There Are No Foxes in Atheist Holes

I read an absolutely fascinating and terrifically-written article today:

First of all, this lady is my new favorite chaplain.  To be fair, I didn’t have a favorite chaplain before this, just a favorite Chaplin.  But now I have a favorite chaplain, and it’s her.  Her absolute compassion and humanity shine through in this article, and I truly wish that more people were this thoughtful about their faith.  But aside from the inspiration I drew from the article, I also reflected on a most-likely-unintentional point that Ms. Egan (if there’s a more proper title for a chaplain, feel free to inform me) made here.

One popular fallback of the self-righteously religious is the oft-heard phrase, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”

Before going on, I’d like to direct everyone to, where you can learn all about the many, many atheists serving in our military.

This phrase is always invoked to get the stubborn atheist-on-the-street to realize that, in the direst circumstances, they’ll figure out that they really believed in a god all along.  The general myth seems to be that in our last moments, everyone abandons the convictions they held in life (no matter how important they were) and embraces Jesus.  I say Jesus, because I’ve never once heard this tripe from a non-Christian (which may just have to do with my geographic location).  So what I find amazing about Ms. Egan’s experience is that it not only shatters the myth of the repentant atheist, it turns the myth on its head and makes it do a little dance.  We don’t have any images of atheists breaking down in tears and realizing that they’ve wasted so much of their life fighting the inevitable acceptance of a personal lord and savior.  Instead, we find a much different narrative: the faithful on their deathbeds looking to the earthly and very tangible loves that they’ll be leaving behind.

I think it’s truly beautiful how Egan ties this narrative in to her idea of a god, and I completely respect her faith.  And one of the reasons I respect it so much is that it makes her god very real, in the way that matters most.  She doesn’t care if everyone shares the exact same ideas she does, nor does she seem to care if we all interpret a very old book the same way she does.  Instead, she finds her god in the common experience of love and human bonding that we all share.

And I don’t have any problem with that god.

Up next: Dolphins, friend or foe?  Tonight at 11.

Performance Art, My Ass

Someone linked this story on Facebook (I don’t know if that’s ironic), and I felt compelled to comment.

For those of you who are too lazy to read the article, here’s the summary: this woman is planning on giving birth in an art gallery.  As a piece of performance art.  She will follow up on this by chronicling the child, dubbed “Baby X”, through its developmental years.  Now, far be it from me to say that what she’s doing isn’t art.  Heaven knows, I don’t need anyone coming after me for past projects I’ve been involved in.  What I will say is this:

Fuck.  You.  Lady.

What this woman is doing goes beyond unethical into grotesque and reprehensible.  I don’t care what point she’s making.  For all I know, it may be a valid one.  I certainly don’t get that from her generic rant about Facebook turning the personal into the consumable, but maybe she’s got something worth saying.  I don’t know.  And I really don’t care.  Because whatever point she is making is being made with a human being.  This child isn’t the subject of her art, it’s the medium.  She is quite literally using the baby-to-be as paint on whatever her metaphoric canvas is.  Now, there’s been a lot of interesting choices in medium lately.  Artists have been using pig’s blood, urine, human feces, semen, and a host of other ridiculous things to create works of visual art.  Fantastic.  Whatever floats your boat.  Go for it.  There’s one crucial difference here.

This child is a sentient life form without the capacity to consent to anything.  If a scientist decided to use an experimental drug on their baby just to see what the side effects were, it would be called abuse.  And that’s exactly what this qualifies as.  This child is being used in this piece of performance art without its knowledge or consent.  Beyond that making for one fucked-up upbringing, it damn near qualifies as rape.  Now, I’m the last person who’s going to go around touting the moral bedrock of “family values”, but there is a line.  And this woman is crossing it.  Big time.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, where the fuck is this kid’s father?

Artists are in a unique position to send a message to an audience in visceral, unexpected ways.  The best art shocks and provokes its audience.  But if all art is going to be a commentary on the human condition, then it needs to have an element of humanity in it.  This borderline sociopathic plea for attention certainly lacks that, and it is beyond appalling that any gallery was willing to put this on display.

Damn Greedy Hollywood Liberal Trash Grumble Grumble Grumble….

I’ve been fascinated, but mostly appalled, by the recent contract disputes Fox has been in with the principal voice actors of “The Simpsons”.  The appalled part comes from both Fox’s unbelievable treatment of six actors who defined an iconic set of characters, making untold amounts of money for the network, and the knee-jerk reaction most of the public have whenever they hear about actors getting in contract disputes.

Let’s be really clear: $400,000 an episode is a lot.  I would be thrilled to be making a fraction of that for any acting endeavor.  But that doesn’t mean that the cast is automatically barred from complaining about how they’re treated.  Let’s put a few things in perspective.  First, the cast of “Friends” received $1,000,000 per episode for the last season of shows, and they received royalties for the last five seasons.  “Friends” was immensely popular.  It generated (and still generates) a ton of money for its network.  “The Simpsons”, by comparison, has run for 23 seasons and generated billions in franchise revenue.  That’s more than double the length of the “Friends” run, and it’s impossible to tell how much more money the franchise generates.  But it’s not too hard to imagine: just think of how often you see Homer on a t-shirt and how often you see Ross and Rachel.  So what’s this dispute over?  The greedy, narcissistic voice actors wanting a salary increase?  Refusing to take a pay cut?

Not even close.

What the knee-jerk people of the internet completely miss when they read into the dispute is that the actors have all agreed to take a massive pay cut.  The only caveat is that they want to have a share of the profits that the show makes.  That’s right.  After 23 seasons on the air, the principal cast members don’t receive a dime in royalties.  The royalties all go to the network and the producers, despite the fact that many of those people have nothing to do with the actual creation of the show.  So the actors are asking for a small share of the royalties, which means probably somewhere in the 1-3% range.  More towards the 1%.

Fox’s demands for a salary cut, coupled with their refusal to even consider sharing the profits of the show with the cast, show the most amazing level of disrespect for the actors who have helped to make them all that money in the first place.  I’ve only seen it matched by the brainless chanting of “overpaid Hollywood actors” seen on the internet, where people seem to forget how much these six people have done to define a show that’s literally spanned generations of fans.  What they do is not easy- Dan Castellaneta alone voices dozens of characters on the show, in addition to providing the iconic voice of Homer.

Now the very latest news is that an agreement has been reached, and it unfortunately looks like the actors may have been bullied into accepting the cuts without receiving royalties.  If this ends up being the case, it’s more than a little depressing.  It will be the network getting away with treating the talent of their biggest franchise like the hired help.  It isn’t about numbers; it’s about respect.

Oh, it’s on.

I love my apartment.  It’s wonderful.  Except for this one thing.

Every 3 days (I swear that it is this regular), a single fly gets in the apartment.  I’m still not sure how, because all my windows are closed.  But it happens.  There’s no real harm, except for the harm done to my reputation with the people on the rooftop across from me, who have seen me madly swatting at the air.  He flies around.  I open a window and wait for him to fly through.  Then I close the window.  But three days later, there’s another fly in here.

I’m convinced that there are only two possible explanations for this: A) It’s the same fly coming back every three days.  B) The flies are mocking me.

Either way, I’m through with this shit.  So focus all your eyes on this, you little six-legged freaks.  Next time you come in, I’m packing heat.  I’m not opening the fucking window.  I’m actually going to leave it closed just so you can slam your body futilely against it as you flee.  I will not make your death painless.  No RAID or electric swatters.  Poison sugar is definitely a possibility.  Slow-acting acid in the fruit bowl.  Maybe flypaper.  Then I’ll fucking tweeze your legs off and blind your compound eyes one lens at a time with a pin.  So if there’s more than one of you, your little friends are going to think twice before flying in here again.  And if it’s just one of you, it’ll still be enjoyable for me.

You hear that, you tiny, annoying little bastard?  Don’t fuck with me.

Trains, Planes and… well, just trains.

This post is about trains.  For any readers living in LA- a train is a marvelous new device designed for mass transportation.   Mass transportation is… actually, just go ahead and refer to them in your heads as “not-cars”.  It’ll be easier that way.

Anyway, as remarkable as the not-car system in Chicago is, I’ve just been plain unlucky.  Twice, now, I’ve been on trains where people have vomited.  On the train.  All over the train.

I have friends who have lived in this city for years and never once seen this happen.  I know people who haven’t even heard of this happening.  But I’ve been 5 feet away from people upchucking on a crowded train.  Twice.

What.  The.  Fuck.

If this is some convoluted scheme to get me to think twice before binge-drinking, congratulations.  You win.  After seeing/hearing/smelling literally liters of vomit, sprayed everywhere from the puker’s hair and clothes to the seat across the aisle, I’m never drinking before getting on a train again.  Or at least I’ll try not to think about it when I am drinking.  Or maybe I’ll just make an effort to vomit somewhere safe, like a street corner or someone’s front porch.


So Chicago is divided up in to different neighborhoods, and after being here for about a month, I feel perfectly qualified to give a brief explanation of where their names come from.

Andersonville- Clearly named for Anderson Cooper, hottest of the gray-haired TV reporters.

Uptown- Apparently named as a cruelly ironic reference to what “uptown” means in every other city.  Billy Joel wouldn’t have been able to write “Uptown Girl” if he lived in Chicago.

Edgewater- It’s on the edge of the water.

Lakeview- Has a view of the lake.  Not sure how, since it’s clearly not on the edge of the water.  Maybe you have to live in a high-rise.

Logan Square- Named for Richard Logan.  Richard Logan would be identified as the founder of the hipster movement.  If any hipsters had the motivation and drive to make a Wikipedia page.

Lincoln Square- I guess this is named for the guy who made Lincoln Logs?

Lincoln Park- Ok, Lincoln Logs are cool, but this guy really doesn’t need two neighborhoods named after him.

Rogers Park- Named for Mr. Rogers.  Only part of the city that Rahm Emanuel has no control over, as this part of the city seceded and set up a new colony, under the rule of the tyrannical King Friday.

Wrigleyville- Named for John Wrigley.  Not the guy who made the gum.  A visionary man who figured out that frat parties really don’t have to stop just because you’ve graduated.

Boystown- No Gurlz Alowd.

Buena Park- Part of a new initiative by the City Council to make sure that Spanish-speakers know that at least one park in this city is good.

The South Side- All this is based on third-party descriptions.  The South Side is a vast, war-torn no-man’s-land, where the people who haven’t died from radiation poisoning viciously fight one another in the streets for food and water.  A godforsaken wasteland.  Never, ever go here.

10 Things That Would Make Christianity More Appealing

10. Christians vs. the Detroit Lions.

9. Dancing nuns.

8. Dancing priests.

7. Screw it, just give me a Broadway musical number with the whole College of Cardinals.

6. Good Christian rock bands.

5. Being nice to the gays.

4. Daily services being offered in English, Spanish and Pirate (today’s reading is from the book of C-ARRRR-inthians).

3. More funny hats.

2. Witch trials.

1. Replacing Jesus with Aslan.

How to make technology work for you

You know, people often ask me how I got to be such a huge geek when it comes to computers and technology in general.  I guess everyone assumes that I’ve done a lot of research, taken a lot of classes, or that I’m just gifted with an innate genius (and handsomeness).  And I’m sure they’re right about that last one.  But that has nothing to do with why I’m able to make machines do what I want.

It’s all about attitude.

First, you need to talk to your machines.  Now, most people are under the impression that sweet-talking is the way to go here.  Treat the machines nicely.  Stroke them, feed them, tell them how good they are and how much you appreciate their efforts.  Then, when they don’t do what you want, you throw things, curse, beat your fist against your breast, and rage to the heavens.  But this couldn’t be further from the right approach.  All you’re doing is showing weakness.  They’ll capitalize on that, and use it against you.

But don’t fret.  I’ll show you how to take back your power.

When I get/build a new technological marvel, be it a battery-operated wall clock or a high-performance computer, I talk to it even before turning it on.  I explain to it in no uncertain terms that I am a human, while it is merely a machine.  A construct of humans.  Made to do our bidding.  I am not simply superior.  Nay, I am its lord and master, to whom tribute and worship is due.  I am as a god to this simple being, and it will please me, or suffer the consequences.  It’s that simple.  It helps to already have a narcissism that borders on a god complex.

Now, like every deity, I have to deal with my heretics.  Otherwise, they start to bring the whole population out of line.  Example: my printer started making a strange noise the other night.  So I picked it up, set it down gently on the floor, and I shot it.  I probably could have found out what the problem was and tried to fix it.  But I already knew what the problem was.  The problem was a lack of undying devotion to me.  I left the printer on the floor so that all the apartment could see it.  And it did the trick.  My microwave has been getting things cooked even faster, and the fridge starts shaking when I get near it.

Technology was created to serve us.  Unless we want a Matrix on our hands (and I don’t, because that means we’d have to deal with the crappy sequels), we need to make our technology serve us as it should.  In abject fear.

Hey, it worked for Jehovah.

Concerning the weather…

When I told various friends and acquaintances that I was moving to Chicago, I received one universal piece of advice:

“That’s great, Alex, but watch out for the winter.  Seriously.  Watch.  Out.”

Having already heard about the cruel winter months (though thankfully never having been present for them… yet), I was happy to take this advice and set off on my journey.  Armed with the knowledge that the winters here would be unbearably cold, I felt truly prepared to get rid of all my stuff and move across the country.  Nothing could possibly happen that I wouldn’t be prepared for, because, after all, winter was months away.  I had all the time in the world to prepare.  And there was nothing else in this city that I should ever, ever have to worry about.

As far as I can tell, native Chicagoans don’t feel that the summer is too hot because it takes 6 months for their organs to thaw out, just in time for winter to start again.  Either that, or everyone in the city has secretly agreed to play cruel pranks on newcomers.

When I arrived, it was a balmy 95 degrees, which felt somewhere around 110 degrees, thanks to the swamp-like humidity.  I should mention that I arrived at midnight.  Since the sun was down, I can only assume that the heat was produced by some cruel god’s burning hatred for everything in the Midwest.  Either that or the hot tears of humiliation produced by all the Cubs fans.

See how acclimated I’ve become?  I’m already making Cubs references.

The next few days got, if anything, worse.  Multiple days went by where it was well over 100 degrees, which, of course, felt somewhere around the 7th level of hell.  If I hadn’t had to go about finding a place to live, I probably could have waited out the heat by barricading myself in a small, air-conditioned room.  Or putting myself in a cryogenic freezer for a few weeks.  But I had to venture out into the world.  And when I did, the world kindly repaid my by instantly bathing me in a mixture of sweat, tears, and any other moisture that happened to be hanging out between ground level and 6-feet-up.

To add to this, there were thunderstorms.  Which, one would think, should at least be welcome for lowering the temperature.  But that would only be true in a world where divine beings don’t have a perverse sense of humor.  Scalding rain poured down to form little puddles, where I’m convinced I saw rats in little towels enjoying an impromptu spa day.  Until the lightning started and flash-fried the little buggers.  Think I’m exaggerating?  If so, it’s only so you can understand the horror.

I have no doubt that, come winter, I will be walking down the street with a mass of frozen snot and tears stuck to my face, cursing the heavens that I should have to endure such terrible fortunes.  But, in the noble tradition of all those proud men who came before me, I will fight to subjugate Nature to my will with whatever environmentally harmful technology I can lay my hands on.  And work on building my shrine to Willis Haviland Carrier, who apparently invented air conditioning.  Thank you, Willis.