Archive for August, 2007

Old Soldiers

Friday, August 31st, 2007

Today God pointed out a car to me and asked me what I thought about the bumper sticker it displayed. It was one of many variations I’ve seen on getting us out of the Iraq war, “bring the troops home now” or something very much like that.

Now I know that God understands that part of being human is that we sometimes have to work things out violently, but I also know that he’s generally of the opinion that war isn’t the answer, so I tried to work out why it was that he’d picked that particular bumper sticker to bring to my attention. I made a few non-committal comments to see if I could figure out what I was supposed to figure out but I didn’t do very well. Finally God took pity on me and gave me hint. He pointed out how faded the sticker was, how drained of color and generally aged, and then I figured it out.

A war that we probably never should have been in in the first place has now gone on long enough that it’s out-lived the life expectancy of the printing technology that we use to protest it. The bumper stickers were printed fast and cheap, probably because the people issuing them never expected that we might still be there, with no end in sight, after so much time. If we could just make war as impermanent as a bumper sticker, we’d make the world at least a little better.

Ego on Board

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

So living in Phoenix, I’d largely forgotten about those “Baby on Board” signs that so many parent like to stick in the back of any car in which they might, once in a while, actually transport a young child. Since moving back to the L.A. area, though, I’ve seen quite a few of them. Not quite the plague that they once were, but more than a few.

God and I talked about this a bit and he explained to me that they’re so much more prevalent in L.A. because of the attitude here about ego. L.A. is a celebrity town. Many people here directly earn their living by catering to people with enormous egos and bank balances that match. So with so much of the local industry being ego-based there’s a definite tolerance for displays of ego. “Baby on Board,” at its essence is a display of ego. It’s the driver saying that their baby, and by extension their genes, is so important that hitting their car is even worse than getting in an accident would normally be. Not just their car would be damaged, the whole world would be damaged.

But, I argued,. you don’t see those signs on the cars of the rich and famous

Of course not, God told me, those people actually have well fed egos. It’s the people that have the spillover egos, the trickle-down egos, the egos without the accomplishments to justify them that need to proclaim their worth to anybody that comes near them. The rich and famous can get their egos stroked directly, the egos-without-portfolio get their strokes by seeing their own little signs and imagining the deference the other drivers are paying them. It’s a way they can say “pay attention to me” while imagining that they’re not demanding attention at all.

And I guess it works, because I just wasted a whole post talking about them.

Where Have All the Protests Gone

Monday, August 27th, 2007

I was lamenting to God that music today doesn’t have the same relevance and urgency that it did back in the days of the Vietnam war. Back then the high profile acts found ways to be meaningful and entertaining at the same time. They spoke of the issues of the day in ways that, while they weren’t necessarily timeless, they are at least highly revisitable.

God told me that that form of art hasn’t disappeared, it’s just shifted around a bit.

And where did it go? It went into comedy. If you want to see truth spoken to power today, you go to places like The Daily Show.

The Art of Cooking

Friday, August 24th, 2007

I had artichokes with dinner last night. I like artichokes a lot, otherwise I wouldn’t go to the trouble to eat them. They’re finger food that’s served hot, so I often feel like I’ve burned myself while working my way through, even though there’s never been any real damage. They’ve got those points on the ends of their leaves, so I’ve often gotten poked while trying to eat them, although again, no lasting damage is done. And finally, it just takes a long time to get through one.

I asked God what was up with artichokes, why did he make something that was at the same time so appealing and so hard to deal with.

He said he had thought it might be nice if once in a while the cook wasn’t the one that had the most work of the meal. I told him I saw the point but wouldn’t it have been nicer if he’d solved that problem by making something that was easier on the cook rather than harder on the diners? He said, yeah, that was why he created microwaves. But weren’t microwave ovens invented by some radar engineer, I asked. Not the ovens, he told me, the microwaves, the things the ovens generate.


Work Is Fun

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

I watched a news report on Bill Marriott not too long ago and it finished up with one of the big bromides of today’s business world. When asked about what drives him, Mr. Marriott answered that he was having fun, that if you’re not having fun then you shouldn’t do it.

Now that’s something that I’ve heard many times. It’s something the boss has said at a number of jobs that I’ve held over the years, that they think we should be having fun at our work.

It’s an easy thing to say when you’re the boss. It’s an easy thing to say when you don’t have to worry about losing your job, either because you’re the boss or because, like Bill Marriott, you have enough money to never need to work.

One of the things that bothers me most about this meme is that it ignores the reality that there are some jobs that need to get done that just aren’t going to be fun for anyone. Or if you want to play the game and insist that for every job there’s someone that would find it fun, at the least you’ll have to admit that there are some jobs that if you just take the people that will find it fun, you won’t have nearly enough workers to get it all done. I mean how many people would really find it fun to sort the garbage at the city recycling center into the appropriate categories that are needed to actually recycle the materials? Now what percentage of those important but decidedly unglamorous jobs would be left unfilled if everyone took the advice to only do work that they find fun?

I asked God. She said it was around three percent.

Something to Chew On

Monday, August 20th, 2007

So last night I had a bit of food poisoning and while I was writhing in bed with agonizing stomach cramps, did God stop by to comfort me? Not once.

Sometimes I think that God is only a fair-weather friend.

You don’t suppose he picked me to write his blog because my life is generally going well, do you?

Again with the Rocks

Friday, August 17th, 2007

A couple of times now I’ve tried to get God to give me an answer on how he feels about a Church using fakeries of his majestic boulders to advertise themselves. My point being that it hardly speaks well of their reverence for him that they make an imitation of his works to promote themselves rather than using an example of the real thing. Call it my belief that imitation is not always the sincerest form of flattery.

Well, today I went at it again and this time I refused to be distracted by any tangents, however enticing they may have been.

Finally, when he saw I was not to be deterred, God actually gave me an answer. In essence what he told me was that so many religions have as part of their core beliefs things about him that somebody faked somewhere in the past, that in the grand scheme of things a few fake rocks really didn’t matter at all.

But even so, he didn’t seem any too happy about it.

Stupid is as Stupid Does

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

So after discussing the fake rocks used to help advertise the Church of the Rocky Peak, I noticed a couple of trucks next to me on the freeway, that were from a company specializing in “natural rock fabrication.” Now since “natural” means as it was found, and “fabrication” means something that was made, I immediately saw this as a new oxymoron, a self-contradictory term. So I pointed it out to God.

He gave me one of those looks that you give a slow child to show them you still love them and then explained to me that what the company did was fabricate things using natural stone as the source material.

So not only did I get to feel pretty stupid then, but now I’m feeling kind of stupid for telling you just how stupid I was.

Rock of Ages

Monday, August 13th, 2007

Not far from where I’m staying there’s a stretch of freeway in the hills that I drive along, with a sign that caught my eye. These are very rocky hills, strewn with hundreds of boulders and with some peaks that are nothing more than boulders piled high, one atop another. Apparently this was inspirational to a local church, leading them to call themselves the Church of Rocky Peak.

I’ve never actually seen the church. I know of it because of that sign proclaiming their existence. Now I’ve seen lots of church signs, but the thing I find interesting about this one is that the hill it’s on top of is littered with five or six fake boulders. They’re not horribly done but they’re not all that good and they’re especially not all that good when compared to the hundreds of examples of the real thing that you can see by hardly even moving your eyes.

So what does God think of Churches faking nature to advertise their existence and then doing it badly? Well, she told me that she used to really like that old poem, the one about “only God can make a tree,” and figured that it applied to rocks too. Then she told me she’d recently been to Disneyland and after looking around there she was willing to concede that people could make rocks too. Just not church people, apparently.

Park It

Friday, August 10th, 2007

I’ve got some friends that I like to visit on a fairly regular basis. They live some miles away so I have to drive to go there. They live in a neighborhood where parking is available but far from abundant, which makes it all the more appalling that it seems to be becoming a regular habit of people to park in the center of the curb where there’s just enough room for two cars to fit between the driveways at either end.

Let me try and make that a little more clear. Between the driveway of one house and the driveway of its neighbor, there is a section of curb which is where you park when you park on the street. These curb sections, presumably by design, are large enough for two cars, but only if they each park at one end or the other. Not if they park in the middle. Where they park.

God tells me there’s a special punishment waiting for these people when they die.

And They Don’t Need Fine Print, Either

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

One of the great promises of the World Wide Web was that we’d be able to learn everything about products we are considering buying. A series of web pages can be organized as a product brochure of effectively infinite size. Obviously you wouldn’t want to create more information about a product just because you could, but also, you wouldn’t want to stop creating information about a product until you had provided everything that a prospective customer might want to know.

But wouldn’t that be too much information for the casually interested customer?

Of course not. Nothing says every customer has to read everything you put up. Just organize the pages with all the main information on one page and links that can be followed to get more information in varying degrees of detail.

So why is it that so few companies seem to offer any more info on the web than they put on their boxes? Why do so many companies, especially car companies, put up sites built all in Flash that not only don’t offer much information in total but make you click through horribly organized links for practically every new paragraph?

God just told me to give them time. He said they’ll figure it out eventually. I asked him if that would be in my lifetime. He refused to give me any guarantees.

Tee-shirt Tango

Monday, August 6th, 2007

I’ve got a fair number of interesting tee-shirts. When God stopped by today I was wearing one that says, “I don’t think people are born homophobic. I think it’s a choice. I think they could change if they want.”

God asked me if I really believed that.

Now, of course one of the reasons for wearing the shirt is that it’s an entertaining reversal of the absurd notion that so many anti-gay zealots put forth that homosexuality is a choice. That alone would probably make the shirt worth wearing, so I gave it some careful thought. I mean after all, since the claim that homosexuality is a choice is generally false, if the shirt’s claim were true that would push it full into the realm of delicious irony, and good irony is actually kind of hard to find.

But I ultimately decided that the shirt isn’t true. I don’t think people choose to be homophobic. I think they’re programmed into it.

So, yeah, they could change if they want to, but for some people it’d be even harder than quitting smoking. But hopefully, as more of us come out of the closet, as more queer role models show up in the media, a few more homophobes will realize that they can change, and a few more will find that they want to change.

[p.s.: If you’d like to have more interesting tee-shirts in your wardrobe, don’t forget to check out the Unscriptured shirts at, there’s a link in the navigation bar.]


Friday, August 3rd, 2007

Something that God pointed out to me the other day was that The Bible, if broken down into its various parts, would end up filed all over the library.

Much like a library, The Bible wasn’t written, it was collected. The various parts, or books, that fill out the various versions of The Bible available in today’s world were written at different times, for different reasons, by different people and selected or rejected by still other people at still other widely varying times.

And some of the books were written as history, some as fiction, some as genealogy, some as morality plays, some as legal treatises and/or collections of laws, some as the science of the day. Yet, for all of that, some religious types run around trying to say that everything in The Bible is the inspired word of God, all of it infallible truth despite being self-contradictory.

So maybe what The Bible needs, in addition to a table of contents and an index, is its own internal Dewey Decimal System. Or, at the very least, a few hints to help the clueless among us separate out the facts from the fantasies.

Mental Flush

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

Here in the U.S. we all lie to our kids. The big one, the one we pretty much universally agree on and collude on, is Santa Claus.

We think it’s cute.

We think it’s cute because we know they’ll grow out of it. Or is it that we think it’s cute because we get away with it, but we think it’s harmless because they’ll grow out of it.

I’ve got a friend who was raising a young boy. From the time he began potty training she started teaching him that if he worked at it he could learn to flush the toilet with just the power of his mind. She taught him to always try that first and then, only when he failed, to flush manually.

Her plan was to see how he reacted on the day they went to an amusement park, or some other place that has those infrared driven automatically flushing toilets.

It was cute. It was harmless.

It also didn’t work. Somebody blew her effort by wising the kid up before the test ever came.

So I was thinking about all of this when God came by and I asked her what she thought about it. And I asked her if there were any things she knew about that most people continued to believe in long after they should have wised up.

She just smiled and turned away.