Archive for the ‘Faith’ category

Embellishment — Writing’s Favorite Condiment

August 18, 2008

I was reading an old post (actually the last one but I’m a lazy bastard and my last post was almost 2 weeks ago) about how I always break or damage or lose my phones, and I was listing some examples of how these things happened.  I mentioned that once my phone was run over by a truck.  I began to recall that episode in my head.  I remembered the truck being yellow, and fairly small. It had black dashes painted along the side and a lit sign on top with glowing numbers.  The driver looked like one of the bad guys in True Lies.

It was a taxi cab.  A small regular sized taxi cab.

Had I forgotten this minor detail? No and no.  No I did not forget, and no this detail is not minor.  But I didn’t lie on purpose, either.  I was just writing, lost in my own thoughts and madly orchestrating my fingers to weave a web of words on my keyboard, tangled or otherwise.  In my writing trance superfluous details such as facts are sometimes usually disregarded.  I’m actually surprised that I didn’t go for a little more.  If I could do it over, it would have read as follows:

So I was backwards-worming down the street and my brand new phone that I bought like 12 seconds ago slipped out of my pocket and onto the 10-lane highway.  Cars were blazing by for almost a full minute, but amazingly my phone remained unscathed.  When the light changed I forward-wormed back out onto the street to get it, but just then the train that runs above-ground in my neighborhood careened off the tracks and plummeted 50 feet right onto my motorola RAZR just as I was leaning in to scoop it up. I easily could have died and I would have (and according to many, should have) but fortunately (unfortunately according to those same aforementioned people who feel that I should have died) Arnold Schwarzenegger saw the train racing towards me through the air and charged and tackled me while yelling Get DoOoWn before his rabidly gutteral Austrian gargle was drowned out by the train exploding directly onto my cellphone.  Luckily no one was hurt.

  My version would be called “Little Falafel Boy”.

You see how I skillfully toe the line between reality and fantasy?  This is a master at work here, folks.  Here’s a tip for you newbie bloggers (upstart novelists, screenplay writers, journalists, court reporters, etcetera) — don’t over do it.  Por ejemplo, I could have said that when I went back out onto the street to get my phone, I backwards-wormed, just like I did before when I was crossing the street.  Yes, backwards-worming is more impressive.  But if I was backwards-worming when I was walking down the street then naturally I would have to do the opposite whilst backtracking.  Turning around just so that I could backwards-worm in the another direction would be just plain ridiculous.  Furthermore, backwards-worming twice in a row would be so shockingly impressive that it would detract from the excitement of the derailed train (for those of you who disagree, SCREW YOU because you have clearly never seen me backwards worm).  That’s why organized religion stinks — the scribes who wrote it just went way too far.

That’s just the name of the game folks.  The blogosphere gets boring when people only wanna pretend to know about politics or regurgitate whatever they read in the paper that day.  We gotta spice this shit up.  My blogging name is Zuér.  My real name is Leslie.  See that? Sex[iness] sells. That’s why I put this picture of myself on my about page — I look dead sexy there, and if I didn’t you wouldn’t be reading this right now.  FACT. You see how when you saw my picture you said to yourself, “god DA!mn this dude looks smokin hot”?  That’s exactly what I was going for.  And I got it.  Why?  Cuz I gives you what you want.

Here’s another fact — my blog audience has increased in size by 300% since I learned how to embellish (from 1 to 3 regulars).  It’s elementary.  Chapter 1 of How to be a Playa (which I also wrote). 

On a serious note, I’m always honest in my blog other than when I’m going for a laugh.  If you read this post and didn’t realize that it falls under this category, well, then, shame on me.

This was a delightfully painless Monday after a great weekend. Have a great week!

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George Carlin & Co: Open Up [your fuckin] Eyes

July 18, 2008

I was watching videos of George Carlin on youtube and man, that dude was a genius. RIP man. The great satirists just have a skill for cutting through the bullshit and explaining things to people in a way that not only makes sense, but is also funny as hell. And it’s not just about politics — it’s about all of the many forces and waves tugging at and crashing around us that try to move us, shape us, scare us so that they can then be the ones to comfort us, and turn us into sheep so that they can herd us into cages locked the second we let others think on our behalf.

But the greats like Carlin and Bill Maher and Jon Stewart clear the fog a bit. Not to say you should believe whatever it is that they say, but if you listen, youll notice that theyre not telling you what to believe, like your politicians, parents, teachers, and priests (rabbis/imams) do; theyre telling you to open up your eyes and start thinking for yourself.

Here are a few great clips i came across:

this one explains why I am a francophile:

More videos to come, but I have to leave the office before they make me do work.

ciao

Worthless Words? My Text Message Poem

June 15, 2008

I texted this message to my friend on my way back from dinner, where I discovered that someone I care about is huge liar and hypocrite. It was a depressing discovery because I had a lot of respect for him before… my friend wanted to know how the dinner went, and here is the message I sent, in it’s original texted format:

Not too bad. But bad. I need to start doing drugs. Numbness is good. Short term at least. Words have limits. Theyre pretty worthless. But powerful. Weird. Limited, worthless…but so powerful. Mayb the impact is a result of the realization that theyre worthless…when you didnt believe them to be b4. Thats powerful.

Relax, Im oK i swear.

I dunno how I feel about this now, as I read what I wrote…I guess words arent totally worthless, cuz if they are, why am i even writing this? But maybe words are just the conduit through which we share our thoughts and feelings…ourselves…making words shallow in and of themselves, yet precious in effect.  Hypocrisy, more than anything I think, illustrates that words are nothing in and of themselves, and that they derive meaning from their source.  I’m gonna start paying as lot more attention to the source going forward.

Whatever. Words are overrated sometimes. I’m gonna bike to the park and lay on the grass for a while.

Turkish Court Bans Headscarf In Universities — Again

June 6, 2008

This really pissed me off.   I’m going to Turkey for a few months on vacation; it has always been my dream vacation.  I think about it as a crossroads of modern human history, where so many civilizations have made their mark on the world, a mark whose beauty is reflected today in the diversity of the Turkish culture.

That’s why I was so pissed off by the news report today that the Turkish High Court overturned a legal change issued by Prime Minister Erdogan that would allow women to where the headscarf at Turkish universities on the grounds that the change violated laws protecting Turkish secularism.

Read that sentence again.  The purpose of the overturned legal change wasn’t to require women to wear the headscarf; it was to allow women who choose to wear it to attend a Turkish university. 

I know the history of Turkey is complex and that there is a strong general desire to protect secular laws from religious extremism, but this isn’t a question of zealotry or “Islamism” or security.  It is a question of liberty, justice, and equality.  Secularism can be maintained while preserving individual liberties.  These kind of laws cannot be made to assuage irrational fears; think about where the U.S. would be if lawmakers and courts never took a stand against irrational and often ignorant public opinion. The decision of the high court is appalling because Turkey is trying so hard to kiss EU ass and prove that it is progressive, yet refuses to pass laws securing individual liberties for it’s own citizens (the other well known grievance is the strict code of expressive censorship Turkey enforces). The courts are also considering banning Erdogan and his widely popular AKP party from politics altogether…they have banned entire parties in the past and are expected to do it again here.  

Obviously there are many other countries in the same boat, but I guess I just expect more from Turkey.  I am also especially sensitive to human rights violations that are validated by the courts…I place a lot of faith in court systems as the guardians against corruption, and I feel indignant when they instead become the purveyors of it (I wrote about a similar story a few months ago regarding a US supreme court decision).

Here’s hoping that Turkey can be a place where all people are afforded equal rights, and that any protests that result from this decision are widespread, yet peaceful.

Thinking about renting out your apartment? Be warned!

May 21, 2008

People are weird.  Especially people you meet online. And if you’re planning on letting these weird people you meet online rent out your apartment, do yourself a favor and think about it real hard.

I’m planning on going away for a few days and figured I’d try to recoup some of the money I’m spending on my trip by following the lead of a few friends and renting out my apartment when I’m not there.  Basically, the idea is that if you’re going away for a while on vacation, and being you in a tourist hot-spot, there would probably be a bunch of people who’d be willing to rent out your place while they are in town.  Sure, my place might be considered a slight downgrade from the Mandarin Oriental, but it’s a nice apartment in a great location, and not staying in a five-star hotel means that the guest won’t pay five-star prices. I’m just looking for a normal dude who wants a cheap, comfy place to sleep and shower.  Not too much to ask for, right?

OK, the view from the Mandarin is pretty nice… but my fire escape/laundromat view is right up there.OK, the view from a suite at the Mandarin is pretty nice.  I don't mind my fire escape/laundromat view that much though...

Well, it didn’t quite work out that way for me. 

I put an ad on craigslist and only got one response (I posted it kinda late).  I spoke to the woman on the phone and she sounded really polite and sincere.  She was visiting from Florida and her parents were visiting from India, and they have family that lives in the area, but they didn’t want to stay with them (understandably).  We arranged for her parents, who were already in town, to come see the place that night. 

So they get there, and they seem normal enough.  Pretty quiet.  They bring their brother-in-law. He goes into the bathroom and stays there for five minutes.  I’m near the door.  No tinkling sounds.  This dude is totally snooping through my meds…or taking them (was actually hoping he’d take some deodorant, because the dude was stank).  The parents are walking around, not saying much but exchanging a few comments in Hindi.  We start shooting the breeze a bit, and they seem very friendly and interesting.  By now the brother-in-law is laying on my couch, perusing my coffee table books.  Things are going well with the parents, until:

Mother: Your apartment is very nice.

Me: Thank you.

Father: But, uh, can you move some things?

Me: Huh? Oh yea, sure, I’ll clear space on the dresser for you guys to put your things on, no problem.

Father: No, uh, other things. 

Me: What things?

Father: These things (pointing to picture frames littered throughout the room) and those things (pointing to the posters on my wall).

Me: What? You want me to take down my pictures and posters?

Father:  Uhh Yes. Yes.

Me:  Why?  You know this only for a few days, right?

Father: Yes.

Me:  So then…? (giving a wtf are you talking about look)

Father: Maybe someone will come who doesn’t like those posters and these other things.

Me: What? Why not? Who will come?  Are you planning on having guests?

(Father abruptly pulls out a phone and starts talking to someone in Hindi for 3 minutes, then turns back to me)

Father:  (Looking at wife, then me) OK, we will be frank.  Some people will come to see us here.  (pause) And they cannot see these things. (pause) We would not keep these things in our house. (pause..notices my intensifying glare) OK, because, we are going to tell them that we live here.  That this is our apartment.  So we cannot have these pictures. You see now…you know the truth!

Me: But, how would, why would, are you saying that..

Father: Yes YES exactly! You see now! I am a hindu priest, I cannot have these things! Hookah? No I don’t smoke a hookah, you have to hide this.  And these children [in the pictures], they know my daughter, these are not my children. You see now!?

Me: ………..

Mother: You don’t have to take down everything.

Father: No, no. Just this, that one, these things, yes just take them down, those things, yes see it can come down quickly (nearly ripping poster)..

Me: Don’t touch that poster!

Father: Ok you can do that later of course. Ok so here is some money where do I sign?

Me: Um yea I don’t know about this..

Father:  Oh yes dont worry here take the money we have to go now take the deposit call my daughter to arrange dont worry heresthemoneycalldaughter.

(Door closes behind them)

Ok.  WTF just happened?  Telling people they live here?  How many freaking people were they gonna have over? Why would they lie about that? What else are they lying about?  If there weren’t posters that wouldve busted there cover and would have been impossible to discreetly remove, would they have bothered to tell me this? I doubt it.  And I don’t like the idea of them moving all of my pictures, plaques, posters, arab-esque decor and anything else suggesting that this apartment is not usually inhabited by a conservative Hindu Indian couple in their 60s, which would be a whole lot of stuff.  I’m not trying to come home and re-decorate my apartment, or worse, see something missing and have to put a 60 year old Hindu priest in a head-lock.  Not to mention the fact that they seemed ready to have a Diwali party in my apartment (I thought that wouldn’t be a concern with 60+ year old guests)… and if I came home to see the tall, lanky brother-in-law sitting on the couch, wearing my underwear and watching a pay-per-view bollywood movie, I’d have to kick his ass, then just set my apartment on fire and find a new place to live. 

Actually coming home to this Diwali party would be pretty fun… 

Even if none of this actually happened, having these thoughts run through my head is not my idea of peace of mind, and that is something even more valuable than the small amount of money I wouldve gained for the short rental.  How much value it has to you is something you should strongly consider if you’re ever in the same boat.

McCain’s Pastor is Way Crazier than Obama’s

May 14, 2008

They’re all over a web, but here’s a video of McCain’s Pastor, Rod Parsley, on a rant about his view of America’s sacred mission. 

WTF is up with all these crazy pastors?  Obama’s pastor flipped on him and this dude Parsley is straight-up deranged.  There are some key differences, however, between the two Reverends and the candidates they are linked to. 

Obama’s pastor didn’t have a rep for being crazy until he turned on him, and when he started making all these crazy comments, Obama went out and publicly renounced him.  McCain never renounced Parsley despite making comments that were far more hostile and egregiously inflammatory.  On the contrary, He has actually welcomed the support.  Moreover, seeing as this is not a case where there is some kind of feud or rift between the two (as with Obama/Wright), I cannot imagine that Parsley just came up with this crazy shit recently… I’d wager that he’s been “preaching” (more like spewing) this crap from day 1.  I don’t know about you, but the thought of a guy who has a decent shot at becoming the president of the United States sitting down in church (as I would imagine he has, as he brings up religion and spirituality quite often) listening to Parsley say the kinda stuff he said in this video, nodding and hallelujah-ing and going through the motions and coming back the next week, it just makes me a little queasy.  And by a little I mean a lot. Don’t you think that if Rev. Wright never publicly insulted Obama, or even if he actually still supported him, but made the same kind of comments  as Parsley makes regularly, Barack Obama would renounce any ties with him immediately? 

I think he would. 

Who knows, maybe these pastors are just gloryhogs who want their day in the limelight.  But these dudes don’t preach in front of empty seats, so maybe we should look a little closer to find the root of the problem.  It’s a cryin shame that these politicians would probably catch more flack for not having a pastor than they would for having one who is a malicious psycho.

How sad is that?

The Libelous Label of “Organized Religion”

April 16, 2008

Do you really believe in what you think you believe in?  Do you really believe in what you say you believe in? 

There were so many ways that I could begin this conversation, but I started with those two questions because of the Pope’s visit to the US and the articles Ive been reading recently about how people flock to see him and be blessed by him, and about how others have angrily protested the Vatican’s inaction regarding the implementation of stricter policies governing the handling of priests found guilty of sexual abuse. I was also thinking about someone I overheard in the pantry at my office, speaking to another person about how good his bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich was this morning, and laughing about how “bad” a Jew he was.

What does that even mean?  I wonder if he has ever thought about what it means to be a “bad Jew”, about what the word “bad” means in that context, or even about what the word “Jew” means, in any context.  These words could easily be replaced with “good” or “practicing” or “moderate” or “Muslim” or “Christian” or “Hindu”.

I’m a Catholic.  I heart Jesus.  If it wasn’t for him being born, I wouldn’t have gotten that PS3 for Christmas.  Crap, it’s Lent…I should give up something important to me…OK, no green skittles for a week.

I’m a Muslim, but I loves me a cold beer every now and then.  And that interest I’m collecting from those bonds I bought?  I’m gonna take that to Vegas and let it ride.

Obviously I could continue on that thread for a while.  I just find it strange, these labels we throw around all the time, terms that do little to define who we are and what we believe, even if the terms are meant to do just that – classify us into groups of “organized” “religion” that are supposed to unite those who claim to believe the same things.  But do these labels really serve to unite us?  Or do they just cram a bunch of people under a roof that is inherently fractious? And do not the walls supporting that roof divide us into separate rooms? And does not that roof obstruct our view of the heavens, where the history of our origins lie – the origins that unite us all?

Man, there are so many directions I can run with this, I don’t know where to start.

You may wonder why I quoted “organized” and “religion” separately.  I just think that these words that we use to classify ourselves are thrown around far too often without any thought being given to what they actually mean.  Good luck using a dictionary — I tried looking up “religion” online, and the results were incredibly diverse, and in many cases, stunning.  Does religion have to be a collection of stories and verses that are carved in stone, and whose message we are obligated to embrace as a means of avoiding divine wrath?  Why do so many people equate adherence to a specific set of doctrines with virtue? Why are we so eager to exalt our own beliefs as a singular, one-way path to salvation?

I believe that religion is a highly personal relationship between an individual and some other being, or force, or any other greater power or feeling that that individual chooses to acknowledge.  I believe that an individual’s religion is the totality of his or her philosophies and feelings towards that being and the connection they have with it.  In turn, I believe that this relationship is so unique that no two people in the world believe in and act out those beliefs in exactly the same way, and therefore, no two people have the same religion.  For example, suppose there are two brothers who both call themselves Muslim and believe in the Qur’an as the source of divine knowledge.  One brother believes that every word of the Qur’an, without exception, is divine, and he chooses to practice it as strictly and literally as he possibly can.  The other brother uses the Qur’an as a guide to model his life after, but disagrees with a few aspects of it, or refuses to adhere to one or two codes of conduct (e.g. canon dictating how inheritance should be distributed amongst family members).  By choosing to ignore or expressing doubt in even a single verse of a book that is supposed to be the preserved and complete word of God, he is actually expressing doubt in one of the most fundamental principles of Islam – that the Qur’an as a text is divine.  That cannot be understated; something cannot be almost divine or partially divine, and by choosing to believe in 99% of a text claiming to be 100% divine, the second brother is implicitly rejecting that text’s central claim to divinity.  And while it may seem that the doubt that the second brother harbors regarding one or two specific passages out of an entire text amounts to only a small fracture in his devotion to that text – in this case, a devotion on which piety is utterly dependant – a small fracture in a divine text is one through which the entire universe can pass.  I believe that it would be wrong to say that the two brothers have the same religion, and that, one way or another, this example can be applied to us all.

Accordingly, if we all have a different religion, how can our religions be “organized”?  I don’t think they can be, nor do I think we should strive to make them so.  We do not all have to believe the same thing in order to be unified; on the contrary, I believe that such a philosophy inhibits unity by creating an us/them mentality.  I have met so many people in my life who say that they were born into a religion, as if it was a genetic attribute, and people who claim to be a member of a religious organization yet openly admit to disagreeing with many aspects of that religion.  If you do not believe in it, then it is not your religion.  I think that if religion is merely something you affiliate yourself with rather than something you truly believe in, then you cannot honestly and conscientiously call yourself a practitioner of that religion. You can only be a practitioner of your own religion, because consciously or not, your practices – the very way that you live your life – are a reflection of what you believe, and what you believe is in fact your religion.  Unity is not achieved through conformity, but rather by accepting and embracing each other’s individuality; ironically, our differences are the one thing that we all have in common.