Friday, July 31, 2009

My Girlfriend? Awesome

Just heading out the door for a long-ass drive (and away from Internet for two days), so I had to quickly share this one. Within minutes of arriving at the ladyfriend's abode in Wisconsin last night, I got part of my belated birthday gift:

The Creation Adventure Team: A Jurassic Ark Mystery

The blurb on the back of the box:

The Creation Adventure Team travels the world and reveals answers to the mysteries of the dinosaurs. When did they live? How did they die? What do their remains reveal? What about Noah's Flood, and were there dinosaurs on the Ark? Join the adventure as Buddy and the team explore the "X-tinct Files" to reveal the incredible answer to the great dinosaur mystery!

From a submarine deep underwater to an airplane high above the earth, Buddy and his team are out to explore! Biblical Reality glasses [I shit you not] reveal the unseen biblical truth about God and the world around us. This kid-friendly series combines live-action with cutting edge special effects and animatronics, plus 2D and 3D animation. Every episode is accompanied by fun songs and tons of humor.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Read my Homework

Blasphemy is now a criminal offense that carries a fine of €25,000? Christ-on-His-divine-bicycle! That’s entirely absurd! Only a complete buffoon would ignore all the decent people that the bill offends and outrages for the sake of appeasing a few crackpots!

Whilst pondering what this dangerously loose worded bill means to a loudmouthed ragamuffin like me, I thought of a happier time. It was September 2006, and I was in The Greatest Country in the World™, enjoying the first few weeks of my exchange year of college in Pittsburgh. My Study of Rhetoric professor gave the class the task of critically analysing a cultural event through the rhetorical toolkit he had spent the past few lectures explaining.

The cultural event I chose was close to my heart – the Catholic mass. The following essay is stacked with unnecessary jargon buzzwords to show the prof that I was paying attention, and some clumsy segues, but I still get a kick out of seeing what an irreligious asshat I was long before I had heard of Richard Dawkins.

Just bear in mind, any of you litigious twats, that my ample ass was covered by the first amendment when I wrote this. God bless America!

Critique #3
Eating Christ-Crackers in the 21st Century

One of the many rituals that may be considered odd to an outside observer is the manner in which the cultural group known as Catholics, near the end of their weekly prayer gathering, queue orderly to make their way towards the altar, eat a piece of wafer, sip from a golden goblet, then return to their seats for a few more moments of prayer before vacating their place of worship.

Of course, the ritual in question is the holy sacrament of the Eucharist, and Catholics are educated on this important tradition as part of their faith. Before they ingest the holy disc, the priest reminds the assembled worshippers that they are fulfilling Jesus' instructions from the Last Supper, as recorded in the New Testament of the Bible. First, the priest will read these relevant passages, and then he will administer Communion in a manner that echoes what has just been read. By indexical association, the priest 'becomes' Jesus, as he takes “the bread”, breaks it, and gives it to his “disciples”, represented by the congregation.

The Bible states how Jesus told his guests that they were eating his body and drinking his blood at the Last Supper, and the purpose of the Eucharist is to make all of mankind present at this seminal event. What this means is that the Catholic church do not believe that the bread is a symbol of Jesus' flesh, nor is the wine a symbol of his blood, but rather they somehow transform into the actual physical components of Christ, whilst retaining their original properties; a process known as transubstantiation. Interestingly, the Catholic church makes no effort to explain how the transformation occurs, but rather dictates what changes; the bread, while still looking and being in every way perceivable to the human eye as bread, becomes Christ's flesh, and the wine, while still looking and being in every way perceivable to the human eye as wine, becomes Christ's blood.

After transubstantiation has taken place, those who are eligible for communion may approach their nearest Christ-flesh vendor to consume their lord. After they are prompted with “Body of Christ”, the recipient replies “Amen”, which (whether they know it or not) is the Hebrew term for “Truly”, signifying their awareness or compliance with this theory. The bread will then be placed on the tongue, and the beneficiary will trace a cross on their body; beginning around their forehead, making their down to their mid-section, then over to the left and right shoulders. This is the act of blessing oneself, and it is an iconic allusion to the crucifix on which Jesus died while sacrificing himself for mankind, and also an indexical reference to the holy Trinity of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit.

As a person who can associate with the group identity of ‘one who has worked in catering', I am aware of the basic tenets of food preparation. At the most recent mass I attended, the priest was an elderly gentleman who appeared to be suffering from a cold at the time. Several times during his sermon did he cough and splutter into his hand, even while handling the communion wafer. Many people present at that mass would normally identify themselves as being unwilling to take unnecessary risks with their health, and be horrified by what had transpired, but nobody seemed put off the holy bread by the fact that it had been handled by potentially contaminated hands. Similarly, scores of people were drinking out of the same chalice, their health concerns seemingly satiated by the slight rub the lip of the grail received in between sups; an instance of western common-sense being overruled by habit, perhaps, as it is one of the few examples of a time where strangers may share drinking utensils with one another.

It is interesting to see the ways in which these hallowed traditions alienate certain people. [Deleted] is one such person - a celiac-disease sufferer. He is unable to participate in the consumption of Christ's flesh, transubstantiation or not, as it contains gluten, like most wafers and breads. This grants him an uncommon subject position, and subsequently causes an oppositional reading of the text as it is laid out before him. If the motivation behind the Sacrament of the Eucharist being carried out in churches is for all of mankind to be 'present' at the Last Supper in some form, then why is he, a man, not allowed to participate without risking grievous harm to himself? Is his autoimmune dysfunction a sign that he is unqualified for Catholicism, and therefore will miss out on the eternal life that is offered to followers of Christ? He investigated the issue and conversed with many priests before learning, much to his amusement that only bread made with wheat is considered eligible for the rather magical-sounding transubstantiation, prompting him to cynically ask, “if a substance as unremarkable as bread can magically become Christ's body, why not something else?”

The practice of the Eucharist is such a common occurrence in so many Catholics’ lives, that they are likely to not think much about what is happening, or question why they are engaging in the act, a situation that surely works to the advantage of the church. There are few who raise cannibalistic worries when summoned to consume the body and blood of Christ. Similarly, there are few who are aware that the bread and wine they are consuming is actually the body and blood of their saviour. There are even fewer who are aware of how this process occurs. Whereas other branches of Christianity practice the ceremony of communion, they carry it out with a different set of beliefs; some believe that the bread and wine are symbolic, whereas others choose to believe that Christ is present in a different form.

As societies continue to evolve, more people begin to ask questions, and religions lose their influence over the world, one must ask, when examining archaic rituals such as the Eucharist as carried out by the Catholic Church, how much longer will these cultural groups be willing to participate in increasingly outdated traditions?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Sully's Blog: 'Please find me funny' edition

My new work commitments have completely annihilated my free time, but more pressingly, the time I'd normally spend dicking around and finding things I want to riff on, which is regrettable...

Good thing I have some more stuff I've written earlier to copy and paste into a browser window!

This time, I'm regurgitating an article that those nice people at [crude] magazine were kind enough to print. They were generous enough to put a 'humour' tag on the page someplace (or so I've been told), but I'll let you decide for yourself:

The End Times Cometh
By Se├ín O’Sullivan

If I were a praying man, I’d be on my knees right now, calling in a few favours in exchange for divine deliverance from the greatest crisis that has beset Irish civilisation since its inception. I assure you, dear reader, that this article is not more hackneyed histrionics over mere recessionary matters - what’s been keeping me up at night lately is the impending apocalypse.

You’ve seen the signs yourself, you’ve just yet to shed your denial. Perhaps you first noticed it on a busy street of people toing and froing, starkly contrasting that motionless figure that emitted a low growl as you passed: “Chaaaaaaange”. So jarring was this experience that it seemed unreal, not finding its way into memory but rather dismissed as fantasy.

It first occurred to me at about 10pm during an attempted trip to an ATM in Limerick. A creature, exhibiting only faint vestiges of humanity was perched by the cash-dispenser, and he raised his head forlornly as I approached. His dull, lifeless eyes stared past me as he grumbled: “Got a qweed?” I looked into this character’s gaunt face as it rocked lightly from side to side, trying to assess the situation. Despite his hoodie & tracksuit ensemble costing more than I had in the bank, he was somehow reduced to beggary.

Fearing an airborne virus was to blame for this chap’s condition, I skipped across the road to another hole-in-wall. There, in a stoop by the machine was a similarly attired, equally haggard critter. His dead eyes rolled in loose circles as he struggled to look straight, yet he stretched out his hand and implored me to “spare a few bob”. Met with only a stunned silence, he turned his outstretched hand to frenzied arm scratching and muttered to himself as I continued hurriedly out of earshot.

These encounters ruined my night, as the frivolities of my socialising had to take a backseat to my ponderings. How were these people justifying their fundraising efforts without having a stump to wave about, or a crude scrawl on a piece of cardboard to inspire sympathy? Their incoherence provided me with little information to diagnose the seeming pandemic that had struck the unfortunate sub-culture of perma-tracksuited street loiterers.

Please don’t confuse these shared musings for bigotry - I’m not necessarily complaining about these people, I just want to understand them. I’m aware that beggars come in all shapes and sizes – like the ones who don’t seem like they really needed the money. I’m speaking of course, about the organised network of snack-sized-Pringles-can proffering Romanians that are collected every evening in nice Passaats at six o’clock outside post offices. (The most I’ve ever offered them was the advice that the full-size cans are much more economical). But this seems different.

Since we’re on the subject of my tolerance, I’m anxious to add that I’ve encountered entrepreneurial sorts who have offered a service that mirrors beggary in its execution. People like the polite Africans who dwell in Ireland’s pub toilets, hoarding the hand towels and soap products and shilling breath-mints to halitosis suffering clubbers. The warmth of their smile (and slight erosion of white guilt) is well worth the €2 “tip” for a service that would otherwise be carried out gratis by a wall-mounted plastic box. But I digress; this is an altogether more pressing matter.

How can one reconcile the designer clothes with the pale skin, epidermal irritation, and impaired cognitive function? By now the astute readers should have - as I have - put two and two together, and surmised that the zombie apocalypse is upon us.

I have been fortunate enough to witness the zombification process in action, over 100km away from the site of first contact. Whilst enjoying lunch in one of Cork’s fine eateries I happened to observe a hooded gentleman halt his gait, take a few sips from his bottle of Deep River Rock, glance over both shoulders, then sit against the electrical box that encroached on the footpath. As he pulled away his hood, his blank expression was replaced with a slack-faced mournful desperation, and his body slumped back in a way that drew attention to the tattered paper coffee cup that had suddenly appeared. A pathetic murmur followed each passerby as the emaciated one attempted to collect a few coins.

For all that has been said recently about revitalising the economy, clearing infected from the streets has been conspicuously absent from Brian Cowen’s recent addresses. It’ll be quite difficult to lure the punters into city centres once the growing numbers of undead turn feral and start taking money, rather than politely (albeit unnervingly) asking for it. What if equally-enlightened denizens consult their accrued B-movie knowledge and set about despatching zombies by way of a bullet in the head? Such obstructions left on the footpaths would make shopping quite cumbersome, nevermind the health and safety worries that the tripping hazards represent.

It’s about time that the Gardai step up their efforts into investigating and removing whatever substance out there that’s causing this rather terrorizing outbreak before it gets any more out of hand. If the recent Swine Flu hysteria has taught us anything, it’s that the only reaction to public health concerns the populous will stomach is overreaction.

Oh wow, swineflu - I'm so topical!