Tag Archives: religion

Kali, Shiva, Evolution, and JHVH

I grew up with the standard Western-centric, Christian-centric, Mormon-centric view of pretty much everything (though tempered by my father’s consistent call to critical thinking and occasional iconoclasm), so when I learned about non-Christian religious beliefs, the process was tinged with paternalism and a noble-savage mentality. But perhaps one of the few true insights I’ve had in my adult life is that the vast majority of people are at least as smart and good as I and my clan are, and they usually have reasons–good reasons–for their beliefs and actions.

So, Kali and Shiva. In many non-Christian religions the main gods are both creators and destroyers, and these two are nearly the prototype of that kind of god. They manage both life and death, in the endless cycle of the universe. Their postulation and veneration indicate a recognition that these processes are tightly intertwined. I suppose I thought, for years, that the worship of such gods indicated an overly brutal or cruel perspective on life–in other words, an inaccurate worldview–but now it seems to me that these myths are, instead, an indication that those who shaped them were simply paying very close attention to the world. The world, of course, is cruelty, all the way down. It is a vale of tears. It is injustice and death and pain. It’s other things, too–nice things–but we often (these days) focus on those things in church. I’m struck by how fully the Hindus appreciated the bitter side of existence. Continue reading

Patriotism 2.0

081125_flagwalk2As a kid, patriotism was all around me. You couldn’t have too much of it. Bad things might happen if you were suspected to be deficient in it, but you weren’t supposed to question what it was. Since then, I’ve thought about it frequently, and my ideas have both changed and remained the same. This post isn’t to bash patriotism or patriotic people, though. I believe that the factors that lead to being a good human are often the same as those that lead to patriotism. This post is because my life and development have  followed a path, and led me to places, that will not allow me to hold an uncritical position on this issue. Hello. I have been in college since 1987. I have met people who consider “patriotic” to be a swear word.

My thought process in this area has largely been one of ideological reduction; an unrelenting pruning of ideas acquired sometime in childhood. I’m now much less certain than I was then of what patriotism is (or should be), but I have ideas about what it’s not (or shouldn’t be). So here are my thoughts, so far: Continue reading

Gay Marriage Issues: Response to Laine

This post is a response to Laine’s thoughtful post/essay on some of the issues involved in the “gay marriage” debate(s). She was interested in a religious person’s POV, and I figured I fit the bill. It’s a monstrous response, and didn’t fit in LiveJournal’s character limit. So, after the cut, the whole way-large response.
Continue reading

False Prophet of Liquid Refreshment and Other Stories

coke redemption
This made me crack up. Turns out, all I got was a coupon for a free bottle of coke, mailed two weeks later. I think I need a new religion.

Online things that are bugging me or I find interesting this week:

  • Yard Signs and Websites – Not that I’m surprised, but this report suggests that Megan’s Law (community notification for sex offenders) probably has no real impact on sex offending.
  • Autism and Fraud – Apparently in a key study cited by folks who firmly believe (despite mountains of evidence to the contrary) that MMR vaccines cause autism… the researcher faked the data.
  • Education <> University – I have great respect for Professor Dennis Rancourt, who dared to think critically about the education system, and got fired for it. The article brings up all kinds of interesting ideas, including the deep intertwining of money and learning in our education institutions, and also the University of Ottawa sounds like a scary place to work.
  • Bailulous? Stimout? This article suggests that the abomination stimulus has a chance (if done properly) of creating job growth. Another recent article demolished claims that FDR’s “New Deal” did not work. Okay, that’s pretty cool, if true. But it’s only part of the problem. The other part is whether we should do this, even if it might create jobs and economic growth. My feeling is still generally “no.”
  • Horrifying – This is horrendous. An Iraqi woman admitting that she orchestrated the rapes of dozens of women, so they would feel — within the strictures of Arabic social structures — that they were better off dead, and therefore be willing to become suicide bombers. It reminds me of reports last year that a high percentage of male suicide bombers were recruited because they were suffering from terminal medical conditions. Evil still exists, apparently.
  • Inconceivable! This questionably newsworthy item is all about the demise of a breed of dog. A non-useful, just-for-show, fully-artifically-human-genetically-engineered pointless breed of ridiculous fluffy dog. The tagline of the article actually says “danger” and (more egregiously) “extinction.” I do not think that word means what you think it means. It’s a breed of dog. It’s not a species. Is there some lonely, mateless Sealyham Terrier living out his or her final, dejected days on an ice floe, drifting farther and farther from his or her traditional hunting grounds, family and friends slowly killed by industrialization and destruction of their natural habitat? Is the decline of this little anti-mutt robbing the world of even one teensy shred of naturally-occurring genetic diversity? NO. More likely, there are many very happy Sealyham Terriers having lots of enjoyable puppydog sex with non-Sealyham breeds of dogs, and raising gaggles and herds of genetically impure, totally adorable little fluffballs who are just as useless and genetically modified as their parents and grandparents, but less racially pure (and less profitable). In the process, they have unknowingly dealt a tiny but meaningful symbolic blow to the whole insane “show dog” culture. Man, this article was stupid. But ranting about it was fun.

Christianity = Feminized Mating Strategies?

I been thinkin’ (a dangerous pastime, I know). There’s a preponderance of male-centered form and content in traditional Judaism and Christianity\, something that can be demonstrated by simply counting words in religious texts. However, in a crucial area — mating — the doctrine seems to clearly emphasize something much more tuned to women’s evolutionary best interests. Continue reading

Mormons, Religion, Democracy, & Capitalism

I just read a thought-provoking opinion piece by Harold Myerson, about U.S. businesses systematically pulling their investments out of westernizing nations like China, and committing to countries like Vietnam, which still have communist economic systems, no unions, no labor laws, low wages, and economic predictability. Communism (in other countries) is good for (our) business. Mr. Myerson ends his piece by suggesting that the American soldiers killed in the Vietnam war “…whose names are on that wall on the Mall probably didn’t realize how compatible with global American enterprise Vietnamese communism would turn out to be or how the cause of democracy would turn out to have been of no real importance at all.”

This essay got me thinking, as I often do, about governments, economics, and religion. The connections here might not be totally apparent at first, but bear with me. Perhaps this will all hang together by the time I’m done.

We Mormons believe that the Founding Fathers of the USA were inspired to develop the system of self-government that was established in New England in the 1770s . We also have a book of scripture detailing struggles between self-government and totalitarian rule in two precolumbian civilizations. Some of us even remember that the ancient nation of Israel had a similar struggle ((The system of judges that was — against the Lord’s wishes — supplanted with a monarchy)), early on. Unfortunately, in the talk about the inspired nature of democracy, we seem to gloss over the issue of economics, lumping it in with the politics.

If you spend any time in LDS groups in the US, you will encounter many people who vigorously defend capitalism and the pursuit of individual wealth. It’s clear that modern revelation allows for this system (I don’t think there’s any special circle of hell reserved for capitalists or business owners), but the scriptures provide much more endorsement of noncapitalist economic systems as the ideal for the Lord’s people. Ancient Israel, the so-called “Primitive Church,” the Nephites (and Lamanites) at their most righteous — all had property systems distinctly different from our modern American/European capitalist system. Even in the mid-19th century, the Church briefly practiced a communal form of property ownership and redistribution ((Notably, this modern implementation failed, because of human greed and short-sightedness. Also notably, there has always been an understanding that the Church will someday be required to try it again.)) with the express goal “…that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low” (D&C 104:16).

Don’t get me wrong; none of these systems was communism, or really even socialism. But they were also most certainly not capitalism, as we know it today ((The case of ancient Israel may seem an exception, and I acknowledge that personal wealth accumulation was allowed under this system, but consider the following facts: nobody could possess, buy, or sell the land in any fundamental way; wages and certain labor conditions were fixed by divine decree; all debts were supposed to be periodically canceled, no matter their size; and usury was restricted. Also please consider the idea that, like our current American capitalist system as regards the American LDS church, the economic system of the ancient Israelites may have been largely a modification of the system of their previous culture, modified by revelation — not a wholesale new economic system put in place by God.))

Back to the present: many Mormons, in my experience, seem to think that, just as liberal ((Conservatives: do not get upset. The term “Liberal Democracy” refers, here, to most republican/democratic systems in the modern world where individuals have liberal amounts of personal freedom. It doesn’t mean we’re all a bunch of tree-huggers.)) democracy is the government system established by God for our time, capitalism is His economic system. The first part (politics) is firmly established by revelation, but I’m not sure they have a leg to stand on, for the second part (economics). Although the Lord clearly tolerates our current American economic system, with its hugely uneven accumulation of individual wealth, I can’t think of a single instance where He recommends it. And I can think of at least a dozen where He either suggests or outright states that inequality in wealth is a Very Bad Thing, especially among the members of His Church.

Why, then, do we hang on to this feeling that our current economic system is inspired (or at least endorsed)? The traditions of our fathers, for one thing. No matter how powerful an ideology or doctrine is, culture often has an influence on people that is nearly impossible to supplant. As my friend Amanda and I were discussing the other day, the flavor of Catholicism is influenced by the cultures in which it has been implemented ((Central and South America are the examples we discussed, and the effect can be striking in those regions)), and the same is true with Mormonism. The Gospel was re-introduced in the fledgling United States, to Americans, and it has had an American flavor ever since. ((Didja ever notice how, when the Gospel was introduced to nomadic livestock-herding tribes in the Middle East, it sorta had that flavor for a while, too?))

Culture can be a harsh mistress. We have mechanisms ((Gossip, mockery, intimidation, shunning, the police, the military, homeowners’ associations)) to pressure cultural deviants either back into the mainstream, or — failing that — completely out of our society as traitors. An unquestioning belief in the divinity of capitalism makes it easier to fit in with friends, co-workers, and fellow students in conservative circles in the US. It certainly makes it easier to feel good about North Americans being the richest people on earth. It makes it easier to buy things we don’t really need at Wal-Mart and Best Buy, while the cultural deviants are going on about consumerism and sweatshops in third-world countries. And it certainly reduces the mental effort required ((Remember, right after 9/11/01, when our government told us that the best way we could fight back against terrorists was to go shopping? Oh, excuse me. I just vomited a little. In my mouth, you know.)) when considering U.S. actions with economic consequences abroad.

Acceptance of our culture reduces the need to think carefully about lots of things.

Of course, acceptance of an alternative culture has exactly the same problems as accepting a dominant culture. Belieeeeve me, I see many of the moral problems inherent in so-called “liberal culture” in the U.S. ((Even though I kinda identify with “liberal culture” at least as much as “conservative culture,” these days.)) I can’t blame anyone who decides that these moral compromises are worse than those involved with “conservative culture,” and puts their eggs in the latter basket.

The world often poses us with untenable options, such as “liberal vs. conservative.” True religion often gives us (and requires of us) outside-the-box choices that don’t fall into any of the prefabricated alternatives presented by our culture. It is my belief that God has — if not a culture, per se — certain critical elements of culture ((You know, kindness, personal integrity, taking care of the poor, etc.)) that He wants implemented in the communities of people who follow His advice, and they don’t always line up nicely behind accepted political opinions. By the same token, there are many aspects of the cultures marinating us that are incompatible with His guidelines.

Although it’s hard for people (like me) who grew up in the Church to realize sometimes, the culture that the Lord would have us adopt may not always seem comfortable or familiar to us.
Human cultures are amazing, complex phenomena. They have emerged over thousands of years, through the fascinating, tawdry, glorious and mundane social processes that we humans wallow in. But to settle comfortably into one of these cultures, and uncritically insist that it is God’s will that we do so is a serious mistake.

Intolerance makes for great band names

I can’t stop finding funny things to do with this sign (from my last post). It finally (!) occurred to me that all (or nearly all) of the entries on the Large Sign of Disapproval would make really great band names! So, here are my top 10:

#10 – Effeminate Culture
80s dance & new-wave cover band. The hair, the clothes, the sound and the name are all perfectly in line with the music they recreate.
#9 – The Lying Penteco$tal$
Hipster dufus trio trying their best to be this decade’s Violent Femmes, but failing. Presence of dollar signs in non-hip-hop band name is one of many obstacles to true fame.
#8 – The Baby Killers
4-person punk outfit attempting true Ramones/Cramps/Misfits authenticity, but only achieving the noise & blasé offensiveness, without the style or personality. You don’t want to be in the front row at one of their gigs.
#8 – The Sport’s Nuts
Jock-rock cover band, scoring one minor chart hit with a cover of Huey Louis’ “Hip to Be Square.” The band will eventually claim the remake was supposed to be ironic, and the apostrophe in their name was intentional. Both claims are false.
#7 – The Lazy Christians
College rockers trying to buttress their derivative sociopolitical angst and generic alterna-pop grooves with an equally passé, johnny-come-lately Christian-bashing band name. Nobody really buys it. Or their music.
#6 – The Sex Perverts
Sex Pistols tribute band. Constantly touring. Should be much more successful than they are, except it turns out that 90% of the people posing as Sex Pistols fans have never actually heard any Sex Pistols music, therefore do not wish to go to a tribute concert and reveal their hypocrisy by not singing along.
#5 – Fox Hole Religion
The word “hole” will make consumers naturally wonder about double-entendres. Three-piece band playing neo-thrash-punk. Not as successful as Green Day, but probably more interesting.
#4 – And Mormons
Surprisingly, these really are 5 Mormon kids from Southern California, playing multilayered joy pop that sounds just like Sunny Day Real Estate and is unknown outside their zip code. No overtly religious content, so no crossover success in LDS-intensive markets.
#3 – People That Talk To Pets More Than God
Celtic-folk-trip-hop duo, playing to sold-out clubs in suburb-intensive cities. Fans will try to refer to them as PTTTPMTG, but this will fail, because it’s way too long for an acronym. Instead they’ll be known by their in-crowd as “the people.”
#2 – Child Molesting Homosexuals
Pure shock value band name. Guaranteed one-hit-wonder status if they can get a major record label behind them. Actually two married straight couples, playing sunshine pop.
#1 – The Jews That Are From The Synagogue Of Satan
Shifting collective of up to 15 musicians in different cities around North America and Europe. Music created with minimal in-person collaboration. Juicy mix of trip-hop and trance, with ethereal vocals offering oblique political commentary, unintelligible without several hours cross-referencing lyrics with Wikipedia. Concerts are rare and sound nothing like the mp3s, due to the nearly random availability of band members at any particular venue.

Yeah, that’s the sign Jesus would picket with…

nice sign, dude

In no particular order:

  1. The proportion of the human race that makes this guy sick seems pretty large (depending on how he defines some of his terms). I imagine he has constant stomach cramps and/or diarrhea. Perhaps some chronic cold symptoms.
  2. I’m fairly impressed that he spelled “effeminate” correctly.
  3. I once knew a Jew from that synagogue. She said it wasn’t as exciting as it sounds. Satan didn’t even show up half the time, and hardly ever gave the Torah readings.
  4. Anyone who is, literally, the nut of a sport (either the left or the right nut) has probably come to expect this kind of treatment, so their inclusion on this sign seems unnecessary.
  5. Is it OK if they’re not on bikes?
  6. Ankle biters? Am I missing something? He hates children? Seriously. I don’t get this one, unless there are more people in the world with my particular fetish than I thought.
  7. But– but– rebellious women are the hottest ones!
  8. Computer freaks? Oh, right, I remember now: “Lo, he who hath the stench of days in his basement, and the pallour of darkness about his countenance, and a working knowledge of programming language, or more than two markup languages, or more than ‘moderate’ user expertise in two operating systems, shall be curséd…”
  9. Dig that kid’s gleeful expression. Heh. Nothing pokes holes in your crusade quite like a slacker punk using your righteous wrath for a scrapbook entry.
  10. Whew. Good thing he put “racists” up there, or he might have come off as intolerant.

I have a fantasy about asking this guy, with great sincerity, “Why the Pentecostals? Mm hmm. Yes, I see. And the Mormons? Oh, interesting. Of course. Those make sense, I suppose, but why the child molesting homosexuals?”

There was a guy back at Ohio State who’d set up shop on campus with similar tactics, every Spring. I think he was called “Brother Jed” or something equally apocalyptic. He would delight the less-religiously-threatened students by hollering (often with a megaphone or PA system) epithets and curses at individuals, or at the student body in general. We sometimes liked to wait around for him to find scantily-clad young women (it never took long), because he would approach them and yell, “WHOOOOOOORE!” It was sort of his trademark thing.

This was no doubt traumatic for some of the girls, but we were pretty sure others would bait him for entertainment purposes. I recall considering asking him questions in my best super-gay-stereotype voice, but I never did. Oh well.

Websurfing Joy (Saturday Edition)

Since I haven’t done enough work today, I might as well share the fruits of my goofing off:

1. Video of Rick Nash making a freaking amazing goal
2. Now Amanda and I can finally be videogame friends
3. Interesting map of the U.S. by dominant religion

The last bit of webbiness is a page of fun words that allow statements such as the following to be made:

My darling, when I tell you I was overcome by mammaquatian melolagnia watching you at the the Fly Girl auditions, dancing to M.C. Hammer, clad in the most bifurcated of spandex unmentionables, please do not think I consider you a colpocoquettish slattern, nor that I am some sort of eunoterpsian brassirothesauriast. Your dancing jolted me from my inveterate noeclexism and left helpless in the grip of cingulomanic, basorexic typhlobasian fantasies. Your firm handshake afterward awoke in me the most acute hirsutophilic tripsolagnophilia, with none of my former terror of amychesis. Nay, this timotrudian demon is now a mere shadow from my youthful tartarology — much like those lost years of imparlibidinous ozoamblyrosis — with no power to dim the horripilating thoughts I dare to dream of our future together. Alas, these desires hinge on the slim possibility that you might find in this polylogistic erotographomania some counterintuitive cacocallia.


by M.F. Luder
November 16, 2007

The intelligence community is defending the addition of non-mainstream Caucasian Protestant groups to its racial-ethnic-religious profiling guidelines. In a press conference this morning, national security associate director John C. McGrathnick described surveillance and cataloguing of “pre-fundamentalist Caucasian Protestants” as a natural next step in the progression of demographic profiling by police agencies. Under the new practices national and local agencies, from the FBI and NSA to community police forces, will be required to maintain lists of “potential asymmetricalities” in American communities. Individuals and groups placed on these lists will for the first time include Caucasians and Protestant Christians whose lifestyles and religious beliefs fall outside the norm, under the rationale that non-mainstream religious and cultural groups are at higher risk for producing terrorists and other national security threats.

“It’s not just a case of keeping tabs on people who are different,” says McGrathnick. “It’s a matter of priorities. Non-mainstream religious and cultural groups frequently have beliefs and ways of life where adhering to the American status quo is not the most important value. It’s simple logic. If you believe that God, or Jesus, or Buddha, or whoever, is more important than being a good neighbor, and a law-abiding citizen, then it’s a no-brainer that you’re a potential threat to this nation.”

Under the new guidelines, for example, Free Methodist groups in Washington State are not considered high-risk groups, while Free Baptists in Alabama are. Last-wave New-age Acolytes in Southern California are not on the list, but Latter-day Saints in Southern Utah are.

The degree of devotion that individuals show to their “alternative ideologies” is also an important factor in whether or not they will be subject to police scrutiny.

“We are not nearly as concerned, as a security-minded nation, about the tendencies of individuals whose behavior patterns show little influence from their alternative ideologies,” said McGrathnick.

Thus, Reform Jewish synagogues are not being catalogued, while Hasidic Synagogues are high on the list.

“When you come to understand just how much of daily life is influenced by some of these alternative ideologies, you begin to comprehend the level of security threat such people represent to this nation,” said Angela Merdin, Assistant Secretary of National Security Matters. “We are finally facing the glaring fact of White political-religious extremism in this country. Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski, Eric Rudolph, Jim Jones, David Koresh, the Ruby Ridge incident… the list goes on and on. If those kinds of people are able to exist in this country, then we’ve clearly got a problem with certain groups and mindsets.”

Although Merdin has described the demographic profiling as “nothing for ordinary citizens to be concerned about,” she also hinted that individuals and communities listed as potential threats may be required to maintain their own registration with national and local police agencies in the future, or face legal consequences such as permit revocation or financial asset seizure.

Civil liberties groups have already voiced strong protests, several promising lawsuits. However, according to Alan Jackman of the Civil Defense Action Group, there is a concern that these efforts are doomed due to “…the American public’s willingness to rubber-stamp anything with ‘national security’ in the title, since 2001.”

The above is a totally fictitious parody, and any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental, just like in the movies (luckily, so is this, at least for a little while, although similar plans have been proposed in other U.S. cities). I wrote this less to make definitive statements than to keep thinking about the questions.

I totally lied. But this is really the last one.

steely eyes of porcelain death in a shop window… or something
I know I nearly promised no more pics from the curandera‘s shop. But I like it. It’s highly interesting to me. Maybe this is how I satisfy my itchings for the macabre, because ridiculous crap like the Saw and Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchises just really don’t do it for me.

Know what? Christmas is coming! I’ve hit on a project to make a present or two. This makes me happy, and makes me look forward to the holiday. I find that when all I do is buy presents, I really don’t look forward to it as much.

In other news, OSU continues to stomp heads. Yay! And the weather here is perfect and gorgeous. Just cool enough not to need the A/C all night, but not so cold that I need more than a light blanket. Sigh. “Fall” and “Winter” here are pretty sweet. And for summers… there’s always Ontario.

okay probably almost the last curandera photo almost for sure

If god = good, then god+n must be super-good!

Can you tell I am fascinated by this whole curandero/a concept? I think it’s a combination of the rich symbolism and iconography, plus the clear element of human need, plus the logical insanity of putting a representation of pagan Death in front of three crucifixes.

Anyway, here’s a folk cure a couple of my students described in class the other day. It’s for mal del ojo (evil eye).

First, you get an egg. The brown ones apparently work best. Then you rub the egg all over the person who has mal del ojo. Seriously. All over them. Then you crack the egg into a bowl (in water? I think just in a bowl… man, I can’t remember) and place it under the bed of the person who has the problem. In the morning, you look at it. If it looks like an eye, then the person did indeed have mal del ojo and is now cured. If not, then I don’t know… you’re screwed.

Interestingly, you can both get and give the evil eye without intending to. The way it was explained, if you just look at someone too long, or with a strange expression, or something, you can become an unwitting vector for mal del ojo. One way to deactivate its effects before they set in is to touch the person you may have inadvertently cursed. This is why, apparently, some Hispanic women (and men? I dunno), after staring in adoration at a child or a baby, will want to touch said child/baby. Which creeps the White Folks out. See? Cultural misunderstanding!

¡Feliz Día de los Muertos!

heeeeeeeeere souly souly souly souly…

So, it’s Day of the Dead. Did I have a lame Halloween night? The answer to that is a resounding YES. But it was nice, anyhow. Did some time on my cycle trainer while I watched some high-quality X-Files. What more could a fella want?Also, I think I have (at least temporarily) fixed the rear brake on Señor Pulga. It’s not terribly satisfactory, however. It’s really really hard to drill a hole through a stainless steel bolt. :(

In other other news, there’s an excellent editorial on Wired’s “Security Matters” Blog today. It’s about how the “War on Terror” is becoming “… an attack on the unique, the unorthodox, the unexpected. It’s a war on different.”

Cutting & Pasting:

The problem is that ordinary citizens don’t know what a real terrorist threat looks like. They can’t tell the difference between a bomb and a tape dispenser, electronic name badge, CD player, bat detector or a trash sculpture. Nor can they tell the difference between terrorist plotters and imams, musicians or architects. All they know is that something makes them uneasy — usually based on fear, media hype or just something being different…

The police cordon off the area, make arrests and/or evacuate airplanes, and in the end the cause of the alarm is revealed as a pot of Thai chili sauce, or flour, or a utility bill, or an English professor recycling or a cell phone in an airplane seat. Of course, by then it’s too late for the authorities to admit that they made a mistake and overreacted…

…these incidents only reinforce the need to realistically assess, not automatically escalate, citizen tips…

Equally important, politicians need to stop praising and promoting the officers who get it wrong. And everyone needs to stop castigating, and prosecuting, the victims just because they embarrassed the police by their innocence.

Causing a city-wide panic over blinking signs, a guy with a pellet gun or stray backpacks is not evidence of doing a good job: It’s evidence of squandering police resources. Even worse, it causes its own form of terror, and encourages people to be even more alarmist in the future.

Happy Pagan-Christian Mashup Holiday!

 Smile! You’ll be dead someday!

More from the Curandera‘s shop in Alamo. Cute, idnee? Happy Halloween. Pathetically, I have no party plans, and did not even make a minor attempt at getting a costume. Sad, sad, sad. Oh, and to get my grad students in the mood for the evening, I’m giving them an exam from 4:30 – 7:00 :)

Death Hooks a Brothah Up


Dear Death: Thanks for helping me ace the forklift exam. You’re awesome!

 This photo is in a display window for a curandera’s shop in Alamo, TX. I guess it’s a grateful-customer endorsement.

Curanderos are folk healers who, from my limited knowledge, practice a heady mix of Mexican folk spirituality (some claim kinship with Native American/Aztec/Mayan/etc. traditions), folk physical healing, Catholicism, astrology, voodoo, general paganism and general spiritualism. Sort of a “kitchen sink” type of thing, although I’m sure there’s more to it than just an “anything goes” mindset. I think outsiders are the only people who are surprised that this kind of thing is so prominent in an area where most people would also call themselves faithful Catholics.

If you click for the full image, you can see this man’s poignant (but to me somewhat disturbing) text, next to his Strong-Bad-esque drawing of Death. Translated (ignoring spelling errors), it reads:

From today onward
your most faithful believer
I give thanks

for hearing me
Most Holy Death. 

The stake, she’s a-reorganize

Lovestruck Romeo...

Puddy Tat at the Zoo we visited in Spokane (click for BIG Romeo)

So, stake conference was interesting. We’ve known for months that something was up with changing boundaries, or creating new wards, or something. The Stake President this morning talked all about that. Apparently, we’ll meet again as a stake for a fast & testimony Sacrament meeting on Sept. 30 (this is all very irregular, and therefore, cool) to hear about the details, which were not disclosed today.The process of reorganizing the stake, making new wards, dividing old ones, re-drawing boundary lines, etc., will require quite a number of changes in leadership. New leaders will be called, and as the Stake President put it, “These people do not want these callings, they did not ask for these callings, and in most cases they have no clue. Yet.”

He then went on to add, “…if you get a call from us in the next couple of weeks, please answer the phone.”

Two excellent things on the net

But first, a gratuitous picture of my sweetie at Garden of the Gods:

So Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams got together in a dark bar one night…

First Excellent Thing:BLDGBLOG has a wonderful, wonderful, delicious article about Michael Cook, a guy in Toronto who is an urban explorer, with an emphasis on subterranean exploring (especially Toronto and Hamilton). This means drains and sewers, largely. There are some sa-weet photos here, which you simply must see to appreciate. The article links to his blog (which has apparently crashed from the newfound publicity), and to sites of other underground urban explorers. Seriously, if I didn’t suddenly have a heightened sense of my own mortality (since, say, June 3 of last year), this is the kind of thing I’d be really, really tempted to do. It tickles my fancy in particular ways. Actually, I’m not saying I won’t do a little of it. The not-very-dangerous kind. Here’s a sample photo (click for larger size, as usual):

Toronto drain pic

Second Excellent Thing: Berkeley Breathed, author of the original Bloom County strip, has continued (with much less fanfare) to create Opus. Recent strips about Lola Granola jumping on the “Radical Islamist” bandwagon in her peripatetic spiritual journeying were immediately pulled from many national newspapers for fear of offending people. Pfft. I love Berk Breathed. He’s been shooting sacred cows on a regular basis since I was too young to understand political sarcasm. And we need to people like him to continue to help us see the absurdity inherent in the world around us. [click for the full comic]

Opus Islamic Fundamentalist strip

(note: I found out about this by way of boing boing, and also through Salon.com, who has not pulled the strip).