosis and diabetes that come as side dishes with our family recipes (to be honest, that "training regimen" involves increasing my daily alcohol intake about three-fold, but I digress).

So let's keep the hollowdaze where they belong, and remember what each of the last three months of the year are about; October is for tooth decay and binge drkining, November is about gluttony and an ethnocentric reconstruction of history, and December focuses on the birth of the Patron Saint of Capitalism, Santa Clause.

Go in Peace.

The Reason for the Season

In much the same way that St. Patrick's Day irritates me because I'm Irish every day, Halloween is irritating to me because I am dark and a bit morbid all the time. I didn't wear a costume to work today - just didn't feel the need. My all-black wardrobe is the topic of much discussion at the office anyway. One of my coworkers said, "Linus doesn't need a costume; he's a vampire everyday." A few weeks ago, the boss asked if I was a goth. A while back, one of my female cubicle mates asked me if my underwear was also black (of course she was suitably horrified by my revelation that I never wear any).

I guess the point of all this is that I don't need a holiday to remind me that we are all going to die. I suppose it's good that there is a time each year when people might spend a moment thinking about their own mortality, but I am inclined to believe that the vast majority of healthy people avoid thinking about death as much as possible.



I, on the other hand, have become a bit obsessed over the last decade or so. Often, when I am in bed waiting for sleep to overtake me, I close my eyes and try to imagine the stillness of death. I imagine fighting off death for as long as possible, then taking what will be my last breath. I think of the dark, satin-covered closeness of a coffin, or sometimes I try to envision the sudden combustion of the crematorium chamber.

(I'm aware that I have issues.)

I fear it, of course, but many Buddhist masters over the centuries have encouraged their students to consider death - their own, and that of others - intimately. Some Buddhist paths still have a tradition of sending monks to the burial grounds to contemplate decomposing corpses. According to some versions of the story, when the Buddha needed new clothes following his enlightenment, he gathered strips of cloth from the decomposed bodies of the poor and washed them, then sewed them into a robe. His very clothing was a reminder of the fleeting nature of life, and how we all must prepare for that abrupt stop at the end.

So, when the little ghouls have finally stopped ringing your doorbell (or when the bartender rings his bell for last call) spend a little time thinking about the reason for all of this costumed madness. Think about the time when you can no longer stop death's arrival, and imagine how you'll face that moment. You may be surprised at yourself.

Sunday Sermon

Real Feelings

So we went to the Samhain ritual. It was surprisingly good. The celebrants were serious about it, and the feeling in the room was definitely as "spiritual" as any church service I've ever been to. I think they could definitely add to the visual impact of their rites by spending some money on better vestments, but that may just be the costuming/theatre wonk in me talking.



At the point in the ceremony where they asked the spirits of everyone's departed loved ones to enter and be with them, several of the participants became very emotional. After the ritual, I heard several say that their loved ones (including departed pets) came and joined them in the circle. It was very moving for several of them, and everyone seemed to be enjoying a bit of a post-ritual high. The socilaizing afterward reminded me of the post-service coffee hour at a presbyterian church, but there was an excitement that was tangible in the participants.

My point in telling you all this is to address an attitude that I have encountered (and been guilty of) whenever Paganism or any 'new' religious tradition is discussed. It is common for both academics and ordinary people to dismiss the spiritual experiences of adherents of new religious movements. Often, the greater the visible emotional content of a spiritual experience, the more that experience is discounted or used as proof of the "insanity" of the participants. While this same attitude might be found in a discussion of the spiritual experiences of adherents to the Abrahamic Faiths, it's rare that anyone will suggest that their experiences aren't real to them, or that they are based in a form of mental weakness or insanity.

Believe me, I understand the impulse to be dismissive. When the pagans I know start talking about how trees healed them or how their dead cat visited them last night, I have to force myself to not roll my eyes and say, "Really? Cool... those must have been some awesome mushrooms."

But I don't do that (anymore). I listen to them, and I take it at face value. If they believe that their dead cat came to see them last night, I see no reason to argue with them about it. Unlike so many other religious traditions, they aren't telling me that I'm an evil sinner because I don't share in their beliefs. They aren't raising their children to belive that sex is a sinful act, suitable only for procreation. They aren't teaching their children that all gays and lesbians are bound for hell. They don't see themselves as masters of the planet and all life forms on it. So I can let their beliefs, some of which may seem patently silly, go by without feeling the need to argue with them.

Of course, if they were trying to legislate how I live, or telling me that they alone were right, I'd go off on them just like I go off on fundies. I guess the message of this sermon is that personal spiritual experiences should be just that - personal. Believe whatever you like, practice however you wish... right up to the point that it starts to fuck with someone else.

Go in Peace.

I Got Nothing...



I had a great idea this year... I wanted to suggest a group acticity that was somewhat removed from the crass commercialism (and alcoholism) of Halloween. I wanted to get the Flock together, pick a costume theme, go to Fort Collins or maybe Denver and do something as the big disfuntional queer alternative religion-friendly family that we are. We left it at the discussion stage. That was almost a month ago.

Then I had to deal with unexpected bills, the weather turned cold, my racquetball hobby turned into an obsessive addiction, Congress killed Habeas Corpus, Mark Foley resigned, North Korea tested a nuke... at any rate, I came up with nothing terribly unique for Halloween.

The running theory now is that a few of us are going to a local Samhain ritual on Saturday evening. No costume theme, no trip out of town. Leave a comment if you want to join us, or if you have a better idea.

Are They People?

I'd like to redirect the discussion of speciesism to the concept of Great Ape Personhood (GAP). Proponents hold that the hominid apes (including chimps, gorillas, bonobos, and orangutans) should be treated as persons under the law, with limited rights. Due in part to pressure from groups supporting great ape personhood, a ban on research using great apes is in effect in the Netherlands, New Zealand, Great Britain, Sweden, Germany, and Japan.

Interesting ideas related to this topic can be found at the following sites:

Great Ape Status of Personhood - GRASP

The Great Ape Project

Project R&R - Release and Restitution for Chimpanzees in Research.

Famous Apes

Chantek, the First Orangutan Person
and Ambassador of the Rain Forest

I have mixed feelings on this topic. It seems that the proponents of GAP have some valid points, but I also wonder if it is the best move strategically. Fighting for the rights of certain species individually rather than advocating for all animals might backfire in a legal sense. What does the Flock think?

Sunday Sermon

Since the Disapproving Rabbits were such a hit, I thought we'd continue on the topic of animals.

I think they get a raw deal for the most part. For most of human existence we have used them as we pleased. For labor, for food, for their skins and bones. We've manipulated them, bred them to suit our needs, and exterminated whole species. Certainly, we do bring a few species into our lives and make them part of our families, but they are the pampered few; the vast majority of animals are better off when they have no interaction with humans at all.

Now, I'm not a radical animal rights activist by any means. I acknowledge that there was a time when humans needed to use animals in order to survive, and I understand that many scientific discoveries are the result of animal-based research. I would just ask if it's needed now.

Do we still need to exploit animals in order to survive?

I don't belong to PETA and I have never thrown paint on anyone wearing fur (although I can see how that could be fun...), but I do think that the answer is no. For the most part, we no longer NEED to treat animals that way - we choose to. We are guilty of speciesism.

Speciesism is prejudice against other life forms because they aren't humans. I know this will probably begin a row (if any of my 5 readers actually bother to argue with me...) but I think this is simply another form of injustice that needs to be fought.

Go in Peace. (And discuss.)

Animal Disapproval

Anyone who has ever shared their life with a companion animal knows that at times they disapprove of us. That is not to say that they stop loving us, but rather that they love us in spite of our obvious shortcomings...


"I'm Latte, and I disapprove of this message."

Ajax the WonderGrey frequently tells me of his disapproval - when I laugh too loudly while on the phone he will often say "No" in a very stern, authoritative voice (I wonder where he learned that...). Gandalf the White (the elderly ferret I addopted recently - more on that in a later post) usually shows his disapproval of me by dragging one of my shoes into the next room and hiding it. I believe this is an attempt to keep me from leaving the house until I shape up and behave in a fashion more acceptable to his delicate ferret sensibilities.

I once had an American Eskimo who would simply ignore my presence when she disapproved of me. She would still follow commands - she was far too serious about obedience trials to actually disobey - but she could do all of the AKC exercises without even making eye contact with me. Her irritation with me was nearly palpable.

My Jack Russell would give out a sigh that spoke volumes on her disgust with me, especially when I was trying to get her to come out from under the covers to go outside in the wee hours of the morning. My ex-wife had a Saint Bernard who would put on the most mournful face whenever she saw a slicker brush...

If you've never had a disapproving pet, I endorse it most heartily. It keeps one grounded and stifles all manner of hubris. Until recently, my recommendation for those seeking the ultimate in animal disdain would have been cats - they're terribly proficient at gazing down upon their human slaves with utter disrelish - but that was before I discovered the Disapproving Rabbits.

Ordinarily, I'd be tempted to write my own captions, but the woman who maintains this site is top notch - the captions are hers. Clearly, she has been disapproved of by many animals, and she has a remarkable grasp of animal disgust.


"Hazel: the rabbit that disapproved of Christmas."


"Nope, no sir, I don't like it."

That last one is very nearly my favorite. It is a fitting lead-in to "The Many Disapprovals of Cinnamon." Cinnamon is a veritable dynamo of disapproval. Click here to experience the full power of a withering bunny glare...

Template Issue

Yes, I know my template is whacked. No, I don't know what kind of bad karma could cause a template fart of this nature. Black Vatican Web Gnomes are working double shifts under the lash to restore the infernal service to which you are accustomed. Your patience is appreciated.

Sunday Sermon

Cultural Translation

I am one of those sentimental types who adheres to the idea that all people across the globe are seeking the same things - love, nourishment, shelter, peace, etc. If this is true, then it would stand to reason that the true wisdom that arises from thinking deeply on our shared needs should have a universal relevance, regardless of the place and time in which it is garnered. Unfortunately, the many unique social mechanisms that have evolved for securing those universal desires, as well as the means to convey the wisdom thus won, are the very basis of cultural difference. Because of these differences, it is often difficult to take the wisdom of one great thinker and make it accessible to seekers from other cultural groups.

There have been many attempts to translate the wisdom of a given culture into forms that can be understood by members of entirely different cultures - like trying to translate the ideas of a renunciant Indian prince or a Galilean carpenter into lessons that apply to the lives of Americans thousands of years later. Adepts spend lifetimes studying the minute details of other cultures attempting to make certain that the message is not lost in a tangle of misunderstood idiom. Those who are best suited for this work have a deep love of the material, and a fervent desire to make the message clear. All too often, it is only a limited success.

Occasionally, however, it is just about perfect. Observe...



Go in Peace

Waste Time Well

Here, in no particular order, are my current favorite time wasting thingies...

Kaleidoscope

Bowman

Age

Runes

Poom

Ray Ray

Squidsoup

Yugop

Sunday Sermon

Filling the Pews

When I posted excerpts of the Brick Testament last Sunday a lot of readers wondered, "Why Legos?"

I wondered this as well, and charged the crack investigative reporters of the Black Vatican press corps with finding out. It turns out that the evangelical movement has been targeting the Lego, Duplo, and Megablok communities for some time now, and the photos below clearly show that their efforts have been successful.









I think the Flock needs to reach out to this community as well. Take the time to reconnect with the Lego people in your life. Welcome them into whatever form of worship you practice. Personally, I plan to strap a couple Lego people to my boomerangs this Sunday. Now that I mention it, anybody want to throw in the next few days? We haven't had a 'rang mass in ages...

Go in Peace.

Debate

Our country was built on it. Our governmental and societal processes are based on the premise that rational people can resolve even the most difficult of issues by means of civil discourse. Too bad being rational and civil is so out of fashion these days.

Steve Carrell and Stephen Colbert in prime form. It's a few years old, but it's a classic...




Love Hate Hope Faith

Do not click here if you have anything important to do for the next few minutes...

If you do click there, definitely try number 42. Go ahead and try it now. I'll wait.




Fun, huh?

Number 79 is now the official flash animation of the Black Vatican...

Pick your favorite from the list, and analyze it in light of current theory. Use examples, be concise, and submit your response in haiku format. Extra credit is available for good use of gerunds.

Sunday Sermon

Getting the Word Out

In this modern world, all religions face the difficulty of presenting their core teachings in a way that will grab the attention of new readers. To be honest, most scripture is pretty dry, and often filled with ancient metaphors and idioms that will likely be lost on the first-time reader. Many different approaches have been tried, including graphic novels, movies, animation, and thousands of translations, with limited success. Finally, an enterprising minister has put the bible into what just might be the ultimate medium for it - Legos.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is what hell looks like...

The Brick Testament was produced by The Reverend Brendon Powell Smith, and the power of the message has never been more clear... check out these links.

On Giving

On Lust

On the Law of Moses

I think we should all take some time to investigate these teachings. Perhaps other faiths should adopt this method. Imagine a Lego Dhammapada, or a Lego Koran... I think a Lego version of Lao Tszu would be a big seller.

I'll leave you with my favorite image from the Brick Testament. It come from the section On Marriage vs Castration...


Go in Peace.


The turning of the wheel of life is especially evident these days. All the classic signs are there; shorter days, cooler nights, inflatable skeletons and cheap candy prominently displayed at your local godless corporate superstore... I bow in recognition of the ancient harbingers of All Hallows Eve.

This post was going to be a rambling treatise on how the venerable pagan celebration of Samhain (pronounced "sah-win" please) was mutated into the annual festival of tooth decay and binge drinking in bad costumes that we all know as Halloween. Instead, I have settled on a more positive approach for the Flock (plus, all that historical research seemed too much like work...).

Instead of waiting until the very last moment, slapping together a lame-ass costume and killing brain cells with the rest of the pirates, devils, and kitty cats downtown, I propose that we all go to an activity together. Maybe one of the big haunted houses in Denver, or one of the corn mazes, or possibly even to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Alternatively, we could do something more spirituial in nature - the Cowboy Pagan Association (yes, there is a Pagan RSO on campus) might have ideas for us, or the Pagan organizations in Fort Collins and Denver might be a good source of info on activities.

We could also pick a theme for our costumes - I personally think it would be awesome if the whole Flock all dressed in a "weird catholic" theme; nuns in short skirts, latex and vinyl priests, and myself in an inverted color version of the papal vestments - but I'm sure you all have fabulous ideas too.

So - the floor is open to all suggestions. Now is the time to put forth your best Halloween ideas, themes, and fantasies (keep it moderately clean please, Mandy). Perhaps with this much lead time, we can have a memorable Halloween this year...

Sunday Sermon



The universe has a great sense of irony.

Earlier this weeek, a "Christian" evangelist was out in front of the Wyoming Union here in Laramie (I put that in quotes because I don't think Christ would claim him as one of his own). He was displaying a sign that said "Fear God" and spewing a message of hate and bigotry, complete with a catchy song called "It's Not OK to be Gay". He basically bashed everyone who walked by. My personal favorite was a cute little freshman girl - he told her that she was going to hell because she was made up like a harlot. Apparently eye shadow offends the Lord...

At the same time inside the Union, Tibetan monks were creating a sand mandala for peace and the healing of the world. I scanned the crowd and saw folks I know to be Catholics, Baptists, Mormons, Jews, Buddhists and a half-dozen kinds of Pagans in attendance. The irony wasn't lost on anyone - while chatting with friends after the opening ceremony, I overheard several people around us say that they much preferred the religious message inside the Union to that presented outside.

Although some Christians won't agree with this statement, most evangelicals hold that the world is completely doomed. They see no point in trying to improve this world because their focus is solely on getting out of it and into the next. Their negative, fear-filled message is based on this apocalyptic view, and they feel that the saving of souls is so important that they must get their message out, regardless of who they trample along the way. Those folks who don't agree are sinners, and they are to be opposed ("rebuked") at every turn. It's a case of "Us vs Them" on a grand scale.

I'm not willing to accept that. I don't see this world as doomed, nor do I think that any spiritual "truth" is so important that those who disagree or don't match the paradigm should be crushed for it. While I support the rights of evangelicals to express their views, I also think it's important to stand up for those they so arbitrarily categorize as sinners.

Many other spiritual traditions do just that. The Tibetan monks who constructed the mandala below are representative of one such faith, and there are many other traditions that teach a similar message of unity. As you look at the pictures below, remember that it was constructed by people who believe in the possibility of a better world, for the purpose of healing the divisions between all mankind. It's not "Us vs Them" - it's just "Us."












In the following clip, you can see one of the monks "breaking" the mandala along the eight directions.



This destruction of the beautiful handiwork of the monks is done in observance of the impermanence of all things - a recognition that all things pass away, and the beauty of the moment is what's vital. The sand was swept into small plastic bags and offered to all who observed the ceremony - to help each person take a bit of the intent of the mandala with them.

Go in Peace.

Tasteful Celebration Ordered

On this day twenty-five years ago, the earth did shake and the heavens were split asusunder. The animals were silent and the oceans did rage, for on this day was born the mighty Raksha, most feared of the BCPs, revered X-Men continuity wonk, and consort of His Sinfulness the Black Pope. The Dark Pontiff declares that the Flock should give forth a mighty cyber-shout in her honor!

Ok, seriously - she hates her birthday, so leave her a tasteful message here. She will, no doubt, swear eternal fiery vengeance upon me for mentioning this on the blog, but some well-placed chocolate should defuse that problem...

Something To Do...

If you are on the UW Campus in Laramie, come see the Mandala in the Skylight Lounge.
-Opening ceremony, Tuesday, Sept. 19, noon.
-Closing ceremony, Friday, Sept. 22, noon.
They're free, and I'll be at both - come get your Buddhist on...
UPDATE
Here are bad pics taken with my phone - better pics to come.

Sunday Sermon

Due to an as yet unexplained outage of the wireless signal I've been pirating at the Black Vatican, I am turning today's sermon over to a virtual preacher. Please direct your attention to the cyber-pulpit... and click here

Go in Peace.

Connect

This is what I call a "morant". It's part mope, part rant...

Do you remember that weird guy? The one you used to always see at the laundromat/computer lab/library/random public place? I was thinking about him today.

(Warning - unfiltered stream of consciousness - Warning)

I wondered how he got weird. Was he always weird? When did he first start talking to himself, and does he know he's doing it out loud? Is he stuck being weird, or can he leave the weird path he has chosen? Did he, in fact, choose it? Although he is usually alone, I hope he has weird friends he hangs with when we're not around... well, I tried to believe that, but I can't. Is it possible that it's simply loneliness that made him weird? Hmm... Nah. So what if he doesn't have any friends? I moved around a lot when I was a kid, and there were lots of times when I didn't have any friends, and I survived. Sure, being the new kid was rough, but I made it through without talking to myself, or wearing a parka on an 80 degree day...but, I do recall that it really sucked. And, of course, I eventually made friends and that loneliness went away... but what if it hadn't? What if I still felt like I did the first day of third grade at Brunson Elementary, when that kid named Wade tipped me in the cafeteria? I wanted to make a good impression, wanted to be cool, wanted to be liked... but when I got up from the floor I had fishsticks and macaroni on my shirt - no one is cool enough to play that off... it took until almost Thanksgiving for me to feel ok in that school. (By the way, you're an asshole, Wade.) What if that feeling had never gone away? What if that wave of embarrassment and hurt and rage had kept surging and boiling in me for all these years? Wouldn't I be talking to myself and wandering around in public places? I suppose technically, I'm talking to myself right now...

(End stream End stream End stream)

And then, I found this... Seriously - click the damn link; it's reallly worth it. I'm too tired to argue with you - just do it. If it doesn't work, just cut and paste this into your browser:

http://www.smugglersite.com/mov/stylewar_inthisworld.mov

After seeing it, I just know that all the weird people, all the people who feel like they're from another planet (and who doesn't at some point?) are quietly holding up little signs that say "Hello".

So now I'm torn. Part of me wants to go out and talk to as many weird people as I can find, while the rest of me wants to just crawl into bed and sleep until my walls are rebuilt.

Connect with someone for no reason today. Talk to someone that no one talks to, even if it scares you and makes you feel like you need a shower. They need you. The world needs you to just say "hi."

I'm guessing that "morants" won't catch on...

Bitch Session

Since a lojong post is always guaranteed to silence commentors, I am following it up with this handy widget I swiped off of Brendon's blog. This should give us all ample opportunity to bitch. Feel free to bitch about Bush, bitch about Cheney, bitch about Rove, bitch about countdown clocks - hell, bitch about your mom if you like...



Eight years is a long time, but it could be worse... Tony Blair is shooting for ten years before resigning!

Who should be the democratic nominee? Barack Obama? John Kerry? Would you vote for Hillary if Bill was her VP? Should Al Gore run again? Is Joe Lieberman still a democrat? Is another four years of Republican rule a sign of the apocalypse?

Sunday Sermon

Lojong Refresher

Since school is back in session, I think it is time for us to continue with our series of lojong slogans. I thought I'd use the Sunday Sermon this week as a way of doing a refresher on this Tibetan practice. (Ok, ok, I admit that this is a cop-out post. I've got no burning issue to sermonize about right now... or rather there are too many things I'd like to rant about to make a coherent sermon.)


My man B-Money, looking most serene...

In the 12th Century, a Tibetan monk named Chekawa strung together some existing proverbs and aphorisms into a list of 57 slogans called lojong ("mind training"). Meditating on these sayings is called tonglen (in Tibetan 'tong' means 'sending out' or 'letting go' and 'len' means 'receiving' or 'accepting') and it is a way to take full responsibility for your experience of the world. Some members of the Flock have found these slogans useful to them, and I hope you will all give them a chance to work on your mind.

Here are the preceding posts:
Lojong #1 First, train in the preliminaries.
Lojong #2 Regard all dharmas as dreams.
Lojong #3 Examine the nature of unborn awareness.
Lojong #4 Self-liberate even the antidote.
Lojong #5 Rest in the Nature of alaya, the Essence.
Lojong #6 In Postmeditation, Be a Child of Illusion.
Lojong #7 Sending and Taking Should Be Practiced Alternately.
Lojong #8 Three objects, three poisons, and three seeds of virtue.
Lojong #9 In all activities, train with slogans.

Now that we are caught up, we turn to:

#10) Begin the Sequence of Sending and Taking With Yourself.

Pema Chodron:
"What you do for yourself - any gesture of kindness, any gesture of gentleness, any gesture of honesty and clear seeing toward yourself - will affect how you experience your world. In fact, it will transform how you experience the world. What you do for yourself, you're doing for others, and what you do for others, you're doing for yourself. When you exchange self for others in the practice of tonglen, it becomes increasingly uncertain what is out there and what is in here.

Start where you are. This is very important. Tonglen practice (and all meditation practice) is not about later, when you get it all together and you're this person you really respect. You may be the most violent person in the world - that's a fine place to start. That's a very rich place to start - juicy, smelly. You might be the most depressed person in the world, the most addicted person in the world, the most jealous person in the world. You might think that there are no others on the planet who hate themselves as much as you do. All of that is a good place to start. Just where you are - that's the place to start."



Geshe Dhargyey & Geshe Rabten:
"Until now, our sole consideration has been for our own benefit and happiness, and this has prevented our feeling genuine concern for others. Therefore, at first we may experience some difficulty in imagining or thinking about taking on the suffering of all other beings. We should begin the meditation by accepting all the difficulties that may happen to us today, tomorrow, and on into the next life. Although the prime object of giving and taking is to accept the misery of others, we train our mind by imagining our own immediate suffering. Only after our mind has become accustomed to this do we begin to take suffering from others. Just as a person who wishes to scale Mount Everest will first train on the lesser peaks, so should we practice on our own selves first."

Linus Furious:
"This seems a bit obvious on first glance. We might think, "Of course you should start with yourself - who else could you start with?" but I think what this slogan points at is our tendency to see the external much more clearly than we see the internal. We cannot take on the misery of the world until we face our own misery - and sometimes that is a huge task. Be kind to yourself, and you will begin to feel a kindness toward others. (Note that being kind is not the same thing as being indulgent...)"

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

Go in Peace.

Incredible Balls

This is the follow up to a sermon that I did some time ago...

A while back, I ranted at some length about the various believers who were trying to convert me, without a shred of knowledge about their own faiths, and a pack of misconceptions about mine. One of these fundie asshats - the one who said that Christianity was never the state religion of Rome, who told me that Christianity has never caused any suffering in the world, and who was convinced that the Buddha had proclaimed himself god incarnate - was proselytizing via the chat function of an on-line chess service that I play on.

He began the game by making a Christian reference - probably spurred on by my screen name, "Reverend Linus." I explained that I'm not a Christian. He responded, "You are making the biggest mistake possible! Having a relationship with Jesus is the most important decision one can make." I told him, very directly, that I was not interested in being converted - but he was off and running.

Because his pitch was so hackneyed, so baseless, and soooo ignorant of other traditions, I got sucked in. I addressed (with links and references) his lack of knowledge of the origins and history of his faith, his misconceptions about the history of Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism, his lack of understanding of his faith's theology, and a host of other "points" he brought up. He gave up trying to convert me by midgame. Well, to be fair, I bludgeoned him into silence by midgame. His last bit of preaching was something to the effect of "It doesn't matter what you think about God or the Bible - you are free to go to hell."

Unfortunately, the game has been crawling along ever since (I'm playing Black, naturally...)

Although It began July 1st, the time limit per move was 14 days, so it was finally winding down tonight. I had a significant material advantage (I was up by a rook and pawn) and sound position. He had been silent for the last 30 moves or so, when out of the blue, he asks if I've ever heard of Melaleuca, Inc.

Melaleuca, Inc. is a multi-level marketing company that sells products made with "tea tree oil." They pitch their products as being environmentally sound and free of harmful additives. It is similar to Amway, Herbalife, and a host of other companies that are essentially mercantile pyramid scams. Some people in the organization get very, very wealthy while everyone else involved ends up with a garage full of product. I had heard of Melaleuca back in my State Patrol days, when a fellow officer tried to get me involved.

I wasn't interested then, and I'm not interested now. And I told the chess fundie that I had heard of the company and that I was not interested. Three moves from mate, and he persists. I told him again that I was not interested. And once again, he persisted. Finally, he ended with, "if you want to go on buying poisonous products at retail prices, feel free."

That's right - his Melaleuca pitch was exactly the same as his Christianity pitch.

To paraphrase the late great Bill Hicks, "Where does a guy get such balls?!" After failing to impress me, in the earlier debate or in the game, where did this asshat with a chinstrap get balls so enormously large that he thinks this is a good time to try to sell me a multi-level marketing scheme? He thinks to himself, "Now that I've insulted his faith and proven myself an irritating, ignorant boob, it's time to bring him into my marketing tree!"

In a rare blending of the powers of His Sinfulness the Black Pope with those of Darth Furious, I excommunicated him AND crushed his windpipe with the Dark Side of the Force...

My New Boyfriend

I will confess to having some issues about cleanliness. Now that it's just Ajax and me, I have been reveling in the lack of dirt in my life. In particular, I have been enjoying my sparkly white bathroom. There is a certain comfort in knowing that any soap scum and crud you may find in the tub was left there by you and you alone.

Not that there is any there right now, mind you; I have been taking a perverse joy in cleaning of late. Since I received a gift card in the mail today, I decided to feed my OCD. I needed a little mop for the bathroom and kitchen - the rest of the house has hardwood floors, which require a different kind of mop and completely different product - so, I went to Kmart and sifted through all the Swiffer clones. That's where I met him...




Maybe it was the clean white shirt. Maybe it was the earring. Maybe it was the two different kinds of cleaning pads he offered me (one for mopping, one for scrubbing). Whatever it was, I'm glad that Raksha has said that I can have as many boyfriends as I want. I was weak, but he was so persuasive... About half of my gift card went to buying the "MagicReach", pictured on the right. (I wonder if the good folks at Proctor and Gamble are aware that there are several sex toys with very similar names...)

At any rate, it kicks ass. I was able to render my bathroom clean enough for surgery in about 10 minutes. The mopping pad is good for the sink, the outside of the toilet, and floors, while the scrubbing pad worked very well on the tub and shower walls. You can also detach the head and use it as a hand scrubber - handy for cleaning the faucets.

Best of all, when I went to the P&G site for these pics, I also found this hilarious demo (make sure your sound is on - the music is the best part). Brini Maxwell would be proud...

Sunday Sermon

Blogger ate my post.

I worked on it for about 45 minutes, adding pictures and linking various bits of text to web pages, then I hit "Publish Post." After 5 seconds or so, I got the dreaded "cannot open page" message. I hit the back arrow, hoping to recover the post - nothing. I tried all of the tricks that 400+ posts have taught me about the ins and out of Blogger, but it was no use; those 1200 words are lost to the ether, never to be found again.

I could recreate the post. I have most of the pics on hand and the webpages are in my history file, but I have discovered in myself an odd resistance to doing that. It's not the wasted time; I have no other pressing time constraints at the moment. It's not that I'm angry about losing it; I was a bit pissed off for a few minutes, but what's done is done. It's just GONE.

I had a pressing topic to talk about - getting prepared for the coming Winter. I've got great plans to overcome the raging hate-on I have for the cold, dark months, and I explained them fully in the post. I even couched it all in a metaphor, equating my struggle with Winter to warfare (hey, if Bush can declare war on an abstract concept like terror, I can declare war on a season...).

But now that it has been lost, I feel no drive to redo it. I think I have finally glimpsed that state of writing nirvana in which the audience is of no consequence to the writer. I wrote it, and it was good. Only I know that it was good, and in this particular case, that is all that matters.

I suppose that it must not be all that good, or I'd be dying for someone to read it and congratulate me, but it honestly feels like I don't need to rebuild it because it was good enough for me. I needed to write it, but I don't need you to read it. The writing was enough - the doing was enough.

So there is your sermon topic. Examine the things that you work at, and ask yourself if you'd still do them if there was no audience. With no one to see and judge your work, how would you do things differently? And once you think that over for a bit, ask yourself why you care about audience in the first place. It may uncover some things about your motivations that you never noticed before...

Go in Peace.

Out of the Ordinary

Ordinarily, I'd be posting a Sunday Sermon here, but today is no ordinary Sunday. Raksha is in town! Tapping away at the papal iBook just doesn't seem like a good use of my time...

Ordinarily, I'd be cleaning and doing laundry to get ready for another week at work on a Sunday, but I'm trying to recover from two days of partying to celebrate Big Gay Jim's birthday. Go to his blog and wish him a happy day!

Ordinarily, my house is very quiet at 7:30 on a Sunday, but the normally silent-until-uncovered Ajax decided that 7:00 AM this morning was a good time to start playing with one of his toys - naturally it was one with a big bell on it.

Ordinarily, I avoid purity tests. They frequently have hundreds of questions, and any result I post will seem too pure - I am His Sinfulness the Black Pope, after all. But this one, courtesy of Mandyland, is very brief and seems to accurately convey the state of my withered and blackened heart.

You Are 12% Pure

You've been a very bad girl or boy...
And you probably enjoyed every minute of it.


(By the way - the battery in the papal iBook was not part of the recall. Thanks and a minor beatification to those who notified me about it.)