Friday, April 25, 2008

I'm still alive, honest

The Galveston trip and the subsequent catching up at the office derailed me like a sumbitch, and I just haven't had the wherewithal to crank out new posts. I'm working on it, though, so don't abandon hope. You can neglect hope, or smack hope around a little, but don't outright abandon it.

In the meantime, check out Garfield Minus Garfield. It'll keep you entertained while I scramble to compile humorous personal anecdotes.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Technosexuality, Island Style

I'm in Galveston for the next few days, helping my parents run a high school band competition. And also, I think my iPod is gay.

The two connect. Hear me out.

As I drove out of town this afternoon, miraculously missing rush-hour traffic (which, in the Houston area, begins at 3 p.m. and ends in November), I plugged in my iPod and set it to "shuffle," the idea being that it would play random selections from my vast, eclectic music library. And as usual, it went back and forth between a David Sedaris book-on-tape and the Rent soundtrack. Which gives one pause. I've got around 800 music files packed onto this gizmo, less than 10 percent of which cross the lavender line, but my iPod always wants to play the showtunes and the gay essayists in favor of anything else in its memory bank.

It hasn't let me listen to Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again On My Own" in ages. And that's my freakin' theme song.

Anyway, I got a little lost trying to find the venue where I was supposed to meet my parents (on account of Galveston has some kind of citywide religious taboo against protected left turns), and I ended up in an unfamiliar area near the historic Strand district. Turning a corner and praying for a recognizable landmark, I spied a two-story brick building, painted hot pink, with several rainbow flags mounted over the awning.

"Hey, look, a gay bar," I said to myself. And immediately... immediately... my iPod launched into Cher's Believe.

My iPod is a big homo. The proof is in the pudding. Or the dance remix. Whichever.

Oh, and in case there is, at this point, any doubt that the Universe has a sense of humor, I should tell you about our accommodations for the weekend.

Predictably, seeing as how we're staying at a beachfront hotel, my parent's room overlooks the ocean. My room, on the other hand, overlooks a graveyard.

I like my room better. Although we all know what my iPod would rather be looking at right now.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Quote o' the Moment - Interactive Edition

"I have never seen a Witch leaving a church with a can of paint and a guilty expression."

-Elizabeth St. George

Strifemongers, if you were leaving a church with a can of paint, how would you look? And what did you just do?

Monday, April 14, 2008

References available upon request

There's no substantial evidence per se, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Ganesha, the Elephant-headed Hindu Lord of Obstacles, got me my job.

I first met Ganesha in 1997, in the Theatre Arts section of a used bookstore. I was an intercollegiate competitive speaker at the time, and I was digging around for material to use at an upcoming tournament, when I came across a hardcover edition of Terrence McNally's Pulitzer-nominated play A Perfect Ganesh. There are four characters in the show: Margaret and Katherine, best friends, each secretly dealing with a personal tragedy, who have decided to have a two-week adventure in India; "Man," an ensemble performer who takes on numerous roles; and Ganesha, who plays Himself, but who is also an ensemble performer who takes on numerous roles. Because, as He says in the opening scene, "I am everywhere."

It's an incredibly powerful story, and it was my introduction to the concept of immanence--that is, God(s) in everything. And while I didn't immediately fall to my knees and start singing the praises of Ganesha, I did develop a healthy respect for Him.

A couple of years later, while working for the Episcopal Church, I saw a wooden Ganesha plaque tucked in among the all-natural candles at my local Whole Foods. I'd wanted an image of Ganesha ever since I read the play, although I'd never found one that particularly moved me (I'm very picky about icons). But this one grabbed my attention, so I bought it, went back to work and put it next to my office computer. A few months later, I ended up with a beaded sandalwood choker that was too small for me, so I hung it on the plaque. I figured He might like it.

And that was that. I read a few more things about Ganesha here and there, coming to the conclusion that He was All Right in My Book, but I never venerated or gave offerings or developed any kind of religious practice around Him. And I never asked Him for anything, which is kind of odd, considering that's His stock in trade. He's the Remover of Obstacles: that's what He does, and by all accounts He's very good at it. I just kept His image around, thought about Him whenever I saw it, and went on with whatever I was doing at the time.

Fast-forward ahead a few more years. I was working for this awful design firm, which was quickly and unstoppably going out of business. They hadn't paid me for weeks, mainly because they'd run out of money, and I had no clue what I was going to do next. One day, while dolefully clicking about the Internet, I happened upon a job posting for an editorial assistant position. I sent in my résumé on more of a whim than anything else, heard back from them the next day, and two weeks later, I was sitting in the CEO's office in the middle of my second interview.

Got the job the day after that, been there ever since. Yay for me and my excellent résumé-writing abilities.

Fast-forward again, during which time I collect a few more pieces of Ganesha memorabilia: a small framed portrait (ends up on my desk); an adorable stuffed toy; a glass-encased candle. So I'm sitting in the CEO's office this afternoon, and we're happily discussing strategies and solutions and synergy, and when the meeting's over, I stand to leave and turn around and notice a brass Ganesha statue on his bookshelf.

Darshan. Totally.

If you accept the immanence of Deity, and if you believe that the image of a given Deity can act as a focal point for His or Her manifestation, then Ganesha's been with the company longer than I have. He was there during my second interview, and He's literally been behind me everytime I've walked into the CEO's office.

And if you think back to me at that design firm, and what a crappy situation I was in, and how suddenly I just fell into a Dream Job that's turning into quite the lucrative career...

Oy.

Like I said at the beginning of this, I don't have any proof whatsoever that Ganesha had anything to do with me getting and keeping this job. But on the off-chance he did...

When I got home this afternoon, I flung myself in front of my Ganesha plaque, lit my candle, burned some sandalwood incense (seeing a fragrance theme here?), grabbed my mala and chanted 108 times, poured Him a big glass of milk and presented Him with a heaping bowl of bite-sized donuts.

Just in case.

If you have a few moments, and you feel like giving Ganesha a howdy-do, click here. Don't forget to tell Him I said hi.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sometimes these things skip a generation

My mother and I were drinking coffee in her kitchen, narrowing down the list of possible baby names for my brother’s first child. He and his wife don’t have so much as a zygote, but they’ve announced that they’re going to be pregnant before the end of 2008. And they’re both doctors, so we have no reason not to believe them.

Of course, rank amateurs like them have no business handling the delicate task of naming their own offspring, so my mom and I took over. We’d just announced our favorite boy/girl names (her: Graeme and Caroline; me: Oscar and Sevilla), when my mom said, “Your grandmother was a gypsy fortune-teller.”

I should preface this by explaining that my mother has a long history of saying weird things at odd moments. “If you were going to murder someone, how would you do it?” she’ll ask, in the middle of a crowded Mexican restaurant. Then, while everyone else at the table is choking on their enchiladas, she’ll add: “I’d use an organic poison that metabolizes as an innocuous waste product. But that’s just me.” So the fact that she'd causally mention that my grandmother was a gypsy fortune-teller in the middle of a discussion on baby names isn’t as bizarre as the fact that my grandmother was, apparently, a gypsy fortune-teller.

Understandably, I asked for clarification. And it turns out that, decked in fine Mediterranean scarves and oversized hoop earrings, Gammie ran a wildly popular divination booth at her small town’s annual Halloween festival.

“Well, was she any good?” I asked.

My mother shrugged. “I honestly haven't a clue,” she said. “The lines were always too long, and I never got to see her. But she didn’t give real readings. She just said nice things to people to make them happy.”

I was both disappointed and relieved to hear this. Disappointed, in that how freakin’ cool would it have been to be able to say, “My Irish grandmother was a real and for true gypsy fortune-teller.” Relieved, because the whole “My grandmother was a witch!” thing has been done to death within NeoPaganism. It started with Alex Sanders, who steadfastly claimed that he was initiated into the Witch Cult at age seven by his dear old granny.

Since then, everybody who’s anybody swears that Grandma had great Witchy power, passed directly on to them. No one ever buys it, but you still have to say it. On account of validity.

So I was thinking about all this, and right on cue, my mother said (I swear to the Gods I’m not making this up):

“Your grandmother also has a flux in her personal electromagnetic field. She's never been able to wear a wristwatch; they just stop working as soon as she puts them on." She took a sip of her coffee. "You know how computers crash around you? You get that from her.”

Then, while I reeled from that little revelation, she added: “You honestly want to name this poor child Sevilla?”

Guess I’m a rank amateur, too. But my Gammie’s still cooler than yours.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Best dirty joke ever

Courtesy of Co-Witch A.:

Why does Dr. Pepper come in a bottle?

Because his wife died.

[rimshot]

Okay, so it's not the best dirty joke ever. But I'd never heard it before. Took me a good two minutes to catch my breath.

Or maybe it was just the delivery. Co-Witch A. has a good delivery.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Quote o' the Moment - Setting Foot

"Don't delude yourself. The minute you set foot upon the path of witchcraft, a call rings out in the unseen world announcing the fact of your arrival."

-Paul Huson

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Please don't make me drink Freedom Vodka

I don't know why I'm surprised, considering that this is the country that made Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue" a smash hit. But to the people currently whining about Absolut Vodka: seriously folks, this...


...is not offensive. It's a cheeky, irreverent ad campaign, not directed at you, and it's based on Actual World History.

Yes, that's what Mexico used to look like. In the 1830's. No, we don't have to give California and Texas back. No, not even if a vodka manufacturer says we do. They are joking. "Joking" is a form of humor. No, I'm not going to define "humor" for you. Look it up. No, not on FoxNews.com. They don't know what it is, either.

Listen, how about this. I'll provide you with a more... shall we say, aesthetically-pleasing version of "An Absolut World" with which you can nurse your bruised patriotic sensibilities, but only if you promise not to breed.

Deal? Excellent. Here you go:


Knock yourselves out. I mean it.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Name Brand

Remember when I promised you guys a surprise? Check out what happens when you click on the following link:

www.loverofstrife.com

It takes you right back here! Isn't that cool?

I thought about building a whole new Lover of Strife Web site, complete with multiple pages and whatnot, and then I figured I'd save a few bucks and just associate the domain name with my free-ass blog.

But either way, I'm top of the charts as the one and only Lover of Strife.

Who could ask for more?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

It happened again...

Posted to an Internet forum early this morning:

"I've studied European witchcraft for a few years now, but so much of it has been infused with the three-fold-law fluffy-bunny wicca, and while I respect those who follow that path, it just really isn't for me."

At least he's respectful. Doesn't he make so much sense?

Too fucking priceless.

I'll be out back if anyone needs me, stabbing myself in the forehead and calling it Wicca.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Wicca on the Down Low

I'd like to dissect an introductory paragraph that's growing in popularity throughout the Pagan realms of Teh Interwebs. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least seven times I've seen it used in the last few months, each by a different NeoPagan, and it never fails to make my brain hurt.

Invariably, it begins with the following:

"Hello! My name's [insert Pagan name here], and I'm a Witch!"

So far, so good. Lots of us be Witches. However, the Pagan in question goes on to clarify:

"I'm a Witch, but I'm not Wiccan."

No problem here, either. The qualifier isn't necessary, but hey, whatever. Witchcraft takes any number of forms across the planet, and only a few of them fall under the umbrella of Wicca. As for the overall introduction, though, this is where things get Seinfeldian:

"Not that there's anything wrong with Wicca. It's just not for me."

And if they'd stop here, I'd raise an eyebrow or three, but it would be fine. Really, it would be fine. I'll happily agree that Wicca is not for everyone, and that people need to find their own individual paths in the Big Ol' Grand Scheme of Things.

But they never stop here. This is the absolution statement, which allows them to release the flaming projectiles towards Wicca without being perceived as (gasp)judgemental:

"If people want to be fluffy, that's fine. But I'm not fluffy. So I'm not Wiccan."

Or...

"Wicca is an invented religion. But I practice an ancient tradition of Witchcraft that pre-dates Wicca by several centuries."

Or...

"Wicca is too much like Christianity. Set rules, telling me what I can and can't do or believe. I'd rather think for myself."

I've blogged about this before: the odd compulsion that infects some NeoPagans, causing them to cast Wicca as superficial and misguided when compared to their own "authentic" traditions. But scratching the surface of these trads almost always reveals a heaping helping of good old fashioned Wicca, repurposed as flashy, often Celtic-sounding denominations.

And for the record, I'm not referring to Feri, or Cultus Sabbati, or Stregheria, or any of the of flavors of Witchcraft that originated and evolved outside of the New Forest region of England. I'm talking about Wiccans who, in their never-ending quest for validity, refuse to apply the word "Wicca" to their activities, even when it's exactly what they're practicing. It reminds me of a couple of paramours from my checkered past--men who chanted clever rationalizations like, "I'm not gay. I just prefer to have copious amounts of sex with other guys. But that doesn't make me gay." Physically well-put-together though they may have been, it was ultimately impossible to take them seriously.

If this phenomenon was confined to the Net, I think it would be palatable. In the real world, though, it's too odious to swallow. My first encounter with it left me feeling queasy and kind of sad, which allowed me to focus on my acid reflux and emotional issues, thus dismissing the more insulting aspects of the situation without acknowledgement.

I'd been invited to a pub moot [Paganspeak for "let's go drink"], and, early on in the evening, I found myself being presented to one of our local scene queens. Names were traded and hands dutifully shook, and then--she'd never seen me before, so she assumed I was a newbie--she smiled benevolently and asked, "What questions can I answer for you?"

"Well, I don't really have any questions," I responded, trying to sound professional yet friendly. "I've been doing stuff for awhile, so... um, yeah, you know?" (So much for professional.)

"Ah!" She said. "Do you practice a particular tradition?"

"Yes!" I said brightly, offering a winning smile and hoping that we could talk about anything else.

"Well, which one?" she asked.

So I told her. And without so much as batting a false eyelash, she replied, "My tradition is older than yours."

"Great!" I said, because really, what else can you say to a statement like that? I mean, I guess I could have replied with something along the lines of, "You are obviously so full of shit that you're going to sprout magic mushrooms," but that would have been declassé.

"Yes, ours is a very old tradition," she continued. "It's not Wiccan at all."

"Cool," I said, glancing out of the corners of my eyes for anyone who might come save me.

"Why don't I explain it to you? It makes so much more sense than Wicca."

"Okay. But I'm going to need another cocktail first."

I fled to the bar, returning with the world's dryest Manhattan ("Could you just sort of clink the bottle of vermouth against the side of the glass? Thanks."), and she told me all about it. And... it was Wicca. Circles and the Four Elements and the Triple Goddess and the Horned God and Merry Meet and So Mote It Be, as described in every book on the subject since Lid Off The Cauldron. But she kept saying, "Doesn't this make more sense than Wicca? Doesn't this make more sense than your modern tradition?"

I told her that I could certainly see how it made sense, because I really, really didn't want to get into an occult pissing contest without anyone around who would take my side. And there actually were some mild differences here and there, but they were surface differences, designed to create an illusion of separation: "We call the Element of Air in the West instead of the East, and our athames have burgundy handles instead of black. Doesn't that make more sense?"

The night eventually came to a close, and I was able to extricate myself from the conversation without any permanent scars to my psyche. I figured this was pretty much the end of the whole debacle, so imagine my surprise when I received an e-mail from the sense fairy the next morning, in which she said she really enjoyed meeting me, and how I was much nicer than those other Wiccans. Maybe we could get together some time, and I could give her some of that secret, traditional, oathbound Wiccan material to look through. Not that she needed it, mind you, but wouldn't it be fun to compare notes?

I thanked her for her kind words and suggested she read Lid Off The Cauldron.

And I left it at that.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Our First Weekly Quote o' the Moment

"Witchcraft, like the truffle, grows best and has its raciest flavour when most deeply hidden."

-Charles Godfrey Leland