Monday, April 30, 2007

Before I Pack Up & Drive To The Airport

Was cruising a few of my favorite blogs today before heading east, and ran across a reference to the following on Colleen Doran’s ADS site.

The piece is in regards to a current dust-up between a fine, upstanding individual named Todd Goldman, owner of a t-shirt company called David & Goliath, and claims of his allegedly (we all love that word, don’t we?) co-opting work by other artists for his own t-shirt designs, while pocketing the profit to the tune of $90M.

But wait! It gets better! Late last week, Goldman allegedly instructed his attorneys to send angry, cease & desist e-mails to several blogs which have allegedly attacked his actions, leading many to spinelessly (and allegedly) back down and withdraw any articles allegedly casting Goldman in an allegedly unfavorable light.

Anyhow, click here on News-o-rama, and here for all the gory details. Feel free to click here as well for a novel shirt design noted below.

Image (c) 2007 by Huzzah Goods

In Which I Head East

I’ll be out the next few days visiting Washington DC and Baltimore.

At the former, I’d normally be hanging with my friend Sam, but he’ll be traveling himself. So I’ll have to scout my own distractions in our nation’s capital, one being trucking to Georgetown to catch “Spider-Man 3” on Friday before moving onto Fells Point for a tour led by author/friend Troy Taylor.

The "Exorcist Stairs" in Georgetown which I plan to
hurl myself down...y'know, just for fun

For those unaware, Fells Point is a gentrified part of Baltimore Harbor sporting pubs with surly names (Wharf Rat, Cat’s Eye, The Horse You Rode in On), an excellent music store (The Sound Garden), and locations used for all seasons of “Homicide: LOTS”

I also recommend the fish & chips at Kooper’s on Thames Avenue.

My other time in Charm City will touch on sites missed during my last trip east, including Camden Yards, which I couldn’t get inside as the Orioles’ regular season had not yet begun. This time, however, I scored a bleacher ticket (May 6th vs. Cleveland) as soon as I secured my new travel dates. I’m not really an O’s fan, mind you. But I’ve wanted to see their luscious ballpark since it opened in ‘92.

I’ll also re-visit Atomic Books (close to Johns Hopkins U), which features a fine selection of psychotronic DVDs, and stop by the Maryland SPCA to make a donation.

Anyhow, I’ll take a few digital shots cataloguing my east coast adventures to post here at the Church.

Until then, pray hard.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Attention All Clowns: You Die Now

Whenever watching “Inside The Actor’s Studio” from time to time, who hasn’t quietly provided one’s own answers to host James Lipton’s questionnaire given at the end of each episode?

In my case, most answers to the questionnaire are light and breezy….

  • “What is your favorite word?” That’s easy: “jocular.”
  • “What job would you like to attempt?” Also easy: “Roller coaster designer.”

  • “Sound or noise that you love?” Slam dunk: “Ocean surf.”
However, when the question of “What turns you off?” arises the answer is always the same: clowns.

Well, that and ignorance. But I digress…I hate clowns. I mean it.

Yes, I realize most clowns (from circuses and what-not) are nice people dressed in makeup and frilly costumes. But I still don’t want them near me. Hell, were I ever unlucky enough to be interrogated in an Orwellian-style Room 101—where one’s deepest fears are used against you—bringing out a prancing clown would collapse my will like a house of cards.

Either that, or I’d fly into a rage, and bludgeon said clown with his own floppy shoe thus conquering my fear. It’s kind of a toss-up.

Either way, it’s good to know I’m not alone in my clown-o-phobia and that treatment options do, in fact, exist.

In the meantime, I will continue to be vigilant. You never know when the insidious smell of grease paint is creeping up behind you.

"Smile, you cherry-nosed psycho!"

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Billy Show: A Brief Recap

At last night’s Billy Joel show—which rocked, by the bye—it struck me that thoughtless morons can truly manifest anywhere – not just movie theatres.

Case in point: the two moronic girls behind me who felt compelled to loudly comment (because you can’t let a concert get in the way of a good conversation) on the lighting rigs suspended above the stage.

Fortunately, they shut up soon after less had they experienced an unforgettable free fall off the balcony courtesy of me.

Otherwise, I was pretty happy.

Despite some hiccups with the sound system, The Billy Show was terrific, and considering the deep well of available songs, easily could have gone longer than the 130 minutes (plus two encores) it did.

But no matter. I got my money’s worth.


This isn't my actual ticket (mine was a damned computer print-out),
but it's a close facsimile of what I would have gotten to keep as a souvenir

Monday, April 23, 2007

Update: Fred Phelps & Virginia Tech

Out of the goodness of his heart, Kansas-based hate monger Fred Phelps announced this past weekend on his website (I refuse to post a link here, but you can Google it) that he no longer plans to picket the funerals of students killed in last week’s incident at Virginia Tech.

The reason why is, as a sort of olive branch, radio host Mike Gallagher has offered to provide Phelps three hours of free airtime to share his insane rants in exchange for a promise not to darken VT’s campus – an offer Phelps has now accepted.

I seem to recall Phelps pulling a similar stunt last year, and since it worked then, I expect him to exploit future tragedies in this way. As such, I think Gallagher placating Phelps’ insanity is a big mistake.

If Phelps wants to isolate himself further from the human race, I say let him do it, and allow the Patriot Guard Riders keep his family mob (of which two wee members may be seen below, God help them) at bay.

Giving into glorified extortion scams as an alternative is, IMO, never the answer.

Don Imus Has Nothing On This

It’s always astounded me how, not so long ago, outright racism was an acceptable norm in America from a social and marketing point-of-view.

For several jaw-dropping examples, check out the following piece by Slate and ask yourself if any of the following ads wouldn’t trigger an apocalypse of outrage today.

So much for “the good ‘ol days”…



Musical Dreams

Throughout my life, I’ve never been a huge concert-goer, usually because of insanely high ticket costs native to bigger tours.

But between the years of 1995 and 1998 (mostly to get a girl’s attention) I went on a minor musical tear among a few Chicago venues including Metro, Park West, Double Door, and even Arlington Park when it took a year-off from horse racing to host concerts.

In retrospect--despite my lame motives--this musical period in my life was hardly a bad thing, as it led to some good shows (Ashley MacIssac, John Lee Hooker, Squeeze, Lenny Kravitz, Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan). I even briefly hung with Natalie Merchant before a show at ISU.

But there are still some big acts I want to catch, acts I’ve listened to for ages but never landed a ticket for because, well, concerts were not a priority then.

So tonight I’ll be making an exception for Billy Joel at Sears Centre.

Other than being a great songwriter, I’ve always thought Billy Joel would make an outstanding music teacher, as during his 1999 appearance on “Inside The Actor’s Studio” he taught me more about music in two hours than I learned in six years of grade school instruction.

He’s also a legendary showman; I can’t sum Mr. Joel up much better than that.

And sure, I paid out big cabbage to see him. But to me, he’s worth it, as is shelling out an equally large sum to see The Police Reunion Tour this July at Wrigley Field.

Plus, I get the honor of dropping $25 on a t-shirt at both shows, which as everyone knows, are of the highest possible quality.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Work Ethics

Although one intent of this blog is to provide myself a fun outlet that keeps my writing skills a tad sharper, plus allow me a soapbox for babbling to total strangers to boot, filing daily posts to the Church is not my primary goal here.

Rather, it’s to use this blog (in part) to post updates on my larger writing projects, being in the mode of graphic novels. So what’s the latest? The good news is that I have a cogent draft for “Project One” well in development, based on a concept that slow-cooked in my brainpan for six years before I finally began writing last summer. So after a brief proposal for “Project One” was finished, I submitted it to a New York publisher from whom I finally heard solid feedback this March.

The verdict?

Good start. Consider my (enclosed) feedback, keep working it, and get back to me with a full manuscript” – which is arguably a far better reply to receive from an editor than the age-old standby: “Go away, kid. Ya bother me.”

However, since this promising reply, “Project One” has gone untouched since I’ve been distracted by other matters (Writer’s Block, thankfully, is not an issue).

But considering that this past week, three brand-new story concepts (let’s call them: “Project Two,” “Project Three,” “Project Four”) popped into my head, all of which I believe are viable, I have to start winnowing stuff down, and get working on plot and character development.

It’s my hope that I will use the Church to keep you updated on my current and future projects. But I think after “Project One” is finally uploaded—hopefully by 2008—that tackling successive stories will be a little easier.

In the meantime, feel free to continue checking out my other random thoughts here on a semi-daily basis.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Review: "Jesus Camp"

The following is a reprint of a review I did for the documentary film “Jesus Camp,” and submitted to the blog of good friend Wayne Beamer whom I’ll be seeing this July at San Diego’s Comic Con International.

As Brak says: “I hope ya love it!”

-----

On its face, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s documentary, “Jesus Camp,” has little to do with illustrated fiction - much less blogs on the topic.

But a closer look at the film echoes Wayne’s recent postings of a devout mentality driving censorship in various public libraries (Marshall, Mo.), albeit to be fair, this furor over various authors (e.g. Salinger, Twain, Blume) covers both liberal and conservative bents.

In what is framed as a notice on the rising American evangelical right, “Jesus Camp” profiles Pastor Becky Fischer’s “Kids on Fire,” a summer program wherein home-schooled Christian kids are coached to frame their faith as warfare. To this end, Fischer explains her goal is to teach young Christians to be so dedicated to their beliefs that it rivals Islam, whose believers (in Fischer’s terms) are taught early to “lay down their lives” for God.

Ironically located in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, “Kids on Fire” is typical of most summer camps, with such diversions as hiking and go-karts. And its charges are fairly ordinary too, with scenes of boys goofing off after dark, and girls chatting about dancing and music.

However, before “Kids on Fire” starts for the season, as we view Becky Fischer fervently praying over her chapel’s projectors and software (so it doesn’t crash), it’s a sign that “Jesus Camp” is about to take a sharp turn into Bat Country.

As a political action rally—which it truly is—the chief priority of “Kids on Fire” is to unequivocally ban all abortions. Time and again, campers are shown pro-life materials including toy fetuses, and encouraged to chant “Righteous judges!” in hopes of drafting the bench to their holy cause.

In these scenes, Becky Fischer clearly wants the next crop of evangelicals to be as dedicated to political activism as to their faith. Yet her camp’s platform is hardly consistent, as seen in segments where campers are encouraged to smash coffee cups labeled “GOVERNMENT,” while told to welcome a life-sized cardboard image of George W. Bush (as if it were the actual person).

Elsewhere, “Jesus Camp” then dives into the truly bizarre when—while warning campers against witchcraft—Fischer bellows that Harry Potter (a fictional character, mind you) would have been “put to death” had he lived 2,000 years ago.


Spotting demonic author J.K. Rowling at the rear of her chapel,
Pastor Becky Fischer commands her charges to stone her.

Yet beyond its religious subject, perhaps the most compelling aspect of “Jesus Camp” is how quickly life can turn on a dime for anyone, no matter how pious.

For example, since the film’s release, mega-church Pastor Ted Haggard (shown in “Jesus Camp” as railing against homosexuality) shocked his parishioners by admitting to a longtime gay affair. Then, the Christian right was equally blindsided when in 2006 voters ousted the congressional GOP majority, and shunted George W. Bush’s presidency firmly into lame duckhood.

In a few short months, everything that Becky Fischer wails about in “Jesus Camp,” an oncoming wave of Christian revival in America (or at least her version of it), is promptly bitch-slapped by the hand of karma.

And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t greatly amused…

There is no doubt “Jesus Camp” represents the pure extremes of the American evangelical movement. Yet the film is indeed useful when pondering what kind of person goes into righteous fits over Craig Thompson’s graphic novel “Blankets,” or Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home” being in a public library.

For readers who would prefer cultural crusaders like Becky Fischer mind their own damned business regarding what we choose to pick up, it’s wise to know one’s adversaries.

And to that end, “Jesus Camp” is as useful a guide as any.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Oh, Christ...

Just when you think that some people cannot possibly sink any lower down the moral ladder—to, say, the level of neo-Nazis—here comes the universally-despised arbiters of slime that is Fred Phelps clan to picket the funerals of victims slain at Virginia Tech.

Rev. Phelps (center) with two local admirers come out to say "Hello"

If there’s a hell, Phelps undoubtedly has a skybox waiting with his name on it.

Profiles in Gutlessness

On last night’s Countdown (4-17-07), Keith Olbermann raised an interesting side note involving right-wing man-boy Nathaneal Blake of Human Events:

As NRO's designated chickenhawk, let me be the one to ask: Where was the spirit of self-defense here? Setting aside the ludicrous campus ban on licensed conceals, why didn't anyone rush the guy? It's not like this was Rambo, hosing the place down with automatic weapons. He had two handguns for goodness' sake—one of them reportedly a .22.

Something is clearly wrong with the men in our culture. Among the first rules of manliness are fighting bad guys and protecting others: in a word, courage. And not a one of the healthy young fellows in the classrooms seems to have done that.

I don’t know if I would live up to this myself, but I know that I should be heartily ashamed of myself if I didn’t. Am I noble, courageous and self-sacrificing? I don’t know; but I should hope to be so when necessary.

Well, young Mr. Blake. Considering you’ve never been in a classroom being sprayed with bullets, I seriously doubt you are qualified to question the manly barometers of any young man at Virginia Tech.

Nathaneal Blake: Manly Authority

But the fact that you were crude and gutless enough yourself to raise this question, just 24 hours after these young people were shot down, certainly demonstrates your own level of moral courage…in this case, being the equivalent to a worm-ridden lump of pig shit.

Well done, boy. Well done!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Toeing The Line

This little nugget of PR humanity posted to Yahoo News today, regarding the murder of 32 people at Virginia Tech:

A White House spokesman said [President George W. Bush] was horrified by the rampage and offered his prayers to the victims and the people of Virginia.

"The president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed," spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

Now I can’t blame Bush directly for the sheer idiocy of this statement, but that Miss Perino framed the White House reaction to the shooting specifically in terms of the RNC platform is beyond belief.

But as Karl Rove always says: “Remember the base.”

Suburban Hockey in Suburban Chicago

Over the past 15 years, something indisputably good has happened for Chicago-area sports fans.

After decades of languishing under the region’s pro clubs (Bulls, Bears, Cubs, Sox, Hawks), new minor-league franchises are now flourishing (Rush, Wolves, Cougars, Shamrox). The appeal of these teams is obvious: low ticket prices, no labor stoppages, and venues outside Chicago and all its trappings (e.g. traffic, expensive parking/concessions, etc).

This Sunday, my own latest turn in the minors was a UHL playoff hockey game between the Chicago Hounds and Fort Wayne Komets in a best-of-seven series.

This was my fourth hockey game in two weeks, which is odd considering I’ve never been a huge fan. But for teetotalers (meaning non-drinkers) like me, cheap sports—with or without fights--is a quality weekend distraction.

Anyhow, the fan turnout for the Hounds game was poor. But our seats were good, costing only $8 for sightlines that would have cost over $100 each at a Blackhawks game at United Center. We were also treated—we, being friends Mark, Jo, and I—to several penalties and subsequent power plays that sadly all ended in an OT loss for the dawgs, and Ft. Wayne going up 2-1 in the series.

But it wasn’t all bad.

Hell, I scored a super-sweet sno-cone for the first time since 1982 at the Lisle Park District Pool.

Now that’s high living.

Friday, April 13, 2007

News Flash: It’s Hard To Fight Evolution

I saw the following headline on CNN this afternoon, and just had to smirk: Study – Abstinence Programs No Guarantee.

Now frankly, I don’t care what anyone does in a bedroom (or backseat, or nightclub bathroom, or construction site, et al.) provided it doesn’t involve rape, abuse, or molestation.

Yet despite the religious right’s desperate hold onto to America’s old Puritanical roots, I can’t help but feel amused that many of their anti-sex programs (particularly those aimed at teens, using ham-fisted scare tactics claiming that having sex out of marriage will lead to disease, hellfire, etc) are floundering badly, particularly those ministries offering “second-chance virginity.”

The suggestion is so stupid I can’t even make fun of it well.

But though I feel that being a slave to one’s loins is never wise, I guess it all proves you just can’t fight Darwin, can you?

"Do I make you randy, baby? Do I?"

Saturday Morning Flashback, Part I

These days, one of the glorious aspects of DVD is its history of restoring TV childhood memories once thought gone forever.

In my case (and opinion), the Golden Age of Saturday Morning TV was circa the mid-70s, featuring a great blend of classic cartoons (Bugs Bunny) and live-action shows produced by Sid & Marty Krofft and Filmation.

Of these two classes of Saturday entertainment, I preferred the latter, my favorite live-action show being “Shazam” but many similar series abounded (“H.R. Pufnstuf,” “Sigmund & The Sea Monsters,” “The Kids From C.A.P.E.R”).

I also remember Joanna Cameron (AKA: Isis) being hot long before my little, pre-sexual mind understood the concept.

Uh, damn...

But I digress; if “Shazam” was at the top of my personal live-action list, “The Ghost Busters” was a close second.

Reuniting “F-Troop” stars Larry Storch and Forrest Tucker, “The Ghost Busters” focused on two goofballs, their gorilla pal Tracy (Bob Burns), and their mission to hunt down decidedly un-scary spirits (e.g. some guy in a costume) by “zapping” them into another dimension.

Naturally, as I was eight years old when “The Ghost Busters” aired on CBS, my other memories of the show are sketchy. But I do recall the same “scary castle” set being recycled on the show, no matter where the boys allegedly ended up going to hunt their supernatural quarry.

Nevertheless, as the full series (15 episodes) is being resurrected on DVD this month I’ll have plenty of time to fill in my memory gaps, and hopefully laugh in the process. But even if watching “The Ghost Busters” again after—Good God—32 years turns out to be less than wonderfully nostalgic, I still feel the return trip is worth it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Sad Saga of Kent Hovind

Being a martyr sucks.

I mean, you get assaulted for your religious beliefs by a vicious state government determined to grind you underfoot, because, y’know, evangelical Christians are constantly persecuted in America. Never mind the Church is the wealthiest and most predominant in the Western world. If evangelicals are smart (and they pray on it), they’d best be building their hidden shelters right now against the encroaching hordes of MIBs out to get them.

But don’t fret, “true” believers. After all, God loves a martyr, and He’s got a big payoff for those who throw themselves under a bus (or even better, in front of a government bullet) in His holy name, which means—that’s right—an E-ticket straight to heaven with all the blueberry muffins you can eat!

And who wouldn’t wanna be publicly mocked and disemboweled for that?

Alas, such is the struggle of Kent Hovind (AKA: “Dr. Dino”), currently a guest of the Pensacola Federal Prison Camp in Florida.

Kent Hovind (Inmate #06452-017)

Yes, Kent’s is indeed a sad tale. Until recently, he was doing so well, having toured the world giving speeches on young-earth creationism where Kent dispensed such sage nuggets as his belief that modern science does not understand the basic nature of light, childhood immunizations are Satanic, and that dinosaurs and humans once co-existed (the ancient poem “Beowulf” being proof).

On top of all this, in 2001 Kent founded Dinosaur Adventure Land in Florida, a creationist theme park (with playground equipment for rides) which earned him roughly $5 million between 1999-2004.

Yet aside from these burdens, Kent is yoked by a Christian duty to battle a government out to get him – as in one ridiculously self-serving case where Hovind battled his local county in court for five years over a $50 building fee, until finally settling for a $250 fine after spending $40,000 in legal costs. Then, so not to outdo himself, Kent later took his crusade to the Federal government (or was it the reverse?) after failing to withhold FICA payroll taxes from his park and ministry employees (citing God as his boss), while refusing to deal with the IRS on a settlement.

Long story, short: in November 2006, while being tried on 58 counts of tax evasion, Kent issued the court the following statement…

When asked by the Judge [presiding over his trial] where he lives, Hovind replied: "I live in the church of Jesus Christ, which is located all over the world. I have no residence." (Pensacola News Journal, July 17, 2006.)

After making brilliant statements like this in court, perhaps it’s not surprising that Kent was convicted of tax evasion on all counts, and sentenced to 10 minimum-security years to ponder his actions.

So that was that, case closed. The legal system happily moved on.

Yet as you can see from a recent blog entry below (dated 3-28-07), Kent’s still very much confused as to why he’s in stir:

As much as I wish I were home with my family and staff and back out preaching, and as much as I still don’t understand what I did wrong or why this all happened, I do know it is my duty to forgive those who hurt me and my family (that’s been hard!) and to reach those I meet for the Lord. We had a great revival in G2O at the county jail and I am trusting God to do the same here.

Maybe God is allowing me to see and experience this to prepare me to serve during the one-thousand year reign of Christ (Luke 19:19). Maybe it is so I will better understand the broken hearts of millions of innocent people who have been jailed, beaten or killed over the centuries by heartless dictators or ruthless governments. Maybe there are dozens of other reasons known only to God, but this I know: God is too good to make a mistake. I’ve served God too long (38 years) to doubt His wisdom. Just as Moses only got to see God after He passed by (Exodus 33:22), I have learned that I often see God’s hand after He’s done.

After reading Kent’s comments, two things are obvious: 1) Kent is suffering from a huge martyrdom complex, and; 2) Kent is desperately clinging to the belief that he is governed by divine law before earthly laws he sees as immoral.

Never mind he and his wife, Jo, had owed $845K in unpaid taxes, and that Kent’s own recorded statements (in a jailhouse conversation with his son) incriminated himself in court. We’re all clearly supposed to kneel at the cross Kent has nailed himself upon because—never mind he was caught red-handed—he ultimately is a man of God.

So Kent’s made his proverbial bed, and now he’ll lie in it; 99% of normal people would likely agree. Yet as Kent’s blog reveals, he has no shortage of gullible supporters. Many of whom happily believe that Kent’s been railroaded by an anti-Christian court system out to get him.

But what to make of Kent for now? Well, I doubt he’ll do his full stretch in prison. Yet when he is finally released, it’s clear Hovind will have no concept as to why he was jailed, making the odds of him being busted again on further tax evasion charges likely. Plus, after his parole, Hovind would be foolish (a safe bet) to assume the IRS won’t be watching his ledgers closely for future discrepancies. And if they find one, it’s back to the cooler for Kent.

But hey, first thing’s first.

For now, Kent Hovind will have to trust in God that this evil conspiracy levied at him will be one day dispelled, and the doors of his prison will swing wide open with a crack of thunder, signaling Kent’s divine parole. In the meantime, we can take heart that the U.S. justice system does—in fact—work on occasion, and that hiding behind the Bible is no defense for breaking the law.

Sleep tight, Kent. Remember to sleep on your back.


Note: Hovind’s lectures over the years have created a geyser of bizarre statements explaining his unshakable knowledge of science, history, politics, and religion. So just for fun, I think I’ll let Kent himself share a few examples (courtesy of Wikiquote):

"[Evolution Theory] is the motivating factor for guys like Hitler and Stalin and George W. Bush, by the way, who is a Satan worshipper, like we don't know that."

  • "Truth Radio" 3 April 2006 @ 19:20 (Tape 1)

"There is [in Darwinism] definitely a conspiracy, but I don’t think that it is a human conspiracy. I don’t believe there is a smoke filled room where a group of men get together and decide to teach evolution in all the schools. I believe that it is at a much higher level. I believe that it is a Satanic conspiracy. The reason these different people come to the same conclusion is not because they all met together; it is because they all work for the devil. He is their leader and they don’t even know it."

  • "Unmasking the False Religion of Evolution," 1996

"I suspect SARS is one of the many, many, many man-made pathogens to purposely lower the human population. That's just what I would suspect. I love my country; I fear my government, okay. There have been all kinds of things produced in the last 50 years in various laboratories - and things like that - that are designed to kill people. Bottom line: I think SARS is probably one of those man-made pathogens, like probably AIDS is the same thing."

  • "Truth Radio", 7 August 2003, 42:30

"My take on what happened with the moon landing was [......] they suspect [sic] that on impact that the cameras would be damaged because back in 1969 cameras weren't, you know, like they are today, as good. So they had a studio set up at CBS to mimic the moon landing. And sure enough the cameras broke and so they flipped, you know, the CBS studio on. And what you saw of the footage of the '69 moon landing was actually at a CBS studio."

  • "Creation Evolution and Dinosaurs session #5 Q&A", 1:55, January 2002

"The Oklahoma City bombing was done on purpose. Did you know the Federal Government blew up their own building to blame it on the militias, and to get rid of some people that weren't cooperating with the system?"

  • "Evolution: the Foundation for Communism, Nazism, Socialism, and the New World Order - Video - Part 5" @1:36:10, June 2003

"Did you know that the black suited organization that attacked the Koresh cult [in Waco, TX; 1992] was a United Nations task force?"

  • "Unmasking the False Religion of Evolution Chapter 6", 1996, (a transcript of Kent Hovind's early sermons)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Those Blasted Kids...

Swearing teens disrupt church service
From Florida Today (4-5-07)

PORT RICHEY - A Palm Sunday service was interrupted by a booming voice, but it definitely wasn't God.

Father Gregory Andrews led Sunday's Mass at St. James the Apostle Catholic Church but as parishioners sang hymns, a voice cut in through the church's sound system, saying "Yo, Homey," followed by several expletives. A group of teens hanging out at a gazebo near the church had found the live microphone used during the first part of the service, according to a Pasco County sheriff's report.

A group of men from the church went outside and chased the boys before deputies arrived.

Hold Onto Your Nacho Hat

Recently, some friends and I took part in a cultural experience I learned about last year called “Smut & Eggs.”

For those who live outside Chicago, “S&E” is a weekly event a so-called “family-friendly biker bar” called Twisted Spoke, an otherwise standard watering hole dressed with Harley-themed d├ęcor. What makes it “family-friendly,” I suppose, is that the Spoke also serves brunch.

Anyway, to the meaty details: for “S&E,” (adult) participants gather in a small room—whose windows are taped over with black plastic—mulling over breakfast while one overhead TV plays an array of stag flicks, and another ironically plays Jerry Springer reruns aired on a local station.

Now normally, eating and watching x-flicks would seem dangerously opposed activities, especially for those who like keeping their food down during close-ups. God knows, I spent the bulk of my meal engaging my pals instead of the “other” entertainment. But like anything, when balanced wisely, the raunch is not an issue (for queasy stomachs). Besides, it was 2AM, I was hungry, and I’d heard decent things about the Spoke’s menu. So amidst the digitized grinding, I opted for French toast (dipped in a tasty batter of vanilla, cinnamon, and orange liqueur), while Brad had breakfast tacos, and Bruce a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon.

For his part, Mike skipped breakfast (never a wise move), and instead took in the room’s odd atmosphere, which soon devolved into a bawdy version of “MST3K” with much frivolity. Interestingly, I also noticed how many women were at “S&E,” again busting the myth that x-flicks are an exclusively male diversion.

Needless to say, an amusing time was had by all, the evening’s only real downside being the Spoke’s high menu prices.

Come on, four bucks for a fresh OJ is ridiculous. Good, yes. But ridiculous.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Grindy Goodness

Despite not being able to make a screening of it last Friday night with some friends, I took in a matinee of “Grindhouse” over the weekend which was more than a little amusing.

In a nutshell, “Grindhouse” is a 3 hour, 15 minute salute to ‘70s schlock cinema by Robert Rodriguez (“Planet Terror”) and Quentin Tarantino (“Death-Proof”).

Of the two films (complete with "missing" reels), I would argue that Tarantino’s works better.

Despite being relentlessly chatty—even by Tarantino standards--for its initial 2/3s runtime, once it gets rolling, “Death-Proof” is great action with a great girl-power ending.

As for Rodriguez, he shapes the spirit of “Planet Terror” (a gory zombie flick) more like the original work that inspired it (including providing a great score, and lots of severed limbs). But Rodriguez’s effort of the undead bogs down toward the middle, and reveals star Rose McGowan can’t carry an entire project herself.

Still, what I best enjoyed about “Grindhouse” is that it’s an acquired taste, something extremely rare in Hollywood’s current climate devoid of any original thinking. Sure, most people (born after 1985) probably won’t get what the project’s about. But quite frankly, that’s their problem.

Friday, April 6, 2007

De-troit sucks! De-troit sucks!

Last night I watched the Chicago Blackhawks’ final home game for the 2006-2007 season.

For the record, the team’s record this year—not that I’m a serious fan—has been abysmal, ranking near dead last in the NHL.

Still, recently I had a chance to get a ticket for last night’s game versus the Hawks’ storied rival, the Detroit Red Wings, whom I fully expected to take a buzzsaw to the team’s fragile (and season-best, yikes) three-game win streak. But little did I know I’d catch the Hawks’ best performance all-season, featuring 58 saves by goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who carried the team to a 2-2 tie in regulation, ending in a terrific shoot-out in which the home team prevailed.


Whoops!


I couldn’t believe it; it was almost enough to indoctrinate me as a full-fledged Hawks fan.

Almost…

This was my first Hawks home game since 1998 for a reason, as ticket prices are insanely high, especially for a franchise whose owner refuses to air home games on local TV for fear that fans won’t come to games.

Well, Mr. Wurtz, having a sucky product on the ice tends to do that just fine. How’s that for a self-fulfilling prophecy?

But win or lose, if one is to see a Hawks game, there’s no better opponent than an Original Six team like Detroit, or perhaps St. Louis as an alternative. So despite the Hawks being outshot by the Wings 58-19 (that is not a misprint), I was hardly disappointed with the game.

The stadium’s atmosphere was terrific; plus, there’s no beating the energy of the National Anthem at the United Center. But alas, after two more road games (including one at Detroit who will likely take sweet, sweet vengeance on our boys for last night), the Hawks’ current season will mercifully come to a close.

So long, blokes. See you in October.

PS: This is just me thinking, but perhaps the Hawks winning last night had something to do with me scoring a smooth, authentic Khabibulin jersey at Hawkquarters before the game?

Never underestimate the power of karmic commerce.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Crazy Chicks, Part II

Click here for a brilliant, FF-themed parody of Jack Chick Comics. Some of you might have already seen it, but it’s new to me – and that’s what’s important, dammit!



Crazy Chicks, Part I

Tony Stark helps spread the Good News


I’ve always known that fundamentalist Christians were insane, but it takes reading Jack Chick comics to realize just how insane some are.

To those unaware, Chick comics have been around for decades, peddling such bizarre fiction as the Earth being less than 10,000 years old, or that humans and dinosaurs co-existed a la “The Flintstones.”

If some people want to believe that, I honestly don’t care.

It’s when Chickies peddle crap like gays “recruiting” kids, or the Alberto series (a slam against Catholics by calling them non-Christian) where I feel they cross a line between amusing and downright evil.

To my own memory, the first time I encountered a Chick comic was at my grandmother’s house, and the story involved Satan (curiously dressed like Ming The Merciless) seducing a boy into an anti-Christian version of the Hitler Youth. I can’t recall how the story ended, but rest assured that God prevailed, and His unbelievers were cast into a lake of fire.

Sure, if nothing else, Chick comics are good for a laugh - if not the occasional shiver. But don’t forget it’s largely these morons we have to thank for putting George W. Bush into office.

Note: Notice how in the hilarious example above, the word "gay" is capitalized by the Chick editor. The only reason I can figure for this is that Chick wants to differentiate "gay" as slang (in its current usage) versus the word to indicate "happy" or "joyous" because, y'know, they're taking that word back from Harvey Firestein.

This "Fish" Sure Ain't Abe Vigoda

It’s funny how history is often regarded as a string of highlights, with the spaces in-between largely going unspoken for.

Camp Douglas is a prime example, a Union Civil War prison camp (based in Chicago) which housed Confederate POWs in awful conditions said to rival that of another notorious hellhole: Andersonville, Georgia. Yet though stories of that prison are well-known, few know about Camp Douglas, the former site of which is marked only by a small monument.

Honestly, it’s not unreasonable that public schools and colleges teach history like this, as truly hitting all beats from start to finish would take too long to manage, much less learn.

Yet it’s in these little gaps where real history often lives in all its gory detail.

This said, from a little-known corner of America’s past comes the ghoulish story of Albert Fish (1870-1936), a murderer and cannibal who also molested over 100 children in Depression-era New York, and the subject of a new film by Jon Borowski whose previous effort focused on Chicago serial killer H.H. Holmes (of “Devil in The White City” fame).

Quite frankly, I’d prefer not to go into detail surrounding Fish’s crimes, one aspect of which involves him brutally murdering at least one child. But the good news, I suppose, is that he was finally caught by NYPD (via a tip letter) and jailed until his execution in 1936.

Today, Albert Fish would doubtless be confined to a secure mental hospital, as by all accounts of his behavior, he was certifiably insane.

It’s one thing when fictional serial killers like Hannibal Lector perform their grisly deeds on-screen, because despite his actions, we know he’s not a real person. But when we read about actual psychopaths like Fish, Holmes, and Ed Gein (as horribly fascinating as their crimes may be), the gravity of their actions seems to hit home all the more to those who finally read about them.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Returning To The Scene of The Crime

Lyle (circa today), divorced and living it up

Memories are a funny thing. Like ghosts, they can lie dormant for years, only to be stirred back to life by just the right trigger.

Case in point: just got off the phone with my good friend, and fellow "Avenger," Mark, and it seems my confession posted yesterday on my brief criminal career at a certain local comic book store was such a memory spark. Turns out Mark knew exactly what and where I was talking about, which--mind you--is not to say that he lifted anything from the store like I did.

He didn't.

Yet our discussion about the place--okay, let's say it: Lyle's Hobby & Craft on Cass Avenue in Westmont, Illinois--raised some eerily familiar stories.

While Mark and I agreed that while Lyle's store selection was good, the obnoxious 'tude he dispensed was not limited to kid customers, but also adults. Mark noted that during one visit to the store as a kid, his own father (and later grandparents) noted how bad Lyle's behavior was, and how his obsessive habit of cramming new comics into metal racks made removing them without mangling the books almost impossible. Ditto on Lyle's brilliant habit of writing prices on back issues in pencil, in addition to his poor jobs of model railroad repair, and overcharging customers.

Mark and I also reminisced about how Lyle's cranky, senile old mother would work the register (with a small TV beside her to keep her distracted), and wail at us kids for the slightest infraction - real or imagined.

Indeed, Lyle lived in a kingdom of his own making, and seemed to relish reminding his customers of it at every turn. Shockingly, the man was also married, which I'm sure is as much of a surprise to you--dear readers--as it was to Mark when I told him. In fact, I believe I saw Lyle's wife at the store once with the couple's infant child, making the fact that anyone married the guy--much less bred with him--enough to evoke wave after wave of intense nausea.

Still, as unpleasant as Lyle himself was, his former comic store is the site of many fertile memories.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Freedom of Religion Rocks


Behold the Flying Spaghetti Monster and it's glory....

Confessions of a Reformed Comic Book Thief

Oftentimes, I smile when I reflect on the nickname that Wayne Beamer has given me on Illustrated Fiction: the San Diego Superhero.

Partly because I appreciate his friendship for me, and also because it’s ironic considering whom I used to be as a teenager.

Was I Public Enemy Number One? The criminal scourge of Lisle, Illinois? Not exactly.

But back in the day, I was a would-be Artful Dodger. I never picked anyone’s pocket, nor was ever pinched by the man. But I was a casual thief. Not of purses, but of comics and role playing games (RPGs).

My hunting ground was confined to one place, a hobby store in suburban Chicago which served as my first exposure to the world of comic collecting, and later, petty crime. In retrospect, it was a nice place, with a decent selection of new and old comics, in addition to railroading and RPG supplies. However, the store’s owner must have been the inspiration for Comic Book Guy on “The Simpsons,” as like that character, he was fat, arrogant, and not above belittling customers. Indeed, he was the lord of his wee corner of geekdom, and seemed to relish reminding us kids of it. Plus, he also had a maddening habit of writing prices upon each comic back issue (in pencil), and bristled at any question posed him – as if he was too slick to be bothered.

Yet as his was the only legit comic store in the area, I was bound to it, despite the owner’s lame Napoleonic attitude. Besides, I figured as long as he kept stocking my “Moon Knight” and “Power Man and Iron Fist,” my purchases could be made quickly enough and I’d go home.

These store visits went on for years, later becoming such routine that my father drove my brother Scott and I to the store every Wednesday at 4PM sharp.

Yet not long after, three key incidents struck that changed this entrenched schedule: 1) my parents got divorced; 2) I got a driver’s license, and; 3) Scott introduced me to his new friend: Bill.

Let’s take these in order.

As a result of the first two incidents, Scott and I had a newfound freedom, allowing us to visit the comic store (or anywhere else) whenever we wished. Or at least as far as five bucks worth of gas could take us. And though our weekly comic purchases were still limited to a few spare bucks, it was still nice to browse the store at will, and inhale the delicious smell of newsprint.

But regarding the third incident, meeting Scott’s friend Bill, we learned that in addition to being a comic and RPG geek himself, he was an accomplished shoplifter who delighted in showing off his stack of hot nudie magazines, game books, and comics he’d acquired, mostly from the same comic store I frequented.

At first, Scott and I were taken aback by Bill’s “hobby.” And though he’d encourage us to steal with him, Scott and I would decline, opting to visit the comic store and legally buy a book or two. As for Bill, he’d always walk out empty-handed. Or so we thought. As when we returned to the car, Bill would bust into laughter and pull something purloined from his jeans: a comic, a game module, maybe a box of gaming figures for painting. It was amazing how much he could stuff in his Levis, and exit the store like a cool breeze.

After several weeks of this, Scott and I at last succumbed to sin. If Bill was able to procure so much “free stuff,” it almost felt foolish not to cash in on it also. I’d like to say the first time I ripped off something from the store was exciting, and it was to some degree. But more so, I realized that Bill was right. It was too easy. So much, that before long, all three of us would regularly shoplift the store as if it were a game, casually picking through long boxes of old comics or books. And then meeting in a blind spot (hidden from the store’s security mirrors) where we covered the booty with our shirts, and left without so much as an arched eyebrow (much less a guilty conscience).

Even more brazenly, we would all marvel in the car (parked directly behind the store) about what we’d done, and casually inspect our loot. Never mind the store owner could have walked around the corner, and busted us at any moment. We were so pleased with our new property that we had to read it immediately; we were that stupid. Or perhaps the owner himself was.

This same series of events happened so frequently I can’t recall the total. Thank God our mother no longer lived with Scott and I, as there’s no doubt she would have noticed the new piles of comics and gaming books on our beds, and pressed the criminal truth out of us. But as our father was busy working the equivalent of two jobs, he was too busy and tired to notice the difference.

Jesus, we were little bastards, weren’t we?

Yet you may be relieved to learn, I soon quit stealing from the comic store. Mostly because—as easy as it was--I figured the law of averages (or the law itself) would eventually catch up with me if I didn’t. It’s a good thing too, as not long after Scott—unbeknownst to me—decided to lift a copy of “The Lost Boys” movie soundtrack from a local Sears, and was nailed as we left the store. I won’t bore you with extraneous details, but suffice to say it put a speedy end to his shoplifting career.

But all told, I’d wager Scott and I had relieved the comic store of roughly $600 worth of inventory. Maybe a bit less, maybe a bit more.

Later, the store closed in 1988; rumor had it because the owner was losing too much stock from shoplifters like us. But whether that’s true or not is unknown. For all I know, the owner was just a lousy businessman, or flushed his profits away on hookers and gold-plated gaming dice.

But discussing all of the above raises a legitimate question: Do I feel guilty about all this today? The answer is “a little.” The shop’s owner was indeed a jerk, but it gave us no right to steal from his bottom line.

It was morally wrong.

But on the other hand, my former mini-career as a comic book shoplifter was a helluva lot of fun, albeit one I would never repeat today.

I’ve gone straight, swear to God.

Hola, Etc.

Sure, the world is filled with billions of blogs, most basking in tender attention for a few days only to be abandoned forever. But that's not me. Speaking of which, who the hell am I?

My legal name is Christopher Hugh Varney (AKA: "CHV"). I live outside of Chicago, Illinois, USA, and have for my entire life. I have a couple of college degrees (in English), and have worked as a technical writer for the past ten years. For those of you unfamiliar, if you've ever pried open a new bike for X-Mas, and handed a small booklet of instructions to your Dad expecting him to decipher it, well, that manual came from somebody like myself.

Anyhoo, I will be adding to this blog fairly often so I hope you stop in often. In the meantime, "Semper Fi and carry on."