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Why Catholics Don't Tithe As Much As They Used To

One thing I can clearly recall from my days as a Southern Baptist youth was that people often tithed ten percent or more of their income to ...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Reprieve for Rabbits

There have been no posts for over two weeks now, due to the fact I was wrapping up a critical part of an ongoing project that has spanned an entire year. 

Yes, for some reason, ol' Laramie had it in him to build a nice shady rabbit hutch to go with his chickens.  Nothing waters the mouth like the thought of a delicious stew, filled with celery, potatoes, a bit of onion perhaps, and some rabbit meat.  And since it is legal in our fair town to raise these precious nuggets in our backyard, I shall partake of the opportunity to raise myself some food.

In any event, here is the finished roof of the glorious rabbit hutch.  Admire its beauty, as it glistens in the sun next to the chicken yard.  Don't they just go together?



As of yet, I still have to fashion the individual cells for the rabbits.  But that should be a cakewalk, now that I have the basic structure and roof established.  Also, I'm gonna need to add some gussets to hold up those corners, as they stick out two feet.  Perhaps next week I can add those.

  It's been a long project, but I feel it wrapping up in the next month or two.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Magikal Mystery Tour: Part 1

And now, we learn that Laramie can make errors.

So, there I was, sitting on a bench with a nice sharp-looking I-Pod in my hand, when I decided to listen to a favorite song of mine that I had been listening to for the last ten years: Therion's Draconian Trilogy, from their album, Vovin.  Therion is a Swedish metal band that incorporates an orchestra and choir into their death metal style.  They've typically recorded albums that have some sort of a tie to a European myth.  My favorite album is Secret of the Runes, which features a list of songs based on different realms within ancient Norwegian mythology. 

There's nothing more gratifying than listening to a rich ensemble of instruments and tenors hammer out powerful songs about viking lore.  Many times in the past, I've often wondered why modern musicians haven't taken full advantage of all of the musical lessons and instruments invented in the last six thousand years of recorded history. 

Why is it that every rock band that squirts out an album is comprised of only guitars, drums, and vocals?  Is it because the industrialized mind only has a limited amount of patience, and such a mind can only listen to a hasty style of music?

This is NOT Therion.
This is comedy.

Therion throws that modernist rule out the window and pulls out all the stops to present song in all its bombast.  Their sound is very appealing, and I am surprised I haven't heard more of them in popular culture.

  This IS Therion.
It's an ode that harkens back to Nordic Midgard.
(To the religiously discerning: this particular song is safe.)

So, what's the problem here?  Can a man not sit still and enjoy his Vovin album in peace?  It turns out that, while I sat there on that bench and listened to all of the eight minutes of the Draconian Trilogy, I managed to browse the lyrics of the song as it played.  And lo and behold, the entire piece was a sort of homage to Lucifer! 

The contradiction here is that I don't worship Lucifer, but the One who created him.  And I'm sure that the Almighty doesn't relish the idea that one of His devoted children is joyfully tapping their foot to a song to Lucifer.

For ten years, I have been listening to this song from this group.  Sure, you hear about how there's bands out there that utilize their heavy metal powers to worship the devil.  But you never really think you'll come across any.  The music is so nice, the the chorus is so strong, you don't know what they're saying, but you just go with it and don't worry.  Yet, ten years later, you find out that the song is actually a glorification of the Enemy, and then some interesting questions arise. 

The first and foremost question that comes to my mind is: what effect does listening to this song have on a person?

You: Well, Laramie, that depends.  Just how "into" this kind of music are you?

Me: I wouldn't say I'm immersed in the death metal culture, or anything.  I listen to it on occasion.  But I will say this--that there are two ways to listen to music (and, perhaps, two ways to read a book, watch a movie, or look at a painting). 

The first way to listen to music is to listen to a song objectively.  To have the ability to dissect the song, root out its meaning.  Consider it.  Interpret it.  Separate yourself from it.  For example, another song on the album Vovin is titled: The Rise of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Yet I enjoyed that song as well?  Why?  Because I interpreted the song as if it were meant for me to imagine a bunch of those ancient citizens of those terrible cities praising the ascension of Sodom and Gomorrah.  I was able to take the song, place it on a petri dish on a labratory table, look down at it and say to myself, "Yes, indeed, this is what it would sound like if the Sodomites and Gomorrans were praising themselves.  This sounds very much like how they'd glorify their cities."  I could separate myself from the song, so to speak.


Pryor: "Let it be loose!  Listen to the music,
follow the beat!  Hear it?  Feel it comin' up?"

The second way to listen to music is to escape into the song.  To immerse yourself into it.  To enjoy it almost completely, and relate with the tune, and perhaps even the lyrics.  Dionysian style. 

It is this manner of listening hearing music that inspires a person.  This kind of attunement to music can drive men to battle, lovers to chase, or artists to paint.  Such listening can lead to an overflow of feelings of one kind or another. 

In other words, really getting into a song. 


And so, Laramie has a problem.  For almost a decade, he's been really getting into a particular song which happens to praise Lucifer.  Filters turned completely off, total acceptance of the work--never even thought to check up on the band.

In fairness to myself, I was introduced to the album in the early days of my Catholicism, before I developed a sharpened understanding of the importance of watching what kind of media to take in.  (Perhaps the problem has never gone away.  Who knows?)

Observe some lyrics:

-Red Dragon from the first morning of time,
-Red Dragon of ancient depths of the mind,
-Rise up from the abyss of ignorance,
-Coil into the existance of the blind.
-Morning star please bear your light,
-Through the day to next night.
-Fallen one who stole the spark,
-Bring it into the dark.

For those folks not familiar with all the imagery, the Red Dragon, the Morning Star, and Fallen One are all synonymous to Lucifer.

To top things off, it seems that the very band name "Therion" has several occult meanings.  First, "Therion" is the greek pronounciation for The Beast which rises out of the sea in The Book of the Apocalypse (a.k.a. Revelations).   Also, our little warlock friend, Aleister Crowley, regarded a god that went by the name Therion. 

But to add to the fun and see how deep and dirty we can get, it seems that a great portion of the lyrics are written by Thomas Karlsson, who is the founder of an occult order titled Dragon Rouge.  One particular album is centered around the Kabbalah.

So again, what kind of effect can such work have over a man who's been ignorantly listening to such a work for over ten years? 

I am a man who believes that some things in this world--objects, written works, music--can drag along demons.  Or at the very least, some things invite demons.  It was St. Anthony of the Desert who once told us that we so very much surrounded by these powers of the air: "Great is their number in the air around us , and they are not far from us."  It is likely a lucky thing that we don't see all of the demons that surround us in our lives, because if we did, we would be so completely discouraged in our struggles for God.

Yet, in spite of this, is it possible to have listened to this music without ill effects, and without displeasing the Savior?  Is it possible to still put this kind of music in a cage and hear it objectively, disallowing ourselves from becoming overtaken by the bad mojo that surrounds it? 

More to come later.

Monday, August 29, 2011

O Sullivan, Where Art Thou?

There is an awful lot of attempts on the part of different artists to portray the grime of society.  Writers, painters, sculptors, and directors want to explore the dark heart of people.  They want to see what makes average people break.  These artists want to put people to the test to see what makes them compromise and transform into something less traditional.  Or, perhaps they just want to explore the dark depths of society's heart. 

Whether I am talking about Breaking Bad, the newest Batman movies, vampire fantasy, post-modern sculptures, or "alternative music," the trend is clear: enough with heroes and goodness, let's be bad.  Or: let's see what bad people do.  And so, here we have a society thrilled with Hannibal Lecter.  Serial killers work with police departments on television to solve cases.  Whatever, you name it. 

The whole situation has often left me feeling like a spectator at a Roman circus.  Not a happy colorful tent filled with animals, clowns, and contortionists.  Not that kind of a circus at all.  But rather, a colosseum.  A place where gladiators go to kill one another.  Where we go to see disobedient citizens tortured and executed.  Where we see "plays" of the ancient world, in which the lives of actors are ended in one scene for the sake of storyline.  A stage where starving lions rip apart martyrs.  This is the kind of circus I am witnessing these days. 

It leaves a shallow feeling in the heart, and one cannot help but ask what is left of our generation.  Does no one have any kind of a deep thought, or a longing for Providental Grace?  One statement that I heard in the last few years really summed up my thoughts on the present generation: Depth of emotion and sincerity are beyond my generation

To be honest, it was these troubled thoughts that led me to write what I thought was a silly short story.

But then, a fellow named Epiphany over on the Fisheaters forum told me about a marvelous film: Sullivan's Travels.  He said that the basic plot was that "a movie director wants to make a movie that the 'working man' can relate to.  He plans to make a depressing movie called 'O Brother Where Art Thou?'  In the process, he accidentally becomes a working man and realizes the importance movies made for pure entertainment."

I watched it.  It's great.  It is almost sad in its innocence, because you know that such a wholesome movie will never be made again.


Just as there are elements in our current culture that seek to explore and enjoy the darker parts of our society, Sullivan also sought to exploit the dark elements of his time--that is, the poor and downtrodden, the train boxcars filled with hobos, the soup lines, the prisons.  Yet, in the end, Sullivan realized that people wanted to leave the darkness and reach the light.  People did not want to be reminded of their grime and filth.  They did not want to linger on the dark elements that they struggled with every day; the people of Sullivan's day wanted to escape in happy fun cartoons that made them laugh innocently, or comedic light movies that brought them joy. 

I think that people of our day also want to escape the darkness that tries to influence us.  There is a longing for something better, brighter, and Divine.  People want to think there is more than "just this."  More than just this horrible world we are dealing with.  Increased crime, increased poverty, increased war, increased injustice.  Is it inconceivable that this desire leads people to watch all these comic-based movies, in which the typical individual radically escapes the same boring life and transcends into a fantastical superhero lifestyle?  Maybe this desire to shed our filth--perhaps a subconscious desire--is what keeps masses of young fantasy lovers waiting with bated breath for the release of The Hobbit in 2012.  Honestly, the only thing I can think of more wholesome than watching hobbits is Little House on the Prarie.
 

In the beginning, Sullivan did not understand that the poor did not want to be reminded of their state.  This in spite of the words of wisdom from his butler:  "If you'll permit me to say so sir, the subject is not an interesting one.  The poor know all about poverty and only the morbid rich would find the topic glamorous." 

Still, Sullivan had to learn the hard way, didn't he?  If only others of our day could learn at all.  Unfortunately, I fear a great majority of artists have lost all touch of Grace and Divinity.  


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Zombie Messenger Infects Me With Weirdness --True Story

Today was a rough day.  Started around the early morning when I was still asleep.  My belly was aching terribly throughout the night.  I was really worried, because I need a good night's sleep before my long double-shift work day.  But the aches never abated.  Something ominous was going to happen, I felt.

I woke every hour or so.  But then, an odd thing happened around four in the morning.  The doorbell rang.  I bolted up.  I figured someone was in trouble.  I was feeling a little ill, but I had enough power over my faculties that I could at least decide that a ring at the doorbell could be the occasion of an emergency.  So I went to the front door and peeped out of the spy hole.  It was a little kid; a neighbor, actually.  I was puzzled.  Again, it was Four AM

I opened the door, and asked him if everything was okay.  I tried to get some sense out of the boy, but he wasn't talking.  Instead, he babbled strange syllables and what not.  His body gyrated and his eyes focused on nothing.  Truly worried, I needed to get to the bottom of why the boy was out at this time of night ringing my bell.  But I could not get any answer from him, no matter what I said to him.  I had to sit down; my body felt weird.  I hoped he'd sit down with me--I could not focus.  I could not act.  Was this even a boy?  Was this real?  Something was happening with my insides.  I was paralyzed right then and there, with a strange boy who couldn't speak wobbling some sort of a voodoo dance right next to me.  As if the kid had infected me with some sort of zombie virus. 

I had no choice...I had to get out of the paralysis.  I needed to get somewhere I could control myself.  I had to get to the bathroom quick.  I shouted to the boy: "Stay here," and told the wife to stay near him.  I got halfway to the bathroom, and I went blind, my eyes rolling every which way into the back of my head.  Sweat poured out of my pores at a high volume--not even on a hot day of 114 degrees has so much sweat exited my body all at once.  Losing balance.  Could not stand straight.  I was so cold.  Ten seconds, and I'd collapse.  What was happening to me?  My torso gyrated in a counter clockwise rotation.  I sat on the toilet.  And then...I wretched from both ends. 




Ultimately, we believe the cause of this strange sickness over me to be food poisoning from yesterday's pot roast.  Yet, what of the boy?  The wife saw him through the window.  Yet when she got to the door, he was gone.  Where did he go?  Was he real?  Did we both see a spectre?

We saw him outside later on in the afternoon.  It's been a rough day.  My body needed rest.  I took comfort knowing the neighbor boy was still alive and acting normal again.  We concluded he was sleepwalking. 

Still, it was an eerie situation that I'll never forget.  Threw off my whole weekend.  I'm over the wretching now, thank the Lord.  But psychological damage has been done.   

Friday, August 19, 2011

"Do What Thou Wilt"


The Great Fire of London

Amidst all the excitement of the London riots, I not only was reminded of the pressing need to get an iron fence put up in my front yard and more locks for my doors, but I was also reminded of the anarchist elements that seem to hide under the thin veneer of shallow British culture. 
 
As modern secular Britain is a society of people who lost comprehension of the Divine, it is no small wonder that some bored disenfranchised "youths" decided to use the shooting of a man as an excuse to riot and vandalize their own neighborhoods to their hearts' content. 
 
Honestly, I'm surprised it hadn't happened sooner. 
 
Back in the early 1980s, there was a great amount of broo-ha-ha stirred up by Sid Vicious and a legion of punk rockers that foamed up in his wake.  It's a wonder something memorable like this didn't blow up two or three decades ago.
 
But then again, Western Culture hadn't reverted back into barbarism as savagely as it has now.  In the early 80s, the cynical disrespectful style of young punks of that day was just that--a style.  A simple fad, not a movement or a societal regression.  Most of society held togther in that day, in spite of the fact that Sid Vicious wanted to be an antichrist.  Yet, in this day of 2011, entire generations grow up living completely in the id, a life of pure emotion all the time.  Glued to Blackberries, I-Phones, World of Warcraft, or whatever.  Youth are constantly looking for a source of thoughtless media to keep the Dopamine levels in their brains high.  Nothing at all as creative or fun as punk rockers.
 
 
In my mind, it was always the legions of punks who would rise up and conquer.  And so inspired was I by this concept, that I couldn't help but give in to the muses and record the prophetic tale of just what would happnen when the punk rockers of Britain would do in that day of anarchy. 
 
I realize, of course, that punks shall never rise to the monstrous reputation they earned in those early years of the 1980 decade.  In that day, we imagined Post-Apocalyptica would be infested with such dregs of society, as we saw in the Mad Max movies.  Even to this day, if you play Fallout, you will stumble upon this strange breed of human in the post-nuclear wastes. 
 
Yet, punks and their like have dwindled in number, and often if you see groups of people dressed in chains or spikes, they are the friendliest people you will ever meet.  I find that to be tastelessly oxymoronic, by the way. 
 
But a man can hold on to his dreams, can he not?
 
And so came a tale of a dark sorcerer known as Aleister Crowley, who from his evil lair at lake Loch Ness would send out the brainwashing vibes to all youthful ignorant followers to "Do What Thou Wilt."  Over and over, the scum of Britain would hear those words, until they could not help themselves, and felt compelled to tear the cities apart. 
 
The only savior against such an evil man, of course, would have to be someone from tradition.  Someone of renown.  Some undying legend, unafraid of the petty sneers and barbaric clumsy attacks of young ruffians.  And it was then that I realized that only King Arthur would do. 
 
After all, who wouldn't be satisfied seeing King Arthur swinging his broadsword through masses of post-apocalyptic mohawked scumbags?
 
So, yeah.  I wrote a story called King Arthur vs. Aleister Crowley and the Punk Rockers.  Good times.  It just seems so much more fun than: King Arthur vs. the Disenfranchised Youths.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Spiderman: An African-American/Latino Gay Boy

Yup.  Seems that after Marvel had Spiderman meet with President Obama, they decided to REALLY "get with the times," kill off Peter Parker, and replace him with a Latino/African-American boy who's gay.
 

I'm absolutely thrilled about the development. 

At last, the masses will truly be represented in this conglomeration of what Marvel thinks American society is becoming. 


I'm so glad they're doing away with a character that has traditionally been cherished among comic fans for most of my life. 


I am sure the first issues will fly off the shelves, due to the novelty of the situation.  After that, though, I am not so sure sales will do too well. 

I wonder if this represents a shift in the comic book world, in which we can see another large corporation losing touch with its base of customers.  Time will tell, I suppose.

I remember back in the day (was it in the 90s?) when DC was trying to capitalize off of Superman.  Dad and I, we must've bought over two dozen copies of that issue: The Death of Superman.  We were so sure it'd be a collectible comic.  I mean, it was Superman.  But with this kind of a twist, something tells me that Dad and I would be investing our money into something else. 


* UPDATE: Seems that the rumor of Spiderman being gay is being denied by Marvel.  A lot of people are pouncing on the Daily Mail for taking the words of Ultimate Spider-Man artist Sara Pichelli out of context.  She reported that "maybe sooner or later a black or gay - or both - hero will be considered something absolutely normal." 

Sara, I say that if you people want to have new ethnicities and sexualities represented with comic book "heroes," why not invent new heroes, instead of transforming the figures that fans already love?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Vox Day Discussion of "Literal readers"

An interesting point has been made today over at the Vox Day blog.  In a discussion about “literal readers,” Vox cites the Italian, Umberto Eco, for a discussion on how many readers are unable to disassociate an author from the author’s fictional characters.  Most notable was this paragraph:

What happens instead to the readers of whom I speak, those who don't absolutely distinguish between fiction and reality? Their situation does not have aesthetic validity. To the extent they are inclined to take the story so seriously that they never ask if it is told well or poorly, they are not looking for instruction and they do not identify with the characters. They simply manifest that which I will define as a fictional deficit; they are incapable of suspending their disbelief. Since there are more of these readers than we think, it is worth the trouble to consider them because we know that all the questions of morals and aesthetics will elude them.”

Many interesting points have been brought up.  One blog contributor, davidofone, labels this trend as Superlusionality--the capability and the inability to suspend mental and emotional vestment (active) in the relating to fictional characters or events.  Davidofone attributes this quality more to women, citing soap operas as a potential example of this phenomenon.  Another blogger, O.C., takes the discussion further, stating that this phenomenon springs from “that same piece of psyche that lets people believe that actors have something important and intelligent to say when they're not reading a script.”  Another regular poster, Pax, claims that this phenomenon of “literal reading” is generated from the sheer volume of media available to readers or viewers. 

But near the beginning of the posts for Vox’s blog entry is this statement from “the abe”:

“Personal experience and observation have led me to conclude that a traditional religious grounding seems to harness our irrational/unconscious nature in a healthy fashion. It makes me wonder if people who are susceptible to such disassociation (in a general sense) Ecco describes are more prone to be either irreligious or generally haven't cultivated any irrational elements in their life (e.g. scotch and water Christians, non-practicing jews, etc).”

After considering this statement from the abe we can consider using the cliché: “If you believe in nothing, you will fall for anything.”  If the society at large is irreligious and people’s minds are based on a materialist philosophy, it very well may be that individuals will look to anything to replace the spot where religion would ordinarily be in their lives.  And in that sense, characters and fictional plots become the religion.  It is the pop culture that they believe in—they have more faith in the media that is fed to them through books, magazines, or video.  And with the sheer volume of so much fiction being fed to “literal readers,” who could deny the truth of media?  It must be real.  “There is no God, but perhaps these people are.”

If this is the case, one could argue that a “literal reader” has severely misplaced their practice of faith, and that they have a grave spiritual deficit.  Instead of having a proper place for the Divine in their lives, the spiritual growth of these people has mutated into something more deformed.

Friday, July 29, 2011

New Thundercats

Just when I thought I was going to post about Black Swan, I was reminded instead about the latest new rendition of Thundercats.  It will air tonight for all to see, and all of Generation Y can determine whether or not it's a good fresh look or not. 

Coincidentally, JamesNintendoNerd has decided to chime in on his take of the old series. 



Watching his review makes me long for the old days.  Anymore, a superhero cartoon will feature animation that is somewhat...blocky.  Inorganic.  Cheap and thrown together, almost.  Nothing like the old 1980s cartoons such as Thundercats, G.I. Joe, He-Man, Transformers--the hits.  In fact, one wonders if cartoon animation will ever return to that style of trying to portray characters ever again.  But for now, it seems that we are to choose between Japanese Anime style, and the blocky overexaggerated reduxes thrown onto the canvas over at Cartoon Network. 

As for the new Thundercats series, time will tell if it can stand on its own.

The Beginning of The Hirsch Files

Tonight, we kick off the start of the brand new Hirsch Files, with the announcement of the first of many books, Road to Moloch



While my primary literary interests involve fantasy, it seemed appropriate to begin by grounding my first book in reality.  What is more fantastic than the carnival of variety we see in today's people?  Road to Moloch is an early work from an early period of my life.  Also, it is based partially on true events.  So there's a double bonus to reading the work: Not only can one enjoy a good yarn, but they might even be able to catch a glimpse or two of some of the things that have passed through Laramie's eye sockets. 

However, I want to assure readers that the attitudes and opinions of the protagonist are not shared by the author.  One is allowed to write about a bigot without being a bigot, is he not?

The protagonist, Samson, goes through a lot on his trip to New York.  He meets plenty of people along the way to spin him in more circles than he thought possible.  As the belly of Moloch (a.k.a. New York City) begins to digest the little soul, I often wonder if the reader will experience a touch of schadenfreude when they see the boy trip over himself. 

Fun for everyone--except the kids.  There's plenty of cussing in this one.  Seems Samson never understood the word "tact."

My special thanks goes out to E.S. Hammer, whose vast imagination conceived the fierce book cover.  My gratitude goes out to "Lady K," whose technical know-how was able to bring me to this point with my writing, thank you so very much for working with me, Lady K.  Finally, I would be nowhere without the encouragement and guidance from my mentor, whose name I do not yet know if I have the permission to print here.  Thank you everyone.

And if you would like to purchase a digital copy of The Road to Moloch for your Kindle, simply follow the Amazon link here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Road-to-Moloch-ebook/dp/B005ELOXEO/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1   

Friday, July 1, 2011

Hail Mary, full of Grace.  The Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the Fruit of Thy Womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.

Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins.  Save us from the fires of Hell, and lead all souls to Heaven--especially those in most need of Thy mercy.  Amen.