Sunday Sermon

Lately, I've been pretty lazy about the Sunday Sermon. The webcomic has reshaped this blog by its presence; I'm reluctant to put up new posts when they will cover up a great comic. I'm also reluctant to offer up the usual dose of cracked philosophy that was a staple of the Sunday Sermon - the blog is becoming more and more about the world of HSBP, and less about the world of Linus and his friends in college.

Those two worlds have shared this blog since early 2004, but I think it is time for the Black Vatican to move out on its own. The division is not clear, even to me; I am the Black Pope, but not all the time... Flynn and I have discussed Black Vatican having its own page since the first comics were created, and in the near future that will become a reality. The semester is winding down, and since Flynn is not taking any classes this summer, we'll have time to get the comic moved over to its own page very soon. There will be links-a-plenty so you can go from here to there and back with just a click, but the two worlds will become divided. This blog will go back to covering the life of Linus, so the Black Vatican can go on and conquer the world!

That said, let's address a few other things...

- The Black Vatican Theme Song Contest is winding down. Flynn and I have a few favorites so far, but it is not too late for you to get your entry (or another entry) in to us. Click here to enter, or just to review the entries so far. The deadline is Thursday at 5:00pm, Black Vatican time. We will name a winner on Friday!

- It's been ten days since a WOB post, and I know you are dying to hear more about the papal stealth cycle. (Feel free to skip down to the next point if you are not the slightest bit interested in my bike lust.)

I bought a rack trunk for it yesterday...

Much smoother than the bungee web thingy, don't you think? It gives 588 cubic inches of cargo space (big enough for lunch and handball clothes, provided I leave my shoes in my locker) and snaps off to become a shoulder bag. I'll be getting matching side panniers made for it this week...

While I was at the bike shop yesterday, I also found what might be the WOB's replacement...

Gary Fisher Triton

I have a hard time believing that radially spoked wheels like those can sustain my great sinful bulk, but the owner of the shop assures me that they are rated to handle me. The one I saw was a 2006 model, so it has been dropped to $750 - about a 25% reduction. Even with this reduction it is way out of my price range, but a boy can dream, right? I'm going to go ride it today, just to torment myself.

It can be fitted with rack, panniers and fenders to make it commuter friendly, but it has a single-speed drive train. It is geared to be swift on the flats and make climbing an out-of-the-saddle, sprinting sort of affair. Single-speed bikes are usually fitness oriented, and to that end this one is offered in freewheel or fixed gear configuration. Fixed gear means that you must be pedaling at all times when in motion - no coasting at all. That is a sure-fire method for getting in shape rapidly, but it is also brutal on the rider... I think I will ride the WOB for this season, and then see how much I weigh and how many miles I plan to log, before looking for a new bike for next year. By then the Triton will have even more new goodies on it...

- One final note; Finals are upon us, so be kind to your fellows. Care for one another, feed one another, love one another (if you have time and appropriate barrier methods) and most of all, give each other room and time to study!

Go in Peace.

Black Vatican #8

Artist comments:

This one was a bit of a challenge, and to tell the truth I'm still not very happy with how it turned out. I got very tried of muddling through the perspective in the lab about half way through frame two, and I hate to say it, but it shows. It was a learning experience though. I tried to use the standard artist perspective tricks and
tools they teach you as a freshmen student of art - but digital work is somehow different. And I ended up using Photoshop's perspective tool a lot more than a manually included vanishing point. This will be an environment that I will have to spend some time working with before I get it to where I want it to be. As for the characters, I'm reasonably pleased with Flynn's expression in the last frame, and The Unbeliever's text bubble too. I had some ice covered lettering I was going to use there, but it made it somewhat cliche, so just the bubble. Otherwise I just expanded on the characters from BV#7.

Nerdygirl, I know I said I would rework your character, and I am, it just didn't make it into this comic. By the time I was ready to add the characters I was already about five hours into this bloody comic, so I didn't feel like trying to add the new sprites. Sorry hun, next time...

And now I'm going to go vacuum; it's been a week and it's driving me nuts!

The Reverend's Comments:

Sometimes, getting the comic up is like an episode of Doctor Who. The problem starts out small and innocuous - like drivers that install themselves, or a script that calls for a long, cinematic pullback - then 30 minutes later, our world is overrun by aliens, the fabric of reality is in jeopardy, and Flynn is facing the fact that he may have to strand Nerdy in another dimension and sacrifice himself to save us all. Despite this, he always pulls through in a fashion that would make the Doctor proud. Sure, there are casualties - like this comic was originally slated for 6 panels, not 4 - but in the end it's only red shirts who die, and we all breathe a collective sigh of relief as our little comic Tardis tumbles through time toward its next adventure.

In analyzing this Whovian simile, I have to concede that unfortunately, Flynn is no timelord. If he were, we would simply go back in time and post the comics like clockwork, every Monday and Thursday. In reality, we work more like Torchwood; we get it done when we get it done, and then we cover up all the blood and mess.

I like to see myself as Captain Jack - dashing through time with a hard-on and a snappy, non-standard wardrobe - but I've come to realize that in a sense, I'm the villain. As the scriptwriter, I am the one who creates the situations that break Flynn's computers and strain his illustration skills. I'm no easy, one-shot villain either, but an ongoing nemesis like the Daleks or the Cybermen. Even when the comic goes smoothly, I'm always in the background plotting the next invasion, with a resurrection gauntlet on one hand and a stopwatch in the other...

Black Vatican #7

Artist Comments:
The comic is a day late this time around because of some technical trouble.
Many of you know that the majority of the comic is done on my tablet PC with it's stylus. It's really handy to be able to simply draw directly into Photoshop; unfortunately, it's no wacom tablet.
In order for the line thickness to respond to the pressure I put on the tablet, I need drivers from wacom. Windows, on the other hand, thought it knew best and began replacing my custom drivers with it's own during what I discovered was the last automatic update. I spent most of the day uninstalling devices, deleting incorrect system drivers, and then manually loading my custom device drives until I eventually found the correct order of installation to get things going again. Once I got the stylus pressure back I had to force Photoshop to recognize that it was pressure sensitive - it's only designed to work with actual wacom devices. That took a good deal of time as well - it seems that Photoshop CS2 and CS3 have built in pressure sensors but they got scrambled. So Photoshop knew that I was pushing harder, it just didn't change the line, it changed the opacity or color instead. Very frustrating, but I eventually got it sorted out - only to discover that each brush in Photoshop contains it's own pressure settings that determine how it functions with the tablet. Once I got those reset it took about two more hours of drawing to get the comic finished.

Now then, enjoy!
Next week we will resume the single color / single frame update schedule.
Flynn out.

Reverend's Comments:
I, like many of you, didn't understand most of that; I'm just glad we got the comic up without Flynn's head exploding. It was a near thing - at one point, the messages he was sending me held more expletives than intelligible content.

As for the many uses of apple butter, I stand by my position - in a pinch, it makes a dandy short-term lubricant.

In The Meantime

(While we wait for the next comic, we have another site that everyone should bookmark. If you don't need it now, you are probably too young to be here. Hopefully you'll need it someday...)

In our never-ending quest to provide opportunities for repentance and absolution to the Flock, we employ an army of field operatives who scour the internet for sites that provide the kind of succor and solace for which the Black Vatican is famous. One such operative is Max - and today's helpful site was his find.

Click HERE

reVirginizer can help assuage the guilt you feel about your first time - or, at least give you a chance to choose a car with a larger back seat. You CAN start over! Remember, reVirginizer is Pope Tested, Ministry Approved.

Flynn, they even have a special section for Canadians...

Mods and Addiction

Don't get your panties in a twist - Flynn says the Thursday comic is on the way. Should be up this evening.

I know no one cares but me, but the WOB - or "stealth cycle" if you prefer - has undergone some modifications. To correct a little ticking sound in the front wheel, I had the guys at The Pedal House shorten the bolt that holds the front fender; it was just barely making contact with a couple of the spokes as the wheel turned - super irritating. This, along with some statements I made about how ugly mountain bikes are ("It looks like the landing gear of a friggin' airplane mated with a backpack...") firmly solidified me in the minds of the employees there as a perfectionist and classic bike nazi.

I also had them add a rear rack, as shown below.

I couldn't find my bungees last night - probably fed to the ravenous maw that was my last break-up - so I had to ride in with my bag slung over my shoulder messenger style again, which I hate. I did, however, really enjoy the almost completely silent performance of this old machine. Soon it will be slightly warmer and a bit less windy, and I will take it for a bit more extended ride.

(UPDATE: I gave up the bungee search this evening, and went to the Evil Empire (WalMart) and purchased this bungee net thingy...)

I promised myself that I would never again be the bike-obsessed, 300-mile-a-week freak I was back in the late 80s, but I do feel the pull of it. Getting to your destination under your own power is something that too few of us experience these days. With gas pushing $3 a gallon, it's a feeling that I will be experiencing much more frequently.

Miscellaneous Triumvirate

Let me remind you that the Black Vatican Theme Song Contest is still going on. You can review all of the entries and make your own by clicking here. There are so many great songs on the list - I am quite partial to "Born Secular" and "Straight to Hell" - but I'm sure there are many more out there. Feel free to influence the judges in any way you wish. In past Black Vatican contests, rational arguments, threats, promises of baked goods, undying love, and undisclosed but almost certainly unnatural sex acts have met with varying degrees of success...

Sorry if you already saw this, but I think it bears review...

A young woman successfully exchanged sexual favors for 5000 gold in World of Warcraft so she could buy her character an epic flying mount. The whole pitiful story can be found here.

A brief excerpt: "I play a lvl 70 night elf druid and would prefer someone who was into roleplaying (I have a costume!) but honestly, anyone will do as long as you have the gold. I would also be ok with a woman too, as long as you have the gold! Also not adverse to the idea of groups\anal."

Personally, if I was going to do anal, the gold would have to be real.

After the transaction: " all the trash you want, I got MY Epic flying mount AND I got laid which is more than most of you failures can hope for."

I'm sure there is a women's studies paper in this somewhere...

Modig_Bjorn said;
"K, just hear me out...HSBP action figure (with excommunicating action) with stealth-cycle. I'd buy one."

The boys down in R&D are working on it now, Modig. If there are specific features that any of you would like to see on any Black Vatican action figure, please post them here. I suggest that the Alter Boi figure should have "push-button orientation switching action"...


The WOB (Weird Old Bike) is my new ride. A Japanese (Nishiki) imitation of an old-school European style commuter, the WOB has its original fenders (with a few dings), original cranks and three-speed rear hub, and original handlebars. The folks over at Rock On Wheels rebuilt it from the frame up, with new bearings throughout and a shiny new black powdercoat (it was originally yellow). I have no idea what year it originally hit the streets, but to this old bikie it looks and feels very 70s.

Three-speed rear hub with oil port

Ancient twist shifter

I've ridden it a bit - both last night and to work this morning - and I've decided to make some modifications to it. Cruising through the dark streets last night I realized that riding a black bike with no lights or reflectors on poorly-lit residential streets while dressed from head to toe in black clothing might not be the best of plans. So I'll be adding a front and rear light, and maybe some side reflectors (if I can find some of the appropriate vintage).

Riding it to work today helped me remember something I learned over 20 years ago - messenger bags suck! Baggage should be strapped to the bike, not to me. I'll be adding racks and panniers to it soon so that my lunch, work-out clothes, and other necessary bits can come to work with me comfortably.

Since I'm on this topic, the League of American Bicyclists are promoting May as National Bike Month. May 14th through May 18th is National Bike to Work Week, and May 18th is National Bike to Work Day.

I know that after reading this, many of you are hoping that your coworkers will join the bike to work campaign - so that it will be easier for you to find a parking spot when you screech into the lot three minutes late. This is not the optimal attitude.

Instead, you should break out your old Schwinn and relive parts of your childhood. Not the part where your cousins smeared peanut butter on various parts of you and then held you down while the dog licked it off - no, the part where riding your bike was FUN. I will confess to jumping a curb or two this morning, rolling through a few stop signs, and generally ignoring the rules of the road in the way the fastest urban cyclists do. I got to work much more quickly than I would have driving, and I got primo parking about 10 steps from the door of my office.

Incidentally, peanut butter is not really good for dogs. Also, be sure to use smooth - chunky can be quite unpleasant in certain areas.

Black Vatican #6

Artist's Comments:
I made today's strip extra large. Perhaps even Biggie Sized...

It's my little way of saying "Thanks for not kicking me" for last week's absence of art. For anyone wondering, I did put the time to good use; I turned in my 73-f*@#ing-page research paper on Thursday. I think it will do well. And my test on Tuesday went... "well"... I didn't key my professors car, anyway.

As for the comic:

While all of our comics are accounts of actual Vatican affairs, some have been slightly embellished for your reading pleasure. Today's strip, however, is a verbatim account of a conversation between the Pontifex Niger and me. We didn't even change the names... let's face it, no one here is innocent.

I do feel the need to clarify:
I don't actually support beating animals - I mean children. Damnit...

Anyone who knows me has heard, at least once, a truly morally devoid comment pertaining to something some parent forgot to leash, or muzzle, or both. Probably at a restaurant or other public gathering place where the child's disruptive potential is at it's peek, ready to rain terror down on all those within the range of it's voice and smell, like some form of long-banned psychological warfare.

Let it be known I don't actually hate children.
I just don't like them.
Or want them around me.
Or want to think about them... ever.

But, being raised by an Elementary Special Education teacher with the patience of a saint - despite my best efforts - I am actually rather good at working with them. And in a pinch I have been known to take care of the little urchins for extended periods of time. Though I loathe every second of it.

Reverend's Comments:
As you can see, Flynn is trying some new things with the comic. Thus far I like the new look, but we both eagerly await parishioner's comments. Since it is, after all, your loyalty that make the Ministry the mighty stegosaurus of heathen smiting that it is today - we value your opinion. Feel free to tell us how you feel about it. In particular, I draw your attention to the art in my office...

You'll be happy to know that I did acquire a new phone yesterday. After several months of lackluster service, the papal Razr V3 was in need of euthanasia. While I did enjoy the vocabulary challenge of trying to send text messages without the letters W, X, Y, and Z, I was getting pretty pissed about not being able to dial any number with a 9 in it.

I now have a shiny new bluetooth phone, and I was able to purchase it for a reasonable price without extending my contract for another 2 years. The excommunication of Motorola may be downgraded to a simple censure if this phone performs well...

Papal Time Saver

Excommunication is a handy thing. It's a form of damnation that Popes have used as a punitive measure for centuries. Somebody blasphemes against the Ministry, I excommunicate them. Someone hurts a Flock member - excommunicated. Some asshat takes my parking place - fucking excommunicated, indeed.

Unfortunately, all that damning creates a lot of paperwork. I have clerical BCPs (yes - hot secretarial BCPs... with the glasses, and the hair in a loose bun, and the suits with the tight skirts and the black pumps, rawr...) working 'round the clock to log, file, and stamp all of it in a timely fashion. Depsite the incredible boost to morale this provides, there are better uses for all those valuable (wo)manhours. That's where YOU come in.

You see, I trust you all. You are smart, well-rounded people, and I believe you are ready to take over some of my duties. To that end, I empower you all to damn anyone you feel really deserves it. I've also streamlined the process so there is much less paperwork. Just list who you have damned and why in comments.

Thanks for being such a team player, and thanks to Nerdygirl the Unbeliever for finding the link. See you at the potluck tonight.

By the way - let's all wish WNG a happy bithday over on her blog!

Hardcore Alter Boi

First things first - there are no pictures or video here, so if your search for hardcore alter boi pr0n brought you here, you are in the wrong place... but thanks for the hits, pervert.

I played handball yesterday with Brittany, the Ministry's resident Alter Boi and trusted Left Hand of His Sinfulness. Despite her spastic flailing, I think we have found her athletic niche.

She graduated from the soft "big blue" ball to white label hardball after just one game. No whining, no complaining - she handled the stingy hands and bruises better than any of the guys did the first time we played hardball. She is a good partner too - she and I beat Smith and Flynn in doubles! She also made some clutch shots - one that stuck in my mind was a great return of one of my super sneaky, weird spinning serves. And she hit it with her LEFT hand!

I'm throwing down a challenge right now - I think my acolyte can beat any woman in the Flock in a best of three match in singles handball. Any takers?

No Comic?

I know that many of you came to the Ministry on Monday to see another of Flynn's beautiful renderings of my blasphemous comedic vision. But there was no comic.

So you came back on Tuesday. No comic.

I'm sorry to report - it's because Flynn's vaginosis flared up again. He's been slathering various creams on it since Sunday. He should be able to draw again by this weekend...

Sunday Sermon

(A quick announcement before we get into the meat of the sermon for today - we are still taking entries for the Black Vatican Theme song here.)


There are times in the lives of all the members of our Flock, when the burden of our sins becomes too heavy to bear any longer. We can feel our wrongdoings, almost like a chain around our necks, and the only way to assuage our guilt and begin the long process of healing is to openly admit our transgressions. Only then can we begin to forgive ourselves, and ask others to do the same.

So - in keeping with this season's spirit of renewal and rebirth, I encourage each and every one of you to openly confess... the worst songs on your iPod.

You know what I mean - the songs that you are embarrassed for anyone else to see, but you simply can't bring yourself to delete them. Oh sure; you'll let your friends see your current, ultra-hip playlist, but would you want them poking around in your library?

What really makes these songs horrifying is not just that they are in your library - it's that you listen to them when no one is around to see you. How horrified would you be if you were seen publicly bopping along to New Kids on the Block?

So to get the ball rolling, here are my confessions... these are in my iTunes library, and not only do I listen to them, I have been known to dance like an idiot in my living room to them as well. To the best of my knowledge, Ajax the WonderGrey is the only (living) witness of this behavior.

"Play that Funky Music (White Boy)" - Wild Cherry
"Rock and Roll All Night" - Kiss
"Chocolate Salty Balls" - Chef
"I Wear My Sunglasses at Night" - Corey Hart
"Rock and Roll Part 2" - Gary Glitter
"My Sharona" - The Knack
"I Got You Babe" - Sonny and Cher
"Freshmen" - The Verve Pipe

- and -

Over 100 tracks of They Might Be Giants...

[sigh] I feel better already.

Note: I refuse to apologize for my sizable Adam Ant collection. It's an 80's thing... you youngsters wouldn't understand.

Black Vatican #5

Flynn's comments:
Yeah... so, this one isn't the prettiest, but art takes the right mood.
And right now, the mood tastes like fire, so... yeah.

I'm going to go get my Emo on...

HSBP's comments:
(Sheesh... whiney artists with girl problems should be euthanized.)
No worries - we are taking Flynn out to get his drink on as you read this. You know, it's like my momma always said, "The best way to get over somebody is to get under somebody." Ladies, we'll be at Altitude tonight if you'd like to console Flynn...

You can still enter the Black Vatican Theme Song contest by clicking here.

Hell Hath No Fury... the newly converted. One of the newest of the Cyber-Faithful, Mayren, has single-handedly flogged His Sinfulness into proclaiming the official


In keeping with past Black Vatican contests, there are hardly any rules (trust me on this - if you type "contest" into the blog search window up above you'll see what I mean). We are looking for a song that conveys the delicate balance of philosophical masturbation, messianic delusions, and unwarranted ranting for which the Ministry is famous. You may choose to submit an existing song or one of your own creation. Filk is certainly in the best traditions of the Black Vatican, and welcome as well.

Unlike past Black Vatican contests, this one has an ACTUAL PRIZE!

The winner, as judged by Flynn and myself, will win a piece of Black Vatican history! An actual bit of line art from Flynn's sketch book, signed by HSBP and the artist himself!

You may post your entries in the comments window, or you may send me stuff by email, hand delivery, or carrier pidgeon... the psychic entries from the last contest ended up in an uncounted box of ballots from Florida, so I'm not accepting any communication on the astral plane this time around (damn new age hippies...).

Now get busy! That funerary mass you've been planning isn't going to write itself...

Sacred Text #1

HSBP: I had a dream...
Nerdygirl The Unbeliever: Yeah? Tell me about your dream.
HSBP: Well, I was in a boat, and the boat was floating on some slimy black stuff that was definitely not water...
Nerdygirl The Unbeliever: Ew.
HSBP: And occassionally a dark green tentacle would rise out of the slimy black stuff that was definitely not water...

Nerdygirl The Unbeliever: You've been reading Lovecraft again?
HSBP: No - the tentacle was wrapped around a spoon, and it fed me what was on the spoon, and it tasted like Cream O'Wheat, and I ate a lot of it.
Nerdygirl The Unbeliever: You have taste in your dreams? That's freaking awesome.
HSBP: Yeah - it had raisins in it, too.
Nerdygirl The Unbeliever: Okay, so some sea-like creature is taking care of you by feeding you rice pudding. Right?
HSBP: NO - Cream O'Wheat. Anyway, this went on for a bit, and then I was full so I tried to duck the spoon, and other tentacles came out and held me in place, and it force fed me more Cream O'Wheat.  Then I woke up.
Nerdygirl The Unbeliever: So it's not just taking care of you, but forcefully taking care of you?
HSBP: Actually, I thought it was fattening me up for some tentacle-monster BBQ... he and the other giant sea critters get together at someone's lagoon, ice some brews, put the game on the big-screen, toss a reverend on the grill - very festive.