Saturday, December 13, 2008

I am giving Ruby the gift of knowledge about primordial dwarves and giant creme brulees

The lucky, undeserving little brat is getting the finest reference known to man: The Full Color Guinness Book of World Records (16 pages in 3D!).

I don't know how it was for you as a snubbin, but when I was a grade schooler, the Guinness Book of World Records was the pinnacle of Western thought.

Dwarves! The World's Fattest Twins (The McCrarys. See above.)! Longest beard on a woman! Most supernumery nipples!

The full rich physiognomic pageant was right there, in tiny type on cheap Earl Grey-tinted paper. It was a platonic freakshow, with only the most superlative aberrations. And unlike previous generations, I didn't have to wait for the circus to wheel into town with it's icky carnies and scary clowns. I just had to head to the school library at lunch, grab a matt and relish the horror of those seedy little black and white smudged photographs.

There was also an aspirational, Horatio Alger aspect to it: if I work hard, someday I'll be able to avail myself of the sublime comfort of a mink-lined golf shoes with ruby tipped cleats (The Most Expensive Golf Shoes In the World), or the complete Canon system (Most Extensive Photographic System In The World).

I would own the Bugatti, Hearst Castle, a case of 1945 Mouton. Yep, Guinness was teaching me how to be a huge douche.

I walked away from Guinness when I discovered The People's Almanac, a foot-thick doorstop filled with articles about ghosts, strange weapons of WWII, strange political and religious screeds, and the sexual practices of dead celebrities. In other words, it was the Internet in book form.

All this came flooding back when Ruby started expounding this new book she had found in her school library, full of bearded ladies and tiny people.

This year, I am initiating her into the temple of corn dog wisdom that is Guinness. And it's in 3-D, so it's even more classy than it was when I was a kid.



Owen's amazingly well crafted joke.

Owen, 5, made up this cracker today:

Q: Why did the turd cross the road?

A: To go to the TURD sanctuary.

Pure gold.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

My grandmother's religion, as reimagined by Millions of Dead Cops

I came across a truly awe inspiring religious website, Death to the World. It's a the site of a Russian Orthodox Hardcore 'zine based here in Cali, and it is blowing my poor cracked little mind.

I was raised Russian Orthodox, and the church I attended was more Russian than Orthodox. The joke was Russian Orthodox Christian, in that order.

The Russian Orthodox Church I grew up in was full of pinched faced little old ladies (one of whom spit on the exposed toes of my then-sister-in-law, who had the satanic-inspired chutzpah to wear sandals in church, driving the men to distraction with her ingrown toenail). It was sighing about a Russia that never existed by people who had never been there, or were last there when there was a Tzar and St. Petersburg was called Petrograd.

The kids were pale, puffy kids from the Avenues in black derby jackets, -- the official jacket of Bay Area rockers/stoners/low rider/cholos, c. 1982 -- with discreet AC/DC patches. They spoke with Russian accents, despite being born in California.

We suffered through lent, through liturgies and vespers chanted in Slavonic, through weird feast days on which you weren't allowed to eat anything. It was old, old, old, not American, not fun, kind of seedy and tired.

It was not punk rock.

That's why this site is so jarring.

Interestingly enough, two members of the best Stoner Metal band in the universe, San Jose's very own Sleep were Orthodox monks at different times.

Now, the monastic aspect of the Orthodox faith IS deeply profound and aspects of the theology (which I didn't pick up on until after I stopped going to church) emphasize a break with the world. It's sort of Augustine, but more Russian -- the world of human is damaged and broken, so human institutions are naturally corrupt. We are all sinners, no getting around it, but we can indirectly experience the holy through reflection. That's why Russian churches tend to be so otherworldly; to force a conceptual break with the world.

I've met a few monks growing up, mostly at a church camp run by a more liberal branch of the Church (more liberal? Hard to believe, I know) and they were the real deal: beatific guys with ZZ Top beards leading simple lives. I remember one was actually a Romanov and a wicked first base man in softball. He played in his hassock.

It's interesting that someone Orthodox had the idea to draw the in the teen angst rejection of the world (I'm being flip. I'm sure the kids that are involved are smart and earnest) into an ancient spiritual traditional.

Who knows how it would have affected me if someone had made that connection when I was listening to hardcore. I might be sporting a ZZ Top beard right now.

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Here's what you should do.

Take one of your most cherished, "well, duh!" beliefs and go deep into enemy territory with it. Read the counter-evidence, sit through the screeds, bombard it with neutrinos. See what happens.

I'm not going to tell you what happens, because I don't know.

My ideas about the world are correct and fundamentally sound.

Anyway, see if you can do it. I've tried it and it's more existentially harrowing than I initially thought it would be.

Drink more red wine, too.

Ruby and Owen discuss the Sexual Practices of the Human Grown Up

(Note: I've always been weary of simply quoting my kids here. It seems lazy. But, goddamn it, they say some funny ass crap.)

Owen: What do grown up do when they're in love?

Ruby: They are in sex with each other.

Owen: What's that?

Ruby: That's when they show each other their butts.