Black Friday indeed.

November 29, 2008

Poor Jdimytai Damour.  Who’s that, you ask?  Oh, just some lowly temp worker at a Long Island Wal-Mart who was trampled to death by a crowd of 2,000 early morning Black Friday shoppers this weekend.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?  How in the hell does something like this happen?

I could see it if there were some real emergency.  2,000 people trying to exit a burning building all at once.  Chaos.  People fighting for the very lives.  But a bunch of over-caffeinated, turkey-stuffed, credit-card wielding suburbanites trying to buy a Wii or a 72 inch plasma TV?  That’s not an emergency, folks – that’s just bullshit materialism.

I know it’s hard to fathom or even believe, and we would have been able to see video captured on a witness’s cellphone on YouTube, but “[t]his video has been removed due to terms of use violation.”  I’ll bet the head honchos at Wally World had a little something to do with that.

These deal-seeking fuckers broke down the glass doors of this Wal-Mart store like baited, caged animals.  The New York Times even reported that, when customers were told of Damour’s death, “people were yelling, ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning’,” after which “they just kept shopping.”  They had been gathering for hours before the opening time of 5:00 a.m., chomping at the bit for bargains on, largely, shit made in China to be given out at what has become a secular, material-centered holiday to people either don’t really want the shit or will exchange the shit for something else equally as frivolous and unnecessary.

Don’t misunderstand my tone too much, however – I don’t mind that Christmas has become less focused on the baby Jesus.  (Just an aside – it’s laughable, actually, that the most devout people I know are also the most decorative, with their giant Christmas trees and wreaths, apparently not minding – or, more probably, largely ignorant of – the very pagan and anti-Christian origins of such “hanging of the greens” customs.)  What I do mind that all of us are in such desperate and insatiable need for stuff that tragic things like this can happen.  There is a reason I don’t celebrate Christmas or any holidays anymore, for that matter.  At the risk of sounding a little like those religious wackos I’m always making fun of, I think we’ve missed the entire point of holidays.  Gift-giving is great when it is sincere.  We shouldn’t need some arbitrary date in December or any other month of the year to remind us to show our love to and share whatever wealth we may have with those who are closest to us.  But our TV ad culture has drummed it into us that we must buy buy buy – at the expense of our dignity and, in this sad case, the very life of one Mr. Damour.

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The Battle of Oak Hill.

November 22, 2008

What did I tell you?  This kind of thing is popping up everywhere, sparking all sorts of debate on both sides.  In Standish, Maine, the owner of a one Oak Hill General Store had a sign out front of his store, taking bets on when people might think Obama will be assassinated.

OK, is this guy despicable?  Probably.  Is he just trying to make a quick buck?  Of course.  Does he think he’s funny?  Sure.  Now.. does he have the 1st amendment right to post such a sign on his private property?  Well, now, there’s the rub.

The Standish town councilors and Maine’s Governor John Baldacci have, predictably, condemned the action, saying that “Maine will not tolerate this type of hateful…” blah blah blah.

Now, don’t get me wrong… I think this guy is a little twisted in the head.  But the sign was on his private property.  If he had hung up a sign that said “George Bush should go get fucked”, do you think, in this current political climate, that anyone would bat an eye?  (Well, sure, the religious folks would get all flustered at the F-bomb, which is their own problem.  Those type of prudish shrews will always be with us.)

Do I think clearly racist remarks are OK?  No, personally, I don’t, meaning that I don’t philosophically agree with them.  But… I believe this guy has a right to express his clearly sick sense of humor.  Could it be seen as a threat towards the president-elect?  Perhaps.  But here we are, swimming around in all of this very gray area and, now that we have elected an African-American president, the waters are going to keep getting murkier where all of these “hate speech” and “freedom of speech” issues are concerned.

I guess the ultimate question is: at what point does speech – the utterance of syllables from the throat and mouth – become something truly harmful?  Something that can incite very real violence?  Would someone who hadn’t wanted to assassinate Obama be inspired to then do so by a sign outside of a convenience store in rural Maine with the hopes of settling some bet?  What truly inspires such criminal acts?

I realize that these are not easy questions – but they are very necessary ones.  Y’all have anything that might resemble an answer?

Honesty in advertising.

November 18, 2008

Taken outside of an Alliance Church in rural Maine – I think this photo speaks for itself.

alliance-church1

South Carolina Roman Catholic priest Jay Scott Newman is stomping all over the line between church and state by telling those among his parishioners who voted for Obama that they should refrain from receiving Holy Communion for doing so.  Why, do you ask?  Because Obama is pro-choice, and any good Catholic should know that voting for a pro-choice candidate “constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil”, as Newman put it.

Are you kidding me?  So, if you are a Catholic living in Greenville, South Carolina, and you voted for Obama, you don’t get to stand in line at church and have the dirty old man in the robe and big hat stick a stale cracker in your mouth – which is apparently some huge spiritual honor?  Honestly, I don’t get these people.

Isn’t this Newman guy stepping out of bounds here?  Overstepping his authority?  Making a very pointedly political statement from what is supposed to be a politically neutral post?  Isn’t this precisely why we don’t tax religion, so that we can have this clear separation?

TAX RELIGION! TAX RELIGION! TAX RELIGION! TAX RELIGION!

(Sorry, couldn’t help myself there…)

The Associated Press reported that “[d]uring the 2008 presidential campaign, many bishops spoke out on abortion more boldly than four years earlier, telling Catholic politicians and voters that the issue should be the most important consideration in setting policy and deciding which candidate to back. A few church leaders said parishioners risked their immortal soul [emphasis added] by voting for candidates who support abortion rights.”

So, let me get this straight – abortion, a private and legal medical procedure, is more important than the state of the economy, or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or education, or the environment?  What planet are these people living on?

What I’d like to know is this – if Newman thinks that voting for the black guy puts your immortal soul at risk (because you know, coming from the South, this probably has a lot to do with all of this) because the black guy happens to support the idea of, for instance, gang-raped teenagers ridding themselves of unwanted pregnancies, then where do you draw the line?  What if you are really good friends with some guy at work, and then somehow over the course of your friendship you find out that he knocked up a girlfriend in college and they had an abortion?  Does that mean you can’t be friends with the guy anymore?  I mean, by your own dogmatic definition, didn’t this man take part in something “intrinsically evil”?  What if you find out that the doctor who performed the hysterectomy on your mother that saved her life also performed an abortion on some woman who didn’t want to give birth to a Down syndrome baby?  Does that mean you and your mother took part, by association, in something evil, by supporting the work of a doctor who was involved in evil, naughty stuff?

I’ll tell you what the real evil is – it’s the mind control, mind control, mind control practiced by the leaders in the Catholic church.  Think this, do that, eat this, drink that, avoid this, uphold that.  On and on rambles the list of arbirtrary rules – and as long as people will tolerate it – namely, the moderates, who don’t dare rock the boat or point the finger or *GASP!* question their faith – the sheep will nod their heads, and the tax free money that subsidizes the lives of assholes like Newman will just keep rolling in.

Is truly anything possible?

November 13, 2008

I take part, when my schedule allows, in a metaphysical discussion group that meets regularly in my neck of the woods.  I enjoy these meetings, because it gives me a glimpse into the beliefs of other people – namely, people who believe in things like past lives, UFOs, “cosmic shifts”, little green men, and so on.  As you would expect, I cast my doubt around – which usually runs into resistance, but there are others (including this really funny, slightly rude guy named Dave who looks and sounds a little like Denis Leary) who share my doubts.

At the last meeting that I attended, we were speaking about things being pre-destined vs. free will.  Some people at the meeting expressed their belief that, for instance, meeting up with certain people with whom they make strong connections is no accident – that such occurrences are  predestined; I believe that things that happen in my life occur completely at random, that there is no fixed plan for me.  Others, who believe in past lives, think that we have a “soul contract” to which we agree when we enter this life from a former life.   When I begin to apply reason and logic and start questioning these theories (which, without proof, is all they are), as expected, I get all kinds of grief.  Not hostility, just some healthy bantering.  But, someone even suggested to me that I am the one who is close-minded, not open to the possibilities, that I am shutting down and not hearing people out.

Now, hold on here.  The very reason I show up to these meetings is to keep my mind open to possibilities, to hear people out.  But my mind, my intellect, my reason, thus far, tell me that things like past lives and “I talk to dead people” are all bullshit.

Here’s an example from my own life – when I was young, my father bought my mother this beautiful clock.  Westminster chimes, wind it up, the whole works.   At some point, the clock started acting up – not keeping time, not working properly.  My folks took it to a shop, they fixed it, but within weeks it was acting up again.  My father was a pretty handy guy, so he somehow figured out a trick to keep the clock running, which worked for years.  The trick only needed to be employed a few times a year to keep the clock going.  He even tried to teach me and my mother his little “trick”, but I could never pull it off.  To my knowledge, neither could my mother.

Shortly after father died, the clock stopped working and never would start again, no matter how much my mother worked at it.  For years, my mom and I believed that it was my father’s way of telling us he was still around.  This, of course, was a comforting belief to hold.  It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, after my mother died, that it struck me that the reason that the clock stopped working when he died was because he was the only one who knew how to fix the damned thing!  When he died, the knowledge of the clock died with him.

As I was telling this story to the metaphysical folks, I could see their eyes lighting up.  They were thinking, “See?  People do live on after death!”  But when I got to my realization, the light went out.

I guess I’m just someone who has a hard time taking things on faith.   Seeing is believing for me, not the other way around.  I can emotionally believe something, but I call that wishful thinking.  But, once again – I don’t rule out the improbable.  I’m just saying I haven’t seen it with my own eyes.  Certainly, I’ve had experiences that I can’t explain – yet.   But I’m just not ready to assign a quick, metaphysical answer to them.  I am, in this way, keeping my mind open to what the real answer is – an answer arrived at through thoughtful consideration, inquiry and logic, not jumping to the first emotionally satisfying “conclusion”.

A lot of people think that a world without some cosmic, metaphysical connection is depressing.  Well, all I have to say is, I would rather know, without any doubt, the cold hard truth than be comforted by something that is false.

A short and sweet WTF?

November 11, 2008

I saw something that struck me as most ironic the other day – a Toyota Prius left running outside a health food store.

Same old song and dance.

November 8, 2008

A friend was recently at a memorial service in a Catholic church, and happened upon a stack of memos next to the piano which read as follows (a copy of which she gleefully stole for me!):

On August 8, 2008, Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship, announced a new Vatican directive regarding the use of the name of God in the sacred liturgy.  Specifically, the word “Yahweh” may no longer be “used or pronounced” in songs and prayers during liturgical celebrations.

This directive affects the following songs currently included in OCP’s various missal programs:

“I Lift Up My Soul” by Tim Manion
“Let the King of Glory Come” by Michael Joncas
“Me Alegre” by Carlos Rosas
“Sing a New Song” by Dan Schutte
“The Lord is King” by Rory Cooney
“You Are Near” by Dan Schutte
“Yahweh” by Gregory Norbet/Weston Priory

Unfortunately, at the time the directive was announced, the 2009 editions of these books had already been printed and, in many cases, shipped.  The 2010 editions will include revised versions of the songs with updated texts.

The memo went on to include links to PDF versions of the updated songs that could be downloaded and reproduced, etc. etc.

OK, it sounds to me like there’s some real bullshit going on here.

First of all, talk about inefficiency.  Couldn’t the clowns in big hats at the Vatican make these decisions before they went to press on the songbooks?

So, the gripe is with the word “Yahweh”.   According to Catholic Culture, “[t]he Vatican has ruled that the Name of God, commonly rendered as ‘Yahweh,’ should not be pronounced in the Catholic liturgy.”

What’s the deal?  According to Wikipedia, “Yahweh is the English rendering of יַהְוֶה, a proposed vocalization of the Tetragrammaton יהוה as it appears in the Hebrew Bible. It is commonly subordinated into the title ‘God’ in popular bibles, or the Tetragrammaton translated as ‘JHVH’‘ Jehovah’ both of which remain commonly disputed.”

OK, so it’s just a fucking word.  Right?  Oh no.  “Modern observant Jews no longer voice the name יַהְוֶה aloud. It is believed to be too sacred to be uttered and is often referred to as the ‘Ineffable’, ‘Unutterable’ or ‘Distinctive Name’.”

What?  So there are some words that shouldn’t be said aloud?  Like “Fire!” in a crowded theatre?

So, what does this strange, superstitious Jewish tradition have to do with Catholic liturgy?  Well, apparently, the practice of pronouncing the Tetragrammaton has “crept in”, somehow to Catholic worship.  They make it sound like some nasty viral infection or something.  (Catholic Culture won’t tell me, but I’ll bet you anything it was those damned freethinkers among the Catholics who introduced this practice.)

Once again, religion and all of its paranoia and superstition has descended upon language – which is just the utterance of certain syllables – and, this time, taken aim at its own.  It’s bad enough when the devout are always saying things like “Jeezum Crow!” or “Holy cow!” and inviting us secular heathens to do the same, lest we might offend someone or – gasp! – take the lord’s name in vain!!!! – but it’s even funnier when, within their own ranks, there is all of this dispute about how, specifically, to sing praises to their invisible daddy.

My question is – does it really matter whether or not Catholics sing Yahweh at Mass?  I mean, what is this really about?  I suspect it has to do with reverence or honor of Biblical “history” (if you can call it that) and even more to do with just another way to exert some sense of authority and control over the devout.  All of these little directives only serve to erode the individual’s sense of autonomy and sovereignty, little by little, and mold each individual into the homogenous lump of servile Catholic humanity.   I know that sounds big and scary – but then, so is the Catholic religion.