a sacrament

for Dave

at the church of unholy
billy bible pimps out sally sunday school
back in the front pew
goody two shoes rips up hymnals
to roll the weed he sells
on every street corner
donny deacon leads his crew
of former choir boys
to pound out a few nickels
for the offering plate
swinging the chains of sin
in hopes of meeting that catholic gang
for a chance to even the score
for the last few converts they swiped
fresh meat is hard to come by
in this town of staggered steeples
and burned out crosses
where two or three rival churches are
there jailhouse jesus is in their midst
stirring up a ruckus

wanted poster

floundering, splashing, cavorting
just below the waves
dark and brooding seas
I’m sure the sharks look up
with wicked grin and snicker
deciding whether or not to bother
with my frail bones and empty skin
a little bit of blood for all that effort
hardly seems worth the trip up
from the deep blue sea to me

not that I’m grateful, really
I’d rather see my pathetic frame
snapped, dismembered, gulped

once I made a more tempting tidbit
some cloak and dagger magic
prize for the taking before wasting
away on belching vapor steams
lost in my own ambition, or lack thereof
this is not a narcissistic glint
of self-reflective preening
this is a wanted poster:

one tough hombre of a soul
el diablo con muertas y amor
cuatro malvados: armados y peligrosos
con palabras y la poesía
reward: $1000
(preferably dead if not alive)

consider consquences

dedicated to the fight all LGBT face; in memory of David Kato

how far
would you go?
how deep
is your love?

would you
take your beliefs
and nail
a man to a cross?

would you
follow your heart
and beat
a man to death?

would you
consummate your desire
and make love?

you argue
and spread your word
of conviction

you reason
and tell everyone
what you think

you never
consider consequences
of belief

your heart
is not a private thing
it is open

your mind
is not a quiet cathedral
it is roaring

you took
your hate message
to Africa

you carried
your evil agenda
in the overhead

you spread
unrest untruth
and it cost

a man
lies dead today
he was gay

the dust
under drying blood
wants peace

some days
I can see the future
some days

I love
a man a woman
why can’t you?

how far
would you go?
how deep
is your love?

Words on the Page

I’ve started reading again. Actually, I have never stopped reading once I learned how, but in recent months I have slowed considerably. However, on my brother’s example, I have joined goodreads.com and have set myself the goal of reading 50 books in 2011. Happily, I am 12% of the way towards reaching my goal, having finished the Lord of the Rings for the tenth time and then picked up a few new releases from the local library.

I recently finished a book, and posted this review on Goodreads:

Mysterious Celtic Mythology in American Folklore by Bob Curran
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Melodramatic and poorly written, this book is repetitive and sensationalist.

Each chapter is supposed to correspond to a different state in the United States, and is supposed to expound upon a Celtic myth which was transported to that state by Irish, English, Welsh, or Scottish immigrants. After the first several chapters, a pattern of repeated and rehashed background material emerges. There is little context, or detail, surrounding any of the supposed myths, supernatural encounters, or mysterious happenings. Mostly the tales themselves are third or fourth hand accounts. Given that the book portends to connect Celtic myths with American folklore, one would expect to see clear links between the two and delineated evidence of a natural progression, however, most of the myths and lore are connected by what can only be called circumstantial or coincidental means. Mostly I saw no clear reason to believe that the 17th or 18th century American tales were in any real way connected to the Celtic myths of the 13th and 14th centuries, as the author seemed desperate to prove without doing any sort of actual work. Pointing to extremely common and widespread themes, motifs, and images is not evidence of connective influence.

This book feels very much like a collection of campfire stories with some random historical details and facts thrown in to make it seem like a more scholarly work. While presented as the writing of an “expert” on Celtic mythology, I strongly suspect that the author is actually just a re-teller of other’s stories, which would be fine if he did it in a more original and succinct way.

I would not waste your time on this book. If you are interested in mythology and folklore, I would find one written by a professor, preferably peer-reviewed, of literature or mythology.

Basically this book promises what it does not deliver.

View all my reviews

SWD: Evil’s Safe Haven

Anakin just murdered an entire clan, or tribe, of Tusken Raiders and is returning to the Lars homestead with his mother’s body. Padme cares very little for this fact, shrugging off their deaths as a natural result of human anger. And, as if that weren’t disturbing enough, from this point onwards, the galaxy runs headlong for civil war, though that course of action is not the logical result of anything.

Star Wars Episode Two: Attack of the Clones (01.23.09-01.35.28)

Anakin rides up, and carries his mother’s body into the homestead. He still looks pretty pissed while he does this. Meanwhile, one thing to notice during this scene, and remembering the rest of the scenes on Tatooine: everyone wears one change of clothing, except Padme, who here, like everywhere, changes clothes every ten minutes. When does she do this, and why? And how much of her taxpayer’s income goes toward funding, and transporting, her obscenely massive wardrobe?

Anyway, on to the true horror of this section of Attack of the Clones. Padme finds Anakin in the shop, the very same workshop in which Luke will fiddle with an older Artoo and find a message from Leia to Obi-Wan Kenobi. Anakin is fixing the shifter on the speeder, and Padme offers blue milk and cookies. Anakin talks incoherently for a few minutes about nothing before exploding into a small rage and blaming Obi-Wan for his failure to remake the universe as he saw fit. (By the way, this discussion is very much a rehash of the earlier conversation in Padme’s apartment back on Coruscant.)

Anakin is acting like a five year old who has never seen death before, which is impossible. He has been living at the Jedi temple ever since he was “rescued” from Tatooine by Qui-Gon Jinn, and given the way the Jedi celebrate death, I find it hard to believe he never once attended a bonfire funeral and learned about death. Or his mother’s death has forced a psychological break in which he has reverted to a child-like state, which could explain his temper tantrum, ie, mass murder. Padme even responds to him as she would a child: “sometimes there are things no one can fix” before trying to gently crush his thoughts that he can stop death: “you are not all powerful” but Anakin isn’t listening: “well, I should be!” (01.24.37). What? Where does this idea come from? The quiet whispers of Palpatine?

At this point, Padme should be starting to seriously reconsider her relationship with, and physical proximity to, Anakin. Delusions of grandeur and megalomania are signs of an increasingly unstable person.

Anakin continues to sound like an angry little child when he insists that he will be “the most powerful Jedi ever!” I mean, I would expect to hear this from a kid throwing a tantrum, but not a 19 year old (01.24.48). I am starting to think that while George Lucas was writing this dialogue he was thinking of the 9 year old little kid Anakin was in the Phantom Menace: “I’ve built the fastest pod ever!”

Padme asks what is wrong. And gets this reply:

“I…I killed them. I killed them all. They’re dead. Every. Single. One of them. And not just the men. But the women. And the children, too. They’re like animals, and I slaughtered them like animals. I HATE them!” (01.25.50).

Padme should be running, not walking, back to her ship and blasting the heck away from Tatooine, or calling the Jedi Council for someone to come and lock up her boyfriend before he slaughters anyone else like an animal.

“To be angry is to be human,” (01.26.09). What? what is she doing? Sitting down, talking gently, rubbing hair, giving Darth Vader safe haven? No. She is a senator of the Galactic Republic, a person of annoyingly high moral character, outraged over the littlest form of injustice and a human being, and she shrugs off an admission of wholesale slaughter of innocents with a trite platitude. Murder may be the natural human response to a great injustice, but it is one almost every civilized nation on this planet condemns and expects its citizens to restrain from exercising. We lock up and execute people who refuse to follow this mostly universal and very simple rule. Nothing explains why Padme absorbs and promptly forgets Anakin’s admission of heinous guilt. But, she will do the exact same thing several times again in Revenge of the Sith. More and more I think Padme is as tweaked as Anakin.

Artoo interrupts a funeral, and more pathetic whining and self-aggrandizement from Anakin, “carrying a message from an Obi-Wan Kenobi” in a cute little foreshadowing of a New Hope (01.28.06). I want to draw attention to Lucas’ editing style in the next little sequence: he tends to leap from point to point in a story while skipping as much of the connective tissue as possible. This is a tendency that he has carried for a while, a fact confirmed to me when I recently read a transcript of a story meeting between Lucas, Spielberg, and Larry Kasdan in which they discussed Raiders of the Lost Ark scene by scene. To whit: Anakin and Padme suddenly appear inside Padme’s ship, and then a few Jedi and Senators suddenly appear in Chancellor Palpatine’s office. There is no farewell scene between Anakin and the Lars family. There is no explanation as to why Kenobi’s voicemail is relayed to the Senate building instead of the Jedi Temple, or what this group is even doing there. The setting of these scenes is convenient, and the jumps between them designed to waste as little time as possible, but sometimes those connective moments need to remain. Rather than have Indiana Jones immediately appear in different countries, someone (I am guessing Spielberg) put in travel montages overlaying a map to imply travel time. It wasn’t much, but I think it was more elegant than “Scene Cuts to Morocco”. Personally I think that Anakin just walked away from the Larses without a word, much in the same way that he arrived, but seeing that would reinforce just how much of a dick Vader is. But, I think it is much more important why that particular group is assembled in Palpatine’s office.

Why does Padme react with more horror to Kenobi being attacked in his video voicemail than to Anakin’s admission of mass murder?

Anyway, Yoda says something very obvious: “more happening on Geonosis, I feel, than has been revealed” and like Windu replies, “I agree” (01.28.59). Right after this plans are made to vote Palpatine emergency powers so that he can approve the creation of a clone army that already exists so that the Jedi can take it to Geonosis and start a war with a political group “within” the Republic over the incarceration and planned execution of one Jedi who was probably trespassing.

I don’t know where to begin. Hmm. Ok, back to Anakin: “if he’s still alive” (01.29.29). Good point. Before launching the galaxy into civil war, why not ascertain all the facts first? The Jedi Council, Palpatine, and Padme all jump to conclusions an decide on lethal action before any attempt at all is made to actually figure out what the heck is going on. Isn’t this a Senate sanctioned Jedi investigation? Isn’t Palpatine in negotiations with the Separatists? Couldn’t he open talks with Count Dooku about the events and get his side of the story? All of these people assume that Kenobi is about to be killed, or is in danger of death, but he could be A) already dead or B) incarcerated. And even if he is important enough for some sort of military action, wouldn’t a covert operation with Jedi commandos be better than a full scale invasion of what appear to be completely legal droid manufacturing plants on a planet that may never have been part of the Republic? I know that Palpatine is eager to launch his Jedi killing war which will vault him into emperorship, but is no one else realizing what is blatantly occurring? Even the good Senator Bail Organa is simply looking for a loophole that will short circuit the debate in the Senate that has thus far stonewalled creation of a Republic army. Obviously many Senators are still against an army and open war with the Separatists, and I fail to see them all just quietly going along with this grave miscarriage of justice and governmental responsibility.

And another thing, what would make perfect sense is for Anakin to rush off to try to save Kenobi after being given strict orders not to interfere because the Republic doesn’t want to start a war, but he does so anyway because Obi-Wan “is like [his] father” (01.29.35). Padme has to convince Anakin to do something he just did. Anakin disobeyed strict orders to protect Amidala by high-tailing it to Tatooine to save his mother, so why does he need to be convinced to do the exact same thing? Come on, Lucas, this was an easy scene to write!

One more thing, back in Palpatine’s office, during the discussion of how to hoodwink the Senate into allowing the creation of an army, Palpatine’s advisor laments (in one of the more ridiculous exchanges in the movie) “if only Senator Amidala were here” in an attempt to get Jar Jar to volunteer as political pawn (01.30.46). That makes no sense, because Amidala was, in the beginning of the film, flying to Coruscant to vote against the Military Creation Act. She was the strongest opponent of such action, even. She would be the last person to give Palpatine that power. This writing/internal logic/plot planning is so bad it hurts.

Lastly, there is a little scene between Count Dooku and Obi-Wan Kenobi which is meant to mirror the confrontation between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker in Empire Strikes Back, but without the emotional weight, drama, and high stakes. Much is revealed, but because Kenobi is a fool and an idiot, all the truths are dismissed as outright lies. Count Dooku tells Obi-Wan all of this as plainly and as honestly as possible and Kenobi hums and puts his fingers in his ears. If this weren’t so stupid (I mean, at least pretend to believe and pump for information to be verified later!) it would be laughable how obstinate Kenobi is being. Dooku tries to recruit him, somewhat lamely, and mentions that he thinks Qui-Gon Jinn would join him, and given my examination of Jinn during Phantom Menace, I believe him completely. Jinn would definitely have joined Dooku, and that would have been an interesting wrinkle in the story.

But, while Kenobi spins in disbelief, Anakin flies to his rescue, Jar Jar votes emergency powers, and the galaxy drives towards senseless war on the wings of Mace and his Jedi and Yoda and his clones.

(01.35.28).

absurdism

I smacked my lips
I slapped down my dollar
I picked a McDouble
I pulled out a few more singles
and got a McChicken
and and small drink.

Gotta love that $$ menu
I get greasy goodness
and a few more inches
on my waistline

McMe is my choice
fast food is quick
on the road
or is handy
on the long days

No gun to my head
nudging me
to lick my lips after
a double bacon cheeseburger
no hammer clicks back
encouraging me
to snap down the fries
and slurp dr pepper

why all the fuss?
the weeping and legislation
banning the toys in a happy meal
is the saddest thing I’ve ever heard
someone’s coffee was hot
their burrito was not beef
their triple whopper with cheese
was not vegan

what did you expect
in seconds
for pennies
from a hamburger stand?

KOTS: The Weight of Silence

I am going to knock on the sky and listen to the sound. – Kevin Flynn

I grew up praying to god.

My earliest memories were praying over food, thanking god for our meal. I prayed over cheerios, peanut butter and jelly, and green beens. In our house, in the early days, this simple religious practice actually carried real meaning: we were very thankful to have what we had. I don’t remember much of those times, but I know now that my father, a blue collar worker, didn’t always have steady work and a consistent income. I do remember some times when my dad was home during the middle of the week and not understanding why. But I never remember missing a meal, unless I was being punished for being rebellious me. And, because we were good Christians, we bowed our heads and thanked our ever-present benefactor.

I prayed in church, too. Of all the places I have prayed, that is probably the most typical. I said I prayed, but more correctly the pastor prayed what felt to be interminable prayers (to my young hyperactive mind, anyway). I would sit with head bowed, desperately trying to keep my eyes closed (as a good Christian should), and would resist the urge to pick at the padding that was sprouting from the seat cushion. My first church was actually a civic centre down the street, and we did not file into pews, but sat in big purple chairs, most of which were so worn out that they were becoming disemboweled, and bored three year olds such as myself probably helped with the active destruction.

After that, I remember praying with my family, whenever we had family Bible study time, or at church during Sunday school. With my family we would sit around the living room, and my father would read something from the Bible, and sometimes a supplemental book, and afterwards we would either divide up prayer “requests” and pray, or my father would simply pray himself. During Sunday school I remember our teachers asking for prayer requests and, as we racked our brains for things to pray about, she would write on the chalkboard what we shouted out. Then we would bow to pray.

Somewhere during this time, I began to pray on my own. As a Christian kid I was encouraged to read my Bible by myself, “a quiet time with god” it was called, and then afterwards I was supposed to pray.

Prayer is talking to god.

Or at least, it is supposed to be. I have never once, outside of the Bible, heard of anyone ever having god audibly talk back to a single person. He certainly never spoke to me. In my entire human existence, whenever I have spoken to another person, I have almost always received a reply back. Even passing someone in the supermarket, and murmuring an “excuse me” usually warranted a grunt response. God is perhaps the most tight lipped person I have ever met.

This puzzled me even as a small boy picking stuffing out of my chair. Why did god never speak to me? Later I was taught that god was definitely speaking to me: “through” the Bible. In reading those hallowed words I was hearing the words of god to me. That was fine for a little kid, and because this whole Bible and Christian thing was so new to me, it worked, because I hadn’t read much of the Bible yet before and there were exciting stories to be distracted by. But, as I got older, and read more (and most of it from the library, not the Bible) I realized that the concept of god talking to me through the Bible was a poor method of communication. For one thing, god said the same thing to everyone and what he said never changed, and was never supposed to. For another, he always spoke to people who lived two thousand years ago, or even older folks, and he tended to speak in metaphor and stories about giants and lions and kings. He never once had anything to say to me as a third brother who only had the black lab to play with most of the day and parents who seemed to fight about everything. He never once said anything to me when my heart ached, or my temper flared, or when I had a really good day. My parents would point me to the Bible. Sad? read a psalm or two. Angry? read some psalms or something. Happy? read some psalms. I never received one unique word from god. I never heard him speak my name, and talk to me.

I asked god for things, I begged him for things, I thanked him for what I had, material and immaterial. I talked to him. I told him how cool he was. All these things I was taught I was supposed to do, regularly, and the more insistently, the better. “The fervent prayer of the righteous man avails much” I was told time and time again when, in despair or confusion or frustration, I went to my mother to ask why I never seemed to hear from god.

Of course, Christians believe that god does answer prayer, just not in words. He performs miracles. He grants requests. He sends good feelings. Theologically there are three answers to prayer (I was taught): yes, no, wait. Yes is for every prayer request that you utter that has a definite object that comes to pass. My grandmother is sick. I pray about it. She gets better. Yes from god. No is the opposite, naturally. My grandfather is sick. I pray about it. He dies. No from god. Wait is for every prayer request that nothing seems to happen about, one way or the other. I need a job. I pray about it. I hear nothing from any job application I ever fill out and when I call no one seems to remember my name. Somehow this doesn’t mean no, but wait, keep praying, it will eventually come.

But I have problems with all of this. First, I could never, ever find a single answer to prayer that I could not logically reason would have happened anyway. I saw no direct miracles. I heard of them. I believed that they could happen. Logically, it even made sense: I was told that god was all-powerful, so a being that is infinite in his ability to influence the universe can do what humans consider to be miracles, I just never saw any. Second, I could not reconcile a need to pray with another of god’s attributes: god is supposed to be all-knowing. So, why do I need to ask him, or tell him, anything? He already knows, is aware, and if he is good and all that, working towards the answer. The Bible even says that god knows what we pray before the words are formed. So, what was the point again? Ostensibly, my own growth, in discipline, to be humble before my master and show that I was leaning on his understanding for my life, or was aware of how awesome he really is. Sure. But to me, that makes god a massive egotist and a jerk. If someone does me wrong, I want them to be humble about it and apologize, but I could never stand people who fawned before me to get something. Just ask, man. I’m happy to help, and really, the only reason I need you to ask is because I don’t know you need something. I, at least, am not all knowing.

Do I sound arrogant, or unwilling to be humble? Well, I am now, but I remember countless times of pressing myself into my bedroom carpet, or onto my bed, face down spread eagle – “prostrate before god” begging and crying and trying as hard as I ever knew how to be humble, and contrite, and properly presented before the sovereign god. I cried, I was quiet, I shouted, I cursed, I was controlled, I repented – literally everything I was ever taught I was supposed to be, or do, or say: I was, did, or said. “The fervent prayer of a righteous man…” Maybe I was never righteous enough, but then, god was supposed to meet me where I was, he was supposed to make me clean, he was supposed to make me righteous, he was supposed to be big enough to handle a little tarnish, because, after all, who is perfectly clean? All of this I was taught time and time again.

But beyond all that, any answer to prayer one “receives” is rationalizable. My grandfather dies. God said no to healing. Or, god said yes to ending his pain. Hitler survives World War I, and at least one assassination attempt. God said no to averting millions of deaths and horrible holocaust. Or, god said yes to Corrie ten Boom’s personal growth. Now, if you don’t know who Corrie ten Boom is, go read her story, and I don’t mean to diminish the strength of an extraordinary person who saw extreme evil up close, but my point is that god’s answers to prayer are subjective, and open to any interpretation one wishes to ascribe to them. “Ask and ye shall receive” is a popular verse, but of course it is taken out of context and doesn’t mean what most Christians most of the time think it means: god will give you what you want. You have to ask for the right things, in the right way, with the right amount of humility, without the wrong amount of sin in your heart, and so on. The small print on that verse goes longer than most cell phone contracts and most celebrity pre-nuptial agreements. God will never, ever give you a Ferrari. Ever.

Back to a personal conversation with someone I was told was a father, a friend who sticks closer than a brother, a lover, and a god with whom I was supposed to cultivate a personal relationship: he doesn’t do that anymore. In the Bible god speaks to people all the time. But that was before most of the Bible was written. Now that it is written, god thinks that is sufficient, or so I had been taught. Wonderful. Can I live in the time of Abraham, please? I really didn’t ever want anything from god. I just wanted to talk to him. To have a talk with the one person I was told comprehended me completely, who understood every single one of my pains. But god doesn’t do that. I have two options: I can read a psalm, or I can talk to someone who hasn’t got a clue, or is often the cause of my pain. Terrific.

This is part of why I have renounced my Christian faith, and have turned my back on what I have believed my entire life.
All I wanted was one, single word. Am I asking too much from an all powerful, all knowing, all loving deity?

I grew up praying to god. All I ever got back was silence. I’m done.