Archive for September, 2007

Random notions and bad, creepy poetry

September 28, 2007

Nothing but alternating jots and lines here. Not for the faint-hearted.

* * *

Pedestrian: Hey! Look where you’re driving!

Cyclist: Oh, please. Do you know how icky it’s to scrape a chihuahua out of your spokes? No? Then don’t come lecturing to me. I know what I’m doing.

* * *

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Oh, Hell

September 27, 2007

I think that a common variant of Christian teaching is that believers are saved, those that reject the faith are damned, and those that live and die ignorant of Christianity might be saved — though they will be terribly shocked on arriving in Heaven.

“Odin’s beard! Vhat’s vith der vings und harps? Vhere’s all the wenches und mead? Und vhere’s that boi Sigur?”

Poor Sigur had heard of Christianity, you see.

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The Boiling Kettle

September 27, 2007

There’s nothing quite like religion for raising your children. Before giving you a nineteenth-century example, here is first the approbation the booklet in question received from William Meagher, the Vicar General (or bishop’s deputy) in Dublin:

I have carefully read over this Little Volume for Children and have found nothing whatever in it contrary to the doctrines of the Holy Faith; but on the contrary, a great deal to charm, instruct and edify the youthful classes for whose benefit it has been written.

The writer in question is Fr. John Furniss (1809-1865), a Catholic priest. His booklets have sold over four million copies, and this is a representative quote, aimed at children, from ‘The Sight of Hell’:

XXVII. The Fourth Dungeon.

The Boiling Kettle

Look into this little prison. In the middle of it there is a boy, a young man. He is silent; despair is on him. He stands straight up. His eyes are burning like two burning coals. Two long flames come out of his ears. His breathing is difficult. Sometimes he opens his mouth and breath of blazing fire rolls out of it. But listen! There is a sound just like that of a kettle boiling. Is it really a kettle which is boiling? No; then what is it? Hear what it is. The blood is boiling in the scalded veins of that boy. The brain is boiling and bubbling in his head. The marrow is boiling in his bones! Ask him, put the question to him, why is he thus tormented? His answer is, that when he was alive, his blood boiled to do very wicked things, and he did them, and it was for that he went to dancing-houses, public-houses, and theatres. Ask him, does he think the punishment greater than he deserves? “No,” he says, “my punishment is not greater than I deserve, it is just. I knew it not so well on earth, but I know now that it is just. There is a just and a terrible God. He is terrible to sinners in Hell — but He is just!”

Yes, just awful. I guess this is one way to keep the young ones away from discos and theaters. They can instead spend their nights crying and peeing their beds in terror, afraid of committing some vague and dreadful sin.

The weird parts of religion, part 5

September 27, 2007

Two women were sitting on a bed of coals. Somewhere nearly, a demon capered, waving a pitchfork and singing.

Because this is Hell, it had been singing the same song for the past seven million years.

Between screaming and shrieking, the women found time to talk to each other. Here’s that conversation, with the screaming and occasional cursing edited out.

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Sounds of Finland CD

September 26, 2007

Since I am always ready to spew out ideas as long as there’s no need to do actual work, I’ve come up with a track listing for a mood CD that would tell a tourist all there is to know about Finland.

SOUNDS OF FINLAND

a CD for tourists, exchange students and other unlucky folk

Track #1: “I met him on a bus ride” — Ten minutes of silence, with occasional rustling of clothes. The CD booklet has a picture of a stern-looking Finnish man staring at the viewer to stare at for the duration of this track.

Track #2: “Disconnect, part 1″ — A nervous Finn with a three-word English vocabulary trying to tell the way to the nearest hospital. The track gets louder towards the end.

Track #3: “Disconnect, part 2″ — Beeps from a phone until the fire department picks up, and then a recorded voice declaring some grave and important message, first in Finnish, then in Swedish. Then the call ends.

Track #4: “Call of the Wild” — Two minutes of wind rustling in the trees, and a contented sigh. Then a bestial roar, a scream, and sounds of ripping flesh.

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A minstrel and a mirror

September 26, 2007

More bad poetry of mine written after midnight. No rhyme and no meter, just written words one after another. The first one’s one more echo of Illuminatus!.

A minstrel rose, facing the grey-faced throng
Held up a rose, a storm, and sang —
“You fearful neophobes, you scared townsfolk:
You see but a monster, a disturbance, a threat
While to me it’s a difference, a start, something new —
Old homes crumble while new ones burn,
A fist in a tattered glove tears up new silk.
Spare the sounder, the new one, the herald —
No demands for a handshake, just the absence of a fist
You neophobes, hear, touch, try, try to understand.”
— they screamed, tore her down, tore her apart.

The second one’s just a strange vision.

Right hand rises, in mirror the left
Buttons rip open, right side or wrong?
Small mirror, so private, a large dream
Clear image, so sweet, future so dim
A knock at the door, a quiver in heart
Normal life, hidden dream, hopeful heart.

Banned books and children

September 25, 2007

Ah, it is the last week of September. And even if I am not an American, I still know this is an important time. Namely, the time of the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week.

In case you are alarmed, this isn’t a week when a black van drives from one library to another, filling up with every stop — no, quite the opposite: a week promoting and presenting various books that have been banned or challenged, and raising awareness of such evil activity. Censorship and book-banning are some of the things that I’m ready to use that ridiculously powerful word ‘evil’ for; they are so heinous that they almost reach book-burning, the absolute pinnacle of villainy.

I am convinced that given enough time people will wisen up and improve, but only if they’re educated. Here educated simply means given all possible information, and all possible tools to evaluate and process it. Books are windows to other minds, and if they are locked up and other fountains of knowledge bricked over, our minds will shrivel and starve like a garden without sunlight or water.

ALA’s most challenged books are for a large part books for children or youths, and that troubles me. Sure, your child will stay obeisant and upright if you separate her from all violence and sex, all knowledge of pain and growing up, from all tastes of variety and danger — but such an upright child will then fall down when brushed with a feather, faint with the first sight of blood.

I’d much rather have every child aware of all adult topics, even if they are sad, scary or icky. How else will children grow up? They will meet those adult things sooner or later — sex, drugs, violence, lying, death, hate, booze, even (gasp!) other religions — and which would a sensible parent choose for her child: being quietly informed in advance, or meeting a pill-pusher with nothing but ignorant denial and a faint aura of forbidden excitement? A parent should teach her child thinking, not values and prejudices. If the child is brought up to be critical, sensible and inquisitive, then she will find a life that fits her, values that suit her, and no book can ever hurt her.

No, not even the Satanic Bible, or Harry Potter, or a youth novel with homosexuality, stealing, bad language (ooh!) and anti-family sentiments.

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Autumn equinox

September 23, 2007

Today is the day of the autumn equinox: that moment when day and night are equally long. From this day on, days are going to get shorter and colder, the nights longer and darker.

Oh, if you’re an exchange student in Finland, the fun’s just beginning. Rather soon you’ll be waking up in the dark, trudging to your Finnish university (or other school) when it’s still dark, with drifts of snow slowing your every step, and once you get out of the university, it will be dark again. The only signs of any passing warmth and light will be the smooth and treacherous patches of slippery ice covering every step back.

And there will be cold. Oh yes, there will be cold. The cold won’t be Siberian, or even Arctic, but it will be harsh, kissing you with a roughness that quite soon has you running back inside screaming, thinking of nothing but frostbite. Relax. Frostbites are relatively rare in Finland.

Except among foreigners.

Oh, and if you are a foreigner, there is one thing you should know about snow: no matter what tale you hear, and no matter how convincingly your Finnish tutors tell of a nutritious and good-tasting bacterial flower that lives in the snow and makes it veritable candy, no matter how they cajole you to have a taste — don’t eat the yellow snow.

Okay?

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Taxes and churches

September 22, 2007

In Finland, the two most venerable churches — the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (82% of population) and the Finnish Orthodox Church (little over 1%) — get tax money (kirkollisvero) from their adherents. It’s a hidden tax, though, hidden among all the others things the government skims from people’s earnings, so few actually notice the loss of one to two percent of their income. The government then pays the churches, and the churches build churches, pay pastors, and groom cemeteries.

Note that this tax is taken only from the Lutherans and the Orthodox fellows, and given only to those two churches. The religiously unaffiliated 15% don’t pay this. The rather inconsequential religious rest have to take the open way and charge a membership fee.

“Now! The Re-reformed Neo-Lutheran Church! Services 10 e per person, children under 8 for free. Just for today: Front pews where Jesus can see you better only plus 2 euros! Extra offer! Two wafers for the price of one!”

Well, maybe they are a bit more discreet than that.

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The weird parts of religion, part 4

September 21, 2007

The place: Heaven. Fluffy clouds and eternal sourceless sunshine — er, godshine.

The intent: Applying imagination to some of the beliefs Christians hold (or held) about Heaven.

The characters: A trio of angels — Puriel, Zadkiel and Gaghiel — leaning against a cloud-wall, eating cones of ice cream that never melt on their own.

Puriel, a tall one with eyes of fire and a cone of vanilla, speaks.

Puriel: So, any new rumors on the time and date of It?

The other two shrug. Zadkiel, a sad-eyed form with long white hair and a grand nougat whirl cone, smiles and sighs.

Zadkiel: Only It knows the timing of It.

Puriel shudders.

Puriel: Enough with that correctness of yours! Only He knows the timing and moment of It, the End of Men.

Zadkiel: As you wish. You haven’t kept up with the culture down there, in the societies of the humankind, huh?

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