Friday, December 23, 2011

Bad Idea Dept.

Researchers genetically engineered the H5N1 avian influenza virus (aka "bird flu") to make it more deadly to humans to see if it could possibly mutate into a deadlier form. Now that they succeeded, the government is politely asking them to keep their research secret. As anyone who's ever read Stephen King knows, this is a bad idea on many levels.

In a related development, physicists at the Large Hadron Collider launched an attempt to open up a "hell mouth" and allow Satan to enter our plane of reality. "We want to see if it was possible," one was quoted as saying. "That way, we can make sure it'll never happen. We're scientists. We don't believe in your stupid Flying Spaghetti Monster, but we like to be sure just in case. We want to avoid all that scary Book of Revelationsy kind of stuff."

Unfortunately, Satan did enter our plane of reality after one physicist spilled a cup of coffee on the Large Hadron Collider. Satan immediately took the next available flight to Los Angeles and became a late night talk show host with the Sham-Wow Guy in the Ed McMahon Role.

Here's a clip from Satan's opening monologue:

SATAN: How's the show going? Lemme tell you, people, it's Hell. (laughter) It's Hell. Do I have something stuck in my teeth?

SHAM-WOW GUY: No, Satan. You're the best, Satan!

SATAN: !@# my !@#$.

SHAM-WOW GUY bursts into flame.

SHAM-WOW GUY: Eaggghhhhh!

SATAN: Behold humans, my reign of fear and torment begins! Now, let's give a big hand to my first guest ... John Boehner!


Monday, December 19, 2011

Buddhist Nirvana

Back in my jolly college days, I signed up for a course in "Buddhist Nirvana" taught by Jeffrey Hopkins at UVA. I mean ... Buddhist Nirvana? Shit. How hard could it be?

The catalog said it was on the fifth floor of Wilson Hall at UVA. I went there, walked up the staircase. It only went up four stories. I came back down. Talked to the cute young babe at the front desk.

"What are you looking for?" she said.

"Buddhist Nirvana," I said.

She gave me a look like a tiny door had opened up in my forehead and a cuckoo bird had just popped out.

"The catalog says it's on the fifth floor at Wilson Hall."

She snickered.

"There is no fifth floor in Wilson Hall."

I walked away.

Evidently, you only make it to the fifth floor when you're ready for Buddhist Nirvana.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Santa is magic

Santa Claus. Well, you know. I had a problem with Santa from the beginning.

The whole backstory was fishy. From both an epistemological and ontological perspective.

I recall being introduced to Santa in the antediluvian world of the early 1960s. Santa was appearing at Sears and Roebucks, a giant blue cube which is now Michael's on East. Santa, Dad told me, would be there in person. I could meet Santa.

This struck me as bullshit. Or the childish equivalent thereof.

I informed my Dad that this appearance wasn't logical. Santa was a major world figure, like JFK or Khrushchev. If Santa was appearing at Sears, there'd be TV cameras and screaming crowds. More importantly, WHY would he appear at Sears? Santa has better things to do.

Dad conceded that it wasn't Santa. As such. It was Santa's helper. One of Santa's many representatives, pervading the world.

OK. I could buy that.

So, I joined the line of snotnosed children at Sears. After an interminable wait, I met Santa's Helper #4,917. I asked him for an end to nuclear war and to make my parents stop fighting. And a bicycle.

But a seed had been planted in my mind. A seed of doubt.

The logical inconsistencies of the Santa story stuck with me.

I thought about it.

Santa had a workshop at the North Pole? There was precedent. Superman maintained his Fortress of Solitude at the North Pole. Santa had a vast army of elves, endlessly working, creating toys in a vast factory.

OK. So, why were the toys under the Christmas tree WRAPPED IN PLASTIC with the stickers obviously pulled off? Was Mattel shipping toys to the North Pole for redelivery by Santa?

If Santa delivered toys to all the good little children, what about the starving children in India? Or Africa? Or Communist China? Did they get toys?

Come to think of it -- leaving the question of surveillance aside -- how could Santa possibly deliver toys to all the good little children on earth in 12 hours? How did he fit all those toys in one sack in one sleigh? It violated the laws of physics.

I confronted my father with these questions. He's like Foghorn Leghorn. I'm like Widow Hen's insane genius baby chicken. Dad thinks. He doesn't want to say "Santa is bullshit." That'd rob me of one of the joys of childhood. Creating this joy explains the adult conspiracy to feed unsuspecting children this bogus story about a fat man in an anti-gravity sleigh distributing toys. So Dad says, "Santa's magic." Or something to that effect.

Good magic or black magic?

Good magic.

Oh, I say. So Santa's working for Jesus!

It's all so logical. It explains why a Turkish Bishop from the fourth century had lived for nearly 2,000 years in a Fortress of Holiday Gifting at the North Pole. Why Santa could circumnavigate the globe in only a night. His sleigh and flying reindeer. His ability to watch you at all times. The computational power implied in dividing all the children of the world into lists of good and bad.

Santa was working for Jesus. After His resurrection, Jesus left the earth and delegated some of His powers to Santa until His return. He extended Santa's lifespan and gave him extrasensory powers. The elves, no doubt, were diminutive Neanderthal Men, whom Jesus resurrected and sent to work for Santa. The cavemen were grateful. "Ugh! We make toys now!" It all made sense now.

Dad looked at me. Appalled. I had just folded the bullshit story of Santa Claus into Christian theology. It was, after all, the only logical explanation. Santa's sleigh flew for the same reason that Moses had parted the waters. It was a miracle. God's power. What else?

The only way to refute this notion was to say, "Uh, sorry son. This whole Santa Claus thing is pure bullshit. Adults like to tell this shit to kids to make their eyes light up on Christmas morning."

He didn't.

"Sure," he said. "That's one way to look at it."

Two years later, I was taking a leak in the boy's restroom at Alta Vista Elementary. I asked some kid what Santa was getting him for Christmas. He snorted. "You still believe in Santa Claus?" No, of course not. I fought back tears. Zipped up. Just joking. Ha-ha. Santa? I don't believe in Santa ...

Jesus, I thought.

If they lied to me about Santa Claus ...

What else are they lying about?

I got a Lionel train set for Christmas.