Ask, and You Shall Receive

You may have noticed that Big Gay Jim has just put up his 200th post! Go there and check it out - it's Pope Tested, Ministry Approved. His post is touching, personal, revealing, and oh so gay...

It got me to thinking about my next posting milestone. This is post #386 - at my usual erratic rate of posting, I should be hitting #400 in about three weeks. Obviously, this calls for an epic post...something funny, inspired and inspiring, yet warped in the harmlessly dark way that you've come to expect from the Ministry. Naturally, I've got nothing.

In an unprecedented move, the Black Pope is now taking requests. What do you want to see in the 400th post? Since I consider this blog to be continually NSFW, anything goes...

Cute Dump

These are photos that I saved for some reason. I've given up on finding posts in which to use them. There's just not much call for cuteness on my blog. Perhaps I should turn from my wicked ways and reformat the Ministry. It's just that I've got so much tied up in the whole "Black Pope" thing. If I became the "Pope of Cute" I'd have to order new letterhead.

Please feel free to suggest better captions... there may be fabulous prizes for the most clever.

It's either a very small dog or a rat with encephalitis.

With this, one could make a tiny little ham sandwich. Or maybe a wee side of bacon.

A little too much caffeine this morning.

Another possible new uniform for the BCPs.

These little guys aren't quite to the feces-flinging stage yet.

Cute little Fascists.

I've got nothing for this one...

Sunday Sermon


This is the time of year when I'd like to be out flying kites, throwing 'rangs and just generally getting a tan. The weather has been what passes for hot out here of late (in the 70s and 80s), but the wind has been bringing in lots of pollen from the fires we've been having in the area. They aren't huge fires, but it is a bit early in the season for them, and they have accellerated the start of the allergy season for me. The doctors tell me that my allergy attacks are "acute and severe", so I tend to stay inside until I feel no symptoms at all. So no 'rangs, no kiting.

I've been trying to see this as a good thing, just another hurdle that teaches me something. In meditation I have many such hurdles. I am not very flexible, so sitting in a lotus is not possible for me. An old knee injury makes it hard for me to sit in seiza (kneeling, the other traditional position for zazen), so I sit in the Burmese position. Burmese is a modified Lotus that has a tendency to make the sitter somewhat off-center; it's a very minor thing, but it bothers me that I can't get my body to comply. Add to this my seasonal sniffling and sneezing, and you have a recipe for frustration (especially if you sit in a zendo with others - it feels like you are disturbing everyone).

Burmese Position

Of course, the physical issues are minor compared to my mental predispositions. I am the Furious One, so sometimes my zazen is all about my satus as a major asshole, fueled by my boundless rage. I have become better at letting personal angers go, but it's still very hard for me to let go of the sort of anger that you might call "righteous indignation." It's not really righteous in any way - by that phrase I mean anger at situations that are, in my view, "just not right." Lately, it's things like American foreign policy... and domestic policy too, now that I think about it. Military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, marriage ammendments, flag burning ammendments... I'm unhappy that my taxes go to pay for these things.

All of these are obstacles that I struggle with everyday. Each of us has a list of our own - and many have it far worse than I. Actually, I have it pretty easy, comparatively. I try to imagine what it would be like to work toward enlightenment without shelter, or with small children to provide for, or with the threat of violence looming over me, or from prison. I try sometimes to visualize begging for your food each day as the Buddha's original disciples did. I feel incredibly weak and timid when I'm honest with myself and admit that if I'd lived in that time, I doubt I'd have been able to follow the Buddha. His path - ANY spiritual path, really - is HARD. No - FUCKING HARD.

And it should be. It is the great task of this life, regardless of your method or belief. I believe it's what we're here to do - it's why this life and these limitations exist. Just as an obstacle course builds an athlete's body, overcoming this life is the exercise that builds our spiritual strength. I'm trying to embrace my limitations, trying to thank them for being my obstacle course, but that comes hard some days. Most days.

Go in Peace.


I generally ignore these things, but I was called out by the Fluffy Bunny of the Apocalypse - how can I refuse?

5 Things In My Refridgerator
- Soy Sauce (I just bought a gallon jug of it)
- precooked white rice (fried rice is a staple of Flock Hall)
- 36 eggs (I think they're Ben's...)
- Severely wilted lettuce (planning on throwing that away today)
- Many bottles of hot sauce

5 Things In My Closet
- 45 black t-shirts
- 7 kilts
- 1 short sword
- 2 spears
- An extra bird cage

5 Things In My Workbag/Backpack/Purse
I don't work, or even have a bag that I carry regularly...

5 Things In My Car
- 1 Windbreaker (black)
- 15 CDs
- 3 or 4 pens stolen from the credit union
- 1 gallon of windshield wiper fluid
- 1 chainsaw

5 People I Tag
- Raksha
- G-Log
- Levi
- Rachel
- Born Again Flocker

Plus One
- God, if he's checking the blogs...

Google Challenge

I've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating; I love LJ Last 40. Amidst all the pics of kittens and new haircuts and dorm rooms and drunk roommates and Japanese ball-joint dolls in odd yaoi-inspired positions, you will occasionally find a picture that just demands to be spread around. Case in point:

Unfortunately, I have no idea where this giant with the walk-in head wound can be found. The page it came from had all cyrillic text (Russian, I suppose), and online translation services came up with nothing for the caption. That's where you all come in...

Go forth my dark minions! Seek the source of this unHoly inflatable, that we might make pilgrimages there!

Nature's Bounty

Like everyone else, we here at Flock Hall sometimes struggle with doubt. Why are we here? Are we living the right way? Is this what is intended for us?

It's at times like these that we look for a sign. A portent, to tell us that we are indeed on the right path. Today, the Flock received just such an omen...

As Tessa prepared a special dinner for the solstice, she realized that we had been blessed. We all agreed to document the gift, share it with the cyberfaithful, and then put into the curry.

A potato shaped like a penis is not a sign from the Divine, you say? If not, then why does it look JUST LIKE Francis?

He really IS Irish!

Tragedy Strikes Black Vatican

We interrupt our regularly scheduled persecution of The Hopeless Romantic to bring you this breaking news...

Black Vatican - The Black Pope's beloved black guitar has received its first ding. Vatican insiders tell us that a few days ago, the ladder that the Dark Pontiff uses to reach the top of his "Fortress of Solitude" fell over. Originally it was thought that the ladder had narrowly missed the Sable Primate's axe, but today during a routine cleaning and exorcism a small ding was discovered on the upper horn of the semi-hollowbody.

The damage is strictly cosmetic, and His Sinfulness reports that the guitar sounds as good as ever, calling its tone "metal as fuck." When asked if He intends to have the damage repaired, the Pontifex Niger replied, "Hell no - it looks tough. Levi is going to dig it."

Sources close to His Sinfulness, however, report that a bout of prolonged sobbing and ranting followed the discovery of the damage. "He was fuckin' pissed." claimed a papal aid. "I thought he was going to have an aneurism. At one point, he told us that he was going to excommunicate gravity."

An investigation is ongoing, but at this time a spokesman for the Black Vatican's forensics lab stated there are no signs of foul play.

Damn it's hard to take a close-up of a shiny black object...

(It had to happen eventually. Because the picture was taken using flash, it makes it look much worse than it is. It's actually pretty much invisible until you tilt it into the light just right. Actually, I'm kind of relieved that it happened. I can stop worrying about it now, and let it accumulate the nicks and scratches that are mute testimony to the hours I've put into it... because my playing is certainly no indication of how much I practice.)

Sunday Sermon


Keep off the grass. No running by the pool. You must be this tall to ride this ride. No smoking. No pets allowed. Observe posted speed limit. Do not feed the bears. Chew your food thoroughly. Wait 30 minutes before going in the water. No white after Labor Day. Keep hands and arms inside the ride.

I hate them. I want to live in the fantasy world where people get by with only "Be courteous" and "Use common sense"; and they're not really rules, just obviously good suggestions.

Alas, that dimension is closed to me (for now... but soon I shall have enough candles made from the fat of unchristened babies to open the gate!). In this world, rules are the way of it, and Buddhism is no exception. Some of the traditions have huge numbers of rules. The Theravadin Vinaya (the rules for monastics) has 227 rules for male monks and 311 for female monks - seems pretty ridiculous, but most of them have arisen out of incidents in the past that they wanted to avoid in the future. It's all about setting precedent.

Of course, for lay people, the rules are much simpler, but they are rules, nevertheless. A part of me simply balks at any sort of codified control, even when they are common sense things like, "do no harm" or "eat your veggies." My poor parents - here is an example of my inability to take instruction gracefully, even when it is in my best interest.

Mom: Your shoe is on fire! Put it out!
Me: Why don't you quit telling me what to do!?
Mom: But - it's ON FIRE!
Me: Maybe I want it on fire. Maybe I like it that way!
Mom: But it's going to burn through!
Me: (dripping with sarcasm) I'm aware of that, Mother.

In the end, I did put my shoe out, but it was when I bloody-well WANTED TO, thank you very much. And I was only slightly burned. (Incidentally, my mother and grandmother are both being considered for sainthood...) Given this example, you can imagine how difficult it is for me to follow commands set down by some Indian guy 2500 years ago.

Thankfully, the Buddha knew there would be pricks like me.

"Moral certainty is an inadequate response to an ever-changing world composed of unique moments. All we can do on the path of awakening is be open to the situation with integrity and compassion. Act from the heart, not according to a set of rules, but guided by them."
-Gill Farrer-Halls (who is, in turn, paraphrasing...)

Rules are not to be adhered to blindly. Discuss.

Go in Peace.

Theatre is dying a slow, wretched death...

THIS is proof.

As if LoTR the Musical wasn't bad enough...

My New Gun

A while ago, one of the folks at Flock Hall suggested that we go play paintball. I immediately put the boys down in R&D to work on a gun with serious heathen-smiting power - a weapon worthy of the Black Pope. After exhaustive and costly testing, they delivered me this...

The Evangelizer (click to be impressed by its largeness)

Its four barrells fire, like, a million paintballs per second, or something. Of course, we load it with unHoly Water balls instead - they burn the heretic on contact. With this baby and my new paint-resistant cassock, I am ready to hit the field.

Instead of a Sermon...

...we can all play the Black Vatican's newest game, Suggest a Town!

I have moved around quite a bit in my life. I've lived in North Carolina, Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, and California. I am headed toward another move now, but this time, it's different.

This time, I have no pressing reason to move except that I'm done with Laramie. I have finished my degree, and I'm completely through with living in the frozen wasteland that is Wyoming. I want to move to a warmer place where I can continue my studies, and maybe fly my kites again... and that is the problem.

Prior to this, my moving has always been for three reasons - family, friends, or work. I moved to Iowa to be with a woman (we were engaged). I moved to Nebraska to be on the Patrol. I moved to Cheyenne to hang with SCA friends, then I moved to Fort Collins to hang with other SCA friends. I went to California to go to school, but it was really to reconnect with family. I came back to Wyoming to be with a woman (you'd think I'd learn...).

And now I must move again, but none of those reasons apply. I have not been accepted to a grad school yet, I don't have any great job prospects, and I don't know a soul in the places to which I am considering moving.

For months I have been surfing the web, looking at grad programs. Nothing has really leapt out at me except Baylor, and I now have reservations about that (I was really underwhelmed by their shoddy admissions process).

So this is your opportunity to have input on the new location of the Black Vatican. To be considered, a place has to meet the following standards:

1) Graduate School
The place must have a decent graduate school which offers a program in something I'm interested in, like Sociology of Religion, Interdisciplinary Studies, Creative Writing, Pop Culture, Film, World Domination, Harem Management, etc.

2) Population
The place must be at least as big as Fort Collins - let's call that a population of 100,000+. Anywhere smaller than that will just frustrate me with its lack of amenities. To be happy, I need to be able to shop without having to drive to a nearby "real" city.

3) Climate
This is a twofold standard; the place must be both Warm and Cool.

By Warm, I mean that it must have a finite winter that lasts no more than 3-4 months. I will not consider any place that has significant snowfall (like 36 inches in one day, or 6 inches in June; DAMN I hate Wyoming), nor will I look at a place that has high winds for a significant portion of the year. Ideally, the ocean isn't too far away to go there on a Saturday and fly kites.

By Cool, I mean I will not consider living in a place dominated by conservatives again. Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming have taught me that Republicans and Fundies do not make good neighbors.

4) Temple
The place must have a Buddhist community. I miss my morning meditations at the little Zendo in Fort Collins, and I want to get moving on that path again (this standard will probably be met by just about any town that meets number 2).

You can submit your suggestions in the comment window, or you can write them on the back of a $20 bill and send them to "Where in the World is Linus Furious?", c/o The Black Vatican. The winner will receive a limited beatification with a certificate suitable for framing, and serve as the vent for my frustrations once I have moved to the place you suggested...

Go in Peace.

When You Can't Play...

Levi's plight got me to thinking. What do you do when you need a guitar fix, but you can't play due to neighbors, responsibilities, or a boo-boo on your finger? Here are some options...

You can watch other people play...
Guitar Player TV is produced by the good people at Guitar Player Magazine and features big names in guitar, ranging from Larry "Mr. 335" Carlton to Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society). With a decent connection, each section downloads quickly, and the interface is pretty good as well - you can even use the slider to skip that damn Washburn ad. Zakk Wylde's solos are nuts, Thom Bresh is stunning in a different sort of way, and you really should check out the "Gypsy Guitarre" section. Joscho Stephan is completely incredible; his fretting is crazy, but look at his picking hand on "After You've Gone." Fucking amazing.

You can pretend to play...
Once you have seen these guys and grown distraught at your dismal lack of skills, you may want to make a little music of your own to convince yourself that you are still worthy. Fernandes Fretless Guitars offers two nifty little aplets that allow you to "play" a virtual fretless guitar (just like a regular guitar, but the fingerboard is kind of like that of a cello). First, open the Fretless Guitar Simulator and mouse over the numbers 1 through 6 to hear the licks they offer. You can also click on each number to get another lick. Click on the drum button and combine the 12 licks into your own song. You can also open up the Tonal Center Practice Tool, and try it in any key (I think the licks sound really good in A and G).

You can start a project...
If forking out the $800 bucks for a Fernandes fretless model seems a bit steep to you, here is a site that offers tips on making a garage sale acoustic into a Fretless Frankenstein.

There you go - no whining, Levi.

Sunday Sermonette

I had intended to post this past week, but no topic presented itself. Since I left you staring at a sermon all week, I have decided that there will be no preaching today (and there was rejoicing). Instead, you must promise to think deeply about your spirituality on your own for a few minutes today...

To jump-start your introspection, I have the following list of thought-provoking links. If you only have time for one, take a look a the first one.

A movie...
Vajra Sky

Some games...
Karma Chakra
Christian Board Games
Jewish Board Games ("Matzah Ball Bingo" is my favorite...)

Religious Q&As
Jewish Q&A (courtesy of Mandy)
Buddhist Q&A
Christian Q&A
Wiccan Q&A

Go in Peace