Monday, October 24, 2005

The End is Near... at least for me

I know no one reads this blog, so I don't have to worry about my boss reading this and instantly firing me.
But even that won't bother me since I have firmly resolved to quit my job sometime this week. I won't mention who I work for, but I will tell you (whoever you are) the sorry events that led me to this equally sorry conclusion:
I have worked as a repair technician for a major drugstore chain for 6 1/2 years. I have come to depend on its company vehicle and the fact that I haven't paid a nickel in gasoline all during that time, not to mention a company Nextel phone. Sounds like a sweet deal doesn't it? Well, it was...then. But now things are different. Corporate has pushed us (the repair techs) and pushed us to the point where we cannot do our jobs effectively. We have at this moment four projects - each time consuming - all due within days of each other along with new stores opening and our standard repair schedule (which is a month overdue). Suffice to say, the pressure and stress are such that it is beyond decency and I can actually envision myself paying for gas and using my old car and being without a cell phone without the stress of unrealistic deadlines and being on call 24/7 /365. I will miss the vacation (btw, I haven't used any of it yet since my supervisor put a moratorium on vacations due to the present project deadlines) and the people I have worked with, but as each day passes I sense more and more that I am reaching the end of things. This Wednesday, the 26th of October, is our bi-annual meeting of the bigwigs. I intend to tender my resignation at the meeting of those august personages. This will be the beginning of a great adventure for me. I am frightened. I have no backup plan. I will more than likely have to move (hopefully not with my parents, but that may happen). I had dreams of going off to Europe with the stash I have saved and living a bohemian lifestyle in the hopes of finding some sort of truth or perhaps experience (I have never been anywhere outside this country and I tire of hearing people tell of their experiences across the oceans). Or perhaps I will stick it out and use up my money on rent and food and gas and find another job that I will learn to hate in time and leave as well. Or I could just go homeless in America! I could pen my poetry to the beat of the street. I dunno. It's a scary proposition any way you look at it. Who knows what I will do...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Pain and Suffering in Various Tempos (Tempi?)

After the bittersweet success of their last CD, 'Exciter', I had reservations about buying this latest offering from the holy three: Martin Gore, Dave Gahan and Andy Fletcher. But I have to admit, this CD is an eye-opener. I would certainly rate it their best collection of music since 'Violator' but it doesn't equal it. Not bad for a band I had almost consigned myself to remember only for its past triumphs. This album is definitely a shot in the arm of the listener declaring "Don't count us out just yet".
Here's the play by play:
I was scared half out of my wits after turning up the volume and playing the first track. It sounded like more 'Exciter' stuff. A distorted guitar amped out to the max going up and down in pitch, but it's a clever ruse. The guitar ends in a major scale tonic and Gahan begins "A Pain That I Am Used To". This song is quite addictive. I was impressed. I have learned that after "Precious" this is slated to be the next single and I can't disagree. It's a much better song than "Dream On" from 'Exciter' in my opinion.
The second track sounds like a cut from 'Speak & Spell' or 'Construction Time Again', but the analog synths disappear to reveal a deep bass line and Dave singing a very syncopated lyric and a beat that can't help but move you to gyrate in the living room. This is 'John the Revelator' referring to St. John the Divine (the guy who, according to legend, penned the Apocalypse or the Book of Revelations). Dave has a dim opinion of St. John, although I do take issue with his lyric 'He stole his God/From the Muslim too' as Revelations was written about three centuries before Mohammed was born. But I'll overlook such a trivial fact in a catchy tune such as this.
'Suffer Well' is the next song which is one of the three tunes on this CD written by Dave Gahan. This is the first time Dave has been given credit for songwriting on any DM album as it is usually Martin Gore, but for a freshman effort this song rocks. The chorus is classic Depeche Mode, almost a throwback to the mid-80's, but so what? That's what I preferred anyway. I think the track should have been longer though.
'The Sinner in Me' has a lilting chorus that is ethereal and dreamy. The beat is raw and reminiscient of pre-Violator DM. It quits at a point where you think it will end and then erupts again into chorus before falling away into ultimate quiet. A good tune all told.
The fifth track, 'Precious', is the first single off this CD and sounds akin to 'Enjoy the Silence' in its beat and analog synth style. The lyrics are about having children and caring for them in a modern world. I imagine that's why the cover art for the CD resembles a child doll made of angel's feathers. It's a reference to 'Precious' and the constant referral to angels in the lyrics of this album. It is a nice tune, but not spectacular. The video is interesting as well using ghostly clockwork prehistoric animals threatening a Titanic-esque ocean liner.
'Macro' is okay. Something I can listen to once in a while.
I have heard people say that the next track, 'I Want It All' (another Gahan tune) is the worst song on the album, but I disagree. I like the slow, rhythmic arpeggiations of a clear guitar and the celeste-like synths serving as backdrop to Gahan's slow, thought-provoking lyrics. A good song to meditate to. It's also the longest offering on the CD clocking in at 6:10.
The next track is another stunner: 'Nothing's Impossible' uses a robotic undertone to Gahan's and Gore's unison to great effect. The analog synths are used perfectly here to accent the catchy chorus. This tune rates as one of the best on the CD. Btw, this is the third song written by Dave.
'Introspectre' is the obligatory DM instrumental. Interesting, but I've heard better - just filler I imagine.
'Damaged People' is another memorable tune, with Gore adding a beautiful minor turn to the end of the chorus as well as poetic lyrics "When your lips touch mine/ it makes me forget that I'm cold and crying/ it makes me forget that I'm old and dying." Awesome.
'Lillian' is a decent tune. It sings the praises of a girl named Lillian whose every dress she wears is a loaded gun...
The final tune, 'The Darkest Star' is an excellent way to end the album. It is another hit. This is the song that has the lyric "playing the angel" in it which happens to be the CD's title. It is a slow ballad with a crunching, fortissimo at the close of each chorus. The minor ninth chord really darkens the hell out of this song. I love it.
In summary, this CD is really a surprise. I almost wrote these guys off, but they just won't go away. Their dark tunes inebreate. Their lyrics permeate. In short, give this CD a spin. If you like good music this album will not disappoint.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The 12 Year Quest

So what to do?
I start reading on every religion extant in the world: Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Shinto, Paganism, Gnosticism, Judaism, anything.
And the more I read, the more I investigated, the more I talked to people about their respective religious beliefs, the more I migrated toward Athiesm.
Perhaps this is the sound of an idiot, all fury and wind amounting to nothing.
I started reading Socrates, Spinoza, Kant, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. I began to apply their results to my life, and I realized in the end that I would be happier if I was told an unhappy truth, than a happy lie.
I embraced a kind of optimistic pessimism, an idea that I know the truth is painful (there is no God, there is no afterlife, this is all we have) but I am optimistic despite these truths. I can no longer bank on an infinite justice, I have to make my own. I can no longer rest in the faith of a god who will fight for peace and righteousness, for there is much needless tragedy and suffering in the world. I am left with the Epictetan dilemma: Is god willing but unable to do good? Then he is a limited being. Is god unwilling but able to do good? Then he is a monster. Is god unwilling and unable to do good? Then why worship him? Is god willing and able to do good? Then why is there evil in the world?
Of all these possibilities, I choose the first option. If there is a god, and the odds are that there isn't, then he must be a very-powerful but not omnipotent being. How else to reconcile the deep desire of a benevolent being of authority and the Holocaust, the Middle Passage, the Inquisition, terrible tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and other natural disasters that visit terror and death to the innocent as well as the guilty?
In the past few years, in the silence of the flurried storm of doubt which permeated my existence, a quiet familiar voice echoed into my brain. It was a tale of Yoni the Circle-Maker in the Babylonian Talmud. It was in a book called "The Book of Jewish Wisdom" from the Tracy City Library and no other book on any other religion intrigued me or forced my acute attention more than these snippets and excerpts taken from the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmud. Soon, I was back to reading the Bible - but only the Old Testament - The Tanakh. Then I started studying Hebrew, because I wanted to read the Tanakh in its original language, just as I had learned Latin and Koine Greek in the seminary in order to understand the true meaning of the New Testament.
After twelve years of wandering, and five years of studying Judaism, I almost convinced myself to become a convert to Orthodox Judaism.
I never spoke to a rabbi despite many who told me I should have. But a strange thought occured to me. If being Jewish doesn't guarantee heaven - i.e. anyone who is righteous could attain paradise, and Jews aren't given special treatment in heaven despite their being 'chosen people', then why should I belabor myself with 713 mitzvot to keep rather than the 7 commandments that a Son of Noah (anyone who is not Jewish is a Son of Noah, Jews are Sons of Abraham)must keep? There is also the added threat that I may backslide once I commit to becoming a Jew. And I do not wish to injure my friends in this way. Therefore, I believe the best way to help the Jews is not to become one, and so I remain B'nai Noach.
I keep the seven commandments given to Noah after the Deluge and I strive to be as righteous as I am able. I respect the Jews as well as any person who is true to their beliefs.
Thus, I have come not quite full circle, perhaps a helix, but I do not begrudge my journey nor have any regrets in taking it. I am a better person for it, I think, and if more people would question their beliefs and explore the truths which bind us rather than stay constrained in their limited universes of cave-shadows, I believe that this world would be a much better place, a world more fit for a messiah to visit.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Chrysalis Splits

That's right. The Truth is out there...
(Btw, House M.D. wasn't on yesterday, that lame-ass Commander-in-Chief show with Gina Davis was on instead).
So, one more miracle myth is shattered. I realize that this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I start reading anything I can get my hands on in regard to Biblical Criticism, Christology, History, Heresiology.... anything.
It becomes a disease, an obsession.
I left the seminary a year later, I lived on the streets of Santa Barbara for a few months then went back to live with my parents in Northern CA.
1988 was a hell of a year.
I tried to be a good Catholic, I even got Confirmed the next year by the late Bishop Quinn of Sacramento. Why? Why did I go through the trouble to be confirmed (this AFTER my stint in the seminary, oddly enough) when I was questioning the very underpinnings of Catholicism and even Christianity itself?
I was still a church-going individual until late 1990. That year I committed a mortal sin and left the Church (and the Knights of Columbus I had heretofore joined).
Now come the desert years. The Time of the Search or the Quest.
I come to the conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth is not the Son of Man as the Jews knew the term, nor was he the Son of God in the Greek sense of the term.
He was a man in the mold of Apollonius of Tyana, or Simon Magus, or Socrates himself. Just a man. And though his name and myth changed human history, a fact I would be a fool to deny, his message and his very life were hijacked in order to promulgate a religion that Jesus himself would have classified as out and out idolatry.
I tried for twelve years to find a way to integrate the Jesus of history with the Christ of myth and could, in the end, find no compromise.
Now the stacks of books in my room, various tomes of theory and historical critiques, books by Jean Dorese, Elaine Pagels, Robert W. Funk, Dominic Crossan, Bruce Chilton, Albert Schweitzer, Karl Barth, et. al. just sit and gather dust. I already know the Truth. Now....what do I do with it?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Deconstruction of a Myth

Now for a more serious line of thought...
It is a strange fact that I spent a year at St. Joseph's College Seminary studying for the Catholic priesthood. It was during that year that I met Pope John Paul II during his San Francisco visit in 1988.
During that time, I would have described myself as a 'liberal Catholic' and I think most at that seminary would also have labelled themselves that way, as opposed to the Camarillo seminary in Southern California (St. Joseph's was in Mountain View, just SE of San Jose). The Camarillo seminarians were very conservative, they still wore albs with tassles during vespers and matins.
I distinctly remember a stained glass window in the chapel that depicted an exorcism. It showed a priest with missal and holy water sprinkler before a child in a chair, and out of his back, fleeing the scene, was this very red demon (it reminded me of that deviled ham logo, you know the one with debonair, red devil's horned head on the wrapper) with a pitchfork swathed in hellish flame. I remember snickering at that window then, and I snicker even more at its recollection now. What a superstitious lot we Christians are.
Btw, if you're wondering what I was doing at Camarillo when I was supposed to be at St. Joseph's, our class visited there for a week. Tradition.
In any case, it was there at the seminary that my mind began its metamorphosis to rationality and adulthood. It was there that Fr. Bonsor S.S. (the S.S. stands for Society of St. Sulpice, not the Gestapo though one could argue that) taught me about Biblical Criticism in Theology 101.
This was the beginning of my awakening from the chrysalis of organized religion.
You see, all is not as it seems....
I was taught by my father (who during my youth was a staunch and ardent Catholic) that the miracle of the Four Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the ones who wrote the gospels of the New Testament) was that they all agreed with each other though they were written in different places at different times.
But what I discovered is that the gospels agreed so much BECAUSE each writer copied material from the others. During the 60's or 70's CE (Common or Christian Era), Mark (or whoever he/she was, the names were added later to give credence to its contents) wrote his gospel. Have you noticed that when preachers and pundits quote the NT, that they quote Mark the least? Why is this? Simply because what is found in Mark can be found also, for the most part, in Luke and Matthew with added details. Mark is the shortest of the canonical gospels and if you read it in the original Koine Greek, it is devoid of literary bells and whistles, curt, to the point, with a bevy of run-on sentences. In other words, it reads like it is being told by oral transmission, i.e a dictation.
Because of this similarity between these three gospels, they are called synoptic (syn = same, optic = to see, in other words, they look the same when compared to each other).
This is a matter of some controversy among scholars.
Some put the order the synoptics were composed at:
  • Mark, then Luke then Matthew
  • Mark, then Matthew then Luke
  • Mark, then both Matthew and Luke simultaneously

Some even deny that Mark was the first gospel, but the consensus of opinion (including mine) is that Mark was first. This is known in the field as 'Markan priority'.

I will continue with this thread tomorrow. House M.D. is on. Can't miss it.

Monday, October 10, 2005

It's All About the... Omigawd!

This is Sabine Ehrenfeld.
Otherwise known as the O-girl or the girl.
Otherwise known as... my wife.

Well, not seriously folks, but, gods above! What a woman! If there is any man extant who does not think that this woman is at the very least attractive he ought to be hung on the highest tree by his gonads until nature deems fit for them to shrivel thus dropping the offending bastard to his doom in the ground-hugging mangroves.
Now that I got that outta my system....
The following information was gleaned from She is German (no kidding?). She knows four languages (English, German, French and Italian) (I think that covers most of Europe don't you think?). She has children, but no mention of a husband. She has a private pilot's license with over 350 hours logged in the air. She prefers taildragger aircraft (Those would be prop planes with a tiny wheel at the tail - I know they are tough to steer once grounded). And she once flew alone from California to Montana with camping gear stowed in the cockpit.
Quite an achievement -- And I'm still struggling with pilot lessons and ground school.
Anyway, why spout all this crap, right? I mean, what's the point?
There is no point. There doesn't have to be. It's my blog.
Suffice to say, I just thought I would inculcate you with what you already know, a priori: That this chick is HOT and I stop what I'm doing to watch her commercials. The picture above was taken from the first commercial. The second one I saw for the first time yesterday afternoon. I love the way she teases the camera. Right at the end of the second commercial, she leans toward the camera to sit down on a plush, white couch (of course it's white, everything in an Overstock commercial is white!) giving a sneak peek at her tanned bosom before slinking off the shirt from her shoulder, intoning another "it's all about..." Truth be told, I can't remember what she says at that point, as all the blood in my body went somewhere other than my ears, but I think she says "It's all about the vacation." or something like that.
Anyway, if you ever wondered who she is and what she does, now you know.
Oh, btw, she's 41. (hubba hubba) :-)

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Games People Play

What other thought-provoking ideas can I come up with on this lame-ass blog....?

Ah! I bought the game FlatOut the other day, some British racing game using faux muscle cars with the added joy of propelling your anarchist, leather-clad driver out the windshield (or is it windscreen?). It was fun for a week or so, but now it's just another racing game. The older I become, the less these games mean to me. Or is it the more jaded I have become due to my age and the fact that I have been playing video games since Donkey Kong was unveiled at the local Flipper Flapper Fun Co. and enough is enough already.
Any game that you can find can be classified into four categories, to wit: FPS (First Person Shooter), RTS (real time strategy), Simulator or Adventure game. And while the craze with MMORPG's is starting to table out and descend on our imaginary graph of 'cool', I put those games in with their respective categories, i.e. mainly adventure (e.g. Star Wars Galaxies, Guild Wars) but sometimes RTS (e.g. the Battlefield and Warcraft series).
And after playing one after another for years on end, they have just become too predictable and, dare I say it, are they becoming less original and more lame as time goes on? Is this another rant of a pissed-off, overaged, adolescent wannabe? Perhaps...
But more than that I am just upset at the lack of surprise that used to take hold of me during the 'golden years' of video games (1981-1986). Games such as Joust, Battlezone, Asteroids, Defender, Crystal Castles, Q-bert, Disks of Tron, Space Invaders, Tempest, et. al. Every time a new game came out it wasn't an improved version of the same idea, it was a totally new idea altogether. And each game differed from the others not just in sound quality and graphics, but in the game mechanic itself. Playing Centipede was not the same as playing Tempest though each used a rotary paddle and a fire button.
Perhaps all the good ideas are gone already? Perhaps there is nothing new under the sun? I doubt it. Where humanity and art are concerned, there are bland moments, but only moments; soon a new revolution emerges from the boring ashes of the old. But, my God, how long must I wait for it?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

You Deserve a Break Today!

Behold the Hand of Bush!
Or is it 'A pencil in the hand is worth a pee-break in the bush'?
In this world of omnipresent media, why not zoom in on the President's bathroom note?
What I am fascinated in is the way Mr. Bush alternates from lower to upper case within a word much less a sentence. I suppose the almost fully capitalized word 'BATHroom' means he REAlly has to go! And is this standard procedure for a statesman, to ASK for a potty-break during a speech from the Prime Minister of Djibouti? That must suck. I can imagine the media dogpiling him for getting up and leaving during a speech from some nameless country's representative.
And what is up with 'I think I may need a bathroom break?' He thinks he may need? Don't you think if you have to start writing it down amid cameras aplenty the decision has already went from 'thought' to 'impending doom'? He should have written: 'I gotta piss!' or 'My bowels are buckling' or 'My farts are increasing in their fecal stench - I fear an evacuation is forthcoming.' or the perennial favorite: 'I think I may have to -- nevermind.'

A blog about nothing

That's right. I have nothing to say!

Except that the above picture is what Tracy, CA looked like before the developers moved in and built four million homes on the left side of this road (Corral Hollow Rd.). They also added new asphalt and paint to the road and installed a traffic light or two. This photo was taken in August of 2003.