Archive for April, 2013

How I’m Spending My Evening

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Mike and Julie Signorelli

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Phelps vs. Robertson

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

We know the players in this discussion, but let’s start with a brief breakdown of the two culprits in question…

Fred Phelps, the man behind the beliefs and actions of the Westboro Baptist Church, is one of the most hated men in America. Perhaps it’s because hate begets hate and Phelps is full of hate, God’s hate to be exact. His website is called God Hates Fags and over the past few years his agenda has grown to boycotting and picketing basically anything, as long as he can claim it as part of God’s wrath.

Pat Robertson, the face of the 700 Club, is less of a blatant asshole. He doesn’t picket funerals and he doesn’t use terms like “fag”. However, he does have aforementioned TV show, where he and his friends have spent a good deal of their time blaming the world’s downfall on homosexuals, Muslims, and other morally depraved folks. Most people I know have at least one family member who watches Robertson’s show.

So… the question is which is more dangerous for America… for the world. Is blatant hate more dangerous or is suit-and-tie cloaked talking head hate more dangerous? Is it easier to write Phelps off as a nut than to dismiss an evangelical that your grandparents watched religiously since the 70s?

There are several reasons that I find Pat Robertson much more dangerous, despite being less deplorable as a human being. There are quite a few folks in this country that still listen to and admire Pat Robertson. This is dangerous, as his words of hate slip into people’s minds and fester there until they let it come out as some ridiculously illogical argument about how gay marriage will ruin the sanctity of their marriage… somehow… but they don’t know how…

Outside of complete psychos and assholes, Phelps is easy to write off. And, Robertson is easy to write off for me and many like me… but not everyone can write him off.

Thoughts? Does Westboro hurt people more or does the cleaned up version of hate that Robertson, et al. peddle hurt people more?

I’m No Abraham!

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Early this morning, I took a hot bath to soak my aching body (12 hours of housework and yardwork on Saturday is still wearing on me) and read a chapter of AW Tozer’s Pursuit of God. As I read Tozer’s words, I just couldn’t help but keep thinking, “I’m no Abraham!”

Abraham was told by God to offer his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice. In layman’s terms, that meant that Isaac was to take his son to the top of a mountain and murder him FOR GOD. As those who have heard or read the story already know, God waited until he was able to instill fear and reverence for the Lord in his heart, then commanded Abraham not to lay a finger on Isaac. As Tozer explains, this test of faith in God was about clearing out Abraham’s heart from coveting anything other than God.

Well… I’m no Abraham. I covet many things in my heart, some that I feel like I shouldn’t and some that feel right. But it seems that according to Tozer (and the Bible), God should be the only thing residing in my heart. This is a very troubling concept for me.

My sons, my wife, and many other friends and family reside in my heart. My pain in the butt dogs reside in my heart, too. Not to mention, the love of music, nature… etc. And, I think Tozer’s point is not that I shouldn’t love these things, but that the love and reverent fear of God is the only love that should reside in that inner Holiest of Holies in my heart. But, I’m not sure I’m wired like that.

This is certainly a struggle for many, but I can only speak for me. If God asked me to sacrifice my son to Him, I’d probably curse God up and down before becoming Jonah, trying to run from Him. Now, the solace in the story is that God would never make me (or Abraham) carry through on that sacrifice, but I could never have gotten to that place in my heart where God was so revered that I could let go of my own child in such a manner.

I guess I don’t have to be all that concerned with such a literal request, seeing as Jesus’s sacrifice eliminated the need for such a sacrifice to God in this day and age. However, there is a non-literal sacrifice requested daily… and I’m not always sure I’m up to the task…

Just some food for thought… I’m no Abraham.

Mike Tripped with Allah

Friday, April 12th, 2013

I just finished reading Michael Muhammad Knight’s latest book, Tripping With Allah: Islam, Drugs, and Writing. As is very typical with MMK’s work, I was usually captivated, somewhat enlightened, and, at times, extremely confused. We’ll start with what I learned.

Knight’s latest work taught me a great deal about the history of drug use in religious practice, the basic background of the Santo Daime faith, and some parts of the slave trade that I don’t remember covering in history class. I also learned about how Transformers and Dinobot Island can provide allegorical framework for just about any discussion about society and religion… and those discussions that don’t fall into the Transformers realm seem to always relate to the world of pro-wrestling… but I digress.

In fact, digressing is a major part of MMK’s book, as well. In this hybrid Fiction/Non-Fiction, MMK oft employs a stream-of-consciousness prose style, albeit with structure. The digressions can be distracting, at times, but typically just provide added insight and/or quippy anecdotal information.

Back to the review, I guess… so… in addition to learning about the Transformers, drugs, and the slave trade, I found that MMK continues to find better ways to say things that I’ve thought and said, as I’ve noticed in much of his work. One such example that had me on the hook was:

Plenty of Americans are unable to conceive that their country has its own underground, an if they do, they fail or refuse to admit that the underground, the counter-narrative, is just as “American” as the patriots’ mythology on top. So the T-shirts and bumper stickers tell me, “Love it or leave it,” missing the obvious fact that I do love America, maybe more than they do-but my America is also the anti-America, the lineage of Shakers and Nat Turner and William Lloyd Garrison and Emma Goldman and the Weathermen. Loving America doesn’t meant that you buy into that aboveground story of freedom and democracy or that you want to see Ronald Reagan’s head on Mount Rushmore.

Like I said, as he always does, Knight found ways to connect with some the very thoughts going through my head.

So, what is this book, really? Great question. It’s not a Hunter S. Thompson book, first and foremost. The back of the book jacket is way off-base when it calls the book “a road book in the tradition of 2001: A Space Odyssey” and whoever called MMK “the Hunter S. Thompson of Islamic literature” was just looking to get their quote in other people’s reviews (oops, mission accomplished, I guess). MMK is no drug guru… and THANK ALLAH! Knight is level headed and not a wastoid, so calling him Hunter S. Thompson is an insult.

While it’s not some Islamic Fear and Loathing, it does deliver one of the most whacked out drug hallucination descriptions in print. That said, there were points where I thought there would be a let down, but then… BAM! There it was… and in true MMK fashion, it involved graphic depictions of sexual acts. But the vision was something more, it was something that reframed and redefined his faith.

So, through this rambling “review”, here’s what you need to know… this is a good book. But, I’m not so sure that you should start here if you’ve never read MMK. Then again, there’s nothing wrong with diving in head first.

PS. I kinda want to drink Ayahuasca now. Anyone want to front me a couple grand?

I Write, Therefore I Am?

Monday, April 8th, 2013

I’ve always fancied myself a writer. At a shade over 30, living in the technological age, I’ve had the chance to write in various mediums. I’ve served as a senior writer and editor on multiple websites. I’ve blogged on and off for a decade. I’ve self published numerous zines. I’ve published some articles. I’ve begun (but never finished) multiple novellas and short stories…

But I’m not a writer, really… at least, not yet. In order to be a writer, like a REAL WRITER, I need some discipline, some motivation, and something real to say.

So, maybe I need to shit or get off the pot, right? I’ve got random stories from work in the prison system. I’ve got random stories from promoting and attending hundreds of concerts. I’ve got random stories from being a dad…

But, where is my direction? Do I finish that zombie novel/novella that I began years ago or is that genre just too damn inundated now? I’ve flirted with storyboarding that and having a friend draw it up as a graphic novel, which feels more appropriate for that story. Do I actually get working on the research for the book project that I’ve been talking about with a Jersey punk scene friend for over a year? I’m not sure why, but that’s not inspiring to me at the moment (though I am certain that we will write that book, as it needs to be written). So, which project is right for me now?

I ask this question, but I know the answer. It’s my Dubliners, my Joycian short story collection. There are several half written stories and numerous frameworks that are all based on some twisted notion of the American dream. The star crossed lover from a poor neighborhood in Wilkes Barre, the former civil servant pinched in a child pornography sting, the Vegan straight edge girl from the city who secretly yearns to be a high class prostitute, the transgender inmate who rots in a cell for the horrific decisions he (or she) made before landing there… these are not happy stories, but they are all based on something real. These stories are where I’m supposed to go from here.

Now the question becomes, will I actually work my strange compendium into existence? Will I find ways to find time for this work into my upcoming coursework, the blogs I write, and the other things that sidetrack me?