Archive for June, 2006

Friday Night Date Place: Marc Davidson’s Dating Tips Part I

Marc Davidson is a regular on my board who took it on himself to work my side of the street and start a thread on my board about dating. Since I have pressing deadlines on a few projects, I thought that I would collect his tips for the blog.

1. I know this is going to sound rather Zen like, but try to stop thinking about women, and instead, get yourself lost in either your faith, a great cause, or some kind of hobby. This will make you interesting, plus, it will put you in the presence of hot chicks who dig what you dig.

2. Wash your funky behind. There is no greater turnoff than poor hygiene. Take care of yourself, get your teeth whitened if they are yellow, iron your clothes for a change, get a haircut, bathe EVERY DAY Plus, do this for yourself, not for some unknown woman. Never lose site of tip #1

3. Learn to enjoy all kinds of people and listen to their stories: Being a good listener who actually enjoys people is the sexiest thing on the planet, because when you genuinely are interested in other people it has the concomitant effect of them being interested in you.

4. Flirt. And I mean flirt with as many women as possible in all kinds of places. Flirting is an art form that deserves a whole thread to itself. I won’t break it down too much, I will just let the women on the board state when flirting works and when it doesn’t. I’ll say this though, it is important to give a woman a lot of space when flirting so that she does not think you are coming on to her or stalking her. Flirting should make a woman feel really good about herself and you. So much so in fact, that she cannot wait for you to come around to pay attention to her.

5. Learn to give appropriate compliments. But don’t tell her how nice her butt and boobs are. Compliment her instead on her smile, her eyes, her intelligence, hard work, etc. I don’t know why this is, but most women I know have low self-esteem, they really can use a lot of affirmation. I have the gift of exhortation and encouragement, and this is probably the main reason the women love me (other than fact that I am foine as all get out)

6. Feel good about yourself. Do an inventory and think through what you are really good at, and start thinking about yourself as a person with a lot to offer. If you have trouble doing this, ask a good friend what your positive traits are. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, be the cool guy that only you can be. Being self actualized like this make you a magnet for all kinds of people, especially the ladies, can you dig it?

7. Say hello to her just like you would anyone else. Don’t turn it into some huge romantic event, just say “hello’, and figure out how to keep the conversation flowing (that’s a thread all to itself). Here is the thing though, if she likes you, she will help keep the conversation flowing. If the conversation falls flat, don’t worry about it, there probably is no chemistry between you two anyway so it is not going to work. You win some you lose some. Don’t take it personally.

8. One way to test whether or not someone likes you is by getting inside their comfort zone and even slightly touching them. If she moves, this might not prove anything, but if she either stays where she is or moves closer, chances are that she might think you’re kinda cute.

9. Once you established that there is some real chemistry, she likes you and you like her, invite her to hang with your crew at some really fun event. That way, you can see how she meshes with your friends and how they like her, and you don’t wierd her out by coming on too strong.

10. After a couple of group dates where you have established, A) Your friends like her and don’t thnk she is a bunny boiler, and B) You still think she is hot and want to get to know her better, ask her out on a one-on-one date. Again, don’t make it a big deal, just tell her that you were planning going to some real fun place but don’t have anyone to come with, and ask her if she would like to hang come with you. Don’t call it a date, let her ask if it is a date, then you can call it a date. If she is all weirded out by the notion of going out with you alone, don’t worry, she probably does like you, but just may not be ready for a one on one relationship. Respect that, and just give her time if you really like her. You can still go on group dates. Just give her a lot of space and continue to live your life, and also continue to be really nice to her, and above all, don’t pressure her.

His dating tips started going to his head, because his last few tips started getting longer and longer. Thus I had to break this up into two parts. Part two next week.

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I don’t have time to always check the comments all the places where this rant is posted. If you want to make sure that I see it or just want to stop by and say hi, do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Preacher Part II

“It doesn’t matter who you are, or how good you got things. Sooner or later, shit goes wrong for everybody. Sooner or later there comes a time when all you want to do is shout ‘F- You’ to the world.” Johnny Lee Wombat

After reading through the entire run of Preacher
, there are several conclusions to draw from Jesse’s (spiritual) struggles and misadventures:

1. You don’t get angry about things you don’t care about. Or don’t think exists. We start with the fact that for him, the existence of God is a foregone conclusion. A friend of mine shared with me that a girl she was dialoguing with revealed that she “only believed in God because I’m mad at God. When I cease to be mad at God, He might not exist for me any longer.” She was pissed that she lived in a society that marginalized women and sexualized their existence, pissed at the list of dos and don’ts people prescribed as the only way to please God, and pissed that we’re not allowed to be pissed at God. Questioning God, being angry at God, isn’t the issue. He’s capable of handling that and wants us to be honest with him. The ironic thing is that Jesse Custer never completes his intended task, but, as it is with all of us, it is the journey for truth that forms him.

“Folks don’t like the truth. That’s the point. It’s easier lyin’. Stops us havin’ to face up to trouble when it comes along to do wrong insteada right.” Jesse Custer

The search for answers from questions without answers isn’t all its cracked up to be. As Jesse found out during the course of his journey was that “what seemed so easy to figure back then has become a hell of a lot more complicated.” There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is the fact that it’s not like we’re owed any answers. We think we are, and the reasons for that I’ll discuss later. Many times, we don’t even understand the questions that we’re asking (again, we think we do. I have a four year old that loves asking me “why?” but when I turn around and ask him “why what?” all he can do is stare at me cutely because I’m supposed to explain to him the question as well as the answer). For that matter, we probably wouldn’t be satisfied with the answers, because, as Jesse learned during his stint as a minister, “folks never believe more than what’s convenient.”

2. We ascribe human notions to a being beyond conception. Jesse does what many of us do, put human characteristics and motivations on God. “You got power, you got to use it right,” he says. You see, and I don’t want to overwhelm you with deep theology but, God is … big. In order to relate to Him, we project our own humanness on Him; sometimes our foibles and notions of right and wrong. We bring Him down to our level and put Him in an understandable box. So it becomes perfectly understandable that we forget his otherliness.

3. Our frustration stems from a feeling of broken trust. Why bring us into this world of pain? Do you even have a plan? If Genesis has the power to rival God’s, then why would God suffer its existence? Also, knowing what would happen to creation, why do it? We wonder why He has to be so cruel about going about His business. He strikes us as capricious by our way of thinking. Yet, is it really so much for a Creator to ask of His creation that we trust him?

4. We have a low vision of God and an entirely too high vision of ourselves. We’re so quick to blame God for what is wrong with the world around us that we let ourselves off the hook. We have free will and we have a responsibility to our fellow man.

“The Lord announced His great leap forward. Life on earth, not in Heaven, that could think for itself and decide its own spiritual destiny. Men of free will. Every angel in paradise knew what that would mean. Without the love of God around them–tangible, real, as it is in heaven–men on earth would turn from God. Go their own ways. Divide into factions, fight war upon war upon war …” An adephi.

God created man in His image and gave man free will so that we could choose to love Him. However, we, in turn, have created a God in our image. So that instead of God being complete unto Himself, the Trinity in eternal community–creating from an overflow of that dynamic love– we’ve come to see God as an egomaniac who feeds on love. That is why we presume that he needs a helping hand with His divine plan, that somehow we’d know better how to do things. We’ve fallen victim to our hubris that leads us to believe that the creation has outgrown the Creator and need to be free of His machinations. That is the same pride that believes we could do so much better left to our own devices, without Him.

Again, after all the evil that we’ve seen, the day-to-day violence and degradation that we inflict on one another, man’s ever inventive ways of being cruel to one another, the question becomes not ‘how can we believe in God?’ but ‘how can we keep believing in man?’

Preacher features more than its share of blasphemy,” one reviewer said. Is this a blasphemous work? My Oxford American Dictionary defines blasphemous as profane talk. To profane, from the same dictionary, is to treat (a sacred thing) with irreverence or disregard. The idea behind profanity is to take something which is high and trample it underfoot. I don’t know if there is disregard at the heart of the book, and if we are to engage people where they are, many are at a place of disregard and outright blasphemy. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t to be engaged with.

Crass in its humor, vulgar in its satire, and hyperviolent, Preacher is not an easy book to wrestle with. You may not like the way in which the tales are told, but it asks challenging questions. Questions that we all ask and we need to be prepared to be held to book on.

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I don’t have time to always check the comments all the places where this rant is posted. If you want to make sure that I see it or just want to stop by and say hi, do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Preacher

Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Steve Dillon
Published by Vertigo Comics

As the inheritor of the “intelligent title” void left when Neil Gaiman’s Sandman run ended, Preacher was on my list of things probably too sacrilegious for me to engage with, must less be entertained by, when it first came out. [The list was essentially Preacher and the movie Life of Brian. I realize that this might sound like an odd stance for a horror writer to have, but, if nothing else, I’m all about freedoms. We’re free to draw moral and comfort lines for ourselves, but we shouldn’t make our personal lines the demarcation for all people. I drew my line there, but this was back in the early 1990s. Obviously, I was in a different place in my faith walk then and I have since gotten to a point where I thought that I could “handle it”.]

This also serves as my “fair warning” that this work isn’t for everyone.

Garth Ennis has always been hit and miss for me. He’s a maestro of violence and mayhem, as seen in his Punisher run, but even that can become tedious when he’s exhausted everything he has to say and the violence seems so pointless. When he’s on, he’s on (Unknown Soldier, Hitman); when he’s off, well, let’s leave it at I still haven’t forgiven him for Goddess. [For those waiting for me to comment on his Hellblazer run, I have so many feelings over that title, both good and bad, that it would require its own review.]

Joe Lansdale, a horror writer who knows a thing or two about injecting fun and mayhem into a work, says in his introduction to the first collected volume of Preacher “It’s our chance to look at the dark side without having to be a part of it.” Preacher has the feel and rhythm of a western, the language and tropes of the horror universe, and more than a dollop of a crime spree yarn tossed in. However, when all is said and done, Preacher is about one man’s search for God. That’s not me making a spiritual leap, that’s seriously the plot of the book. Jesse Custer–J.C., get it?–was a small town preacher losing his faith because what few members of the town that bothered to show up on Sundays did so to sing a few hymns and “then act like savages for the rest of the week.”

This pointed to a deeper problem to him: God had abandoned His creation.

So he decides to search for God: “I’m looking for the Lord ‘cause I figure He’s deserted His creation. I aim to bring Him to book for that little transgression: to confront Him and hear His answer to that charge. He has a obligation to do right by the world He’s made an’ the folks He’s peopled it with. He quits an’ runs, He ain’t facin’ up to His responsibilities.”

“There’s two good places you can look for God: in church or at the bottom of a bottle.” Tulip O’Hare.

So with his gun-toting girlfriend, Tulip O’Hare, and a hard-drinking Irish vampire-cum-best friend, (Proinsias) Cassidy, he heads out. Now’s when I have to explain a bit of the mythology of the comic book, and it’s not nearly as simple as “a guy got bitten by a radioactive spider.” Jesse merges with the spirit of Genesis–the spawn of an angel and a demon, a mix of heaven and hell–which represents a new idea, one that God is afraid of. Genesis gives Jesse the power of the word of the Lord, the word that must be obeyed.

[God left the seraphi (warrior archangels) in charge with the adephi (lesser angels/scientists) doing all the real work. The cast of characters in the book also include the surprising beloved figure, Arsehole Face, and the Saint of Killers (the patron saint of murderers and assassins). Sample storylines include a romp through sexual perversity (“The Gomorrah People”) and Jesse’s pursuit by Herr Starr, of The Grail, a group so focused on the Apocalypse that they fool themselves into thinking that they are about God’s work.]

Still with me?

Where does all of this hate and anger come from? Sadly, a lot of people have been hurt by the church. In fact, most times people who hate church/God have been burned by the church in one way or the other. Jesse Custer had religion forced on him by his family, stemming from his grandmother. Grandma taught that “God’s special because he’s always with you, Jesse. He lives inside you, in your heart, and he sees everything you do and he knows what you’re thinking. Always. God loves you very much because he made you. And God wants you to love him, because if you love him and do good things all your life, he’ll take you away to live with him when you die.”

Let’s pause for a moment and examine her proselytizing technique. For a start, there’s the issue of “witnessing” to kids this way. We have to think about what exactly gets communicated when we use phrases like “live inside you” or “in your heart” because what we are saying might not be (or rather, might exactly be) what kids are hearing. A lot of the time, this type of religious parroting amounts to well-intentioned coercion. Then there’s the issue of whether or not this is even the heart of the Gospel message. Though there’s some truth in her statement, is this what Christ meant when he said “follow me”? Either way, this didn’t play well with young Jesse as he responds with the statement that God sounded “kind of scary” (which He is, but not everyone is ready to think about that aspect of Him).

So Grandma responds by having young Jesse put in a coffin and sunk to the bottom of the river until he accepted God. Go ye forth and make disciples … by any means necessary.

Another source for this anger is that many people feel abandoned by God, as if He has capriciously left them to their own devices in His creation. This puts me in mind of a prayer by Thomas Merton:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

[to be continued]

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I don’t have time to always check the comments all the places where this rant is posted. If you want to make sure that I see it or just want to stop by and say hi, do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Paying Your Dues

I have nothing against self-published people. I have nothing against “for the love” markets. However, I won’t be joining your ranks any time soon. For everyone that self-publishes in the right way (including getting their work actually edited) and for the right reasons (for example, to fill what they know to be a niche market), there are hundreds with too much time and money on their hands, churning out poorly edited (if edited at all) dreck tarnishing all self-publishing writers.

If writing was easy, everyone would do it. Uh oh. That may be the problem. The Internet and technology have given rise to a whole new class of “for the love” markets and self- (or vanity) published writers. Yes, there is a stigma attached to being published through PublishAmerica and the like. Live and learn.

There is quite the discussion going on over at Shocklines and another over on the Red Light District (and I will take this moment to once again declare my love for Tom Piccirilli). Relax, O sensitive, self-published writers and insecure, “for the love” market writers. We aren’t being condescending, we aren’t saying that you aren’t a real writer, we’re trying to pass on lessons we have learned. You claim to want to hear from pros who have “been there and done that” and possibly learn from their mistakes. Sometimes you are not going to like what they have to say (if their comments strike too close to home for mistakes you are making and currently justifying).

I’ve been blessed to have pros mentor me. I’ve also been smart enough to seek them out and (more importantly) listen to them. If there’s one thing being a member of HWA has done is drummed into my head three things:

-writers deserve to be paid
-money flows to the writer
-rarely is exposure instead of money a good idea

It took me a little over a year to get my first sale
. It was another four before I had sales two through five (part of that, however, points to my lack of dedication to my writing career). After that, I started getting regularly published (and much more disciplined about writing). So I understand the desire to see your name in print or where have you. We pour our hearts and soul onto the page and we want some form of validation.

Those of you who want to work on your craft in the small/“for the love” presses, I commend you for wanting to hone your work. You can still do so by submitting your stories to the largest/best markets first.` Working out your craft in exposure only markets usually means you are exposing your crap which wasn’t ready to be published. It will only become your “porn past” that you won’t want to talk about when you start getting regularly published.

This only applies if you’re serious about being a writer. If you just want to see your name in print or simply be a self-published martyr, carry on. Nothing to see here.

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I don’t have time to always check the comments all the places where this rant is posted. If you want to make sure that I see it or just want to stop by and say hi, do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Open Letter to White People

Dear White People,

I’m not racist. Some of my best friends are white.

I realize that ritual is important, but please, I implore you, let Kool and the Gang rest in peace. You really don’t have to play “Celebration” at your wedding receptions.

I’m just doing my part to help with racial reconciliation.

Love, Maurice

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I don’t have time to always check the comments all the places where this rant is posted. If you want to make sure that I see it or just want to stop by and say hi, do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Wedding Rituals

My wife and I “jumped the broom” at our wedding reception (a dark side to the tradition is that the spouse who touches the broom will be the first to die). As an interracial marriage, we wanted traditions from each of our cultures and this was one of mine. As were the African dancers. And the live reggae band. (Yeah, I was in charge of the reception). Having been to some bad white weddings and some bad black weddings, and this being wedding season, I’ve been thinking a lot about weddings.

What’s the point of huge weddings? Actually, they don’t even have to be huge, but that doesn’t make them any less stressful. Rehearsals. Wedding coordinators. Bridesmaids dresses. Hair. Make up. Weather (for outdoor weddings). Cakes. Toasts. First dances. Parent-child dance. Reception food. Music. Ending with people saying “whew! Glad that’s over.” And this is for a simpler wedding. Did I mention the stress? The stress that turns the woman you love into a “bridezilla.” The stress that pits family member against family member (who’s paying for what; who does what; who’s responsible, or supposed to be responsible, for what?). The stress stemming from women planning their dream day from when they are little girls.

It becomes about the spectacle.

Part of this comes back to the downside of our ideas of romance. However, sometimes I wonder if we’ve missed the point of what wedding ceremonies are supposed to be about. It’s about coming together with your community – friends, family, church – to swear before them and God to become husband and wife. The community is both witness and participant (not gift givers and food consumers), pledging to be a part of the couple’s lives and to support the marriage. The ceremony symbolizes God’s relationship with us, a mystical union. And it’s about celebrating with friends and family as the couple begins a new life together.

We’ve turned them into these stuffy affairs that many (okay, yeah, me) dread going to. We run around, expending all of this energy for one day, forgetting that marriage is a marathon. All to gear up for one day, the easiest day at that. For those striving to keep their marriage bed pure, we place a needless obstacle of temptation as we take six months to a year to plan a one day event. No wonder many are left with the confusion of “today I can’t have sex, but tomorrow I can. And the only thing that’s changed is a piece of paper?” The piece of paper is important, but more important is the covenant sworn between man and wife. The ceremony includes rituals that point back to the story of this covenant.

There is good ritual and there is empty ritual. Good rituals help us to tell and remember the story being ritualized. It is a symbol meant to point us back to what is being symbolized. Empty ritual is strictly for show. Done to please others or because others want you to do something. We have no idea why we’re even doing them, so we’re just going through the motions. Since there is power in ritual, it’s important to get the ritual right.

I still look back on my wedding reception with fondness. It was a party, pure and simple – and it took six weeks to pull together. Still a bit of a spectacle, but we wanted our friends and family to celebrate. And we left an hour into it. We love our community, but the day and the party weren’t the point. We had the rest of our lives to attend to.

Wedding Season

It’s officially wedding season for us. It seems like every other weekend we have some wedding to attend or officiate. It doesn’t help that all of my siblings (one brother and three sisters) are due to get married this year. Today we’re due to attend (with me co-officiating my first wedding) the wedding of our beloved friends, Andy and Jenn. I was asked to share something personal, so I thought that I’d re-create a note exchange Jenn and I had during one of He Who Would be Head Pastor’s riveting sermons during our days at our old church.

Jenn: I’m thinking about breaking up with Andy.
Maurice: Why?
Jenn: I’m not sure. Things are sorta scaring me about us.
Maurice: The relationship getting serious?
Jenn: Yeah.
Maurice: Well, if I were you, I’d break up with him.
Jenn: Really?
Maurice: Yeah. Because it’s scary being with a man who loves you for who you are. Who respects your ideas and opinions. I know that you are certainly used to someone who values you, treasures his time with you, and treats you how you deserve to be treated. It makes me uncomfortable how he loves your son as if he were his own. Andy’s smart, I guess not bad to look at, and is striving to be the man God would have him be. Let’s face it, guys like him, relationships like this, come along all the time, so if I were you, I’d ditch this fool.

A year later, here we are. Once again my advice going ignored.

If you’ll indulge me a prayer for my friends:
We gather to bear witness of the union between our friends, our family, Jenn and Andy. We’re here not just to celebrate with them, but also to support them as they vow before You, O Lord, and before us to become husband and wife. This is a serious undertaking, one that will not always be easy, nor entered into lightly. So Lord, we ask your blessings upon them. We thank You for bringing them into our lives, and the joy they bring. We thank You for bringing them together and allowing us to share in this joyous occasion.

Friday Night Date Place – The M-Word

“Where exactly in the Bible does it say a man can’t fire off some knuckle children in the privacy of his own neighbor’s living room, while his neighbor is at work because I don’t have a DVD player? Well I don’t know where it says it because the Bible is way too long to read.” –Peter Griffin, Family Guy

Hmm. What would be the best way to begin a discussion on a topic many in the church would find controversial? I know: start with a quote from Family Guy. That won’t get us started on the wrong foot. Brilliant!

Not merely controversial, but downright avoided. Would you feel more comfortable if I referred to this topic as autoeroticism? Frankly, it doesn’t matter what you call it, it is what it is. Masturbation, a topic the Bible is silent on. (Don’t talk to me about Onan unless you want the background of cultura/familyl practices of the day. Too late:

Be honest with yourself: how much guilt and anxiety have you expended wondering whether this behavior is “right” or “wrong”? … A quick review of Christian literature over the past three decades reveals that pastors, theologians, and Christian authors have very diverse opinions on the matter. A major factor in this range of opinion is Scripture’s silence on the subject. We do find Old Testament laws (Leviticus 15, for example) requiring a person who experienced a “discharge” of semen to be ceremonially unclean until evening (the ceremonial laws were, in part, a sobering external reminder of how their hearts were to be set apart when they approached God in worship). Another passage (Genesis 38:1–10) references a man named Onan’s refusal to consummate his marriage to his deceased brother’s wife. According to Hebrew custom, if a man died before having children, his brother was expected to marry the widow and have children by her to carry on the deceased brother’s family line. Onan selfishly didn’t want to split his inheritance between two households (that of his brother’s wife and that of his own wife). Therefore, he attempted to resolve his conflict by practicing coitus interruptus—withdrawal of the penis from the vagina prior to ejaculation—and “spilled his seed on the ground” in an effort to prevent having children by her. So neither of these passages is really about masturbation. In fact, no Scripture directly deals with the topic. This is where an inside-out way of thinking proves helpful toward creating a “theology of masturbation.”)

At best, we can say that masturbation isn’t high on God’s priority list. So why am I bothering to bring this up? First, to wrap up our series on sex (since I define autoeroticism as sex with my favorite person). Second, because people for some reason feel comfortable asking and sharing with me personal questions. Either that, or I have some sort of strange reputation with folks. (I am hardly a master of my domain, which I guess makes me a masturbation guru. Who knows?). Anyway, time and time again, folks come up to mean earnestly wanting to be Scripturally obedient to what God would have them do in this area of their life. Well-intentioned people who have had guilt heaped upon them, typically by the church, who as we’ve discussed, does wonders at teaching on sex. Torturing themselves because of their secret shame, left to wrestle with questions like “is it wrong?” and, having already assumed an answer, “how do I break the habit?”

We may feel trapped in a cycle: we mess up, wrestle with the guilt, are good for a while, then mess up again. Does any of this sound familiar? We fall into patterns of habituation (some would say “addicted” to describe the feeling of out of control behavior). We become preoccupied with the “sin,” whatever it may be, focused solely on it not on the totality of how it plays out in our lives. No, suddenly it is THE issue in our lives, to where even the struggle with it becomes a preoccupation. We develop rituals around it. I’m not saying we light candles and set moods, but there are habits and learned behaviors that form around it. Then comes a moment of weakness, a loss of will power or what have you. Followed by heaping bowlfuls of guilt and shame (and the dogging resignation of being trapped by this behavior).

The thing about this or any other sexual sin is that we tend to make that the biggest sin in our lives. It blinds us to the other sins in our life, the other sins which undergird that one: discontent, pride, lust (note that it comes in third on my list here). We can’t focus on trying NOT to do something. Instead, we need to focus on the good, on training ourselves in doing something else.

The problem of masturbation, if you will, is that it is typically characterized by lustful fantasies (or porn, which can be its own addiction) and isolation. Back to our discussion about habits, constant (however you define this) masturbation leads to habits of arousal that can eventually creep into the marriage bed. After all, it forms us into being individualistic and can create an unreality to our sex lives (or worse a substitute for reality). In other words, we’re back to our primary questions: how does it form us and into what does it form us? Masturbation teaches us that sex can happen outside of a relationship, teaches us that immediate gratification is a part of sex, and teaches us that the whole point is pleasure without the work.

You also need to look at why we do it. An unhealthy way to comfort oneself, go to sleep, or deal with fantasies, loneliness, or pain – none of which will deal with the inner longing for intimacy. For some, solo orgasms represents a legitimate way of dealing with sexual urges and hormonal buildup. But for crying out loud, those of you torturing yourselves over this sin, there are probably bigger sins in your life to be worrying about. Seriously, balance that against sleeping with someone you aren’t married to or cheating on your wife when you find yourself “burning with desire.” However, if you still need guilt, remember this:

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I don’t have time to always check the comments all the places where this rant is posted. If you want to make sure that I see it or just want to stop by and say hi, do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Clive Barker’s The Great and Secret Show

Adapted by Chris Ryall
Art by Gabriel Rodriguez
Published By IDW Publishing

I have been a fan of Clive Barker since he popped on the horror scene with his collections of short stories, The Books of Blood. Based on the eponymous novel, The Great and Secret Show brings to comics a story full of imagination and wonder, as well as a few chills.

The mythology of the story revolves around the dream sea known as Quiddity. Each of us visit this sea three times in our lives: the first night we spend outside of the womb, the night we lay beside our first love, and the last night of our lives. Any more times and we’d go insane. The Shoal is the organization that safeguards it. Randolph Jaffe wants to visit again.

Jaffe, working in the dead letter office, pieces together the existence of The Art and that America has a secret history all of which will lead him to Quiddity. Along his journey to the dream sea he spends time in The Loop, a loop in time, and visits with Kissoon, last of the Shoal and later gets connected with Richard Fletcher, a drug-addicted biophysicist. Fletcher is led to create Nuncio, the stuff to nudge people along the evolutionary ladder. However, Jaffe wants to do things his own way, on his own terms. Nuncio takes hold of both men and they fight, realizing that they have different goals, leading to what will become a battle between good and evil on a grand scale.

And that was just the first issue.

Having not read the original novel, The Great and Secret Show has shades of J. Michael Straczynski’s Midnight Nation or a dash of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Chris Ryall seems to have gotten to the heart of the story, one laden with both character and a sense of mystery. Gabriel Rodriguez has imbued his portrayals of ordinary people with aspects of the sinister, grounding the story with a sense of realness.

The Great and Secret Show is rife with spiritual connections. The Show in question is all of creation, what we see as well as what we don’t see. The physical and the spiritual, a world that many stay purposely blind to. Jaffe leads an ineffectual existence, knowing that there’s more to life, knowing that there’s more to creation and he sets off on a journey to change himself.

“Jaffe walked so far heeding the call that he came to a place where the facts were in doubt.”

Jaffe’s pursuit reminded me of Adam and Eve in the garden, seeking “ultimate” knowledge in their own way under their own power. Nuncio is no different than the fruit, with Jaffe pursuing magic for his own/selfish ends. Yet it’s the nature of The Art that fascinates me. The story speaks to the idea that there is a magic side to reality, an acknowledgment and desire to reach the transcendent. To peek behind the veil, a world of unseen spirits, and, despite our supposed need for answers, find answers to questions we hadn’t thought to ask.

We tend to place limits on what faith is and can be, forgetting that there is room for mysticism in faith. Parts of us hunger for something beyond the strictly rational. What I’m calling mysticism, at least from a Christian worldview, would be a deep experience of union and knowledge of divine reality. Wrestling with God’s nearness (immanence) as well as His otherness (transcendence); how He interacts with creation and human history as well as being separate and holy. Not a denial of reason, but seeing its limits and moving beyond it; finding truths in the paradoxes of life and belief. Maybe by embracing the mystical, we can truly catch a vision of God.

IDW Publishing has established themselves at the premiere outlet for horror comics. From Steve Niles’ 30 Days of Night to Clive Barker’s the Great and Secret Show, they have churned out compelling books. The Great and Secret Show crams a lot of story, a lot of mythology, into its pages, yet lends itself well to comic adaptation for quite the riveting tale. I can only hope the rest of the series lives up to the high expectation that Ryall and Rodriguez have set up thus far.

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I don’t have time to always check the comments all the places where this rant is posted. If you want to make sure that I see it or just want to stop by and say hi, do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Fell

Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Ben Templesmith
Published by Image Comics

Warren Ellis is stealing my money again.

As thefts go, $1.99 ain’t bad. Too many comics go for $2.99 or $3.99 for some books making comic book collecting a hobby for the rich more than something kids can readily get into. So Ellis, missing the days when kids could take a handful of change and come away with a slice of pop culture (to paraphrase Alan Moore) decided to do something about it. He set out to create a comic book that was more affordable, self-contained, and wasn’t bogged down in decades of continuity. The hope is that such a book might help solve one of the major problems plaguing the comic book industry: drawing in new readers turned off by inaccessible and rather expensive books.

This all also points to Fell being more an experiment of form as well as business. The book feels flimsy, downright fragile with its 24 pages (not the standard 32), with only 16 of those pages being comics. The other 8 are filled with text about the comic, which makes it the most fun backsection of a comic book since Powers. Each page is basically made up of 9 panel grid, though without Brian Michael Bendis-style talking heads.

Ellis’ “crammed” story telling style is a departure from his other landmark work (Transmetropolitan, The Authority, Planetary, Global Frequency). Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night) is on board doing a Bill Sienkiewicz impersonation (mind you, I never got Sienkiewicz’s art during his New Mutants run but I thought it was brilliant in Elektra: Assassin. Though that might point to the difference in taste of a teenager vs. a young adult). The moody artwork, not nearly as murky and muddled as his 30 Days of Night work, fits perfectly with the tone of the book.

“You’re living in a broken town, Detective Fell.” –Coroner

Richard Fell has transferred to the worst section of town, as part penance and part opportunity to shine. Irregardless, he is a man in an uncertain world, a detective drawn to sensational crimes, ripped from today weirdest headlines. He’s a bit like Gil Grissom from C.S.I., a bit of a cypher who we will learn about in little glimpses of his personal life between the procedural aspects of the story. Otherwise, all we know is that he is an intelligent, observant detective, quite insightful and looking for the right place to have his talents noticed.

“Ain’t no Jesus in Snowtown, Detective.” –Dock worker

It doesn’t take a detective of Richard Fell’s obvious gifts to determine that this world is screwed up. It is almost like we’re aware that there was a created order, a way how things were meant to be, and somewhere along the lines, things went awry. Whether by design or by working through inadvertent stumbling, Ellis finds himself exploring the doctrine of the fall. We look around creation and realize that something went wrong, that there is something broken about our reality. Fear, doubt, and death have made life scary.

For me it helps to think of life like the elements of story: setting, conflict, climax, and resolution. The setting of life is creation, the world in its entirety, both physical and spiritual. The conflict that enters the story of life would be the fall. The fact that things became off-kilter, people and nature not being the way they were meant to be. There comes a point of climax, a decision that we have to make about life – who are you going to follow as master-teacher? Philosophy, science, Christ – sometimes it takes something outside of ourselves to set things right. The resolution of the story is a matter of who you choose to follow.

Fell, judging from the number of additional print runs the first few issues have had, is well on its way to being a successful experiment. Both grim and eccentric, filled with interesting yet personable characters, Fell is a compressed murder mystery that cleverly examines the despair of humanity. Ellis is clearly having fun and doing some of his finest work here.

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I don’t have time to always check the comments all the places where this rant is posted. If you want to make sure that I see it or just want to stop by and say hi, do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.