Friday, February 29, 2008

What Clown Called Me the "Pussy-minator"?

[Note: Well, I got tagged by Slut with a meme: “Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself.” But I hate memes. Still ... Back in December, I shared An Atheist’s Christmas Memory, in which I talked about my grandmother. Some of my readers urged me to post more about her, so here’s another Nanny story. If you're a stickler for following directions literally, you ought to be able to dig out at least six non-important things about me by reading this.]

Nanny's bizarre idea of a good time was taking me on a bus ride up and down the Bronx's Grand Concourse. We never had a specific destination; these trips were her urban equivalent of the Cruise to Nowhere. The route of the Number 2 passed through its own sea of interesting island stopovers: Poe Cottage, Alexander's department store, Krum's ice cream parlor, the Loew's Paradise, the Bronx County Courthouse, and, only a few blocks away, Yankee Stadium. But we never debarked. Once we boarded at the junction of Snake Hill and Sedgewick Avenue, we just headed back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, like prisoners of the transit system.

We'd make our plans on the telephone. Mom would have already told Nanny I'd go with her, so it was no use my pleading a previous appointment, or claiming that I was sick. As I talked on the phone, I'd make glowering faces at Mom, maybe even shake my fist, and mouth "I'm gonna kill you!" Mom never took offense; she usually had to rush out of the room to keep from laughing out loud.

"So I'll pick you up at 11 tomorrow morning, Pussyboy."

"You're not gonna call me 'Pussyboy' all day, are you?"

"Believe me, there are plenty of children around who wish they had a grandmother to call them 'Pussyboy.'"

"Name one."

“How do I know their names? What do I look like, a phone book? But believe me there are plenty. So what should I call you? 'Joe Shmoe?'"

"It's better than 'Pussyboy.'"

"Listen, don't tell me what to call you. I'll call you what I call you. If I remember — if — maybe I'll try not to call you 'Pussyboy.' But only if."

On the day of our ride, both of us would "dress up nice," Nanny out of choice. I would have been wrestled into a suit earlier in the afternoon by Mom. In those days, my garments were usually too large because Mom shopped at the "He'll Grow Into It" boutique. She must have had grandiose expectations for me, because the crotch of my pants never fit; it frequently hung down to my knees. I'd have to spend a few minutes hunting for myself whenever I went to the bathroom.

But to Nanny, I was always, "Nice. Very snazzy."

For our date, she always sported her usual overdose of bright red lipstick and a coat of face powder so thick it could hide her blemishes from a dust mite. Before picking me up, she would have shpritzed herself with enough perfume to keep a French whorehouse in business for a year. And of course, her body would be squeezed into her "two-way stretch," tight skirt, and high heels. Nanny was not a person who was comfortable being comfortable.

While waiting for the bus to appear, we'd make talk so small that it was minuscule: how handsome I'd be if only I didn't have my father's lips, how much better I'd look in my suit if only I could keep my shirt tucked into my pants, how tall I'd be if only I could stand up straight instead of slouching like a caveman — “is that so hard?"

Invariably, some wiseguy friend of mine would manage to pass just as Nanny was licking her finger to clean an imaginary smudge off my cheek. But she was not one to be discouraged by a deflective action.

"Whattaya pushing me away? You got shmutz."

"Just tell me where. I'll clean it myself."

"Since when can you see your own face? Stand still, Pussyboy. Oh, excuse me. Stand still, Joe Shmoe."

When the bus would finally arrive, she'd pay our fares and leave me standing next to the driver while she scouted. We got on at one of the first stops, so there were always plenty of available doubles; but Nanny had to walk up and down the aisles, checking out the cleanliness of the "chairs," calibrating the exact distance from both the front and the back of the bus, and, because she couldn't stand circulating air, making sure that the windows weren't stuck open even a chink. Finally, she would plop herself down in the aisle seat of a pair, and call to me in a loud voice. "Pussyboy! Joe Shmoe! Come on, already, somebody'll take this. Listen, you'll have to climb over me. I need the extra space for my corns. My feet are killing me."

Once I was seated, she'd ask me to hold her "bag" for a minute, while she got herself "arranged." I never understood what, exactly, arranging was, but as practiced by Nanny, it involved about five minutes of bouncing up and down and saying "Uy." The whole time, I’d be sitting there with an actual woman’s purse on my lap. A young boy is incapable of doing that without feeling as if the whole world thinks he’s a drag queen.

"What's in this thing anyway? It weighs a ton."

"Never mind. Just sit up straight."

But we both knew what was in her purse. It was always heavy with make-up and medicines: eyebrow pencils in three or four different shades of black, a tin of Bufferin, countless rolls of Tums, rouges and lipsticks and nail polishes in every garish variation of red imaginable, packets of Alka-Seltzer, dried-out mascara, a tape measure no one had ever used, a couple of completely abraded emery boards, loose corn plasters, a cracked mirror, half a dozen unmatched earrings, a few small atomizers of perfume. Nestled into the easily reachable side pockets were two packs of Winstons, both torn open. Near the bottom lurked a package of Charms candy and a box of pepsin-flavored Chiclets, each piece tasting suspiciously of My Sin. Somewhere in the mix was hidden a lurid paperback bestseller, wrapped in a blue plastic cover because it was "nobody's business what I read." All these items were buried under layers and layers of loose tissues, the leftovers from colds going back to the 1920s.

Usually, there was also a "surprise": a half-eaten giant Hershey's with almonds, ostensibly for me.

"I got you some nice chocolate. Y'want? It's a little melty cause I opened it on the way over, and nibbled a little bit. I just took a small taste. You don't mind, right? Don't wipe your hands on your pants. You need, I got Kleenex."

Whenever somebody would board the bus, Nanny would stage-whisper a critique of his or her looks: "Uy, get a load of the bald head on this one. I bet you can see yourself in it." Or: "If I had a shnozz like that I'd join the circus." Then we'd both laugh and share a square of chocolate.

"I don't know how she doesn't fly away with that hat. (Mmmmm, I got one with a lotta nuts.) This is some faygeleh with the swishy walk. Maybe he'll want I should lend him my lipstick. (How's your nuts? Did you get any?) Who does she think she's kidding with that dye job? (You done? I'm just gonna have one more piece to even it out.) What, we all need to see this shmendrick with his zipper open? (Where's my Tums?)"

I hardly ever contributed to these running commentaries. On the rare occasions when I did dare to say something, Nanny would stare at me in disbelief.

"Hey, Nanny, look at that fat guy!"


"He's pretty big, right?"

"I told you shhhh. He'll hear you. What are you, so perfect?"

As the man would pass us and glower in my direction, Nanny would point at me and explain, "My grandson. Eight. What's on his lung is on his tongue. They don't teach them any manners today. Sorry."

When an attractive woman got on, Nanny would incline her head in the direction of the newcomer and ask, "Who's prettier? Me or her?"

I knew that my sister, when confronted with this question, would always say, "Oh, you are, Nanny!" Then they'd exchange kisses, and that would be that. Maybe they'd even stop at Krum's for a sundae.

But I was older, and I'd been taught by Mom and Dad to always tell the truth.

"So? Who's prettier? Me or her?"


"Very nice. It's so hard to pay somebody a compliment?"

"You asked me a question."

"Yeah, and she buys you Hershey's?"

"You didn't ask me that. You asked who was prettier. You want me to lie?"

"Such a smart aleck. But you're not so smart when it comes to cleaning behind your ears, are you? Maybe that dame will go for you when she sees the potatoes growing back there. Who knows? Maybe she likes potato salad. Should I ask her?"

I'd pray that the woman would head well past us, toward the rear of the bus. But most of the time she'd slither into the seat right in front, or directly in back, or immediately across the aisle. If the vehicle was crowded, she'd always find an empty strap to hang onto right beside us, her ample breasts swaying over our heads whenever we hit a pothole or lurched to a stop. Every near-poke in the head would elicit a muttered comment: "Uy, it's a wonder she doesn't kill somebody with those things."

Nanny never followed through on her threat to confront the woman with a report on my cleanliness, but I always spent the next fifteen or twenty minutes staring fixedly out the window.

"Whattaya looking at with so much concentration? You never saw buildings before?"

"I ... um ... never noticed that one over there."

"A brown apartment. So what?"

"I think it's ... um ... interesting."

“What are you, an architect all of a sudden? Since when are you interested in buildings? You can’t even stack two blocks together without one of them falling over."

"I just like it, OK?"

"You want a Charm?"


"Gum? You want a Chiclet?"

"No thanks."

"You always like Chiclets. Don't you like Chiclets? You like Chiclets. These are your favorite flavor. Blue. First you’re too good for Pussyboy, and now you’re also too good for Chiclets? Take one."

"No thanks."

"More Hershey's?"

"I'm not hungry."

Then Nanny would lean over to the good-looking woman, wherever she was situated, and say, "Look at this little Joe Shmoe. Y'ever hear of a boy who didn't want Hershey's?" Before I knew what was happening, the stranger would be sharing our candy, and using Nanny's aroma-doused tissues to wipe her hands.

When the woman eventually did get off the bus, Nanny would turn to me and say, "She seemed like such a nice lady. Can you explain to me please why she needs to show off her bust like that? And just out of curiosity: Who has a better shape, me or her?"

I wish I could report that I'd learned my lesson. But if you know me at all, you're aware that I never did. Even with my years and years of accumulated wisdom, if my grandmother were alive today to ask me that question, my answer would still be: "her."

But I would take a Chiclet. Particularly if it was my favorite flavor, blue.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Stermy Awards for February 2008

You perverse heathens! Have you no pity? This month was the most difficult of all. The Atheosphere was flooded with Exemplary Writing. (That's why all the dinosaurs are dead now.) I couldn't click anywhere without finding myself up to my ass in great prose (and even some poetry). Can anyone honestly make that claim about the Theorealm?

To help me cull at least some of this month's offerings, I decided to add a few new, totally arbitray rules.

  • No award to anyone whose name begins with the same letter as Exterminator.
  • No recognition for anyone under 21 or over 60 years of age.
  • No prize for any blogger who mentions any kinds of primates other than humans.
  • No distinction for anyone who doesn't use the word "fuck" at least once in each post.
  • No Stermy for anyone who has either earned one before or not earned one before.
Those all felt too damn random, even for me. They hadn't evolved naturally. So ultimately, I just decided to pick the five posts in which I was most impressed by the writing and the ideas. Fuck it! Six posts.

Anyway, here are this month's winners, in the usual alphabetical order:
C.L. Hanson at Letters from a Broad
for come on baby, won't you show some class?
(more on primate sexuality)

Notice that (in this scenario) higher class women benefit from trashing sexually available women. Higher class women (and their offspring) are better off if their mates aren't directing their time and resources towards side dalliances. So privileged women have an incentive to promote the idea that promiscuous women are trashy and not worth one's time.

Evo at Evolutionary Middleman
for Why do Christians hate America?
At this time in our nation's history, we all need to be aware of any persons who demonstrate Un-American tendencies. I’m not sure it’s true that all Christians hate America – but it certainly looks like it.

Infidel753 at Infidel753
for Personhood
I offer here two candidates for the status of person, with all the moral and legal implications which that status carries, including the affirmation that the physical destruction of this entity would constitute murder from a moral and legal standpoint. See if you can guess which of these two the mainstream Christian religion accepts as a person.

Nathan at Very Special Monkeys
for This is our country
This is an all too common misstep in logic from tolerating someone's personal beliefs to tolerating their outward actions based on those beliefs. If you want to believe that your toaster talks to you, fine. That's your business. But if your toaster tells you to blow up a school, or even to steal a candy bar, then it's someone else's business.

Ric at Grumpy Lion
for A Long, Aimless, Pointless, Rambling Post
Nothing is pure anymore. In the morning, while it’s still dark, I walk to Starbucks to get the newspaper, and on my way back across the parking lot I can see a few bright stars, sometimes the moon, and I feel awed and amazed and I wonder at all that bright stuff out there. And then I realize we’re never going to get there because we’ve destroyed our own planet and it will take its revenge, sooner rather than later.

Yinyang at this is you reading about me ... or not
for I wrote this poem just now because it's true
(even though it's not terribly original)

It has to be perfect,
But it won't is perfect.
So, it's better to do nothing
Or put very little effort into it,
Because if it can't be perfect why does it matter?
Once again, I'm going to make my monthly appeal to everyone: Please let me know if you read anything that you think is Stermy-worthy. But, duh! If you see that I've left a comment at a post even before you've read it, there's a pretty good chance that I've been there already. On the other hand, if you happen to read a post that you'd like to see honored in some small way, and you think that I've missed it, by all means bring it to my attention. Thanks.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Is There a Catholic Doctor in the House?

As I’ve said many times before, I tend to avoid philosophical rambles here at No More Hornets. I’m not interested in long, pointless discussions that were much more interesting 2400 years ago when Socrates was stopping strangers in the street and asking them annoying questions. Issues of ethics, in particular, usually bore the shit out of me. In my opinion, the whole universe of ethics boils down to the Jewish version of the Golden Rule, which says, essentially:

Don’t do to anybody else what you wouldn’t want anybody else to do to you.
In more biblical language:
Fuck not thy neighbor royally, if thou wouldst not be fucked in kingly fashion thyself.
But today, I’m going to begin an examination of an ethical issue, mainly by posing a question and suggesting some alternatives. I hope my readers will jump in with comments and we can get a real dialogue going.

So here’s what got me started on this topic.

This evening my wife opens up our local rag, and she notices a front-page story about the mama-papa medical practice she goes to. The headline is: Doctors won’t offer ‘the pill’.

It seems that both husband and wife, described as “two area Catholic doctors” — uh-oh! — have decided that there’s alarming medical evidence supporting their view that swallowable birth-control is bad, bad, bad for women. The ironclad proof supporting their opinion has, unfortunately, been swept under the carpet. In a sneaky disregard for scientific data, our overly permissive society has insisted for years that everybody should be free to have sex willy-nilly with one another, regardless of gender, age, or species.

God works in mysterious ways, and one of those mysteries is why the story of the two doctors made the paper today. They claim to have sent out a letter to their patients way back in October. My wife — one of their patients, as I’ve mentioned — never received it. Perhaps that was because the doctors decided she was well past her child-bearing years and wouldn’t be needing pharmaceutical assistance to keep from getting pregnant. Or maybe they just fucking lied to the newspaper. It's possible that they informed only those patients who actually asked for a prescription. “Oh, sorry, but we think that’s really bad for you, and so does Pope Benedict, and so does Jesus! Do you need any Xanax or anything?”

Anyway, the alleged letter contained some mumbo-jumbo about research that shows how using hormones to prevent pregnancy can lead to a whole world of ills: cervical and breast cancer, deep vein thrombosis, strokes, heart problems, everything but an enlarged prostate. In other words: God is waiting to fuck up your whoring bodies, ladies!

The note failed to mention stigmata, hallucinations, or epileptic seizures on the road to Damascus. Apparently, pill-takers, as opposed to devout Catholics, are safe from those particular diseases.

Now, it so happens that most of the country’s gynecologists dismiss the medical evidence offered up by the Crusading Doctor Duo. That’s probably because most of the country’s gynecologists did not attend the recent conference of the Catholic Medical Association, nor did they feel themselves “convicted spiritually” to stop prescribing birth control.

(As an amusing side note, the news article contains the not-so-startling information that Mrs. Doctor is about to pop her fifth child. As soon as she does, she and her husband would like to begin proselytizing for “natural family planning.” That method has clearly been hugely successful in their household.)

Is the pill risk-free? Of course not; what drug is? But the medical evidence, standing by itself, is certainly not sufficient to warrant a refusal to prescribe birth-control to patients. The two Papal Physicians have clearly allowed their scientific judgments to be swayed by religious, not medical, concerns.

Which brings me to the ethical issue that I’d like to throw open for discussion.

The way I see it, one can view a doctor’s responsibility in five ways:
  1. A doctor has a responsibility to do what a consensus of well-informed medical professionals, based on the best scientific data, would think is right for the patient.

  2. A doctor has a responsibility to do what he believes is right, regardless of the patient.

  3. A doctor has a responsibility to give his patient the best advice he can. But then he should follow his patient’s wishes, whatever they are, as long as they’re not illegal.

  4. A doctor has a responsiblity to think of the greater good, even if it means acting against a particular patient’s best interests.

  5. A doctor has no more responsibility than any other person who performs a service. He ought to be able to pick and choose the specific jobs he does.
There may be other alternatives, but those ought to get the conversation rolling. My own view is number 1, although I'm not sure I can justify it philosophically. As a one-time libertarian, I have difficulty dismissing number 5.

What do you guys think?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Googl-oetry Revisited

[Note: Back in July, I invented a new art form: Googl-oetry. To write a Googl-oem, you simply have to look at one or more of your traffic-trackers and find the phrases people keyed into various search engines that wound up taking them to your blog. Then, organize those phrases — without altering them in any way — to create a delicious piece of literature.

Here's my latest Googl-oem. All key phrases were used in the month of February. Each phrase appears exactly as it was typed in by some idiot looking for information. I've repeated phrases only when they were repeated in searches. I apologize in advance for offending any sensibilities, but don't blame me; I'm only the messenger.]

old japanese song about a boy( whistle

if you could only see the way she loves me maybe you’d understand
story of indian mother in law hard fuck with own father in law
happy valen
story of indian daughter in law hard fuck with own father in la
valen time day
hornet house wife wanted a fuck
happy valen emotion
fucking my own sister stories
happy valen day
storys of uncle fucking me
imagini hapy valen day
my wife fuck my friend end me
happy valen’s day
fucking babis video
are you better today than 8 years ago 2008
yes virginia, there is a jesus

happy valen
happy valen
happy valen
happy valen
futile repetition aristotle
Ronald Reagan quote from his dairy about George W Bush
Leah Remini democrat or republican?

there are no clothes in heaven
tact is overrated
rebecca romijn naked fantasy
playboy bunny holy
playboy johnadams
hot secretary
decadent nudist groups
christian nudes
warm glow of electric sex in the window
rosebud underwear
hey we got color tv!
Adjectives appeal to the sense of smelling
Fill in the blank game with names, adjectives, etx.
one fine morning in may, a slim young horsewoman may have been seen
riding handsome sorrel mare along the flowery avenues of the bois de bologne
ron paul on dogmas that plague our nations
dogs wouldn't move, and by the end of the night she was peeing and pooping uncontrollably
shitting licking
Good advice to give a friend
proceed at your own risk blog
proceed at your own risk website
Proceed At your Own Risk
how often do I need an exterminator?
any comments

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Second Annual Presidents Day Quiz

Last year for Presidents Day (please note once again that there is no apostrophe anywhere in the holiday’s name), I presented a little multiple-choice quiz on our presidents and their ideas about religion.

This year, given the theocratic claptrap being spouted by all candidates of both parties, such a quiz is even more desperately needed. You can find the answers by looking at the first comment to this post.

1. Who said:

I am tolerant of all creeds. Yet if any sect suffered itself to be used for political objects I would meet it by political opposition. In my view church and state should be separate, not only in form, but fact. Religion and politics should not be mingled.
A. John Quincy Adams

B. Millard Fillmore

C. Franklin Pierce

D. Martin Van Buren

2. Which two presidents might have had this debate about morality:

The truth is, politics and morality are inseparable. And as morality's foundation is religion, religion and politics are necessarily related. We need religion as a guide. We need it because we are imperfect.

Twenty times in the course of my late reading, I have been upon the point of breaking out: This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!

A. George H. W. Bush and James Madison

B. Herbert Hoover and Thomas Jefferson

C. Ronald Reagan and John Adams

D. Lyndon B. Johnson and Abraham Lincoln

3. Which little-known president is responsible for the following amazing quote?

The United States has adventured upon a great and noble experiment, which is believed to have been hazarded in the absence of all previous precedent — that of total separation of Church and State. No religious establishment by law exists among us. The conscience is left free from all restraint and each is permitted to worship his Maker after his own judgment. The offices of the Government are open alike to all. No tithes are levied to support an established Hierarchy, nor is the fallible judgment of man set up as the sure and infallible creed of faith. The Mohammedan, if he will to come among us would have the privilege guaranteed to him by the Constitution to worship according to the Koran; and the East Indian might erect a shrine to Brahma if it so pleased him. Such is the spirit of toleration inculcated by our political institutions… The Hebrew persecuted and down trodden in other regions takes up his abode among us with none to make him afraid… and the Aegis of the government is over him to defend and protect him. Such is the great experiment which we have tried, and such are the happy fruits which have resulted from it; our system of free government would be imperfect without it.
A. John Tyler

B. Chester Alan Arthur

C. James K. Polk

D. Benjamin Harrison

4. Which two presidents of two different parties could have agreed on these ideas?

No matter what other personal desires or crises we have faced, I've never forgotten that this is the time to celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus, and the impact of this event on the history of the world.

It is only when men begin to worship that they begin to grow.

A. George W. Bush and Bill Clinton

B. Warren G. Harding and Woodrow Wilson

C. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover

D. Jimmy Carter and Calvin Coolidge

5. Who said:

Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither justice nor freedom can be permanently maintained. Its interests are intrusted to the States and the voluntary action of the people. Whatever help the nation can justly afford should be generously given to aid the States in supporting common schools; but it would be unjust to our people and dangerous to our institutions to apply any portion of the revenues of the nation or of the States to the support of sectarian schools. The separation of Church and State in everything relating to taxation should be absolute.
A. Andrew Johnson

B. Rutherford B. Hayes

C. William McKinley

D. James A. Garfield

6. Which two presidents could have had this discussion about education?

I believe God did create the world. And I think we're finding out more and more and more as to how it actually happened.

There is no need to teach that stars can fall out of the sky and land on a flat Earth in order to defend our religious faith.

A. Richard Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson

B. John F. Kennedy and Harry Truman

C. George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter

D. Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan

7. Which two presidents had the following different ideas about religious sensitivity?

The Jews, I find are very, very selfish. They care not how many Estonians, Latvians, Finns, Poles, Yugoslavs or Greeks get murdered or mistreated as D[isplaced] P[ersons] as long as the Jews get special treatment. Yet when they have power, physical, financial, or political, neither Hitler nor Stalin has anything on them for cruelty or mistreatment to the underdog.

If they are good workmen, they may be of Asia, Africa, or Europe. They may be Mohometans, Jews or Christians of any Sect, or they may be Atheists.

A. Harry Truman and George Washington

B. Franklin D. Roosevelt and James Monroe

C. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Grover Cleveland

D. Richard M. Nixon and Theodore Roosevelt

8. These two presidents would be horrified at all the faith talk in this year’s political arena. Who are they?

Voters ... make up their minds for many diverse reasons, good and bad. To submit the candidates to a religious test is unfair enough — to apply it to the voters is divisive, degrading and wholly unwarranted.

If there is one thing for which we stand in this country, it is for complete religious freedom, and it is an emphatic negation of this right to cross-examine a man on his religion before being willing to support him for office.

A. William Howard Taft and William McKinley

B. John F. Kennedy and Theodore Roosevelt

C. Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman

D. Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln

9. The country lucked out when neither of these two religious nuts were elected. What two losing candidates said:

If we have to give up either religion or education, we should give up education.

I believe that the purpose of life is to glorify God.

A. Charles Evans Hughes and Alfred E. Smith

B. Alf Landon and Barry Goldwater

C. William Jennings Bryan and Al Gore

D. Bob Dole and George McGovern

10. Who said:

We have the most religious freedom of any country in the world, including the freedom not to believe.

A. Richard M. Nixon

B. Lyndon B. Johnson

C. George W. Bush

D. Bill Clinton

For these and many other great quotes, I highly recommend that you read 2000 Years of Disbelief by James A. Haught and The Quotable Atheist by Jack Huberman — or simply visit Positive Atheism.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Happy Valen-times Day

Well tomorrow is Valentine's Day, which I really hate. What's up with all that lovey-dovey crap and those little Necco candies that say "Be Mine" or "EZ 2 Love" or "What the Fuck Flavor Is This Supposed to Be"? I'm not anti-affection, mind you. I just don't want anyone telling me when, where, and how to express it. My attitude is: If I'm having trouble getting you in the mood, Baby, I doubt that a Hallmark card is gonna heat things up. Unless it comes with a blowtorch.

But this year, as a holiday gift to my readers, I'm going to investigate a religion that spends not just February 14 but the whole year telling its practitioners when, where, how — and even whom — to love. I decided to join millions of Christians and celebrate my Valentine’s Day with the Christ. I hope you'll come along with me for this Jesus love-fest.

On our first kiss, try not to be overwhelmed by the wallpaper. The woman who created this page has the serious hots for JC and she's laboring under the delusion that he reciprocates. There’s lots of stuff to read here, which, obviously, you won’t. But you're sure to enjoy the plethora of flickering hearts (no, that's not you having a seizure), and you might want to scroll down and look at these two sections: Love Letter from Jesus and Father’s Love Letter. Apparently, someone imagines herself as the love-object of an entire family of super-beings.

This next possibly pedophiliac kiss is especially for children. Please, kids, allow us to beat you over the head with our Jesus message. "Stay with God's teaching from his Word, so you will not be fooled by false teachers!" (Those are the ones who try to explain science, or enlighten you about history, or just plain correct your spelling.) I ask my readers to scroll down to the pictue of Emmi Squirrel and her friends and tell me this: Does that rabbit look naked to you? Now, as a side-note, I have no idea what tune is playing here, or what the words are. But it just sounds so happy-face Christian Pop to me. Question for musicians: Are there any defining features of Christian Pop music?

Speaking of music: this organ-involving kiss gives us a slew of special Christian Valentine’s Day Songs. Maybe, if you’re not an evangelical, you won’t be able to understand what’s particularly romantic about, say, “Onward, Christian Soliders” or “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” But I’m sure that fundie women’s panties get all wet when they listen to “God is So Good” and I imagine that their men find themselves pole-vaulting around the room when they hear “Soldiers of the Cross Arise” or “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.”

Here’s a kiss with maybe a little tongue. This short play pretty much explains why there are so many divorces in America today. The director's note says it all: "In this script, the husband and wife appear to express their love to one another, however, the audience will come to learn (at the end) that they are actually expressing their love to Jesus." That son-of-a-god is a real home-wrecker.

A passionate kiss at last, "Valentines Day With Jesus" is one of the best examples of the poetic form known as "godderel". This little ditty appears all over the Evangernet with dozens of different backgrounds and musical accompaniment styles, and occasionally with a properly placed apostrophe. You’d think, from its ubiquity, that it was a literary work going back to the Middle Ages. But nope, it was written in 2003. It's soooooo good, however, that it can be seen everywhere. Notice how the gifted poet cleverly uses off-rhymes like mine/time and air/cares. She's definitely someone who was not fooled by false English teachers.

This last, goodnight kiss has gotta be my favorite. I'm sorry it's such a long smooch, but if you love Jesus, you'll stick it out through this. And how can you resist? To begin with, the female star tells us that when people watch her videos "it just makes my hair on fire.” I'm not going to tell you whether or not that actually happens; you'll have to watch in suspense as I did. (Hint: Do her pants catch fire, too? They should, but they don't.) The really endearing thing about this vlogger, though, is how she pronounces “Valen-times Day” every single tine she says it. For poignancy, don't miss the short scene where she asks her son to stop playing the drums because she's "filming." And last but not least, you'll find it fascinating to view her creative process as she paints what may well be the most ugly valentine ever seen. Perhaps one of my artist readers can explain her technique.

So that's it, folks. Happy Valentine's Day to you all, from me and Jesus. I haven't sent you anything, but Jesus tells me that he has FTD'd a dozen roses to all those who believe in Him. So here's your Valentine's Day Wager: If you believe in Jesus and you're wrong, you get no fewer flowers than you started with. But if you don't believe in Jesus and you're wrong, you're missing out on a high-quality bouquet.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Numerology Never Lies

Well, it may surprise my regular readers to learn that I’m a big believer in numerology. Here are some interesting numbers. I challenge anyone to explain them.

  • On a news report, I saw three people holding signs that said “Go Huckabee.” Taking the numerology of each sign:
    G = 7
    O = 15
    H = 8
    U = 21
    C = 3
    K = 11
    A = 1
    B = 2
    E = 5
    E = 5
    Those numbers total 78.
    Reduce to simplest form: Add 7 + 8 = 15.
    Reduce again: 1 + 5 = 6.
    So those three "Go Huckabee" signs, viewed next to one another = 666.
    Coincidence? I don’t think so.

  • Three signs said “Go Mike.”
    Taking the numerology of each sign:
    G = 7
    O = 15
    M = 13
    I = 9
    K = 11
    E =5
    Those numbers total 60.
    Reduce: 6 + 0 = 6.
    So those signs, viewed next to one another = 666.

  • Three signs said: “Mike Huckabee for President.”
    I'll let you work out the specifics:
    Mike = 38
    Huckabee = 56
    for = 39
    President = 110
    Add them up: 38 + 56 + 39 + 110 = 243
    Reduce: 2 + 4 + 3 = 9.
    Those three signs next to each other = 999. Innocent enough, right?
    Wrong! Here's where Huckabee is really sneaky.
    If you view those signs upside down, you get = 666!

  • Here’s the most chilling numerology of all.
    Add up all the letters in:
    “Go Huckabee for President of the United States, Two Thousand and Eight.”
    We already know that “Go Huckabee” = 78, “for” = 39, and “President” = 110.
    “of The United States” = 211
    “Two Thousand and Eight” = 228
    Take the total: 78 + 39 + 110 + 211 + 228 = 666!

Uh-oh! Don't say I didn't warn you.

[Addendum 6:47 p.m.:
I just saw the same news crawl on three different TV channels: Huckabee takes Kansas.
Huckabee = 56
takes = 56
Kansas = 65.
Add them up: 177.
Reduce 1 + 7 + 7 = 15; 1 + 5 = 6.
Three of them = 666.
Look, folks, I'm not making this shit up. Do the math!]

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Another What?

I really hate it
when bloggers
their own stuff,
don't you?

So believe me,
I have no idea
what this is about.

If anyone
among my readers
happens to listen to it,
please let me know
what the hell it is.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Maybe Pat Robertson Can Explain This

Tuesday night, February 5

1. Mike Huckabee wins Republican primaries in the states of Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia.

2. Killer tornadoes hit the states of Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama, and threaten Georgia.

There must be some connection between these events. Don't you think so, Pat?
Where's Jerry Falwell when we need him to clarify things?

If my readers have any ideas, please let me know. I'm so confused.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Evidence of Cedar Waxwings

At our favorite atheist-theist battleground, Matthew said:

It isn't quite true that the burden of proof lies on individually proving something using our individual senses. If a color blind person were to use the same criteria, you would have a real problem proving to some people red is different from green.
I'm going to answer you, Matthew. For now, I'll assume that we're having a dialogue and not a debate. Maybe you'll learn something about the atheist position if you read what I have to say. I'm not attempting to turn you into an atheist, only to get you to understand what one atheist — me — does and doesn't claim. If you're game to listen and ask honest questions, without trying to score points, I'll try to elucidate my position as best I can. Bear in mind that I speak only for myself.

I don't think I said that the burden of proof always depends on our using our individual senses.

However, even assuming I did, a person afflicted with red-green color-blindness can use his or her senses to detect a real, physical difference between the colors, at least in practical situations. He or she just can't use color vision to make the distinction. But there are many other criteria in addition to pure color, depending upon what red-or-green objects you're referring to. Think of red peppers/green peppers; red traffic lights/green traffic lights; red wine/green wine; red strawberries/green strawberries. If you learned that red meat was good and green meat was rancid, you could perceive the color through your sense of smell and, if it came to that, your sense of taste. You would be able to substitute other senses for the deficiency in your color vision. You wouldn't need to rely on faith.

I'll give you a concrete example of a sensory deprivation that I myself suffer, and how I can still require — and get! — proof. Each year, songbirds called cedar waxwings migrate through my area.

These cheery little creatures travel in small- to medium-sized flocks. While flying, they give a very high call, which is way out of my range of hearing. Mrs. Exterminator, however, can hear that call perfectly. If we're outdoors, she might cry, "cedar waxwings!" and I'll look up in the sky, or at a tree across the street, or over at a bush in someone's backyard, or wherever she's pointing. Sometimes she doesn't even have to point because I'll know that there are some berries nearby that cedar waxwings just can't resist. Anyway, I'll look, and there they'll be. I don't have to hear them, but I can prove to myself that they're there.

If, after enough cases, I decide that whenever Mrs. Ex says "cedar waxwings," there are actually cedar waxwings, I may decide to trust her — trust, not have faith, because I'd be relying on actual past empirical experiences. So maybe I could accept that cedar waxwings are somewhere around even if I can't see them. But, to tell the absolute truth, much as I love and trust my wife, I probably wouldn't believe her, because she has been wrong three or four times. In those instances, her cedar waxwings turned out to be other birds that I either saw or could hear. Or not birds at all.

Sometimes, of course, she might say "cedar waxwings" and they actually would be there, even though I couldn't see them. But she wouldn't have proved their existence to me, because, although I trust her cedar-waxwing-spotting ability, I don't trust it blindly.

And that's all an atheist says. Your bird may be there, but you'll have to prove it. Because 99.9% of the time, there are no cedar waxwings around. Sometimes you're gonna say something is a cedar waxwing that isn't. Sometimes, maybe, you will hear a real cedar waxwing. But if you want me to believe there's a cedar waxwing there, you'll have to give me some evidence. Because, as far as I'm concerned, until you show me otherwise, it's probably just a mosquito.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Choosing Between a "But" and an "And"

"Evenings, whole weeks, spent on one word, just think! Sometimes on a mere conjunction! ... I’d like you to understand, doctor. I grant you it’s easy enough to choose between a ‘but’ and an ‘and.’ It’s a bit more difficult to decide between ‘and’ and ‘then.’ But definitely the hardest thing may be to know whether one should put an ‘and’ or leave it out."
Joseph Grand to Dr. Rieux in The Plague

From time to time, I like to challenge myself with a self-awareness question: Am I primarily an atheist who has chosen to use writing as his form of expression? Or am I primarily a writer who has chosen to use atheism as his frequent subject matter? In other words: for me, which came first, the medium or the message?

I ask myself that question, rhetorically, as a “snap-out-of-it” slap when I find myself temporarily mired in atheistic rage or frustration. Because honestly? For me, the question is almost a no-brainer. I’m a writer first. I love writing about atheism more than any other subject. But I love writing about anything more than I love not writing.

I suspect that last sentence may be true of some others here in the Atheosphere. And it was very likely true of Albert Camus, as well. In his lifetime, he was labelled an existentialist, an absurdist, an anti-nihilist. His novel The Plague is a short book with dozens of ideas that could have been written by an author sporting any or all of those labels. Four of the book’s themes, by no means all, are: the physical and emotional toll of separation, the individual’s inability to control events, religion’s pathetic response to tragedy, and love as a means to both transcend existence and root oneself even more deeply in it.

Heavy stuff. But the book, to me, is above all a love letter to writers and their crazy aspirations. And some of it is hilarious.

Most of the main characters are writers of one sort or another. The narrator, whose identity is not revealed until the very end, is, of course, both a character in the novel and the teller of its story. I won’t reveal his or her identity. But here’s a list of five of the main characters and their relationship to writing:

  1. Dr. Rieux, the "hero," who corresponds with his absent wife through letters and telegrams;
  2. Raymond Rambert, a young visiting journalist, who finds himself trapped in town while on assignment for his newspaper;
  3. Father Paneloux, the priest, who writes and delivers two of the most odious sermons ever created;
  4. Jean Tarrou, a strange "tourist," who keeps a quirky journal that supplies some of the most colorful details of the narrative; and
  5. Joseph Grand, a low-level government clerk, who has secretly been writing “the perfect novel” at night.

While I, myself, am not secretly working on a novel, perfect or otherwise, it was Joseph Grand with whom I identified. About halfway through the book, I realized that I cared more about him than any of the other characters. I doubt that Camus intended Grand to be the reader’s focus, but he came alive for me. I know that guy. He’s a caricature of every writer who cares about writing, who has hopes and fears about the ultimate "worth" of his output. He's me. Maybe he's also you.

”What I really want, doctor, is this. On the day when the manuscript reachers the publisher, I want him to stand up — after he’s read it through, of course — and say to his staff: ‘Gentlemen, hats off!’” ...

I like to think of my blog audience perhaps you like to think of yours, too as having that very same reaction every single time I/you write one of my/your scathingly brilliant and perfect posts. In my case (I can't speak for you) I’d even be happy to supply the hats; I have few enough readers to keep that well within my budget.

Of course, in the real world, striving after perfection is a losing strategy for a writer. Grand's search for the ideal expression is immobilizing. After months, maybe years of working on his novel, all he has managed to get down on paper is:

One fine morning in the month of May an elegant young horsewoman might have been seen riding a handsome sorrel mare along the flowery avenues of the Bois de Bologne.

That’s it. Later, when Tarrou asks him, “How’s your young lady on horseback progressing?” Grand reveals that he has decided to replace “elegant” with “slim,” because it’s more concrete. And he has dropped “the month of” because those words “tended to rather drag out the trot.”

Next he showed some anxiety about the adjective “handsome.” In his opinion it didn’t convey enough, and he set to looking for an epithet that would promptly and clearly “photograph” the superb animal he saw with his mind’s eye. “Plump” wouldn’t do; though concrete enough, it sounded perhaps a little disparaging, also a shade vulgar. “Beautifully groomed” had tempted him for a moment, but it was cumbrous and made the rhythm limp somewhat. Then one evening he announced triumphantly that he had got it: “A black sorrel mare.” To his thinking, he explained, “black” conveyed a hint of elegance and opulence.”

“It won’t do,” Rieux said.

“Why not?”

“Because ‘sorrel’ doesn’t mean a breed of horse; it’s a color.”

“What color?”

“Well — er — a color that, anyhow, isn’t black.”

Finally, Tarrou suggests “glossy,” and Grand is once again, although only temporarily, happy. Having found the ideal word to replace "handsome," he can truly get underway with his great work.

I gotta admit that writing is often like that for me. I struggle with unimportant words, waiting for that sparkling phrase with the magical rhythm to jump into existence and dance across the page/screen. For me, every single post is a battle with the recalcitrant English language. Nothing I write ever seems to capture exactly what I was trying to say. Some of you are perhaps nodding your heads in recognition of yourselves, maybe thinking, "It's like that for other people, too?" Yeah, it is. Welcome to the club.

Near the end of The Plague, Joseph Grand manifests symptoms that may well be the titular disease, an almost certain death-sentence. Tarrou and Dr. Rieux visit him and find him in bad shape. From his deathbed, Grand holds fifty pages of manuscript out to the doctor, desperately wanting to hear his work read aloud for one last time. Rieux looks through the pages and sees hundreds of versions of the same sentence, over and over again with “small variants, simplifications or elaborations.” Finally, solemnly, he reads:

One fine morning in May, a slim young horsewoman might have been seen riding a glossy sorrel mare along the avenues of the Bois, among the flowers.

Perfect, finally perfect, although, ironically, too late. Grand, “knowing” that he’s dying, orders the doctor to burn the manuscript, and, reluctantly, Rieux complies.

The next day, the sick man has rebounded. He announces happily to the doctor, "I was overhasty. I’ll make another start. You’ll see, I can remember every word."

Ah, the writer: ever the optimist. Whether it’s Albert Camus, or those of us ranting and raving in the Atheosphere, or the clerk who secretly scribbles his novel night after night after night, we must tell ourselves — delude ourselves maybe — that we can take a bunch of words, throw them onto a piece of paper or a screen, and have other people understand what we’re trying to say. Writing is unlike other learned skills that get easier with practice. The more you do it, the better you get at it, the harder writing becomes. That perfect sentence never wants to happen.

But you gotta do what you gotta do, right?

[One thing I've gotta do is tell all Nonbelieving Literati that our next book is Not the End of the World by Christopher Brookmyre. Beware the Ides of March, because that's our target date.]