Precepts of Moderate Religiosity

Praying too little means you’re probably only praying when you need something.

Praying too much is disrespectful. You should pray more than you need to but less than you “have to.”

Make it special for Godsake!

Religion and edifying spirituality is the salt of the earth, not the dirt; it should not be everywhere all the time.

Turn the other cheek so the second punch misses.

It’s better to shop for churches than to go to just one.

All of the world’s Holy Books have many edifying qualities, and many, many stupid parts as well. See, ya gotta keep shopping.

It’s possible Jesus and others have been apotheosized into someone super-supernatural. But it’s a certainty that none of the Advanced Aliens believe in him. They might have their own. Point is, if any earthly entity has become godlike, its only in these parts. Not Andromeda. Those Crab Nebulans aren’t preaching our gospels, and why should they? ‘You gonna send a whole nebula to Hell?

The concept of hell need not be abandoned, just radically downsized. Hell is surgery not needless suffering. It makes things better or else God wouldn’t have made it. But its probably surgery without anaesthesia, so watch out.

The parts where Jesus sounds like a hippie are the best parts. But that still doesn’t make being a hippie the right way to go.

“This church is the only true one” is virus code.

Be fruitful and multiply has become virus code. It used to be good and therefore holy. But that was then.

The fruit by which ye shall know them is when they forbid you to look at the rest of the garden and they talk shit about it. That’s when you know your fruit has gone bad. And all fruit go bad.

That’s why you gotta keep shopping.

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I Remember Jokes

But most people don’t. They should. Then they’d be more like me. Strike that–I don’t want a bunch of me’s out there.

Remembering jokes is like remembering dreams for most people; it just slips through. Because they’re slimy. Jokes slither where few else dare to tread, leaving no tracks in the memory.

I was looking at this pack of incense sticks in the hippie heath food store when I noticed one with a very strange name. “Virgin of Guadalupe?!” I asked aloud. “What would the Virgin of Guadalupe smell like?”

“Fresh,” answered the passing hippie store clerk.

See, I remember that. It’s a good memory. Jokes make for good memories if you just take the time to grab ’em by the tail before they slither off. You should always be able to make yourself laugh just by recollecting funny shit.

Because if you can do that then–then–then you’d be more like me… Strike that, keep yourself laugh-deprived.

People who make jokes need to start a tradition of occasional allusions to other jokes. All the other art forms do it. They keep each other relevant that way, like academics who quote other academics who quote them. It’s part of the inherent circle-jerk nature of culture.

Here, let me show you–look into this microscope:`Microscope1See?

Now that was a Python joke, from the Scottish UFO skit. Relevant once again thanks to me. And you were going to let that joke die!

Great jokes shouldn’t die. Not right away. They should last as long as great poems, which is like what, 100 years? Something like that.

When great jokes live on within you then you live on within their greatness. And you become more…more…more like me.

Strike that, let ’em die. You don’t want to be like me and laugh out loud by yourself in the supermarket. You can get hauled off for that. And for good reason too–out of context laughter is a threat to any decent social order.

Here, let me show you:`Microscope2

They say that if our memories were too distinct we’d die from all the recollected pain. So if we could remember all the laughs all at once we’d get hauled off.

And then you’d really be like me. And that’s no good.

The World’s First Literary Review of the Bible

The Bible has been in print for over 1600 years and no one’s ever reviewed it. It’s been analyzed and expounded upon, criticized and interpreted, cut-and-pasted by Thomas Jefferson, but never reviewed.

Mark Twain can be said to have reviewed the Book of Mormon when he succinctly joked that it was “chloroform in print.” That is, his comment was not about the truth or falsehood or capacity for edification of the book, but rather–

How good a read is it?

The Bible is certainly not chloroform in print. Most of it is much better than that. But that’s a very low bar to set. One would think that a book purportedly written by God would be the most absorbing read in the world, a real page-turner.

And yet people have to force themselves to read it. Reading the Bible is more often done out of duty than desire. No one ever has to admonish their kids to “Stop reading what God says and get some sleep!” as they have to do with sci-fi books and random internet trash.

Which is not to say that it’s not interesting at all, or that kids are even smart enough to know what’s truly interesting. But it does illustrate the point that the Bible is not as good a read as a book actually written by God.

So while it far surpasses the lowest standard of judgment–it’s not chloroform in print–it does not pass the highest possible standard of judgment–is this as good as something that the Creator of this most interesting Universe would have authored?

Of course, this is an impossibly high standard that we never apply to any other books. No one ever opines that “Yeah, Huck Finn is a great book, but God would have written it much better.” That would be unfair criticism, and not very informative either.

Then again, neither Twain nor his classic nor his fans ever claimed it was written by God, as do many devotees of the Bible. It is proper to judge a book by what it purports to be. A fictional autobiography of Genghis Khan should sound and feel like something GK might have written or dictated to someone who was literate.

Fortunately for the Bible, it does not actually claim to be written by God. His by-line appears nowhere. According to the Bible, Isaiah was written by Isaiah, Mark was written by Mark, and the Torah was written by Moses. None of them were stenographers.

Thus, the Bible is best appreciated for its literary qualities when it is treated as a literary work and not a dictation from the Divine. A “realistic” view of the Bible affords a deeper appreciation of its poetry and prose than does an idealistic view of its authorship.

Appreciation deepens further when we also realistically acknowledge that the Bible is not really a book and neither are its components. It is a compendium of folios or pamphlets. And like all compendiums, it’s very uneven. Some of the folios achieve greatness, others fail, and knowing which is which (and that it’s OK even for believers to dislike certain folios) helps us better appreciate those portions that achieve greatness.

And here they are:

1)  Ecclesiastes.

By far the best pamphlet in the compendium. Certainly the best for reaching the minds of non-believers and existentialists. The Byrds made it into a number one pop hit and Strunk & White quoted it as perfect writing in their highly influential Elements of Style. It’s that good.

And even where the logic of the discourse sometimes fails to cohere, its poetic prowess usually overrides its logical deficiencies.

2)  Mark 2.0

(Meaning the Pamphlet of Mark as revised and added onto during the late Roman Empire, not the original Mark which ended abruptly at Chapter 16 verse 8, as proven by the Codex Sinaiticus from c. 350 AD as well as the Codex Vaticanus.)

The shortest of the four Unpurged Gospels and by far the best. Mark’s narrative moves; it doesn’t dawdle. Geneologies? No time for that! In fact, the reason Mark 2.0 is better than the original is that the original was too short. Great writers need great editors and Mark 2.0 has both. The Romans were right to produce an extended remix.

For it stands to reason that if writers and artists can sometimes be inspired by the Divine or by some Transcendental Mentality, then editors too can also be inspired sometimes. This is even more clearly illustrated in–

3).  The Longer Letters of Paul (Romans, Corinthians, etc.).

Paul’s letters often achieve and sometimes surpass the poetic greatness of Ecclesiastes. Paul was “on a roll” here and he knew it–that’s why these letters are so long. The problem is that Paul didn’t have an inspired editor. Or any editor at all. No one was presumptuous enough to cut down his text or add coherence to its logic.

Worst Pamphlets in the Bible:

1).  Revelations

2).  Genesis

‘Strange that the alpha and omega of the Good Book should suck so badly, each for different reasons. Normally you want to lead off and finish with your best, not your worst. How much better the Bible would have been without these literary clunkers ruining the beginning and the end!

How to Win the Lottery, Cuz I Know

Always purchase with small change, never bills, and never ever big bills. Don’t even have a 50 in your wallet, they’re bad luck.

Spread out your purchases over several days just in case astrology and biorhythms are real.

Study all the pseudo-mathematical literature and throw it the hell out–this is about winning over Lady Luck, not winning a science fair.

It’s an indisputable fact that Lady Luck loves a drunk. Consider:  there were 46,000 alcohol related traffic fatalities last year. There should have been 86,000.

86,001 if you count me.

Does that mean you should get drunk before playing and risk being one of the 46,000? Ask yourself two questions: how badly do you want to win, and how badly do you want to drink?

If you insist on scratch offs don’t scratch off right away. For as long as you delay scratching off, you remain a potential winner. And don’t scratch off in the parking lot, you look pathetic.

Never pray for winning numbers. God hates that almost as much as Lady Luck does.

Then again, if you see six numbers in a burning bush you might wanna drop a few bucks on that. But I’d still throw in a quick pick on top.

And check to see if you have epileptically induced religious mania.

Never let it ride. Not right away. Wait a while–let it coast instead.

Never pick 5 consecutive numbers. The chances of that happening are like 1 in 200 million. Only a fool would chance those odds even with Lady Luck as your girlfriend.

Fictitious Town Names USA

  • Disappointment, Florida
  • Wrongturn, Georgia
  • Godknows, Kentucky
  • Freefirezone, Montana
  • Cousin Crossings, West Virginia
  • False Values, Iowa
  • The Town With No Name, Maine
  • PO Box, Nevada
  • Plainfolk, Alabama
  • Tailgate, New York
  • Limbo, Maryland
  • Rapist City, South Carolina
  • Analingus, Kansas
  • Somewheresville, Somewhere
  • Strippersville, North Carolina
  • Angrydrunk, Rhode Island
  • Bad Movie, Wyoming
  • Once Sacred, Indiana
  • Blood-In/Blood-Out, Pennsylvania
  • Habla Ingles, Florida
  • Sketchy Past, Alaska
  • The twin cities of Hardtail and Dudesville, Wisconsin
  • Yellingtown, New Jersey
  • Looted Graves, Ohio
  • Missing Limbs, Missouri
  • Missing Women, Mississippi
  • Mundane, Michigan
  • Toomuchgod, Texas
  • Tolerable Valley, Utah
  • Slow Death, South Dakota
  • Snobford, Connecticut
  • Stillhere, Tennessee
  • Rudesttown, New Jersey

The NRA Gospel

Turn the other cheek while maintaining a rapid rate of fire.

If a man take thy cloak forbid him not to take thy overcoat also, then plug his ass if he falleth for it.

Give unto the poor, then bid them leave by flexing thy steel.

Blessed are the Peacemakers–Smith and Wesson and Colt, yea and Kalashnikov too, for they shall guard the Compound of Heaven.

For a man’s treasure is where his arsenal is, right next to his comms center.

Let not thy right hand know what weapons thy left arm concealeth.

Tis harder for a rich man to enter the Bunker of Heaven than it is for a poor man with an RPG and teflon-coated bullets.

For the gunsmith is worth his wages.

In the beginning was the Word, and the word was Safety. And the next word was Off.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a tiny projectile that causes the smallest of entrance wounds but totally blows away the back of your head.

I Wish My Dog Knew

That–

• Just because I do a bong-hit and grab my can of Swedish nicotine candy (“Snus”) does not mean I’m taking you for a walk.

It just means the odds have gone way up.

• It’s Society that makes me leave you in the morning to go to work. Society, dammit.

(Tears)

• You should poop on undeveloped and abandoned lots, or at least ones without cars in the driveway, or ones with cars that have “Co-exist” bumper stickers.

And if I do remember to bring a poop bag don’t you dare double-shit me!

• Other dogs have a right to exist.

I’m afraid he’s never going to learn this–too many vague abstract concepts involved.

• Only chase cats that run from you.

He already knows this, actually. He just goes through the motions of aggression towards cats who don’t run. His real hatred is for his own kind.

• People get maudlin when they’re drunk.

So just put up with it.

• If you want to scratch in the middle of the night, get the hell off the bed.

Then come right back, I need you.

• If you have to bark in the middle of the night don’t go from zero to ninety decibels instantaneously.

Crescendo, please. Let me know it’s coming.

• Fireworks are meaningless.

Save your concern for gunfire. Try to learn the difference because I’m not good at it and I kinda wanna know.

• Not while I’m driving!

You can jump on me when we pull in our driveway; but not every stop is our driveway dammit!

• Every expedition must begin with a “Shit, I forgot my [fill in the blank]!” followed by a quick turnaround and a backtrack indoors. So just expect it.

Christmas Magic Delivery

In December I worked as a temporary “jumper” for UPS delivering packages to businesses and residences during the hectic Christmas rush. For a while it seemed like the third funnest job I’ve ever had, right behind contract archaeology and college bartending.

People were genuinely glad to see me, sometimes ecstatic. I was popular again! In Seinfeld terms, I got paid to hand out other people’s big salads and get thanked for it.

One night, around 10:00, I delivered a package to a lady and her young daughter. The lady commented that they had us out late that night. Yes ma’am, I told her, we’ll probably be out until midnight tonight.

Cool!!!” exclaimed the young girl.

And for a while it really did seem cool. Very cool, in fact…

But then came January–cold, wet, dreary–and it became just another shit-job.

So you see, kids, it was really the Magic of Christmas that made it seem so fun and cool. And that’s how I know that this Christmas Magic stuff is fucking real. Now get some sleep, kids.

Lessons in Powerlessness

Using all the old candles in my house, I came across these Hanukkah candles made in Israel and guess what? They don’t burn for eight days. Not even close.

So yeah, I got ripped off. Again. On the other hand, those fat Christmas candles don’t really work—too much wax drowns the wick—whereas these Jewish candles don’t waste any wax. It all gets burnt. They’re very—what’s the word?—frugal.

Often given, rarely used, I’ve learned a lot about candles recently due to a disagreement with a Florida power and light company who shall remain nameless. I disagree that I owe them a fucking thing, see.

The optimum thickness for a candle seems to be between a half and one inch. The best color is white. In other words, exactly as they were in the old days when people actually used them. They knew. Now that we don’t use candles we make them in all sorts of unburnable sizes and shapes.

For modern Voltage Man, the best candle to give is one too pretty to burn because if you burn it you’re just gonna get an ugly puddle of wax and who needs that? ‘Best to stick with beautiful uselessness on a shelf.

The skinny Hanukkah candles leave no wasteful puddles but they also don’t last long. They’re designed for getting ceremonies over quickly so the people can move on to gift giving and overly frank dinner conversations.

The trick is to not sit too close to the candle unless you are reading that way your night vision makes the room seem brighter. To read you have to have the candle between you and the book. Try not to fall asleep. Limit yourself to thrillers.

Shout! will not remove candlewax stains nor do they claim to. Nothing can. It’s hopeless.

I suspect but I can’t prove that the next major breakthrough in candle technology will be in wicks. People think of wax when they think of candles but it’s really the wick. A thicker, slower burning wick might make these fat-ass gift candles actually function.

And why not new science for old technologies? Why does candle-ology have to remain stagnant just because people have moved on to light bulbs?

Fuck light bulbs anyway—you know how many billions of hours of sleep have been lost because of light bulbs? You live by candles, you get your sleep, that’s for sure. And you’re up before dawn because your always Jonesing for daylight. Voltage Man barely even cares about daylight. Daylight just makes it harder for them to see their phones.

They say it’s illegal to live without power in this jurisdiction. I wonder who wrote that law? The powerful. If you have kids, ok, it should be illegal to disadvantage them, but a single guy in his own home should be able to do whatever the hell he wants. My dog doesn’t give a damn about electricity. He wants food, attention and fun exercise, and so do I.

And daylight; lots of daylight. Everything else is just sleep deprivation. Thomas Edison can kiss my well-rested ass.

What if the Buddha Called You a Schlange?

“Anyone who doesn’t meditate is a fucking asshole,” my father once said, neatly encapsulating his unique blend of spiritual transcendence and earthbound bitterness.

This led to decades of inside-jokes between my brother and I:

“You know, Clara Barton never meditated. Neither did Albert Schweitzer. Fucking assholes.”

“Yeah, that about proves it.”

On another occasion, I jokingly interrupted my brother when he was commenting on how pathetic it was that Carlos Castaneda (an anthropology graduate student and best-selling author who claimed to have been apprenticed to a Native American shaman in the early 60s) had boiled down his previously mystical shamanic teachings into a lame system of spiritual calisthenics he called “Tensegrity”–all in an attempt to appeal to the California New Age/health scene of the late 70s:

“Look man, anyone who doesn’t practice Tensegrity is a fucking asshole.”

tensegrity

And while it’s hard to imagine the Buddha or the Dali Lama making such a negative pronouncement against non-meditators, it’s actually quite logical to see my father’s aphorism as the necessary converse of their teachings. After all, if there really is a Path of Enlightenment available to everyone, wouldn’t anyone who spurned such a Path be, in fact, well, you know, a fucking asshole?

The supposedly great monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam never had a problem openly stating the converse of their divine dispensations–“Anyone who doesn’t pray [to the right God in the right way] is going to Hell.”  Substitute “Effin’ A” for “going to Hell” and you basically have my father’s credo.  If anything, my father’s credo is less condemnatory–rather than an eternity of torture and suffering, wouldn’t you rather just be an asshole instead? I know I would; and I practice that every day.

Perhaps the Eastern religions and their New Age revamps in the West could learn a thing or two from my father’s more condemnatory attitude. No, you don’t need to go Medieval and threaten non-practitioners with Hell as the monotheists do (or used to), but what’s the harm in openly specifying that if you’re not seeking some kind of Enlightenment, you’re probably just an asshole? Is that not the yin of the yang?

yin-yang-symbol-pv

Madison Avenue’s most successful distillation of the New Age ethos of the 1970s was expressed in the now-famous Coca-Cola ad with the catchy jingle “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.” Let us rephrase that anthem of togetherness with lyrics inspired by the perverse wisdom of my father:

coke-ad

Nicotine or Gasoline?

I decided to quit tobacco (again) but not gasoline. I’m not sure I’m making the right choice:

Both cost about $7 a day I can’t afford. Both pollute. Normally tobacco pollutes the partaker more than gasoline but in my old car it’s different. So they both pollute; me, us and them.

They both get burned. Oxidized money. My gas money goes to frackers and my tobacco money goes to crackers, except they’re so wealthy now they’re not crackers, I am.

Gasoline gets me from Point A to Point B. Nicotine lets me enjoy Point A.  And Point B too if I get there. If there’s a long distance between A and B, nicotine helps with that too.

Tobacco kills, but so do highways. And highways also kill cute mammals and birds and turtles. Nicotine kills bugs.

And feelings. That’s why Bogart smoked. You gotta be tough, especially if you live at night.

It’s true that the Pope and the Dali Lama would lose their holiness if they ever lit up in public, I admit that. But they don’t live at night, like me and Bogey, so it’s different.

There are alternatives to gasoline. There are no alternatives to nicotine. Even junkies smoke. And if they ever quit the smack they often keep the smoke. It’s that good.

Quitting nicotine causes withdrawals. So does gasoline. You get withdrawn when you can’t drive everywhere.

I’m all for public transportation–there’s a friendly community of people who regularly use the bus system in the burbs and they’re not withdrawn–I just don’t want any part of it.

I’m all for public health too, not because I care but because I don’t want them infecting me. Say what you want about cancer, at least it’s not contagious.

Gas fumes and oil leaks are contagious. Global warming is contagious. Even when traffic accidents don’t result in contagious pile-ups, they contagiously ruin everyone else’s day through hellish delays. Brutal delays. Absolute torture, sitting there listening to music with your fellow delayees.

So I’m quitting nicotine (again) but not gasoline (ever). I’m just so damned selfish.

The Most Powerful Tattoo in the World

As president, Trump is legally entitled to tattoo the Great Seal of the United States on his penis. Doing so would allow his wife Melania to symbolically felate the nation.

Think of all the positive changes that could happen if you were symbolically felated by the president’s wife. And his mistress. And the other one too.

A lot can be accomplished from the Bully Prepuce because symbols have power and so do penises–when they’re good and ready. And now with viagra they’re all ready even if they’re no good.

You could make a very high-quality porno if you found talented Obama-Trump lookalikes. Think of the possibilities. Trump has. Omarosa is his Michelle.

It should be fairly easy to find porn actors who look like Eric and Don junior. In fact, I think they all do.

Porno presidency is the next evolutionary stage. We’ve gone from radio presidencies to TV presidencies and Hollywood presidencies. Now we have a reality show presidency.

But Trump can’t just wait for evolution to happen: he needs to go the next level. Public Relations 101 says get ahead of a negative story, so if the release of a Moscow hookers sex tape is inevitable, it’s only logical that Trump should do his own preemptive porn movie, one where he controls all the variables.

And that’s where a presidential seal tattoo would serve him–and us–very well indeed. The crazy publicity resulting from Trump’s release of Hail to the Penis: Extreme Vetting #MAGA! would drown out any noise from the release of the Moscow footage.

Complaints from Purgatory

The secret of Purgatory is that it’s really Hell.

No, we’re not getting pitchforked but the sleeplessness is killing us and we’re not even allowed to die. That Outer Darkness might not be so bad if there was some shuteye.

That’s why we tend to haunt the night and show up in dreams–not because we prefer the night, we’re just jealous you can sleep, that’s all.

In the daytime everyone can daydream, even us. No it’s not sleep, but it’s something. It’s hard to daydream at night–being awake at night makes you too damn focused… Forever

Jealousy is a big part of Purgatory. Naturally–we can see the whole world and can’t have any of it. Sometimes when we throw a severe tantrum we’re able to jostle a coffee cup, big deal.

Being able to watch anyone in the world while they undress for bed only adds to the jealousy.

And no, we’re not here to help–you think we give a fuck about Scrooge? We’re just mad that a super-scumbag like him could sleep soundly while ordinary scumbags like us have to endure eternal insomnia. The fact that he made it into a character-reforming experience is his business, we literally don’t give a damn.

What, you’re getting bored of all this Purgatory talk?

We’ve been exhausted by it for millennia and it’s not getting any better. Don’t even talk to me about getting tired.