Rain and my brain

I love the rain. Only, I love it when I'm inside, snuggled up with my sweetheart, eating marshmallows out of the bag and exchanging occasional smooches. And since I don't have a sweetheart (though my own heart is scrumptious) this is currently a state of affairs virtually impossible to achieve (I'll leave open the potential for time travel, because humans are really clever at figuring out this kind of stuff). Which makes it even more exasperating that I was caught three times this week in a deluge, and although I had my umbrella with me during all three outbursts I still got soaked -- serious rain. I don't remember it raining this much in June in NYC. Is this being caused by a) Global warming; b) A vengeful god almighty; c) chance; or d) clouds. I'm betting it's some combination of a, c and d. I don't believe in a vengeful god, or of a deity of any sort, alas, though I spend much time damaging my own psyche by blaming him (definitely a guy) for all things that go wrong, proving at least one thing: I hate to take responsibility for my own failures. My favorite thing to blame Him for is losing at computer Hearts. I feel I'm entitled to win every game, so when I don't win, I blame Him. But I blame Him for lots of things. Here's a list of some of those:

1) Failure to achieve a career in writing;
2) Humidity;
3) Pimples;
4) When I trip on the sidewalk and nearly fall, I usually scowl. Damn Him!
5) Mayonaise, but only when it has that funny taste that makes me want to vomit;
6) Lack of girlfriend- ness;
7) Shitty job;
8) NYC subways;
9) That feeling you get when you pass a graveyard;
10) Bad teeth.
11) My negativity;
12) Spilling beets on my pants;
13) Graying and thinning hair (it'll be a race to see which wins);
14) the Yankees;
15) Bureaucracy

Happy Stan says that I should start appreciating the good things in life and stop focusing on the negative, but since HS isn't real I told him to go to hell. When he is out of the room, though, I secretly wonder if he isn't for once making some sense; but when I try to feel happy that my couch is really comfortable and that I have a good apartment, I get a funny feeling in my stomach. Maybe it means I'm happy, I think, but maybe it means I shouldn't have eaten that tuna sandwich with the bad mayo. The point is: my own brain is often my worst enemy, and it's tough to fight a brain because it knows what you're thinking before you do and it's pretty well insulated inside your skull. Like the rain, it oftens pours on my parade. Perhaps I need to find a mental umbrella? Such as, good work and good people? Hmm, meaning I might have to find more than three people I can stand to be around. Oops, I have to run, Happy Stan is calling. He says the Argentina-Germany soccer match is getting good. I hope it doesn't rain...


Religion and the Da Vinci Code

I was reading over the shoulder of a fellow subway traveler this week when I caught a letter to the editor in one of the local rags. The editorialist was wondering what all the hype was about concerning the Da Vinci code movie -- why are people threatened, he wondered, by something that is clearly fiction. The movie and the book it's based on, after all, are all made up, so why's everyone getting their panties in a sticky bunch? The problem with this argument and others like it, constructed by same-minded children, is that it implies that religious stories are not ALSO fiction, that religion is not, in every instance, a bunch of made-up mythology designed to get folks, for the benefit of civilization (however good or bad), to behave one way or another (mostly another). Want to avoid disease? Tell em: Sex is bad. And so on... So I think it's right that folks have their underwear pinched tighter than a lobster's claw on this one, because isn't it about time human beings let go of this ancient crutch? Isn't the truth, as revealed by science, even more wondrous? I mentioned these thoughts to my Uncle Abe and he said, in between slurps of his Cinammon Raisin oatmeal, "At least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols." Once again I looked up U.A.'s thoughts on the web and found that someone else -- in this case Aldous Huxley -- had spoken them first, which only proves that there are really no new ideas.

I haven't seen the Da Vinci Code and I haven't read the book, though I've read through several reviews of both and have discovered that intelligent people (assuming reviewers are intelligent, which is a dangerous presumption on par with the assumption that politicians are honest)... but I digress. Intelligent people seem to think the book and the movie kinda suck ass, and not in a good way. So I could understand those who would simply dismiss it as drivel and move on with their lives spent surfing things, like the web and the Pacific Ocean. But to them, I say: don't you see that's the point? What's the point? they would ask, exasperated by my inarticulateness. The point is: people are actually attracted to this kind of stupidity and it scares me more than hairless cats do. Yes, humans have always leaned rather heavily on superstitious claptrap to explain the universe and our seemingly super-important role in it, but that's because humans have always been scared, frightened, too-smart-for-their-own-good monkeys. So now, in the fabulous 21st Century, haven't we grown up enough to face that? Judging by events around the globe, clearly we haven't, but imagine what we could achieve if we did -- we've already walked on the moon, cured innumerable diseases, invented cool things like Ipods and pencil sharpeners. And we're just getting started, humans have only been around for a very short time -- dinosaurs were around for something like 200 million years and not one of them even invented a stapler!

Are you still imagining? Okay, stop, because you're drooling.

Hey, are the ethics provided by religion really all that great, necessarily? Aren't they kind of repressive? And don't they encourage blind obedience, rather than thought? I was discussing this with the now deceased poet, Anais Nin, during a seance last night and she said, "When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow." Yes, Anais, yes! And no, I didn't sleep with her.

I know I'm not exactly cutting any edges by condemning religion and superstition (wasn't that what the Enlightment was all about?), and I know there are probably good arguments on the side of religion and metaphysics generally that point to the disasterously bloody results of peoples abandoning morality (the French Revolution, anyone?). But geez, isn't there a place for a world devoid of god and make-pretend that also includes a well-constructed ethics? I suppose you could argue back and forth like this, with good arguments on both sides, about the question of how much good vs. evil religion does. Is it a force of good or evil, primarily? But the bottom line is: it's a fantasy, it's make-pretend, and ultimately we do harm to ourselves when we believe in such dreams.

Now, maybe someone has to step up and educate the masses, let 'em know that it's okay to let go of their belief in god, and an afterlife and ESP, although I think we're all capable of doing this for ourselves. Did you really need your mom to tell you Santa was a hoax? Didn't you begin to realize on your own? Of course, there was a period in there where you allowed yourself to believe anyway, maybe for one last winter or two, but you finally told yourself it was all just a hoax and you went on to obsessing about other things, like that cute girl in your gym class, was her name Lisa Hernandez (call me!)? People allow themselves to believe in religion for far too long. I'm guessing most people know it's a game, but they choose to play anyway: anything to avoid dealing with reality.

Maybe it's something deeper, a need to belong to something, a need to imagine a power beyond us. Look in the mirror one day and think the world begins and ends with choices, however, and you'll see a different world when you walk out the door. Now excuse me, but I have to catch a nap before the hockey game tonight. Those Oilers are gods, man...


Free Throws

In the very near future I'm sure to write about some topic with grave repercussions, like the escalating war in Iraq, or the escalating price of gas in the U.S of A. or the escalating temperatures of our hapless planet, but today is not the near future, today is today, and so instead I'm writing about professional basketball. More specifically, I'm writing about free throw shooting, and the frequency with which said shots are missed in the National Basketball Association. I watched a game earlier this year and one team made UNDER 50% of their free throws, while the other made just over 50%. In a recent playoff game, the Miami Heat shot just over 25%. I mean, just over 25%! Imagine if baseball players caught only 50% of routine popups or if politicians only took bribes when they really needed the money (they're kids need new helicopters, just like yours, after all). That would be unacceptable, wouldn't it? Happy Stan, who isn't much of a basketball fan, because he's too busy with his knitting club, says that these players are trying their best, so why not give them a break. It's just free throw shooting, right, and you're thinking along with HP, who really cares, it's just a game, why don't I find something more useful to crank about, like pizza and it's tendency to scald the roof of my mouth? Because, I say to you and HP and all your Dominoes consuming constituents, poor free throw shooting is symbolic of the decline in our culture of integrity, hard work and a willingness to learn the fundamental components of a sport or discipline or board game in order to master it. We're a culture of needy, self-entitled jerks, and no one wants to spend the time to learn to do something right in the first freakin' place -- that's why we end up writing blogs instead of well-thought out essays, for example.

Wait, what was I talking about? Oh yes, free throw shooting. Look, couldn't they practice more? Isn't it that simple? So many games in the NBA come down to 2 or 3 points, so it would make a big difference if you're team hit 90% of its free throws. Last year's champs, the Spurs, were eliminated in this year's playoffs, but they'd probably never lose a game if they could make free throws -- they're terrible at it. They're best player, Tim Duncan, is called the "Big Fundamental" and he shoots around 60%. Yipes, I think we've lowered our standards a tad! If it was you, and you were a talented NBA player, meaning you were 8 feet tall and fast and strong and misogynistic, wouldn't you want to make your free throws? They're free, after all! No one guards you, no one tries to elbow you to the ground, no one mugs you while you shoot. You get to stand calmly and take your shot. If you practiced that as much as you practiced dunking, you'd get good at it. The New York Knick's rookie Nate Robinson, who is only something like 3 feet tall, won the slam-dunk contest at this year's All Star game, though it took him about twenty tries. First of all, you should only get one try! In life, you get one try, so why should a slam dunker get 20? Because we're pussies, that's why. Second of all, he's a shitty free throw shooter. No wonder uber coach Larry Brown nearly had a stroke trying to coach the Knicks this year. These guys are more interested in looking good, then playing good (and even though that's bad English, you know what I mean because you've also been watching too much TV recently).

I guess it's the most obvious thing in the world that most people would rather look good or be famous or be rich, than spend time learning about themselves and the world and how they can truly, and finally be both content and useful. Most settle with mere contentment, and by "content" I mean stupid, angry, depressed, suicidal, crazy, bad-free throw shootingly, and illiterate. It's enough to make me want to quit my job and run for president on a platform of integrity and reason and truth. But then, I don't think I could handle becoming a laughing stock, so I'll leave it to some other sucker, maybe an athlete who makes his free throws? Hey, maybe Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns should take over for Bush. Oh wait, he's Canadian. D'oh! That figures...