Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The New PC

Jack spent a good twenty minutes explaining the difference between RAM and hard drive storage space to me. It was an excellent presentation, involving a variety of impromptu visual aides, and eventually, it all made sense.

"Hey, you know what I'm going to do?" I said. "I'm going to go find a little stuffed toy ram and put it on top of my desk, so that I can have more RAM on my desktop."

And then I laughed my ass off. Jack stalked out of the room.

"No, wait!" I yelled, running after him. "I'm going to invent an external hard drive that's shaped like a ram. Oooh, that's good! We need a patent!"

"You're crazy," Jack muttered.

"I'm not crazy!" I shouted.

[Ed. note: the easiest way to convince someone that you are, in fact, a barking lunatic is to shout "I'm not crazy!"]

"No, really," Jack said. "You're nuts."

"No, I'm not," I replied. "I'm... differently sane."

I offered up a winning smile. Jack offered up a blank stare. We called it even.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Quote 'o the Moment - Sucking the Sweat

Just finished watching the venerable James Lipton interview Daniel Radcliffe on Inside the Actors Studio. They discussed Radcliffe's performances in the West End and Broadway revivals of Equus, which got me thinking about my favorite moment of that show.

In this scene, Dr. Martin Dysart confesses that he's secretly jealous of his patient, Alan Strang, a teenage boy who (and this is an extreme oversimplification of the plot, so please forgive me) literally worships horses:

I tell everyone Margaret is the puritan, I'm the pagan. Some pagan. Such wild returns I make to the womb of civilization.

Three weeks a year in the Mediterranean. Beds booked in advance, meals paid with vouchers, cautious jaunts in hired cars, suitcase crammed with Kaopectate. What a fantastic surrender to the primitive.

The ‘primitive.’ I use that word endlessly.

’The primitive world,’ I say, ‘What instinctual truths were lost with it.’

While I sit baiting that poor, unimaginative woman with the word, that freaky boy is trying to conjure the reality. I look at pages of centaurs trampling the soil of Argos. Outside my window, that boy is trying to become one in a Hampshire field.

Every night I watch that woman knitting, a woman I haven't kissed in six years. And he stands for an hour in the dark, sucking the sweat off his god's hairy cheek.

In the morning, I put away my books on the cultural shelf, close up my Kodachrome snaps of Mount Olympus, touch my reproduction statue of Dionysus for luck...

And go off to the hospital to treat him for insanity.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Get Your Kicks

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is coming to Houston next week. TV commercials have been running pretty much around the clock, featuring the world-famous Rockettes standing in a line and doing high kicks in their various costumes: toy soldiers, candy canes, sugar plum fairies and/or chandeliers, etc.

Now, I've never had the chance to see the Rockettes in person, so I have to ask... do they do anything other than high kicks? Do they act? Sing? Cartwheel? And if they don't do anything else, is the audience supposed to applaud every time they start high-kicking? I mean, I know it's their signature move and all, but doesn't it get kind of redundant after awhile?

I think the show would be edgier if the Rockettes had to high-kick through stuff, like in a martial arts exhibition--cinderblocks, say, or big chunks of ice. Or maybe, they could put two Rockettes on opposite ends of the stage, and they would high-kick menacingly towards each other, and whichever one doesn't take a foot to the face wins. They could keep repeating this until only one Rockette is left standing, who would then be crowned the Alpha Rockette. Or possibly Rockette Prime.

Or (and this would be cool), they could change the theme of the show to "The Lil'est Rockette," which would be about a young, upstart Rockette who doesn't want to high-kick. So the other Rockettes are total bitches to her, but through the magic of Christmas, she teaches them all Capoeira and saves the day.

I would so pay money to see that. The Rockettes have got to start exploring their potential.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Come back soon, my favorite Catwoman

This has been floating around the Internet for ages, but it makes a nice tribute:



We'll miss you, Eartha Mae.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sometimes my voice carries

It was just a joke, people.

Practicing Witchcraft has not strengthened my personal relationship with Jesus.

So stop looking at me like that.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Another Successful Yule

Yay, the Sun came back! Always cause for celebration:



The lyrics, in case you'd like to sing along:

Now is the solstice of the year.
Winter is the glad song that you hear.
Seven maids move in seven time.
Have the lads up ready in a line.

Ring out these bells.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.
Ring solstice bells.

Join together 'neath the mistletoe,
by the holy oak whereon it grows.
Seven druids dance in seven time.
Sing the song the bells call, loudly chiming.

Ring out these bells.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.
Ring solstice bells.

Praise be to the distant sister sun,
joyful as the silver planets run.
Seven maids move in seven time.
Sing the song the bells call, loudly chiming.

Ring out these bells.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.
Ring solstice bells.
Ring on, ring out.
Ring on, ring out.


And the lip-synched TV appearance, for those (like me) who think Ian Anderson was kind of sexy back in the day:



Happy Yule, Strifemongers. And a special thank you to Jethro Tull.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

All queued up and nowhere to go

I dropped into Best Buy this morning, determined to find the one thing Jack wants for Christmas. They were sold out, of course, and wouldn't be receiving another shipment until the year 3027, by which time there will be special helmets that let people play World of Warcraft telepathically, but Best Buy will be sold out of those, too.* So instead, I headed over to the DVD section and picked out a couple of horror movies for myself, because that's what Christmas means to me.

The checkout line stretched across the front of the store but was moving at a brisk pace, retail workers being able to shift into a trance-like speed zone during the holidays. I fell in line behind a little old lady, holding a video game and doing her best to drive the shoppers around her insane.

"Boy, this line sure is long," she said. We all agreed that yes, it certainly was long. "I only came in for one little thing!" she laughed. "They should have an express lane for people like me."

The rest of us nodded, no one having the wherewithal to explain that everybody in line had, at the very most, three items. For all practical purposes, we were already in the express lane.

It took less than five minutes for our little consumer group to reach the checkout counters, which is a veritable eternity when the personification of passive aggression is standing next to you, jabbering on about what a wonderful show of holiday spirit it would be if everyone just got out of the way and let her go first. However, when she realized we was at the front of the line, she turned around and exclaimed, "Look where we are! I should auction off my spot to the highest bidder!"

We all pretended to be engrossed in the rack of CDs next to us, but the collective thought bubble floating over our heads was impossible to miss: "Ma'am, even if you did somehow manage to sell your place, you'd have to return to the end of the line, which would prompt you to start complaining all over again."

Although in retrospect, I'm willing to bet that's exactly what she wanted.

*Jack, this does not mean go find it yourself. I'll figure something out. Keep hope alive.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Technology is not my friend

"Look, Evn! I hooked up a new DVD player for you!"

"Wow! Thank you, Jack!"

[Evn fiddles with the remote.]

"Um, does the little red light mean it's on or off?"

"It's on standby."

"Okay... does that mean it's on or off?"

"There is no on/off anymore. Appliances stay on standby until you're ready to use them!"

"That makes me uncomfortable."

"Just please don't break this one."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I'm only stupid when I'm angry

Several years ago, Jack and I were both employed by a Houston-based GLBT publication: he was a sales executive, and I was a contributing writer. We had remarkably different experiences working for this magazine, mainly because of our respective supervisors. Mine, the editor-in-chief, was a very nice guy who thought I was funny and liked my writing style, whereas Jack's, the business manager, was an evil troglodyte.

Back in 2006, on what amounted to a delusional whim, the business manager fired his entire sales staff (Jack included), which, as a couple, financially crippled us. Not surprisingly, I did not handle this well, and ever since that day, the barest whisper of his name sends me into fits of blind rage. He's become the Full Moon to my inner werewolf.

On the other hand... and I'll never understand this... Jack still hangs out with him. They're friends. They do lunch.

Jack doesn't hold grudges. Resentment, heartache, betrayal, these are things to process and lay to rest. So when the troglodyte called this afternoon to invite us to the magazine's annual Christmas party, Jack happily accepted.

Understandably, I declined the invitation, asking Jack to give my regards to everyone... except him. Jack tentatively agreed, and, noting that I wasn't spitting or smashing things, decided it was probably safe to leave me home by myself. He gave me a quick hug and headed off to the festivities, while I grabbed the phone and called Sarah. She's about as fond of him as I am, so I figured she'd provide a sympathetic ear.

Now, I don't know whether to blame the weather (it's snowing), or that emotion-fueled, psychokinetic thing I do around electronics, but the line broke up every time I tried to explain the situation to her.

"Just e-mail me," she said, before disconnecting for the third time. So I sat down at my computer, only to discover that my Internet was down.

I'm sure it was just the weather.

Left to my thoughts, and free from contact with the outside world, I spent the rest of the evening envisioning elaborate revenge fantasies. Suppose, after downing a few Cape Cods or Mint Juleps or pints of heroin or whatever, he decided to borrow Jack's cell phone, give me a call and attempt to bury the hatchet once and for all:

"I'm so sorry you're not here!" he'd say.

"And I'm so sorry you were born, so I guess we're even," I'd reply.

Yeah, that would have been cool. But then I realized that I could have gone to the party with Jack and said something similar right to his face. A missed opportunity, I thought.

A missed opportunity. The words resonated uncomfortably in my head.

During the time I wrote for this magazine, a vast number of doors opened up for me. I had the chance to interview one of my literary idols; a local radio station brought me in as a guest speaker on two separate occasions, allowing me to promote myself as an up-and-coming spokenword poet; other regional publications, subsidiaries of national companies, liked what I was doing and started asking if I would write for them, too.

And I tossed it all away. Because one sad, spiteful little man made an ignorant decision--a decision which adversely affected my partner, whose happiness means far more to me than my own. With that in mind, I simply could not live with him in my immediate circle of colleagues.

Which is why it hurts on the molecular level when he and Jack do lunch.

My clenched, pent-up anger is a torch lit from a bonfire: Anyone who stands against it can either see the light or get burned. But sometimes, especially on a night like tonight, when Jack's out having fun and I'm alone, wrapped tightly in warm and familiar moral superiority, I wonder what could have happened. I wonder what could have happened if I'd held onto my contacts instead of my righteous indignation. I wonder what could have happened if I'd followed Jack down the professional high road. I wonder what could have happened if I'd not let one irrelevant, ugly individual dictate the course of my career.

Missed opportunities. Fun to ponder when your Internet's out and it's snowing.

Oh, and lest anyone think I'm having some kind of breakthrough, please understand that I still hate him with every fiber of my being, and will continue to do so until there's only one of us left on this planet. But I think, from now on, I'll pull a Hecate and carry two torches. One so that I can always keep an eye on those who belong behind and beneath me; but another to ensure that I keep to my path, and to prevent me from overlooking the opportunities in my future.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Quote o' the Moment - Trout Season

"The water of the sacred well must never be used for household purposes--cooking, washing, or the like. But after the well was cursed by the priest, and the tents were struck, and no pattern was held there any longer, it lost all its sanctity, and was no longer held sacred by the people, who began to fill their pails, and carry the water away from home for cooking and household use; while also they all washed their clothes down at the well, just as if no sanctity had ever been in the water.

"However, one day a woman having put down a pot of water to boil, found that no amount of fire would heat it. Still it remained ice-cold, as if just drawn from the well. So she looked carefully into the pot, and there beheld the Sacred Speckled Trout sailing round and round quite contented and happy. On seeing this, she knew that the curse was lifted from the well, and she ran and told the priest.

"His reverence having seen the Sacred Trout with his own eyes, ordered it to be carried back to the well, the water of which at once regained all its sacred powers by the blessing of the priest; and he gave the people leave thenceforth to hold their pattern there, so as they have behaved themselves like decent, God-fearing Christians for the future. But the water was not allowed to be carried away any more to their houses for household purposes; the desecration of the holy water of a sacred well being strictly forbidden as dangerous and unlucky."

-Lady Wilde
(Oscar's Mom)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I don't even watch the damned show

In the process of posting terribly witty comments on Bo's blog, I casually mentioned Klingon Wicca. And Bo was like, "Please tell me such a thing doesn't exist," and my initial reaction was, Hey, I know something Bo doesn't! Cool! Because he's way more intelligent than I am. Small victories and all that.

But then I started thinking that maybe knowing about Klingon Wicca was not such a big boost to my academic credibility, so I got all, "But I'm not into it! Honest! Ha ha!"

And then, for reasons known only to the Gods, I spent an hour trying to figure out how to say "stuck my foot in my mouth" in Klingon.

Don't judge me.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

NeoPagan Netiquette Revisited

I've been moderating a Pagan listserv for awhile now, so it will not come as a shock when I say that my life has become an endless game of Whac-A-Mole.

It never fails. Just when my co-moderator and I think we've got the locals under control and nominally focused, a new little monster pops up just out of our reach, determined to chew through everything we've tried to accomplish.

The latest spat was relatively brief as these things go, but it still provided an ugly snapshot of the Houston "community." And of course, it started innocuously, with one poor list member assumming she could ask for assistance without repercussion:

Pagan 1 - "Hello! If anyone with a truck is free this weekend, I could really use some help. We've got some furniture to move, and we need to be out of our current residence by Saturday."

Pagan 2 - "I don't mean to sound rude, but..."

Okay, I'm going to stop here for a second. It's one of those pesky Universal Truths: if you feel the need to slap this kind of disclaimer onto whatever it is you're about to say, the next words out of your mouth will be exactly what you claim they're not. If you say you're not trying to be rude, but, your next comment will be rude. If you say you're not racist, but, your next comment will be racist. If you say you're not gay, but, you're about to launch into a detailed dissertation on how desperately you want to have sex with Hugh Jackman.

Mmmm. Hugh Jackman. Yes, please.

But now we're off topic. Let's ground, center, and get back to Pagan 2:

"I don't mean to sound rude, but this is a holiday weekend, and you're asking a lot of us. Why can't you move next week? Or at least offer to pay someone?"

The fact that she could feel so personally inconvenienced by a general request is sort of breathtaking in it's egocentricity. But I do appreciate how she wouldn't feel inconvenienced if money were to change hands. Charity at it's finest, no?

My co-mod and I managed to squelch the situation before the list at large erupted, explaining the previously-mentioned Universal Truth to Pagan 2 and strongly recommending she work towards more constructive commentary. And things calmed down for a few hours. Unfortunately, we did not anticipate the belated arrival of Pagan 3, a two-in-one combo of my least favorite Netziens: The lurker who only participates when there's drama (usually to announce how distraught he is by the drama, which only serves to ensure that the drama continues), and the reactionary who doesn't bother to read all the posts in a given thread before launching himself into the argument. "I demand that the moderators do something!" he cried, bandying his swollen angst about like a baseball bat with a nail through it.

By this point I'd had quite enough, and silently excused myself to go outside and slam my head in a car door. While this particular pastime does not require the same skill set as Whac-A-Mole, it is, in its own way, infinitely more therapeutic.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Addendum to my previous post

As is often the case in my life, Randall Munroe at xkcd knows exactly what I'm going through:



Waking up is hard to blog

Jack was surprised to find me typing away at my computer after 2 a.m. "Why are you awake?" he asked.

"I had a bad dream about blogging and couldn't get back to sleep," I said. "So I decided to check my e-mail."

Seeing as how this is nowhere near the weirdest thing I've ever said to him, Jack accepted my explanation without question. In truth, though, the dream was not a nightmare at all. In fact, it was a very good dream, in which I composed the most amazing blog post the Internet had ever seen.

The post itself was loosely based on one of Le Cornichon's essays but took off in a different direction. I incorporated a number of seemingly unrelated ideas, then wove them into a seamless tapestry of exposition, the kind that makes readers slap themselves and say, "My God! My God, yes, of course!"

Quite an exciting moment of revelation, until I woke up. The dream melted away and slipped down the drain of my consciousness, leaving only a lonely, puddled sentence fragment behind:

"As we can see from the metaphor of the dentist, Grant Smiling..."

That's it. That's all that's left of an imaginary blog entry that could have won a Pulitzer. I could cry.

Which is why I was checking e-mail at 2:00 in the morning, hoping against hope that Le Cornichon had written something--anything--that would jumpstart my brain and bring my dream memories flooding back.

Alas, he had not... although he had sent an unsolicited picture of a rugged, well-endowed moose of a man, wearing a come-hither smile and not much else. So that was nice. And later in the day, Sarah agreed that Grant Smiling would make a wonderful name for a dentist. Which also helped.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Things I say to my employees

"Think of this less as a threat, and more as a pep talk."

I'm the best manager ever.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An Open Memo to Gay Bloggers

Dear Gay Bloggers,

Please stop assigning possessive, childlike nicknames to attractive male celebrities.

Do not refer to Tim McGraw as "My Timmy." Do not refer to Matthew McConaughey as "My Matty."

It's just kind of gross.

That is all.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Brotherhood of Snuggie

Although I'm not a fan of the advertising industry, I have a weakness for those "Not Available In Stores" commercials; the ones that feature terrible acting and bizarre products that no one in their right mind would ever actually use.

No one but me, that is. I loved my Magic Bullet, up until I accidentally destroyed it. Turns out, the Magic Bullet was not designed to pulverize myrrh.

What? I needed incense.

Anyway, I saw a commercial over the weekend that just about killed me. It opens with a woman sitting on a couch in a tastefully appointed living room, rubbing her arms in an effort to stave off hypothermia. An announcer pipes up to explain the situation through doggerel verse:

"You want to keep warm when you're feeling chilled, but you don't want to raise your heating bill."

The woman glares at her thermostat, which is leaking cartoon dollar signs. The camera shifts, and the woman is now lying on the couch under a blanket, visibly disillusioned.

"Blankets are okay, but they can slip and slide," the announcer continues, in a tone suggesting that anyone who uses a blanket in this day and age should go back to the caves and bang rocks. "And when you need to reach for something, your hands are trapped inside!"

On screen, the telephone rings. The woman flails helplessly about, desperate to free herself from the blanket, which has apparently come to life in order to devour her.

Before the blanket can claim its victim, the announcer jumps in to save the day. "Now, there's the Snuggie!" she exclaims. "The blanket that has sleeves!"

Not to come across as a bumpkin or anything, but down here in the caves, we call a blanket with sleeves a "robe." However, the Snuggie distinguishes itself from traditional housewear in that it slips on from the front. The woman is now happily wrapped in a Snuggie, which sports voluminous bell sleeves and a wide, hood-like collar. She looks, for all intents and purposes, like a cozy, comfortable, Satanic High Priestess.

The rest of the commercial depicts a variety of people ("One size fits all!") wearing Snuggies in different chilly environments, revealing that Satanists are far more domestic than one might assume. A Satanic High Priest types contentedly on his laptop; a group of Satanic High Priestesses cheer from the bleachers at a Little League game; two members of the Satanic High Priesthood and their Satanic Acolyte children toast marshmallows over a campfire.

By the marshmallow scene, I was literally choking on glee. I ran into the other room to describe the commercial to Jack, but I was laughing too hard to make any sense: "Blanket... sleeves... Satanic... Little League... Snuggie!"

Eventually, Jack understood that I was talking about something As Seen On TV. His eyes turned to flint.

"You may not have a Snuggie," he said.

"I don't want a Snuggie," I replied. "It was just a really funny commercial."

But oh, secretly, I do want a Snuggie. And if I order today, I'll receive a second Snuggie at no extra charge, plus a handy, clip-on book light, perfect for reading the works of Edred Thorsson during evening rituals.

If you want a Snuggie of your very own, you'll need to act quickly. Satanic High Operators are standing by to take your call. And your soul.

---

Update: It has come to our attention that the Snuggie is an imitation of the Slanket, which is more expensive, but which offers a wider selection of colors.

Such as hunter green.

Hint. Nudge.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thoughts on Thealogy

While blithely traipsing across the Internet, I discovered a Web site devoted to “saving the planet” by replacing God worship with Goddess worship.

According to the author, all male Gods are malevolent, and all Goddesses are archetypes of unconditional love. If everyone starts venerating the Mother instead of the Father, then our world will become a blissful utopia within the next two decades.

Okay. I have a couple of comments. The first being a line cribbed from The Craft:

"Nothing makes everything all better."

As much as we’d like to believe otherwise, a cultural majority that worships the same deity is not automatically rewarded with universal hugs and kisses. Two words, my friends: Protestant Reformation.

I feel that She’d fight this kind of perversion of Her nature, but within a uniformly Goddessian society, inevitably, devoutly, someone would start a movement proclaiming, “The Mother would never condone abortion.” Or, “The Mother would never approve of that kind of marriage.” Or, “The Mother would never allow those people to pray at Her altar.”

Setting aside the fact that historically, humans do not react kindly when their deities are taken away from them, no matter how gentle the extraction process: If our ultimate goal is enforced monotheism, then we haven’t learned a damned thing in the past 2000 years.

Our aim should not be spiritual domination, but spiritual freedom. Instead of ignorantly reenacting the histories of the Judeo-Christian faiths, we should be laying the groundwork for those who come after us, who will not only be correcting the mistakes we’ve made, but who will be free to venerate the Divine as they see fit.

I do not begrudge the previously-mentioned author her right to worship a Goddess. However, I cringe when I consider how she’ll react when she learns that not everything wrong with our world can be blamed on a God... or that some Goddesses might take issue with her perception of Their consorts.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Third time's the closer

We're approaching the official halfway mark of National Novel Writing Month, and I've snuggled into my traditional self-destructive behavior.

Here's how it works: I slack off on blogging, reasoning that if I'm writing, I should be focusing on my novel over anything else. But then I fall behind in my word count, which makes me feel guilty, so I give up writing all together. In the past, this has led to not updating the blog for a couple of months, which in turn leads to a dark, bottomless funk from which I don't emerge until June.

Well, not this time, campers. I can handle the depression and self-esteem issues, but the critical lack of Strife caused someone to unsubscribe from my Follow This Blog list.

As my dear, departed grandmother would say, "Screw that noise."

You know what? I'll write a novel whenever I damn well get around to it, not on someone else's arbitrary deadline. And it will be a good novel. So fuck you, NaNoWriMo. Fuck you in your hairy ear.

Right, then. Back to blogging.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Please don't squelch my dream, guys

So I'm on the phone with Sarah, and I hear myself say:

"If I am going to be Michelle Obama's gay best friend, my mother will learn to like her."

Because every First Lady needs a gay best friend.

Yes?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Oh, Happy Next Four Years

Noise from the living room roused me from a fitful sleep. Shuffling out of the bedroom, I found Jack staring wide-eyed at the television.

"What, did he win already?" I asked, stifling a yawn.

"Yes," Jack said. "He did."

And I burst into tears.

I do not ascribe to the religious beliefs presented in the following clip. However, the emotions expressed therein, along with select lyrics, correspond perfectly to the way I feel right now:

Evn on the Eve of the Election

My polling station is a Catholic Church a couple of blocks over from my apartment complex. After placing my vote, I ducked into the sanctuary for a quick prayer.

I will admit to feeling a little guilty about praying to the Goddess of the Witches in the middle of a Catholic Church. But they've got this amazing, floor-to-ceiling Queen of Heaven mosaic along the back wall, depicting the Virgin Mary in the standard Artemis at Ephesus pose, that frankly couldn't get any more Pagan if they tacked a "Please Remove Clothes Before Venerating" sign to it. So I figure no harm done.

I did not, as my Strifemongers might assume, pray for Obama to win. It just was my usual daily devotion, albeit carried out in a different venue. However, I did make a deal.

If Obama wins...

[Jack, you're going to want to sit down for this one.]

If Obama wins, I promise to stop expressing my political views in ways that mortally offend the people around me.

For example, I will no longer scream, "Fuck you! Fuck you, I hate you!" at the television while Jack is trying to watch the news. I will no longer make proclamations like, "I don't care what you think: If he willingly represents the entire republican party, then he is, in fact, a bad person." I will no longer suggest that the world would be a better place if Sarah Palin were to be eaten by wolves.

So that's my offering; my sacrifice. I agree to muzzle myself, so long as the situation at hand resolves itself in a truly necessary change.

That said, should things work themselves out otherwise, I have free reign to develop a spontaneous, acute and unstoppable case of Tourette's, the likes of which this world has never seen.

So, for me, it's win/win. But I'd prefer things get better for everyone.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Your Inaugural Moment of Chick

I was sitting out on my balcony, admiring the cresent Moon and the evening star (Venus) floating gently above her, when I thought, "Hey, that totally reminds me of the official symbol of Islam! Neat!"

And that realization inspired me to create a new semi-regular feature here at Lover of Strife.

Every once in awhile, I'll post a random panel from a Chick Publications comic strip. My Loyal Strifemongers will then comment upon it.

Ready? Good:



Discuss.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Engender, Dismember, the First of November

After facing two dismal failures in the past and swearing I was never going to put myself through this again, I signed up to participate in National Novel Writing Month one more time.

You can follow my progress here. Wish me luck, Strifemongers. And feel free to get on my case if my word count doesn't increase by at least 1667 a day.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Freudian Slaughter

What the subject line said:

"Virginia Blood Services requests that you verify your e-mail address."

What I could have sworn it said:

"Virgin Blood Sacrifices requests that you verify your e-mail address."

Note to self:

"Improve critical reading skills."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Would you light my candle?

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, and my neighbors have been decorating.

Jack, keenly aware of (and not entirely put off by) my love of Things Ganesh, has been keeping me abreast of their progress.

"Did you see?" He asked me yesterday afternoon. "They hung up a banner! Go take a look at it."

I took a look at it. It was very nice. And this morning, when I called from the office to check in and say howdy, Jack was eager to report new developments.

"There's a candle by their front door now," he said, "And there are these cute little footprint stickers all around their welcome mat."

"I know," I said.

"How do you know?" he asked.

"Because I saw the stickers last night," I replied. "When I was setting the candle."

Considering how much of an interest he's taken in our neighbor's Diwali preparations, I'm not quite sure why he chose to respond to my last statement with prolonged silence. But I'm also thinking it would be best not to tell him about pouring the offering of milk. Or where I did so.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Here There Be Roaches, and Other Confessions

You gotta be quick if you want to keep on top of things in the blogosphere. For instance, Thalia tagged me with the following meme:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.

2. Post the rules on your blog.

3. Write six random things about yourself.

4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.

5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.

6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

And while I dithered, trying to come up with six interesting things about myself, Deborah tagged me with the same meme. I’m officially behind! Let’s stop with the loitering, then, and dive right in.

1. I am terrified--terrified--of cockroaches. Now, I know my UK readers are scratching their heads and going, “Roaches? Those wee little German bugs? Yes, they’re unpleasant, but scary? Pshaw.” To that, I say this: You have never been attacked by a Texas cockroach. The first time my sister-in-law (she's from Kansas) saw one flying around (they fly), she went “Ooh, look! A bat!” They are fuckers and I hate them.

2. My left ear is pierced three times--two in the lobe and one up in the top cartilage. This is unimpressive by today’s standards, but back in the mid-90’s, I was freakin’ edgy.

3. I have a recurring nightmare in which I’m back in school, and I realize that I haven’t attended a given class all semester. It’s usually a class I’d never have taken in real life, like Engineering or Advanced Calculus, although sometimes it’s an English or History course. But this is never the “plot” of the dream--it’s just something that occurs to me halfway through, while I’m fighting zombies or whatever. So I have to spend the rest of the dream fighting zombies and figuring out how to explain my dismal GPA to my parents.

4. I can only sleep comfortably with one leg sticking out from under the covers. It’s like a reptilian, body-temperature-regulation kind of thing.

5. The final scene of Practical Magic makes me cry. Not just tear up, mind you, but sob uncontrollably. It’s one of my favorite movies, so I watch it every other month or so, and every time I think, “It’s not going to get to me.” And every time, as soon as he hears Stevie Nicks singing, Jack comes running in to watch me curl up in the fetal position and weep. He was sympathetic the first couple of times, but now he just tries not to giggle.

6. When I'm home by myself, and I know I'm not going to get caught, I crank up the stereo and lip-synch to Erasure's "Don't Say Your Love Is Killing Me." I've got a music video for the song mapped out in my head, and I periodically act it out in my living room.

All that wrapped up, I tag Red Delicious (he likes lists), Rottie Mom, Li, Bo, Pom and Knotty by Nature. Carry on.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

That motherly glow

I had some time to kill before meeting my mom for a matinee screening of The Secret Life of Bees, so I dropped by the Catholic bookstore, where I discovered an eight-inch-tall, glow-in-the-dark Virgin Mary.

I didn't buy it. Because, let's face it, what the hell would I do with an eight-inch-tall, glow-in-the-dark Virgin Mary?

But on the other hand, how have I ever lived without one?

Monday, October 20, 2008

I do hope she reads this

I’ve decided to found a non-profit organization called WASP:

Wolves Against Sarah Palin.

“Wolves” being a metaphorical, open-ended term, encompassing anyone whose quality of life suffers whenever Sarah Palin is given authority.

Here’s a recent quote from The Devil Wears Palin:

"Faith in God in general has been mocked through this campaign, and that breaks my heart and that is unfair for others who share a faith in God and choose to worship our Lord in whatever private manner that they deem fit."

I take this to mean that receiving blessings from a witch-hunting con artist in a public ceremony equates to “worshipping in a private manner."

Yeah, maybe not so much on the camera crew next time, Miss Congenial Concubine of a Counterfeit Christ. Learn a lesson from R. Kelly.

But I do like that we mustn’t look down on those who choose to “worship privately”... so long as they worship “Our Lord.” Open season on the rest of us, I guess. Perhaps now, since she feels so strongly about the definition of “marriage,” she’ll clear up the definition of “private.”

Before anyone gets too excited, please know that we’re not going to do much to save the world at WASP meetings. Basically, we’re just going to get together, have a few drinks, then run around in erratic, zig-zag patterns.

It will be harder for Palin to pick us all off from a helicopter that way.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Lil' Ol' Southern Lady (a parable)

The Lil' Ol' Southern Lady went to lunch with a group of her acquaintances, each of whom had recently celebrated a birthday.

"For my birthday," one woman said, "My husband bought me a full-length mink coat."

"Oh, that's nice!" the Lil' Ol' Southern Lady said. "That's really nice."

"Well, for my birthday," said another woman, "My husband bought me a brand new Mercedes convertible,"

"Oh, that's nice!" the Lil' Ol' Southern Lady said. "That's really nice."

"Well, for my birthday," said a third woman, "My husband bought me an all-expenses-paid, month-long trip to Europe."

"Oh, that's nice!" the Lil' Ol' Southern Lady said. "That's really nice."

The other three women turned to the Lil' Ol' Southern Lady and eyed her critically. "And what did your husband buy you for your birthday?"

"He bought me etiquette lessons," the Lil' Ol' Southern Lady said proudly.

"Etiquette lessons?" the women asked, amused yet unimpressed.

"Yes!" the Lil' Ol' Southern Lady replied. "You see, I used to say, 'I don't give a fuck.' But now I say, 'Oh, that's nice! That's really nice.'"

If you let the Lil' Ol' Southern Lady's words run continuously through your head, perhaps as a mantra of sorts, I guarantee you'll be able to make it through any NeoPagan event with a straight face.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The envelope, please...

Ladies and gents, we have winners!

My guest judge Thalia and I were so impressed with the overall entries that we decided to add another award. Therefore, in fourth place, receiving a vivid, suitable-for-framing Goddess sticker, is... Deborah Lipp!

Aishwara Rai as Durga and Ron Perlman as the Demon Bull were solid picks, and Vivica Fox as Kali was an unexpected twist. We appreciate you giving her the opportunity for a breakout performance.

Deborah Lipp, everybody!

[applause]

In third place, we had a tie!

[Gasp!]

Congratulations to both Yvonne and Anne Johnson, who will each receive an heirloom-quality Goddess magnet.

Yvonne, we liked your choice of myth, and we believe that no other actor could portray restrained disbelief at ending up God of Woodpeckers better than Colin Firth. Anne, puppetry is a dying art within the motion picture industry, so thank you for bringing in Brian and Wendy Froud to animate the Salmon of Wisdom, rather than falling back on CGI.

Let's hear it for Yvonne and Anne!

[more applause]

In second place, receiving a sturdy, libation-worthy Goddess mug, is... um, just a moment...

[An awkward pause. Evn shuffles through his notes and looks at Thalia. "Seriously?" She shrugs.]

In second place, it's Red Delicious!

[Audience starts to applaud, then lets out a collective "Huh?" Backstage, Faith Hill screams into a camera and storms away.]

Red Delicious, your entry was... different, but we're confident that yours is the one most likely to be made into a Sci-Fi Channel original movie. We had hoped that Garrison Keiller's character would meet a more crimson demise, but John Leguizamo as the Chupacabre totally compensates.

Oh, and seeing as how you're not really up on Things Pagan, we recommend you take a hint from Yvonne and go with a Pomona mug. She's the Goddess of orchards, so She'd make a good patroness for you. Just tell your wife it's a representation of La Virgen de las Manzanas.

Show Red Delicious some love, folks!

[reluctant, confused applause]

And finally, in first place, receiving a fashion-forward, thought-provoking, organic Goddess T-shirt is...

[drum roll]

Miakoda!

[thunderous applause]

Miakoda, we thought your casting was impeccable, and we enjoyed how your plot treatment infused the story of Iyansa and Shango with modern relevance. Believe me, the Gods adore modern relevance. Well done!

Winners, drop me a line at loverofstrife@yahoo.com with your physical mailing addresses and Goddess preferences. Also, if anyone would like to make an acceptance speech, you may do so at this time.

Thanks for playing!

[music swells, cut to commercial]

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Did I say Tuesday? I meant Wednesday.

My celebrity guest judge and I are furiously tallying contest results, which is taking a little longer than originally expected.

But we thank you for your patience. Winners to be announced first thing tomorrow morning. We promise.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Gardnerian Tradition, as Seen from the Inside

It's 10:30 p.m. The phone rings.

Half asleep, I stumble out of bed and fumble for the receiver.

"Hello?"

"Hello! Is this Evn?"

"Uh... yeah?"

"Great! This is Fred. Listen, Brenda needs to get in touch with Catherine, but she lost Catherine's number. And she tried calling Hubert to see if he has it, but he went with Lindy and Alex to go visit Morgan, who doesn't ever turn his phone on, and he only checks his e-mail once a week. So she called Valerie, but Valerie only had Catherine's old number from when she lived in Idaho. Have you ever been to Idaho? Anyway, Valerie told Brenda to call me, but I haven't seen Catherine since I ran into her and Clive at that concert in Winnipeg back in '05, so I called Hilda, who IM'ed Theo, and it turns out that Theo had a number written down for a Catherine, but he couldn't figure out if it was Irish Catherine or Lithuanian Catherine. So Hilda called me back, but then Javier called, because Valerie text-messaged him to say that Brenda was looking for Catherine, and he remembered that Catherine had said she'd talked to Diane last month, but everyone knows that Javier always gets Catherine mixed up with Wilhelmina..."

"Okay, I'm sorry, just stop. Who is this, again?"

"Oh, for Gods' sake, Evn, it's Fred. Down from Regina."

"Tall Fred? With the goatee?"

"Yes! Do you have Catherine's number?"

"Let me find my address book."

Fin.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Pot Sweetens

It just occurred to me that I didn't tell you what prizes there are to be won in the God-casting contest. Well, in light of the polytheistic nature of the competition, and in honor of the Queen of Heaven campaign I've instigated:

Third Place will receive the Goddess magnet of his/her choice from The Cat & Cauldron. Second Place will receive the Goddess mug. of his/her choice. First Place will receive the organic Goddess T-shirt of his/her choice.

Do I give good prizes or what? Now on with the show.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Casting Call!

I don't know how she does it, but Anne at The Gods Are Bored managed to score a one-on-one interview with the Goddess Asherah. I was never this lucky when I was a journalist.

During their conversation, Anne suggested that if a movie were made about Asherah's life, Charlize Theron should play the title role. Lover of Strife verdict: [Insert angry buzzing game show noise here].

Theron's lovely, really, but she is not Asherah. The part goes to Gina Torres, or we eighty-six the entire script.

However, this gives me a brilliant idea: a contest! Let's have a contest!

Strifemongers, pick your favorite myth, choose the most appropriate actors to play the Gods who appear in it, and post your submissions in the comments section. Entries will be accepted until next Tuesday, at which time I'll announce my top three casting directors (assuming more than three people enter), each of whom will win an actual prize.

And I mean it this time. As opposed to the last time I offered a prize.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Priceless

Discovered by Co-Witch B. while shopping online:


Now this is what we should have done with all the extra water Co-Witch A. and I stockpiled before the hurricane. I'm eyeing my bowl of blessed salt and a box of plastic baggies and thinking, Link sell! Link sell!

Jokey-jokes aside, it's worth pointing out that money and magic do not mix within the Gardnerian tradition. You work a spell because there is a need, not because there's an opportunity for profit; you train and initiate apprentices because they are where they're supposed to be, not because they're untapped financial resources.

With this in mind, we can safely assume that whoever blessed this water (if anyone actually did) is not Gardnerian.

And for the record, there is absolutely, positively nothing wrong with practicing a form of Wicca that does not have ties to the illustrious Gerald Gardner. I'm serious. If your particular Wiccan practice, regardless of its history, brings you spiritual fulfillment, then by all means keep doing what you're doing. You don't need Gardnerian roots to make it "valid": What makes it "valid" is that it works... or, on a more intimate level, that it works for you. And you have my permission to tell anyone who says otherwise to bugger off.

On the other hand, if you feel obliged to ride another tradition's coattails--Gardnerian, Alexandrian, or something founded down the street from you last week--in order for your practice to be outwardly perceived as "legitimate" (or to sell little bottles of tap water on your Web site), then you're emphatically off-track. Do whatever it is you do because you love it, because it makes you happy, because it brings you closer to the Gods. Or don't bother doing it at all.

And above all else, please don't slap a price tag on it. If you subscribe to the mindset that Wicca can be defined in terms of monetary value, then I guarantee you can't afford it.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Demon

As a general rule of thumb, I am not fond of children. They're noisy and they're sticky and they break things, and you can't scream at them in public if you're not related to them. Or at least, you're not supposed to. Or at least, I'm not supposed to. Anymore.

Even back when I was allegedly a child myself, I wasn't fond of children. At slumber parties, all the other kids would infest the living room, playing video games or stabbing each other or whatever, and I'd be in the kitchen with their mothers, sipping coffee and discussing the PTA.

I refused to interact with my own brother until he could legally vote. Being twins, this made family dinners awkward.

The one notable exception to The Rule is Co-Witch A.'s son, Sean. He's only nine, but he comes across as an actual person, as opposed to the revolting little booger factories most 9-year-olds turn out to be. He's just sort of not entirely unacceptable. I have decreed he can stay.

I do worry about him, mainly because his parents are who they are--that is, Pagan folk revivalists who met while working at a Renaissance Festival. Don't get me wrong, they've raised him wonderfully, but it's going to be hell for him to stage any kind of effective teenage rebellion:

"Mom, I'm dropping out of school to join a band."

"How exciting! You know, your father dropped out of school to join a band, and that's how we ended up with a lovely home in this upper-middle-class neighborhood."

"Mom, I'm gay."

"You get that from my side of the family. I mean, your father says he's bi-curious, but at this point he needs to either put up or shut up."

"Mom, I got my tongue pierced."
[read: "Mawem, ah gawth mah tawng pee-athed."]

"A Prince Albert would have been more cost-effective. Ask your father about his."

Now, the problem with worrying about a child--even one you didn't build yourself--is that it's very easy to get overprotective. This, coupled with my tendency to perceive Sean as a miniature adult, means that I've developed a bad habit of saying inappropriate things to him, which could possibly be construed as counter-intuitive to Co-Witch A.'s parenting style.

And be it known that I am not, as some have implied, trying to turn Sean into my personal pet sociopath. I just don't spend a lot of time around 9-year-olds, much less likable ones. I forget that nurturing the Darkness within them is generally considered verboten.

I was over at Co-Witch A.'s house a few months back, relaxing on her back porch during a break in our standard weekend activities (talk about Witchcraft, practice some Witchcraft, watch a cheesy, b-rated horror movie about Witchcraft). Sean wandered outside and flopped down in the chair next to me, letting out a forlorn sigh as he did so.

"Is everything okay?" I asked. And he launched into a mighty tale of elementary school woe. Some bully or other had singled him out for persecution, and he was having a hard time dealing with it.

"He makes me so mad that I want to hit him," Sean said, visibly wrestling with his emotions. "But it is not okay to hurt people."

It was out of my mouth before I could stop myself: "Okay, but you know what? Sometimes, it is."

"It is?" he asked, confused.

"Oh yeah," I said. "Definitely."

He digested that for a moment. A thin, macabre smile slowly spread across his face.

"Oops," I thought.

It took a couple of days' worth of picturing Sean gleefully burning his school down before I caved and called Co-Witch A. to confess.

"Let me see if I understand," she said, processing the situation. "What I'm hearing you say is, when a guidance counselor calls to inform me that Sean has murdered his classmates, I can refer her to you, and you'll be able to explain what happened."

I conceded that yes, that would be an accurate summation.

"Oh, good! I'm so glad we're on the same page. You have fun with that, hear?"

Many years ago, my parents decided that I should become a teacher, and did everything they could to coerce me down that particular career path. I wish I'd known Sean back then. I could have introduced him to my parents, and with one little directive...

"Sean, tell the nice people what you've learned from me."

...the question of my potential as a professional educator would have been tabled once and for all.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Happy birthday, Pookie. Up yours, Ike.

Today is Jack's birthday, and believe you me, we're going to have to light a lot of candles this year! Ha ha ha!

Of course, they won't be on his cake. You see, now that 98% of the Houston area has power back, ours went out again.

Fuck.

I turned 33 last month. A 33-year-old man should simply not need to spend this much time living with his parents.

Head Meets Desk

This is how my day started:

Me [chatting with a manager from another department] - "We're probably going to announce the new Web site next week, and..."

Her - "We have a new Web site?"

Me - "Well, it launched a couple of months ago, but we haven't promoted it yet."

Her [rolling her eyes] - "Nobody ever tells me anything! It's like the last time we launched a new site. It just suddenly went up one day, and no one bothered to mention it to me."

Me - "Do you mean the Web site we featured in the corporate newsletter? We sent it out to all our employees..."

Her - "Oh, I never read the newsletter."

Me - "Really? Why not?"

Her - "There's never anything in it that has anything to do with me. So why didn't anyone tell me about the Web site?"

While it's tempting to blame this on the current Mercury Retrograde, I suspect there are deeper issues at play here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What I've learned from online forums

Seeing as how I'm gay, Pagan and a political independent, I'm allowed to respond to any post I choose with the following:

"That's not funny."

And it's freakin' great. I can't get enough of this shit. I'm winning so many arguments right now.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Quote o' the Moment - Unwelcome

“Evangelical groups have been meeting with major [bookstore] chains to 'advise' them on marketing to their community, pointing out that Christian bestsellers like the Left Behind series make the stores more dollars per square inch of shelf space than Wiccan, feminist or psychology books, and also that their community won't come to those stores unless they're not offended by what's being shelved in the stores and unless they're 'made to feel welcome.'

"The two groups I heard were spearheading the effort were Assembly of God and the Philadelphia Church. Pagans are in danger of becoming the new Jews in a culture that is increasingly fascist, however that fact may be obscured by being wrapped in red, white and blue bunting and religious platitudes.”

-Phyllis Curott

[Ed. note: There was a different Quote up earlier, but I think this one's a little more o' the Moment.]

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Long Live the Queen

It's been widely noted, if not necessarily understood, that republican VP nominee Sarah Palin formerly belonged to the Assemblies of God: a colorful branch of fake Christianity that has, over the years, spun off a number of wacky sects. Most notably the Third Wave.

Third Wavers, a cheeky gaggle of militant wingnuts if there ever was one, have declared an official jihad (I am not making this up) on the Queen of Heaven, known among the hell-bound masses as Diana, Artemis, Fatima and the Virgin Mary. She's a demon, they aver. Oh, and She's also the Whore of Babylon.

Speaking as a priest of said Queen, I resemble that last remark. And if you ask me, they left out several essential names. What about Astarte, Third Wavers? I love Astarte. But they also didn't call me for clarification; which, frankly, is a mortifying PR bungle on their part.

I could have cleared up a few things. Seriously. They need me.

And if I sound unduly irreverent, it's only because I'm scared out of my mind.

Just to set the record straight, I am not an alarmist, nor am I a reactionary. But I am a homosexual Witch who likes to speak his mind. In the eyes of those who subscribe to a debased satire of the Rabbi's teachings, who may just live to see one of their own ascend into the office of President of the United States, that makes me a target. Or a scapegoat. Or a sacrifice.

That said, I do feel the need to offer some constructive criticism before the grinning, glassy-eyed godbotherers show up to take me away.

To my Pentacostal readers (and believe me, I'm huge in rural Alaska): Call it "baptism" all you want, but if you forcibly hold someone under water for an extended amount of time, and he or she ends up having visions of the Divine, they are not catching the Spirit. They are drowning.

From a personal perspective, I'd happily pretend to talk in tongues if I was trying to keep several gallons of murky river out of my lungs and desperately wanting to breathe again. But hey, that's just me. You go on with your bad selves, Third Wavers. Praise Jesus. Blessed be.

Anne at The Gods Are Bored has called for Pagans to come together in solidarity, to present a united front in the face of what could quite possibly the most fundamentalist oligarchy this nation has ever seen. I've been thinking a lot about how we can accomplish this. No small feat, really, considering the Pagans in my immediate vicinity spend a lot of their free time coming up with creative new ways to hate each other.

But it strikes me that if the Third Wavers are in such a froth over the Queen of Heaven, perhaps we should make Her as visible as possible, then lock arms behind Her. And to do this, we'll need T-shirts. To quote Renée Zellweger in Love and a .45, "If I'm gonna get killed, I'm gonna look good doing it."

With that in mind, I'd like to direct my Loyal Strifemongers to The Cat & Cauldron, the online store of the amazing and fabulous artist Thalia Took (who just debuted a new blog). It's your one-stop shop for top-quality Queen of Heaven merchandise.

Products featuring Artemis, Diana, Fatima and The Virgin Mary are all obvious choices, but Ishtar, Isis, Mary Magdalene, Sophia and Stella Maris would be appropriate as well. And of course, Inanna is highly recommended: She is, after all, the original Queen of Heaven, plus I understand that Fundies tend to spontaneously go blind when their eyes fall upon empowered, topless Goddesses.

Conversely, if you'd rather just terrify them, nothing says "Do Not Fuck With Me" like a proud display of Anat across your chest. I'll be going with The Black Virgin myself, but I encourage you to find your own favorite design.

I really do hope the T-shirt thing catches on. I'm fantasizing about scenario a few months from now, when a Third Waver, possibly handing out apocalyptic religious tracts, glances at what I'm wearing as I pass by and shrieks, "You're one of them!"

"Yes," I'll reply. "And we're doing our very best to peacefully co-exist. Brightest of blessings to you and yours, bro. And long live the Queen."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'm boiling them as we speak

About halfway through my morning, I noticed there was an ingrown hair on my chin. I slipped into the restroom, pulled the tweezers from my Swiss Army knife, and almost had the hair worked free when I thought:

"You know, you really should have washed these after you let that guy use them to get that splinter out of his foot."

I don't like feet. I don't like feet near my face. And I really don't like dealing with the unflinching fact that hindsight is fucking disgusting.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I'm No Lady

Deborah Lipp has asked me to guest-blog over at Property of a Lady this week, so be sure to check in there for assorted hilarities. And movie trivia. And stuff about my cats.

Monday, September 22, 2008

After the Aftermath

It's been a week since Hurricane Ike beat the hell out of Houston, and I'm happy to report that things are almost back to normal. There are still a lot of stoplights out around town, making traffic something akin to the fifth circle of Hell, and as of this writing, close to a million citizens are still without power. But overall, we've dug in our heels. As a group, we simply refuse to believe that a pounding, relentless force of nature could in any way get the better of us.

In other words, we're all in denial. Which, in this particular situation, is probably healthy. It's keeping us productive.

Now, when I say we're all in denial, I'm not being facetious. The media is going on and on about how they've never seen a city come together and pitch in to facilitate recovery like we have, but truth be told, every last one of us is simply pretending it didn't happen:

"Wow, that was a really rough hurricane."

"What hurricane?"

"Um... the Category 2 hurricane that ripped through Houston last weekend."

"Ha ha! What are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about the hurricane. Were you out of town or something?"

"No, I've been here."

"Okay. Then you're fully aware that we just had a hurricane."

"You're obviously delusional. Although if you're not busy, could you help me lift this tree off of my wife? It seems to have fallen on her for no reason whatsoever."

So that's where we are. Our willful ignorance is getting our fair city back on track quite nicely, and that over-arching obliviousness makes me proud to be a Houstonian. And the easy access to decent Thai food. But mainly the obliviousness.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Jack approved this message

Not a fan of Teh Potter myself, but I'll bet the works of J.K. Rowling are a fabulous source of nicknames for Sarah Palin.

Strifemongers, what would you like her nickname to be?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I'm alive!

What, like a hurricane could stop me?

Please. If the Episcopal Church couldn't, nothing can.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Dark clouds all up in my business

Depending on whichever media outlet you prefer, Hurricane Ike is currently...

approaching

threatening

bearing down on

preparing to devastate

trumpeting the Armageddon of

about to go medieval on the ass of

bringin' in 'da noise, bringin' in 'da funk to

...the Houston area. Since Jack's still out of town, my original plan was to go it alone and have myself and adventure: Evn vs. Ike in the Title Match of the Century. But then I walked outside this morning, into the glorious, autumnal sunlight, and a light breeze picked up, and I went "WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE" and fled to Co-Witch A.'s house.

Her family and I have been eating pumpkin enchiladas and peanut-butter Rice Krispie Treats for the past several hours, and watching very bad sci-fi movies about pretty twenty-somethings who can teleport. And even though we're also staking out which closets we're going to hide in once the storm makes landfall, I feel perfectly safe, and I'm 97% sure that I'll be heading back to a blissfully not-wind-damaged home come Sunday afternoon.

But I'd greatly appreciate it if all of my Loyal Strifemongers could go ahead and be sure of it as well, thus hedging out that troublesome 3% margin of error.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The private army I've always wanted

Over in the far right column of this page, you'll notice a new widget thingy with which you can register to "follow" my blog.

I don't really know what that means, but I do like the idea of having official followers. It was sort of a childhood dream.

If enough people sign up, I'll have buttons made.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Witch by Design

Jack’s on a business trip right now, so I feel comfortable making a public announcement, knowing he won’t read this and have an aneurism until at least Thursday afternoon.

I want to become a NeoPagan interior designer.

Okay, yes, I freely admit that my taste levels have been questioned in the past. And I also admit that I’ve been watching too many reality competitions on the Bravo network while thinking, “You know, that doesn’t look so hard. Slap on a fresh coat of paint, bring in a new sofa set, help Kelly Wearstler remember how to use the muscles in her face... child’s play.”

But I did briefly work in the industry. And I’m looking at how the triptych of equal-armed Celtic crosses next to our sliding back door blends brilliantly with the ceramic decorations on our balcony. I’m looking at how the reproduction I picked up at the Museum of Fine Arts compliments my green devil Maurin Quina print (which, in turn, compliments Jack’s Cafés Chocolats). I’m looking at how the framed pieces of artwork leading to our bedroom--as well as the magnets on our refrigerator--create captivating, viable eyelines.

Even Jack will agree with me here. When I came home with a set of yin-yang candle holders, he rolled his eyes: “Great, just what we need. More crap.” Then, five minutes later, after he saw them installed in the master bathroom: “My God, they set off the shower curtain beautifully!

Oooh, and back when Jack’s brother lived with us, I had to move my altar into the living room. With a few subtle, well-placed religious symbols and a couple of pillar candles from Target, I created a practical, accessible devotional space that, at first glance, came across as an innocuous end table with some thoughtfully arranged knick-knacks on top. It totally fooled Co-Witch A., and she knows from altars.

I’m good. I could so do this.

All I need is some rich patrons to get me off the ground.

And I think I know how to find them.

When it comes to NeoPagan retail, the Houston area is cursed with abundance. There's the Magick Cauldron, Elemental Magick, Simply Magick, Lucia's Garden, Metaphysical Matrix, Rhyandra’s, Tranquil Thymes, Temple’s Gate and the Witchery, plus (should your occultism lean towards the Diasporic) the Blue Hand, the Stanley Drug Co., Botanica Elegua and thirty or so yerberias. But there’s also a New Age boutique, located in one of the city’s high-end shopping district, which caters specifically to wealthy socialites who want their country club acquaintances to think of them spiritual: Antique singing bowls, $3000 statues of Kwan Yin, The Secret on DVD, that sort of thing.

Those socialites are my moneymakers.

Here’s my business model. I get a part-time job at the boutique, learn enough about Feng Shui to sound like I know what I’m talking about, and make astute décor recommendations to the clientele decked out in diamonds and Hermés peasant skirts. People will talk (“He changed my life! And the billiard room!”), customers will start asking for me, and eventually, someone will want to know if I’d be so kind as to redo their summer home.

The rest, as they say, will be gravy. High-end gravy.

Look for me on Bravo, circa 2010. I’m going to be the next new thing, possums; I'm going to own this town. And I’m bringing you all along with me.

Monday, September 08, 2008

All Bark

There's this lady who walks her two ancient beagles across the front plaza of my office every day around 6 a.m. She's on the short side and kind of squat, and with her graying, curly hair, she reminds me of Shelly Winters. Or maybe the character Shelly Winters played on Roseanne.

I first encountered Dog Lady right after I started working in this particular building. We passed each other near the parking garage, I smiled politely, and she shot me a "go to hell" look that singed my eyebrows off.

Despite my tough, manly-man exterior, I secretly want everyone to like me. So the next time I saw Dog Lady, I smiled again and offered up a bright "Good morning," hoping she'd let me pet her dogs. Instead, she steamrolled past me, tossing another concentrated burst of Evil Eye in my direction.

Dog Lady's animosity really bothered me, until I realized that it could have been inspired by point of view. Speaking for the entire male gender, we have a bad habit of viewing ourselves, individually, as non-threatening entities. As such, we're not always aware that the things we say and do have the potential to cause stress and fear. From my point of view, I'm a nice, harmless guy who thinks dogs are cool. From Dog Lady's point of view, it's early in the morning, still dark outside, she's by herself, and this 6'1", relentlessly cheerful man is expressing unwanted interest in her.

Yeah, that would scare the shit out of me, too. I decided to leave Dog Lady alone from then on out.

This morning, I was outside enjoying my usual sunrise cigarette, and I spied Dog Lady approaching from around the corner of the drive-through bank behind my building. At the same time, a car pulled through the driveway of the bank and parked at the edge of the road. A woman hopped out and trotted towards the mailbox about ten feet away.

Dog Lady stopped beside the car and put her hands on her hips. "Hey!" she shouted. "You're blocking the sidewalk!"

The woman dropped a package in the mailbox and trotted back toward the car without response.

"I said you're blocking the sidewalk!" Her complaint still not acknowledged, Dog Lady maneuvered herself around the vehicle and advanced on the woman, unleashing a sulfurous barrage of obscenities until her target, now visibly alarmed, scrambled back inside her car and locked the doors.

"Asshole!" Dog Lady screamed, her face inches from the driver's side window. Then she stormed on down the street, dragging her confused, wheezing beagles behind her.

On second thought, I don't want Dog Lady to like me after all.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Quote o' the Moment - Magical Geeks

"I've often wished that I had some suave and socially acceptable hobby that I could fall back on in times like this. You know, play the violin (or was it the viola?) like Sherlock Holmes, or maybe twiddle away on the pipe organ like the Disney version of Captain Nemo. But I don't. I'm sort of the arcane equivalent of a classic computer geek. I do magic, in one form or another, and that's pretty much it. I really need to get a life, one of these days."

-Harry Dresden

This week's quotation comes from a fictional occultist--one with whom, I'm ashamed to admit, I overly identify.

[Damn your hide, Apocrypha! I am going to get you for introducing me to these goddamned novels. They are, as you accurately predicted, the crack rock.]

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Guilty Pleasures

I went icon shopping after work today, and I have to say that my neighborhood Catholic bookstore, while filled to brimming with respectable idols, is severly lacking in the Czestochowa department. I found a couple of nice pieces here and there, but they were either too small and designed to stand rather than hang (which can be problematic), or they were way too big, or they'd been meticulously hand painted by elderly Polish nuns, thus leaving them far out of the reaches of my decorating budget.

So no icons for me. Phooey. I do have a couple of other shops to check out, though, as well as something that passes for patience, so I'll bide my time and see what turns up. And even though my debit card was burning a hole (to Hell) in my pocket, here's a list of items I did not buy:

A life-sized plaster statue of Our Lady of Grace, just begging to be installed in a bathtub shrine. (Plus it brought back happy blogging memories.)

A Virgen de Guadalupe throw rug.

The following framed print.


It's called "Batting for Christ," and it gives me the creepin' heebie-jeebies so bad that I can't pull my eyes away from it.

From a Christian perspective, I'll bet there isn't a better antidote for masturbation than hanging this thing in a little boy's bedroom, i.e., "Let's not forget who else has his hands on your bat." But from a Pagan perspective, I want to give it to Red Delicious as a birthday present, just to see how long it would take him to stop pretending he appreciates it.

Although now that I think about it, he's both Catholic and a baseball enthusiast. So it's totally à propos.

Damn. I wish I'd known about "Batting for Christ" back when he got married. It would have looked lovely tucked in among the less malicious gifts.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Things I find myself thinking

"All I need is an icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, and then this hallway will be complete."

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Biblical Proportions

Although I've lived most of my adult life in what Jack affectionately refers to as "squalor," I've been putting a lot of effort into keeping our home neat and clean. The Alps-sized pile of dirty clothes next to my bed has shrunk to a foothill, bookshelves are noticeably dust-free, and I’ve even hauled out the vacuum cleaner a couple of times. Go me.

Jack's reaction to this new leaf I've turned over has been mixed, a combination of appreciation and suspicion: “Wow, you’ve really been doing a good job around here” has evolved into “Who are you, and what have you done with Evn?” While I understand his concern, I also understand that he’s at the start of an exciting new career, and I want to support him in that endeavor by making sure he doesn’t have to waste his well-deserved free time picking up after my sorry ass.

Unfortunately, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In this case, zealously taking on a vast new variety of household responsibilities resulted in me accidentally neglecting the one chore Jack has ever actually assigned to me.

In other words, I forgot to clean the litter box. For, like, two weeks.

At face value, this is not as horrid as it may seem. We own the world’s largest litter box. Seriously, it’s the kind of thing you’d expect to find at Sigfried and Roy’s house. If I skip Scoop Day every now and again, no big deal--there are still gallons and gallons of pristine litter for my precious babies to contaminate. Additionally, Jack found this all-natural, biodegradable litter made from pine chips (and possibly rainbows) that holds odor longer than I hold grudges, so there are never any unsavory olfactory issues with which to contend.

With these factors in mind, you can imagine my confusion when I walked through the front door yesterday afternoon and thought, “Why does this place smell like cat pee?” Following my nose to the guest bathroom, I stared, mouth agape, at the half-ton adobe brick that was, not so very long ago, a litter box.

This was a situation far outside the realm of mere scooping--everything had to go. I ran to the kitchen, found a suitable industrial-strength garbage bag, scooted it around the box, held my breath and slowly, carefully poured out the fetid contents. Tying off the bag and gasping for air, I squared my shoulders, hefted up the unwieldy load and trudged off to the dumpster.

Now, the dumpsters in our apartment complex are surrounded by wooden fences and blocked off by tall, chain-link gates, which are well nigh impossible to open. You can't just drop your trash off and go on with your life. No, you have to have the skills of an Olympic hammer thrower, winding up and launching your garbage high into the air, with distance and velocity both taken into consideration when the judges calculate your final score. I got a good swing going, arced the bag over my head, and...

Pop.

Instead of trying to describe what happened next, I'd like to share a passage from the Old Testament (Exodus 9:24-25):

There was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field.

I hope that crystallizes the image for you. If not, suffice it to say that washing ammonia-scented clumps of cat shit out of my hair was decidedly not how I’d planned to spend my evening.

But on the upside, my urge to clean house has reached obsessive-compulsive levels. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go shower again.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

It's not a typo, it's medieval

While doling out awards left and right in yesterday's post, I mentioned that I read very few blogs by authors who represent the demographics with which I'm associated. And in doing so, I completely forgot to highlight The Expvlsion of the Blatant Beast.

Bo is very intelligent, highly articulate, and a master storyteller. Plus he's super cute. Adorable, in fact. So, y'know, extra brownie points there.

Yvonne nominated him after I nominated her, so all is good in Pagan Blogdom. But when you get the chance, please do check out what he has to say. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Blogs I Heart

Loyal Strifemongers Diana and Cynthia nominated me for a blog award, which is the bona fide bees knees. Thanks, guys! You both rock! However, with great power comes great responsibility, and now I am charged to adhere to the following rules:

1. Put the logo on your blog.

2. Link to the person from whom you received the award.

3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.

4. Put links to those blogs on yours.

5. Leave a message on the blogs nominated.

In picking out blogs to nominate, I realized that I read tons of feminist blogs, but hardly any written by male Pagans or gay men. Hmmm. Perhaps I should explore self-loathing avoidance issues in my next therapy session. (Note to self: eventually find a therapist.)

Regardless, my nominees for the 2008 "I [heart] Your Blog" award are...

Deborah Lipp, Property of a Lady

Angela-Eloise, Blogickal

Sarah L. Crowder, Code Name: Sarah

Karen Healey, Girls Read Comics (And They're Pissed)

Co-Witch Y., Imaginary Menagerie

Cat Chapin-Bishop and Yvonne Aburrow, MetaPagan

Grian/Lee, Panthea

This guy I don't know, Twelve Two Two Fondue

Let's give our winners a wild round of applause. Congratulations to all, and keep up the outstanding blogginess.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Quote o' the Moment - Devils and Blunders

"It's perfectly true, of course, that the worship of the old pagan gods survived long after Europe was presumably Christianized. Jupiter, Minerva, Venus, Diana, Pan, and the others were old, old friends, particularly to the peasants, who saw no conflict between them and Christ. After all, it was just as the priests said: the old gods were gods of this world, while Christ was the god of the other world.

"But the church had no intention of allowing this to go on. The old gods had to go. The psychologically smart move would have been to Christianize them as angels. Instead, in a terrible blunder, the church Christianized them as devils, hoping to blacken them in the peasants' imagination. But instead of blackening the old gods what they did was whiten the devils.

"You see, the peasants had known these gods as benevolent protectors for thousands of years. These were gods who looked after the fertility of their fields and their herds--things that were obviously beneath the notice of the austere and remote Christ. So, if the old gods were devils, then devils really couldn't be all that bad, could they? In other words, instead of making pagan worship abhorrent, the church simply made devil worship an ordinary, almost respectable, part of life."

-Daniel Quinn

Friday, August 22, 2008

Like the Phoenix

Someone I wish I'd known better died today.

Because I did not know him very well this time around, I do not feel qualified to post a eulogy. Instead, I'd like to republish his response to a question first asked of him about 30 years ago.

The question in question was: "Why Witchcraft?"

To which he replied: "Why not the Craft?"

And to that, all I can add is... exactly.

Why not?

Rest well, brief but trusted friend. I look forward to knowing you again.

The Award for Best Musical WILL NOT go to...

Just got off the phone with the remarkable Red Delicious (the original conjuring cat), ending a conversation that featured me making the following pronouncements:

"Let's take over a community theatre and traumatize everyone!"

And...

"This time, you will listen to me."

He acquiesced.

Poor Red Delicious. While no one can truly predict what the future will bring, whatever happens to his budding artistic career is, dollars to doughnuts, probably all my fault.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Here's how karma really works

The fires from yesterday's flame war burned brightly into the night, with our ambitious protagonists typing in all caps and demanding apologies and hurling curses until I. Just. Couldn't. Take. It. Any. More.

Flicking the angel on my shoulder across the room and hearing him hit the wall with a satisfying splat, I banged out a condescending, vitriolic, just plain mean response, howled at the Moon, hit "send"...

...and now I'm the group moderator.

There's a new sheriff in town, pumpkins. If everyone could start humming the theme song to The Rifleman now, that would be great.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

NeoPagan Netiquette, or the Painful Lack Thereof

After a few glorious months of civil niceties on the Houston-area e-mail lists, we had ourselves an old-fashioned, rip-snorting, hair-pulling flame war. It was a doozy, reminiscent of the archetypical bar fight in every Western ever filmed: One guy throws a punch, and then everyone in the room automatically starts breaking chairs over each other's heads.

There's debate over who lobbed the first piece of furniture in this particular debacle, although two list members stand out as the most likely suspects. Let's give them nifty Pagan names--I'm thinking Laocoön and Chutzpah. I'm not sure if our protagonists know each other in real life and cooked up a Cunning Plan, or if stuff just randomly set them off at the same time, but if we were in kindergarten (and sometimes I wonder...), they would most certainly need to be placed in separate play groups.

Here's how the whole thing went down. Facing a financial quagmire, a local occult shop/religious non-profit decided to hold a fundraiser, and posted announcements on all the listservs. Fun! Fellowship! Volunteer! Pledge! And the initial response was fairly encouraging. Sure we'll help! We love you guys! You do good work!

Suddenly, Laocoön appeared (in a puff of smoke, with the appropriate thunderclap) to issue a dire warning. There is a very good chance that the shop is doing poorly because of *gasp* Bad Karma! If the owners are dealing with the effects of *gasp* Bad Karma, then we mustn't do anything to assist them, or else we'll take that *gasp* Bad Karma onto ourselves!

Okay, yeah, personally? Not a big fan of the Karmic Boogeyman. I know he lives under a lot of Pagan beds, grabbing ankles and scaring people into idleness. But honestly, all you have to do to vanquish him is take responsibility for your words and your actions. Own what you do, accept the positive and/or negative consequences, The End. Not the most popular metaphysical point of view in this day and age, but there you go.

Now, in this instance, and fortunately for me (may the Gods be ever favorable), several list members felt the same way--including the moderator, who wrote a well-crafted essay on how the current unstable economy is hitting small, independent businesses harder than anyone else. The conversation almost, almost got itself back on track when Laocoön threw what can only be described as a Victorian hissy fit, expressing wide-eyed disbelief that the rest of us weren't fleeing from the shop at top speed, screaming in terror and flinging holy water behind us. This drew the ire of the shop's manager, who shared some brief but eloquent thoughts on karma and what Laocoön could go do with it.

It was then that Chutzpah entered the fray. Not the brightest bulb in the Pagan Parade of Lights, Chutzpah gleefully clamored aboard the Bad Karma Float. She'd never been to the shop, never met the owners, wasn't quite sure what day it was, but she took on the ambitious task of uncovering the supernatural causes of the shop's misfortune, accomplishing her mission by repeating every unfounded, malicious rumor she'd ever heard about the shop and its proprietors. After all, one of the rumors might turn out to be true, which would reveal the source of the karmic retribution. Elementary!

Loyal Strifemongers will not be surprised at the response she received, but Chutzpah sure as hell was. Reeling from the revelation that the blithe spreading of low-minded gossip does not the reincarnation of Agatha Christie make, and buffeted by the ensuing invective, she sang like a canary, dutifully listing the names of the various acquaintances who had passed the lurid hearsay to her in the first place.

Any hope of peace talks devolved after that, with all sides indulging liberally in the kind of language you'd normally only hear at a Merchant Marine stag party. Last time I checked, Chutzpah was cowering amidst the rubble of her credibility and whining that she didn't do anything, and Laocoön was making cryptic, Lovecraftian comments about what happens to infidels who dare not bow their heads in the presence of the Old Ones.

Ah, my people. Flame on, brethren, while I type "Unitarian" into a search engine and dream about what could have been.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Higher Learning

Snippet of a conversation overheard at the workplace:

"...and he showed me the textbook, and I was shocked! I can't believe the Catholic Church is teaching this to him. There are some things men just don't need to know."

My Southern upbringing prevented me from horning in and asking for clarification, but I'm dying to know what the Catholic Church is teaching, and to whom.

Exorcism, maybe? I hope it's exorcism. Or demystifying the female orgasm.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Chicken Soup for the Hermetic Soul

Read this.

Then read this.

You'll feel better about everything. I promise.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Moon Worship and the Modern Witch

“Happy Assumption!” I said to my Eastern Orthodox employee as she sat down at her desk. Today is the Feast of the Assumption, after all, marking the date that the Virgin Mary ascended into Heaven from her house in Ephesus, Turkey. Which, according to legend, is where she moved after she retired, Ephesus being the Florida of the first-century Jewish world.

E.O. looked confused for a second, but then her brow cleared. “Oh, you mean the Dormition! Thanks! Happy Dormition to you, too!”

“Dormition?” It was my turn to look confused.

“We call it the Dormition instead of the Assumption.” she explained. “Catholics believe that Mary was bodily assumed, and we believe that she... well, you know, died. But she definitely went to Heaven after that.”

Yeah, not quite as romantic as the Catholic version. What I (wisely) decided not to mention is that the early Church fathers scheduled the Assumption/Dormition/Whatever on August 15 in order to replace the Nemoralia, the ancient Roman Festival of Torches held annually in honor of Diana, Great Goddess of the Moon.

Eight Sabbats and thirteen Esbats aside, the Nemoralia is my favorite holiday. I’ve got a little altar set up in my bedroom, featuring a framed print of Erté’s Queen of the Night and a couple of Virgin Mary votive candles (La Virgen de Guadalupe y La Virgen de San Juan respectively, both easy to find when you live in South Texas), and every August 15, I rededicate it as a shrine to Diana. It’s a ritual that's become a personal touchtone, and I get unreasonably giddy about it.

Granted, me huddled over a small chest of drawers in the corner of an urban apartment doesn't have the same visual impact as, say, hundreds of devotees wreathed in flowers, carrying torches, led by garlanded hounds and waiting with baited breath to be ferried across the smooth, dark waters of Lake Nemi under the bathing rays of the Full Moon. But I'll light some jasmine incense and say a few prayers, and pour an offering of willow water. And for a fleeting, lovely moment, time, space and my ugly tan carpet will be rendered irrelevant.

Buon Nemoralia, Loyal Strifemongers. Happy Assumption, Merry Dormition, and to all a good night.