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Monday, September 30, 2013

18 Years

We've been married 18 years today.  Whoa.

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Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2013 - Week 41 Bonus

Every week I create and share a new background image for use in Powerpoint (or similar presentation programs.)  But some weeks I have extra.  I have more .  This is one of those weeks.  Here is a bonus background image.  It's yours if you want it.  Use it at home, at work, at school, or at church.  Use it how you will, I only ask that you share it freely and that you tell others that you found it here.

For those who may be interested to know, this is a combination of various photos I took of a comforter. I liked the texture and the sparkly...

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An Excerpt from Dr. Tarrec's Field Guide to Demonic Encounters

In my many years of astrological research and alchemical studies I have often encountered representatives of the infernal realms – demonic forces that, had I not been better prepared, would have flayed my very soul.  These evil spirits infuse the esoteric world.  They are energetic beings stimulating both mystical and chemical reactions.  Many incautious practitioners of the alchemical arts have lost their lives (and their souls) because they failed to heed the many warnings, failed to notice when they had lost control.  There are numerous early warning signs.  Watch for them, lest you become one of the demon possessed.

Here are 47 indicators to watch for.  If you notice any of these signs you should take action immediately to bind any malicious spiritual entities that may be taking an interest in you.

1) Do you smell strange odors?
2) Are your irises purple in color?  Are they larger than normal? Are they evenly sized?
3) Do your unguarded thoughts veer towards thoughts of kittens?
4) Do you have a violent reaction to pictures of Padre Pio?
5) Does your bladder leak when you are in close proximity to a crucifix?
6) Do you have, somewhere in your possession, a wallet sized picture of Adolf Hitler?
7) Do you listen to the music of The Blue Öyster Cult?
8) Can you levitate yourself or others?
9) Have you ever attended a conference with Bob Larson?
10) Do you prefer your steaks rare or well done?
11) Have you ever offended an old gypsy woman?
12) Have you ever been abducted by a UFO or been contacted by an EBE?
13) Have you stood in the center of a crossroads at midnight?
14) Do you believe in spooks?
15) Are you now, or have you ever been a member of The Brotherhood of Games?
16) Do you believe in UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP, clairvoyance, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full trance mediums, the Loch Ness monster and the theory of Atlantis?
17) Have you ever played Dungeons and Dragons? Have you ever participated in LARP?
18) Do you fear the coming of an evil clown apocalypse?
19) Have you ever been struck by lightning?
20) Do experience periodic trances?
21) Do you wear leather?
22) Do you contradict yourself at least three times a day?
23) Do you feel compelled to wash your hands after coming in contact with a religious person?
24) Do you have memories of the Rectification of the Vuldronaii ?  Do you know what is to be roasted in the depths of the Slor?
25) Have you ever been declared “clear” by a member of the Church of Scientology?
26) Does your skin burn when touched by iron?  By silver?
27) Have you ever read from the Naturum De Montum or from The Necronomicon?
28) Have you, or a member of your family, participated in a cattle mutilation?
29) Do you subscribe to the Weekly World News?
30) Have you ever worked for the retail outlet known as S-Mart?
31) Does your mother sew socks that smell?
32) Do you have somnambulistic episodes lasting more than 4 hours?
33) Have you seen a procession of the damned upon the blasted heath?
34) Have you experienced a vision of impossible colours?
35) Do you keep a radioactive meteorite hidden in your basement?
36) Have you consumed the blood of a dead man?
37) Do you celebrate Halloween with costumes and candy?
38) Do you become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms, and the autumn moon is bright?
39) Have you ever been injected with codeine and gasoline or turpentine?
40) Have you ever been bitten by a moose? Has your sister ever been bitten by a moose?
41) Have you visited the house at R'lyeh?
42) Are you restless or irritable at either the Vernal or Autumnal Equinoxes?
43) Have you ever attempted to transmute lead into gold or vice versa?
44) Have you used juju to affect the outcome of professional sporting events?
45) Do you know the identity of Fantômas?
46) Are there people living under your stairs?
47) Have you visited the City of the Dead Man in Hamunaptra, India?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Disappointing Dream

I had a dream some time ago; it started out great, but…

To begin I received a letter from Lions Gate Entertainment telling me that I was among a select few individuals nominated as potential directors of  the latest film in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise.  I’ve only seen the 1974 original… but, hey,  I’d be willing to take on the challenge.  I’d like to think that I could do something interesting with a film like that.

But, I continued reading the letter and discovered that my recommendation had come from Paul Verhoeven….  Ouch.

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2013 - Week 41

Here it is again, my weekly free gift to you - a background image for use in Powerpoint (or other similar presentation programs).  Or use it for anything you like.  Use it at home, at work, at school, at church.  Use it for personal projects, business functions, or church activities.  Use it however you like - I only ask that you share it freely and that you tell others that you found it here.

For those who may be interested to know such details - this picture was created by combining in Photoshop several close up photographs of textured wall paper.

Week 41 photo Week41_zps799da7c8.jpg

An Unfinished Teen Bible Study Zine

Earlier this year I started a project that I never finished.  I began making this 'old-school' zine styled bible study for the teen group at our church, but I never completed it.  We ended up using something else.

But, I share it here, in all of its unfinished lo-fi, xerox copied glory.  If you like it enough to want to use it, it's yours.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Since I Can't Say, "The Devil Made Me Do It"...

All right, all right - so when I've done something wrong, or something stupid, I know that I cannot, justifiably say, "the devil made me do it."  Old Flip Wilson's catchphrase just doesn't cut it.  So, instead I have decided that when I do something wrong or something stupid, I'll say, "I didn't do it.  It wasn't me.  It was the sin living me that did it...."

(Romans 7: 20)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Opening Remarks

"Originally it was to be both my wife and me speaking here this evening.  We have developed a sort of tag team preaching on Sunday mornings, and Major Vicky asked us to share that this evening. But our son has a band concert this evening and he's very excited to be there for that, and... my wife's mother and step-father called the other day to say that they would be popping in to see us this evening.  So, I'm very glad to be here with you tonight..."

3 Hour Conversations and Clouds

I spent most of the afternoon on the road; I'm in Omaha again. This time I rode with my friend D. D. likes to talk.  I don't. So I listened.  I listened as she told me about her career as a semi-truck driver, driving half asleep across the state of texas, about the classes she's taking online with Liberty (yes, the one connected to Jerry Falwell...) about her family farm where she'd wrestle goats and tell the cows what to do (and they would do it).  She gave me full accounts of conversations she had with her cat (the cat's name was 13).  She told me about dislike for the pope, Joel Osteen, and Jehovah's Witnesses.  She described at length her favorite movie (The Sobbing Stone). She told me about her "fustrations" (her word) with online dating. And and and and and and and and

I think I said a total of 15 words the whole afternoon.

My son laughs at me sometimes.  "Why would you do a job where you have to be with people so much, when you don't like people?"  I answer him, "I like people, I just like them better when they're somewhere else."    Which is really only true after 3 hour conversations like this one with D.  Give me some time alone in my cave and I'll be personable again.

Anyway.  Heres' a photo I took before we left of some clouds.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Another Fragment of Dr. Tarrec’s Alchemical Commentary on the Apocalypse

And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. [i]

Now is the appointed hour.  Then beginning of the end of times is approaching, and the signs have begun to appear in the heavens.  I have seen the chemtrails left in the sky by evil kings.  I can read the messages written into the weather patterns, changed though they are by the US Air Force, seeding the clouds with silver oxide and Aqua Ragia.  Out of the south cometh the whirlwind: and cold out of the north.[ii]  The winds of God are blowing.  The future is coming, blown in on the cold north winds. 

The Pyroxylic Spirits have been released from the boxes that have held them for centuries and now these whirlwind riders are spreading death beneath their wings.  With them come aromatic angels, the Hartshorn Spirits, who fly over the earth with thunder and great noise. Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.[iii]  They shall cover the earth with Spiritus Fumans, thick clouds of choking smoke and then the end shall come.

[i] Luke 21:11
[ii] Job 37:9
[iii] Isaiah 29:6 

Biblical Limericks: Gullet…That’s a Funny Word

Fat Eglon, the Moabite king, met
with Ehud, the judge, who was dead set
on murdering the king
but in their brief meeting
Ehud’s sword got stuck in the king’s gullet.

Judges 3: 21 - 22

Roses After Midnight

I bought these roses for my wife's birthday last week.  I took some pictures of them tonight (early this morning, I suppose) lighting them with a handheld flashlight.

Roses After Midnight photo RosesAfterMidnight_zps2b1c736b.jpg

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lazarus Unseen

Lazarus unseen except by dogs
with oozing sores and crippled legs,
how long did he lie at the gate
before someone noticed
that he had died?

When he was naked
we lounged in linen.
When he moaned in hunger
begging for mere scraps of food,
we asked security to turn him out.

“Let God take care of him,” we said,
“as God has blessed and cared for us.”

(Luke 16:19 - 31)

Do You Want To Know the Future? - by Dr. Tarrec

This is the first draft of the first chapter of Dr. Tarrec's forthcoming book, "Do You Want to Know the Future?"

Dr. Tarrec is a world renown scholar in the field of alchemical theology. Using his unique background, Dr. Tarrec unites the esoteric and mystical planes with exciting discoveries in science and technological breakthroughs.

Challenging Limericks and Fair Wages

A limerick that I posted the other day  was challenged on Twitter by my friend, Thom.

To which I responded:

1) Agreement doesn't necessarily mean "just" or "fair."  If I convince someone to do backbreaking labor for me for $1 dollar a day - that doesn't make it right.  If I take advantage of people's ignorance or desperation in order to pay them as little as possible, I am not paying a fair or just wage - even if they agree to accept it.

This give me opportunity to quote from one of my favorite books - The Grapes of Wrath

Pa and Uncle John squatted with a group of men by the porch of the office. "We nearly go work today," Pa said.  "We was jus' a few minutes late.  They awready got two fellas.  An', well, sir, it was a funny thing.  They's a straw boss there, an' he says, 'We jus' got some two-bit men. 'Course we could use twenty-cent men.  We can use a lot a twenty-cent men.  You go to your camp an' say we'll put a lot a fells on for twenty cents.'"

The squatting men moved nervously.  A broad-shouldered man, his face completely in the shadow of a black hat, spatted his knee with his palm, "I know it, goddamn it!" he cried. "An' they'll git men.  They'll git hungry men.  You can't feed your family on twenty cents an hour, but you'll take anything.  They got you goin' an' comin'.  They jes' auction a job off.  Jesus Christ, pretty soon they're gonna make us pay to work."

John Steinbeck - The Grapes of Wrath - page 461-2

2)The parable cited from Matthew 20: 2- 15 is not really about fair wages.  It uses a discussion about wages in order to talk about something else, namely the Kingdom of God.  Nevertheless - that story is about being MORE generous, not less.  To use this parable as justification for paying people less runs counter to the story itself.

(of course these responses here are a bit expanded.  My twitter responses were necessarily constrained by the 140 character limit...)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Salvation Army and LGBT Discrimination

I wish it said more - but this is a pretty decent start.  (Also, several of my friends are visible in these photos.  Nice to see them again.)

More stories and testimonies here.

The Lego League Responds to Nature's Fury

Last night I spoke as a representative of the Salvation Army to the members of the local First Lego League team:  9 - 14 year olds interested in science, technology, robotics and problem solving.  Every year the league chooses a theme and the kids are challenged to design and build a robot that can solve a problem associated with that theme.

This years theme is "Nature's Fury." As part of their information gathering stage, they invited me, and a number of other representatives from agencies that respond during natural disasters - Fire Department, Sheriff and Police, County Emergency Management, the hospital, Red Cross, Air Guard etc...

The kids asked us question about how our agencies plan and prepare for and respond to natural disasters like floods and tornadoes and blizzards.  (These three were in their focus because they are natural disasters that could occur in central Iowa.  Hurricanes and Tsunamis don't happen very often round here...)

Many of their questions revolved around the issue of communication - especially communication to the general public: "How is a disaster announced?  Who decides when to sound the warning siren?  How long does it take to alert the public? "

Some of their questions were more generalized: "Do you have a disaster plan?  Does the public have access to it?  What's the biggest need after a disaster?  How important is a home emergency plan?  What do you know now that you wish you knew sooner?"

Some of their questions were much more ominous: "Who decides when the military /national guard gets involved?  Can a person be forcibly removed from their home during a disaster?  How do you find people (bodies) after a disaster?"

I'll be eager to hear from them what problem they'll try to solve, and to see the robot they design in action.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Biblical Limericks: Go Ahead…Cut the Minimum Wage!

Listen rich people, listen and weep
for the anguish that on you now creeps;
your wealth has been foiled,
your clothes, moths have spoiled!
You won’t pay fair wages. You’re too cheap!

James 5: 1

The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the Worshipping Community

This is a sermon I wrote several years ago and recently rediscovered in going back through some of my files. I still like it, though if I were writing or delivering it today, I would say more about the probable origins of the book of Joshua during the reign of Josiah.


The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) is a unique B-Movie science-fiction / horror / comedy / rock–n-roll musical based on the stage musical of the same name. It appears on the silver screen complete with the obligatory mad scientist -Dr. Frankenfurter- in a lonely castle, the “creature” created in the laboratory, aliens from another planet, and the infamous Time Warp dance.

It's astounding
Time is fleeting
Madness takes its toll
But listen closely
Not for very much longer
I've got to keep control.
I remember doing the Time Warp.
Drinking those moments when
The blackness would hit me.
And the void would be calling,
"Let's do the Time Warp again."

It has often been described as a “Cult Film” – the word “cult” as opposed to “occult” (which actually means “hidden” but is usually used to mean something to do with the demonic or satanic – though the argument could be made that the R.H.P.S is that too) Cult means worship and a religious group. And in some sense this is truly a “cult” film.

Millions of people around the world come together at midnight at local theatres to participate in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. They are a diverse group, male – female - transgendered, young and old, but they share an attraction to the movie.

It really is unlike all other movies. When the lights go down in the theatre for other films, the audience sits quietly in their seat watching as the actors on the screen enact a story. When the lights go up, the audience goes home. But when the lights go down for the midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show something entirely different begins. The audience doesn’t passively sit back to watch the film.

They, instead, begin to participate in the story.

Many of them have already arrived at the theatre dressed in the costumes of the various characters – each more outlandish than the last. And they’ve brought with them some props (lighters, rice, rubber gloves, etc…) to use during the show. When the young couple on screen gets married at the beginning of the film, the audience (both on screen and in the theatre) throws rice. When the Mad Scientist snaps his rubber gloves, the audience snaps theirs as well. They recite the lines with the actors on screen – and they interject  lines of their own – interacting and participating with the story… the audience becomes a part of The Rocky Horror Picture Show - even to the point that some members of the audience enact the entire show at the front of the theatre below the screen, as the movie plays above them.

It’s a story that (no matter how depraved) they feel that they connect with, and feel a part of. It is a story of weirdoes, misfits, and outsiders, and the fans of the R.H.P.S at some level feel that they, too, are weirdoes, misfits, and outsiders, so the R.H.P.S is a celebration of what they see in themselves.

Through their interaction and participation in the movie they worship at the theatre (and, it’s important to remember, all theatre began as religious ceremony) in the cult of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. They participate in the cultic worship the film is their sacred text. They have memorized its verses and they sing its hymns.

What they are worshipping, of course, is their own self, and the fulfillment of their own desires for unrestrained freedom (particularly sexual freedom) without constraints of any kind; moral or ethical.

Give yourself over to absolutely pleasure
Swim the warm waters of sins of the flesh
Erotic nightmares
Beyond any measure
And sensual daydreams
To treasure forever.

But we're not here to celebrate the R.H.P.S.  So why do I bring it up? Because of the way it can help us to understand what happened with the people of Israel as they renewed their covenant with Yahweh, and what happened after Joshua died. The fans of the R.H.P.S are not like other movie goers. The story is THEIR story – made so by their interaction with and participation in the sacred text / film. The same is true in the way that Joshua and the people of Israel renew their covenant.

In chapter 24 of Joshua the Israelites had conquered, divided up, and settled in the land. But now as Joshua is preparing to leave the people; for he is old and ready to die, he orders a national assembly: The tribes gathered at Shechem along with their elders, leaders, judges, and officials, and they, as a whole body, presented themselves in God’s presence.

And Joshua began to tell a story. Their story.

From time immemorial, your ancestors Terah, father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River, and served other gods. Then I brought your ancestor Abraham from beyond the River and led him through the length and breadth of Canaan. I increased his descendents and I gave him Isaac. To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. To Esau I gave possession of the mountainous country of Sier.

Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt. I then sent Moses and Aaron, and plagued Egypt with the wonders that I worked there; finally I brought you. I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and you came to the Sea; the Egyptians pursued your ancestors with chariots and horsemen, to the Sea of Reeds.

Note that: “finally I brought YOU out… YOU came to the Sea…”

The people that Joshua is speaking to were NOT the people who came out of Egypt, not the people who came to the Reed Sea. That generation of Israelites had perished in the wilderness during the 40 years of wandering because of their refusal to obey Yahweh. Yet Joshua deliberately says, “YOU.” Yahweh brought YOU out of Egypt.

They then called to Yahweh, and he spread a thick fog between you and the Egyptians, and made the sea go back on them and cover them.

You saw with your own eyes what I did in Egypt. Then, for a long while, you lived in the desert. I then brought you into the country of the Amorites, who used to live on the further side of the Jordan; they made war on you and I put them at your mercy; after which, you took possession of their country, since I destroyed them before you. Next, Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, rose to make war on Israel, and sent for Balaam son of Beor to come and curse you. But I would not listen to Balaam; instead he had to bless you, and I saved you from his power.

This is not just a story from Israelite History 101. This sacred story is THEIR story – even if they hadn’t been born when it happened, they are becoming a part of it through Joshua’s telling.

“You then crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho, but the inhabitants of Jericho made war on you: Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivities, and Jebusites, and I put them all at your mercy. I sent hornets ahead of you, which drove out the two Amorites kings before you; this was not the work of your sword or of your bow. And now I have given you a country for which you have not toiled, towns you have not built, although you live in them, vineyards and olive groves you have not planted, although you eat their fruit.

Many of those who gathered for this national assembly probably didn’t remember these events either. They had been born in and had grown up in the Promised Land. They did not remember the crossing of the Jordan or the fall of Jericho – but they are becoming a part of the story… YOU… This is their sacred story.

So now, fear Yahweh and serve him truly and sincerely; banish the gods whom your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt and serve Yahweh. But if serving Yahweh seems a bad thing to you, today you must make up your minds whom you mean to serve, whether the gods whom your ancestor served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now living. As regards my family and me, we shall serve Yahweh.

The people replied, ‘far be it from us to desert Yahweh and serve other gods! Yahweh our God was the one who brought us and our ancestors here from Egypt, from the place of our slave labor, who worked those great wonders before our eyes and who kept us safe all along the way we traveled and among all the peoples through whom we passed. And Yahweh has driven all the nations out for us, including the Amorites who used to live in this country. We too shall serve Yahweh, for He is our God.”

They have become a part of the story – they are interacting with it. “Yahweh was the one who brought US out of slavery….from the place of OUR slave labor.” They could not physically remember the cruel lashes of the Egyptians whips on their backs – but through the story they can feel that pain. Through the story they can sense the awe and wonder of the plague and wonders Yahweh inflicted on Egypt. They can feel the amazement of seeing the walls of water part before them. And as they remember the story – they begin to participate in the ongoing story, “We too shall serve Yahweh, for he is our God.”

Through the story they have connected with the God of their ancestors. The stories are not dusty rehearsals of long forgotten events, but life-changing in their immediate relevance.

Joshua then said to the people, “You will not be able to serve Yahweh, since he is a holy God; he is a jealous God who will not tolerate either your misdeeds or your sins. If you desert Yahweh and serve the foreigners’ gods, he will turn and maltreat you anew and, in spite of having been good to you in the past, will destroy you.’

The people replied to Joshua, “No! Yahweh is the one we mean to serve.’

Joshua then said to the people: You are witnesses to yourselves that you have chosen Yahweh, to serve him.’

They replied, “Witnesses we are!”

“Then banish the foreign gods which you have with you and give your allegiance to Yahweh, God of Israel!”

The people replied to Joshua, ‘Yahweh our God is the one whom we shall serve; his voice we shall obey!”

That day Joshua made a covenant for the people; he laid down a statute and ordinance for them at Shechem. Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. The then took a large stone and set it up there, under the oak tree in Yahweh’s Sanctuary. Joshua then said to all the people, “Look, this stone will be a witness to us, since it has heard all the words that Yahweh has spoken to us; it will be a witness against you, in case you should deny your God.’ Joshua then dismissed the people, everyone to his own heritage.

The people, through their participation in the story of God’s deliverance of Israel, became the worshipping and covenantal community of God. The story of deliverance was their story. And the God of their ancestors was THEIR God.

Unfortunately it didn’t continue…

Joshua having dismissed the people, the Israelites then went away, each one to his own heritage, to occupy the country. The people served Yahweh throughout the lifetime of Joshua and throughout the lifetime of those elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the great deeds which Yahweh had done for the sake of Israel. Joshua son of Nun, servant of Yahweh, was one hundred and ten years old when he died. … And when that whole generation had been gathered to its ancestors, another generation followed it which neither knew Yahweh nor the deeds which he had done for the sake of Israel. Judges 2: 6 – 10

The generation that had participated in the crossing of the Jordan, and those who had seen the walls of Jericho topple died, and “went the way of all the earth,” and those who grew up after them, who could not remember the crossing of the Jordan, or the fall of the walls of Jericho – let alone the crossing of the Sea of Reeds or the slavery of Egypt – no longer participated in the story of deliverance.

They had forgotten the story. They no longer participated in it, and they no longer participated in the worship of God. As they forgot the story, they forgot their place in the covenant; just as Joshua predicted they would.

Why do we gather to worship? What’s the point? Are we here like people at a theatre who want only to passively watch a story performed on the screen in front of us? Or are we here like the fans of the Rocky Horror Picture Show – who, as misguided as their worship is, are frantic participants in the story; making it their story?

Our worship is not just listening to scripture as it is read, or the praying of prayers, or the singing of songs and hymns. We are here to make the Salvation Story, the story of Redemption, the story of how God rescues his people OUR story – to become one with the story, and to participate in the covenant community.

If the story becomes a dull recitation of things long ago – or merely something we do on Sunday mornings – irrelevant to our everyday lives, then we are in danger of forgetting OUR place in the ancient story. And when we’ve forgotten our place in the story, we’re forgetting our place in the covenant of God.

(words and music from the Rocky Horror Picture Show by Richard O'Brien)

The Magic of Rainbows - another Exquisite Corpse

I have, on a couple of occasions, mentioned the art game The Exquisite corpse - a collaborative experiment between artists to create a strange piece of artwork without seeing what the other participants are doing.

I now have another one to share with you... though if you're easily offended or dislike vulgarity, you may want to skip to another post.

To begin, I was sent this 15 pixel sliver of the previous participants work - just enough to allow me to meld my portion without creating a 'seam' or an obvious break between the pieces.

From that little bit I could understand the word 'rainbows' and began working from that. I had no other clue, no other idea.  The word rainbows prompted me toward two musical cues - The Song "Rainbow Connection" (from the Muppet Movie) and the Radiohead album In Rainbows  which includes the song "Nude" with the lyric "Don't get any big ideas..." Curiously, I let the colors of the rainbow fade out of my work.

After submitting my piece back to the the host, a 15 pixel sliver from my work was sent to the next player in the list to create the final portion of the completed work. And then we wait.  Until that moment when the completed corpse can be revealed.  And here it is, presented in Rainbow Spectrum Technicolor.

What I couldn't see in the sliver I received is that the Rainbow theme from the previous artist also worked in a musical mode - though I'm using the word 'musical' very loosely here.  The two thuggish looking clowns are the members of the Insane Clown Posse, and the song being referred to is their song, "Miracles,"  which, in it's own ridiculous way talks about "magic" - which I included in my work - without knowing that it was in the previous section.  Weird, hunh?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2013 - Week 40

Here it is again - my weekly gift to you - a free background image for use in Powerpoint (or similar presentation programs) - or to be used in any way you like.  Use them at home, at work, in school, projects or at your church. I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

For those who may like to know this image is made from two parts - on the left, a close up of some gold curtains, and on the right, the tree outside the front window of my house at dusk.


Week 40 photo Week40_zps66e50519.jpg

May We Forgive

May we forgive
as we have been forgiven;
may we clean the slates
as our slates have been wiped clean,
so we can live together in peace,
in peace with each other
and in peace with our God.

My we forgive our debtors,
may we smooth over the rough patches between us,
may we draw near to one another
as God has drawn near to us,

and may we live there together
in the blessing of his presence.


Saturday, September 21, 2013


Koi photo Koi_zps2f2f4994.jpg

Not So Very Queer

“Sheraton,” I say, “What I like about you isn’t that you’re queer, it’s that you’re so very queer.”  And Sheraton laughs, bats false eyelashes at me and says, “Oh honey, stop.  You’re making a girl blush.”

he  double checks the wig, adjusts the falsies worn under a black bra, and asks me to zip up the sequined gown before Sheldon takes the stage as Sheraton, a drag queen performer singing show tunes and telling old vaudeville jokes.

“He… She… It…” Sheraton says to me.  “It doesn’t matter as long as you don’t call me shit.”

I watch as Sheraton passes through the beaded curtain that leads from the dressing room to the darkened back stage.  The small clitter clatter sound of the moving beads is lost in the swell of the orchestra and Sheraton begins to sing, “Never could carry a tune, never knew where to start.
You came along when everything was wrong and put a song in my heart…”

I smile as the lights come up on the Sway Club’s stage and Sheraton is there shimmering in the light, “Dear when you smiled at me, I heard a melody. It haunted me from the start. Something inside of me started a symphony. Zing! Went the strings of my heart…”

The audience applauds and cheers, but my attention is called away by a voice behind me.

“You shouldn’t use that word.”

I turn.  It’s Barry, the nightclub’s janitor. I’ve been here dozens of times with Sheraton, but this is the first time I’ve ever heard Barry speak.  He’s an older man, keeping busy after retirement.  He nods and waves and goes about the work of sweeping floors, emptying trash cans, but rarely speaks.

“I’m sorry.  What?”

“Queer.  You shouldn’t use the word queer. “There’s a little falter in his voice as he says it the second time and the syllable is swallowed up in the music on stage.  I am about to respond when he raises a hand to stop me.

“I know it’s fashionable nowadays for the younger crowd; they think they can reclaim the word.  But …” His pause is long and heavy and the silence between us is only slightly marred by the sounds of the performance. I pull a chair away from the lighted mirrored dressing table and sit down in front of Barry. He leans on the handle of his broom.

“…but maybe some words are just too hateful and ugly to reclaim.”  There’s a glimmer of moisture in his eyes now, but he won’t cry.  He withdraws a cloth handkerchief from his pocket and dabs and the corner of eyes and blows his nose, then carefully folds the handkerchief and replaces it. 

There is something here that I have missed.  I can see it in the deep cut of the frown lines between his eyes, and hear it in the hitch in his voice. Without realizing it, I’ve just poked at old wounds, wounds forty or fifty years old, wounds that haven’t yet closed over.  

Who was it that hurled this word at him? Was it a classmate?  A family member?  Was he beaten by a police officer or a member of the clergy with this word?  “Fag!” “Fairy!”  “Homo!”


Queer. Strange. Odd. Out of alignment.  Outside the boundaries of normal human society.  Few individuals chose to live forever outside society as a stranger.  How many are forced out? How many are driven away? Was Barry cut off from his community by this word?  He has a painful story, but I don’t think he’ll tell me, not just now. 

“I’m sorry.”  My voice isn’t loud, but he hears me.

 He nods and smiles a little. Then he takes his broom and dustpan to sweep the hallway.

Friday, September 20, 2013

So Very Queer

I struggled for a long time to figure out what pronoun to use for my friend, Sheraton.  Born female - named Shannon - Sheraton was always a tomboy, wrestling and riding bikes with the boys in the neighborhood.  Shannon played with G. I Joes and always insisted that they were “action figures not dolls!” 

But Shannon was never quite comfortable as a girl.  Wearing dresses and pretty, frou-frou clothing wasn't the problem; Shannon always liked to look nice, effeminate even (despite the tomboy nature.)  But Shannon was never comfortable with being a girl.  So Shannon disappeared after college, replaced by Sheldon.  (Sheldon told me that the name “Shannon” could conceivably have worked for either gender, but felt that the name had to be dropped completely in order to make a clean start as a male.) 

Shannon endured the required battery of psychological tests and interviews and personality inventories  -and battery is the appropriate pun; from what I've been told, it was a brutal process.  After the psychological gatekeepers were satisfied, Shannon was allowed to begin the necessary hormone treatments, and, finally, the complicated surgical procedures to complete the transformation: a mastectomy to remove Shannon’s breasts and then Phalloplasty to create an artificial penis for Sheldon. 
Sheldon (who has never been accused of being reticent or shy) has said that there is even a measure of sexual stimulation in the neophallus and Chris, Sheldon’s lover, whose square jaw is almost, but not completely, hidden by a Veronica Lake haircut has never complained about any lack of performance even though a saline pump is required to cause an erection.  “It’s less spontaneous, but no less effective,” says Chris.

If this were the whole case, my pronoun struggle might be easily resolved: born Shannon, she later became Sheldon, but he…

…and this is where it get’s weird – or, perhaps I should say, this is where it get’s queer… 

 “Sheraton,” I say, “What I like about you isn’t that you're queer, it’s that you’re so very queer.”  And Sheraton laughs, bats false eyelashes at me and says, “Oh honey, stop.  You’re making a girl blush.”

he  double checks the wig, adjusts the falsies worn under a black bra, and asks me to zip up the sequined gown before Sheldon takes the stage as Sheraton, a drag queen performer singing show tunes and telling old vaudeville jokes.

“He… She… It…” Sheraton says to me.  “It doesn't matter as long as you don’t call me shit.”

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Some Navel Gazing Observations after a Day of Emergency Disaster Services Training

1 – I never sleep well the first night in a hotel.  I miss my family.  So I didn’t sleep well last night. Didn’t sleep at all last night in fact.  It was somewhere around 4 this morning that I finally was able to settle in the land of Nod. 

But I tried to use the time – and not merely waste it watching goofy monster movies on Netflix.  Instead I read a couple more chapters from The Transgender Studies Reader and another chapter from Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.  I also wrote a 400 words short story that I’m going to hang on to for a bit before I decide whether or not to post it here on the blog.

2- I am an Introvert by nature.  If I have to attend meetings, I’d rather sit in the back of the room and not participate – except when it’s a topic in which I’m interested.  The other folks in our sessions today did not believe me when I told them that I am very much an introverted person.  I’m not shy.  Especially, it seems, when you get me talking about serving in response to tragedies and disasters. 

This surprised me a little bit. Why was I participating so much?  I don't do that... But I think I realized something about myself today – I enjoy disaster work.  Enjoy? What a terrible word. Who enjoys seeing the devastation and despair that follows in the wake of natural and manmade disasters?   Only psychopaths.  I don’t enjoy that.  I –apparently – enjoy being able to serve people in that time. 

I am not an adrenaline junkie, or an ambulance chaser. But I have found, in many experiences, a measure of fulfillment in coming alongside those who are suffering.

3 – My wife sometimes jokes that I am Spock – I’m not.  I have nowhere near that level of emotional control.  I’m just a bit more Stoic than she is.  But when I haven’t slept well, and when I’ve sat through 9 hours of training in a single day, my emotions start to sit pretty close to the surface.  Some of the things I’ve seen during disaster deployments have been pretty horrible.  I’ve sat with families who’ve lost children.  I’ve seen towns leveled by uncontrollable natural forces.  At several points today I felt my eyes getting a little moist and my throat felt a little tight. All those things – years and years in the past – continue to affect who I am today. 

Another several hours of training material tomorrow, but I anticipate that I’ll be better rested.  I look forward to them.  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Harvest Moon

Harvest moon
over noisy city
I'd rather be home

Harvest Moon photo HarvestMoon_zps859af486.jpg

Biblical Limericks: How to Insult Someone the Biblical Way

You and a friend have started to brawl
and you’re strapped for an insult to bawl;
you could always refer
to the biblical slur,
say that he “pisseth against the wall!”

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Biblical Limericks: It’s not About Satan

Isaiah, the skillful satirist,
mocked Nebuchadnezzar with a twist,
“Despite all of your brawn,
O bright star of the dawn,
you’ll rot in a grave, forever unmissed.”

Isaiah 14: 12 – 15

Jekyll and Hyde Americas

In Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Dr. Jekyll created a concoction which allowed him to separate himself into two personas: the noble and respectable Dr. Jekyll and the depraved Mr. Hyde. His intent was to separate the personas so that the respectable Dr. could indulge in his secret vices without damaging his respectable reputation. Mr. Hyde, however, soon took over and threatened with dangerous violence to destroy the good doctor.

Though Stevenson wrote the story to illustrate the struggle between the good that I know and the evil that I desire anyway, (" was as an ordinary secret sinner that I at last fell before the assaults of temptation”) it has some allegorical application to our country. The United States of America is both the good doctor and the depraved Hyde and it is unclear which of the two personas will emerge from the struggle as the victor.

The America we’re taught about in school – whether home or public – is the noble respectable America: founded on Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, Freedom for all, power from the people to the state and not the other way around,  democracy as established under the Constitution – which some have suggested came almost directly from the mouth of God. This America is a beautiful America. This America is the beautiful lady symbolized by the Statue of Liberty at Ellis Island (her full name is Liberty Enlightening the World).

The New Colossus – by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beaconed hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The un-bridged harbor that twin cities frame
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp,” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

This is a beautiful noble America – open and inviting to all, a mother to the poor, a shelter to the victimized, and an aide to the oppressed. She comes to the rescue of those who are threatened and in danger. This is the America where all (and women) are created equal. Where people are free to speak, assemble, worship, and protest. This is the noble America that the Pilgrims and the Puritans set out to establish.

“Wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all people are uppon us, soe that if wee shall deale falsely with our god in this worke wee have undertaken and soe cause him to withdraw his present help from us, wee shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.” - John Winthrop

It was envisioned that America would become a sort of Zion to which all the nations would stream in order to find Truth, Justice, and Righteousness – the American way. This is an America that I could love, an America that strives to be a physical incarnation of that spiritual Zion, an America that is free and generous and just.

But just as Jekyll had his Hyde, Lady Liberty has a darker persona as well. This American Woman isn’t so lovely. She has a 200+ year history of oppression and greed and lies. 

She’s tattooed on one arm with the words “Manifest Destiny.” Beneath her feet are the Indian nations she displaced in order to make way for her westward expansion, Japanese civilians burned and radiated by two atomic blasts, and an ever growing pile of aborted fetuses. She wears the finest clothes: supple leather shoes, embroidered silk gowns, and rings and bracelets of gold studded with numerous precious stones. Her purse is full and bursting with cash and credit cards, but she stoops to take the few meager pennies from the starving masses surrounding her.

Her other arm is tattooed with the motto of the Ministry of Truth from George Orwell’s novel 1984, “WAR IS PEACE!” She carries a loaded M-16 rifle and is not afraid to use it (Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan….Syria?) or to sell it to her violent death-squad lovers in El Salvador, Chile, China, Afghanistan, Israel, Iraq, Iran… She’s even trained many of them to be excellent marksmen and torturers in her School of the Americas. 

The two Americas - Jekyll and Hyde – are mutually exclusive, though not separate. They co-exist in a continual struggle for dominance. It has, however, been the strategy of the darker Hyde-esque America to Hide behind a mask of the noble America, disguising her cruelty and oppression in noble sounding rhetoric such as, “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of those who threaten it!” But behind that masquerade is still the creeping American evil.

There seem to be two Americas. “America… Love it or Leave it!” But, which one? Which America are we defending? Which one are we criticizing? Which one do we love and which one do we leave? Which persona will we allow to win the struggle?

What Comes Next?

Here's a new song -What Comes Next?

I used a few samples from the Freesound Project:
The Dispersion 
The Water
The Small Taming

I also used the Charlie Brown X-mas Tree Synth created by AfroDJMac.

Biblical Limericks: Miss Persia Pageant

Esther won the Miss Persia Pageant,
a truly spectacular event;
it wasn't her swimsuit
or her answers astute,
Xerxes enjoyed her bedroom talent.

Esther 2


Is He a Blessing or a Curse?

Is He a Blessing or a Curse? photo blessingorcurse_zps0197d817.jpg

·         Microstatic Fluctuations

·         the Missing Variable

·         Voltage Spikes

·         Inverted Spectrograms

·         Fluid Dynamics

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Limerick for The Incredible Hulk

Doctor Banner speak good, no make hash.
Hulk try, but words always come out mash.
But why Hulk need grammar?
Hulk strong ‘cause of Gamma!
Too much talk! No more words. Now Hulk smash!

**EDIT - I forgot to mention that it was my son who prompted this little bit of humor.

Weight of the World

I feel the pain of everyone,
then I feel nothing
-Dinosaur Jr.

In gym class,
the coach laughed
as I struggled to lift
even the minimal weight.

I am overwhelmed
by the weight of the world.

Biblical Limericks: Withdrawn

Look at the idols of Babylon,
Nebo and Bel carried away on
an oxcart; they will be
held in captivity.
The gods of Babylon are withdrawn.

Isaiah 46: 1 - 2

Dr Tarrec Remembers Iamblichus

I am remembering it now, the funeral pomp and black bunting of Julian’s funeral.  I remember the haunting melody played on the organ – the sober hymns with unrhymed lyrics sung by the congregation, how the gathered faithful wept and sighed through the service, and left as soon as the priest intoned the final ‘amen.’

The graveyard sod had only just been replaced when his successor, Jovian, died as well.  Those were dark days for us enrolled in the Brotherhood of Games, dark days for us all.

There is a blank spot in my recollections at this point. 

But where the fuzziness of my memory fades and the remembrance returns, it is upon that point when Iamblichus was proposing a triad of ‘psychic gods’ – incommunicable and surpramundane.  He spoke at length to anyone who would listen of gods and demiurges, angels, demons, and mythic heroes born out of time.   And their numbers were always increasing. 

When first he told me of them, there were twelve – and he compelled me to memorize their names and habitations (but I have long since forgotten them again, another blank spot in my memories.) Later I attended a lecture that he was giving at the University of Prague where he spoke of the seventy-two archons of heaven.  And still later he wrote of them in a book, an exposition of the mysteries of the universe, wherein he wrote interminably of the three hundred and sixty spirits.

I asked him once if his rapidly multiplying divinities wouldn’t soon crowd out us mere mortals from the face of the earth.  He did not appreciate my levity.  And he turned upon me, scowling, and swore to ruin me. 

Perhaps he did, at that.  I cannot recall what happened to him after that. I read, in an obscure book of history, that Iamblichus poisoned himself to avoid an ignominious death at the hands of the Emperor’s secret police.  Crazy as he was, this is a loss to us all.  The Brotherhood of Games will not have another so talented a brother in a long, long time.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2013 - Week 39

I know that not everyone appreciates Powerpoint.  There are other (and better) presentation programs.  But it meets the few presentation needs that I currently have.  But there's nothing to say that you can't use these free weekly Powerpoint background images that I create in another presentation program.  Or use them as desktop wallpapers.  Use them in art projects, as book covers, print and frame them as cheap artwork for your apartment.  Use them as you will; I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

For those who may like to know these kind of details, this photo is the result of merging a photo of the purple wall in my daughter's bedroom, and a picture that was an accidentally snapped flash blur taken in a cave.

Week 39 photo Week39_zps273c3721.jpg

Biblical Limericks: A Word for the Cannibals

You consume the flesh of my people,
stripping their bones, Oh! You are evil.
So you’ll cry out to God,
but he won’t even nod;
you’ll be alone in this upheaval.

Micah 3: 3 - 4

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Real Americans – The Annotated Version

I published this poem here on my blog a few days ago.  Afterwards a few people commented to me that they thought I had exaggerated the situation. Perhaps I did.  Perhaps I did push a few statements made by American leaders into the realm of hyperbole, but it didn’t take much of a push.

Here, then, is an annotated version of the poem – showing in the endnotes where I culled the various lines.

Real Americans – Annotated

All real Americans love the sting of battle[i]
and dream of glory in the big leagues;
they swell with pride to see
      our banner in the breeze
and turgid at the thought
     of going out to fight

All real Americans will not only shoot their enemies,
but will bomb them back to the Stone Age, [ii]
rip out their living goddamned guts.[iii]
Americans will not tolerate a loser
nor worship a god they can beat up.[iv]

No real American is ever war-weary.[v]
No real American ever digs in;
they press forward until the last round is fired
     and the last drop of gas is expended.

American heroes do not wait for inspectors or,
      god forbid!  negotiators or diplomats.
Real American heroes will never seek a permission slip
to defend the security of our country.[vi]
American heroes do not wait for congress to authorize action
they launch the missiles before the ardor cools.[vii]

All real Americans are glorious bastards,
eager for the acrid smoke
     and scorching flames of this war,
                the next war,
                     any war
that will allow us to demonstrate our natural superiority.

[i] General George S. Patton – 3rd Army speech – May 31st 1944 -

[ii] General Curtis LeMay during the Vietnam War, later borrowed and reiterated during the Bush administration as a threat to Pakistan -

[vi] President George W. Bush – State of the Union Address 2004 -

Interrupting my Reading with More Reading

I have interrupted my stack of reading material.  This pile of books that I intend to read never gets any smaller; for every book I finish reading two more take its place.  But I’ve interrupted the order.  You see, a book I asked the librarians at my local public library to track down for me has finally come in.

I wanted some non-fiction material on Transgender issues – it’s a topic that has come up in my work as a pastor more than once in the past several months, and I wanted to educate myself some.  So I went to my favorite place – the library.  Unfortunately, the local library was rather unhelpful.  The total extent of material in this area of study was one self help book aimed at teens and young adults, So You Think You Might Be Gay.  Not exactly what I was looking for.

So I checked the catalogue on the computer.  (Have I mentioned that I am occasionally nostalgic for the card catalogue?  I’m a sad little man…) But again, no real luck.

When I asked the librarian at the help desk, she looked at me for several seconds and then said, a little breathlessly, “We don’t get much call for that kind of material.”  I took the opportunity to help her understand what I was looking for and, through the interlibrary loan system, found a couple of titles I thought might be helpful.  And, I think I may have even convinced her to purchase a few of the titles to include in our local library’s collection. 

So now I have The Transgender Studies Reader edited by Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle to read –Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World by René Girard, and Kant and the Platypus by Umberto Eco will have to wait a couple more days.

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