New News

Hey there. If you’re new here, welcome. If you’re not new, you’ve probably noticed some changes. It’s okay, you’re in the right place. But, in keeping with the new direction of things around here, I decided a new look was in order. And, there are some new features. See those two buttons marked “Writing” and “Comedy”? They’ll take to you pages filled with all sorts of fun stuff.  I’ll be updating periodically and will post notice of new stuff here. If you’d like to see me in person, I’m usually at The Idiot Box’s Thursday Open Mic, so stop by and have a laugh on (or at) me.

Burnished Bronze and Sour Cream White

Peter felt more out of place than he ever had in his entire life. Imagine him, the whiter-than-sour cream Peter Nolan in a place like Pharoah’s, a combination restaurant/coffee house/hookah bar. The décor, the smells, the smoky haze that hung in the air, it all felt so exotic.

That feeling was heightened when, as he made his way through the maze of tables, the music began to play. Not having much experience with middle eastern cultures, he thought it might be Arabic. That thought was confirmed when a woman the color of burnished bronze stepped from behind a beaded curtain. Dressed in what he supposed was an Egyptian belly dancer’s costume, she began to dance around the room, moving in ways he didn’t know humans could move. He was specifically drawn to her midriff. It was bare, with a light golden chain draped around it, and it rippled and undulated in a most pleasing manner. He was so fixated on her stomach that he forgot to find a seat and just stood there, watching as that bronzed belly rolled and waved, hypnotizing him. Just then, she noticed him and began to dance his way. Even that didn’t break Peter’s trance and he was so shy that he normally avoided attention from women like the plague. In fact, he was so transfixed, he didn’t even notice as she began to dance around him. All he could see was that stomach and the chain as it oscillated and flowed. The spell was broken as she lightly grazed her fingertips across his bare forearm and sent an electric shock up his arm and straight into his brain. He realized then that everyone was looking at him. And most of them were laughing. He sheepishly stepped away and found a table in the corner.

As he sat, sipping a coffee, he noticed her heading his way, her most recent performance over. He began to feel butterflies in his stomach. What if she sat down and wanted to talk? He wasn’t good with the talking. Especially with girls. His mother had always told him that girls were sinful creatures who only wanted one thing, his money, and they’d do anything to get it. He took a sip of coffee. She was getting closer. What would he say? He needed to know what to say so he didn’t sound stupid. He’d never find out if his mother was right if he said something stupid. And, oh god, did he want to find out if his mother was right. And, he wanted to find out with this girl. She smiled as approached his table. The butterflies in his stomach turned into California condors and he thought he was going to lose it. “Keep it together, Peter”, he said to himself. If you throw up in front of this woman, you’ll never find out what that belly can do and you’ll be a virgin the rest of your life. He calmed down enough that the moment passed and thought to himself, Okay, crisis averted. Now, what am I going to say? He realized he better come up with something quick because she was only 3 tables away. Shit, what do I say? Two tables… and closing. God damn it, he panicked. Then, it popped into his head: the perfect opening line. Just as she got to his table and he opened his mouth to deliver it, she passed right on by as he weren’t there. Damn it, he thought. Another night, no nookie.

First Trip

“You okay?” the tech asked as he leaned in over me, checking the IV. I nodded, too nervous to speak. “Okay, then,” he said as he closed the door on the isolation tank. I heard the latch on the tank’s door snick closed and then a slight click as the intercom came on. “Can you hear me?”

“Loud and clear”, I replied.

“All right,” he said. “Get ready for the joy juice.” I couldn’t hear anything, but I knew he’d pushed the button that injected a rather large dose of Ketamine into my IV. “Have nice trip.”

In the days since signing up to be a test subject for what I thought would be everyday, run of the mill psychiatric research, I had spent a lot of time in working in sensory deprivation. Hell, it was getting so that was more comfortable in the tank than I was in my own bed. I can still remember when we’d found out that astral projection wasn’t just esoteric bat shit craziness, but something actually worked; the entire lab was silent for a second, then erupted in a full-blown nerdgasm when everyone realized what we’d done. Since then, I’d traveled outside my body more times that I could count and it was the single most exhilarating experience I’d ever had.

It wasn’t long after that the government guys showed up. We’re with DARPA, they told Dr. Zemanski and we’re interested in what you’re doing here. We think it may have applications in government service and we want to give you tons and tons of cash to further your research. Okay, so they didn’t say quite that way, but that’s what happened. The money rolled in, along with all kind of new toys and a bunch of new people with new ideas; one of which we were testing today. Some guy, supposedly a bigwig neuroscientist who knew all about this stuff, heard about a claim that hallucinogenic drugs heightened the out of body experience. He pulled out the old MK Ultra data, some of the most comprehensive research on the subject, and did some math or something and the next thing I know, I’m being asked to take another trip. If he was right, the combination of the tank and the drug should take things to a whole other level. And, I was about to find out just where that level might be.

I repeated the phrase and performed the hand movement that had been planted in my subconscious to automatically induce a hypnotic state. As I did, I felt the drugs begin to kick in. The Ketamine would induce sleep paralysis (for my protection) and, more importantly, open my mind and let me access the portion of my brain that allowed to me travel outside my body. And this time, not just travel, but actually do things. Real, physical things.

The “K” began to take hold and I felt the vibrations that signaled the beginning of the process of separating my consciousness from my body. Then came the high-pitched whine that let me know I was ready. I went to take the first step away and all of sudden I flew up and out of the tank, hovering for a moment on the ceiling. Holy shit, that was strong! In all my trips, I had never felt anything like that.

After a minute to get my shit together, I stretched out and aimed for the door. This first trip wasn’t going to be a long one, just get out and about and see if I could actually make things happen. Opening the door would be the big test. Of course, I had no need to open the door; when you’re projecting, walls and doors are no barrier at all. But, if I could open it in front of a group of observers still in the physical realm…, well, that would be a major step in the program. It would validate all the time, effort and funding that gone into it and Dr. Z would be very happy. And, when Dr. Z was happy, everyone was happy.

Getting to the door was nothing, By this stage of the game, I was an expert at moving around a room while traveling etherically. Once I got there, though, that’s when things got serious. With the enhanced hypnogogic state induced by the ketamine, tapping the part of my brain that made my consciousness concrete was much easier than I expected. I looked down at where my hand should be and sure enough, it began to manifest. I was only supposed to do my hand and open the door, but it felt so good that I kept going. Before I knew it, a entire body was standing there at the door, in front of the assembled scientists. But, it wasn’t my body. Well, it was and it wasn’t. It looked familiar, but it didn’t appear…, well, substantial. It was sort of like a solid shadow. For all of that, it looked a whole lot better than my physical body did. Muscular but not like a body builder, it was lean and athletic; like it could outrun that trouble that came its way, but fight like hell if it couldn’t. I looked down at the hand and the fingers, my fingers I realized, and smiled. This was beyond cool.

After spending a few moments appreciating this new and improved me, I reached out for the door knob, expecting my hand to pass right thru like it had every other time I had tried to touch something while projecting. But, it didn’t. It wrapped around the knob. I stood there for a second, not believing what I was feeling. My god, I was in the astral plane and touching something in the physical! No one had ever done this before! My mind relayed the command to turn the knob and the hand in front of me obeyed. The door opened effortlessly. I turned to look at Dr. Z and his colleagues. Most of the other scientists were stunned, a couple of mouths even hung open. No one thought we’d actually be able to pull this off. No one except Potter, the government guy whose idea this was. He’d been certain from the start and now wore an incredibly satisfied smile. He looked at the technician and said, “That’s enough for now. Bring her back.”

No, I thought (speaking hadn’t been worked out yet), I want to stay. But, the tech pushed in the drug that would counteract the “K” and bring me back down. I felt it flow in and, in seconds, my strong, beautiful shadow body began to fade. As the effects increased, I felt my consciousness being pulled back into the tank and my physical body and, then, in a rush, I was back.

They opened the tank and helped me out. It took me a minute to steady myself and, when I did, I turned and saw Dr. Zemanski standing there, Potter right beside with that smug smile still plastered across his face. “Well, Samantha,” Dr. Z asked, “how was it?”
I was shaking from the exhilaration I felt. I reached out and grabbed his arm and said, “More! Send me back. I’ve got to have more!” And, then, I promptly passed out.

Rain On Car Windows

When I posted this story back during the summer, I was pretty happy with it.
Then, I let a couple of my English professors have a go at it, which was a slightly
humbling experience.  It was, I believe, worth the pain. Take a look at this
new, improved version and see what you think.

 

“What time is it?” she asked.

“We’ve got a while yet,” he said. “You sure you wanna do this? You don’t have to. We can find another way.”

“No!” she snapped. Then, softer, “Sorry. We’ve been over this and over this. There is no other way.”

“I know. I just… never thought I’d be part of something like this.” He dropped his head onto the steering wheel. “How the fuck did we end up here?”

She turned in her seat to look at him. “Does it matter? We’re here and this is our only way out. Believe me, if there were another option, I’d be all over it.” She shifted back and stared out the windshield at the rain that sluiced down in buckets.

Suddenly, he sat up. “No! You’re not doing this. I am not going to be that guy.”

He reached down to start the car, but she was quicker and snatched the keys out of the ignition.

“We’ve already had this conversation and this is it: Our only option. There. is. no. other. way!” She dropped the keys on the console between them. “Look, if I can handle this, you can handle this. Fuck, I’m the one who’s actually doing something. You just have to sit around and wait.”

It was his turn to stare at her. “Yeah, it’s so easy for me. Just sit there while my girlfriend is violated. And, why? Because we owe a shit ton of money and I can’t keep a fucking job. It’ll be a piece of god damned cake.” He looked out the side window as the rain ran in streams down its surface. “Fuck you,” he said softly. He heard her breathe in sharply. He didn’t turn back.

“I’m sorry,” she said, with a catch in her voice. “I guess I didn’t think of what this is doing to you.” Her voice trembling, she said, “Look at me.” He didn’t move and his breathing began to fog the window. On the verge of tears, she begged him, “Look at me. Please.” His window became opaque as his breath continued to cloud it. Crying, she pleaded with him, “Won’t you please look at me!” Slowly, he turned back, but stopped short of doing what she asked.

“Look,” she said. “This has got me on edge and I just wasn’t thinking about how it was affecting you. Can you forgive me?” He continued to stare out the windshield. “Please?” she added, a hint of desperation in her voice.

He took in a breath, held it a second and slowly let it out. “Yeah. I guess we’re both having a harder time with this than we thought we would.” He fumbled around in the console, coming out with a napkin. He wiped the window clear. They sat quietly for a few minutes.

“So, what time is it, now?” she asked.

“Getting closer.”.

She nodded. “So, you talked to Kat and she said it wasn’t so bad, right?” There was much less confidence in voice than had been there earlier.

“She said she was super-nervous at first, just like you. They gave her a something to take the edge off and she just sort of floated through the whole rest of the… thing.”

She hesitated for a second, then asked, “What did Tony say?”

A sour look came over his face and he answered, “Tony didn’t say shit. He just sat there. After a minute or two, he got up and left the room. Kat told me he had a really hard time with the whole thing. Went bought some 4 Loko and got fucked up while it was going on.”

She sat there, staring at the rain on the car window and said in a voice almost too soft to hear, “You won’t do that to me, will you?”

His head whipped around. “Wha—, why the fuck would you even ask that?!?” he snapped.

She flinched. There was a drawn-out pause, then she said, “Well, there was that time at I got so drunk I―”

He slammed his fist on the dashboard, “You are never going to let me forget that, are you!” His window and the windshield both began to film over with vapor and he gave a short, bitter laugh. “One time,” he said, holding up a finger. “One time I leave you at a party and you just can’t let it go.”

“But, I was passed out in Tony’s bedroom!” she protested. “Anything could’ve happened.”

“Oh, you were safe enough,” he said. “If you’re a guest in Tony’s house, he’s not gonna let bad shit happen to you.”

“You don’t know that. He can’t be everywhere.”

“Whatever. Nothing happened, so everything’s cool. Why do you have to bring that up every time I say I’ll do something?”

She sat there for a moment, before saying, “I don’t know. I guess I can be kind of bitch sometimes.” He nodded. She pulled her arms in across her chest, hugging her herself. “I’m sorry. I won’t mention it again.”

“It’s okay,” he said, grabbing another napkin and wiping the condensation away. He reached out and caressed her face. “And, don’t worry. I’ll be right outside the whole time, waiting for you.” She smiled and laid her hand in his. He let their hands fall onto the console. Then, she wrapped her arm in his and pulled it in. It was as close to a hug as could be managed in the confines of the front seat.

They sat that way, in silence, for a few minutes before she asked, “What time is it?”

He glanced at the clock. “You’ve got a few minutes.” After a long pause, he asked again, “You sure you want to do this?”

“No, I’m not. I’m scared. Like, really, really fucking scared.”

He looked down. “I know. So am I. But what else can we do?” He exhaled. “I mean, do you have any idea how bad things will get if we don’t handle this, right now?” She nodded. “I don’t even want to think of the consequences if we back out. It will not be pretty.”

She hugged his arm tighter and said, “I know. I’ll do it. I’m just… scared, that’s all.”

“Yeah,” he said, “me too.” They sat there, watching the rain as it coursed down the windows of the car. A smile played across his face and he said, “Hey, remember that time down by the lake…”

“What? You mean that time with the ducks?”

“Yeah.” He let out a tiny laugh. “They were after the sandwiches an—“, the alarm on his phone began to sound. “It’s time,” he said.

Without a word, she reached into the back seat and grabbed a small duffle packed with all the things she’d need. As she turned back around, he pulled her to him and kissed her. She looked at him for a moment. Then she got out of the car and walked through the pouring rain to the door of the building. He watched her all the way, until she disappeared inside. Then he turned and sat there, watching the rain on the car windows.

 

 

 

 

 

Something New

Followers of The Progressive Redneck have probably noticed that posts have been few and far between of late. There’s a couple of reasons for that, the biggest one being that I just don’t have time to write 2-3 posts that are worth reading every week. The other is that what I was doing last year this time has lost a lot of its luster. You can write about the abject shittiness of the dark underbelly of politics or religion for so long before it starts to pull you down. The break from blogging forced on me by school helped me realize that it is time to do something else.

So, what am I going to do? I believe I’m going back to my first love in writing: fiction. And, I’ll give you fair warning: it won’t always be “nice”, or “polite” or even safe for work. If that’s a problem for any subscriber, send me an email and I’ll remove you from the list with no hard feelings.

As a last hurrah before I depart the Christian blogosphere, I give you this poem I wrote last night. I hope you enjoy it.

Does God Exist?
They say God is dead,
that God never existed.
They are right.
The God they talk about,
the angry, vengeful old man
sitting on a throne with
a handful of lightning bolts,
the God who despised his
creation so much that
he destroyed it with a flood,
the God so obsessed
with blood that His
very own son
had to die before
He could forgive
the humans that He
created and imbued
with free will,
that God never was
and never will be.

But, they are also wrong,
God does exist.
God exists in stardust
that, thrown asunder
by the Big Bang,
coalesced into stars,
then into planets, then
into bacteria, plants
animals and
finally, humans.
God exists because
God is the universal love
that binds all
this together and
makes us one.
As long as there is one
tiny, imperceptible. Lilliputian
scrap of love in this world,
God
will
exist.

Compassion, Trump-style

Hello, brothers and sisters. I know you haven’t heard from me in a while, but I’ve been a little busy. And, by “a little busy”, I mean “working my butt off to get some really mediocre grades this semester”.  But, recently, something so big happened that I just had to carve out some time and write about it. 

     What could possibly pull me out of my self-imposed exile and back into the blogosphere? President Trump’s budget proposal (I throw up in my mouth a little, every time I say that), that’s what. And, let me you, it is a doozy. It increases defense spending by 54% and slashes funding for almost every other part of the federal government, including all funding for arts and cultural agencies and the block grants that support Meals on Wheels and Head Start. Naturally, a few folks have their panties in a wad over this turn of events. 

     The real brouhaha started when, at a press conference yesterday, a reporter asked White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney if the budget wasn’t “hard-hearted”. Mulvaney replied, “No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think it’s one of the most compassionate things we can do.” That’s right, beloved; a budget that cuts funding to programs that feed the elderly and underprivileged kids is “compassionate”. 

     Now, before we lose our collective mind over this, let’s look at Mulvaney’s reasoning. He told the press, who didn’t take his pronouncement very charitably, “You’re only focusing on half of the equation, you’re only focusing on recipients of the money. We’re trying to focus both on the recipients of the money and the folks who give us the money in the first place. And I think it’s fairly compassionate to go to them and say, ‘Look, we’re not going to ask you for your hard-earned money any more.’ ‘Single mom of two in Detroit, OK, give us your money.’ We’re not going to do that anymore … unless we can guarantee to you that that money is actually being used in a proper function, and I think that is about as compassionate as you can get.”  And, believe or not, I get where he’s coming from.

     This budget is remarkably compassionate. I mean, sure, Trump’s budget will impose an 82% tax hike on a single parent making $34,000 a year. But, imagine how it will relieve the burden on the long-suffering and over-taxed 1% in this country. Seriously, who deserves a break more than the ultra-wealthy?

     And, yes, this budget will eliminate programs that the single mom he mention probably relies on, like Head Start, PBS, and other silly, socialist fluff. But, come on, folks. Lord Dampnut has to get the money to build The Wall™ from somewhere. Especially, since Mexico can’t stop laughing at his claim that they’ll pay for it. 

     Besides he’s got to come up with that extra $54 billion he needs to beef up the world’s largest military. Yeah, I hear you, “We already spend more on the military than the next 8 countries combined.” Maybe. But, don’t we need to be ready in case shit pops off with the Russians? Okay, not the Russians; Uncle Vlad wouldn’t be happy about that. But, it is necessary. If only because he needs to make sure the military is equipped to protect him when the mob of screwed-over supporters arrives in D.C. with the pitchforks and torches.

     Look, I know a lot of you are still pretty pissed about this budget. I get that. But, maybe you should take Mulvaney’s advice and look at both sides of the equation. There’s the “decent human being who wants to take care the least of these” side…, and, then there’s Trump’s. I’m sure you’ll see the light eventually. 

It’s 6:27 AM. What’s Your President(-Elect) Doing?

So, the Golden Globe awards show happened. As a general rule, I wouldn’t hit a hog in the ass for an awards show. Basically, I think they’re nothing but a bunch of attention whores getting together to shout, “Look how super-cool we are! Don’t you plebes all wish you could be like us?” Every now and then, however, something amusing comes out of these publicly televised circle jerks. Sunday night was one of those times.

Meryl Streep received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement and gave an acceptance speech that people are still talking about. It was a bit long and addressed several issues, but the most interesting part was when she took the tiny-handed toddler who is about to be leader of the free world (aka Donald Trump) to task for making fun of a disabled reporter during his campaign, saying, “Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

Of course, the Tangerine Nightmare couldn’t let this slide and took to his favorite platform (Twitter) to respond. At 6:27 on Monday morning, he unleashed a brief and, in his mind, devastating, Tweetstorm on Streep:

There are some intriguing aspects this semi-sentient tire fire’s response: Like, it doesn’t make any sense (Streep is “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood”???), it’s bullshit (he did indeed mock Serge Kovaleski and Kovaleski did not change his story), and, yet again, he disparaged the press for reporting what he said. But, perhaps the most intriguing part of it all (and by “intriguing”, I mean “utterly fucking scary”) is that the man(child) that will soon be commander-in-chief of the most potent and powerful military machine the world has ever seen has such a thin skin he can’t let anything go.

Think about it for a minute, Trump is just 12 days out from taking on what is arguably the most difficult job in the world and what’s he doing this close to his first day at work? Tweeting insults at an actress.  This isn’t a one time thing, either. Hell, just a few days ago, he was on Twitter gloating about how he got better ratings on “The Apprentice” than Arnold Schwarzenegger. And, let’s not forget his feuds with Saturday Night Live and the cast of “Hamilton”. How presidential.

But, hey, he’s just telling it like it is, right? I mean, who do these people think they are? Citizens in a country with an fundamental right to criticize the government and the politicians that run it? But, even if they are, doesn’t Trump have a right to defend himself from that criticism? So what if he’s putting up that defense instead of taking intelligence briefings, conducting press conferences, put together a cabinet; you know, the job he was elected to do?

Damn. This is going to be a long, long four years.

No Homosexual Lifestyle???

In August of last year, the darling of the progressive Christian world, John Pavlovitz, wrote a post titled Repeat After Me: “There is No Such Thing as a “Homosexual Lifestyle.”  What?!? No homosexual lifestyle? I find that hard to believe. I mean, if there’s no “homosexual lifestyle”, that means I’ve been an asshole for absolutely no reason whatsoever. That is a turn of events I just cannot accept.

Look, there are numerous places where the Bible plainly states homosexuality is a sin. Here are a few of those places:

  • In Leviticus 18:22, God told Moses that men shouldn’t lie with men as they do with women because that is an abomination. Of course, a few chapters earlier, God also told Moses that the people shouldn’t eat pork and shrimp. But, I love pork and shrimp, so I ignore that part. Thank you, God, for the miracle of proof-texting!
  • In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul said that “homosexuals” won’t “inherit the kingdom of God”. Yes, I know the word “homosexual” doesn’t appear in the Bible until the middle of the 20th century. But, the words that have been rendered as “homosexual” are slang terms and we really don’t know what they mean. But, hey, if we don’t know what Paul meant, what’s wrong with interpreting it in a way that benefits us “normal”, straight folks?
  • In Romans 1:26-28, Paul tells us that men and women gave up natural, God-ordained relations and defiled themselves with icky, same-sex shenanigans and were promptly punished for it. Sure, in the very next chapter, Paul tells us that God condemns the kind of judgement he just threw out, but that doesn’t help my case, so I’m ignoring it.

Seriously, is this man, this “pastor”, trying to tell me that my deeply held religious belief about the homosexuals, based on a Bible verses that have been few proof-texted and cherry-picked within an inch of their life, is wrong? Really?

According to Pavlovitz, “We all have a gender identity and a sexual orientation and these things all fall along a vast and complicated continuum. It is this specific combination of both how we see ourselves and who we are drawn to that form this essential part of who we are.” Oh, come on, “gender identity” and “sexual orientation”? Everyone knows God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. And, Eve was always Eve, not Steve who decided he was Eve. No less an authority than the Southern Baptist Convention backs this up in their resolution “On Transgender Identity”. How could that many Baptists be wrong about something like this?

He also says that the Christians are holding onto “the prejudices and fears our faith inherited 3500 years ago when we didn’t know what we know now” and is “deliberately choosing to not know now; preferring religion to reality”. Well, of course we are. Otherwise we might have to change. And, if there’s one thing we don’t do very well, it’s change.

Look, the bottom line is that accepting homosexuality as innate and not a “lifestyle” is just another step onto the slippery slope that will ultimately lead Christians to live by the teachings of Jesus and start loving our neighbor and turning the other cheek. God only knows where that could lead.