Sunday, January 31, 2010

Phenomenology of Dunkadelics

Coach: Let's talk about that play you made last night.

Player: Oh, you mean that thunderous slam dunk!

Coach: No, not that one.

Player: Oh, you mean that ankle-breakin' double crossover!

Coach: Actually, yes.

Player: How balled up was that, coach! I blew past that sucka like he was paralyzed!

Coach: Actually, yeah. It was an amazing move, but it really did break the poor guys ankles. Literally.

Player: Oh...

Coach: Yeah... and after he fell over when you drove past him, he landed funny on his neck. He's actually paralyzed and in a wheelchair now.

Player: Really?

Coach: Yeah...

Player: Hahaaa! Woo! That is sick, coach! Aww yea.

Coach: I don't think you understand. This is not something you should be excited about.

Player: What do you mean coach? It was a great move.

Coach: Have you ever heard of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics?

Player: Maybe. I don't know. Is that the stuff about vices and virtues, like how virtue is a mediated, or mean, practice of an action, whereas vice is an excess or deficiency of that action?

Coach: That's right. And your move last night was not virtuous.

Player: So, what, are you saying is was "vicious?"

Coach: Well, it was an excessive move.

Player: I thought the move was magnificent.

Coach: It certainly wasn't paltry, but no. It was vulgar.

Player: I'm sorry coach, next time I'll try to not be so flashy.

Coach: Atta boy, Gilmore! By the way, how'd your philosophy midterm go?

Player: Oh I dunno. Postmodernism is confusing.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Our Christian Nation

America is a Christian nation. I'm coming to grips with that truth. For a while, I wanted to believe that this country was built on democracy, not faith. Well, I just can't deny it anymore. Christians keep these 50 states running. I'm convinced.

What, this doesn't sound like Dylan Peterson to you? Oh, just wait. You knows there's more to this than my opening paragraph.

Let's start by looking at the driving cultural force in the country: the film industry. Over the weekend, Avatar was number one again. Apparently it's the highest grossing film of all time now, but I don't care about that. I was more interested by the takers for numbers 2 and 3. The Book of Eli, and Legion.

My friend and I were watching a video on CBN, laughing about an elderly Charismatic woman who claims she is growing new teeth under her gums (a miracle, as a result of praying to God for new teeth at a revival meeting in Kansas City. True story.), when I noticed an advertisement for the Book of Eli next to a banner for the Pat Robertson-founded Regent University.

Now, at first this seems like a juxtaposition. The new Denzel Washington movie being advertised on a site that reports on faith healings and sinful Haitians? What's this all about? After reading a couple reviews, I was delighted to find out that the Book of Eli is a post-apocalyptic tale about a man who has the last Bible in the world, and kills to protect it.

Did you catch that? The Book of Eli is about a man who has the last Bible in the world, and kills to protect it. See why this ad is on CBN now? The HOLY BIBLE is the MacGuffin. Christian media outlets will support Hollywood every time when this happens. Believe me, I've worked for a national Christian radio network, and a national Christian publication. The bosses love stuff like this. When Christianity shows face in the major market, it's an exciting day for the station managers and editorial directors. "It's about the Bible?! And stars Denzel Washington!! Let's get the producers scheduled for an interview right away! This is big!"

Here's where it gets interesting though. The Christian media bosses don't have to try hard anymore to get the producers on the phone. The producers are sitting at home, twiddling their thumbs WAITING for the call from them. These movies are made specifically for the Christian audience, because the producers KNOW that Christians gobble this shit up every time. The proof is numbers 2 and 3 at the box office this weekend. After the highest-grossing film of all time came a movie about a man who kills to protect the Holy Bible, followed by a movie about Michael the archangel and a Legion sent by God to destroy the world.

America buys Christianity. Christianity keeps America afloat. This is a capitalist nation, preserved by the Christians.

The other blatant culture proof of Christianity's mainstay in capitalism is the music industry.

Throughout the past decade, people stopped buying music. Everyone just started downloading albums illegally, Radiohead released In Rainbows, and, yeah. I won't give the history lesson--we all know what happened. The music industry went down the shitter.

But, there was a demographic that didn't stop buying music. Those with holy capitalistic convictions. Those who follow the 8th commandment into the 21st century. The religious kept buying albums. And what sorts of albums do the religious buy? Why, Christian albums of course.

So now let's have a look at what may be the most popular band in America right now, Owl City. This is awful, shitty music. A glorious rip-off of The Postal Service, coming seven years after Give Up. Only Owl City employs the vocal talents of Christian pop-punk superstar, Matthew Thiessen (Relient K), and acknowledges its influences as "optimism, photography, air travel, vegetarianism, fashion, abstract art" and of course "God." (and no, there isn't a hint of irony there either.)

How can such a legitimately awful band be one of the top selling musical acts in the United States of America? Easy: Christians. Christians are supporting their own, getting giddy when their brothers and sisters in Christ have their songs sung on American Idol.

What the Christians don't realize is that they're not the minority anymore. It's not like when Jars of Clay or POD started getting play on major market stations. That was exciting back then. Christian bands on mainstream radio wasn't typical. But now, it is. But Christians still act like it's the 90s'. Every time Christianity makes an appearance in the culture, Christians act like they're a minority group infiltrating the system (in the world and not of it). I don't know why the wool is over their eyes still, but it's just not like the 90s' anymore.

During my time at the national Christian media outlets, the publicists from Hollywood came directly to us. Hollywood wanted us to talk about their new "spiritual" release. We usually received the packet from the publicist before anybody had even heard of the movie. The marketability of Chrisitanity is very high right now, and Hollywood (and the music industry) knows this. Christians are still spending money. They don't steal. And they'll spend more money on things that seemingly support their belief systems within the culture. So if a movie about the Bible being the last, true remnant of man's hope for salvation comes out, of course they're going to buy it--they agree with it. Who cares how violent or contradictory it is, they want more propaganda.

Of course, Hollywood isn't creating Christian propaganda. It's just giving the buyer what it wants. And as long as the Christians feel like they KNOW what the world wants ("absolute truth! glavin!"), they'll solidify America as a Christian nation for many years to come. As the Coen brothers aptly put it in O Brother Where Art Thou, "there are vast amounts of money to be made in the service of God Almighty." Keep on serving Him Christians, and the studio will keep on making those vast amounts. America runs on Jesus. It's time we swallow that bitter coffee. And put the slogan on a t-shirt.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

As For Film: Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

Back when Monty Python's Flying Circus made its way to the US, critics and audiences wondered if Americans would "get it." I don't know what it felt like to be an American before 1984, but I can imagine how animations of nude fine art and songs about cross-dressing lumberjacks could cause some confusion. But I never had much trouble with the show. It was silly. What's not to get?

However, after watching the latest flick from Terry Gilliam (Monty Python animator turned renowned film director), I'm seriously tempted to throw up my hands and say "I don't get it." The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus was disorienting, strange and dreamy. But more than anything, it was confusing. I couldn't tell if this was because there were some scenes that couldn't have been filmed without a living Heath Ledger to work with, or if Gilliam was just trying to baffle his audience on purpose.

Mini-Me had a role in this film, and I don't know why. There was an initial side-story about a group of monks who must constantly "tell the story" in order to keep the world spinning, but I don't know why. Tom Waits plays a devil, and at some point in the film screams "Yeah baby! We're going to Chicago!" and I don't know why. A mirror can transport people into a fantasy world as long as Dr. Parnassus is in a trance, why? I don't know.

Things kept happening in this movie, and none of them seemed to make any sense. It was a pleasure to look at, and Heath Ledger was charming in his final performance, but I left the theater puzzled beyond any film I've ever experienced. Understand this is coming from a person who has seen and enjoyed The Holy Mountain, Naked Lunch and the majority of Luis Bunuel's films. I love weird movies. I'm always up for the surreal. But Imaginarium wasn't just weird, it was... incomprehensible.

Some critics have called this movie accessible. Now, everyone's entitled to their opinion, but I honestly don't know how anyone could possibly believe that. Sure, it's an enjoyable trip if you can switch off all critical thinking ability, but the movie really doesn't make any sense. The problem with Imaginarium isn't that it's too weird, it's just poorly executed. It pains me to say that, especially since Gilliam directed some beautiful films (Time Bandits and Brazil, notably). But so little information is given throughout the plot development, it's unclear which points are worth paying attention to and which are just frivolous details of environment. It's hard to tell if Gilliam is being preachy, satirical, insane or stupid.

The best piece of criticism I've read on this film came from Ebert (not surprisingly). In his review for the Sun Times, he writes, "The best approach is to sit there and let it happen to you; see it in the moment and not with long-term memory." This is absolutely true. The more I try to remember it, the more nonsensical the movie becomes. But, this isn't a good thing. Movie-watching is twofold: what you experience as you watch it, and how you feel afterward. Imaginarium is an example of leaning too heavy on the former.

Some movies are weird, but you want to watch them a second time to sort out what had confused you during the first viewing. There's no need to see Imaginarium a second time. It is a mess. There is no symbolism or hidden theme to unearth, everything is actually on the surface here. And that is precisely what I mean when I say, "I don't get it." I don't "get" how a guy can tell a whimsical story about metaphysical profundities like dreams, spirituality and mind-power without offering any sort of glue to the audience. If Gilliam has something to tell me, he can't make up a language that only he can understand. There's nothing wrong with communication, Terry. Even if it isn't cryptic and artsy. Next time, just throw me a philistine's bone, please.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Best Dude: Bill Watterson

The popular consensus heralds Peanuts to be the greatest comic strip of all time. And it's easy to go there. Snoopy and Charlie Brown have been cultural icons in America for years. The lovable loser saying "good grief", the Vince Guaraldi Trio, Joe Cool, Lucy lifting the football at the last second, Pigpen, the true meaning of Christmas, etc etc. These things are all lovingly familiar to Americans of every age, and for good reasons. Peanuts was marvelous.

But as marvelous as I personally find Chuck Schulz's creations to be, there's another comic strip that holds a more sentimental place in my heart. And the older I am whenever I come back to it, the more exquisite it has become with age. Not every American will pick up on an allusion to Spaceman Spiff, the Transmogrifier (or other cardboard boxes), or Calvinball, but Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes is a masterpiece of American artistry.

Unfortunately, the image of Calvin most often seen outside of the strip format is a car decal of Calvin peeing on a Chevy logo or rival sports team. It can still be found in most rural and suburban areas on the same sorts of vehicles that promulgate metal testicles hanging off the back bumper and mud flaps with either Yosemite Sam saying "BACK OFF", profiles of naked women, or rebel flags. Calvin never peed on anything in the comic, and the image is totally unauthorized. But an even crueler joke of stealing Calvin's image came a few years after the "peeing Calvin" fiasco, in which a new decal of Calvin kneeling and praying in front of a cross emerged. Presumably, this righteous new decal was for Christians who used to display the decal of "peeing Calvin" on their truck before they got saved, but repented and replaced the old stolen image with a new stolen image.

This is the nonsense a guy like Watterson has to deal with though. He has purposefully withheld Calvin and Hobbes from going anywhere beyond the strip format. There are no stuffed animals, animated cartoons, shaved ice makers or MetLife contracts made with Watterson. He is one of those rarest of American artists, the sort who believes in integrity and artistic license. He doesn't want to see his art on a plastic cup or Wal-Mart t-shirt. He has principles.

Watterson was a postmodern artist in every aspect, but this fact was hidden by his daily appearances in major newspapers across the country. A subversive genius, Watterson discouraged the concepts of "high art" and "low art" by simply producing "art." By withholding his characters from merchandise, Watterson got one up on Andy Warhol. He keeps his art in its medium, he doesn't confuse it with commercialism.

In fan interviews for the 2005 release of the Complete Calvin and Hobbes, Watterson said, "Each product I considered seemed to violate the spirit of the strip, contradict its message, and take me away from the work I loved." So he never sold out. If I ever met Watterson I'd high five him and smile.

There's no way a guy like Watterson would agree to an interview, whether it was a little blog like this or a major publication like Newsweek or Time. So I can only say these things with a sort of personal respect for the man's art. All I have to work with are his actions. He doesn't sign autographs, he values privacy, and his work mirrors his values. "I had very few big ideas of where my work was going until it got there, but looking back, I think the strip generally shows my values on these subjects." he said. I'm incredibly grateful for the privilege to have interacted with his values at such a young age. I think they molded me in a way. All the way into adulthood (and beyond), Calvin and Hobbes is something I continually go back to for bits of wisdom and solace.

So why do I think Watterson is the "best dude"? It's not just his honesty, and it's not just his style. If his product wasn't funny, well-drawn, and smart, then I wouldn't care about Bill Watterson at all. But the fact is, Watterson produced a decade of intelligent, fun and creative stories that can be enjoyed by either a six year old or a sixty year old. He brought a universality into the funny pages that hadn't been seen before. "Cathy" is great for midle-aged women, "Marmaduke" is fine for dog owners, "The Family Circus" is perfect for families. But Calvin and Hobbes' demographic is "humans." Anybody can get this:

There's no doubt in my mind that reading Calvin and Hobbes as an eight year old effected my philosophical development. On the surface, I saw an imaginative boy, not unlike myself, who went on adventures, played outside, watched too much TV, ate sugary cereal and pretended to be a dinosaur. I could easily relate to the character and make those initial connections. But eventually Calvin would say something like, "Sometimes I think the surest sign that life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." I mean, that's really funny AND possibly true. There were so many moments like that. I laugh, and then think. Laugh, then think. Laugh, then think. Watterson's comic strip set me up to be a Coen brothers fan, a cynic and an aspiring writer who takes comedy writing courses at Second City.

So it was wonderfully entertaining when I was a kid, but there were plenty of strips that I definitely didn't understand. When I come back to Calvin and Hobbes today, not only do I laugh at the same old strips for new reasons, the strips that I couldn't even comprehend before have now become astutely hilarious.

Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics didn't come into my life until I was 18 or 19. It's been six or seven years and I still haven't moved beyond digestion into a stage in which I'm capable of making jokes about vice and virtue while also linking them to cultural practices. The above strip is an example of Watterson's genius. He had to have known that kids wouldn't understand a single frame, but still he planted a seed. Only 15 years later would I come back to my favorite childhood comic to learn things I didn't even know were there in the first place.

But it wasn't all sowing. I vividly remember learning a few things from reading Calvin and Hobbes. One particular strip featured Calvin in winter gear, standing outside in the grass. He was yelling up at the sky, demanding snow. He never actually said "God," but it was clear who he was talking to. When snow didn't come by the fourth frame, Calvin shouted, "do you want me to become an atheist?" Now, I had never heard or seen this word before. Atheist. But it was the punchline. It was his threat to God at the end of the tirade. I knew about God and I believed in him, and apparently Calvin did too since he was yelling up at him. But what was an atheist? I walked right up to my mom and said, "Mom, what's an ah-theest?"

"A what?"

"I think it's like that... ah-theest?"

"...An atheist?"

"Maybe. What's that?"

"...Where did you hear that from?" This played out like a little kid asking his mom what a dirty word meant. My Christian mother certainly wasn't happy about my eight year old soul discovering what an atheist was. But I also learned the word "predestined" from Calvin and Hobbes, so it eventually evened out.

But to think, from Calvin and Hobbes I learned my first theology lessons. I didn't catch the ironic humor in the strip the first time around, but I did think it was funny that Calvin demanded snow from God. (I had felt that way before myself.)

Bill Watterson is one of the best dudes because his comic was probably the pre-introduction to philosophy for a lot of children. As they say, "get 'em while their young." Getting kids hooked on things early in life is a sly way to brainwash humans. The hope is to plant the seeds early, and water regularly until and throughout adulthood. It's clear for anyone who's seen Supersize Me or Jesus Camp. The young mind is impressionable, and hungry for an impression.

But Calvin and Hobbes wasn't devious in the same way as Christian military camps and fast food chains are. The subversive magic of Calvin and Hobbes was that it instilled in children who thought they hated school a desire for deeper knowledge. And in the meantime, adults could enjoy the strip just as much as the impressionable children. All Watterson required of his readers was a little bit of imagination. If we could just imagine the possibilities of exploration, we could broaden our lives.

Watterson's art was not for the snobbish. Nor was it for braindead, happy-meal crazed brats who just liked reading comics about a kid who was disrespectful to his parents. No, Calvin and Hobbes was the sort of satire we may never see the likes of again. It was for the common man (and child), and it didn't require any specific level of education. Bill Watterson created worlds and characters that repel commercialism and herd mentalities. His comics embraced individualism, creativity and the spirit of adventure. And if you never noticed before, my personal writing style is modeled after Calvin's:

Bill Watterson.

Best Dude.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Don't Miss Out: Kings of Convenience

It's literally been five years since their last tour in America. Half a decade. Almost 2000 days. A long time. But, next month, Kings of Convenience are leaving their home of Norway and making the rounds through the States. I will be at their show next month in Chicago, and if you have any sense at all (and good taste in music) you will join me.

It's a frighteningly short tour, only eight stops in North America. But to those who live in larger cities, take this while you can. To those in California, tough luck. For year-round warmth you trade the beauty of seasons, and the music that goes along with that. Kings of Convenience is for those of us who gladly endure winter, and the bequeathed character we receive from it. This is romance: winter and Kings of Convenience.

The Metro show costs $30. I know that's costly, but you have to put this into perspective. They probably won't tour for another five years, and they're a fantastic group. Worth more than $30. And as we all know, in 2010, stage performance is the new digital download. Maybe Leslie Feist will even show up for a surprise encore.

Don't miss out on the good music folks. Don't!

Feb 12 2010 8:00P
Paradise Rock Club Boston MA
Feb 13 2010 8:00P
Webster Hall New York NY
Feb 14 2010 8:00P
Warsaw Brooklyn NY
Feb 15 2010 8:00P
9:30 Club Washington DC
Feb 17 2010 8:00P
Theater Of The Living Arts Philadelphia PA
Feb 18 2010 8:00P
Phoenix Theater Toronto ONT
Feb 19 2010 8:00P
Crofoot Ballroom Pontiac MI
Feb 20 2010 8:00P
The Metro Chicago IL

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dem Milners Trern (A Second Viewing, with Dangerous Consequences)

I went to see the Coen Brothers' A Serious Man again last night. My brother Matt was in town for the holidays, and I had been telling him to see this film for the past couple months, so we finally went last night. He will fly back to Seattle tomorrow thinking about a lot of things: God, suffering, meaningfulness, death, morality, etc. The film raises questions and refuses to provide answers. A question beckons a question, which beckons more questions, and even more after that.

But we don't need the Coens' subjective answer, they are only the tellers of the parable. If we do not understand their story, they are not required to explain it to us. But, hopefully, whoever sees this movie will leave the theater asking themselves a few deep questions. Currently, I'm asking myself about morality, and what God has to do with it. Do we (humans) determine morality, or does God?

When Danny walks towards rabbi Marshak's desk and passes by a painting of Abraham and Isaac, he reacts with a sort of uneasiness, maybe even fearfulness. But when Abraham held up the knife to bring it down upon his only son, this was the defining moment of morality and ethics in all of Biblical and ethical history. This was the moment when an amoral God proved himself to be thus, and a human being violated moral norms for the sake of faith in the amoral God.

This was the moment in which a man experienced a teleological suspension of the ethical. Kierkegaard writes in Fear and Trembling:

The ethical expression for what Abraham did is that he was willing to murder Isaac; the religious expression is that he was willing to sacrifice Isaac; but in this contradiction lies the very anguish that can indeed make one sleepless; and yet without that anguish Abraham is not the one he is [the Knight of Faith].

Abraham's readiness to commit murder seems absurd, and indeed, it was certainly that. But his determination to follow God's commands regardless of their ethical standing is what made him a hero of faith. This can easily be taken out of context and applied to radicals who fly airplanes into skyscrapers and wear explosive undergarments for religious delusions, but those radicals forget about reality. Abraham we know through story and not reality. And there is a very important difference between story and reality.

In A Serious Man, Larry explains a principle of quantum mechanics to a class of college students through the story of Schrodinger's Cat. The story helps students understand the underlying reality, but the story itself is not something that applies to macrobiotic phenomena. One of his students even tells him "I understand the story of the cat, just not the math." Larry responds: "The math tells how it really works. That's the real thing; the stories I give you in class are just illustrative; they're like, fables, say, to help give you a picture. An imperfect model. I mean-even I don't understand the dead cat. The math is how it really works." So when it comes to God and ethics, how does that really work?

Kierkegaard put us in Abraham's shoes, which really gives a sense of dread as to what anguish the man must have felt as he walked up the mountain with the command from God to kill Isaac. The story is often interpreted from pulpits on Sunday mornings as an example of how God will "test" his followers. They may apply the same sorts of lessons to the Book of Job, explaining the omniscient God to be one who allows "trial" to befall even the righteous and faithful. The sermons usually end with an admonishment of perseverance, not giving up on God and staying the course.

These may be fine lessons for those seeking a positive perspective during troubling times (sometimes experiencing a new parking lot is enough to ease the mind of a weary traveler), but there is a deeper truth underneath these stories that mustn't be missed for the glaze.

God gave laws to men because he knew they would break them. He has no laws himself, and follows no guiding principle. He cannot determine what is ethical, only humans can. He merely drops down laws upon us like flooding rains, concepts that may or may not be representations of his character that simultaneously trouble and alleviate us. Some of what God drops is quite horrifying, and humans have long wrestled with problems of evil as a result. But this wrestling usually comes from a belief that God is ethical. But God cannot be ethical, for ethics is a practice in balancing extremes. God has no need to balance, he is perfect.

If we remember Job, there was no sense of fairness in God's decision-making process. Fairness, which is often grouped along with "balance" (especially in America), cannot be attributed to God here. If a human understanding of ethics is applied to God in the stories of Abraham and Job, he becomes nothing more than a divine madman. In Jung's Answer to Job, Carl Jung reminds us of what God knowingly allowed to happen to Job:

One must bear in mind here the dark deeds that follow one another in quick succession: robbery, murder, bodily injury with premeditation, and denial of a fair trial. This is further exacerbated by the fact that Yahweh displays no compunction, remorse, or compassion, but only ruthlessness and brutality. The plea of unconsciousness is invalid, seeing at he flagrantly violates at least three of the command­ments he himself gave out on Mount Sinai.

When God gave the 10 commandments, he gave them to humans who had the capacity to either break or follow them. God cannot break or follow these commandments though. So when Jung claims that God violates three of his own commandments, he brings up a huge ethical point.

Remembering that these are stories, not factual accounts but parables that help us determine underlying truths, the fact that God violates his own commandments in the stories of Abraham and Job reveals his amorality. That is, God is not bound by ethics in the sense that humans are. There are times when humans must decide for themselves what decision they must make. Ethics is defined:

that branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions.

"Human conduct" is the key. There is a lie about the Bible often thrown about by politicians that the book is a final moral authority. The Bible is nothing of the sort. There are stories in the Bible which may lead one to spiritual enlightenment and moral sensitivity, but there is also ambiguity, violence and poetry.

There is a strange moment in A Serious Man when the Arthur character throws a fit over what God has given him in his life. He moans and weeps, "HaShem hasn't given me shit!" Larry tries to comfort Arthur, but in the midst of the "it's alrights" and "everything will fines", Larry says "sometimes you have to help yourself."

Perhaps it has something to do with the adage, 'don't work, don't eat,' but the Coens were probably saying something much more profound about "The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away." Because Arthur is right, God gives humans everything, but sometimes won't even give them shit. But on the other hand, Larry is right too. There are times when a human must make good for themselves, regardless of what God has given. The two most vital things we have that cannot be given to us by God are faith and ethics. Faith, that leap into the absurd that offers no answers but regularly beckons more doubts and questions. And ethics, the process by which humans conduct themselves in a society. God does not give us these things, he lets us decide for ourselves whether or not we want them.

But, of course, God still watches us. He even interacts with us in mysterious ways. We dare not deny his existence, but we are fearful of the extent to which he may wrestle with our mortal being. Who has the courage to ask Him, "why?"? What man would think to question His reckless authority over the universe? Perhaps we should not ask Him ethical questions at all, but where then does that leave our faith? In an absurdity? Or something worse?

A recurring song in A Serious Man, Dem Milners Trern, tells the story of a Jewish man who has grown old and has not yet received life's answers. Most viewers cannot understand the Yiddish, but translated lyrics reveal the somber tone that matches the film:

oh how many years
have passed
since i've been a miller here
the wheels turn
the years pass
i'm growing old and grey.

there are days
i want to remember
if i had a little happiness?
the wheels turn
the years pass
i don't get any answers

i heard it said
they want to drive me out
away from my village and away from the mill
the wheels turn
the years pass
without an end, without a goal

where will i live?
who will care for me?
i'm already old, i'm already tired
the wheels turn
the years pass
and with them, also go the jews

No goal? No answers? Perhaps this is true on our last day on earth, but what then do we say of mathematics? And moments of peace and joy? God mustn't be a man's source of all things. There may be times of blessing and times of sorrow, but God is not responsible for all of it.

There is a human responsibility, but God has no responsibility. But that doesn't mean He doesn't need us just as much as we need Him. After all, how can a savior exist if he has nothing to save? We are an important part of God's existence. We show Him what it looks like to have faith. Through us, God can see ethical systems of the sort He will never be able to create.

It is true, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. But it is also true, he who does not work, does not eat. The things God gives and takes are unknown to us, but our self-awareness can allow us to maintain morality and faith. God will not take away our option to do right or wrong. Will he punish us? That's up for debate as well. As if Larry didn't say it enough, whether it was in regards to his marriage, his job, or the Columbia Record club, "I didn't do anything!" So when Larry changed the grade, when he actually did something, did he bring God's actual wrath upon him?

What is justice? It is not the hammer that God brings down from Heaven, but a system according to man. It has been forever changing and adapting to its present time, restructuring itself so as to withhold the concept of ethics. It is the preservation of human freedom, not the preservation of God's sovereignty. (He doesn't need our help with that.)

I will not claim anything as right or wrong according to God's law. God is perfect, not right or wrong. I am right or wrong, and I will strive for balance. I pray that God will have mercy on me as I go, and that I might have faith regardless of the meaningless years that continue to pass. If you join me, perhaps we will have ethics. If not, "Blessed is the Lord. Good riddance to evil."

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Watermelon Basketball

It was the lowest scoring game in NBA history, and the Bulls had just over seven minutes to surpass the 50 point mark. Down 41-49 to the Boston Celtics, it might have been the ugliest game in basketball history.

James Johnson was posting up down low, when everything changed. Possibly from holding the ball too tightly, it exploded into pieces of bright pink and green. Wet chunks fell to the floor of the court and everyone stopped play to see what had just happened. You could read James' lips, "it's a watermelon." He was right. And it had been the whole time. The players weren't playing with an official ball, but a watermelon. How it lasted into the fourth quarter is still a mystery, but replays of the first three quarters proved that it was indeed a watermelon from the first play of the game. There were even some stems coming out of it, like it had just been plucked from the watermelon field mere moments before tip-off.

Suddenly it made sense why there were so many turnovers (72 combined), the ball always awkwardly bouncing out of bounds uncontrollably. And who knows how the watermelon sustained so much dribbling and bounce passing, but the players did seem to be using extra force to make sure it was bouncing high enough.

To think, this game wouldn't have such a low score if the players didn't have to deal with this watermelon. It's actually pretty impressive that they lasted as long as they did. But now it was time to clean up the court, throw away the broken watermelon and give the athletes an authentic basketball. And the Bulls were ready to take control of the game.

Sure enough, everything changed when the players got that globular orange device. Both teams passed the 50 point mark, and the Bulls even came away with a narrow victory in the end. But everyone will always remember this day in history as the "Watermelon Game."

In the post-game press conference, players and coaches from the Bulls tried to dodge questions about the watermelon. They said things like, "circumstances aside, we came away with a win tonight. And we're proud of that." or "Hey guys, I don't have answers for questions like that. Ask David Stern if you're wondering how a watermelon gets on the court for three and a half quarters." But the Celtics (the losing team) couldn't seem to talk about anything BUT the watermelon. Kendrick Perkins was particularly vocal, "I mean, what the f@%k? A fu&%@#n watermelon? That entire game should be replayed, or thrown out! We weren't even playing basketball out there, it was watermelon ball! Fine, the Bulls won a game of watermelon ball tonight, I hope they're proud of themselves. The only team in history to win a game of watermelon ball. Go Bulls! ...Maybe they should start their own watermelon league. They'd be championship contenders for sure."

Coincidentally, Perkins asked security to find the remains of the watermelon so he could eat it. He was taking bites and spitting out seeds in the midst of his tirade with the media. Many racist jokes were later made about this event, all of which were in poor taste.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Last Name: Human

Underneath a dock lived a family of ducks. The Duck family; Mama, Papa and the little ones. They even had a wooden plaque attached to the head of the dock above them that read "The Ducks." Some of their famous distant relatives included Donald Duck, Daffy Duck and Darkwing Duck. Now, of course this is all nonsense. Ducks don't have personalities or work in show business. They don't rationalize or love or commit evil actions. They just quack and swim around ponds. They don't even have names. It's only the anthropomorphized ducks that receive names from their human creators.

But it is a strange thing, why all of the ducks through history were given last names that matched their species group.

I'm sure some of you dear readers quickly noticed my cheat though. Darkwing Duck wasn't his real name, just his superhero alias. His real name was Drake Mallard. Somehow, it sounds clever. But it isn't any better than "Duck". I've never met anyone named Mallard. It sounds like it could be a name, but it's just a type of duck. And why?

I've never met anyone named Duck either. Why do the cartoon animals always get the last name of what they are? There have been a few exceptions: Pepe LePew (not Pepe Skunk), Winnie the Pooh, Scooby Doo, and that's all I can recall at the moment. Were the cartoon writers so lazy and uninspired that they couldn't think of anything better than "Tweety Bird," "Woody Woodpecker" and "Porky Pig"? I know cartoons are for kids and everything, but sometimes these characters don't have a first or last name at all, just the animal they are (Roadrunner...). And their first names are usually just adjectives that describe their species. Yeah, all birds are tweety. All pigs are porky. Why make this common trait their unique name? What about Pat Swinburne. That sounds "piggy" still, and could be the name of a real person too. I guess "Bird" might be okay. But had there never been a Larry Bird, I might not be so agreeable.

It makes me wonder how long it took them to get Pepe LePew. They probably went out for drinks after that one. "Pepe is actually a real name guys! How neat is that!" ("neat" was a slang word used in the 40s'. Similar to "tight" or "dope" in contemporary parlance.)

Have you ever heard of a human being named after itself? Donald Human. Mickey Man. No, that would be ridiculous. I suppose it's possible that there might be someone named Hugh Mann. But I've never met him. If an animal ever creates a cartoon of us (Planet of the Apes style), the main character should definitely be Hugh Mann. Or maybe something like Uprighty Sapien, Harry Notsomuch or Primo Bipeder.

** I wanted to be sure I wasn't the first person in the world to think up "Hugh Mann," so I googled it. Some dude has it, and he makes music and is kinda creepy. Not bad though: