Archive for January, 2009

Laugh While You Can, Monkey Boy

Friday, January 30th, 2009 is calling it quits. For several years now they’ve made it their goal to put out some of the most offensive humorous shirts available on the web and they’ve done a pretty good job of it. Now you’d think that when an organization with Hell in the name, and with a mission to offend, quits business it would be something that God could be happy about, but you’d be wrong.

When I asked him about it, it sparked something of a general conversation about humor.

God likes us best when we laugh. We lose a little of our self-consciousness and smile and generally just loosen up a little. Laughing is like WD-40 for the soul and most guys will admit that WD-40 is more important than chicken soup. Now what I mostly didn’t like about TshirtHell was that the vast majority of their shirts were classic examples of negative humor. It’s the easiest kind of humor. Just take something that somebody likes and point out how lame it is, whether it is or not; that’s the general pattern of most negative humor. Now sometimes it can be done in a very clever way, and that’s harder to do, but it’s still pretty lame.

And while God agreed with me on that, he said it didn’t matter. Humor is like pizza, even when it’s bad, there’s still something good about it. He’d rather people went around making lame jokes than not joking at all.

And when it comes down to it, I guess that’s why he puts up with me.

Pins and Wheedles

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? That’s one of the questions that ancient religious philosophers spent a bunch of time debating. I was once told that the real debate was not one of trying to find out a specific number but more one of trying to figure out if the number was infinite or not.

As if that makes the debate any more sensible.

I mean, isn’t that like trying to debate whether or not God has a beard? There’s just no actionable knowledge on which to base the discussion. I suggested to God this week that we should turn the question around, make it an issue of acupuncture. Just how many pins can you stick in the head of an angel?

God just said that I was a pinhead for even asking. Apparently even God can make bad puns.

Speak Up

Friday, January 16th, 2009

It’s just a few days now till the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. This of course got God and me talking about the election again and I couldn’t help but complain some more about Proposition 8.

The thing is, from an analysis of exit polls and other data, one of the things that made it possible for Prop 8 to pass was the high turnout of black voters. They came out in droves to vote for the first major party black candidate, and also to vote for Prop 8. I know there’s enlightened individuals out there but, as a group, the African American community has been complaining for a long time about having their struggle for equality compared to the struggle for gay rights. When pressed for why the two don’t share common ground they seem to always fall back on the argument that we queers can pass for straight but blacks that can pass for white are a vanishingly small part of the population.

I’ve never been able to figure that one out. What makes it better to say that we can have our rights if we just suppress and crush the very core of our being, if we just deny who we are we can be tolerated, we can’t actually have our rights, we can’t get married, but we can be left alone and that should be just the same, that should be good enough. It’s like that old rhyme, “sticks and stones / may break my bones / but words will never hurt me.” Well, when an estimated one third of all teen suicides is gay-related, I’d say that words can hurt us, they can hurt us a lot.

I’d just like to remind everyone out there, every minority especially, of the famous words of Pastor Martin Niemöller:

In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.


Friday, January 9th, 2009

There’s an old joke that under capitalism man exploits man, while under communism it’s the other way around. Like all the best jokes there’s a lot of truth in there, and, like a lot of truths about the human condition, I think it applies to religion too.

If you don’t get how man exploits man through religion I don’t think you’ve been paying attention. One of the things that gets pointed out about Las Vegas over and over again is that those magnificent hotels didn’t get built by gambling being an even money proposition. The small house edge, multiplied by millions and millions of bets, eventually adds up to some pretty impressive numbers. Well, putting a few spare dollars into the church plate when it gets passed around helps to pay for a lot of family counseling and soup kitchen meals, but it also helps build things like the rather spectacular Crystal Cathedral out here in California.

I’m not saying there’s anything inherently wrong with this, it’s just something that God and I were talking about. God tells me that the thing to take away from this isn’t that either casinos or churches are good or bad, but that you should approach both with a sense of caution. Most of the people that gamble, that “game” to use the industry’s term, know that they’re destined to lose in the long run. Some of them take the time to find out how to lose as slow as they can. They study basic strategy in blackjack, they look for the slot machines that are “certified loose” and they check the payout schedules on video poker machines. And some of them choose to play on less than optimal machines or tables because they like the atmosphere or the theme of one casino more than another.

And that’s okay.

So when you decide to support a church and to give them some of your hard earned money, take a look at what they do. If they’ve got big fancy buildings and flashy clothes, just remember that all of that came at the expense of a few more meals for the downtrodden. Now sometimes the grandeur they present is because they know that you’d rather do your praying someplace nice and they figure the extra money that that brings in will more than make up for the extra money that the spectacle cost them; but sometimes all that spectacle is their real goal and helping out the poor is just the front they put up. It’s up to you to decide who to support.

Me? I like to give my money to the local food bank. I find they’re pretty clear about what to do with it.

2009 or Bust

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

So it’s over. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, New Year’s. The end of the year orgy of holidays. It’s time to stop partying and settle down to serious work.

A lot of people go into the holiday season with the best of intentions. They’ve been living mostly paycheck to paycheck but they’ve managed to pay down the credit card balances a little bit and they plan to be a little conservative and make it through to the end of the year responsibly. They splurge a little bit on Halloween costumes for the kids, but it’s not anything they can’t put right before buying the turkey. Except that the price of candy, for the trick or treaters, takes them a little by surprise. Then their brother-in-law gets “downsized” and needs to borrow a little bit to keep going, and as Christmas comes sliding towards the chimney they find themselves not only buying presents for their own kids but putting a little extra towards their nieces and nephews to make sure that they don’t feel left out while Daddy looks for a new job. Then January rolls around and the credit card statements come in and the real hangover begins.

So here it is, 2009. We’ve had eight years of the Bush regime. They started out cautiously enough but pretty soon Haliburton was feeling poorly and needed a little something to tide them over. Then they made it through reelection and managed to make sure that businesses everywhere had enough credit to carry them through. Money was flowing freely to everyone in the top one percent of the income brackets and to the companies that put them there, even if it trickled down even less now then when Reagan first proposed his “voodoo economics.”

And now President Obama gets to open the credit card statements. I don’t envy him, but I do thank God that despite decades of Republicans telling us we don’t need intellectuals, we’ve finally elected somebody that I can clearly point to and say, “He’s smarter than I am.”