Friday, December 24, 2004


So I would like to tell you all about a magical place that doesn’t quite seem real; one that I like to call Babylon. Babylon used to be a great Empire, and spent some time as a monarchy, and a colony of those effete, tea-drinking flag planters (who in their own right, spent a good amount of time ruling the world). Then Babylon spent quite a bit of time as the mud under the boot of a vile dictator that we the North Mexicans (or Southern Canadians if you prefer) took from power when we landed our big half-assed Imperial Forces in his place as the Rightful Authority.

Babylon is full of Babylonians. The Babylonians cannot be summed up on the whole, any more than any other people can be labeled and tagged with 100% correctness or efficiency. There are of course certain social mores and customs, societal norms that are shared by the majority of the people.

In the last few months, I have had opportunity to chat with large numbers of Babylonians; some have been quite friendly, some have been quite the opposite, but all have had some certain traits that I can speak of. My job, you see, is that of Inquisitor for the Empire, and in our little fiction we are writing here, we will keep in mind that unlike some other Inquisitorial Places, my chamber is free of stacked nude Babylonians, and no chubby faced little miscreants are playing Vanna White with the genitals of bound and blindfolded men. I will not tell you that every Babylonian enjoys their little sessions with me, and sometimes there are those who go to bed with a little sneer and a wish for my discomfort or worse. However, a good Inquisitor can effectively bring out the fears or terrors necessary for certain sessions of Inquisition (and let me please add that such sessions are the vast minority) with a gentle whisper or a furious bellow, and not once do the Inquisitor’s hands and the Babylonian meet.

But it is not of Inquisition that I wish to speak today, but rather as I said of the Babylonians. I have always considered myself to be of open-mind about others. I do not like to consign people to stereotypes or groups. There are however many traits that the leaders of the North Mexican Empire have not taken into consideration in our occupation of Babylon. We, and I do certainly include myself, are generally individualists. There is a concept here normal to Babylon that we do not get, and it is so damn integral to the Babylonian psyche—tribalism. The tribes here are so important. Some tribes have as few as a couple of hundred, and some number up to seven million. They are led by the Sheikh, usually a title bestowed by birth, or sometimes they get the office simply by being the eldest. He makes decisions for the lives of his people. He arranges marriages, treaties, and declares war. Tribal war. Millions will agree to kill because someone’s tribal cousin was wronged.

Which leads us to the next Babylonian norm- Vengeance. The stuff of a thousand hackneyed television plots, the entire reason they made Klingons on Star Trek, revenge. Let’s imagine a convoy of Imperial Humvees riding down a moonlit Babylonian highway. A genuine bad guy with the bad guy weapon of choice (the Kalashnikov AK-47 and its many variants) tries to rid the world of the 19 year-old soldier of the Empire sitting in the turret of the lead truck. Lucky for the 19 year-old, he scavenged from the right trash heap, and has enough armor to stop the lead coming from the Kalashnikov at 600 rounds per minute. Also lucky for him, the South Canadian Empire has given him a .50 caliber machine gun. He returns lead, and his bullets are about three times the mass, and about ten times the destructive power. These go through our genuine bad guy, the wall behind him, the house behind that, and the young Babylonian asleep in that house. This means his brother in the bed next to him has legal and moral right to kill an Imperial soldier. That’s right, the moral right. It is expected to strike back at the tribe that did this thing, and the Forces of the Empire are currently the most powerful tribe. So, next moonlit night it all begins again, but rather than an honest Bad Guy, it is the victim’s brother or cousin with the Kalashnikov. Right now in Babylon, these people are extracting vengeance on the Imperial Forces, on their neighbors, on the members of the former dictators brutal regime, on tribal debts accrued a century ago—the entire nation is a festering pool of vengeance. No one is willing to be the one to put the gun down first. And no soldier, man or woman, is safe.

And speaking of women, don’t we North Mexicans do a great job of trying to equalize gender roles in society? In our businesses and homes, we generally accept women to be humans, probably even equals. There are officers in our Imperial Forces that are women! The Babylonians don’t understand that, and inversely we don’t understand the status of women in this culture. I have spoken to Babylonians who personally killed their daughters for engaging in pre-marital sex. Brothers who have beaten their sisters for talking to a man on the street. Husbands here who have taken two or three wives, and actively cultivated hatred between his two families that he can control. Women are stoned, women are beheaded, women are shot. Rape is a common occurrence. Indeed, I had to share oxygen with a man who had been married for about a week, and by all reports to a very attractive young woman. Then, a whole week into his marriage he and a friend went out to find a prostitute and rape her. Then, he was likely going to kill her, but he got caught and came to me.

Life in Babylon is cheap. Very cheap. Dime a freaking dozen. People are killed for money. People are killed for vengeance. People are killed for gasoline. One of the oil richest nations on Earth, and people are shooting each other for long gas lines. Our new Babylonian Guard we’ve created and some gas station security guards that we hired got in a gunfight with automatic weapons over whether or not the Babylonian Guard had to pay for the gas. And these are the people we want to set up to run this show and make it better than Ousted Brutal Dictator. The Babylonians don’t hate death. They embrace it and define themselves by it. That’s the thing isn’t it?

The right to rule is the right to bestow death. Be it by declaring war, carrying out executions, or deciding who gets the flu vaccine, the Powers That Be have to decide who lives and who dies. There is only one type of person that can be allowed to wield that power— someone who hates death. Only someone who hates death, who hates the gun can have the bullets. And we, the South Canadian Empire, have given the death-loving Babylonians the bullets, and now can’t figure out why it isn’t working. Can’t figure out why things are still blowing up, and mortars are still falling, and rockets are still flying. We expected them to be us, to love freedom and not to want to kill or die senselessly.

Oh God help us, we were wrong.

Monday, December 13, 2004

A Poem

I based this poem on the Islamic 99 names of God. I haven't named it yet.

Compassionate, Pure, Merciful Protector;
Almighty, Faithful, Compelling Sovereign;
Peaceful Lord.

Forgiving Creator; Inventor, Designer.
Almighty Provider; Omniscient Donor.
Revealing Recipient.

Gracious, Equitable Judge; All-hearing, All-seeing Exalter;
Raiser, Humbler; Expander, Subduer.

Sagacious, Gentle, Mighty Forgiver;
Greatest Exalted Nourisher; Thankful Preserver;

Majestic, Generous, Omnipresent Watcher;
Judicious Answerer;
Affectionate Resurrector;
Glorious Witness.

Powerful Truth, Trustee;
Commendable Friend, Life-giving Enumerator;
Praiseworthy Creator, Restorer.

Life-giver, Death giver; Ever-living, Self-sustaining;
Perfect; Unique, Illustrious Finder;
Capable; Able.

First Expediter, Last Deferrer;
Apparent Master, The Veiled Most-High;
Relenting and Pious.

Indulgent Avenger, Generous Ruler of the Kingdom;
Just Pardoner, Rich, Gathering Bestower;

Afflicter, Benefactor, Wonderful Guiding Light;
Patient Inheritor, Incomparable Eternal Consciousness.

Saturday, December 04, 2004


For the love of Yahweh, it is already December. That's actually good, making it all the sooner I will be leaving Babylon and returning to a more civilized place where the preferred method of civil disobedience is public drunken nudity rather than beheading. I may consider engaging in some drunken public nudity myself. My firm doesn't look kindly on that, but they try to make us all wear the same earth-tones outfits as well, and they do nothing for my hips.

On the lighter side, I got some new comic books in the mail today, and they are good. I also recently re-reread the first three volumes of the collected "Powers" series by Bendis and Oeming. I never fail to be blown away by their ability to tell some pretty devastatingly emotional tales with artwork that is stylistically reminiscent of the "DC Adventures" comics. I don't think anyone can deny the impact of Olympia's wife's reaction to his public death and the revelations that he had taken comfort from hundreds of groupies. I think they go five or six pages with no dialogue, and it is great.

Finished a horribly disappointing book- Jonathan Carrol's "White Apples." He excelled at creating truly weird moments, but just couldn't bring it all together in the end. His God-concept is pretty good though, as much as the story goes nowhere. Maybe I just didn't get it, but I really was left with the feeling there was nothing to get.

Watched a really fascinating movie recently; "Return to Oz." now, this is a movie that was lambasted when it came out, I'm sure because it is far more true to the source material than magnesia classic ever thought of being. Sure, who doesn't love Judy singing "Over the Rainbow?" This is a different type of trip though. Notably, it is Fairuza Balk's first film, as a more age appropriate Dorothy. The film also involves serial decapitation, electro-shock therapy, inanimate objects brought to life, people turning to sand, and the only villains in movie history as creepy as Flying monkeys, the Wheelers. It's really a well made film though, with Jim Henson's shop working overtime on the animatronics, Will Vinton's claymation, and some great imagery that didn't rely on computer effects to make a movie. Don't expect musical goodness, but it is well worth checking out. I don't think you can play "Dark Side of the Moon" along with it though...

I'll tell you what else I have to talk about- William Shatner's "Has Been" album. Now, one could probably argue this is a Ben Folds album with Shatner narrating, but the damn thing is bloody brilliant. I defy anyone to find a better study on classism than "Common People" or anything more chilling than Shatner confronting his deceased wife in "What Have You Done?"

Arrogance. We The People of the United States are full of it. In a lot of ways, we kinda earn that right. For all our troubles and blemishes, the vast majority of our country lives in safety and health, and does not go to bed hungry. Our poorest are better off than most of the planet (if you have ten bucks in your pocket, you have more money than some 75% of the worlds population). We are so good in so many ways, but we let that go to our heads. We enjoy freedom and our Republic, and we believe everyone else must want what we have right? A lot do- but not everyone. Not everyone knows what it means. Not everyone knows that with freedom comes responsibility. You have to be involved for freedom to work, you have to be accountable for freedom to work. We cannot expect people to have never had the right to think for themselves to do it right overnight. We have to teach them (or not push ourselves in them in the first place, and let them earn freedom like we did...).

I don't know what all these subjects in this post have to do with one another, but they are all in my head. Maybe it is the approaching Babylonian winter, or the spring that will (hopefully) take me home, but my mind's a scramble right now. It is a swirl of the inane and the severe, the important, and the really-way-not-important.

A beautiful woman sent me pictures of herself today. That made me happier than my comics.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Holiday in Babylon

Recently, there was a traditional American holiday celebrated by my fellow inmates; Thanksgiving. You may ask what people of my persuasion do to celebrate such a day in Babylon, and for that matter, what exactly there is to be thankful for. I may answer...

I received a box of Christmas decorations from my Ultra-Conservative Aunt (UCA from here on out). UCA means well, and did send some fun decorations so we decided we were going to take the common area, and for Thanksgiving put up the Christmas decorations. Now, we are a diverse bunch here holding down the fort in Babylon: we've got Christians, Muslims, a former Druid, some I don't knows, a Mystic Humanist, and me, the ChristoJewiTaoBuddIslamic who'll celebrate pretty much anything. Realize also, that we hadn't taken down the Halloween decorations that the Lady Jennifer had sent our way- and we decided not too. The Christmas decorations went right over them. Colored lights now run along a row of paper bats, our hanging ghost is wearing reindeer antlers, and our over-the-door pumpkins are now holding the mistletoe (appropriately enough I kissed our former Druid under said religion's contribution to Christmas- he's a nice man though and did not try to slip me the tongue, quite a gentleman).

Once the decorating and frolicking was done, we made our way to what our Father's called a "mess hall," but my firm now haughtily refers to it as a "Dining Facility." We grabbed food, and I must say the spread was none too bad. Had all the traditionals, and the guy in charge with all the silver on his hat went around shaking hands. We brought our food back to the common area we had decorated. Candles were lit, we said a prayer, and enjoyed each other's company for a while before going back to work.

So what were we thankful for? Being alive was a good start. Having all of us there and not mourning a friend was good. Hopefully we'll be going home soon. Hopefully our Nation will exercise some more common sense (as opposed to exorcising it) and not create another fiasco like this one. That would be something to be thankful for.

Am I bitter? A bit, but I do my duty. "All enemies foreign and domestic" and all- which am I fighting in Babylon?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Randomly listed things I really like.

Mexican food.

TV shows with Vampires, robots, or spies trapped in strange villages they can't get out of.

Action figures with more than 10 points of articulation.

William Shatner's "Has Been" album.

Lying under the covers on a cold morning and blowing off work.

Where her shoulder meets her neck.

Monsoon season in Arizona.

PJ O'Roarke talking about politics.

Movies about baseball (though I hate baseball- ironic, isn't it?).

People who can admit they're wrong.

Not having to admit I was wrong.

When she comes in from the snow outside and you can smell the cold on her skin.

Books and movies I have to take in a couple of times to "get."

Princess Leia in the steel bikini.

God letting you know They're there.


Big, gay musicals.

Godzilla movies.

Babylonians who don't want me to blow up.

Comic books.

Chuck Palhaniuk books.

The Oedipus Cycle.

Being alone- but not too alone.


Old locomotive engines.


Anahiem chilis.


Self-indulgent blogs.

Monday, November 15, 2004

What's in a name? Plenty...

Whew, been pretty serious here lately, and I think I need to lighten up. Though it would seem our ticket is marked destination: Armageddon, that doesn't mean you have to spend all your time worked up about it. Got to relax, got to think about the good things. I think if we all did that a little more often, not only would The End seem less imminent, it might actually be pushed off some.

But again, I am not here to talk about the imminentization of the eschaton! I am here to talk about a name. It's a lovely name, and in my opinion the single sexiest name in the English language:


Let me say up front that I have a certain bias- I've been rather fond of a few Jennifers in my lifetime; most importantly, my sole chosen life-mate and partner for the rest of my time converting oxygen into carbon dioxide (and might I hope for beyond?) is named Jennifer. Just consider, however, this name and its variants. "Jennifer" itself has three syllables that manage to roll off the tongue in so many ways. Called across a field, its three vowels will carry it through the strongest wind. In a whisper, minor fluctuations in the hardness of the "J" can render it an impassioned plea, or a tender verbal caress. And in the Little Death, it can be a pleasure/pain expression worthy of the Song of Solomon or Ravel's Bolero.

As "Jenny," it can evoke a personality to challenge Nabokov's Lolita in mixed signals, or can be the perfectly innocent name of the girl next door who is not at all "that type." Jenny, Jenny, who can I run to?

As "Jenna" it can bring thoughts of an icon of our current culture's sexuality, and give "just Jennifer" the mystique of someone far more dangerous to your good social sense.

As "Jen" there is the friend, the buddy, the person you laugh with. Jen is affable and straightforward and practical- but there's still that Jennifer (or maybe that Jenna) there, waiting for her turn.

Jennifer. Say it with me now folks; "Jennifer." Close your eyes, hold it in your head and let it come out the mouth: Jennifer. It gets no lovelier than that. If you're lucky enough to know a Jennifer, find a way to tell her you know you're lucky. Maybe Jen will give you a smile; maybe Jenny will giggle a bit; maybe she'll introduce you to Jenna...

Monday, November 08, 2004

Would you look at that...

Well, we went and did it. GW is back in for four more. The only good news here is we don't have to listen to John Kerry for a while. It will be interesting to see if this means we are looking at another four years of half-assed imperialism, if we're going to back off and play nice while cleaning up the mess of the first four years, or if we'll throw off the sheep's clothing and have four years of real imperialism. The American Empire isn't so bad an idea necessarily, but there's a few things we need. One, we'll need a much bigger Army- hell, we need a bigger Army just to maintain our current level of meddling. Two, we need to actually wipe out a few cities in the next country-that-will-become-an-American-province. The reason I still have Babylonian mortars and rockets falling on my head while I'm trying to sleep is because we didn't secure this country with an iron fist. If we're going to stick our nose (or tank barrel) in another country's rhubarb, we need to actually take over that country! Otherwise you're again looking at more post-victory deaths than war time ones.

Am I supporting the idea of America shoving our brand of pseudo-democracy up the world's collective rectum at every opportunity? No. But I wish the Powers That Be would understand that is what they are doing, and act accordingly. There are no friendly Empires- that way lies a fallen Republic.

So that brings up another issue. Here we've got this Government thing, and this time we actually had decent voter turn out. Guess what lads and lasses: it doesn't end there. Civic responsibility starts in the voting booth. From there are the petitions, e-mails, phone calls, and general bothersome contacts to make sure your elected representative knows what his or her boss (that's you, tiger) wants them to do. You see, a Republic like ours is a lot like a puppy. If you don't teach it what you want it to do it goes wild and ends up peeing on your rug. Of course, this puddle looks a lot like higher taxes and more Federal meddling into how you want to live your life. I beseech thee- once a year drop a letter to your congressional folks. Even if you like what they're doing, let them know you are paying attention. Remember, Tommy Jefferson wants us to have a government by us, for us, and of us. Let's keep it that way.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Et in Arcadia Ego...

Edmund Burke once said that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil was for good men to do nothing. That's a good thought, but not necessarily true. Good men do a lot of things with the best of intentions that turn out to do nothing but serve evil. Evil is sublime. Evil is cunning. Evil is not based only on willful action or omission, it is based on the Universe's tendency toward balance.

Balance is not always good. Balance means that for every good there is an evil. Fair means for every triumph there is a loss. I don't want fair, I want the good guys to win no matter what. I want righteousness to have an advantage. I want Good to push Evil out of the way and reach out to the ends of the Earth.

When that has happened, when it is done, there will be a time of peace; but unless individuality is lost there will be dissent. When there is dissent there will be sides. Evil will use that. In whatever perfect world there may be, so long as people can think, there will always be an apple.

Et in Arcadia Ego.

To be continued...

Monday, October 18, 2004

God Willing

Well, I’ve been off and distracted so I haven’t been able to come up with anything especially insightful or witty. The things I’ve read lately have been fluff, though I have read some pretty good comic books. Most recently I have enjoyed “Superman: Red Son” which may be one of the top five comics I’ve ever read, and “Powers” volumes 1 through 3 by Michael Bendis. Those are also classics, just like Bendis’ work on Ultimate Spider-man.

Saw “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” which was like watching a live action Max Fleischer cartoon, and equally enjoyable. Angelina Jolie in an eye-patch; God bless that kid. Seriously though, it was very well conceived and produced and a nice break from standard fair.

My state sent me a second absentee ballot. The first, which I commented on before, was only a write in, so supposedly the state sends one to ensure you can vote in case your regular ballot doesn’t arrive. Seriously, that’s what they say. So I actually got to vote against Bush and Kerry and for Badnarik twice! Gosh I hope they count them. I’m also trying to get Fichus on my county board of supervisors…

Right now I am listening to symphonic Pink Floyd in between rocket attacks rattling the windows. One thing being here has shown me is the ability of humans, which I must claim as my species, to adapt. Sure, some are reduced to quivering masses of tear producing flesh, but the majority of us go about our business and count our fingers and toes after they hear the boom. A mortar shell bouncing off your roof does get your attention though.

I had a friend get shrapnel this week, and he is leaving Babylon to go home. He’ll be OK, but we had some worried moments. There are three awards I never want to receive from my firm: the Purple Heart, the POW medal, and the Congressional Medal of Honor; too often those are awarded posthumously. I’m not scared of death, but I’m really enjoying this plane of existence right now.

We had a couple of people here leave this plane of existence earlier this week. I had coffee with one of them the night before. He stayed up late watching Al-Arabiya TV, then went in the morning to get a shower. A 107MM Chinese rocket, which the Babylonians aren’t supposed to have, landed about 20 feet from him. Not fair, not unjust, just was his time. There’s no real defense, there’s no real prep besides wearing some protective gear. What do you do?

Go on living. Listen to Pink Floyd and watch Angelina Jolie make eye-patches look sexy. Read comic books. Post a blog. Insh’allah.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Some stuff.

So, being as I am in a warm, dry place where metal encased explosives fall from the sky periodically, I got to vote by absentee this week. Perhaps I have been cheated because I will not be able to factor into my decision the last four weeks of scandal, mudslinging, and punditry, but I am comfortable with my decision: Michael Badnarik.

That's right ladies and gentleman, I voted Libertarian. Frankly, as much as I know I threw away my vote, it will be worth it in a year to look at the man in the White House and say, "don't blame me, I voted for Michael Badnarik." Frankly I have no faith in the candidates of either of the major parties, and could not in good conscience take part in the appointment of either man. I may have made an ineffectual gesture, but at least I can look at myself in the mirror. The Philosopher Jester strikes again.*

In unrelated news; love hurts. Love scars. It wounds, it mars any heart not strong or tough enough to take a lot of pain.

But it is a many splendored thing, and all you need... Like oxygen even.

Dawn Wells was born 18 Oct 1938. Frankly, she's still gorgeous, like some kind of Mary Ann-droid. She's also a Libra like me (19 Oct).

*Philosopher Jester is a title I based on Plato's Republic; if there a ruler should be a Philosopher King, I figured every ruled kingdom would need a Philosopher Jester. Tertium Quid Pro Quo.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Thou shalt not...

When I covet, I feel guilty about it. The feeling itself however does not feel "wrong." Why is that?

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Fast. No faster.

So today I tried something I’ve never done before; I fasted. It was Yom Kippur and as much as I have a tendency to only practice the easy or helpful parts of my Judaic heritage, I decided this Day of Atonement was the one for me to fast on.

I’m not really sure what I was looking for here, maybe I thought I needed atonement for some of the things my job has made me do these last few months. Even that is cheating to say though, because no job made me do anything. I decided to do the things I’ve done and I’ve never been forced to do anything. My sins are my own, clutched tightly to my soul like a bag of cancer. Not eating for 24 hours doesn’t really alleviate those sins, but I decided it was something I wanted to do.

Naturally I woke up hungry, but I resigned myself to juice; it was necessary to keep my strength up because I do have a somewhat important job, and I still had to do it. I found though, that even though I was hungry, I didn’t miss food much when I resigned myself to not eating. I did notice just how much I eat, because I would catch every time I would have gone snacking, and it was more than I care to admit. By noon, I was in the groove though, so I had nothing to worry about.

And then 4 PM rolled around. Hour 22 of my fast, I felt hollow, but my head felt clear. This was after a bit of a headache earlier, but suddenly I felt good. It was a minor euphoria almost like a drugged state, and I liked it. In some small way, focusing on why I was doing this, I felt God, just a bit, off in the distance, in the way that usually requires a lot of prayer and thought. There He was.

I ended the day in peace, and then at the appropriate time I ate dinner, and not too much, but it was the best damn burger I’ve had in a long time.

So here I am, now with some nutrition in my body, and I still feel good. I get the fasting thing now. There’s a cleansing feeling after it, and it is good.

I may not even wait a whole year to do it again.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Random Thoughts

Well, this is nowhere near as focused an entry as I've been posting lately, but I wanted to keep a pattern of posting so I don't let this go by the wayside. The place I happen to be has a lot of repetitive days, so I don't usually have "oh wow" things to report. I had a pretty good conversation last night regarding the eventual evolutionary state of humankind, and I did read some really good comics books (highly recommend Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man; eta ochen' horoshaya k'neega). Today I had reason to have heated conversations with locals from the country I am stuck in, and I pretty much had to be a dick, but it is part of my job.

I have an ultra-conservative sister. God bless her, she mails me a lot of goodies, but she generally includes Republican propaganda in each taste of home. This time she sent a Bush bumper sticker. I gave it to the redneck I work with and wished him good luck. I wonder if I can vote for Dennis Leary as president? Some good old Irish common sense would do the Executive Branch some good.

Jolene Blalock, T'Pol the Vulcan on that lousy Star Trek: Enterprise, said she didn't think the writers handle Vulcans, and especially her character, properly. I love her for it, but if she was a little more willing to keep her skivvies on, the writers might be a little less willing to find ways to get her into them. Don't get me wrong- my amygdala leaps with glee every time she shows up in Maxim or Stuff, but I don't need smut on my Trek. My kids watch for crying out loud.

I got a comment on one of my blogs. Yeah, it's someone I know, but it's one of my favorite people so that's OK. I'll have to return the favor, but I don't want to seem needy. Said individual just corrected Chuck Palahniuk on a couple of facts in a story in Stranger Than Fiction; I recommend that book as well even if he referred to Whitefish, Montana as White Fish, Montana.

I haven't worn a cowboy hat since I was 12.

My favorite US President is Teddy Roosevelt.

In High School I pierced my ear in my girlfriend's art class to impress her, but then I only kept it for four days because it looked silly on me.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Life of Pi

If you have not read Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, do not read any further. Simply go immediately to Amazon and buy it, or trundle down to your local Barnes and Noble and make the purchase. Otherwise, my spoiler filled review of this book begins… now:

This is one of those rare books that reaches out and punches you right in the gut, evoking a visceral reaction that so few authors are capable of. Chuck Palahniuk does it; William S. Burroughs does it; Harlan Ellison does it. Usually though they do it with a shock of some sort that’s just outside the realm of social acceptance and well into the “eww…” sector. Though I find Palahniuk usually has a coy message hidden in his stories (such as the extinction of the family unit creating our dear Tyler Durden in Fight Club), the type of writing that is heart (or stomach) rending like that is usually nihilistic. Life of Pi is different.

The story is broken into three parts. The first is about a young Indian boy whose family owns a zoo. He is a precocious little Hindu who begins to notice that God exists in more forms even than his Hindu pantheon and becomes not only a practicing Christian in addition to his native faith, but later tacks on Islam. The young boy, Pi Patel, not only finds no conflict, he sees this as his true expression of faith. Circumstances lead to his family relocating to Canada—and bringing along the zoo. They hire a freighter and set sail. The second part of the book begins when the ship sinks.

Pi makes it to a lifeboat, but he is not alone. The lad shares his space with a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and most troubling, a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. It becomes a story of the human will to survive as boy and tiger (the other creatures falling prey to the hyena, who then falls to the tiger) work out a way to live with one another. What Pi believes will be only a few days becomes seven months adrift.


In the third part, Pi makes it to land, and you think you have this book all figured out. Oh yes, what a great story about how this boy’s faith kept him going, and he has survived and is the better for it.

Then you get the real story, one of murder and cannibalism where each of the animal players is revealed to be a person, and that final survivor, the cunning Richard Parker is really the boy dealing with his own acts: the death of his mother, his defeat of the ship’s cook that has been so primly described as hyena. A lesser author would stop with that. Martel doesn’t.

He asks you to choose. He asks you to choose the better story, illustrating an early chapter where he compares the death experiences of two people. One, a lifelong atheist sees the tunnel and the light, and makes the deathbed leap of faith to believe. The other, and agnostic, hems and haws about asphyxia and tricks of the brain, and “misses the better story.” With the book, there is almost the feeling of being cheated, and uncomfortable pain when you realize what Pi has really endured as opposed to his incredible adaptation. He rips your heart out of your chest, and asks if you have the ability to put it back in again by accepting the better story.

It is rather serendipitous that I came upon this book right now—or maybe I’ll choose the better story and admit God placed the book in my hands when I most needed it. I have been carrying on a discussion with a pretty fundamentalist Christian about biblical interpretation; should the Bible be literally interpreted at all times? I have been trying to get him to understand that the Bible can be right without necessarily being correct. For example, whether or not there was an Adam or Eve is not the question or the point—the story illustrates how we were as blissfully ignorant as beasts before we learned the difference between good and evil; we became self aware, started building laws and religions and sky scrapers. The Bible in this case is right, but likely not literally correct.
Pi gives me a great illustration on how this can be so, and also puts me in the position of my fundamental friend. It is my safe beliefs that are called into question, and now I must decide which version of Pi’s story is right or correct. I am reminded that my ability to get people to understand different viewpoints on religion can also hurt their own, and how I must use a certain discretion. Otherwise I become as guilty as those who I accuse of attacking different faiths, rather than trying to accept and understand. Thanks Mr. Martel, and thank you God, for the kick in the guts.

Thursday, September 09, 2004


OK, let me get this straight; the media wants us to judge who we choose to be our next president based on what they may or may not have done thirty years ago in the military. I don't know about you folks, but who I was 30, or even 20 years ago doesn't have a whole hell of a lot to do with who I am now, and who I will be in four years. Can we please concentrate on relevant facts? Let's talk about 1000 dead soldiers in Iraq, or the fact that the war really never ended as much as we want to claim it has. Let's talk about Kerry's plan to add two Divisions to the US Army, and the impossible to avoid draft that will result in. You want to discuss the candidates and the military? Then there's plenty of things to complain about RIGHT NOW that are far more important than an air guard record or an anti-war book.

One more thing- I'm no Kerry fan, but if anyone has a right to bitch about a war, it's a soldier who fought in it. You know what? I'm pretty anti-war right now because I'm tired of mortars falling on my head. He fought a tougher war than I am, and if it really turned him on the military for a while, I can't blame him. I'll blame him for current plans to screw it up.

Sunday, September 05, 2004


It is very late and I am very tired, but I've been putting off talking about something I really need to get rid of. My Dad is very sick. Realize the man is 72 years old, and has never really taken care of himself, but I'm afraid to say that I don't know how much time he has left. He started getting easily winded in the summer of 2003, and the doctors decided he needed a bipass. Well, his health has been on a steady decline since. For every step forward there are two steps back. There really isn't anything I can do. I would like to be there for him, but right now I'm part of the effort to keep Babylon from consuming itself in the wake of the War on Terror. He is in the hospital again, and they have finally said that there is just nothing they can do for him. I made him promise me he'd hold out until I came back to visit when I am released from this Middle Eastern mess, but after this week I don't think he's going to make it.

A very selfish part of me doesn't want to see him; he has always been the strongest human I've ever met, and though at times he is mean, and there were parts of my childhood he made hell, I have a deep emotional bond with him, and we have always had a special understanding of one another. I don't know that I want to see him down, I don't know that I want to see him hurt. The fact is though I want to see him again and I don't know if I will this side of Valhalla. Yes, it is the natural order of things, but Goddamn I'm going to miss him.

So there it is - I've really internalized most of this. The people around me here don't really know about it, and my family doesn't know my feelings. But now it is here for all to see; an anonymous confession to strangers that I am scared my Dad is going to die. Funny huh? I almost think saying it out loud would solidify it and make it true. Now I have put it out for the world, but in a backhanded fashion. As if it is a way to confess and yet not make it happen.

Here is the truth though. My Dad is going to die, if not now, then in the not too distant future. And one day my son will have to deal with my death, and his son will deal with his. It will just keep going and going because it is the natural order of things. Objectively, I understand that. Rationally, I know it must be. Spiritually, my faith tells me death is no end. But practically? I fucking hate it.

When my Dad dies I will be separate from one of my favorite people. I will cry and probably rage, and maybe entertain a fantasy or two about revenge on the doctor who said the surgery would be good for him and give him another 20 years. But mostly I will be sad that the last thing my Dad hears won't be me telling him I love him. I tell him a lot, but I can't be there this time. I hope he knows how much he has influenced me and helped me to be the man I am today. I hope he knows he meant something, because he has always been my hero. I love you Dad.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The Baseball

This is a story I wrote quite some time ago. Enjoy...

The Baseball
by Dan

For almost his entire life, Jacob Morris had something to look forward to. Jacob was an old man now, almost ninety, but still his moment awaited him. A moment when all his trials and tribulations would be justified. A moment when he would be complete.
It was such a simple thing, really. It had started when he was eight years old, and his now long dead father had lifted him on to his shoulder so he could see better at the ball park. He could still remember the smell of the roasted peanuts, and the burned hot dogs. He could still hear the crowd, cheering as the greatest baseball player of them all had swaggered onto the field. It was Babe Ruth, in all his magnificent glory. A huge man, not like the pansies who ran the diamond today. He was a man of presence, and to the eight year old Jacob he was a god.
Every moment of the game was a joy for Jacob. It was the first time Jacob saw the game with his eyes, rather than his mind, sitting before the old RCA, not able to tell the static from the cheers. His father had spent almost a weeks pay for tickets. Times were hard, for the entire country, but it was Jacob’s birthday, and a good father never let his boy down on his birthday. It was half-way through the fifth inning that the event that would change Jacob’s life happened.
With a sharp crack, a cheer, and a crowd coming to its feet, Babe Ruth hit yet another home run. Jacob chortled with glee as the ball sailed high, almost lost in the clouds, then hurtled back into the screaming masses below. . .
Directly into Jacob’s outstretched ball cap. His father laughed, the fan’s around him cheered, and Jacob whooped with victory. But the glory had only begun.
The Yankee’s won of course, and afterwards, the legendary Babe Ruth found young Jacob, and actually signed the prize. Jacob stood with awe as the Babe handed him back the ball, tousled his hair, and shook his father’s hand. That night Jacob fell asleep, The Baseball held tightly in his little hand. It was a day he never forgot.
Neither did New York City. The Baseball held a position of honor in Jacob’s room until the day that the Mayor of New York himself, at the request of community leaders, came to ask Jacob a favor.
The city of New York was burying a time capsule. This, the mayor explained, would be an airtight box filled with the objects of the times. Newspapers, clothes, record albums, the things that defined the city.
They also wanted The Baseball.
The Baseball would be sealed up with an explanation of whom the ball belonged to, and where it had come from. The capsule would be opened again in 80 years. Jacob resisted. He valued The Baseball more than anything he owned. Sometimes he would just sit and look at it remembering the crowd, the game, the joy. . .
“It will always be safe,” his father told him. No matter what happened, or where Jacob went, he would always know where the ball was, and that it was protected. Reluctantly, Jacob agreed.
At the ceremony, Jacob fought back the tears. He was cheered up by a personal letter from Babe Ruth, thanking him for his contribution. It was still difficult to watch that metal cylinder, so like a coffin, be lowered into the ground. Time passed.
Jacob grew. He fought in a war that involved the whole world. He married and had children. He buried both his parents, and a son who died in a war in Southeast Asia. He saw grandchildren born, and saw them provided for by his business, a mortuary. Through it all though, he waited. While stomping through the snow of Germany, he remembered the crack of the bat. Learning how to embalm a corpse, he thought of The Baseball, sitting on his shelf. At the funeral of his son, he thought about how he could not pass on The Baseball to that son, and how the boy would never come out of his own metal cylinder. He outlived his wife, and all but one of his children, for one reason; The Baseball.
After eighty years, already a new century, they dug up the capsule.

“Since 1927, this capsule has held for us a reminder of what we used to be, who we were. It has waited patiently for us to pull it out of the ground, and remember a simpler time.” New York had a new mayor now, though to Jacob he seemed too much like the man from 1927 to tell the difference.
“Also waiting patiently,” the mayor continued, “was this man,” he motioned to where Jacob sat, and in an instant a phalanx of video cameras was pointed his way. Jacob did his best to not look like a crotchety old man, though he knew that was what he was. He was here for only one reason. He wanted The Baseball.
“Eighty years ago, this man gave a gift to this city. The gift of a baseball. Not just any baseball however, but one of special importance to a nine year old boy. A ball signed by the legendary Babe Ruth.”
Ooh’s and Ah’s rose from the crowd at the mention of the Great Bambino. Babe Ruth was and always would be, an honored hero. And now, once again, was Jacob.
The capsule was now buried in the middle of a K-Mart parking lot. Sometime during the mid Seventies the store had been built. By the time the historical foundation had found out, they were already having their first Blue Light Special. The current owner of the store was being paid a great deal of money to have his parking lot dug up in this ceremony. Jacob had been here before. After he found the store here, he would sometimes drive here late at night to be close to The Baseball. It cleared his head and allowed him to think. After his wife died last year, he’d had his granddaughter Stacy drive him here for four straight hours. It was one of the reasons they had put him in the home.
Soon, the backhoes were digging, and it wasn’t long until Jacob heard the men yelling over the din that they had found it. A small crane pulled the case out, laying it on a thick red carpet laid out for this reason. To Jacob, something seemed wrong. He scowled through the applause. This was not the case that had been buried in 1927. No one else had been there when it went under, and they didn’t see the difference. Jacob stood and moved forward with a strength he hadn’t felt in years. He pushed through the crowd until he could see them opening it. When it opened, there was applause, then silence at the puzzled look on the face of the historian who had pulled back the lid.
Sitting on the very top of the momentos in the capsule was a newspaper. Jacob noticed that the picture was almost like a mirror of the scene around him. He then realized that it was the scene around him. There he was in the corner of the picture, a look of amazement on his face. He barely noticed the flashbulb go off in front of him. The paper was the New York Times, and it was dated July 17th, 2007.
Numbly he read the headline.
He could not read the rest of the story, the historian who now held it was shaking. Jacob was beginning to feel suspicious. Someone was pulling a prank, and if they had done something to The Baseball. . .
What could he do? How could they find who did this. It would have to have been done before the store was built, unless they actually had torn up the parking lot at some point. No, that didn’t make sense. Why go to the trouble? Could this really be . . . what the hell was it?
The chief historian was beginning to pull more things out of the case. A type of blanket, made from a metallic looking material. A device that looked like a computer screen and keyboard, but could not have been more than a quarter inch thick. Suddenly, the man pushed everything back in, closing the lid.
“Call the university! We need a scientist!” Jacob noticed someone run toward the K-Mart. Most people just gawked. It was almost dark before someone arrived. He had the look of a snobbish intellectual, his glasses riding on the tip of his nose. He did not seem to be happy about being here. Jacob had waited, and was losing the adrenaline rush he had experienced before. He stood wearily as the new arrival spoke tersely with the historian, and then opened the capsule.
In a moment, no one could get the scientist’s attention. He searched through furiously, marveling over each new discovery. Jacob sat back in his chair, and soon dozed off. His dreams disturbed him. Most of them dealt with the loss of The Baseball. He dreamed of his father, and of his own life. He had waited for this moment, only to have it interrupted by some strange new discovery that now lay where The Baseball should have been. What use was there now? He felt himself aging in his sleep. Growing older even than he already was. Just when his dreams told him he would never wake up again, a loudspeaker sounded, waking him.
He was not sure how much time had passed. Enough though that a stage-full contingent of scientists now stood and knelt around the objects scattered there. At the microphone, meant for a simple ceremony, a stunning announcement was about to be made. It was the scientist from before who spoke.
“For those of you who don’t know me, I am Dr. Barnes from the engineering department of the University. I was called down here today to what we all thought was the opening of a time capsule from the year 1927. What we believe we have actually discovered is. . . well a care package from the year 2087, some 80 years in our future.” There was a collection of disbelieving gasps from the audience. Dr. Barnes continued.
“For those of you who don’t believe this, we have set up a demonstration,” he motioned to an assistant who began playing with a small box on a tripod. In a moment, a three dimensional image of Dr. Barnes stood on the stage, about half as tall as his live counterpart. It spoke.
“For those of you who don’t know me, I am Dr. Barnes from the engineering department of the University,” it continued through what the real Dr. Barnes had said, then began to look like the scientist, watching an invisible image to it’s right.
“This is a holographic recording of today’s events. Reporters from the New York Times, USA Today, and American Gazette may see the articles they will write about this if they wish. There is also a collection of various items, to include some medical instruments, years ahead of our current technology.” A reporter in the front row raised his hand.
“Do we know where this thing came from?” He asked, pointing a directional mike at the scientist.
“As yet no. But we do know that it was no accident. Whoever put this here, and now, did it on purpose. We surmise it was in order to improve their own society. Our problem now is the potential for paradox.” Puzzled looks from the reporters made Dr. Barnes continue. “We don’t know if our benefactors intended only for us to use these items, or to develop them further. They may have wanted to change our future, their past, and consequently their present. If that happens, the people who sent this back may never send it back, causing a paradox.” The reporters were dumbfounded and said nothing.
“Was there anything else in there?” The question came from behind. It was the forgotten Jacob who spoke, forgotten by the nurse from the resthome, who still gawked from the audience, forgotten by the scientists. Dr. Barnes brow furrowed, not recognizing this man. One of his assistants however spoke up.
“Are you Jacob?” he asked. Jacob, old beyond old only nodded. The assistant walked forward, placing a box in Jacob’s trembling hands. The box was black metal, but felt warm to the touch. Jacob tried but couldn’t open it. The assistant placed his finger flat on top, and the box sprung open.
Jacob’s heart leapt with joy. Inside was The Baseball. It was just as he remembered it. The years had not faded the writing at all, and the leather was still a crisp white. Of course, for all he knew, the original capsule had been dug up right after its burial, replaced with the one from the future. Only this object was from 1927, separated from the box that held it by 160 years. It was all Jacob cared about.
The feeling of youth coming back to him, he smiled at the young assistant, whispering a thank you. He then walked down the steps to the stage, ignoring the looks and questions from the reporters. He went straight to his nurse.
“I can go back now,” he said. He looked at The Baseball all the way back to the home, and set it on his nightstand back in his room. He stayed up most of the night, remembering the crack of the bat, and the cheers of the crowd. The world could have its new medicines and technology. Jacob knew things would turn out all right. In eighty years, someone would care enough about an old man to put The Baseball in that capsule. He held it now, just looking at all it represented. And as he had all those years ago, Jacob Morris fell asleep, The Baseball in his hand.


Saturday, August 28, 2004

Jesus or Batman

I've been debating what this entry would be. I've had a lot of religious discussions lately. I have a degree in it, and some fairly organized if somewhat unorthodox beliefs. People ask my advice on spiritual matters, and even though I caveat every comment with "this is how I believe" or "in my faith system" I will be more than happy to share that opinion. On the other hand, I am an avid comic reader and am experiencing the joys of getting a friend into the habit. She's settling on Batman as her favorite, and I feel I may have jaded her somewhat since that is my favorite as well.

I realize though that my desire to speak about either is a reflection of my desire to extend my will upon others. I talk a big show about religious freedom, and not judging people for being Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Taoist, Buddhist, Hindu, or the vast mosaic that is the human desire to attain the Divine, but frankly I would have everyone listen to my interpretation and say, "hey, he's right, let's all do what he does!" It worked for Jesus, and I have to admit, I would like it to work for me. I suppose though that I am not willing to put a sword to anyone's throat if they don't convert, and that makes me a bit more Jesus or Siddhartha than Jones or Koresh.

I also want everyone to read Batman, or comics in general and see what I see; modern mythology and characters who like the gods of old personify certain attributes we mere mortals can aspire to. Superman is Truth; Batman is Justice; Spider-man is Duty- that's what I want people to see.

And my favorite is just a man- Batman. Yet he is more than that. Jesus- just a man, yet more.

Yep, I really have been talking about the same thing. I aspire to Jesus and to Batman and I want others to do the same. Perhaps that makes me selfish, or a hypocrite.

I think I can live with that.

Friday, August 27, 2004

It begins.

Well. Here I am. I'm not sure who I expect to read this, but I do plan to periodically post thoughts. I don't plan to give out a lot of bio, but I think certain things will come through in the writing. I do write a good amount of fiction, so that may show up here. I have strong political views, so expect that. I have even stronger views on religion; plenty of that I'm sure. Oh- and I am in a dangerous job, so I'll be really coy about that. Hope someone is listening.