A slight change...

Since it's called "nail bending," I thought I'd actually bend a few nails. This one is a 1/4" x 6." This type is usually sold at your local hardware store under the name, "60d common bright." It looks pretty mean, but it really wasn't all that hard; I think the blue nail is a tougher bend. I did it double underhand, which is rapidly becoming my favorite grip. I feel like I can get a good explosive movement on the first effort in that position, and it's easier to get a good even kink that way - far more than in double overhand. If the initial kink is deep enough, you can skip the sweep and go right into a fingers interlocked crush-down...

At this point, many of my usual blog readers are lost - if they even bothered to read this far. I know that the fitness posts are not Flock favorites in general, and the bending posts have to be the most puzzling (and least commented) posts on this blog. So, I have decided that from now on, all of the posts on bending, kettlebells, clubbells, and the like will be going onto my fitness blog, 100 Pounds. I am reworking the format of it, and I am planning on archiving the old posts and starting afresh. I'm planning to even add some lifting and bending videos to that blog.

So, you may all heave a collective sigh of relief - there will be no more boring pictures of ruined fasteners on this blog. That will leave more room for the kind of compassionate and righteous hellfire and brimstone you have come to expect from the Ministry. Also, those readers who do wish to read about sweating and muscle soreness can head on over to 100 Pounds and not be bothered with all the liberal intellectualism and touchy-feely spiritual crap that goes on over here...

Great Minds

"If men define situations as real they are real in their consequences."
- W.I. Thomas

"We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts."
- Siddhārtha Gautama (the Buddha)

Thomas, a sociologist, published his famous theorem in 1928. My man, B-Money, reportedly stated his about 2500 years ago, yet they imply the same thing. Coincidence? I think not...

Think about the ways in which your thinking shapes your experience today. Also, imagine how your life could be if your thoughts were more compassionate, more caring, and just more positive in general.

Potato Head Rides Again

As you can see, Mrs. Potato Head has struck again. This time it's the impassioned prose of a love letter... or is it?

Look closely at the similes used here. My hair is like the Caspian Sea? Very sweet - unless you know that the Aral Sea is shrinking due to mismanagement by the former Soviet Union. They were trying to reclaim land from the Aral Sea to use for cotton farming, but they fucked it all up (see "tampering with nature for your own monetary gain") and now the climate in the area is changing and the Aral Sea is likely to disappear completely. Since the Aral Sea flows into the Caspian Sea, the Caspian is now receding. Get it? My hair is receding... clever girl.

She compares the size of my heart to the Galapagos Islands. Sounds nice on the surface, but as islands go, the Galapagos are quite small. Taken together, all 13 islands in the archipelago total 3,042 square miles - only slightly larger than the state of Delaware, and not even as large as the island of Crete. My heart then, is rather like that of the Grinch.

Finally, she compares my dreams to the loftiness of Alaskan coastal glaciers. Hubbard glacier, the largest in Alaska, stands some 11,000 feet at it's tallest point; pretty lofty, actually. But of course, as we all know, the Alaskan glaciers are retreating, and have been for quite a while. Is the message here that my dreams are shrinking daily? Harsh, Mrs. P Head... harsh.

As I pondered my close reading of the message, it occurred to me that perhaps my liberal arts education has ruined my common sense. This is not a Batman villain I'm dealing with here. She's not leaving me clues to her next museum heist, she's just leaving silly messages on my white board. (And why did the Riddler always do that? Wouldn't it be easier to steal all the diamonds in Gotham if the Caped Crusader DIDN'T know about it?)

I have erased the board again, since she tends to strike on Wednesday afternoons. What will she come up with next? Limericks? Haiku? Song lyrics? Find out in our next installment - same bat time, same bat channel.

The Vow

I meditated for about 15 minutes on Monday morning, and for 20 minutes this morning. My legs are quite stiff from my workouts yesterday so it was a bit tough to get into my meditation posture (I sit in what they call "Burmese"), but once I got settled on my cushions it wasn't too bad. I hope some of you are considering joining the Big Sit. It's a very small chunk out of your day, but I guarantee that you will see a change in your mental state if you give it an honest try. I have gotten out of the habit of meditating many times, and every time I return to it I am amazed by the clarity and peace it gives me.

The staff at Tricycle are trying to make the Big Sit as much like a monastic experience as they can. They have weekly Dharma talks online, numerous Zen teachers available that you can ask questions of, and they have even created a generic set of vows that you can customize to suit your situation, level of experience, and goals.

click pic to enlarge

I took some time yesterday to make a set of my own vows for the Big Sit. A lot of Americans see vows as limitations, or rules that you can't break. A better way to look at it would be to see vows as the structure of your life. If you take a vow, for instance, to stop smoking, then that vow is a pillar that you can lean on when you really want a cigarette. It supports you, and provides a backbone for you when yours might turn to jelly. Buddhist or otherwise, everyone should have a set of vows like this to rely on.

I will restore my body by getting to bed no later than 12:00 every night.
I will nourish my body by following the Warrior Diet.
I will honor my body by listening to it and responding more appropriately to minor injuries.

I will work with my mind by meditating daily for 20 minutes.
I will study the Genjokoan by listening to the Dharma talks online, and comparing different translations.

I will renew my spirit by joining the discussion on the Tricycle Forums (being around others who share my world view).
I will strengthen my spirit by sharing this with others.

Make a set for yourself. They don't have to be patterned after these - feel free to create vows that are relevant and important to you. You can also post them here in comments if you wish...

Sunday Sermon

Today's sermon isn't really like a sermon - it's more like the announcements that the priest does before the sermon...

-We have a new feature on the right sidebar - it's the "follow this blog" thingy. It would be nice if you clicked it... that way I would know that I'm not always talking to myself. (so. lonely.)

-We have new torture devices at the FlockHall 2.0 Gym. My clubbells have arrived! They are a pair of 15 pounders, and although that may not sound like much, it is quite enough at this stage. Much like a kettlebell, the off-center weight distribution makes these things feel much heavier than they are. The really fun swinging exercises that look like sword practice are actually quite strenuous. Basically, the faster you go, the more they try to pull your arms off...

I got them to strengthen and stretch my shoulders out a bit (I have serious flexibility issues in the upper body) but I am beginning to see that they will yield other benefits as well. They lend themselves to dozens of exercises, and you can use them for strength, endurance, fat burning, flexibility, patching the hole in the ozone layer, and a two state solution in Israel.
Ok, I made that last bit up, but they're like, all good for you, and stuff...

-Also good for you, is meditation. The people at Tricycle Buddhist Review (it's a magazine) think it's so important that they're hosting a meditation event on the internet.

The Big Sit is a 90-day Zen meditation challenge in which each participant vows to meditate for 20 minutes a day on 90 consecutive days, and share their experiences on the Tricycle forum. I'm going to do it, because I try to sit everyday anyway, but I tend to skip it when the week gets hectic. Taking this vow will ensure that I meditate everyday through the end of the semester. If you'd like to join me and the Tricycle community, we are beginning tomorrow, 2/23/09, but you can start anytime you wish. You don't have to commit to 20 minutes - 5 minutes is a good place to start if you've never meditated. If you need instructions on how to sit, click the Big Sit link above.

-Lastly, I want to warn you all about a new candy bar...
It's not the idea of low calorie candy that bothers me, or an ad campaign which is so pink it looks like Barbie puked strawberry Quik on it, or the fact they actually put flakes of mica (yes, the mineral) in it to make it sparkly... it's the fact that the Mars Corporation is actively marketing to young women who already have to contend with media that gives them body image issues - coupling that with chocolate is just unholy.

At this point, I'd ordinarily ridicule this product by writing a parody of their ad copy for dramatic/comedic effect - no need, in this case. The following is actual text from the Official Fling site (please don't click that...).

From the home page:

FLING™ is a sweet, light truffle on a subtle crisp layer enrobed in shimmering chocolate that’s as glamorous as you are. At under 85 calories per finger, it’s slim, but not skinny. Indulgent but not greedy. Naughty but nice.

It's also a way of living. As FLING™ women we are spontaneous - we shimmer! And when it's good? We share it. So let yourself go! Have a FLING™ in private, or wave it all around town; in the office, the bedroom, or the great outdoors.

From the FAQ:

How should I properly care for my FLING™?
Like the women who crave it, FLING needs to be handled with care — try not to ruffle our delicate truffles and keep them in a cool, dry place. Between 65-75 degrees is ideal. Then you can pleasure yourself with this chocolate sensation time and time again.

Are FLING™ Chocolate Fingers gluten-free? And what does that mean anyway?
Yes, chocolate lovers seeking a gluten-free treat can pleasure themselves freely with our seductive options. Gluten is a starch generally found in wheat and wheat-related products, to which some people are sensitive. All FLING™ Chocolate Fingers are 100% gluten-free.

From the Products Menu:

Try it in public
You never know when you will need a FLING™, and at under 85 calories per finger, anytime is the right time. Keep things interesting and try a FLING™ Chocolate Finger in all three flavors – Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, and Hazelnut – a ménage of flavors. Variety is the spice of life, so tear it open and sneak in a quickie.

Maybe it's just me, but seems to be a lot of condescension, reinforcing of stereotypes, and self-pleasuring going on in that ad copy. I don't think that women are that stupid (despite the continued popularity of shite like Sex in the City...), but you never know - stranger things have caught on with the weight-obsessed. How else can you explain the persistence rice cakes?

Go in Peace.

Heavier Stock

Pictured here are the victims of my bending efforts for the last two days. I had taken a little time off from bending because of some soreness in my left shoulder and elbow, due, I think, to some technique problems and too little recovery time between bending sessions. As usual, my zeal for a new activity and my high pain tolerance outran my common sense, and I tweaked my left arm trying to bend an IronMind (from henceforth, referred to as "IM") blue nail (1/4" diameter, 6 inch length). While I was waiting for it to heal I watched a ton of bending videos, read the Diesel Crew's E-Book on bending, and mentally practiced proper form.

As you can see, I was able to do pretty well. Wednesday, I began by killing off these two IM blue nails. This was the stock that had put a stop to my bending, so doing two of them back to back was my way of asserting that I was healed up. They are still tough for me, but I have really improved my technique on the initial kink, and that made it much easier to get these done.

I also tried my first stock from Fat Bastard Barbell Company ("FBBC"). I was able to bend a few of the 3/16 x 7" square rods, but I kept getting asymmetrical bends. That's not a huge issue, but it does indicate another form problem, so I stopped after the third one to figure out where I was going wrong.

Thursday after my kettlebell workout, I decided to give the square stock another try. I added chalk to my wraps, and worked on getting them a lot tighter on the stock - a problem with cordura wraps. (A lot of guys who do short bending use wraps made of suede or other leathers, but I am sticking with the blue IM wraps - even in bending, must maintain my vegan street cred. Most benders agree that leather bending pads wrap more tightly, reduce the pain, and lessen the danger of puncture wounds associated with bending, but to certify on the IM red nail you have to use the cordura only, so I am just planning ahead.) With my tighter, chalk-filled wraps I was able to get a nice even bend in the middle of the bar.

After bending three bars of square stock, I decided to try a 1/4 x 7" hex bar. It was tough - almost as hard as a blue nail - but I was able to get it done.

I feel pretty good about these efforts. I was able to make some very tough (for me) bends, and I did so without re-injuring myself, or going crazy and making 25 bends in one day. That's a very real temptation, as I have all of this IM and FBBC stock just sitting here, waiting to be mangled...

I've decided to make Saturdays my bending day. Sunday is usually a day of complete rest for me, so I'll still have a full 24 hours to rest up before my "heavy" workout with the kettlebells on Monday morning. I would like to bend more often, but I know now that my body needs longer to recover from bending than from any other exercise I currently do. Perhaps after a few more months, I can move up to twice a week.

Long-time readers of the Ministry may have noticed that I am not proselytizing for bending like I have for so many other physical activities (like handball, badminton, kettlebells, boomerangs, yo-yos, running, kiting, etc.). This is decidedly NOT for everyone. It is painful, dangerous, and possibly pointless and stupid in the eyes of many, and I freely confess that I like it in large part due to those very qualities...

Mrs. Potato Head

Like most grad students, we have a whiteboard on our office door. On it, we leave important notes like, "Office hours for Linus are cancelled today," or "Linus is in the computer lab - back at 12:30." Sometimes, we try to cheer each other up with little messages. I like to write, "Man is born free, yet everywhere he is chains. -Rousseau." (I know, that's not all that cheerful, but compared to much of Sociology, that's practically pollyannaish. Believe it or not, I'm the ray of sunshine amongst the grad students... )

Of late, however, the board has begun carrying some really odd messages...

You are the cats pajamas and the bees knees!
Mrs. Potato Head"

This missive appeared last Wednesday, I believe. We all pondered who wrote it, when, and why they used the diction of a hokey F. Scott Fitzgerald character. I was able to eliminate most of my close friends because of scheduling or distance from Black Vatican City. I decided to leave it up for a few days, even though my office mates immediately christened the writer a "stalker."

Yesterday, I arrived at the office and found the following:

You are the bubbles in my soda pop!
Mrs. Potato Head
p.s. Don't tell Mr. P Head..."

Lovely - now, not only do I have a stalker, she is also implicating me in alienation of affection and/or adultery. (In the interest of full disclosure, the boys down in legal tell me I have to clarify... While I admit to being a fornicator, I am not (currently) an adulterer. I am also frequently guilty of the "sin of Onan" and a few other random bits of sexual misconduct... but not adultery.)

I suppose you can't blame the poor girl. I mean, I am pretty much the total package; chubby, balding, sinful, full of fun facts about Thorstein Veblen and Auguste Comte, and up to my eyeballs in student loan debt. What girl could resist?

Assuming it really is a female. It could be - nay, it likely is - just one of my office mates fucking with me. And that's ok, really. This has been a tough semester already, and it's only going to get worse, so any levity on our floor is welcome. I won't get worried until Mrs. Potato head starts being really creepy. If there is a chicken nailed to our door, the next message is written in blood, or accompanied by a pair of (worn) panties, then I'll become concerned...

And you thought you had a hard time getting laid...

I saw this in the news yesterday: "Africanized bees found in Utah for the first time."

The term "Africanized bees" refers to a hybrid bee, the result of interbreeding between European and African honeybees. It all started back in the 1950s when scientists in Brazil tried to breed a honeybee that would do better in South American climates. They imported African honeybees, then promptly lost a batch of them. Like you do, when you are tampering with nature for your own monetary gain...

They started to interbreed with the local bees, who were earlier escapees of European stock (as it turns out, there are no honeybees native to the Americas - see tampering with nature, above). The resulting hybrids are slightly smaller than European honeybees, but much more aggressive. They are very successful, as they are less selective about nesting sites than European bees. They'll use hollow trees, walls, porches, sheds, attics, utility boxes, garbage containers and abandoned vehicles. Because of this flexibility, they have been moving north at a rate of about 200 miles per year. Since 1990, there have been 14 deaths in the U.S. attributed to these "killer bees."

As I was reading all of this I was finalizing plans for Valentine's Day, so naturally I started to think about how the interbreeding actually went down. It's not like queen bees hang around on street corners looking for eligible drones. They stay deep in the hive, defended by all of their thousands of fierce warrior daughters. So how did this happen...?

I like to imagine that it was some really hardcore European drone who got the job done. You have to understand, drones have no purpose in bee society beyond reproduction - they don't even have stingers. Dropping their payload is their only mission in life - in fact, their genitalia is barbed, and breaks off in the act, so mating is fatal for them (I know some guys like that...). Imagine that little drone sneaking into that hive, past all those guard bees, and slipping into the royal chamber. He's like the James Bond of bees...

The young beautiful queen is just getting out of the shower, with a towel wrapped around her thorax. He's calmly leaning on the wet bar in his little bee tuxedo when she sees him and sputters, "How did you get in here?!"

He smiles. "Through the front door, Your Majesty. Champagne?"

Now she's taken aback. She's used to bees jumping when she speaks, especially drones. "Who are you?" she demands, with one set of hands on her hips - er, abdomen.

As he calmly hands her a glass he says, "Mellifera - Apis Mellifera." (Which is really fucking funny if you understand Latin...)

As he draws closer to her, she brandishes her stinger, saying "Stay back, Mr. Mellifera, or I'll call my guards..." He gently pushes her stinger aside and pulls her to him. She sighs as her towel falls to the floor. He wryly says, "Oh, the things I do for Queen and hive..."
Unfortunately, even as smooth as he was, his junk still broke off inside her and he died... but his hybrid offspring carry on his schmoozing ways to this day.

All things considered, our mating rituals are much less daring. Most human females don't have guards; all one need do is arrive with flowers - which is a gesture I have never understood. "Hi. I like you, so I cut the sex organs off these plants." Despite the disturbing castration symbolism there it seems to work, and it's very unlikely that your business will break off inside her...

Happy Valentine's Day!

Shoes for Your Fingers

YouTube remains a font of oddness. Because of the recent crackdowns on copyrighted material, it now seems to be focused even more tightly on the weird shit people find time to master. Observe:

This person has several other videos, including one entitled, "Israeli Fingers."

Sunday Sermon

As Kim Jong Il here would say, "Why is everybody so fucking stupid?"*

The following are examples I have encountered in this past week (if you see yourself in this list, hang your head):

Ladies - if your man has an addiction - alcohol, drugs, gambling, porn, Halo, WoW, etc. - your love will NOT change him.

Right-wingers - President Obama promised change - he did NOT promise to pull a genie out of his ass and wish the economy back to health. Your guy had the last 8 years - in fact, your guys have had 20 of the last 28 years - to fuck us to the wall. It might take more than a few weeks to get things sorted.

Wyoming legislators - a constitutional amendment will not stop queers from falling in love, forming marriages, raising children, and yes, SODOMIZING each other in Wyoming. It will, however, give notice to the rest of the U.S. that we are, in fact, the fag-bashing homophobes they think we are. Nice job, you prejudiced lackwits.

Kellogg's - no one cares that Michael Phelps took a bong hit. Most Americans don't care if he's huffing unicorn farts as long as he keeps bringing home gold medals. I guarantee that in 2012 when he's winning another metric fuckton of gold at the London games, you won't care either, you hypocritical asshats.

Rod Blagojevich - Even if you are innocent, the more you appear on television, the more you (and your amazing hair-don't) convince everyone that you're a complete crazy fuck. Shut the hell up until your trial, and let your lawyers do their thing. By the way, Johnnie Cochran is not available...

Pope Benedict - Let me clarify this for you, and Bishop Richard Williamson, and Mel Gibson, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and all you other ridonkulous assclowns - THE HOLOCAUST WAS REAL. For fuck's sake, go to Auschwitz and look around, you ignorant douche-nozzles. Also? Vatican II was real as well; some of you fucksticks were there. The Latin mass is dead... let it go.

Benedict - I'm not done with you; get back here. Vegetating in a coma for 17 years is NOT god's will. Tell your buttboy, Silvio Berlusconi, to let that poor woman die. And stay out of Italy's politics - you have your own country to run, you greedy nazi inquisitor sith lord bastard.

Baseball fans - if you pay people with (less than) high school educations millions of dollars to play a kid's game, they will do whatever it takes to stay in that game. This includes steroids, corked bats, vaseline on the hat brim, scuffing the ball, and any number of other unsavory, unsporting behaviors. Seriously, do the math - for the money that A-Rod, made, most people would freebase a kitten. (Many of you would gladly hit the kitty pipe for less than they paid A-Rod for one fucking game.) Baseball players do drugs - performance enhancing and other types as well. Now get over it, and pass that bong to Phelps.

Peanut Corp. of America - According to my spiritual advisor, Shepherd Book, there is a special hell for child molesters, and people who talk at the theatre.** Under that special hell, there is a dank little cell for greedy cockmongrels who knowingly sell salmonella-contaminated peanut products for school lunches. You will be there, playing "balls on chin" with those milk-adulterating fuckers from China for eternity.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The world is full of fuckwits, and I think we should all take note of them, and then shun, ridicule, and verbally mushroom print them accordingly.

Repent, and sin no more.

* If you haven't seen Team America - why the hell not? Rent it.
** If you don't know who Shepherd Book is, go buy - not rent, BUY - Firefly.

Physical Culture

As many of you know, I have been trying to get my old body back for a while now. I have developed a great group of work out buddies, lost a lot of weight, gained a lot of muscle, and developed a very strong workout habit... but there is more to be done.

I have another 40-50 pounds to lose. I'd like to get my weight down a bit more so that certain bodyweight exercises are more attainable. The pistol (one-legged squat) and the pull-up both elude me at my current body weight, and I want to reduce the load on my knees in general. I also want to work on my flexibility, especially in my upper body (my arms are so tight that I keep a BCP on staff solely to scratch that spot between my shoulder blades...).

There are about 90 days left in this semester (well, 92, but who's counting?), and I want to use them well. I plan to look fabulous when the girls (Fleur, G-Fresh, Mary Elizabeth, and Professor Noob) graduate this May. To that end, I am reiterating the rules that have brought me this far:

-No less than one serving of fruit per day.
-No less than one serving of veggies per day.
-No less than 80 ounces of water each day.
-No less than 15 minutes of meditation each day.
-No Less than 8 hours of sleep each night.

I am also making the following changes:

-adding 3 runs per week back into my program (I stopped running due to weather...)
-going back on the Warrior Diet
-packing snacks everyday (no buying food on campus)
-adding some clubbell work to strengthen my forearms and loosen up my shoulders

What is a clubbell? Glad you asked...

A descendant of the old-school "Indian Club," the clubbell is basically a really heavy bat that you swing around in specified patterns. It has been a part of the "physical culturist" tool box since that terminology was invented in the 1800s. It develops strength, flexibility, and coordination, and it's a cool, relaxing, kind of activity that feels very satisfying to do. It has, of course, some rabid followers who have very strongly held opinions regarding the merits of clubbells over everything else, but I'm looking at it as an adjunct to my kettlebell and body weight workouts.

Unfortunately, a 15 pound clubbell runs about $100. I wanted a chance to play with a clubbell without putting down that kind of money, so it was off to the hardware store for a Pope Tested, Ministry Approved ghetto-fabulous substitute. With about $30 worth of pipe and fittings, I created the papal scepter shown below.

It tips the scale at around 7 pounds empty, and it can easily be filled with sand or lead shot to pump up the weight. I tried the basic swipes, mills, and casts (that's what they call the swinging patterns) with it, and I have to say that my forearm and shoulder got a great work out. I'm debating the merits of making another one and trying to fill them so they weigh close to 15 pounds, or just biting the bullet and buying a pair of the expensive ones. Maybe for my birthday...


How cool is this?! It turns out that just after the dinosaurs left the scene, the new sherriff in town was a 2500 pound snake that ate pretty much whatever it felt like eating. The pic at left shows the vertebra of a green anaconda (the smaller, light colored bone in the center) dwarfed by the same sort of bone from a titanoboa. As you can see, these guys were BIG - something like 40-50 feet or more.

The new discovery, Titanoboa cerrejonensis, ruled the rainforests about 58 to 60 million years ago. The story, including an unnecessary reference to the horrible J-Lo flick, Ananconda, can be found here.

On my top 10 list of times in history to visit when R&D finally finishes my time machine, "Giant Constrictors Rule the Earth" has just edged out "The Little Ice Age" for spot number 10...

I support Michael Phelps...

... in his decision to get high.

In case you haven't heard, the Fish that Walks got in trouble for taking a few bong hits at a party.

Um... so what? Yes, it's illegal and all that bullshit, but he's 23 years old and in college. Is ANYone surprised that he goes to a party now and again? "Let him that is without bong hits throw the first roach." (I think Jesus said that...)

Apparently, the USOC was surprised. Listen to this sanctimonious shite;

"We are disappointed in the behavior recently exhibited by Michael Phelps. Michael is a role model, and he is well aware of the responsibilities and accountability that come with setting a positive example for others, particularly young people. In this instance, regrettably, he failed to fulfill those responsibilities. Michael has acknowledged that he made a mistake and apologized for his actions. We are confident that, going forward, Michael will consistently set the type of example we all expect from a great Olympic champion."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the only real responsibility Michael Phelps has to the USOC is to swim really fucking fast. He's done that. More times than any other man in the history of competitive swimming. He's lived like a monk for 8 years - I think he should be allowed to relax a bit. Hell, I think he should be allowed to snort coke off Nastia Luken's gold medal buttocks if he wishes...

USA Swimming, the sport's national governing body, also weighed in:
"We are certainly disappointed in Michael's behavior. That said, we realize that none among us is perfect. We hope that Michael can learn from this incident and move forward in a positive way."

They're not disappointed, of course, that he won an asston of medals and made swimming cool again... fucking wankers.

As you can tell, I'm pissed about this. Leave the guy alone - he's earned a fucking bong hit or two if he wishes. In fact, I'll say right here in front of Gawd and teh Intertubez, that I will get high with Michael Phelps anytime he wants. I'll come out of retirement and put up the black light posters for that! Just stop by the Black Vatican, Mike - we'll hook you up. Oh, and some of the BCPs would like to um... "congratulate" you, if you follow me...

Heretical Admission

I spent the majority of yesterday in the car, ferrying one of the inmates of Flock Hall 2.0 back to her student teaching assignment, some 200 miles from Black Vatican City. We had only been on the road for a few moments when a text message arrived, notifying us that the Super Bowl was about to start.

I not only didn't know that yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday, I also had no idea who was playing. Although my interest in professional sports has been waning for a decade or more, this is probably the first time since I was 4 or 5 that an entire NFL season has passed without me watching a single game. Or a portion of a game. Or a single snap. Not even a highlights reel, all season. More shocking than that, I found that even with prolonged introspection, I couldn't seem to care. I didn't even care about not going to a Super Bowl Party - the food is never vegan, I don't like beer, I've seen Bruce Springsteen live, and the commercials are all available on the internet. One of the FEMALE passengers in the car advised me that it was the Cardinals and the Steelers.

I pulled off at the next rest area to check if my penis was still there.

I seem to have lost interest in the one thing that the vast majority of American men have in common. I have always said there is nothing more boring than a fight I'm not in, thus I can't understand the fascination other men have for football, or any professional sport, really. While I understand the beauty of watching people who are the best at what they do, I can't understand the amount of time and money it consumes in this country. I know men who live for football, and it frankly seems a pale life to me - heresy, I know.

I am simply going to have to come to grips with the reality that the religion of my youth, the religion of most of my brethren, the religion that gave me a minor neck problem that still flares up on occasion, has become anathema to me. I have become a non-believer. Shun me if you must.

(By the way, Francis is fine - thanks for your concern.)

Sunday Sermon

“For my part I believe in the forgiveness of sin and the redemption of ignorance.”
-Adlai Stevenson

I have refrained from preaching for a while now. I wish I could say that it was because I was busy with school, but the truth is, I simply don't feel qualified anymore. Regardless of how self-effacing you try to be, a sermon of any kind connotes a message delivered from a pulpit, a space above the congregation. I, in no way, stand above the Flock. In fact, many of my regular readers are people of immense merit and tangible worth, who stand head and shoulders above the desperate mass of humanity - how on earth did I presume to preach to them in the first place?

Many other preachers have faced this dilemma. Amish preachers sometimes begin their sermons by saying something like, "I'm not qualified to preach, but I preach because God called me to do so." I don't have that kind of excuse, and my congregation would never swallow that brand of drivel anyway - way too savvy. No, I preached in the past simply because I had taken on the mantle of "reverend" and that's what reverends do. I had, and still have, no divine mandate to sermonize. I preached, in all honesty, because I thought I had something relevant to say; something that might help someone.

I have come to doubt my ability to write anything that is meaningful beyond a chuckle. Not that laughter isn't valid - it is a wonderful gift, and I'm happy when I can make folks giggle a bit - but it's hardly the sort of mooring we all seek when the seas are rough. It's more of a life preserver; it keeps us afloat just long enough (we hope) for real comfort to arrive...and real comfort is rarely seen at this URL anymore. I rant, I bore you with the details of my workout obsession, I point you toward crazy shit in the news, but how often do you come away from this blog feeling better?

That, I believe, is what a good sermon should do. While the great preachers were never afraid to goad, chastise, or rebuke their congregations, they always gave them a message of hope. Even the most horrific, pulpit-pounding, hellfire and brimstone sermon contains the underlying message that there is a way out of this mess. I need to begin offering that here again. I need to reiterate the catechism of this strange ministry, and quit being such a whiner. So let's start again, and I'll try to bring the hope...

As for myself, I have internalized the title "His Sinfulness" a bit too successfully - redemption from my myriad transgressions seems unlikely. I do, however, still have hope for you all.

That hope leads me to believe that despite what I read and hear and see everyday, humanity is moving in the right direction.

We are still selfish children, but I can see a day when our collective "terrible twos" will come to an end.

We still don't understand that life is a team sport - if one loses, we all lose - but we are beginning to understand a few of the rules now.

Even though greed blinds us to it, today, more than ever, we have the means and the resources to feed everyone, clothe everyone, house everyone, heal everyone, and vaccinate everyone. We have the capacity to embrace everyone, and we lose nothing by trying.

We can choose to be kind, to lessen suffering, to think honestly about the effects of our behavior, and to act the way we know we should for the greatest good.

So, you should all go do that. Now-ish.

Go in Peace.