30,000 Feet of Uncomfortable

Artist's Comments:
Here is the story I hinted at yesterday...

While I was on the plane I took to working on the next comic. As I put it together, my new single-serving friend - a small Peruvian woman in her mid 40's who spoke little to no English - watched me intently. Perhaps she saw me as the "young artist" and felt I was therefore more approachable; I'm not sure, but she seemed to grow fond of me far too quickly.

It's somewhat unusual to have a captive audience while I draw. Perhaps it was because I was drawing on my tablet (which she and a number of other people saw as a modern wonder) or she may have just been quietly judging my work, but she was attentive to every detail of the creation of Black Vatican #9. A number of times during the flight she tapped the bottom right area on my screen where Windows keeps it's clock, asking silently about the time.

We had a number of small, broken conversations as well. My Spanish is terrible, and her English was not much better, so we ended up communicating mostly with hand movements that were decidedly not ASL. At one point in the flight, after the now familiar finger tap, she decided it was time to know about my marital status (thankfully, not for herself). After a few moments of strange communication, I indicated I was single by pointing at my bare ring finger and shaking my head vigorously. This, it seems, was not the proper answer.

To her mind, if I was not in a relationship, then surely I was looking. In an attempt to help me narrow my search, she pointed at the female flight attendants and numbered them - "uno, dos, tres..." - then with a somewhat rudimentary grab-and-hump sign, indicated that she wanted to know which of them I found to be the most attractive.

I answered too quickly the first time, embarrassed that despite the language, culture, and age barriers - never mind that we just met - the one topic we communicated easily on was who I felt like screwing. After that first, hasty decision she scolded me like an eight-year-old who has been caught looking at his father's Playboys, so I tried again. This time I took more care, looking over each woman slowly, while wearing the face one makes while inspecting a race horse. She was more pleased with my selection and told me so.

As we were debarking, she decided that we should keep in touch [shudder]. She told me her name (Angelica Something Latina Sounding) and then asked for mine. I hesitated for a moment, then smiled broadly and said, "I'm Reverend Linus - look me up on MySpace."

Reverend's Comments:
Well, that explains all the Latina Mile High Club MILF pr0n advertisements in my inbox - and here I was, blaming Benedict for those...

Black Vatican #9

Click to Enlarge

Reverend's Comments:
Ah, my beloved BCPs (say "bee-see-peas"). Like the Oleander, they are both beautiful and deadly, as they slink about the Black Vatican in their armored lingerie (please Jebus, let some hot fangirl decide to cosplay a BCP...)

You see, the funny thing about this is that, like you, I have yet to actually SEE the BCPs. We have brainstormed ideas, sent pics back and forth, discussed hair, body type, uniform colors, cape or no cape - and yet, only Flynn knows what they actually look like.

Of course, I've been seeing them in my mind's eye ever since that fateful day in August of 2004. Since then, the BCPs have never been far from the action here at the Papal apartments; they are the backbone of the messianic maelstrom that is the Ministry of Linus.

I hope you enjoy their debut on Monday.

Artist's Comments:
Sorry for the late post. The comic was done on time, but my travel was plagued with problems, one of which being the spotty availability of internet.

This comic was, for the most part, a snap to put together. I did have to redraw NGtU's character for different poses (and because we're working on it) which was interesting on my turbulence-ridden aircraft.

I would ordinarily make a comment here about how fighting turbulence was an artistic challenge; or how this comic is the second to have been completed at 30,000 feet (which is an achievement I think worthy of noting). However,
the story of the flight is far better...

But Linus, anal-retentive asshat that he is, won't let me tell you that story now.

Suffice it to say that it was a very special flight, and I hope the awkwardness of the distraction on the plane isn't apparent in the art. The whole story will be coming soon to a comic panel near you.


My 500th post has come and gone.

This is actually post number 508; who knew the Ministry would grow from its humble beginnings as a topless lemonade stand into the global juggernaut of sin and damnation it has become? As I look out over our Hunter S. Thompson style walled compound, I am reminded of the early days. Back then, there were no comics, no limos, no lunches with the Dalai Lama, no hot and cold running BCPs - just a man with a dark vision and a small community of believers. Things were simpler then. Take for example, the sidebar.

The sidebar was once a family affair. I could walk to the house of every blogger listed on it in about 15 minutes. If they fell behind in posting, I could call them and ask if everything was ok before making them a "sinner." Now, the sidebar is a nationwide thing, and although I love the new members of the Flock, I am not in personal contact with them all. In order to keep things fair and equitable, I have to, as I hinted elsewhere, institute some new guidelines for maintaining your Redeemed status.

Minimum Requirements to Acheive Redemption
- A post that makes HSBP smile.

Minimum Requirements to Maintain Redmption
- One post per week.

These new guidelines go into effect over the weekend, and compliance will be checked each weekend from now on. If you're going on vacation or you have some personal emergency, let me know, and your status can be held for you. If, however, you failed to post because you had to take your rare hairless guinea pig to the to the hairless guinea pig specialist in lower Kamchatka, I don't want to hear it. You could have done a fabulous travel blog - what do you think laptops and cell phones are for?

30 Years

In 1977, I was 12 years old. My mother and stepfather had just split up, and he was taking me for an evening visitation. I was not interested in visiting him in the slightest - my 4 year-old sister, his biological child, was of much more interest to him - but he was taking me to the movies, so I consented.

Try to understand, young ones; there was no cable. There were no VCRs, no Blockbuster, no Netflix, no internet downloads, and even second run houses ("cheap seats") were hard to come by. If a movie came out and you missed it in the theatre, your only hope was to wait 3 to 4 years for it to come to television. When something came out, you went to the theatre, or you accepted your position among the losers and the culturally backward.

I was still mad at him for the last visitation, which turned out to be him dumping me in the backyard of his new girlfriend's house with her son, a cigarette-smoking thug several years older than me. Although the thug's collection of pilfered Playboys was impressive, I spent most of the afternoon trying to avoid being punched in the shoulder for flinching.

In an attempt to atone, he was taking me to see some kind of SciFi thing that I had never heard of, but some of my friends at school had seen it and said it was awesome. Lots of explosions, gun fights, sword fights, a bipedal talking dog thing, and a pretty girl. Rather than throwing a tantrum about not wanting to go, I decided to give the movie a chance and extract my vengeance from my stepfather's wallet at the concession stand by ordering a large everything.

That movie was Star Wars. It was the end of my relationship with my stepfather; that 7:00pm showing was the last visitation I ever had with him. He had realized that visitations with me would give him no leverage with mom where custody of my sister was concerned, so there was no need to continue the charade. But it was the beginning of my relationship with SciFi... well, with SciFi that wasn't Star Trek.

Star Trek had been a part of my life almost since birth and it was a comfortable old friend, but this was different. Star Trek had been puppy love - Star Wars was the real thing. I had the very first set of action figures - the ones you had to send in a coupon for and then wait six weeks. I had lightsabers and ships and models and tee-shirts and the soundtrack and jigsaw puzzles and posters and Halloween costumes and lunch boxes and novels and comic books and boardgames and...

Today is the 30th anniversary of the release of Star Wars. It was on the cusp of my teen years, and just like the Arthurian novels that had been my obsession before Lucas colonized my mind, it shaped my perceptions of right and wrong, good and evil, and the grey area between them. For those of you who never lived in a world without Star Wars, it is hard to imagine how much it has changed the mental landscape of my generation.

I suggest you all break out that boxed set and give it a watch tonight... and may the Force be with you.

A Higher Power

Artist's Comments:
This comic was completed on my flight to Houston. It was a bit of an experience trying to draw the last bits while fighting the turbulence, and making all the rum gone (yeah - we have tickets for the iMax opening tomorrow - w00t!). The original had called for the view to be on an angle to Nerdygirl's head. After completing the panel sketch I realized that the view would distort the shrine image, and produce very strange text placement options. So I redesigned the layout for a flat-back view. All in all I'm happy with how this turned out, especially the candles - they are very hard to make look just so...

Reverend's Comments:
With this comic, I wanted to give you all a glimpse of Nerdygirl's inner workings... without the use of a speculum. I think the fact that she maintains a shrine to a dead comedian does that better than all the expository dialog I could possibly construct. The opportunity to simultaneously hack on Christians was just a pleasant serendipity.

Raksha was the first to introduce me to Bill Hicks, or as we call him around the Black Vatican, "St. Bill." He was funny, but more than that - he spoke the truth in a way that only a guy with a terminal disease can (he died young, of pancreatic cancer). I share the Unbeliever's love of his work, but not her dedication. She can quote him at length, while I can only produce the following:

"For me to settle down, it would take one very special woman... or, several average ones."

Nerdygirl's (much more explanatory) comments, including links to some of St. Bill's performances, can be found here.

Volleyball Report

The Naughty Smurfs kept their play-off hopes alive last night, splitting a double-header at the rec center!

Ok - to be fair, the Benchwarmers kind of killed us and the other team didn't even show up, so we won by forfeiture. However, we are still in the tournament and playing again tonight at 7:00.

No prayers this time; I'm asking all of the Flock to put their voodoo to work instead. Burn candles, throw salt, sprinkle chicken blood, stick pins in your Beach Volleyball Barbie - whatever it takes to keep the other team from showing up...

In other news - a new Black Vatican comic will be up tomorrow at 7:30AM, Black Vatican Soul Savings Time. It features a glimpse into the inner life of Nerdygirl the Unbeliever...

Random Bits Update

I forgot to mention - the first game of the volleyball playoff tournament is tonight for Jim, Squid, and me. Pray for the Naughty Smurfs (that's our team name - I don't know exactly why...) as we face the Benchwarmers in first round playoff action!

Random Bits

- At 14:53hrs, Black Vatican Standard time yesterday, I received confirmation that Flynn arrived safely in the Republic of Bush (Texas). The text message read:

"Uwdate: i r drunj and in tewas"

I guess he's having a good time...

- Sharp readers of this blog will recall that we had a theme song contest recently. Sharper readers will note that we forgot to announce the winner...

Our own beloved alter boi, Britt the Squid was the winner with her entry of "Born Secular" by Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins. I think what put this song over the top was the following lyrics:

It's the law of the land
That sometimes the dam just breaks.
God works in mysterious ways.
And god gives and then he takes.
From me.

We'll post a picture of her receiving her signed Black Vatican art as soon as Flynn gets back from Drunksburg, TX...

- Finally, I'll leave you with a remembrance of Flock Hall that I recently shared with Deacon Mark. It's about a younger, happier time, when we all lived together on the top floor of a house in the ghetto, down by the tracks, next to the overpass...

Reverend: Hey Mark - remember when we used to go exploring the buildings downtown?
Mark: Oh yes, the skulking...
[Cue Sax Solo]
Reverend: It was in an abandoned building in a town that time forgot... it was summer in a place that's a stranger to heat...
Mark: where the women ran free, and the squirrels would try to bum a smoke. It was hard times.... it was good times...
[sage brush rolls past]
Reverend: ...and we were all young. We climbed to the top of the highest building in town, got onto the roof, and wished there was more to see.
Mark: That night, we were all going to order sushi and not pay... until SHE walked into the joint...
Reverend: She had legs that went on for a three day weekend...and hair the color of honey spilled on a $2 lunch counter.
Mark: Yes, it was going to be an 'interesting' night.
[Sax crescendo, and fade to black]

Sacred Text #2

Originally told to the Plagiarites in the 2nd Epistle to the Californians, beginning in the 6th chapter at the 9th verse.

"And lo, the Lord didst make bagels available unto them,
and they were day-olds and thus half price,
for the Lord thy God is a frugal God.

And there were some who didst eat their bagels,
and some who didst cast their bagels into the weeds
when they thought the Lord was not looking.

When the Lord returned in the morning and asked,
"Didst thou enjoy thy bagels?", those who ate them said,
"yes Lord, they were crunchy and healthsome"
and the Lord didst make them prosper
and grow fat from the carbs.

When the Lord asked those who didst cast their bagels into the weeds,
they spake unto Him, saying,
"Um... yeah. They were, like, great and stuff."
Hearing their lies, the Lord didst fetch their bagels from the weeds
and smite them with them, saying,
"O ye of weak jaw - you shall have no place in my father's delicatessen!"
And there was a great wailing and gnashing of teeth,
for the bagels had grown even harder overnight,
and the edges were sharp and crusty."

Here endeth the lesson.

Artist's Comments:

This comic, as the Pontiff will attest, was not my favorite concept. However, having completed it, I think it might be my favorite thus far. The background in this one was really fun to work out (in fact I was a little sad to cover it up with people). I got a bit lost in the process and put in all kinds of grass, texture, and even a few faint clouds. When all was said and done I spent about four hours on the background alone, and I think it shows.
It was nice to play with the characters a bit as well. The Pope in this one is actually a redrawn concept sketch from the planning stages of the comic - we have a small library of those. As for R&D Guy - I only wish I could grow a beard like that...

Okay everyone, enjoy the comic, I'm off to sunny Texas for a proper, responsibility-free vacation. Just the thing a weary cable-monkey needs to clear the head and revitalise a somewhat parched sense of humor. Enjoy!

Reverend's Comments:
This piece is very near to my heart. It has been a crowd favorite since the first time I performed it at a poetry slam, and I still have people walk up to me on campus and say, "Dude, I loved that crusty bagels thing..."

As Flynn indicated, this was not his favorite concept for a comic. It has undergone numerous revamps - it was originally set in "Unhallowed Grounds," the Black Vatican Coffee Shoppe, and the person catching the bagel in the head was Nerdygirl the Unbeliever (it's what she gets for not believing!). The first sketch had cream cheese on the bagel... the way he drew the splatter lead to a host of bukkake jokes, and the concept was hastily redrawn. (If you don't know what bukakke is, just Google it. Better yet, don't...)

I like the "lost in Egypt" thing he has going on here, because that is sort of what every day here at the Black Vatican feels like...

Birthday Wishes

Artist's comments:
Happy Birthday love, and here's to many more!

Reverend's comments:
No one calls me "Culty McPopey-Pants" and gets away with it - even on your birthday, Mayren. I hope it was a happy one!

Halo Achievements

Artist's Comments:
On the 16th, the eagerly-anticipated Halo 3 Multiplayer Beta was released over Xbox Live to select gamers who have purchased the right to download the pre-release. I, like most of the gaming community, was looking forward to the chance to test the game over Live. Unfortunately I wasn't among the the lucky few...

Those who were able to play the Beta have given it a wonderful review. It seems there are a few issues with some of the new weapons, but even those seem to be entertaining. A few lucky gamers even found an interesting easter-egg left in the game by it's developers over at Bungie: Cheneymania! (In case you've been living under a rock - the Vice President shoots people. Usually in the face.)

It seems that for the first few hours of the beta, it was possible to shoot an opposing player in the face 10 times with a shotgun and be given a special award. Shortly after the easter-egg was found, it was removed by the Development team - it seems that there were a few people in Washington (well, one in particular) that were offended.

Reverend's Comments:
Why stop at just making fun of Cheney's itchy trigger finger? There are so many folks in politics who are worthy. Perhaps the player who creates the worst possible plan of attack and refuses to listen to his advisors can unlock a Wolfowitz award... or a player who orders team mates to get rid other players, then denies he had any knowledge of it should unlock an Alberto Gonzales award.

What, exactly, does one have to do to get a Santorum award? We're not sure, but any award named after the homophobe from Pennsylvania is almost certainly worthy of excommunication...

Bike to Work Day

Tomorrow is National Bike to Work Day!

Provided there is no snow/sleet/rain/hail/locusts/rivers of blood in the morning (all are possible around here this time of year), I will be traveling to work by bike. Of course, I bike to work almost every day now - AND YOU SHOULD TOO!

At the moment of passing..

Reverend's comments:
This was the scene in the Papal Situation Room at the Black Vatican on Tuesday morning when Reverend Jerry Falwell shuffled off this mortal coil. Even though the height of his power was in the mid to late '80s, he was still a player in Conservative politics until his death, and he managed to remain a major homophobe and bigot right to the end as well. You youngsters might remember how he blamed the 9/11 attacks on gays, abortion providers, and a host of others, but the older members of the Flock will recall that it was he who coined that oft quoted, "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" line.

Falwell founded the Moral Majority (which, incidentally, was neither) back in the early '80s, and under his guidance the religious right began to grow in cohesion and political clout. Although he eventually dismantled the Moral Majority, it was the seed that grew into the political monster that is the Religious Right today. Since there is no clear-cut successor to his throne, I hope the fundies will be "off-line" for a good long time.

Let me make one thing very clear - the death of the man gives me no pleasure, and his family and friends have my sincere condolences. The death of his rhetoric, however, thrills me, and I hope all of the other hatemongers from "Camp Homophobe" are silenced soon as well.

Artist's Comments:
This comic was a bit of a rush job. We wanted to make sure that it
got published while the stories were still in the news.
I'm fairly happy with it over all. The Pope was a re-use, but I
edited him up a little, so I don't feel bad about it (most comic
artists don't approve of the copy & past technique). NgTU's character
has been worked on a little. I think it's getting better. Ng and I
will be continuing to work with her characters image for a bit, but I
think this is an improvement. As for the images on the screens, they
were run through a simple photo filter to give them a semi-animated
look. And yes, that is David Hasselhoff...

Flock Milestone!

Raksha informed me yesterday that she passed her comps!
No rewrites - the nightmare that is grad school is almost over for her. Since she has let her blog die, feel free to post any congratulatory messages here.

Also - there has been a shake-up in the ranks of the Redeemed and the Sinners. See the sidebar, then gossip about how the mighty have fallen, and how the evil now prosper...

Confession is Good for the Soul...

...but hard on His Sinfulness.

(If you aren't familiar with this urban legend, install a vomit filter on your machine and then click here.)

Reverend's Comments:
For those of you keeping score at home, this is Black Vatican #9. Or number 12. Or number 4, or possibly number E34A0... it depends on how you count them. Because Flynn and I are flying by the seat of our vestments on this thing, and we have several different numbering systems going at the moment. Now as we all know, artists can't count, but apparently computer guys can - he says that when the comic moves to its own site, he will bring order to the chaos, and the numbering will make some kind of sense. I'll believe it when I see it.

The good news is that Flynn is recovering nicely from this past semester, and he is drawing again! We have several multi-panel story arc comics in the works right now, and some more single frames as well. The drought is over for now...

Artist's comments:

So first off, I'm going to apologize for the lack of updates in the past weeks. Sorry.

I won't post a sob story or anything; the Reverend took care of that for me. Instead I would just like to thank everyone who has dealt with my neurosis, offered to help pick up, and expressed concern – it's greatly appreciated. Those of you who had the pleasure of knowing my ex understand what your genuine concern meant to me. Thank you.

Okay, enough of that touchy-feely crap.

This comic was originally thought out for the single panel two weeks ago. Hence the numbering issues. When we first started the comic, we planned on two full strips a week. We then realized that when Hawq and Tim talk about producing a comic being a sleep-depriving exercise in deadline combat, they weren't joking. After a little brain storming we decided to go with one full comic, and one single panel. This consequently destroyed our established numbering system. Then we thought it would be fun to have Dead Flynn Days and Sacred text illuminations, further shattering our plans. All the while, I kept numbering the comics in the order in which I drew them. As a result we are now totally lost. However, we have put much more thought into the new system, and I am developing the site with those ideas in mind. It will have categories within the archives, searchable comic text, and room for further expansion.

A few people noticed the Pope is watching Family Guy on the confessional big screen. This was an afterthought; I added it because Family Guy came on as I was putting the finishing touches on the panel. The original comic had him watching static laden security cameras with the other characters doing silly things. I scrapped the idea because once the comic was shrunk down to the size you all see it at, the mini images were all but unrecognizable.

Stay tuned - more comics this week!

A Worthy Racquet Sport

I talk a lot of smack about racquet sports. I used to be an avid racquetball player, with a sore elbow to show for it. After I rediscovered handball, however, I lost all interest in it. When you extend your reach by the length of a racquet, shots on your weak side (backhand) get easier, the back wall gets friendlier, and the court gets smaller. Not to mention the cost. I can buy 5 or 6 pairs of gloves for the cost of a decent racquet.

Tennis holds even less interest for me - I like the little skirts the girls wear, but the weird scoring, even weirder surfaces (seriously - clay? nothing more fun than clay in your sneakers), and the risk of more elbow pain make it something that I occasionally watch, not do.

This, however, is a racquet sport I might actually enjoy... keep in mind that this video is 1 minute, 7 seconds in length, and it's just one volley.

Top badminton pros hit the shuttlecock in excess of 200mph - double the speeed of the best tennis and racquetball strokes. More info can be found here.

UW has an active badminton club - during the academic year they play on Saturday mornings at Half-Acre gym. That would be perfect for me; it's another workout, and it doesn't conflict with our handball or volleyball schedule. Unfortunately, the gym is closed on the weekends during the summer, so they are meeting on Tuesday and Friday nights right now. I don't want to lose a day of handball, but I need alternative forms of exercise, so I'm going to check it out on the 18th.
So who's coming with me?

Dark Days

It started politely enough; "When is the next comic going to be up?"

Then it became a bit more insistent; "Are you guys working on a new comic or what?"

Then they started to get pissy; "What the hell is the hold-up on the comic?"

Today, I opened my email to find; "I want a new comic - NOW!"

In this progression from interrogative to imperative, I have remained silent on the reason for the delay. I figured no one wanted hear the sad story of Flynn's woes, but I've decided to disclose a few things before the local readers show up at my door with torches and pitchforks.

If we back up a bit, we can see a trend of general suckiness in the life of my pet artist. Observe:

-Car rear-ended (totaled - and shafted by insurance company)
-Lost cushy IT job (long story, but I assure you, not his fault)
-Broke up with his girlfriend (she had to go, but still...)
-Scholastic burn-out (severe - Art History will do that to you)
-Finals from hell (he basically stopped sleeping for a week)
-House broken into (the fuckers stole his 360 and his PS2)

Bear in mind - this all transpired in the last 4 months!

Considering all of that, it is remarkable that there has been a comic at all. With this semester finally completed (I got an A in Performance Poetry!), we hope to return to a twice a week schedule, beginning next week. We also plan to create a backlog of story arc comics so that we have some breathing room when the next disaster strikes.

Until then, count your blessings. At least you're not Flynn...

Lust and Nostalgia

The English Roadster is a classic bicycle. It has large wheels, an upright seating position, a well-sprung saddle for bumpy roads, fenders and a covered chain, and an internal Sturmey Archer 3-speed hub. It has been used by policemen, postmen, preachers, and European commuters since the 1920's.

The bike pictured here is the modern equivalent. Pashley Cycles has been making these bikes in Stratford-upon-Avon since 1926. Today's version has the new Sturmey Archer 5-speed hub and updated rims, tires, and brakes, but otherwise this bike is largely unchanged. I WANT this bike.

Perhaps it is a sign of my age that I am now longing for things that are classics. I have tried the newfangled and the cutting edge, and I find now that I prefer the tried and true. Don't get me wrong - I oggle the carbon fiber thingys and the radially spoked doo-hickeys, but when it is time to open up my wallet, I am much more likely to fork out hard earned money for something with thousands of miles in its heritage.

Just as soon as I have the $1037.80 (that's at today's exchange rate) to spare and a way to get it to the States (maybe Katie can find room in her luggage for an additional 30 or so pounds), I'll buy one of these...

Fuck, I Hate this Place

I have lived in the Siberia of the Americas (Laramie, WY) since September 2002, so I have now seen 5 spring finals weeks go by. Each year, those finals are accompanied by snow.

I know that the idea of snow in May seems odd to many of you, but it is a regular thing here. In fact, while I have been here, we have had snow in June and August as well, and some of the locals have told me of the 4th of July when it snowed.

I need to move somewhere else. Some other university town with a decent grad school, good weather, reasonable cost of living, pretty undergrads...

To this end I am asking all of you, the CyberFaithful, to help us pick a new home for the Black Vatican. Nominate your favorite college town, and briefly explain why His Sinfulness should move his dysfunctional little family there. The winner will get a certificate of beatification (suitable for framing) and bragging rights. If you nominate your town, I might come be your neighbor!

Planning Ahead

The 2009 World Handball Championships are going to be held in Portland! You know what this means - ROADTRIP!

Put it on your calendars now - October 2-11, 2009. I'm sure there will be a detour to see Nerdygirl the Unbeliever in Seattle, as well as a stay at the summer condo of my mother, the distinguished and terrifying Dr. Callahan... don't worry, she won't be there at that time of year.

Also - The United States Handball Association’s 4-Wall National Championships are going on right now (May 2-6). They are being webcast live from the University of Minnesota Campus - to see the best players in the country battle for the biggest prize of the year click here.
Paul Brady just won the singles in a very convincing fashion...

No. There is too much. Let me sum up...

From time to time, people ask me why I chose to become a Buddhist. I studied religion in college, and I have a pretty good grasp of the basic concepts of the major religions - so why pick Buddhism from all of them?

When I would try to explain my choice to someone, I used to get bogged down in the details of suffering and my desire for a religion that addressed it directly, here and now, not in some afterlife to come. Probably due to my studies, I was never really able to put it in a concise way... until now.

In the prologue of "The Buddhist Handbook" John Snelling explains perfectly how Buddhism addresses root causes of human suffering. And he does it in just 8 sentences:

"If we are honest, these root causes lie in the individual human heart, in our hearts, where a primitive but fanatical self-centeredness holds sway. It is our own personal greed, hatred, and delusion, collectivized and amplified on a massive scale, that cause our planet's grave problems. Yet just to see this is not enough. The dark forces within each of us must be acknowledged and brought up into the light. Then, through awareness and understanding, they can be transformed into the stuff of true wisdom and compassion. Buddhism offers us ways and means of doing this.
So we need Buddhism. And our world needs it as never before."

Yeah. What he said...

New Sheriff In Town...

It has taken me about a week to get around to posting this, but the challenge that I issued a while back has been met.

Although the Squid put up a valiant struggle, Maggie is the new queen of the enclosed courts. In fact, Maggie and I defeated an all male team yesterday in doubles. She has tennis experience - tennis skills seem to translate to handball fairly well.

Since we are on the topic of challenges, I'll issue another one now. I haven't lost a set of singles yet in 2007. I have dropped individual games to Brendon and Jim, I've lost at cutthroat and doubles, but in best of three singles matches, I am currently undefeated. Anyone feeling lucky?

As always, all of you are invited to join us any time. We usually play at 5:00ish, almost every weekday. In fact, we will be playing today... see you on the courts!

Goodbye Lefty

My two ancient bettas, Lefty and Righty, have been with me since early 2005. Since the average lifespan of a betta is about 18 months, these guys have done pretty well. They spent their days alternately displaying hostilely and ignoring one another through the clear plastic divider that bisects their tank.

When I flipped the light on this morning, they were both resting on the bottom as usual. Ordinarily, when I remove the top of their little world, they both rush to the surface to await their pellets; this morning, only Righty made the climb. Lefty had shuffled off this mortal coil, and moved on to another incarnation.

I cleaned the tank thoroughly and removed the divider, so Righty now has twice as much living space. I wonder if he misses having Lefty to threaten through the divider all day...

Lonely Mr. Righty