Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Good-bye Lucy. Hello Chupacabra

Today was Lucy (the administrative assistant who is keeping us semi-sane at work)'s going away lunch. Needless to say, we're all happy that she's moving up the ladder to a better paying clerical job. However, we are also sad and worried because taking over for her is the dreaded Chupacabra.

No, Lucy is not being replaced by this. Rather, Chupacabra is the name I've chosen for the four feet of bad attitude that is now sitting at Lucy's desk. And like the creature, this individual can be both irritating and unpredictable, though I haven't heard any reports of her destroying livestock. Still, it's not a good day here.

There's also another event that troubles me here at work, but I've been told to keep my trap shut by people way up the chain of command. As soon as it becomes public, I'll report it here. But I'm concerned about this incident and what it says about this place where I work and the community that surrounds it.

But on to happier topics:

Drink Man is continuing his recovery, almost to the point of irritation, as he seems to make constant reference to the accident and how he's making all sorts of changes in his life. His truck was totaled, but the insurance is paying it almost completely off, so he'll be able to bounce back from this in short order with hardly any financial strains. There's still his court date, but given his seemingly teflon nature, I'm sure he'll skate clear of that, too. I don't wish him ill, but I almost wish that something would hit him and stick, so that he'd have a reminder of this event to reinforce the need for him to maintain the changes about which he's currently excited. Sooner or later he's going to get bored with the "new" life, and be tempted to return to his partying, womanizing ways. Then all hell's going to break loose.

'til then, One Ring and I will probably be watching and waiting.

In other news, Pooh called One Ring last night. Seems she's planning a trip out here to get some much needed study time / respite from her work. You might recall from an earlier post that Pooh had given thought to getting a tattoo. Well, I jokingly suggested that when she comes out in late August, we head out to a local shop and get some ink together. One Ring exclaimed, "You don't have a bare place to put it!" She pointed to my arm to prove her point.


Well, I'm not going to let a little thing like fur prevent me from being utterly foolish and a possible embarrassment to friends and family! Rest assured that I will be providing updates and pictures should this quasi-plan come to fruition.

Drink Man took a similarly dim view of my plan. "You're pushing 40!" he exclaimed.

"Yeah," said I. "And I know a woman in her 60s who just got a tat done not too long ago. What's your point?"

He asked me what I was going to put on, and I said, "Religious symbol, probably."

"But you're not religious!"

"Okay, fine. Some spirituality symbol, then!"

"What some upside down Ozzy Osbourne cross?"

"Uhm, dude. That would be an upright cross ..."

You can see how deep our conversations get at work most days. In case you're interested. This is the symbol that so far is leading the pack:

It's the Dharma Wheel, and is one of the most basic of Buddhist symbols, representing discipline (the hub of the wheel), mindfulness (the rim of the wheel), and The Eightfold Path (the spokes of the wheel).

As far as symbols go, it's pretty important in my life right now, which is why I'm considering it as a tattoo, as opposed to these (warning: some images are not safe for work)! I've spent some spare time today wondering what people are thinking when they pick a design or choose an artist to do the work. I mean seriously, did they even look at the artist's previous designs before shelling out the cash for something that will last until the day they die? Scary stuff. Which is why I'm thinking of going with something simple, yet filled with meaning. And if my views change over time, I can always tell people that it's supposed to be the wheel of a pirate ship or something!

Okay, the doctor just left, which means that I am absolutely doing nothing for the next 35 minutes. Huzzah!

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Drink Man Update

... in case anyone cares.

He's alive, sore, and recovering following a late night trip to the ER yesterday. The pain finally caught up with him (as did the police - more on that later), so he went to get checked out. All the CT scans, X-rays, etc. came back negative so all is well. Aside from his friends who want to really do some damage to him, he should be safe and sound.

Because he managed to get home and sleep it off, there was no evidence left that he had been drinking prior to the accident, so legally he's okay - except, perhaps, for a charge of leaving the scene of an accident, but that's still up in the air and depends on how much the officer in charge hates paperwork.

So now I'm acting as his press secretary, answering questions, taking phone calls, and telling people, "For God's sake, call him! What do I look like, his freakin' press secretary????"

Apparently, I do.

I'm charging him for this. Hourly rates. I swear.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

With Friends Like These ...

I'm pissed. This morning I received a flood of messages from One Ring, who had been trying to reach me repeatedly during my morning commute. Unfortunately, I had Metallica's Master of Puppets cranked up, and didn't hear my phone ring. So I only picked up after I pulled into an awesome "I got here on time" parking spot.

She informed me that Drink Man and inevitability had finally collided. Last night he had gone out drinking with some friends, and then attempted to drive home. Apparently he lost control of his car and wrecked, receiving injuries to his ribs, elbow and face. He says he's fine, but he made matters worse by wandering off into the woods and sleeping under a tree while the police came and towed his car to parts unknown (he lives in a rural community not far from the hospital).

So, whom does he call? Me. He calls me and asks me to drive out to his house (he walked home this morning at 4:30), and help him out during my lunch break. Will I? Yes, because I'm a nice guy. Will I tell him, "Everything's all right. We'll fix it and make it all better."? Oh, hells no!

First off, I'm thinking that he's a binge drinker variety of alcoholic. Which makes him damn dangerous on the road and irritating to be around. I pray that this incident will convince him to seek help and you can bet that I'm going to be suggesting it and going all kinds of intervention on his sorry tail.

And you can bet I'm going to make him feel guilty for making me give up that awesome parking space I scored this morning!

More later.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

This Could be Really, Really Good ...

... or really, really bad.

I called in sick for work on Friday, hence the lack of posts. I was so angry with Annoying Coworker, who was pulling some nasty office politics, that I developed a major headache. Add to that the dogs freaking out because One Ring was out of town, and it was an easy decision to call in due to pain and lack of sleep. I spent the weekend plotting my revenge and trying to decide the proper way to get my revenge - keelhauling, hanging from the yard arm, or a straight up duel (swords, of course, I prefer them to guns.). As it turns out, my being absent was revenge enough, as he was slammed with all my work on top of his admittedly light schedule. So he has't spoken to me all day. Now if I can only make this last.

The rest of the weekend came and went fairly quickly and with limited fanfare. Went to dinner with some friends from graduate school Friday night, then skipped a get together with the same friends on Saturday. Worked on my guitar, took care of the dogs, mowed the lawn - the usual weekend stuff. Nothing to report.

So I figure I'll move on to another subject - The upcoming Tim Burton Film Alice in Wonderland.

The Hollywood powers that be have just released still shots from the film. Despite my love of the story, with all it's drug induced psychodelic philosophical chaos, I'm still not sure what I think of this. On the one hand, the scenery looks incredible, as do the CGI effects that bring many of the characters to life:

However - and this is a big however - take a look at Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter who once again work with Burton (Depp for the 7th time!) as The Mad Hatter and the Red Queen:

I'm just not sure I can get over the look. Maybe it's because I have a lifetime of thinking of the Mad Hatter like this:

or this:

Oh, well. I have until 2010, when the movie comes out, to get used to the strangeness. I've liked everything else Burton has put out - with the exception of that Pee Wee Herman movie and the Batman movies, but that was more of a casting issue and the inability of the script writers to completely get rid of the campy-ness of the original television series than anything else. So maybe I'll be able to enjoy this, too. Time will tell.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I'm Rethinking This Whole Tattoo Thing

Especially if I should happen to fall asleep during the procedure!

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Funniest. Video. Ever.

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Because It's Never Too Early to Prepare for Halloween

Starting with a new link on the right!

Halloween is without a doubt my favorite holiday. Yes, I love Christmas, and watching people open gifts, enjoying the company of family and friends, and trying to maintain an optimistic outlook on humanity. Those who know me will immediately recognize how hard it is for me to accomplish the last one in that list!

But while Christmas and the other holidays are fun. Nothing beats Halloween.

No, it's not the candy. Nor is it, as comedian Jim Gaffigan so elequently put it, "because all you women like to dress up as prostitutes!" Rather, I love Halloween because it's an ancient holiday (predating Christianity by milennia), and in many ways I can get in touch with that cultural memory. The ancient Celts and Germanic tribes believed that it was the time of the year when the veil between the land of the living and that of the dead was at its thinnest, and an air of uncertainty and the uncanny was omnipresent. It's the time of the year when what Dr. Volney Gay terms "Occult Thinking" (connecting an event to a completely unrelated event and tossing in religious or superstitious flavoring, then mixing until well blended)in his book Understanding the Occult: Fragmentation and Repair of the Self is not only allowed, but encouraged.

In other words, at Haloween, anything can and often does happen, in our minds at least. And unlike Christmas, the results are not always to our liking. Which is why horror movies and books are so popular, and their creators often have such a loyal following. Readers and viewers don't know whether or not the good guys are going to win. They don't know if sanity will prevail, or if life for the characters will return to "normal." In other words, once a good work of horror is read or viewed, all bets are off. And I love it.

Note I said that referring to "good works of horror," so obviously we're talking about opinions and subjective views. What one person considers great horror, others might consider boring or dull. The chaplain down the hall loves the Saw movies, due to the issues of justice and punishment involved. I consider them to be "torture porn" and lump it together with the likes of Hostel, Touristas, Wolf Creek and other films where the plot and character development is almost non-existent and the emphasis is on gore and depicting violence in as many different ways as possible. But that's just my opinion.

My tastes run towards the classic "Gothic" horror of the late 19th, early 20th century. Obviously you know of my fondness for Lovecraft and his contemporaries, but I also like horror movies set in that time period, such as In Hell, and Sleepy Hollow. Yes, there is some gore there, but the emphasis is on plot, characters, and the environment in which the stories play out.

Not all Gothic horror is good, of course, and I have been impressed with many of the films that have come out of Japan recently, as well as the books they were based on. The first two Ring movies I thought were very good, as was Pulse (see the Japanese version and avoid the American remake at all costs!). All were very unnerving, in their use of ordinary objects (a videotape or modern technology) as threats to the characters.

So, I've added a new link to the right - The Literary Gothic. It's a reference site, and not a blog, that lists hundreds and hundreds of authors, including Lovecraft, H.G. Wells, Edgar Allen Poe, and other favorites of mine. Enjoy.

I've also begun my annual search for - in my opinion - good horror movies to watch this season. If any really surprise me, I'll put them up here. And if I can find any that tie in pirates and horror, you can bet that all kinds of information will find its way here!


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Friday, June 12, 2009

Just to Prove ...

... that this blog isn't all pirates and Disney stuff:


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End of the Day Insanity

Well, it seems insane, at least. There has been very little to do since I last posted, though I have been able to stay occupied looking for random bits of trivia regarding horror movies, Lovecraft memorabilia (more on that later), and Disney stuff (One month!).

Still, though, the day drags.

Most of what I'm interested in is blocked by the evil minions of the I.T. department. Not surprising, though I am convinced that they spend their day watching porn while denying the rest of us access to YouTube and Facebook! I've met a few of them - they have the pasty white skin, paunchy bellies, squinty eyes, and hunched shoulders consistant with those who shun sunlight and / or still live in their parents' basement, all the while hunched over computers denying people the right to have fun.

No, I'm not bitter.

Annoying Coworker has become more active this afternoon, which is proving irritating as usual. Still, it could be worse. A lot worse. He didn't decide to move into my office. Not that there was an offer made, but I've caught him a couple of times when he's unlocked the door and crashed in one of the chairs. Don't know why he does that, but it gets irritating. Anyway, he didn't do that today, so I don't have to worry about what the hospital policy regarding office squatters rights is!

But I digress ...

I failed to mention that One Ring and I have been going out to lunch every Sunday with a couple from church. Nice people. Both are professors at local universities, and about our age. Kinda geeky, too, but not in an annoying way. So we have been enjoying our weekly outings.

Anyway, the couple (I'm working on nicknames) invited us to their new house for a housewarming party. We brought dinner. During the conversation, the wife mentioned her love for H.P. Lovecraft, which caused me to just about fall out of my chair. Later the husband showed me her framed envelope signed with H.P.L.'s return address and bearing his signature. That did cause me to fall out of my chair; or would have had I not been already standing up.

So as a gag gift, I found a diploma from Miskatonic University - the fictional school set in the fictional town of Arkham, Massachusetts where many of Lovecraft's stories take place - in a .pdf format. I took it, put in the wife's name and made her a "Doctor of Theoretical Realities." Looks pretty cool. Further Google searches have revealed that lots of people have had fun along those lines, and Cafe Press is filled with alumni mugs, sweatshirts, license plate frames, and the like, all bearing the name of the fake school.

I'm lending the husband a copy of dvd of Dune - the Sci-Fi channel mini-series, not the de Laurentis massacre of the awesome Frank Herbert novel - as well, as the non-Lovecraft portion of the conversation that I had with him seemed to revolve around that series of books and movies.

Like I said, they're geeky, but nice. Just like me.

28 minutes. I'm suspecting that there's a reason why time slows right before quitting time, then accelerates exponentially during my non-working hours. Unfortunately, I do not know any quantum physicists who would be able to solve this connundrum. Sad.

Okay, I'm gone. I can barely stay awake, and my work is done. See you Monday. Unless something really cool happens over the weekend and I don't feel like waiting to write about it.

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It's Friday!

And I'm beat. We had a thunderstorm roll through last night, which upset Barney the not so brave Beagle. Took us a while to calm him down and even after that I had a little bit of difficulty in falling back asleep. So today I'm dragging. No biggie, considering that the doctor is taking the day off, as is Drink Man, so I'm alone with no work. Annoying Coworker is busy with his appointments, so he's leaving me alone as well - thanks be to God!

All of which leaves me to blog and find things to do. Not that I'm complaining. It's just an odd occurance around here to have absolutely nothing to do. Really it's just a matter of looking busy and entertaining myself. Oh, it might help to remember that these are your tax dollars at work!

Last night, long before the storm started, One Ring and I went to the Opry Mills mall to walk and get out of the house. One Ring's studies keep her cooped up quite a bit, and sometimes her cabin fever spreads over to me, even though I work outside of the house and am sometimes tired when I get home. Anyway, Opry Mills has a Disney outlet store and I needed to replace a coffee mug that had broken, so off we went.

Even though the store had a Pirates of the Caribbean mug, I elected to go with a mug bearing the grinning face of the Cheshire Cat. So why did I go with that character and not keep to the whole pirate theme?

Well, throughout my life, especially in my post-graduate school days, there have been times when I related very strongly to certain characters in literature. Coincidently, most of these have been appropriated and reimaged by Disney over the years, but all started out as independent works, with one or two exceptions.

When I was dating One Ring, Eeyore the chronically depressed donkey was my main image. I was attempting to cope with my yet to be diagnosed bipolar disorder, and found myself swinging from brief periods of hypomania to long spells of depression. Not fun at all. To alleviate some of the stress, I took to doing imitations of Eeyore whenever people would ask me how I was doing. "Still got my tail ..." was one that I still use on occasion. Of course, Disney later revamped his character when they went through the "smiling Eeyore" phase, painting a goofy grin as he gazed at butterflies, flowers, and what-have-you. I referred to these images as "Eeyore on Prozac," with disdain and felt I had the right to since by this period I was pretty heavily medicated myself. Absolutely hated them. Fortunately, Eeyore seems to have returned to his gloomy visaged self. Unfortunately, Disney has apparently decided that all Eeyore products must be marketed towards women. So I have been unable to buy Eeyore stuff, as I look lousy in lavender. I did have a ton of Eeyore stuffed animals, statues, pins, and even have an Eeyore letter style winter coat that I wear on occasion. And when I proposed to One Ring over ten years ago, I did so by tying the engagement ring around the neck of a small figurine of the depressed donkey. I thought it appropriate at the time.

The next character I really connected with came during a quasi gothic phase that I continue to slip in and out of. That would be Jack Skellington. Why Jack? I think Jack fit in with my feelings of inauthenticity while I worked in the church. In the movie Nightmare before Christmas, Jack is hating his role as the Pumpkin King, and really wants to take a turn at bringing joy to people's lives rather than scaring them half to death. When I was working in the church, I felt I was unable to express my interests and be the person who I really was because of the beliefs of those around me. As one minister friend of mine who is continuing to fight the same issue said, "I'm tired of being a projection screen for everyone else's beliefs." In other words, I got tired of people thinking I agreed with whatever they held to be true religiously or even politically. Of course, whereas Jack came to terms with who he was and returned to being the leader of Halloween Town, I came to terms with who I was and decided to leave the church and move on to a more authentic life.

Which brings us to today. While I could spend time on the whole pirate thing that I have going, I will instead refer you to something I wrote at the beginning of last month and leave it at that. Pirates, of course, are a group of people, not a single character, so they wouldn't qualify for this discussion anyway. So let's just keep going to the character that currently fits my mood and outlook.

Suprisingly, the character is from Alice in Wonderland. Yes, it's a children's book, just like the 100 Acre Woods adventures from which Eeyore sprang. And, if you want to say that The Nightmare Before Christmas is a children's movie, I won't argue either. But children's stories tend to contain archetypes, I've found, elements that lend themselves well to being symbolic for deep meaning and relavance. Which is why when I read Alice in Wonderland, saw one of the adaptations, and met the Cheshire Cat, I knew we had a lot in common. Especially now that I work in the mental health field. Take this exchange between Alice and the Cat:

Alice felt that this could not be denied, so she tried another question. `What sort of people live about here?'

`In that direction,' the Cat said, waving its right paw round, `lives a Hatter: and in that direction,' waving the other paw, `lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they're both mad.'

`But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.

`Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'

`How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.

`You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'

When I first started working at this hospital, my then-supervisor remarked, "The thing you need to remember is that this is primarily a mental hospital, so the question you need to keep asking yourself is not, 'Is this person crazy?' rather, it's, 'What kind of crazy is this guy?'"

It wasn't long before I discovered he was talking about the staff just as much as he was referring to the patients! Not only was there the usual odd behavior by patients who are suffering from psychotic issues, schizophrenia, and the like, but sometimes members of the staff seem gripped by a sort of Folie a Deux, which brings about some very odd events indeed. Not that it's all bad, or any of it's bad, it's just different, and the Cheshire Cat's statement that "We're all mad here" rings true.

Plus, as I've gone through the last ten years, I've come to terms with my own mental illness, minor though it may be compared to others. After having friends and family (and sometimes coworkers and strangers) half-seriously tell me that I'm crazy, I'm finally okay with it. Yeah, I may be weird. I have weird interests and weird hobbies and weird friends and my life is occasionly insane. But that's okay. In fact, I like it this way. And this is probably the first time in a very long time where I can say that. So I can really relate to a character who essentially says, "You know what? This is all nuts. The world is crazy. We're all quite mad here. Deal with it."

And that, people, is why I didn't buy a pirate themed coffee mug and instead went with the Cheshire Cat. And you probably didn't even care! : )

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Anniversary was a Few Days Ago ...

... but I felt this needed to be said despite my being late. Props to whomever put it up on LOL News.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

In Case the Government is Watching ...

Let me formally say that I do not condone or encourage piracy of copyright materials, no matter the size of the profit margins of the corporations that produce said materials. Nor do I condone or encourage piracy of the type currently going on off the coast of Somalia, no matter the size of the profit margins of the corporations that are currently overfishing and dumping toxic wastes into those waters.

Raising the Jolly Roger and going after aforementioned booty would be bad, m'kay?

Now, that being said, I did find that the Pirate Party that won a couple of seats in the EU Parlimentary elections does, in fact, have a branch in the United States. They can be found here. Though from the sounds of things, it doesn't look like they're having much luck in developing a groundswell of popular support.

Don't know why, but I just felt the need to put the occasional disclaimer up in case there was any confusion as to where my sympathies lie.

In other news, I just received some very disappointing news regarding my pay. So I'm going to close here and head home for the day.

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Catching My Breath

and dreaming of vacation.

Yesterday found me very angry at Annoying Coworker, hence my lack of posts. I could vent on how he left here and dumped all his work on top of my work - and this after I had done his job the day before! - but such rants would only get me worked up again. I've complained as much as can be done to the people who care (or don't; I haven't determined this for certain yet) about such things, so it's pretty much over. Save for the headache that developed yesterday and continues to spring up between my temples every now and then.

But now let's get some business out of the way with some pirate-y news:

From the Duh! files, the BBC reports that people who receive warnings from there internet provider that they need to stop pirating only ceased and desisted 33% of the time. The rest were "disinclined to acquiesce to their request." Only when internet service was completely cut off did the individuals stop pirating copyrighted material.

Kinda hard to pirate if you don't have an internet link, eh?

And from the If you can't beat 'em files, a group that campaigned solely on issues of the exchange of copyrighted material won one, if not two seats in the Swedish delegation to the European Union. They received roughly 200,000 votes. Here's the whole story.

So that's what's new in that world. In my life things continue as normal. Guitar lessons are going great, but I'm having trouble changing into and out of the B minor chord, so that's holding up learning a song for One Ring. It's not a big problem, just a frustrating one. My instructor said that time (and lots of practice) would take care of that, so I'm going to trust those words and keep at it. Apparently the transition from beginner to rock god takes longer than I had orginally planned!

Still looking for a new car to replace the aging Doom Buggy. Right now it seems to be a toss up between the Kia Soul (I got Soul! I'm superbad! - sorry, couldn't resist!) and the Toyota Yaris. Though I would immediately have to get a new label / emblem that changed the name to Yaarrrris! Yes, bad joke, I know. Sorry about that.

In fact the dealership just called me. Guess I set off some alarm bells when I used Costco's buyer program to look at their inventory. Now I'll have vultures circling me for the next couple of months. Oh, well.

One Ring is booking dinner reservations for a short vacation we're taking with her family in Disney World around labor day. We're not planning on doing anything except for swimming in the pool, sleeping, and eating. Still, all this talk about vacations has me loathing the work day. One month and one week until I'm off on my first vacation, though, so hopefully I can keep my sanity.

And, speaking of work, I have the opportunity to apply for a chaplain job here. Thing is, after looking at the job description, pay, etc., I'm thinking of not doing it, despite the urging of friends and colleagues. Chaplains don't transfer from hospital to hospital here, as opposed to therapists. This will become important when One Ring graduates with her Ph.D. and starts teaching at a seminary or divinity school somewhere. I need to be able to find something nearby. That will be easier by far as a therapist than as a chaplain.

In addition, I'm actually thinking about going back to school for another Masters degree, this time in Psychology. The thought of learning again has sparked some unexpected excitement, and would make me a far better candidate in the field for promotion and changing positions. If I were to return to chaplaincy, not only would I not need this degree, it wouldn't do anything for me even if I had it.

So I'm thinking about tossing the application material and not worrying about it.

Well, that's all that's going on. I need to find a wrist rest thingy for this computer. My wrists are starting to hurt and that's not a good thing, considering the amount of guitar practice I have to put in tonight!


P.S. I wonder if the Pirate Party has a branch opening up in the U.S.?

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Monday, June 8, 2009

The Process Looked Good on Paper!

One of the stranger aspects of Tibetan Buddhism is how the lineage picks their leader. When a Dalai Lama dies, a search party goes out to find the child which now houses the Lama's reincarnated soul (it's not actually the soul, but I'm using that term because most of the people who read this blog are non-buddhists, and I really don't feel like getting into the nitty gritty of reincarnation - which I'm not totally on board with, anyway). Once a candidate is found, the search party dumps a bunch of the previous Lama's personal effects in front of the kid, and, based on how the kid reacts to the items ("Oh, look! He grabbed the eyeglasses!"), the child is or is not deemed the new leader. The candidate is then whisked off to a monastary in Tibet where they spend the rest of the child's life grooming him for his role as religious leader of that branch of Buddhism.

Sometimes, though, it doesn't go well.

Osel Hita Torres went through the process, and was deemed to be the reincarnation of Lama Yeshe who died shortly before Osel's birth. Now he's 24, and has decided to bail on the whole thing. He considers his childhood to be "living a lie," and seems to be very upset. And with good reason, since according to him the only movie he was allowed to watch was Eddie Murphy's The Golden Child! I'm thinking that would pretty much turn anyone off of the faith.

Can you imagine how many people Scientology would lose if the only movie they could watch was Battlefield Earth?

Here's the article that provides more details. Personally, I think the whole process is flawed, as no one ever asked the child what he (and it's always a boy - yet another problem with the system) wanted out of life. It was just assumed that the kid wanted to be the spiritual leader of an exiled people. Noble enterprise, but only if you're up to, and feel called to, the challenge.

In case you're curious what the Tibetans think, they're still calling him Lama Tenzin Osel Rinpoche and I guess figure that he'll come around some day. You know how kids are!

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Spirituality, Pirates, and Tattoos

One of my dearest friends (Pooh) spent a few moments standing in a tattoo parlor the other day contemplating getting some ink done. She never did say what she was thinking of getting - though my suggestion was the phrase, "Respect My Authority!" based on some recent drama in her workplace. As it turned out, she ended up not getting anything done, and the matter became moot.

Still, my mind has been turning on the subject

You see, I stand with my feet in vastly different worlds. Whereas I was once a spiritual leader of sorts, I'm now simply a civil service worker. My interests vary, as you have undoubtedly noticed if you've read this blog before, but tend to swing between spiritual issues (Buddhism, Christianity, and some philosophy) and less serious pursuits (history - particularly pirates, horror fiction - particularly the works of Lovecraft, and some arts and crafts such as music, candle making, origami, and so forth).

Occasionally, those two ends of the spectrum collide with interesting results. Take tattoos, for instance. They're incredibly popular, and depending what social circle and sometimes what socio-economic class you move in, it's almost required that you have one. Musicians and tattoos go hand in hand, obviously enough, and Whirling Dervish and I joked that we needed to get some ink, because most of the staff and nearly all our patients who had some sort of military background were heavily done up. And of course, sailors - especially pirates - and tattoos go together like pirates and, well, rum.

However, most spiritual traditions have prohibitions of some kind against tattoos. For Jews and Christians, the big one is in the book of Leviticus, chapter 19, verse 28 ('Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.'). For Buddhists, there are the teachings on nonattachment - which basically states that suffering is caused by focusing on things that will eventually end and obsessing about them, and impermanence - which states that nothing lasts forever, so we should enjoy good things, but not expect them to last, and deal with bad times understanding that they're not going to last either. Impermanence and nonattachment are connected, of course, so my interpretation of these and other teachings can best be summed up by saying, "Look, you're not going to last forever, so why spend the money on getting ink, obsessing over what design you're going to get when that design is going to fade, stretch, and look crappy when you're 90, and experience the potential regret and suffering that may occur if the artist screws it up or you end up changing interests in the coming years and no longer like the design?"

But then I see pictures of Buddhist monks and lay leaders who are covered in tattoos and I wonder if I interpreted that correctly. Of course, there are almost as many different types of Buddhists as there are Christians, so interpretations vary widely! I also know tons of Christians - minsters and lay people - who have tattoos, and they're faithful and good.

I guess in the long run it doesn't really matter. So long as it doesn't hurt you, hurt others, and is a design you can live out the rest of your days with. I guess I now have to find a design that would sum up my Buddhist / Christian / Pirate / Lovecraftian / guitar / candle-making / origami lifestyle so I can get one!

Still, I have been looking at a few designs, just in case the disposable income, midlife crisis, and courage all come together in the same place and time. Here's what I've found:

This is the Buddhist Dharma Wheel. Each Spoke represents one part of the eight-fold path. Honestly, it also looks like a ship's wheel, so that gives this design points for double meanings

Speaks for itself. Arrr! : )

Origami crane. Obviously I would choose a different style, but this is the general ideaThe odds of me getting a tattoo are slim, but for some reason, I still think about it from time to time. Anyway, that's enough rambling for this morning. More later. And happy Friday!

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Another Dead Hero

From my childhood, at least. David Carradine was found dead today in his hotel room in Bangkok, Thailand. He was 72. Police suspect his death to be a suicide. Here's the AP article.

I wasn't allowed to watch Kung Fu when it first came out - mom was scared to death (and rightly so!) that I would try to emulate the fight scenes on the neighborhood kids. But in my teen years I bought a VHS copy of the series premiere and watched it until it almost wore out. I think I still have it tucked away in a box somewhere.

Kung Fu was how I discovered that the Western way of thinking wasn't the only way. Sure it was Hollywood faux Zen and Kung Fu, and yes, Carradine's character, Kwai Chang Caine, was originally supposed to be played by Bruce Lee (studio executives felt that Lee was "too ethnic," so they picked Carradine, who didn't have a drop of Asian blood in his veins), but he was the entry point to the Shaolin way, and interested me enough that I was willing to study Kung Fu (I gots me a Brown Sash, baby!), study Zen (still don't understand that, but I believe that's the way it's supposed to be), and take some long hard introspective looks.

For that, at least, I am grateful for Carradine's work. After doing the Kung Fu series and the series sequel in the '90s, he went on to actually adopt the life. He wrote a book on Shaolin philosophy, created Tai Chi and Chi Gong workout videos and cleaned up his life. Oh, Kill Bill 1 & 2 were pretty good flicks, too.

I just wonder what was going on that he felt the need to take his own life. According to the article, he was working on a film and things seemed to be going well. I guess, as with many people who complete suicide, we will never know for sure why.

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Updated Links List

In an effort to freshen up the place, I've deleted several blog links that have shown little or no activity over the past several months. I've also deleted a couple that, to be honest, don't seem to be that interesting. In their place I've attached a couple of new ones:

The Vault of Horror - A page that reviews, opines, and offers up news about all things scary.

Lovecraft is Missing - a web comic that I just found yesterday. Its basic premise seems to be a "what if" scenario in which H.P. Lovecraft was actually on to something in his writings; his ideas, characters, and the events depicted all had a basis in reality.

Innsmouth Free Press - A H.P. Lovecraft (can you tell I have a fondness for Lovecraft's work?) fanzine written in the style of a local newspaper. They are even accepting submissions, so all you budding horror writers, get your works (5,000 words or less) in!


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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

This Just In ...

Thought you were safe from pirate news today, did you? Well, ye weren't, ya swab!

According to Bilge Munkey, Lego is releasing new pirate kits. Honestly, I can't remember if I ever had a set. I think Sharkbait might have, but I was a tad past childhood before the original sets came out.

Why should you care? Well, it's pirates, of course!!!
And in case you have a baby on the way (or one already here), Pirate Mod has some new designs for the young buccaneer in training. Here's One Ring's favorite:

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2 and 1/2 Hours

Not that I'm counting or anything, but that's how long I have until I can clock out for the day. The morning started off somewhat busy, but then things ground to an abrupt halt. Even Annoying Coworker has stayed away (knocking furiously on wood as I type).

So that leaves me to find things to do to kill the time. Unfortunately, there isn't much that helps. The hospital has blocked traditional time wasters such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, so that's out. I've done some online shopping (no, I haven't purchased anything, but I did find a Fender Stratocaster that looked sweet!) but that got old after a while. So did the googling of people with whom I have lost touch. Then there was the sending of funny pics and LOL Dogs, but you can only do that too many times before coworkers who are actually working get irritated. So now what? Blogging, I guess.

Last night, in lieu of my nightly guitar practice, I started writing letters to my niece and nephew for our Disney World trip next month. The plan is that each evening, the kids will get a letter from one of the Disney characters - usually Mickey or Cinderella - telling them what's going to happen the next day. On the last day they'll get a "thanks for coming; hope to see you soon" card. One Ring read about doing this in one of her Disney forums, so we took the idea and ran with it. I found Disney-esque fonts to type up the letters. The rough drafts look pretty good, if I do say so myself!

I'm focusing on vacation stuff for a couple of reasons. The first is because this is the children's first trip to Disney World and we want to make it as incredible as possible. My sister hasn't been since she was a teen (I think), so we're trying to wow her as well.

The other reason is that there's a ton of dysfunction here at work. I can't get too specific on what's going on, for obvious reasons, but suffice to say that we have one patient who needs to have a mental health eval. One of the other therapists suggested that we could save everyone grief by discharging him to the Salvation Army shelter instead of doing more legwork. Needless to say, I was one of a few who was outspoken against his idea. But the debate went on long enough to really irritate me and put a damper on the day.

So, there's something like 45 days left until our trip, and I'm really looking forward to the break. One Ring is getting stressed, as her comprehensive exams are taking place in August. I don't know how she's going to study, then go to Disney World, then actually come back to sit for a 3-day exam. Lord knows I would be having second thoughts! But then, she's always been the more dedicated of the two of us.

Soon. Very, very, soon!

Well, that's all from here. There's a patient coming in about ten minutes and I need to catch the doctor before that happens.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A New Week

... and I have a patient arriving in about 20 minutes. Followed by another patient. What do these people think this place is, a clinic? Oh, yeah. It is. Bummer.

So last night I went to my guitar lesson, already a tad frustrated over my apparent inability to count to four while playing. At least, that's what it felt like. Strumming patterns are vexing, as is switching chords without losing my timing. Usually I end up sounding like G chord strum, strum, strum ... PAUSE ... D chord strum, strum strum ... PAUSe ... A chord strum, strum, strum ... REALLY LONG PAUSE ... B minor chord.

And it sounds nothing like the original tune I'm trying to copy. Of course, it did help to hear that normally the instructor doesn't introduce barre chords to students so early in their education. So why am I suffering? Because the song has them and I requested to learn the song, soooooo ...

Oh, yeah. My fault. Great.

He was nice, of course, stating that I've made progress, etc., etc. But still, it does irritate my perfectionist self when I go on YouTube and see some 15-year-old kid rocking out on some song that I want to learn, while I'm having trouble counting to four while simultaneously thinking down, down, up, down, up! Grrr.

So what else is going on? Ahh, yes, the new diet. Seems that since I've taken this job a few extra pounds have crept onto my midsection. Most of my coworkers are either overwieght or obese, so I can see where this could be heading. So I now have One Ring as a coach and I'm trying to eat better, exercise more, and all that good rot. Unfortunately, everything I enjoy eating seems to be loaded with fat, so I'm now trying to adjust to granola and yogurt. Mid-life, here I come!

All in all, though, life is good. I'm enjoying the guitar, enjoying the job, and really looking forward to my vacation next month.

Now if I can just get Annoying Coworker to stop coming into my office!

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