Voodoo School

School boards, voodoo, hexes... Oh I missed writing these...

We’re back!

And by “we,” I mean “me.”

Anyway, it’s been a VERY eventful series of weeks. Randomology.org will return with articles three times a week, and Charcoal Streets, for anyone who misses demons, angels, and ghosts, will now run Mondays starting next week. Also, note the redesigned logo.

In the meantime, let’s talk about Texas and why voodoo nearly destroyed a local school board meeting.

Yeah, it’s good to be back…

The story’s actually a month old, but it was too good not to talk about. You can read the full text here, but here’s the section at the very end that really made me do a double-take.

At the start of Tuesday’s special called meeting, trustee John Peter Montalvo raised eyebrows when he sat in the audience instead of his designated chair on the dais. When asked why he didn’t sit in his chair, Montalvo said he had been told that a woman dressed in black had put something in his seat.

“I already put some holy water (on it),” Montalvo said. “I know people who were here before that would probably like to do things of that nature and work with the devil.”

He added that: “I don’t believe in voodoo and the devil’s workshop. It is hard to know what’s happening, and I don’t mind losing an election or whatever the right way with votes, but this is not the right way because none of u would like to (have) any type of election problems with voodoos and dealings with the devil.”

Everyone on board with this?

An elected official does not want people using “voodoo” to influence elections or the educational process. Other than the Boy Scout-level knot that is that paragraph, I had no idea what else he was saying, but I get the general idea.

This was a local meeting, but it does lend more evidence to my eventual thesis, “Why Texas Needs to Go Away.” Not that I’m going for secession. I wrote about how stupid that idea is, but the mentality down here is frightening. Even worse, Moltavo needs to get schooled in religion.


voodoo by ~paintisthenewdope on deviantART

Voodoo is a religion that can be split into three major sects. You’ve got Haitan Vodou, New Orleans Voodoo, and Vodun. I really don’t want to get into it, but the version he was probably referring to was the combination of Catholicism and African mysticism associated with Louisiana Voodoo.

Vodun is the original set of beliefs that started everything. It’s practiced in many West African Nations. One of its chief tenets is that there are vodun, spirits that govern the Earth. Ancestor worship is also prevalent. Unlike the stereotypical portrayals in movies, Vodun is not an evil faith. While there are sorcerers and sorceresses who claim to call upon spirits to curse others, the majority of practitioners do not use their faith to hurt others.

Haitan Vodou is the Vodun that came to North America in Colonial times. It’s most identifiable features are a belief in spirits called Loa that serve a deity named Bondyé. While this is the tradition associated with zombies and voodoo dolls, these are as much a part of their religion as… actually I can’t think of a good metaphor. Suffice to say, these things don’t happen.

We all know it’s evil military-industrial complex projects that create zombies.


Umbrella Corp by ~MajorDisaster on deviantART

The last variety, Louisiana Voodoo, is the version that came to the United States. Like Haitan Vodou, it contains elements of Catholic mysticism. However, Louisiana Voodoo, also called New Orleans Voodoo, has a strong emphasis on a gris-gris, a small talisman that is said to protect the wearer from evil. True voodoo practitioners went underground in the 1930’s because of the commercialization of the faith.

Of course, there’s also Santería, which is a mixture of West African faith, Catholicism, and Native American traditions. The result is something I grew up seeing and hearing about. It’s practiced in many Latin American countries. Like some voodoo practitioners, what later became Santería followers had to disguise their faith as Catholicism. The term “Santería” was originally a derisive term meant to mock the African slaves’ apparent devotion to the saints instead of God.

What the colonials didn’t realize was that the slaves were secretly practicing their faith, not Christianity, and disguised their rituals as Catholic rituals.

In yo face, Colonial authority!


Hidden Faith by ~Fable-Of-Joy on deviantART

I’m guessing Mister Montalvo was referring to Santería when he felt someone had palced a curse on him. Of course, it’s not an uncommon practice. Various types of folk magic, many I’m sure based around Santería, are common in many Mexican households. I know a few.

He could also have been thinking of followers of La Santa Muerte… but that’s another story for another article.

Still, it’d be nice he’d made the effort to call it the right name.

Or at least admit that he thought someone was trying to curse him. Now I kind of want to go to one of these meetings with a set of voodoo dolls and see what happens…

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  • Folks, we need to start a movement to require newspapers and other news outlets use these warning stickers. My favorite one has to be the one warning that the reporter has no idea what he or she is talking about.
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  • Out of every movie, television show, and game of the last firty years, I’ve joked about Hollywood getting so desperate it adapts the board game Battleship into a movie. And I was joking… until I read they were ACTUALLY doing it! And check out this cast list: Tom Arnold and Rhianna. Really? That’s your A-list to sell this cinematic turd?
  • We’re one step closer to the robot apocalypse. Scientists have created robots with emotions. They’re designed to help children with autism… but I can’t help but think we’re one step closer to rallying around John Connor.
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  • I’ve never been too much into cars, but DAMN if I don’t want this beauty of a car… I think even blind people get aroused when they have these images put in front of them.
  • If you love horror, you have to love Hammer, the studio that made Christopher Lee an icon of the genre. Well guess what? They’re back and working on a new series of movies! And Christopher Lee is in the first one! They’re also releasing horror-themed beer! Oh, Merry Christmas!
  • It’s now five days until Glenn beck’s spiritual revival/ Tea Party rally/ promotional event/ desecration of the memory of Doctor Martin Luther King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. His 8-28 Rally is either going to cap off a year and a half of crazy or it will bomb when only a few thousand people show up. Either way, Beck’s selling the event as the second coming of Christ. He’s slowly turned from shock jock to faux journalist and is now well on his way to becoming a televangelist.
  • And to end on a light note, I love science fiction and am lucky enough to have been gifted a rare collection of short stories edited by Ray Bradbury (thanks, Dad!), but I don’t think I’ve ever LOVED a science fiction author. This girl? She makes Twilight fans look sane…

Learning How to Spell: Part 2

Even if it's jibberish, work with it.

July 1, 2010

I recently talked with a friend over FB chat. Over various subjects including gaming, and a reminder that while my job may induce headaches it also makes a difference, he said he wished he could make something creative. He just didn’t have the time.

A legitimate concern… And so I gave some advice I’d like to share with those readers with a similar concerns.

“I’m not creative enough.”

“I can’t write.”

“I don’t have time.”

Poppycock, I say!


writer’s block by ~sfalco on deviantART

Buy a notebook, something small you can carry around in a backpack, purse, or on your person. I own a Moleskine notebook with no lines that’s perfect for doodles and random notes at any angle. Not only does the book have pockets and a band to keep the whole thing closed, but it’s very durable. They’re made with acid-free paper. As someone who spent the better part of his college life working in university and church archives, let me tell you that acid-free paper is a must if you want to keep things around for a very long time.

Plus, you’ll feel all nice and pretentious with a Moleskine. Try it!

Buy a set of pens. I prefer gel pens since I don’t have to press too hard on the paper to actually write, and when you get inspiration and just want to keep going, a gel-pen is salvation in plastic. Fine tips are best so the ink doesn’t run everywhere. Treat your tools well, folks.

I always keep at least two pens on me. And don’t lend pens. People tend to keep them. And I loves my pens… Loves them, I say!


Pens by ~heroleon on deviantART

And finally, perhaps the most important part of all…

Listen to people. Some of the best lines I’ve ever heard have come from people just talking and trying to think fast. I write these choice quotes in my notebook and often look to them for inspiration or at least a chuckle.

A few choice quotes:

“Kennedy’s not dead. He’s in Cuba with Tupac.”

“I’m too Mexican to be vegan.”

“Where are you going?”
“South Carolina.”
“…Why there?”

“You are so full of beans and your nose is growing.”

“She’s going to come in and growl! Like an angry mother seahorse!”

To a Homeland Security employee: “Is that bacon? I smell a pork-based product.”

“How did you sneak in here!?”
“I’m wearing sneakers. So I can sneak.”

“Fuck you, rainbow-cake!”

“I did some morally reprehensible things on Friday… but I enjoyed them.”

“You are a broken cloud.”

“The strip club reminded me you can’t buy happiness.”

“It’s important to talk about sex, religion, and politics, just not before you put on a condom.”

Any one of these lines could be the basis for a character, a story, maybe a drawing, a poem, anything.

I remember working in DC and having one of the legislative assistants lament that, despite how much he enjoyed his job, he wished he could create something. If you really want to make something, even if it’s just haiku, devote some time each day, even ten minutes. Build up. Break it down. Rework it until you’re satisfied.

Perhaps most critically, have an ego about it. You can’t try to make something and think it will be horrible. That’s for editing or revisions. As you work, listen to inspirational music or music appropriate to whatever you’re making. Keep telling yourself it will be incredible. Force yourself to finish it.

You can create art. All of you. It’s just a matter of the right tools and mentality. Now get to work.

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  • Did you know that if you have more than one earring per ear you are a DIRTY, DIRTY WHORE?! Me neither…
  • Wizards of the Coast released an article detailing the pitfalls of playing a “villainous” race like drow or gnolls. It’s quite funny in a lot of areas, including the apparent lack of respect the company’s D&D products have for gnolls. How many other player races get beaten up every over cover or drawing?
  • Christina Hendricks, patron saint of hawt redheads, gave an interview where she talks about self-esteem and body image among other things. Part of me wonders if she’s serious about being so shocked people think she’s hot because she’s curvy, but it’s nice to see that we’re moving away from the stick-figure ideal and going back to women with curves. Go, curvy women!
  • And finally, this may be the funniest commercial I’ve seen all week. So, who has a man that’s cooked a gourmet cake in a kitchen he built?

How to Fight the Lizard People

Get your tin foil cap. This one's going to hurt.

May 17, 2010

I have a love-hate relationship with conspiracy theories.

When I worked as a legislative correspondent in Congress, it seemed like 10% of the mail we received was for legitimate concerns and questions, 30% was rehashed party lines and mass mailings, and the rest were paranoia and craziness from South Texas. You wouldn’t believe some of the theories I read, everything from a secret president ordering mass executions, the end of world brought on by the economic crisis knocking Venus out of orbit, to the Jewish cabals seeking to control us.

And that’s just dumb.

We all know it’s Dick Cheney, in the patented Cheney-Cave, who’s controlling the world.

barack obama and dick cheney
see more Political Pictures

While theories like this are dangerous because they rely either on illogic or false information, they are also quite fun. What can I say? I get a thrill from watching people jump like Chicken Little at the slightest things.

Lately, though, from Obama’s birth certificate to the allegations that global warming are a scientific hoax, it seems that conspiracy theories are more rampant today than they were even when the X-Files was still airing new episodes. Just for laughs, here are two of the funnier theories I’ve heard.

Eco-Terrorists

Oh you know me… I can’t start my day until I listen to good ol’ Rush Limbaugh. Man’s like a shot of caffeine right to the eye, and in the last few days, he’s been accusing Obama of blowing up the oil rig that has now created one of the worst ecological disasters in history.

Why?

It’s very simple. See, Obama and his radical left-wing progressive sociocommunazi friends want to force environmental protection regulations that will save us from that fakey global warming hoax. Control carbon emissions today… world government tomorrow! Blowing up the rig, says Limbaugh, gave Obama and the eco-terrorists the ammunition they need to pass bans on off-shore oil drilling.

This disaster serves as an example of just how bad things can get if we don’t act now.

So… environmentalists polluted hundreds of square miles of ocean, killed several workers, killed untold amounts of plant and wildlife, and have created a gaping wound in the ocean floor that still floods the water with toxins… all in an effort to save the environment?

By conservative estimates, the oil spill is worse than the Exxon-Valdez accident. There will be repercussions for decades. Entire ecosystems are destroyed. This is a bit like saying that Saddam Hussein secretly instigated the Gulf Wars in order to boost tourism to Iraq. Also, did you notice how Rush ended his segment? He’s just “asking questions.” Yeah, but you have no answers. Asking the question is not the same as addressing it. Hey Rush, did you take so much OxyContin that your ability to use higher brain functions has been destroyed?

I’m just asking.

Okay, that one was fairly easy and could be attributed to political paranoia, so let’s look at another theory that’s… special.


save the world by ~TenshiMoon on deviantART

Two Suns

Did you know Earth actually has two suns, just like in Star Wars, and NASA is spraying chemicals to hide the fact from us? Oh yes. Our sun actually has a twin star and, if conditions are right, you can see this elusive second star.

Nibiru, which the cameraman mentions, is an object that is supposed to collide with Earth and cause mass devastation.

The theory for this video and others like it is actually very simple. See, the government is trying to hide this from us because… wait, no, it’s the GLOBAL government! It has to be since this has been viewed as far as Russia. Yeah, they’re spraying chemicals in the sky to hide the second sun from us because…

Uhm…

Yeah, this one is stupid to the extreme. While there are videos and photos of these two suns, it’s actually a very simple effect called a sundog. And if you honestly believe that NASA is hiding evidence of a second sun… where was this second sun, oh, say, the last five billion years? Even if there was a star with one percent the output of our parent star, we would see it and FEEL it! For it to be that far in the sky, it would have to be on a large orbit!

Dear gods, people… a second sun and the government is hiding it?!

fail owned pwned pictures
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Why do people buy into this stuff? Part of me wants to just say that people are stupid and will believe anything. I want to blame a lack of education. I want to blame it all on the laziness to investigate, to really use the scientific method as it was intended instead of coming to a conclusion first, then finding evidence to support it. If you follow that route, you can justify almost anything. Combine it with a public that is frighteningly ignorant of basic science, history, and critical thinking and you get little nuggets of laughter like this woman:

It’s fraking refraction and reflection through water, lady! It’s not a government conspiracy to sterilize you, although, seeing this video, I would endorse such a measure for you!

Conspiracy theories do have one thing in common. All of them have some small basis in truth. They also rely on information that is either wildly contested or on the fringe of data sets. For any scientific experiment of report, there will be lots of numbers, and geniuses like Beck and his “research” team and others looking for the “truth,” any slight inconsistency in the data means that it’s not reliable in the least.

Let me put it this way. Say you want to measure the height of a building and you have a ruler, a yardstick, and a tape measurer. You use all three and come up with 350 inches, 310 inches, and 333 inches. Most people would see these numbers and simply assume, rightly, that there are imperfections in the method used to gather information, but all methods point to a rough height between 310 and 350 inches or about 30 ft.

It takes a special kind of nut to say that the building must be 500 inches high because someone told you that was the height of the building and no one can prove you wrong, so you must be right.

Personally, I love deflating these little conspiracy bubbles. There are few things I hate more than misinformation or the bastardization of science for these kinds of things. I’m all for keeping an open mind about the world, but people, please, learn to think critically. I know the best conspiracy theories have the big bad villain(s) lying to you, forcing you into blind obedience, and making you the victim… but come on!

Next thing you’ll be telling me is that Kennedy and Michael Jackson are hiding in Puerto Rico with Tupac.

If you have any conspiracy theories you’re fond of, share them in the comments below. I’m always on the lookout for more crazies.