Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Comparative Bachelorhood

As a single, gay man living alone in a big city, sometimes I worry that I don't take very good care of myself; that I drink too much; that I don't eat enough healthy food; that I'm a self-serving slob whose existence causes problems for other people.

But fortunately (and ironically), today is Garbage Day.

My apartment complex offers complimentary, door-to-door trash pick-up on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Here's what I usually leave out:


And here's what my single, straight neighbor usually leaves out:


I'm probably doing better than I think I am.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Every day, in every way, monastic life gets a little more attractive.

I went home on my lunch break, logged into an online dating site and found the following message in my mailbox:

"Cute man for sure."

I understood this to mean that the author found me attractive, so I wrote back:

"Thanks, buddy."

His response (word for word, I am not making this up):

"So whatre you up to sweet cheaks?"

Fail.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Quote o' the Moment - Not a Bad Explanation

"The difference is this: Pagans acknowledge the Earth as their Mother, and Witches worship the Moon.'

-Anonymous

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Show Must Go On

Last night, I dreamt that my parents and I went on a road trip to an unspecified destination. After a day of driving, we settled into a roadside motel, then decided to go see a show.

We walked to a nearby university, which was putting on a production in a large, tiered, auditorium-style classroom. We found our seats, the lights dimmed, and a troupe of drag queens entered. Apparently, they'd created an improvisational, comedic play based on my dating history.

I would like to add a standard "...and then I woke up" at this point, but that doesn't adequately cover what happened next. I did wake up, confused and needing to use the bathroom, but after I took care of business and flopped back into bed, I found myself back in the auditorium.

The drag queens were busy with a scene change when my mother's cell phone rang. She answered it, which understandably riled the audience members around her. However, the phone call turned out to be for one of the performers, so my mother snuck down an aisle to relay the message. "Gertrude," she stage-whispered, "Psst, Gertrude. Don't forget to feed the cats."

Upon hearing this, a techie drag queen swung a spotlight around and focused it on my mother, who seemed surprised but pleased at the sudden attention. Another drag queen handed her a martini, and my mom gamely became part of the show. And that's where I woke up again.

I crawled out of bed, drank a glass of water, took an antacid and fell back asleep. The play was well into Act II, and the drag queens were in the midst of a dramatic interpretation of the Cajun incident, much to the audiences' delight.

This went on well into the early morning: Wake up, toss and turn for a bit, fall back asleep, wander around the auditorium and run into a couple of friends, then take them to meet my parents; wake up, use the bathroom again, fall back asleep, then have a fellow audience member fuss at me for forgetting to silence my own cell phone.

I've had recurring dreams before, but I've never had a real-time, chronological dream that kept picking up where it left off. I'm inclined to wonder if there's some deep, Jungian meaning to the whole thing, but I suspect it's more likely that my subconscious just got bored and decided to fuck with me.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Family Traditions

My parents just informed me that they both want Snuggies for Christmas.

I have never been more proud.

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's like coming out all over again. Except, y'know, less fun.

A couple of weeks ago, a buddy of mine inadvertently stumbled across my blog. I'd never told him I was Pagan, mainly because it just never came up in conversation. However, it also never occurred to me that he'd have a problem with it.

He had a problem with it. A huge problem, in fact, so much so that we're no longer speaking. Or, more specifically, he's no longer speaking to me.

Part of the issue is that he strongly disagrees with my beliefs and practices, which, you know what? Fine. Beats of different drums and all that. But he's primarily angry with me because I didn't tell him about my beliefs and practices. I certainly didn't make an effort to hide them, but because we didn't meet while I had a "Hello! My name is WITCH" sticker slapped across my forehead, he feels that I was dishonest with him.

Of course, in retrospect, if I had told him, he would've flipped out and we wouldn't have become friends. But then again, we're not friends now that he does know, so I give the fuck up.

I shared this experience with EpiscoPete, who replied that since Witchcraft is a big part of who I am, I need to be fairly upfront about it. However, I also told Trothwy, who avered that it's nobody's business but my own, and that I should really only be forced to mention it if I find myself engaged to a man who assumes we're hiring a Christian minister for the commitment ceremony.

Strifemongers, which is the most advantageous course of action? Reveal my religion on a strictly need-to-know basis, or bedeck myself in pentacles and hope for the best?

I sure as hell can't decide. So you guys do it for me.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Quote o' the Moment - Testify

"There's never a testimony without a test."

-Eva Pigford

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Accidental Rootworker

Initially, I was determined not to sleep with him: Over the course of our evening together, he told me how committed he was to the Baptist Church, and that Christ was his personal Savior, and that he thought Unitarians were "spooky." Not too auspicious in terms of common ground.

But he also had a charming Cajun accent and a barrel chest and really big biceps. So when he noticed that the bar was closing and suggested that crashing at my apartment would probably be safer than driving all the way back to Louisiana, I demurely concurred.

Lust does strange things to the gay brain, especially when it comes to selective memory. In this situation, a guy with a "Real Men Love Jesus" bumper sticker was following me home, and it never occurred to me that my taste in décor might work against his religious sensibilities. Or at least, it didn't occur to me until after I'd unlocked my front door and ushered him into my living room.

"Oh," he said, surveying the scene. "You're Catholic."

"I'm actually not," I said, casually draping a newspaper over the pile of Witchcraft books on my dining table. "But I do have an appreciation for Catholic art."

"Oh, okay. Cool. And is that... is that a flying penis statue?"

"Yeah. It is."

"Is that also Catholic?"

I didn't have a good response, so I pretty much just started making out with him.

Clothing suddenly became an annoying hindrance. Things progressed from there.

Although it probably goes without saying, there are certain amorous, homosexual diversions that require, well, accoutrements... by which I mean personal lubricant, which I regretfully did not have in stock. So when the Cajun expressed heated interest in a particular activity, I had to say sorry, but not going to happen.

Being an upstanding, Southern gentleman, he understood. Again with the progression.

Later that night, after much smooching and cuddling, the Cajun excused himself for a quick second and popped into the bathroom. After a few moments, he returned with something in his hands.

"I thought you didn't have any lube," he said.

"Um, I don't."

"But I found some in your medicine cabinet."

Confused, I ran a quick mental inventory of said cabinet: Toothpaste, cologne, antibiotic ointment, dental floss, styling gel and... oh shit.

"Whoa, dude, wait," I said. "I promise that's not lube."

"Of course it is," he replied. "It says so on the label."

And then he dumped a bottle of Conjure Doctor Brand True Love Oil all over the place and got busy.

Instead of sharing any more intimate details, I'd like to skip ahead about 72 hours to another telephone conversation between myself and Dr. E.:

Dr. E. (after listening to the whole story) - "WOW. Did the oil irritate your skin or anything?"

Me - "You know, it really didn't."

Dr. E. - Good! Glad to hear it. So... what happened next?"

Me - "Well, it's been three days and he's still here."

Dr. E. - "Interesting. Would you be willing to write a product testimonial for my website?"

Me - "I would, but that's not the point."

Strifemongers, here is the point... or, if anything, here is a pointy, tangly question: Could a devout Christian with no ties to or knowledge of the occult unintentionally make use a metaphyisical concoction, thus unwittingly casting a spell?

I don't know, either. But my bedroom currently reeks of love.

And that, my friends, is auspicious.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Quote o' the Moment - Skyclad Deconstructed

"Status, wealth, temporal power--all the things you're supposed to leave outside the circle. Not because they're evil. Because they get in the way."  -Rosemary Edghill

With that in mind...


The Four Witches

Tell me what you see.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

... but this porridge is just right.

Strifemongers, please enjoy the following toll-free glimpse into my current social life.

And also, a tip o' the nib to Le Cornichon for introducing me to this song (if not to bears in general).

Monday, October 04, 2010

Quote o' the Moment - Family Affairs

"Some hillfolk believe that a woman may become a witch by some comparitively simple hocus-pocus ... a woman had only to fire a silver bullet at the moon and mutter two or three obscene old sayin's. A lady in Barry county, Missouri says that any woman who repeats the Lord's Prayer backwards and fires seven silver bullets at the moon is transformed into a witch instanter. But most of the genuine old-timers agreed that to become a witch is a rather complicated matter.

"Anybody is free to discuss the general principles of witchcraft, but the conjure words and old sayin's must be learned from a member of the opposite sex. Another thing to be remembered is that the secret doctrines must pass only between blood relatives, or between persons who have been united in sexual intercourse. Thus it is that every witch obtains her unholy wisdom either from a lover or a male relative.

"Not every woman who receives this information becomes a witch. A mother can transmit the secret work to her son, and he could pass it on to his wife, and she might tell one of her male cousins, and so on. All of these people may be regarded as 'carriers,' but not until someone actually uses the deadly formulae does a genuine witch appear. And thus, while a knowledge of witchcraft is admitted to exist in certain families and clans, it sometimes lies dormant for a long time."

-Vance Randolph, Ozark Superstitions

Thursday, September 30, 2010

In which I'm pretty much an action hero

A telephone conversation between myself and the Conjure Doctor:

Dr. E. - "... so even though it was a dark and painful moment in my life, I ultimately realized that I had the strength to..."


Me - "SHIT. Stop talking. There's a cockroach in my kitchen."

Dr. E. - "Well, squash it. It's just a bug."

Me - "Dude, It's huge. There's no way I can squash it. Hang on a second."

guzz guzz guzz guzz

Dr. E. - "Evn? What was that? Are you still there?"

Me - "Yeah, I'm here. That was the sound of my bug spray.  It has a motorized nozzle.  The roach is dead now."

Dr. E. - "Oh. Okay, good. Because what I was saying was..."

Me - "Crap. It's not dead. Be right back."

guzz guzz guzz guzz

Dr. E. - "Evn, seriously, just squash it."

Me - "NO.  I got it... wait, fuck, it's climbing up the wall."

guzz guzz guzz guzz

Me - "WHY WON'T YOU DIE?!?"

guzz guzz guzz guzz

Dr. E. - "Please just squash it. I promise it's just a bug."

guzz guzz guzz guzz

Dr. E. - "I'm really kind of worried about how much insecticide you're inhaling at this point."

Me - "Oooh, okay, I managed to herd him into the sink."

Dr. E. - "Oh, dear God..."

Me - "Can you speak up a little? I can't hear you over the garbage disposal. I've got the faucets on full blast, but he's swimming against the current. STOP SURVIVING, GODDAMNIT."

Dr. E. - "Evn, I need you to focus on the sound of my voice, okay? Slow down your thoughts, find your center, and... "

BAM. BAM BAM BAM.

Dr. E. - "Um... what just happened?"

Me - "I gave up on spraying and beat him to death with the bottle."

Dr. E. - "So basically... you squashed it."

Me - "I did. And blech. I don't think this is what they meant by 'kills on contact.'"

Dr. E. - "I am so hanging up now."

Fin.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Putting the Fun Back in Fungus

I have never been, nor will I ever be, a morning person. I don't pop out of bed, ready to face the day with kind words and gumption; instead, when my alarm goes off, I curse like a sailor, hit the snooze button and pull the covers over my head, only begrudgingly crawling out of my bedroom when my options for getting to work on time have dwindled to not shaving or teleportation.

Not being particularly clear of mind come daybreak, and not having a very well-lit apartment, I tend to... well, see things as I'm trying to wake up. I don't mean visions or second sight or anything useful: I mean my eyes are all blurry and my brain's not quite ready to process optical information, so mornings often involve amusing traumas like "AAAAUGH giant cockroach!!!... no, no wait, that's a sock." So when I saw a mushroom growing out of my living room carpet, my first thought was not, "Why the hell is a mushroom growing out of my carpet?" but, "Huh. Whatever that thing that's not a mushroom is sure does look like a mushroom. I need caffeine."

I got some caffeine. I looked again. There was in fact a bulbous, three-inch-tall mushroom blossoming from a disconcertingly sooty splotch in the corner of my living room.

This could... not be good. But I had to get to the office. As such, I decided the best course of action was to slip into a blissful, trancelike state of denial and flee.

By the end of my work day, my logical, conscious self had almost convinced me that I hadn't actually seen what I thought I'd seen. Sure, there must be something not quite kosher over in that corner, but a mushroom? Pish tosh. Mushrooms don't grow in apartments, silly man. Now who wants cake? I know I do. [Ed. note: My logical, conscious self likes cake.] I got back home in a chipper mood, ready to tidy up whatever insignificant, innocuous grime some visitor or other had tracked in, bounded confidently into my living room, and HOLY FUCK THAT REALLY IS A MUSHROOM GROWING OUT OF MY CARPET.

I lunged for my phone and called the management office. The conversation went something like this:

Them - "Thank you for calling [name of apartment complex]! How can I help you?"

Me - "Hi, this is Evn..."

Them - "Hello, Evn!"

Me - "... and I've got a mushroom growing in my living room."

Them - "Okay, well why don't we just... wait, I'm sorry, did you say a mushroom?"

Me - "Yeah."

Them - "And it's growing in your living room?"

Me - "Affirmative."

Them - "That ain't right."

Me - "One hopes not."

Management assured me that they'd take care of it first thing in the morning, so I did my best not to think about it and eventually went to bed. And, true to their word, when I came home from work the next day, my carpets had been thoroughly cleaned, and there was nary a mushroom to be seen.

"Whew," I thought, admiring the rows of fresh vacuum cleaner tracks. "Glad that's over with."

The next day, the mushroom was back, its mottled cap flared triumphantly.

"Fine," I said.  "This is your house now." And I ran away.

Another discussion with management got the situation, as they put it, escalated, so I got to spend the next eight hours picturing walls full of black mold and scary men in hazmat suits and spending the rest of my life confined to an iron lung until I couldn't take it anymore and called my mom.

 "Oh, honey," she said comfortingly, after I'd filled her in on the details.  "Do you happen to know where that carpet was made?"

I admitted that no, no I did not.

"It's just that some carpets are made, you know, overseas," she said, her voice dropping to the tone she uses when discussing minorities or democrats. "And sometimes, those carpets come over here with... spores in them."

I should mention that my mother is a conspiracy theorist par excellence and has never met an urban legend she couldn't spread like oleo. In this case, I think she may have gotten "carpets" mixed up with "crates of vegetables" and "spores" confused with "killer spiders from the Amazon," but regardless, she freaked me out enough to where I called management back and very politely begged them not to let me die.

"Dishwasher," they said.

"Um, what?" I asked, wiping my eyes.

"Your dishwasher has a bad leak, which caused some water to pool up under the carpet pad on the other side of your kitchen wall. We're installing a new one tomorrow."

And so they did. And the mushroom never came back. And my flatware has never been so sparkly. And I put the whole incident out of my head.

And then my birthday happened.

My mother is also an amazing artist, while at the same time being blessed with, shall we say, a differently-abled sense of humor. When I dropped by my parents' house last Saturday for a nice, relaxing birthday lunch, she handing me a wide, slim package and announced, "I painted it just for you!"

Flattered and unsuspecting, I pulled back the wrapping paper and...


Taking my sudden gasp as a sign of confusion, she decided to clarify. "It's to hang it in your living room. You know, to commemorate the event."

The scary part is, it totally goes with everything else hanging in my living room, and the only available wall space is right over the spot where the mushroom first sprouted.

Sometimes I wonder which one of us is more of a Witch.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Quote o' the Moment - I swear it made sense in context

"People always have such issues with human sacrifice."

-Chrion

Sunday, July 25, 2010

And speaking of Lovecraft...

.... I am very pleased to announce that Vacation Necronomicon School is currently accepting willing, juicy appetizers enthusiastic students.

(Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm gonna pray to be eaten first. Let it shine, let it shine, Shub Niggurath! Ia! Ia!)

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Better Left Unknown

A buddy of mine recently suggested that I install analytics software on my blog, possibly out of concern for my general well-being. (In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have told him how much time I spend Googling myself to find out how many other webpages link to me.) I was initially skeptical, but then I got a look at the various search terms that've led people to my site. Here's a sampling:

what is strife

who invented witchcraft

suffer not a poisoner to live

is the queen the whore of babylon

hoodoo guadalupe altar

my eyebrow twitches

twitches in eyebrow

why my eyebrow twitching

how can you stop twitching an eyebrow

my eyebrow is twitching how do i stop it

what does that mean if my eyebrow twitches

hugh jackman

dirty dr pepper

hanukwanzmas
 
When I first started blogging, I had ambitious visions of becoming the Brave New Voice of Modern Paganism. Instead, I've apparently become the definitive online source for information on twitchy eyebrows. And... tainted soft drinks, I guess? Wow. This is not how I thought things would go.
 
But eh, whatever.  Fame is fame.
 
Oh, and also, your eyebrow is twitching because you need sleepYou're welcome.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Seven Year Witch

On June 24, 2003, I looked out the window of my downtown Houston office just in time to see a giant, flamingo-shaped balloon drift lazily by. After processing the sureality of the moment, I thought, "You know, I should really write this down."

And with that, I officially entered the blogosphere.

Happy Anniversary, Loyal Strifemongers. I may not be the greatest or most prolific of writers, but I'll be damned if I don't have the best readers.

Seriously, thanks so much for sticking around. You guys totally complete me.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Quote o' the Moment - I want to be a Satyr

"The God of Wild Places disappeared two thousand years ago... A sailor off the coast of Ephesos heard a mysterious voice crying out from the shore, 'Tell them the great god Pan has died!' When humans heard the news, they believed it. They've been pillaging Pan's kingdom ever since. But for the satyrs, Pan was our lord and master. He protected us and the wild places of the earth. We refuse to believe that he died. In every generation, the bravest satyrs pledge their lives to finding Pan. They search the earth, exploring all the wildest places, hoping to find where he is hidden, and wake him from his sleep."

-Rick Riordan

Friday, June 18, 2010

Love to hear the Evn go tweet tweet tweet

I haven't really been hungry for meat over the last couple of days, which means:

1. I'm eating more vegetables than normal (a good thing).

2. The sudden drop in protein and amino acids has caused my Attention Deficit Disorder to spiral wildly out of control (not so much with the good).

Fortunately, Twitter is the perfect outlet for an unexpected attack of ADD. Should any Loyal Strifemongers be interested to see how my brain works when I'm only capable of thinking in disjointed, 140-character bursts, go right on ahead and click here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Quick Note - I'm officially going to Hell

So I may or may not have just encouraged someone to fake a psychotic break and go on a homicidal rampage, because, and I quote, "You can totally plead temporary insanity after the fact. It's like declaring bankruptcy."

As I understand these things, I'm either a sociopath or an excellent candidate for law school. I leave this decision to my Strifemongers.

Friday, June 04, 2010

This is why I love my friends

Seeing as how my affection for b-rated horror movies is common knowledge, I feel no shame in admitting that Angel Heart is one of my all-time favorite films. I mean, hey, Voodoo, Satanism, gratuitous nudity and Di Nero as the Devil: What's not to love?

Occultism and nipples aside, there's one moment in Angel Heart that never fails to crack me up. It's a scene between Margaret Krusemark (played by Charlotte Rampling) and Harry Angel (played by a steamy Mickey Rourke, before he had his eyebrows surgically repositioned to the top of his head):

Margaret - "Do you want some tea?"

Harry - "Oh, yes. Thank you."

Margaret - "Darjeeling, jasmine or oolong?"

Harry - "Oolong."

Margaret - "Not many people like oolong."

Okay, I know this doesn't seem hilarious at face value, but you have to understand how Rampling, in character, pronounces the word "oolong." She attacks the first syllable with this weird, Creole/generic European accent, so instead of "oolong," it comes out "euhrlong." With that in mind, let's look at the dialogue again:

Margaret - "Do you want some tea?"

Harry - "Oh, yes. Thank you."

Margaret - "Darjeeling, jasmine or euhrlong?"

Harry - "Oolong."

Margaret - "Not many people like euhrlong."

Okay, okay, so nobody thinks this is funny but me. Regardless, it's a memorable scene, fraught with Tension and Symbolism. Okay, so it's not. But it makes me giggle, and that's what counts.

All that aside, my compatriot Veles and his co-Witch Aithne are staying at my place for the next few days. As they were settling in last night, I asked if they'd like some tea.

"Sure," Veles said. "What kind do you have?"

"Well, let's see," I replied, digging through my pantry. "I've got green tea, Irish Breakfast, chamomile and... euhrlong."

And then (I swear I'm not making this up), Veles and Aithne screamed, in perfect unison, "OH MY GOD, ANGEL HEART IS THE BEST MOVIE EVER."

Keepers? I vote yes.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Quote o' the Moment - Relapse and Recovery

"Maybe you can keep me from ever being happy, but you're not gonna stop me from having fun."

-Ani DiFranco

Friday, May 07, 2010

Stockings of Strife

Behold, mortals! Fear my witchy socks!


And also... I, um, kind of forgot to do laundry this week. It was either these or wear flip-flops to work.

But they're still witchy! Booga booga!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

I believe the preferred term is "Aviator-American"

Remember that Very Cool Episcopalian Guy I told you about (forever hereafter known as EpiscoPete)? Here's his favorite joke:

EpiscoPete - "What do you call a black guy flying a plane?"

Unsuspecting Victim - "I don't know. What?"

EpiscoPete - "A pilot, you racist asshole."

Loyal Strifemongers will understand why we get along.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Generations To Go

My HR Director just forwarded an e-mail to me, which he prefaced with, "Uh, yeah, I think you should see this." Apparently, someone I'd interviewed, and who'd ultimately declined the position offered to him, was still interested in working for us. However, he didn't like the required schedule, so he thoughtfully provided us with the days and times he would be working. Also, the starting salary was too low for his tastes, so we needed to bump it up by a couple of thousand. But after that, he can't wait to get started!

To sum up, he'll come in when he wants, not when we need him, and we'll pay him more for it.

Oh, and he misspelled "interview."

Fail.

I know my co-workers wish I would shut the hell up about it, but they're also not anywhere near as battered by this mindset as I am. They only see it in our department, when we're trying to herd cats keep our employees motivated. I, on the other hand, leave the office, traipse out into NeoPaganism, and see it everywhere.

Leads to angst-management issues, that does.

Before I go any further, let me just say that there are a number of young Pagans who freakin' blow me away with their insight and abilities (Veles, Chiron and Annyikha being shining exemplars). But also swelling in ranks are the tenderfoots who seem hellbent on academically improving Paganism without having truly experienced it. And the thing is, Paganism is an experience over anything else: Regardless of beliefs or book-learnin', the only way to benefit from any permutation of Pagan spirituality is through active engagement.

This does not seem to be universally understood among the up-and-coming generation.

A bright young lass popped up on a British Traditional Wiccan listserv awhile back, introducing herself with enthusiasm. She'd been reading about Wicca for a few months, and while she thought it was nifty and all, she also had a laundry list of changes that needed to be implemented before she could participate. And to be clear here, she wasn't talking about developing her own personal practice: She expected BTW as a whole to reinvent itself in order to accommodate her. So, y'know, if BTW initiates could get on that for her, that'd be great.

As you may have guessed, her requests were not particularly well-received. And if it had been a one-time occurrence, maybe the other list members would've been able to keep their annoyance under control. But the sense of entitlement exhibited in this situation is spreading in waves, and those of us swimming against it are finding it harder and harder to keep our patience afloat.

In a recent article on Witchvox, a high school student described her disenchantment with the gender roles of Wicca. (And believe me, no one is more legitimately world-weary than a suburban, upper-class teenager.)  She doesn't like the God/Goddess "model" as it stands, so she decided that in her Wiccan practice, the Gods, while partnered, are androgynous and celibate. Which, hi, sorry, that ain't Wicca. I mean, if she wants to worship genderless deities who don't have teh icky het-sex, more power to her, but it's not Wicca. And frankly, there's a helluva lot more to Wicca--or any Pagan practice, traditional, ecclectic or otherwise--than "Metaphorical Boy Polarity Gets Metaphorical Girl Polarity."

Again, it's that lack of engagement. And it's a cop out. Because it's easier to rework someone else's perception of the Divine until it's nice and safe than it is to actively commune with the Gods in a ritualistic context to determine how They might choose to reveal Themselves. It's easier to demand that an entire tradition adjust itself to one's comfort level than it is to challenge oneself to grow as an occult practitioner.

It's easier to stay unemployed than it is to accept an entry-level position.

Apoplexy aside, I do have quite a bit of faith in the next generation, both Pagan and non. For instance, I just hired two spectacular new employees and promoted another for kicking much ass at her job; meanwhile, in the Realms of the Beyond, the Veleses, Chirons and Annyikhas of the world are doing amazing and inspiring things. But I don't want any of these guys to be exceptions: I want them to be examples. I want their peers to see what they've accomplished and think, "You know, with a little effort and focus, I could be an example, too."

Which, granted, is a tall order. But hey, I lived down the stereotype of "Generation X."  If my generation can get through that crap, I guarantee Millennials can do anything.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

My First Official "Shut Up and Kiss Me"

This Very Cool Episcopalian Guy I've Been Hanging Out With - "Evn, I really like you, and I enjoy spending time with you. But I also have to admit that your religious beliefs freak me out a little bit."

Me - "You know how you graduated from the University of Texas? The ancient Cretans worshipped a solar Bull God.  That's kind of like how your school's mascot is the longhorn."

TVCEGIBHOW - " ... "

Me - "I swear what I just said makes sense."

TVCEGIBHOW - "Surprisingly, I stll enjoy spending time with you."

And then... well, see title of post.

Happy Beltane.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Quote o' the Moment - Intent to Deceive

"There are some things that are simply not Wiccan. Any spiritual path that celebrates them, and calls itself Wicca anyway, is doing so with the intent to deceive. And a religion that starts out lying to you about what it is isn't likely to be healthy to seekers and other living things."

-Rosemary Edghill

Friday, April 23, 2010

Y? Because I said so. Now get back to work.

My company is in the midst of a hiring blitz, and I ended up in charge of interviewing prospective candidates for my department. I was initially thrilled at the idea, picturing myself handpicking an elite cadre of editorial assistants, and I was even happier at the number of résumés pilling up on my desk—I figured I’d have talented new team members installed in cubicles within days, if not hours.

And then I started the actual interview process, and oh dear Gods please rescue me from this hellish fate.

The positions I need to fill are entry-level and advertised as “excellent opportunities for recent college grads.” So recent college grads are applying. Which means I’ve spent the last month wishing I could somehow go back in time and mass sterilize the potential parents of Generation Y. The kids coming in to meet with me are intelligent; they’ve got degrees in English and Communication; they are very good writers; and not a damn one of them can follow direction.

As part of the interview, they have to take an editing test, which involves reading through a two-page article and correcting the spelling and punctuation errors. “Don’t try to rewrite the article,” I tell them. “Just focus on spelling and punctuation. There’s no deadline involved, so please take all the time you need. Oh, and here’s a dictionary. Again, don’t rewrite the article.”

So what do they do? All together now…

They rewrite the article. Every freakin’ bit of it. And in their zeal to upgrade the wording and rearrange sentences, they overlook almost all of the EYE-GOUGINGLY OBVIOUS SPELLING AND PUNCTUATION ERRORS.

Actually, wait, before I start punching walls, let me go back and clarify something. It’s not a matter of “can’t follow direction” as much as it is “won’t follow direction." And I say this because I manage an entire group of Gen Y’ers, and trying to train them to do their jobs in the manner expected of them is akin to Underworld tortures generally reserved for treacherous Greek kings.

It doesn't bother me that my employees lack experience: That will change with... well, experience. But they're inexperienced and self-entitled and put far too much energy into coming up with unrealistic ways to "improve" how our department operates, not realizing that if they'd do their damn jobs, our department would run just fine. And I honestly used to think there was just something up with the people who were attracted to our want ads, like maybe we phrased the text in a way that suggested the job was perfect for unmotivated, micromanagement fetishists. Now, though, I'm beginning to suspect it truly is a generational issue, in which case I am simply unwilling to accommodate it.

Co-Witch K. and I had a discussion about managing Gen Y employees a few months back, after she'd read a "how to" article on the subject. "The author came up with some tips that I think you'd find very effective," she said. "For instance, let's say someone comes in for an interview, and he's perfect for the job. You really want to offer him the position, but unfortunately, he doesn't want to work on Wednesdays, because he goes surfing every Wednesday. Instead of passing him over, you could compromise and tell him he can take Wednesdays off as long as he comes in on Saturdays."

"Why would I offer a job to someone who tells me he doesn't want to work on Wednesdays?" I asked.

"Well, like I said, he's perfect for the job," she replied.

"Not if he won't come in on Wednesdays he's not," I spat. "I would never hire that guy. He's stupid and I hate him."

"Um, he kind of doesn't exist," she said, scooting away from me a little. "That was hypothetical."

"If he wants to surf that badly, he should become a professional surfer and get the hell out of my office."

"Alrighty, then. Here's your monkey."

Maybe I'm just getting crotchety in my old age. Maybe professionalism went through a paradigm shift when I wasn't paying attention, and now I just need to suck it up and lower revise my standards. And if this is the case, maybe I'll go right ahead and nurture a crippling narcotics dependency, because that's about the only thing that'll bolster me enough to slog through the next round of interviews.

Pray for me, Strifemongers. And send pills.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

If my eyebrow doesn't stop twitching, I'm going to kill everyone.

Okay, so the title of this post is a little... um, psychopathic?  But I'm way behind on sleep, and my right eyebrow twitches whenever I'm exhausted.

And the twitching annoys the fuck out of me.  And chronic annoyance sends me to a place where I probably shouldn't be allowed to do grown-up things like drive through Houston traffic or speak.

More Strife soon. Promise. After sleep.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Now Playing: Pants On Fire

A conversation between myself and my buddy Smokey Q, who for some reason is not speaking to me at the moment:

Smokey Q - "Hey, we're going to go see Clash of the Titans in 3-D today. Want to come along?"

Me - "Nah, I've got too much stuff to take care of. Plus I don't know how I feel about that movie without Maggie Smith as Thetis. Thanks, though."

SQ - "I've actually never seen a 3-D movie before. We won't, like, need to bring our own glasses or anything, will we?"

Me - "Oh, no."

SQ - "Okay, so they'll give us glasses at the theatre."

Me - "No."

SQ - "I don't understand."

Me - "You just have to let your eyes go out of focus."

SQ - "Um... what?"

Me - "Remember those optical illusion posters that were so popular back in the 90's? It's like that."

SQ - "Please tell me you're joking."

Me - "The trick is to look at the screen without looking at the movie itself. Eventually, your eyes will adjust, and the three-dimensional images will come to the forefront."

SQ - "I... really don't want to see it now."

Me - "Oh, and also? They'll give you glasses at the theatre."

SQ - [stony silence]

Me - "But please let me know if Maggie Smith has a cameo."

SQ - "I hate you."

Coincidentally, none of my friends invite me to their poker nights anymore.
Go figger.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Dong Heard 'Round the World

I realize that this is an odd question to ask, and that it won't make much sense to most of my Loyal Strifemongers, but I really am curious:

How many people are now reading and/or following this blog because of the whole raccoon penis bone thing?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Quote o' the Moment - Musings of a Preadolescent

"Stupidity and mankind have a deep spiritual bond."

-Sean

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Calendar of Pagan Saints

"All through [Joan of Arc's] history she seems to have been advised and guided by a number of persons. Some have thought that this must have been a powerful secret society. Of course, she said that they were 'saints', St. Michael and St. Catherine, both of whom are old divinities in Christian disguise; St. Michael taking the place of the Sun-God, and St. Catherine that of Cerridwen, the Celtic Nature-Goddess; hence the popularity of these two saints as the patrons of churches and chapels built on hill-tops, the old 'High Places'."

-Gerald Gardner


You know how I'm always blathering on about Pagan Gods masquerading as Christian saints? Well, I had this idea awhile back that I was going to write a blog post on the feast day of each of these saints, which would eventually coalesce into a publishing contract and a best-selling NeoPagan book. But then I realized this is me we're talking about, and I never finish any project I start. So instead, I decided to slap together a calendar of Pagan-spawned Catholic memorials, complete with the Gods who are either lurking behind a veneer of legendary canonization, or who, over time, have become associated with particular historical personages.

Some of the connections listed on the calendar are pretty well-established, while others are theories I cooked up on my own, looking at symbology, patronage, and regional veneration. And sometimes I just read a book and believed the author. Also, a few entries are marked "FHH," which stands for "Fourteen Holy Helpers." This group of saints was petitioned extensively during the Middle Ages for protection against the Black Plague--since about half of them trace back to earlier Pagan worship, I went ahead and listed all of them, even if I don't yet know exactly Who they represent.

Finally, please note that this list is largely theoretical, involving quite a few not-entirely-sound leaps of pseudo-logic. But I stand by what passes for reasoning. So whatever.

And away we go...

JANUARY
Nothing Pagan happens in January.

FEBRUARY
01 - Feast of St. Brigit (Brigid)
03 - Feast of St. Blaise (Veles, FHH)
14 - Feast of St. Valentine (Faunus)
23 - Feast of St. Milburga (Grain Mother, "Old Bessey")

MARCH
17 - Feast of St. Gertrude of Nivelles (Diana)

APRIL
19 - Feast of St. Expedite (Hermes)
23 - Feast of St. George (the Green Man, Al-Khidir, FHH)

MAY
01 - Beltaine; Feast of St. Walburga (Ceres)
07 - Feast of St. Achatius (FHH)
30 - Feast of St. Joan of Arc (Margaret Murray's poster child)

JUNE
02 - Feast of St. Erasmus (FHH)
15 - Feast of St. Vitus (FHH)
29 - Feast of St. Peter the Apostle (Janus)

JULY
08 - Feast of St. Sunniva (Sol)
13 - Feast of St. Mildred (Holda)
20 - Feast of St. Margaret of Antioch (Juno, FHH)
22 - Feast of Mary Magdalene (Persephone)
25 - Feast of St. Christopher (Guinefort, Anubis, FHH)
26 - Feast of St. Anne (Danu, Annis)
27 - Feast of St. Pantaleon (FHH)

AUGUST
08 - Feast of St. Cyriacus (FHH)
15 - Feast of the Ascension of the Virgin Mary (Artemis at Ephesus)
26 - Our Lady of Czestochowa (Matka Ziema, "Moist Mother Earth")

SEPTEMBER
01 - Feast of St. Giles (FHH)
16 - Feast of St. Cornely (Cernunnos)
20 - Feast of St. Eustace (Herne, FHH)
26 - Feast of St. Cyprian (not a God per se, but patron of occultists)
29 - Feast of St. Michael (Lugh)

OCTOBER
04 - Feast of St. Francis (not Pagan, but who doesn't love the guy?)
09 - Feast of St. Denis (Dionysius, FHH)
21 - Feast of St. Ursula (Artio, Freya)

NOVEMBER
03 - Feast of St. Hubert (Herne)
25 - Feast of St. Catherine of Alexandria (Cerridwen, FHH)
30 - Feast of St. Andrew (Apollo, Belanos)

DECEMBER
04 - Feast of St. Barbara (Athena, FHH)
13 - Feast of St. Lucy (Lucina)
26 - Feast of St. Stephen (Frey)

Know of any other saints with dubious origin stories? If so, just drop me a line and I'll add them to the list. Also, if a Loyal Strifemonger could please ghost-write a best-selling book on the subject and tack my name to it, that'd be great: I'm kind of busy this week.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Key Is in the Cards

My dear friend Trothwy has devised an excellent way to contribute to the Haitian relief effort while simultaneously giving Pat Robertson the finger. She's set up a new Web site, Key for Giving, to collect donations for Doctors Without Borders. Donate through her site, and she'll give you a divinatory reading in return.

Trothwy is, among other things, a cartomancy whiz, so even with the standard "Entertainment Purposes Only" disclaimer, you can't get much more win-win. She's got a fundraising goal of $500, and I'd love to see her reach it--if you haven't already had a chance to help out, now's the perfect opportunity.

ETA: If you look in the comments section, you'll notice that Trothwy received a glowing testimonial from Nettle. (Thanks, Nettle!) And druids aren't allowed to lie, or else they get scabies. So make with the deductibles already.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Having gambled and lost, our hero returns

"If you're going through hell, keep going." -Winston Churchill

Under normal circumstances, I'm a big proponent of blogging without obligation.  I'd love to spend my days cranking out brilliant post after brilliant post, but sometimes I get stressed out, or distracted, or I just can't pull anything witty out of my head. So, y'know, I choose not to worry about it.

However, over the past week I've received several e-mails from concerned Strifemongers, inquiring about my general well-being and tactfully making sure I didn't have another break-up meltdown.  And I was all, "The hell? It hasn't been that long since I've posted anything."  And then I looked at my calendar and thought, "Geez, no wonder everybody thinks I'm dead."

Guys, I sincerely apologize for causing any... um, strife. Unintentionally, that is. But as an act of contrition, I'd like to share a quaint, autobiographical tale of personal mortification: A parable of sorts, with a neat little lesson about How Things Work thrown in at no extra charge.

Before I get started, it's important to understand that I have what could be described as an "unpredictable" digestive system. For instance, I can wolf down bacon-wrapped jalapeños stuffed with ground beef and cheese to no ill effect, but if I eat a cookie on an empty stomach, I'll wake up in the middle of the night feeling like an alien's trying to claw its way out of my chest. Also, I burp a lot, a side effect of low-grade acid reflux issues. And sometimes I just get bloaty for no damn reason at all. With this in mind...

I woke up last Saturday morning to discover I was out of cat food, an oversight not unnoticed by my precious babies, who were busy staging a formal protest in the living room. (I'm not sure how they managed to make signs without the use of opposable thumbs, but I will say that their spelling was atrocious.) Throwing on some clothes and a jacket, I braved the unseasonably cold weather to trek down to Ye Olde Neighborhood Quick-E-Mart.

The convenience store in question is right across the street from my apartment complex. However, the complex itself is a sprawling, multi-acre affair, and I live in the very back of it. A walking trip to the store and back is a good half-mile hike, but a little light exercise never hurt anyone, so briskly off I went. I made it to the store in good time, picked up a box of kitty chow as well as a few other sundries, and left in happy spirits. But as I jogged back across the street, dodging my way through a barrage of Houston traffic, a low rumbling emanated from my innards, indicating an impending attack of what we in the South call "the vapors."

Not being much of a "pull my finger" kind of guy, I generally try to keep the coarser of bodily functions restricted to the privacy of my own home. Unfortunately, an insistent gurgle had joined the intestinal cacophony: Like it or not, I was, as Geoffrey Chaucer once put it, about to leet fle.  Glancing both ways to ensure there were no witnesses, I relaxed certain internal mechanisms, gave a gentle nudge with certain others, and then...

Oh, Strifemongers.  I miscalculated.

There are a multitude of thoughts that race through one’s mind when one realizes that--as a 34-year-old man; as an upper-level executive; as a High Priest of the Witch Cult--one has just crapped one’s pants in the middle of a busy, metropolitan thoroughfare. Once those thoughts settle down a bit, one is able to perceive the variety of options in front of oneself:

1. Burst into tears.

2. Die.

3. Suck it up (so to speak), ignore adversity and get to where one needs to be to rectify the situation.

I chose door number three.

Slapping a confident smile on my face, I strode purposefully across my complex, waving cheerfully at neighbors as we passed and doing my best not to break into an awkward and obvious duck walk. I climbed a flight of stairs and let myself into my apartment, where the cats, now holding candles and singing "We Shall Overcome", ran to block the bathroom door and herd me towards the food bowl. So I got them fed and settled, undressed, started a small, unscheduled load of laundry, then catapulted into the shower and boiled myself like a freakin' lobster. And then I went on with my day. The End.

Okay, yes, this story should really be filed under "let us never speak of it again" instead of "not at all inappropriate blog fodder." But the point I'm trying to make is this: Sometimes, through no fault of your own, the Universe will make like a caged monkey and throw a surprise volley of shit in your path. When this happens, you can either stand around idly, waiting for someone else to come along and clean it up for you, or you can keep walking.

Keep walking, Loyal Strifemongers; no matter what, always keep walking.

Just don't forget to wipe your feet.