Thursday, September 9, 2010

It is Finished

That's it.  I'm done.  I'm officially shutting this blog down.

And moving it over to TypePad.

Excuse my dust while I get the new digs built.  It'll be a little while before I have everything in order.  It will be a good thing, though.  For one, it looks like I might just be able to do that experiment in Podcasting I was thinking about.

I've shut the comment section down on this blog for what I hope are obvious reasons, but I'll still be keeping it up.  For some reason TypePad only imported the posts from August and September, so I'll want to keep this one around as an archive.  And so I can point people to the new spot.  It should be pretty easy to remember:

Good News and Bad News and Other News

So the good news is I’m still blogging.

The bad news is that I’m blogging from beyond the grave.

The really bad news is that death looks exactly like my regular life.

Silver lining: this proves my hypothesis that Texas = Hell.

Anyway, yeah.  Big, bad Dennis Markuze didn’t get me.  He didn’t even leave Montreal.  I know this because of the IP address from which he’s been leaving his bullshit all morning.  Which also indicates that he lacks the faith in his god to believe that the job got done.  So, good times.

Meanwhile, yesterday I got to contend with Tropical Event Hermoine and spend a bunch of time driving around Dallas in the neighborhood of the tornadoes that were apparently much worse than I though.  Yet here I am, still alive…

Anyway, we’ve proved yet again that Dennis Markuze is not a threat.  But he is massively annoying.


This has also caused me to make a decision I’ve been putting off for a while.  I’m going to migrate the blog, probably to Wordpress.  Blogger’s interface is clunky and annoying.  Their moderation is basically useless, as you have to have it all the way on or all the way off.  The rollout of their Spam filter only clinched it, as I have received 29 comments from DM since yesterday, marked all of them as Spam, and still they get posted as normal.  A quick perusal of the message boards indicates that I’m most definitely not the only person having this problem.

I can’t complain too much, as Blogger is free.  That also makes it really hard for me to feel like storming off in high dudgeon.  Still, I’d rather have more control than what Blogger offers.

Anyway, further bulletins as events warrant…

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I've officially arrived.  Today I received my first direct death threat from DM, which I have deleted as per my policy of deleting everything that dipshit posts on my blog.

Either way, I'm apparently going to die today.

Check back tomorrow for the exciting conclusion.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I stopped on my way out of Chicago in January to buy one last thing: a bottle of Lagavulin 18.  It slowly disappeared over the next few months until I realized I only had one glass left.  I decided I needed to save it for a special occasion.


I bought a new pair of jeans on Friday.  It was well past time.  The jeans I brought down with me were starting to fall down and even at their best they made me look like I was doing my best white boy gangsta impression, an odd idea, since I’ve always been pretty clean cut.

My new jeans are Levi’s 560s with a 36” waist, 34” inseam.  They created a mystery.

When I was out at college I had a few pairs of Levi’s that had a 34” waist.  I currently weigh less than ten pounds more than I did in college.  Yet there’s no way I can possibly wear a 34” waist pair of jeans.


My new Levi’s and I boarded a plane on Saturday morning.  The row behind me, up against the opposite wall of the plane was a woman.

She was gorgeous.  I imagined talking to her, finding out that she, too, was a traveler, headed back to her native Chicago for a weekend’s respite from life in Dallas.  Perhaps she’ll give me her phone number, tell me to call her when we’re both back in Dallas.

Instead I said nothing.  I can’t imagine what someone like her would see in someone like me.  Apparently my waist size and my impression of my attractiveness are not in any sort of sync.  My impression of my attractiveness and value to women is also apparently not particularly high.


Coyote, we’re told, was walking aimlessly through the desert one day.  This, after all, is what Coyote does.  He travels, looking for adventure, looking for someone to trick.

On this particular day, though, Coyote happened upon a man.  Now, this man was doing something peculiar.  He was pulling his eyes out of his head and throwing them up to the top of a tree, then summoning them back with a word.

Coyote asked him why he was doing that.  The man told Coyote that it allowed him to see the land all around him and know what was coming up next.

Coyote begged the man to tell him how to throw his eyes to the tops of the trees.  The man agreed, but told Coyote that he absolutely had to make sure he only did it four times in the day.  Any more times than that and he would not like the results.


“There’s a box of your old jeans in the middle bedroom,” my mother says to me.  “Are they too big or too small?”

I tell her I’ll go look.  The box comes out of the closet and there are my old college Levi’s.  It’s been five years since I was able to fit in to them and they’ve probably been languishing in that box in the closet for that long.  I pull them out, smell the musk of cardboard and age.

I pull them on.  They fit perfectly.

Mystery solved.


It’s strange, being back in the house I grew up in. And not just because I haven’t stepped foot inside for nearly nine months.

Everything seems smaller.

Perhaps I just have better posture.  Perhaps it’s a trick of the memory or perception.  But I swear I’ve grown taller since I was last here.


Somewhere in that house is a picture of me from Christmas of 2004.  I was down at what I like to call my “college weight,” that time before I started gaining back the weight I’d lost.  I was wearing those Levi’s.  Some time during the semester after I would stop being able to wear them.

She saw that picture once.  Looking at it she said, “You were so thin then.”

I heard, “You’re so disgustingly fat now.”  I heard, “You’re not good enough.”

Of course, I heard that second one all that time, even if those words were never used.


Coyote threw his eyes up in to the tree and found he could see for miles.  Then he called them back down.  Soon he wanted to look again, so he threw his eyes up again.

Then a third time.

Then a fourth.

He heeded the man’s warning and walked on without doing it a fifth.  A little way down the road, though, he decided he wanted to see what was around the next bend.  “Those are just the man’s rules,” he said to himself, “From the man’s country.  I am not now in the man’s country, so I can do what I want.”

He threw his eyes up in to a tree.  Then he called them back.

They did not return.

Coyote wept, for he could not see.


I came back to Chicago for a specific purpose: The Fox Valley Folk and Storytelling Festival.  It’s my Fox Valley Guild people, plus Megan Wells and Oba William King.  Lollapalooza and the return of Soundgarden couldn’t convince me to come back to Chicago.  The Fox Valley Folk and Storytelling Festival could.

I had one story to tell.  First set of the first day.  After that I was on my own.

I pulled on those old college Levi’s, musty smell and all, along with a shirt from roughly the same vintage that somehow traveled with me to Brookfield and then Irving.

I told my story.  It’s a new one, about a boy who waits for his dreams to come through a door in the back of a garden, but finds his dreams only after he leaves.

Afterwards I spend some time with my parents, grab some lunch from a vendor at the festival.  Then I watch more stories.

After a while I decide I need a break, so I head back to grab my book.  Rounding the pavilion I found myself face-to-face with her.

She didn’t notice me, or did a damn good job of pretending it was so.  I suppose it’s the former, as she was deep in conversation, I don’t look quite like I did the last time I saw her, and I just kept walking.

What do you say to someone you have nothing to say to, after all?


Not long after everything ended I got a new job.  I moved out of my parents’ house.  I then proceeded to hide in my cups for reasons that I didn’t understand.

The magic number I call “my college weight” was 227.  The BMI charts say I should weigh between 180 and 195, but there’s no way I could look or be healthy at that weight.  I should probably have gotten down to about 210 or 215 before I stopped last time around.  But I didn’t.  I stopped losing at 227, stabilized at 230-235 for a while.

When I met her I was around 275.  When we stopped talking I was around 285.

At the 2009 Fox Valley Folk and Storytelling Festival I was at 320, just 20 pounds below the weight I was when I started losing in 2004 and 20 pounds above a threshold I’d sworn I’d never again cross.

In the middle of September of last year I decided I needed to fix it again.  But this time for good.  I’d probably lost fifteen or twenty pounds by the Illinois Storytelling Festival, which was also the last time I’d seen her.

I don’t know why any of this matters.


Coyote called out to his eyes to return again and again, but he called out in vain.

Mouse came to investigate the sound.  “Why are you crying and calling out?” he asked.

“My eyes are in the tree,” Coyote replied, “And I cannot get them back.”

“I can climb up the tree and fetch them for you,” Mouse offered.

“No,” Coyote replied, “Just give me one of your eyes and I’ll be on my way.”

So Mouse gave Coyote one of his eyes.  The tiny eye did not fit well in Coyote’s socket and he could barely see.  So Coyote stumble off, running in to things as he went.


The mind plays tricks.

She’s never been at the Fox Valley Folk and Storytelling Festival before, so maybe it was just someone that looked like her.  This other girl…woman…whatever…had longer hair than she’d had last I saw her, looked younger.

But, no.  I’d have recognized that round face, pert nose, and those slightly reddish cheeks anywhere.

It’s ironic, I suppose.  Her hair is longer, mine shorter.  She looks younger and everyone says I do, too.  Perhaps being together aged us.

Later on I see her again and know it’s her.  I’m in conversation and she’s off in the distance.  She keeps looking over at me.

A tiny, petty, part of me hopes that it depresses her that I’m not in her life any more, now that I’m wearing my old college jeans.

Another part of me considers walking up, saying hello.  But I still do not know what to say to someone that I have nothing to say to.


In his stumbling, Coyote runs in to Buffalo.  Buffalo takes pity on Coyote and give Coyote one of his eyes.

Buffalo’s eye is too big for Coyote, but Coyote smashes it in to his socket as best he can.

Coyote then continues on, able to see but unable to gain the proper perspective.


I practice Otherness.  It’s easy enough, I suppose, to announce that you’re different in major ways.  It’s much harder to do subtly, however.

For day two of the Fox Valley Folk and Storytelling Festival I don a Lost Immigrants shirt.  “I am no longer of Chicago,” I say.  “I am one with Coyote,” I also announce.

The lost immigrant, after all, is one who wanders aimlessly in a land that is not his own, a characteristic of Coyote.


All day I do not see her.  But I still wonder what would happen if I did.  I still wonder what you say to the person you have nothing to say to.

At the end of the day, though, she walks past the storytelling tent.

I turn, see her.  She sees me.  Our eyes lock.

I turn back to the storytelling.

It’s a sort of benediction, the answer to my question.


I don my new Levi’s 560s and a Local H shirt for my return to Dallas.

Just before I board the plane I see the woman from the flight up.  At least, I see someone who looks an awful lot like her.

But she’s just a shimmering mirage.

In a moment she’s gone.


I throw my musty smelling college jeans in the wash when I get back to my apartment.

They’re still warm when I pull them out of the dryer and pull them on.

I head out in to the muggy Dallas night.


When I return I pour my last glass of Lagavulin 18.

I offer up a toast to her, then dedicate the glass to Coyote, Raven, Eshu, Anansi, Loki, and all the other Trickster gods.

I’ve decided that my life needs more mischief.

For in mischief there is opportunity.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

AtF: Not Gonna Happen

This is usually the time I'm writing an AtF post. Instead I'm sitting in Geneva, IL at the Fox Valley Folk and Storytelling Festival. Entertain yourselves for a while.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Follow-Up Note...

Remember that post I wrote a couple weeks ago on gay marriage?

How about this particular unintended consequence?

Dallas Judge's Ruling Saying Gay Couple could Divorce in Texas Rejected on Appeal.

Basically, two guys got married in Massachusetts, where it's legal.  They then moved to Texas (for reasons I can't fathom), where it's not.  Now they can't get a divorce.

I can imagine no clearer illustration to explain why this issue should most certainly not be left to the states to decide.  I mean, other than the fact that "states rights" have been a cover argument for, "We walk to be a bunch of bigoted fuckwits and don't want anyone telling us not to be," since some time in the neighborhood of John C. Calhoun.

Why Hell, Anyway?

Failing the Insider Test is one of those great blogs that almost never gets updated.  That means that I forget that it exists for months on end, then suddenly think, “Hey, I wonder if anything’s been posted?”  Today was just such a day.  And I discovered a great, if long, post about the morality of god that was written back at the tail-end of May.

It posits that the question of how people base their morality without the Bible is just a weasel attempt to get out of answering questions about how you can call a homicidal maniac of a god “moral” and “loving.”  It also includes this brilliant thought:

The truth is that Jesus loves people in much the same way that a stalker in a horror movie loves the woman he's harassing. When he's turned down, he'll turn nasty, hunt her down, and begin torturing her. But if only she hadn't rejected his love, she would have seen how loving he is!

But it really got me thinking about something else, a question.

What, precisely, is the purpose of Hell?

Let’s accept for the moment the three premises upon which Hell is founded:

1. Hell is eternal.
2. Hell is punishment for sins.
3. Hell is part of the plan of the infinite god.

Now let us ask what the purpose of punishment is.  I would argue that there are two purposes:

1. Punishment is a deterrent.
2. Punishment is a corrective behavioral measure.[1]

We see punishment as a deterrent in the idea that you do not want to go to prison.  We also see quite a bit of the idea in ancient/primitive systems of law.  If you steal, your hand is cut off.  If you kill, your head is cut off.  Therefore, you probably don’t want to steal or kill.  I most civilized nations there is a move away from this attitude.[2]

We see punishment as a corrective behavioral measure in the treatment of children.  If you don’t play nice you don’t get to play at all.  If you don’t do your homework you don’t get to go hang out with your friends.  The idea is to say, “If you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, you don’t get to do what you want to do.”  The primary difference between punishment as a corrective measure and punishment as a deterrent is that punishment as a corrective measure is not permanent.[3]

Hell is not, and by definition cannot, fall under category 2.  An eternity of suffering pretty much precludes that idea.  Catholic doctrine attempts to work around that with the idea of Purgatory, but even so it leaves Hell as a place where any rehabilitation is impossible.

So that leaves Hell as a deterrent.  But it’s really not good at that role, either.  See, the thing about prisons is that we can see them and we can think, “Yeah, I don’t want to end up in that place.”  I cannot see Hell, however.  Moreover, the descriptions we get of Hell are from people who also did not see it.  Our primary Biblical conception of hell comes from the Book of Revelation.  Our modern idea of Hell comes from a combination of Dante, Milton, and Medieval and Renaissance painters.  The one thing that John of Patmos, Dante, Milton, and all those artists had in common is that none of them ever actually went to Hell.

Moreover, the idea of Hell doesn’t actually fit in to a Jewish cultural context.  The punishments of Yahweh were made against people, their descendents, and their tribes.  “I will punish you, your children, and your children’s children,” is actually far more effective of a deterrent than, “After you die you’ll be sent to this horrible, horrible place that neither you nor anyone else has ever seen.  Trust me.”

This argument, however, is a dead end.  It’s one of those that would be answered with a, “Yeah, just wait and see…” sort of response.  So let’s end it here.

Instead, let us go back to the basics.

What is the purpose of punishment?  To get people to follow the rules.  Period.  Full stop.

So what rules am I supposed to follow in order to stay out of Hell?  Is it the Ten Commandments?  Is it Jesus’s two commandments?  Is it the codification of rules decided on at the Council of Constantinople?  Last week’s Papal Bull?

It’s none of that.  The entire point of Hell is to force people to acknowledge that Jesus is god and totally in control of everything.  That’s it.  You can be a loving, caring, peaceful person who does not accept Jesus and be sent to Hell.  You can be a complete bastard and get your ticket stamped for Heaven.  This is problematic for the idea of Hell, but not for the reasons most people argue.

Quite simply, if Jesus shows up and takes over the world, anyone who doesn’t acknowledge that it happened is a moron.

Imagine that you lived in Rome at the time of Attila the Hun.  Someone says, “The Huns are coming, evacuate!”  You don’t actually believe that there is any such tribe as the Huns, so you stay where you are.  One day Attila shows up with his horde and all of the sudden you’re forced to acknowledge that, yes, Attila and the Huns exist.

At the point the ravening horde of Huns shows up at the gate the question of belief is thrown out the window.  In the same way, if Jesus were to show up today at the head of the Heavenly host, belief and non-belief would become a non-issue.  Hell, too, would become a non-issue, since the entire purpose of Hell is to act as a deterrent to non-belief.

Moreover, at the moment of death if there is a Heaven and Hell non-belief becomes a non-question.  So, again, Hell becomes a non-issue, punishment for something that is now no longer an issue.

It also makes god and/or Jesus in to a pair of complete jackasses.  If Hell exists as a place of eternal punishment for non-belief that was set up as part of god’s plan, then you cannot, by definition, say that this fits in to any example of love.  And it certainly doesn’t fit in with the concept of forgiveness.[4]

You can, however, say that it fits quite well in to a primitive understanding of law as a deterrent from breaking the rules.


[1]This can fall in to two categories.  There’s retributive, or an “eye for an eye” mentality.  In this if I do something bad an equivalent bad should be done to me with an eye towards teaching me that if I don’t like something, other people probably don’t, either.  There’s also a code of laws idea where certain things are judged to be of a certain level of pain.  For some transgressions I would need to pay a fine, for others I would need to be incarcerated.

[2]Just, y’know, not America, where we’re coming up with fun new ways to throw people in to prison and make sure that it becomes a stigma that follows people throughout their lives.  Because we wouldn’t want to actually evolve as a society or anything.  It’s much easier to say, “They’re bad people, that’s why they’re in prison and not out here with us good people.”

[3]Prison, in theory, should be a corrective measure.  Separate offenders from the normal population, force them to serve their time, and in the process help them find some way of contributing to society when they get out.  But by overcrowding prisons, understaffing them, and basically reducing it to a situation where a whole lot of people are just killing time, waiting to be released and ostracized from their communities we turn prison in to a deterrent.  There’s a very strong chance that it will basically ruin your life.  And all the prison rape stuff doesn’t help…

[4]This is one of the biggest problems with the love/forgiveness idea of Jesus and why the whole “Jesus as a stalker” thing is so apropos.  If I love someone, I want to see that person happy.  If it turns out that me not being involved in their life makes them happy, then if I love them it means I let them go off and do whatever.  If they then turn around and say, “Wow, I just realized that my life would be much better with you,” then love means that I take them back and forgiveness means I don’t hold any bitterness I might have against them.

For that matter, if there was someone I loved (in a romantic sense, since it’s an easier story to tell that way) who left, then many years later came back and said, “I’ve made a mistake, I’m sorry,” I would not then force them to be punished for all those years of neglect.  It’s entirely possible that if my world had moved on since then and I’ve gotten married and am quite happy then I wouldn’t say, “Hey, sweet, I’ll dump my wife just for you.”  But when confronted with this sort of situation what sort of sadistic bastard would say, “I still love you, I forgive you, but now I’m going to have to chain you to the wall in my basement and poke you with white-hot metal pokers for all eternity.”

Because that’s what Hell is.