Friday, December 28, 2007

It's absorbent, it has multiple uses

One of my employees asked me what I was doing after work, and I said, "I should run by the store, but I don't want to go."

"Why not?" she asked.

"All I'm out of is wine and kitty litter," I explained. "It seems weird to just be buying those two things."

"Condoms." She replied.

"I'm sorry, what?"

"Condoms," she said again, matter-of-factly. "If you're buying wine and condoms, the cashier will assume you're going to seduce somebody. Which isn't weird."

On the surface, I understand her suggestion, but still...

Loyal Strifemongers, I turn this over to you. If the scenario is seduction: why would I need kitty litter?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Letting my roots show

Despite the Witchcraft and the homosexuality and everything in between, I am, at my core, a Southern white male between the ages of 18 and 35. As such, whenever my East Indian neighbors speak to each other in Hindi, their volume and cadence automatically and discriminatorially leads me to assume they're arguing, even when circumstances dictate obvious otherwise.

What I think they're saying:

"I hate you!"

"I hate you more!"

"I hate you far more than you could ever hate me!"

"Bullshit you do!"

What they're probably really saying:

"Please let me help you carry the groceries."

"How sweet of you to offer."

"No problem at all, my dearest."

"You're my little curry cupcake, yes you are."

I hate language barriers.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

At least the pews were comfy

Well, I survived church. No passing out or bursting into flames.

I will say, though, that if your regular, everyday religion involves (among other things) waving knives about, leaping over bonfires, and the soundtrack to the original Wicker Man... geez, church is freakin' boring. Seriously, add some aerobics or karaoke or something.

A couple of days ago, my co-witch, A., and I came up with a number of things you could do or say to make a High Protestant service more entertaining: popping fake blood capsules in your hands to replicate stigmata, suddenly making out with the person next to you and going, "Oops, there I go, speaking in tongues again," etc. Our favorite involved kneeling at the altar rail for Communion, waiting for the bread and wine to come by, and then saying, "Oh, none for me, thanks. I'm vegetarian."

This one absolutely slew us, to the point that when I spoke with A. this afternoon, the first thing out of her mouth was "Did you eat Jesus?"

"Yeah, I did," I admitted. "It's just so hard to stay on a meat-free diet during the holidays."

Gawds, but we're a laff riot.

Monday, December 24, 2007

May I go home now? How about now? Now?

Jack is out of town visiting relatives. Free from adult supervision, I stayed up way past my bedtime, dancing around the living room to Hairspray and eating taquitos, conveniently forgetting that I had to go to work this morning. So now I’m all exhausted and mumbly and need a nap. Which I won’t get, on account of as soon as I'm out of here I have to run to my apartment and pack and clean myself up to go to church with my parents tonight.

Going to church, in and of itself, doesn’t bother me. (I know, I know, I’m supposed to feel all oppressed and persecuted and what not, but I don’t, so there.) However, taking my current level of sleep deprivation into account, going to an extra-long church service -- which will include dimming the lights while the congregation softly sings all 27,000 verses of “Silent Night” -- is a total recipe for narcolepsy.

I’d consider trying to catch some shut-eye during slow points of the Eucharist, gambling that my family will assume I’m deeply immersed in prayer, but I snore. And I do that weird, occasionally-stop-breathing thing in my sleep that always scares the hell out of people.

So… bleurgh. Merry whatever tomorrow is in any particular belief system to which you loosely ascribe. I gotta get more coffee.

Monday, December 17, 2007

If a tree falls in the office...

Yesterday turned out to be Show Us Your Blogspace Day. I wasn't tagged to participate, but this morning I decided that my cubicle deserved to be included:


The photo resolution is a bit low, so let me highlight a few points of interest. There's my carousel goat ornament; a little framed portrait of Ganesha made out of crushed gemstones; Jack's "Keep Austin Weird" baseball cap; a souvenir puck from the Hockey Hall of Fame; oh, and...

A GIANT FUCKING CHRISTMAS TREE DANGLING OVER MY DESK.

Um, yeah.

We're in the midst of a company-wide cubicle decorating contest, and my department settled on How The Grinch Stole Christmas as our theme. I was the dissenting vote, since creating a life-sized version of a Dr. Seuss classic out of office supplies struck me as overly ambitious. But no one was swayed, so I just rolled with it, figuring I could tack up a clever Whoville sign or something on the day of judging.

On Friday, a couple of co-workers mentioned that they were coming in over the weekend to get started on our decorations. Had I known that "get started" meant "stand on Evn's desk and hang a tree where his head goes," I might have shown up to help. And by "help," I mean "strongly encourage people to not stand on my desk and hang a tree where my head goes."

My employees assure me that the tree is not going to break loose and land on me. While I appreciate their confidence, this is the view several inches from my face:


Sometimes I miss working in retail.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A philisophical question

What are the moral ramifications of praying to Pagan Gods that your singing voice be decent enough to land you a featured role in an upcoming production of Godspell?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Wholly Crap

Maybe it was the image of a drunken Jesus guzzling rum, or the overweight drag queen portraying the Virgin Mary; or perhaps, it was the dozens of toads dressed as conquistadors suddenly exploding.

Regardless, I don't like art films.

Jack walked into the room as I was writing up my preemptive review of the movie. "A Pagan who doesn't like blasphemy?" he asked.

Well, sure, give me blasphemy any day, but blasphemy with reason behind it. Don't just blaspheme and go, "But wait, it's art."

Because, seriously: it's been done.

Friday, December 07, 2007

If I Could Turn Back Turning Back Time

No clue how we got on the subject of reincarnation, but that's all anyone in my department could talk about this afternoon. I'm not big on past life regression (having far too many issues in this life to worry about what crap I got into last time around), but I commented that, based on what others have told me about their own experiences, people's memories of past lives seem to revolve around how they died.

I expected everyone to go, "Huh," and move on with the conversation. Instead, one relatively quiet employee announced, "When I was thirteen, a Ouija board told me that in a previous life, I attempted to cross the Atlantic on a tall sailing ship back in the 1700's. But somebody pushed me overboard."

There was a moment of silence while we all just sort of looked at each other, and then my assistant, J., asked for clarification. "A Ouija board, like, spelled this out for you?"

"Yeah," she said with a "you know how it goes" shrug. "It took a couple of hours."

Death by drowning, especially when coupled with ominous messages from the Unseen World, is generally understood to not be comedic material, but J. and I are pretty much known for our inappropriate humor. Sticking out our hands and moving them around as if guided by an invisible planchette, we did our best to recreate the event:

"... so... then... Eliza... says... 'Why... dost... thou... not... lean... far... over... the... railing... and... peer... into... the... sea?... Perhaps... thou... shalt... spy... a... mermaid!'... And... you're... all... 'I... dare... not!... The... water... frightens... me... and... besides... last... time... thou... conspired... to... push... me... over... board'... And... Eliza... goes... 'Twas... but... an... accident!... Thou... knowest... I... be... a... Goody... Fumblethumbs'... So... you... go... 'Well... if... thou... art... sure... thou... art... not... going... to... kill... me'... and... she's... all... 'Hey... would... I... lie... to... thee?'..."

And then we laughed and laughed. Okay, yes, I'm the last person in the world who needs to be making fun of anyone else's encounters with the occult, but in my defense, the girl we were imitating thought it was hilarious.

Meanwhile, in a cubicle across the aisle, my Eastern Orthodox employee decided that yep, we're all going to Hell. She tentatively reached that conclusion roughly five minutes after she started working here, but our latest dramatic reenactment was the official final weave on the handbasket.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Yuletide Cheer (Now with less bitching!)

This is the time of year when my company's suppliers start sending us pre-printed Christmas cards--festive little reminders to please keep pimping their wares on our clients. Most feature warm but innocuous sentiments, secular to the Nth degree: "Happy December from your friends at Big Ass Cruise Line Conglomerate!"

I was loitering around our receptionist's desk, flipping through the cards and admiring the various pine tree and snowflake designs, when I came across one with intriguing Anglo-Saxon knotwork on the cover. Opening it up, I discovered that it was from a small European-based tour operator, who wanted to wish us "The very best this Winter Solstice."

Made my day, that did. I'm sure they were just aiming for a broad, inoffensive seasonal greeting, but it makes me happier to think that a roving band of Pagan graphic designers overthrew their PR department.

On a (kind of) related note, are there any country music singers who have not recorded a version of "O Holy Night"? It's actually one of my favorite carols, but if I turn on the radio and hear another nasal "Oh naaaaht, when Chrahst wuz berrrrrn," I'm going to eat a baby.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Gods really DO listen!

Remember, back in the day, when I did horrible things to a rosary in a woefully futile attempt to create a set of Pagan prayer beads?

As if my anguish was carried on angel wings to the far reaches of Heaven, a well-known NeoPagan author put out a book called...

Pagan Prayer Beads.

Oh, mommy.

The book is all about (as you may have surmised) making your own Pagan prayer beads. And I'm reading it, and I'm looking long and hard at the illustrations, and I'm thinking... I can do this.

Granted, I've never beaded before, and beading involves a number of edged tools with which I could conceivably poke some serious eyes out, but really, I think I can do this.

Oh, and to make matters more intense: Jack caught me reading the book, and he got this kissably cute smile on his face, enhanced by some painfully adorable puppy-dog eyes, and he was all, "Are you beading now? Are you going to make something for me?"

Stupid effective puppy-dog eyes. Grrr.

So now, I have to do this. Results and insurance claims to be posted forthrightly.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Bang head on desk, repeat as necessary

Here’s how things go in Texas.

A new guy joins one of the statewide message boards. He gives a polite, friendly introduction, offers some insight into his personal belief system, and explains that while his faith does have some Judaic influences, it’s an earth-based spirituality and he is very much a Pagan. He hopes he’ll be welcome, and he’s happy to be on the list.

I swear I’m not making this next part up.

A feisty young lass posts a response to his intro. She’s read what he has to say about his practice, and [direct quote] “It seems very Christian to me.” She expresses some lovely vitriol regarding those nasty, dogmatic Christians and where she’d like them to go, but asserts that she’s very glad he doesn’t “think of Pagans as evil Hellbound people who should be burned at the stake.”

She says this to a fellow Pagan.

Welcome. We’re so fucking happy you’re here.

Are we already that far gone? Have we already devolved to that level of ignorance and paranoia? Are we so blinded by self-righteousness that we’re ready to start accusing people of belonging to the “wrong” religion, regardless of their circumstances? Or perhaps, because of their circumstances?

Doesn’t this sound a wee bit too familiar?

Friday, November 30, 2007

"Bigger fish to fry"

I'm watching a repeat of last night's Kathy Griffin stand-up special, in which she reenacts her now infamous Emmy acceptance speech.

And, really, I'm sorry, but... how can Jesus not find that funny?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Naked Witches are Taboo!

The National Geographic Channel is airing a report on Paganism this evening, focusing specifically on adherents that practice their religion (gasp!) skyclad.

[Insert creepy background music here.]

You know, I want to watch, but I just don't think I can. I predict cringing.

Besides, new episode of Project Runway tonight. Safer. Less likely to make Evn throw things.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

And really, it would take a miracle

Nothing helps a dull day at the office whiz by faster than spontaneous theatre. For example, my assistant and I received rave reviews this morning after our improvisational rendition of The Miracle Worker. He gave a breakthrough performance as Annie Sullivan, while I was an acting tour de force as our company's IT director.

"Kind...ness," my assistant said firmly, grasping my hand and tapping the palm. "Kindness. Kindess!"

"Wah!" I responded, arms flailing and eyes rolling wildly.

"Kindness!" (Tap tap tap.)

Waaah!" (Flail flail.)

We're expecting a Tony nomination any day now. Or to be fired for insubordination. Whichever.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Say it to my face

I was outside on my lunch break, engrossed in a detective novel (Cross, by James Patterson; good reading). Several middle-aged good ol' boys in dress slacks were standing around the bench next to me, puffing on cigarettes and trading wisecracks.

"I just read this interesting article about homosexuals," one of them said. "Turns out sixty percent of them are born that way... and the other forty percent were sucked into it."

The rest guffawed appreciatively, while my ears started glowing. I don't mind gay jokes. Honestly, I don't. What I do mind is the stupid, ass-backwards rationalization of, "I'm going to make a homophobic/racist/sexist remark, because nobody representing a given minority is in my immediate vicinity. That, somehow, makes me not homophobic/racist/sexist, on account of I didn't say it to anyone's face."

I never know what to do in these situations. I'm possibly the least confrontational person on the planet, and demanding Equal Treatment from total strangers does not come easily. At least, not when I'm by myself. That's why we have parades.

I had almost resolved to let it go, when, still chuckling, Jokemeister commented, "Yeah, that was probably offensive, but hey, whatever."

At that, I tossed my paperback into my satchel and headed back towards the office. As I passed Jokemeister and his buddies, I made friendly but direct eye contact and said, "Truth be told, all of us were born that way."

And then I went back to work.

Not much in the way of Empowering the Tribe, but at least I feel better.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Gifts that keep on giving

Among my friends and family, it’s generally understood that I have... I guess unfortunate is the right word for it... unfortunate taste in décor. This is harder on Jack than anyone else. He dreams of a home reminiscent of a French cottage, rustic yet elegant, whereas I want to live in The Nightmare Before Christmas, as seen through the eyes of Gina Rowlands in The Skeleton Key.

Happy mediums are right out. We tried divvying up the rooms of our apartment, but from an interior design perspective, we’re both industrial saboteurs. If we agree that I have creative freedom in the living room, Jack will sneak in when I’m not looking and coat the place in Pottery Barn. If it’s decided that Jack will have complete artistic control over the bedroom, I’ll wait until he has a late-night social obligation, then cram seven-day candles and Precious Moments knock-offs onto every available shelf space. At one point, grasping at the last few straws of compromise, Jack suggested we buy a duplex. That way, he tactfully explained, we could have his cozy, classically appointed residence on one side, and my (and I quote) “White Trash Pagan Temple” on the other.

We’re looking into it. In the meantime, Jack finds himself in the unenviable position of giving me presents.

Like any good boyfriend, he’ll occasionally pick up some small token of affection for me, “just cuz.” The problem, of course, is that the things I’d appreciate are things he’d normally never be caught dead buying. But he fights through, suffering the curious glances of other shoppers and the judgmental snickers of salespeople, because he’s just that great of a guy.

And also because if he doesn’t at least partially acknowledge my Gods-given right to have a religious kitch fetish, I’ll go on strike and never clean the litter boxes again. But mainly because he’s just that great of a guy.

Last night, Jack came home after several hours of shopping for assorted domestic necessities. “I have a little something for you,” he said flatly, eyes averted. Bounding off the couch, I tore open the Dollar Store bag he handed me, revealing this.

After I finished squealing in delight, Jack described his interaction with the cashier.

Dollar Store Cashier (holding up figurine, head cocked to the side): “Seriously?”

Jack (re: flatly, eyes averted): “Um... yeah.”

I immediately installed my new treasure in a place of honor on top of the entertainment center, while Jack did his best not to scream in agony and run weeping from the room. It was very sweet of him, though. Perhaps I’ll do something nice for him in return, and take down last year’s Halloween decorations.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Heat lamps on the ice sculpture of my sanity

There's a lot of stuff in the world that makes me crazy: political corruption, religious fundamentalism, cultural homogenization, totalitarian agriculture, etc. Above and beyond, though, nothing unhinges me more than e-mails submitted through my company's Web site that read, "I can't figure out how to submit an e-mail through your Web site."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sincerely

It seems to me that most metaphysical pioneers, whether practitioners or academics, are eventually accused of having "made it all up." To be honest, I think it's because it's far easier on the human mind to conceive of things like witchcraft and the occult as inventions rather than... well, real.

It's easier to say "Margaret Murray invented the Witch Cult to sell books" than it is to say, "There's a distinct possibility that a pre-Christian, European proto-religion flourished well into the second millennium." It's easier to say "Aleister Crowley just rewrote Gnostic philosophy in the style of his favorite poet" than it is to say "A spiritual entity named Aiwass dictated The Book of the Law over the course of three days." It's easier to say "Charles Leland created a fictional character named Maddalena" than it is to say "Aradia is the Gospel of the Witches."

The general public does not want to believe these things are real. A lot of Pagans don't want to believe these things are real. But the aforementioned authors certainly believed that what they were writing was real. And occasional errors in anthropology and judgment aside, we have no reason to disbelieve their sincerity.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Drowning in tears of helpless laughter

The members of one of the 3.5 billion listservs to which I subscribe have been denouncing a couple of well-known NeoPagan authors as "dogmatic" and "intolerant." I wish I could muster up some righteous indignation, but (a.) the authors in question have survived way worse; (b.) nothing I post in response would make any difference, since the people waving the pitchforks think I'm dogmatic and intolerant, too; and (c.) the whole situation strikes me as so comically absurd that I can't stop giggling.

Every time I think I've gotten the mirth under control, some fresh new Mollierian twist rears its ignorant head. Last time I checked in, various members were spouting generalizations about the State of NeoPaganism in the World Today, unknowingly quoting the same authors they were condemning moments before.

I want to chime in and point this out, but again with the giggles.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Falls Down, Goes Boom

I really need to start making more appearances at public Pagan events around town. Not out of any sense of community spirit or loyalty to my people or anything like that (perish the thought), but because we’ve got a Swooner, and I’m dying to see her in action.

Swooning, in a Pagan context, occurs when an attendee at--or occasionally, the leader of--a given ritual is suddenly overcome by the Powerful Energies that have been raised. He/she has no other option but to kerfuffle about and collapse in a heap, dramatically stealing focus and irreparably derailing the rest of the evening. In practice, it’s a lot closer to catching the vapors than catching the Spirit.

What’s interesting (to me, at least) is that the Swooner is rarely a pie-eyed, unshielded newbie, participating in his/her Very First Real Pagan Circle. Almost always, it’s Grand High Lady Muckety-Muck MoonPillow, Sorceress Supreme... whom, y’know, you’d think would have a better handle on Powerful Energies. But hey, who are you to judge, newbie? Maybe one day, you’ll be even half as affected by Powerful Energies as Lady MoonPillow, and then you’ll understand.

Therein lies the inherent authority implied by a good Swoon: sensitivity to the supernatural, and any resulting physical reaction, denotes great and terrible occult power. That is, Swooners don’t swoon because of a lack of training or control—-rather, they swoon because they have so much psychic ability that the slightest shift in unseen forces just blows their legs right out from under them.

Beat.

Yeah, I threw up in my mouth a little bit, too. But that’s what they’re selling, so that’s what I’m blogging.

Since the ultimate goal is to garner as much attention as possible, the most important factor of effective Swooning is timing. If all the participants in a ritual are dancing ecstatically, you can’t crumple to the floor and expect results--everyone will just think you tripped. No, you have to wait for the right moment, such as in the middle of a guided meditation. Once everyone else has moved into a nice, serene trance state, moan like a banshee and fall out of your chair. People will ask what happened. Tell them.

As cynical as I'm sounding, please don't think I'm saying that energy or power or what-have-you can't be raised or experienced. Far from it. I've raised energy, and I've felt the energy raised by others. What I'm saying is that when particular Pagans consistently Swoon at every ritual they attend, something's up. And I'm saying that those Pagans are the same ones who are constantly under magical attack, and the same ones who have Very Significant dreams in which the Gods appear to them and give detailed instructions on how the coven/grove/fellowship/non-profit should really be run.

So, anyway, back to our resident MoonPillow. She's popped up at several events of late, and by all accounts pulled a couple of spectacular face plants. I was hoping to catch her act in person, but, sadly for me, the locals are beginning to smell trouble. That's the downside of Swooning: you can get away with it once, maybe twice, before the Pagans around you start rolling their eyes: "Again?"

But she'll be fine. The Pagan community is nothing if not forgiving, so all she has to do is lay low for awhile, and everyone will forget all about it.

Well, almost everyone. As a general rule, Swooners do not make it onto my Christmas card list.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Must... kill... e-zombies...

I used to think online video games were kind of silly.

Then I discovered De-Animator.

I'm so addicted at this point that I'm trying to figure out how to smoke it.

Unfortunately, my office computer doesn't have sound, so I have to make the special effect noises myself. I've also added an improvisational running commentary:

"Blam! Blam-blam-blam! Eat hot lead, you undead freaks! Blam blam! Stay back! Stay back! No! Noooooo!!! AAAIIIIIEEEEEEE!!!!! Rip! Crunch! Splort!"

I'd probably be able to get past Level 11 if my co-workers weren't all staring at me.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Hey, you know what I never did?

Give the answer to my meme tag post from awhile back, that's what.

I did the whole meme tag thing because Deborah told me to, and I'll pretty much do anything she says, on account of just try to find me a better online guru*. She goes camping more than I do, which means that if we ended up lost in the woods together, she'd take the time to figure out which plants are edible, while I'd eat the first berries I saw and immediately go into anaphylactic shock.

But I digress.

#2 is false. I never used Witchcraft to put a curse on a middle-school science teacher... in fact, I stole the idea from a Japanese horror movie called Misa The Dark Angel.

I hope everyone's relieved that the Wait for the Truth is finally over. I know I am.

*Oh, and I also know that when I said "find me a better online guru," several Strifemongers gestured meaningfully at Dave Lieberman.

Please. What Dave and I have is purely physical.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Shoop Shoop

What not to watch when feuding with one's domestic partner:

Waiting To Exhale.

It is not a good movie. Miss Whitney was not snubbed by the Academy.

But, if one finds oneself in a certain frame of mind, it does put ideas in one's head.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I'm not a Mason, but I play one on TV

I caught a special on National Geographic last night called "Secrets of the Freemasons." I expected a certain amount of bullcrappiness, if only because the Great God Nielsen demands it. But even with that in mind, the whole thing was pretty appalling.

I'll admit that they made a half-assed attempt at objectivity by including interviews with Master Masons. Unfortunately, those few clips were overshadowed by an ominous voiceover that could give Don LaFontaine a run for his money:

Master Mason - "The Freemasons are a fraternal organization, originally a medieval workers guild that sort of evolved into a social club back in the 1700's."

Ominous Voiceover - "Masonic symbols are linked to Pagan worship and Satanism."

Master Mason - "There will always be some kind of controversy surrounding any initiatory society, but we're really more of a fellowship than anything else."

Ominous Voiceover - "According to conspiracy theorists, the Masons are responsible for every political and religious upheaval in the history of the world."

Master Mason - "Would you like a cookie? Mom baked 'em fresh this morning."

Ominous Voiceover - "There's a Mason with a chainsaw hiding in your closet."

Geez, and I thought Witches had problems.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Makin' Whoopi

I was curled up in bed, thinking about going to sleep while playing around on YouTube via Jack's laptop. Suddenly, Jack appeared in the doorway of the bedroom, a concerned look on his face.

"The computer contacted me telepathically," he said.

"Um, what?"

"The computer contacted me telepathically and asked me to come rescue it from you watching the musical numbers from Sister Act 2 over and over and over."

Then he took the laptop away.

Color me suspicious, but I don't think that was really the computer talking.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Three's Company Too (ba-dum, ba-dum dum)

So yesterday was my birthday. (Yeah, yeah, whatever, I'm 32, nothing cool happens at 32). My parents took Jack and me out for a lovely dinner. When we returned home, Jack checked the voicemail and announced, "Hey, Mike called to say Happy Birthday."

"Cool," I said. "I'll call him back tomorrow." And then I went to bed.

When I got home from work today, I went through the Caller ID to find Mike's number. The number that came up as "Unknown" didn't look like his, but I figured he got a new cell phone or something. I dialed, and someone who sounded just like Mike answered:

"Hello?"

"Hello! I saw you called."

"Oh, hey, yeah! Did you get my message?"

"Jack got it, but thanks!"

"You're welcome! Did you have good birthday?"

"Yes, I did!"

And so the conversation went. Until suddenly, I thought, "Hey, wait a second, this isn't Mike..."

Turns out Mike and the illustrious Red Delicious sound exactly the same over the phone. We chatted for a good five minutes before I figured out who I was talking to.

And good thing I realized what I did when I did. Otherwise, I might have unknowingly made a comment about how, many years ago, Mike and I had a lot of sex.

Which would have made Red Delicious start to worry about all those times in college I made him give me back rubs.

Yeah, that would've been awkward. Good thing it's all cleared up now.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

United Religions of Benetton

We had a rough morning at the office. I mean rough, as in employees quitting without warning, infuriated CEOs raining hellfire and brimstone down upon our lowly department, rough. I honestly thought nothing could help me survive the day.

That is, until B., my illustrious co-manager, summoned me to her cubicle.

“We’re interviewing someone today,” she said, dropping her voice to a stage whisper. “And she’s Mormon.”

Granted, B. couldn’t know how happy this would make me (she doesn’t read my blog), but we had a lovely bonding moment over the religious diversity that thrives in our workplace.

“I think she’ll fit in well,” B. opined. “After all, E.’s Jewish, and J. is Eastern Orthodox, and you’re Pagan, and L. is Lutheran, and we all totally get along.” Then she paused, reflective. “If only we had a Baptist.”

“Oh hey, I’m Baptist!” announced another manager.

“And that’s great!” B. replied.

Above all else, that’s what I love about my job. The people I work with come from a wide variety of religious and cultural backgrounds, and through this, we’ve managed to create a truly safe space where differences in belief and practice are not just tolerated, but accepted, and sometimes downright encouraged.

Not what you normally expect from a company based on corporate sales, but there you go. And this brief ray of sunshine in my otherwise catastrophic day pretty much made me snap.

“Alright, everyone, listen up,” I said. “Who here does not ascribe to any particular organized faith?”

My loyal subordinates looked at each other, confused and concerned, and then a few people tentatively raised their hands. Sizing up the challenge in front of me, verily I went cubicle to cubicle, assigning religions.

“Let’s see. You’re Methodist now. And you’re Daoist. And you…” I stopped at my assistant’s desk and looked him over. “You’re Baha’i.”

He rolled his eyes at me. “For your information, I’m agnostic.”

“Oh, same difference.” I moved onto the next cubicle. “What are you?”

“Well, my mother says I live in sin.”

“Hmmm. Okay, you’re Episcopalian.”

Suddenly, one of my newest employees piped up: “Ooh, ooh! I worship the Devil!”

I raised an eyebrow: “Church of Satan or Temple of Set?”

She mulled over her options. “Never mind. I want to be Buddhist.”

And so it went. After a few minutes, everyone was happily settling into their new belief systems… except for B., who was growing increasingly skeptical.

“I think you’re just making these religions up,” she grumbled.

Whatever. She’s just pissed because she tried to call Muslim, but I’d already stuck her with Hellenic Reconstructionist.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Fluffy Bunny Under Glass

The phrase "fluffy bunny," or "fluff-bunny," is one oft bandied about in the NeoPagan community. Roughly translated, it means "people whose practices and/or beliefs are somehow sillier or less serious than one's own." It's a derogatory term.

And let me tell you, the Pagans hate the fluffy bunnies. But only because said Pagans secretly suspect that they're fluffy, too. And they're deathly afraid that someone "legitimate" will call them on it.

Has anyone ever read a book called The Mole People, by Jennifer Toth? If not, check it out sometime: it's an in-depth, first-person study of the homeless people in New York who inhabit abandoned subway tunnels, and it's beyond fascinating.

None of the underground homeless actually refer to themselves as "mole people," though; that's a figure of speech only applied to the tunnel denziens who live in the levels below them. Even when you get down to the lowest man-made tunnels, the groups living there have stories about the "mole people" who live even further below.

It's the same thing with the fluffy bunnies. Regardless of how much many Pagans worry that "valid" practitioners will notice how fluffy they are, there's always someone fluffier to look down upon.

But as a definable, persecutable group, fluffy bunnies simply don't exist.

(A tip o' the nib to Deborah for the special request.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Roger Woof

You know who's oddly yet undeniably attractive?

Bob Hoskins.

That's all I got today.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Things what come out of my mouth

There's a Sheela-na-Gig pendant hanging from my rearview mirror, which I keep in honor of Squat, the Parking Goddess. It's an unassuming yet fertile bauble, and it brings me luck. I have amazing parking karma, to the point where even Jack at his most skeptical can't help commenting that I find parking spots like I'm in a Doris Day movie.

So this morning, we're driving to my parents' new place to help them unload boxes (upon my dad's retirement, they packed up and moved from the suburbs to Houston's Official Gay Neighborhood). Just before we arrive, I reach up and remove the pendant.

Jack immediately starts chuckling: "Well someone's feeling conservative today."

"I am not feeling conservative," I say. "I just don't want to have to explain a big vagina to my parents."

You know what else I don't want to do? Use the words "big vagina" and "my parents" in the same sentence ever again. Because ew.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Things to Do to Mary When You're Bored

When your supervisor isn't looking, sneak online and print out a picture of Michelango's Pieta.

Take a Sharpie, draw a little dialog bubble above the Virgin Mary's head, and within it write "Oy, you're too skinny."

Surrepetitiously pass the picture to your stressed-out Jewish employee, then watch as she collapses into a helpless fit of shoulder-shaking, hiccup-inducing laughter.

Stongly encourage her to hide the picture in her desk before the Christians in the surrounding cubicles start asking what's so darn funny.

Get back to work, secure in the knowledge that the light-hearted defacement of sacred iconography totally lets the sunshine in.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

La Vie Boheme, Justice Style

Proving once again that Jesus is kind of embarrassed about most of His followers, milquetoast dominatrix and o-ffical Idiot of the Year Laura Mallory lost yet another court battle.

Y'know, I gotta say, she's plucky. She's got resolve. She's wrong on so many levels, and yet she just. Keeps. Trying.

So here's to you, Laura Mallory. You keep reaching for that rainbow. In the meantime, watch this; and, with my blessing, please do cry yourself to sleep. Or go fuck yourself. Whichever fits better into your personal belief system.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Happy Vappu To You

Tonight is the Eve of Beltane, an ancient Celtic fire festival marking the end of the first planting and the beginning of Summer, and in current times one of the big annual NeoPagan holidays (the others being Samhain, Lammas and Presidents' Day). Beltane Eve is also called Walpurgis Night, a name I truly adore. I love saying "Walpurgis." Try it: Walpurgis Walpurgis Walpurgis. Isn't that a fun word? Or, even better, "Walpurgisnacht." Oooh, but that's a satisfying series of consonants. If you hit them right, you'll totally clear your sinuses.

The name Walpurgis ("Walpurgisnacht!" "Gesundheit!") derives from St. Walburga, who's feast day falls on May 1. St. Walburga's an actual historical figure, but she has a whole bunch of Pagan baggage attached to her--most notably, she's one of five saints to whom legend assigns the Grain Miracle, which is in itself a remnant of pre-Christian agrarian ritual. Ah, to have been a fly on the thinly-veneered wall back then:

Medieval priest - "What have I told you people about venerating Pagan idols?!"

Medieval Pagans - "We're not. We promise. We're just celebrating the fact that St. Walburga had the power to make the grain grow as she passed by, which was a miracle and certainly not any kind of ancient fertility magic."

Medieval priest - "Oh. Um, I see. It just looked... I mean, what with the corn dollies and orgies and all... well, you know..."

Medieval Pagans - "It was an honest mistake. We understand."

Medieval priest - "Good, good, I'm glad we're on the same page. So I'll see you all on Sunday for the feast of St. Phallus the Foliate-Headed?"

Medieval Pagans - "Sho 'nuff, boss."

Other names for Beltane include Vappu (see title of this post), May Day, and my all-time favorite... Varbolg. I am unable to speak the word Varbolg. Anytime I try, it comes out as a deep-throated shout, followed by a raucous demand for wenches and grog.

And strangly enough, I have the exact same reaction when I try to say "Pentecost." I was the crappiest Episcopalian ever.

Varbolg!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The ranch dressing kept evaporating

Deborah put up several intriguing posts on the dreams she's had lately. Generally, I don't remember my dreams--I know that something vivid happened while I was sleeping, but that's about it. This morning, though, I woke up realizing that I could recall most of the details of last night's REM-inspired hallucinations.

Here's what happened:

Jack decided to clean our apartment while I was over at a friend's house, attempting to craft ritual tools out of a mixture of beeswax and ranch dressing. When I returned home, I discovered that the large wooden cabinet that serves as our entertainment center was gone. He explained that he left it out by the dumpster because our cats had scratched it up too much. I started to get angry, but then I noticed the two adorable miniature warthog/howler monkey hybrids he'd picked up as pets. They were supposed to be vicious, but one of them was very sweet towards me.

Leaving my new little friends behind, I went off to the theatre, because I'd been cast as a chorus member in a very short musical set in the 1700's, starring my boss as the crazed, invalid socialite. I did very well in the Saturday night performance, but I missed my entrance during the Sunday matinee. After the show I went swimming, even though there was this new Web site out that rewrote your personal reality when you logged onto it. I added a link to this site from my site, thereby saving the day, then swam some more.

Suddenly, the scene switched back to my living room, where I witnessed one of my cats jumping off our balcony after a bird. This startled me awake.

Perhaps I shouldn't spend any more leisurely afternoons hanging out with Discordians. It's apparently contagious.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Et Tu, Curator?

Some fellow Witches and I went to check out the Imperial Rome exhibit currently gracing the Houston Museum of Natural Science. We entered through the Hall of Emperors, featuring busts of various world-dominating authority figures (turns out Titus was totally hot), and then wandered through alcoves where sarcophagi, amphorae and statues of the Gods are thoughtfully arranged.

Overall, it was cool, except that a bunch of the God statues were labeled incorrectly. Which, to my idealistic lil' Pagan brain, amounted to light blasphemy.

Examples? Bien súr.

There was a Herm (a border marker carved in the likeness of Hermes) listed as Pan; a statue of Bacchus marked as Eros; and to complete the circuit, a sculpture of Janus denoted as Hermes. Granted, these weren't major, life-threatening mistakes or anything... but at the same time, if an average schmo off the street with only Trivial Puruit-level knowledge of classical mythology can pick out discrepancies, something's rotten in the state of Museumland.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Home Page Sweet Home Page

I got bored, so I built a new Web site.

Discuss.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

April's Fool

I stopped by a convenience store to buy some wine, the idea being to go home, sink into my sofa, indulge in some Vino and entertain myself with several hours of cheesy horror movies. I approached the counter with my beverage of choice and was rifling through my wallet for exact change when the cashier, not even glancing up from his register, casually asked, "How old are you?"

This is a trick often employed by the convenience store cashier set, designed to nip teenage drinking in the bud. The idea is that the question will throw off the underage customer, causing him to instinctively blurt out "Seventeen! I mean, um..." And then no beer for him.

When I was an underage customer, I vigorously trained myself against such tactics. If a cashier asked how old I was, I automatically said "Twenty-three." If a cashier asked what year I was born, I would announce "1971." The fact that I didn't have to stop and think suggested I wasn't lying, and my tone of voice--slightly put-out but understanding--implied, "Yeah, I get this a lot..." And then much beer for me.

Now, though, it's been legal for me to purchase and imbibe alcoholic refreshments for nigh on ten years, and these days I just don't spend a lot of time keeping a specific age in mind. So when the cashier asked, "How old are you?" I honestly could not remember.

I stood there, kind of slack-jawed, my eyes rolling up and my brow furrowing in deep concentration. Finally, I just took a random guess: "Uh... thirty-one?"

I phrased my age in the form of a question. I am an idiot. I might as well have said "What is thirty-one, Alex?" to see if the cashier would congratulate me and give me money. As it was, he just sort of looked at me funny and sold me the wine.

I wouldn't have sold me the wine.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Not thinking happy thoughts

The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, and my Seasonal Affective Disorder is making me want to kill everybody.

Ah, Spring.

I'm feeling grumpy. Not my usually, snarky-but-amusing level of grumpy, but a deeper, virulent grumpy that's getting harder and harder to shake. Insomnia is a big contributing factor, as is the aforementioned SAD and the emotional agony of dealing with my crippling addiction to fashion-oriented Reality TV. But mainly, I'm just pissed off because I found out what "The Secret" is.

For those who don't live your lives in a New Age fugue, "The Secret" is the brainchild of an Australian television producer, who put out a DVD and an accompanying book all about the Law of Attraction and how it can work for you. And according to the Law of Attraction, you get what you think about, so think happy thoughts and only good things will happen to you.

I'm all for thinking happy thoughts, but I'm also all for letting those happy thoughts inspire you to work for what you want to bring into your life (the keyword here being work). You can happy-think about your dream job all you'd like, but unless you turn in some job applications and hand out some resumes to back up your visualizations, it ain't going to happen.

Normally, a New Age trend like "The Secret" doesn't bug me too badly: I just turn the other cheek and continue on my way, secure in the knowledge that another pricey self-help fad will soon come along and take its place. But I received an unsettling e-mail at work yesterday, and "The Secret" is primarily to blame.

This random guy wrote into our company, asking us to send him on a free trip. In return, he'd become our new, enthusiastic spokesperson. His rationale for this cold-call of a pitch (which he thoughtfully included in his letter)? He believed in the Law of Attraction, so if he asked for a free vacation, we would give him one.

"The Secret" has officially invaded my turf. This means war.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Funny Ha Ha Love

A few years back, I wrote an article for a local rag about things you could celebrate instead of Valentine's Day. At the time, I thought my suggestions were just silly and irreverent, but in retrospect, some of them seem like pretty viable options.

Hug a Theater Queen Day
Oscar Wilde’s last play, The Importance of Being Earnest, debuted on February 14, 1895, at the St. James’ Theatre in London. To celebrate this anniversary, hold a tea party for your closest friends, but eat all the cucumber sandwiches before they arrive, just as Rupert Everett did in the movie. Or in true Saint Oscar tradition, fix up overweight acquaintances with cockney rent boys.

Kill a Bootlegging Gangster Day
On February 14, 1929, seven members of Bugs Moran’s gang and a random ophthalmologist were gunned down in a Chicago parking garage by crime lord Al Capone’s henchmen, who were costumed as policemen. To commemorate this event, dress up like a cop and hang out in an underground parking garage. Whenever you see someone wearing a trench coat and/or a fedora, accuse them of “moving in” on your “turf,” and then shoot out their windshields with a pellet gun. You won’t get arrested. Just tell the real cops that you were vacationing in Florida the whole time. That worked for Capone.

Get Kicked Out of and/or Executed by an Organized Religion Day
On February 14, 1076, an angry Pope Gregory VII excommunicated Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV for attempting to appoint Catholic bishops to office (apparently, Catholics frown on emperors doing that sort of thing, preferring that they stick to ribbon-cutting ceremonies and genocide). Later that millennium, on February 14, 1556, Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer was charged with treason and heresy by Queen Mary I, who wished to return England from Anglicanism to Catholicism. To commemorate this day, get yourself excommunicated or accused of heresy. Donate a large sum of money to Planned Parenthood in the name of Cardinal John O’Connor, or send an announcement of your impending civil union to the Episcopal bishop of Texas. If you’ve got a couple of hours to spare, invite a bunch of Southern Baptists over for Bible study and then lock them in your living room and force them to watch Footloose. Oh, and remember to pray loudly and openly later, when you’re tied to the stake. It makes the God-fearin’ people holding the torches uncomfortable.

Antonio Banderas’s Singing Career and Mickey Rourke’s Butt Day
Writer and director Alan Parker, who gave us such gay favorites as Evita and Fame, as well as the Cosby-kid-career-ending Voodoo thriller Angel Heart, was born on February 14, 1944. To celebrate, climb onto a balcony and sing about how you kept your promises to Argentina all through your wild days, or orchestrate a big dance number in the middle of a school. Or just dump blood all over Lisa Bonét and then slit the throat of a live chicken. Which leads us to…

Sacrifice Domesticated Animals for the Sake of the Children Day
February 14 was sacred to the Roman goddess Juno, Protector of Housewives and Inspirer of Blinding, Homicidal Rages Based on Good-For-Nothing Husbands’ Rampant Infidelities. Following Juno’s big day was the Lupercalia, an annual event honoring the nature god Faunus. During the Lupercalia festivities, a dog and two goats were sacrificed to promote fertility. Now, sacrificing dogs and goats doesn’t usually go over well in most residential neighborhoods, so to honor this holiday, just hold a massive banquet, followed by vomiting, a trip to the communal baths, and an orgy. Nothing says Roman like a nice, old-fashioned orgy.

A sidebar to this holiday planning: Dolly the Sheep, the first successfully cloned mammal, died on February 14, 2003, at the Roslin “We Make Sheep” Institute in Scotland. Wear wool in remembrance and use lanolin-based skincare products to retain essential moisture.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

My Mother Superior The Car

It never occurred to me that this day would come, considering my money management issues and controversial credit score, but I bought a car. A 2004 Toyota Rav 4 to be precise, black with sporty little silver accents on the sides. I named him Nicky the Wicked Bad Boy (after the character I played in Bell, Book and Candle and the way a local theatre critic described my performance), and I've also started referring to him as my trusty steed.

I didn't think I could ever love a black car, but it's totally true what they say about never going back. And the icing on the top of the automotive cake? Nicky's a lapsed Catholic.

There's some adhesive residue on his dashboard where there was either a plastic Jesus or Virgin Mary figurine, and when bright lights hit the rearview mirror, you can make out the outlines of where there used to be stickers in the shapes of a crucifix and praying hands. But Nicky gave all of that up to come practice Witchcraft with me.

Good Nicky. Have a sugar cube.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Best Christmas Present Ever

Along with a hand-knitted cap and a button featuring a skull over a pair of crossed candy canes, Sarah gave me a small plush squid, lovingly stuck full of blood-red hat pins.

I have a squid voodoo doll. Take that, my cephalopod arch-nemeses.

Why I'm keeping it in my car is anyone's guess, but at least I can rest assured knowing no squids can jack me.