Writing in Charcoal

Here are your writing tools.
Here are your writing tools.

January 28, 2013

Getting back into the groove of things after taking a month off reminded me of one of the most rewarding, and frustrating things about writing.

As I work on “The Lights of Pegasus” and get ready to send it out for publication, I found myself happy with the overall story, but unhappy with the details. For example, this story is set in a series of short stories I called the Endeavor Stories, a set of tales all set in the same 5,000-year span of human history and following the same families. I literately have years of notes, slang, and tiny details on everything from culture to food.

But I didn’t use any of it.

Looking back, it’s the reason the story seemed to so dry and empty. I ended up erasing most of it, except for the first five pages, and starting over. For many writers, that’s the kind of action that instantly spells doom. Why start over like that? Why not just rewrite it?

It’s the same reason I love drawing with charcoal.

Charcoal Face by ~livinitallnow on deviantART

When you use charcoal, you make the general outline of the drawing first, starting with the light and shadow and slowly building up the general shapes. After a while, you have something that’s similar to a first draft in a story. The image is simple yet captures the general essence.

Then you smear the whole thing.

You take your hand and you smear that charcoal until it’s nothing but dust. But the paper remembers. A vague outline remains even after you erase like this. That outline serves as a sort of guide. You start over but now work faster since you have a better idea of what the picture should look like. You know the mistakes to avoid. Little errors don’t compound. After a while, you end up with a cleaner, more layered image that builds on the afterimage of the first.

And then you do it all over again.

I may redraw something two, maybe three times. Each time, I build on the remains of the previous drawing until I’m satisfied with my shadows and light. It’s then and only then that I go in with a finer set of charcoal and add texture and details.

Charcoal by ~FJansen on deviantART

It’s the same thing with a story or poem. After erasing, you still remember the broad strokes, but you also remember the mistakes that slowly built up. That’s when you erase and start over. You can’t just try to “fix” the story by rewriting parts of it. Writers are sentimental and will want to latch on to every word and letter.

Better to just cut the whole thing off.

The new draft will be cleaner, sleeker, and still have that overall story, but now it may even move faster. You’ll be free of your own work.

At least, that’s the theory. It’s worked for me so far, but let’s see. Of course, you can do this with individual sections if you’re really happy with some parts but not others. It’s up to you.

While I keep writing, please enjoy Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren kicking ass and taking names in Red 2. I thoroughly enjoyed the first one and hope the second doesn’t suck a bag of donkey phalluses.

You’re Better Than You Think

Somewhere under all that ink lies an actual work.
Somewhere under all that ink lies an actual work.

December 19, 2012

With the semester ending, it’s time to look back at the students and the work they’ve done recently. I can recall all those sessions over the last five months and I’m once again struck by a virulent belief in the school population.

Kids, listen to me because I’ve said it before, but I’m going to say it again.

You’re better writers than you think. I’ve had nearly every tutoring session and class start with someone saying how bad he or she is in regards to writing and school work. In a way, they’re right. They lack the knowledge of structure and fallacies. They’ve never been exposed to these concepts before.

Writing by ~Likethenight94 on deviantART

But VERY few people are bad writers. If all you need is to learn format and some grammar, those are mechanical issues. Those are things that can be learned. But everyone has something he or she wants to say. One of the biggest secrets about writing is that good writers aren’t necessarily “good writers.”

They’re good editors. A good writer can look at something and figure out what works and what doesn’t, what should be rewritten and what should be expanded. A good writer can place him or herself in the mind of the reader and see how a particular piece of writing. Most of the freshmen I see can understand that their writing is not the greatest. However, it’s when they stop trying to fix it that they become “bad writers.” Sure, it helps to have a good imagination and come up with an original idea, but that’s not all of it.

Editing and rewriting as just as important as finishing that first draft. Learning to recognize what works and what doesn’t work is important. No first draft is ever perfect. Hemmingway said it best. First drafts are always shit.

Day 100: A Writer’s Workplace by ~umerr2000 on deviantART

But that doesn’t mean the first version is the last and the best that can be done. Sure, a professional writer can probably spit out something akin to a first-year writing student’s final draft on the first go, but that’s practice and training.

I was once asked to check a novel for a college professor. The novel was 800 pages of the worst drivel I have ever read. Ever. For anything. The plot was nonsensical. The grammar was terrible. The characters were unoriginal and completely unbelievable. Let me put it this way. One character who started out as a dog groomer eventually became an elite commando heading into South America after getting some lessons on the firing range.

And it was supposed to be based on true events.

It does go to show, however, that while editing and revising are important, it’s the imagination that’s important. Good writing starts off with a good idea, then gets polished into the final product.

Most students I see have a good idea to start. Maybe they don’t realize it, but they do.

So stop beating yourselves up for not being “good writers.” There are writers and writers who don’t try and give up. It’s the same as anything else in life. Some people have innate talent. Training and persistence, however, go a long way.

And now, let’s clear our minds with the full-length Star Trek Into Darkness teaser. Can you say, “Squee”?

Students Without Rules?

Anarchists! Every last one of them!

August 27, 2012

We’re back!

Well, by “we,” I mean “me.” It’s just one person behind the sleek internet experience you are, uhm, experiencing right now.

Let’s start with why one local school district just failed an English class.

Here in Laredo, Texas, schools will no longer have rules. No, that’s too negative. We can’t have teachers telling kids not to do things. It’d be like setting boundaries and stunting their growth. We can’t have that! Instead, the United Independent School District of Laredo, Texas will now implement “expectations.”

For example, instead of “No running in the hallways,” our students will now be encouraged with statements like, “Our students walk down the halls.”

You get it? It’s positive reinforcement. The kids will do better because they have freedom and can do whatever they want while at the same time feeling shame when they don’t meet “expectations.”

Student by ~mirchiz on deviantART

I really hope I don’t have to tell you why this is a dumber idea than Kim Kardashian thinking she can have a music career. Or Snooki thinking she should be a mother. This is stupid, and I know why the district is doing it. Ever since the Penn State scandal broke, schools have gone ape trying to make sure they don’t do anything that might make a child feel uncomfortable. We have to make sure kids have a great time at all costs. I understand the need for proper training, though. I had to undergo training for dealing with minors. It included signs to watch out, for that may indicate abuse in the home or even at work. It included the chain of supervisors that needed to be notified of such signs. It also laid out in very clear language the kinds of things that were expected of me as an employee of a public education institution. And I learned a few things I didn’t know…

But the idea that kids can do fine with “expectations” but not rules is fucking stupid.

Let me put it this way. Are there consequences for not meeting “expectations?” I’m sure there are, so in the end, what we have is “rules” by another name. An expectation reminds me too much of that scene from Office Space. You know the one.

office space by ~WolfsEye157 on deviantART

There’s a big gap between personal drive and what is expected at work. A student will follow “expectations” as long as said expectations are easy. Kids, I’m sorry to say, with very few exceptions, are not motivated to learn on their own. It’s the same problem of “unschooling” I talked about almost two years ago. A child has no incentive to follow an “expectation” unless he or she wants to follow it.

On a larger scale, it’s the same problem I have with Objectivism and libertarianism: the idea that we can have near-total anarchy and people will comport themselves because it is expected of them. Let me be blunt. People are morons. People are selfish. Companies have no incentive to be humanitarian if they can corner the market and keep making money at the expense of others. Students, likewise, have no incentive to follow a suggestion if there are no consequences.

I’ll be damned if I ever tell my students that I “expect” them to pay attention. Oh, no, buddy. They will pay attention or suffer my creative wrath. After I told them I wanted them to stop leaning back on the back two legs of their chairs, I made it clear it wasn’t a suggestion. This was an order.

If I saw anyone lean back, I would get behind them, grab their chair, and pull them back just enough to make think they were about to fall. There was a consequence. I was not asking them. I was telling them.

Rules exist for a reason. Unfair, unjust rules, must be fought, of course. A rule must have a purpose. Replacing all rules with “expectations”? That’s just asking for trouble. Eventually, a good student won’t have to be told to cheat or run in the halls. Until then?

They’re still kids.

Now, let’s clear our heads with one of the later episodes of MST3K and a personal favorite of mine: Space Mutiny.

Tennessee Will Make Your Children Dumb

Proud patriots! All of them. And none owned slaves*

January 23, 2012

I am not part of American history. My ancestors fought and toiled and help build this country into the superpower it is today. Two hundred years ago, slaves built this country on orders of men who claimed everyone was equal. The vast expanse of our nation was cleared of the indigenous populations to make room for a newly born democracy. The thousands who died so colonists would have free land are now remembered with shame. While America has many great qualities, its history is filled with blood and hypocrisy. It’s not that we can’t be better, but to ignore the past is to live a lie.

That lie, it seems, is preferred for the Tea Party. Go figure.

FRANKLIN by *INFPartist on deviantART

In Tennessee, the Tea Party is trying to remove all mentions of slavery and genocide from American history. Why? To make the Founding Fathers look good. According to the so-called patriots:

The material calls for lawmakers to amend state laws governing school curriculums, and for textbook selection criteria to say that “No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.”

Fayette County attorney Hal Rounds, the group’s lead spokesman during the news conference, said the group wants to address “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.

“The thing we need to focus on about the founders is that, given the social structure of their time, they were revolutionaries who brought liberty into a world where it hadn’t existed, to everybody — not all equally instantly — and it was their progress that we need to look at,” said Rounds, whose website identifies him as a Vietnam War veteran of the Air Force and FedEx retiree who became a lawyer in 1995.

Let that sink in. We want to tell the truth about our country’s history. But the truth is only whatever these clowns want to tell. “Truth,” then, is a purposely distorted view of history that leaves out parts the Tea Party doesn’t even contest are false. In the same breath where they whine about distortions, they want to leave out key facts they acknowledge to be true. I have written about this before, and I’m glad Tennessee is continuing the grand tradition Texas began of dumbing down education for the sake of politics and ideology.

WW2 – The Golden Age of Propaganda – No. 8 by ~violinmerchant on deviantART

There is, of course, a difference between “facts” and “truth.” A fact is a universally accepted piece of evidence. Was JFK shot? Yes. Did the Founding Fathers have slaves while they wrote “all men are created equal”? Yes. Do Michael Bay movies almost universally suck? That’s a given.

“Truth” is what you make out of the facts, and the more facts you have, the better the “truth” becomes. It was once truth that the sun revolved around the Earth. We worked with the fact that sun moved through the sky and we didn’t feel we were moving. Eventually, we learned more facts and the truth become more complex, culminating with our current cosmological models.

If we cut enough facts for convenience, we can make any argument.

Jeffrey Dahmer was a great cook persecuted for his unorthodox lifestyle.

Bush developed a strategy that good troops into the Middle East and secured much-needed oil, helping American businesses.

Stephanie Meyer wrote a series of books praised by millions.

Newt Gingrich would be a great president because he is charismatic and women love him.

That last one, by the way, has also been argued.

I wish I could stop being surprised at crap like this. I wish I could say I wasn’t shocked to hear that someone wanted to stifle actual education and replace it with a political agenda. The sheer blatant lie, the fact that the Tea Party wants to lie about history and is up-front about it because they don’t like what actually happened, shouldn’t shock me like this.

I guess that’s what I get for still having faith in my countrymen.

Let’s wash all that bad mojo with Liam Neeson fighting wolves. He truly can make anything ten times more awesome.

Rick Perry Really Hates Gay Sex

I approve this message.

December 9, 2011

I hate Rick Perry, but he can always be counted on to follow in Dubya’s footsteps and say something utterly stupid.


Even though Fox recently declared victory on the War on Christmas, they’re not letting up. After all, not everyone is saying “Merry Christmas” and schools are getting rid of Christmas parties during school. People keep insisting on calling Christmas Trees “holiday trees.” Next thing you know, Obama will order NORAD to track Santa and shoot the fat bastard out of the sky when he flies over restricted airspace.

However, Perry is about as honest as he is pro-gay.

Students are not being banned from celebrating Christmas. Schools are moving celebrations to afterschool activities so as not to cut into precious classroom time. Trust me. Every minute counts when you have to teach kids. It’s a matter of priorities. What is more important for children? Getting to sing Christmas carols during school or actually getting an education and having the party AFTER school?

Happy Holidays by ~TheCass on deviantART

Kids are NOT being banned from celebrating Christmas. The school has no authority over what religion they practice outside of the classroom, but the school DOES have a responsibility to teach children. And guess what? You CAN pray in school. Oh yes. If a school ever banned someone from praying, it would get in trouble with the ACLU and the whole alphabet soup. The thing conservatives are mad about is the ban on school SPONSORED prayer.

A school can’t make children pray or participate in religious-themed activities any more Congress can make its members start the day with prayer.

Oh wait, they do that already.

And it’s illegal. So are religious tests for public office, but that hasn’t stopped some states, including my own, from having them.

The War on Christmas should be renamed the “War for Christmas.” Conservatives want to make sure everyone follows their own brand of Christianity because if other faiths are allowed, that means NO one will want to be Christian, right? It’s kind of how making abortion legal made every woman want to get an abortion. Or how making same-sex marriage legal suddenly turned everyone gay in a couple of states.

Oh, right, that didn’t happen either.

Christmas Night. Magic scene with flying Santa by ~AlexandraF on deviantART

Just remember this. Whenever a conservative wines about a war on religion or a war on Christmas or Halloween or anything like that, it’s because conservatives have a very weird mind-set. If something is legal, then it must be mandatory. It’s why they’re so scared of gay marriage. Rick Perry seems to think gay sex will be mandatory and he won’t be able to put up a Christmas tree if the liberals get their way.

Hey, Perry? We’re okay with you celebrating Christmas. And you don’t have to have gay sex. Just, for the love of all things good and decent, shut the fuck up.

PS: Your own staff thought this was a terrible idea. Asshole.

Let’s enjoy a puppy fighting with an ice cube just to wash all that out of our heads, shall we?

Sterilizing Jews… In Context

It's a university. Of course it's liberal and hates Jews!

September 15, 2011

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Everyone is entitled to an informed opinion. No one is entitled to his or her own facts. If you’re going to make a claim, if you want to make a point about something, you better have more than just your hearsay and point of view.

Apparently, one Sarah Grunfeld, a senior at York University, lacks the kind of reasoning skills that allow most infants to not try to eat their own diapers.

Here’s what happened.

Professor Cameron Johnston, a 30-year veteran of the university’s faculty, was teaching a class where he sought to show that not everyone is entitled to an opinion. Some opinions, he said, are dangerous and unacceptable. To show his point, he used the example, “All Jews should be sterilized.” Being Jewish himself, Johnston used the phrase to show a point of view that was not grounded in anything but racism and hatred, a blatant example of the kind of “opinions” that are out there.

opinion by ~sscir on deviantART

Grunfeld, however, was apparently playing Angry Birds, or checking Facebook, or who knows what, because all she heard was “All Jews should be sterilized.”

After she sent her complaint to a Jewish advocacy group and the allegation of blatant anti-Semitism spread through the community and people called on Johnston to resign, the truth came out. She didn’t hear the whole thing and, worse, she was unaware the professor who said it was himself Jewish.

And once everyone knew the context of the statement, of course the whole thing blew over. After all, this had been hyped in the media and a professor with decades of experience being pressured to resign.

Well, no, it wasn’t over.

While the backlash against Johnston is gone, Grunfeld refuses to apologize. She’s not even sure that making that statement as an example is any more acceptable. To her, the fact that someone used this phrase, regardless of context, is a crime against the Jewish community.

Hebrew Poetry by ~Ingsoc85 on deviantART

I’d like to invite Miss Grunfeld to visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. They have quite the collection of World War II films and propaganda. Some of it is quite horrifically racist for obvious reasons. Would Grunfeld say this museum needs to be shut down because, ignoring context, the museum is promoting hatred of Jews?

Context is everything. I talk about a lot stuff here. I’ve called Sarah Palin “retarded” in the context of her using her handicapped son to get pity. I’ve written racial slurs to discuss them and make a point. I had an entire article that called for rich white guys to be monitored like terrorists. It was satire, but I’m not sure Grunfeld knows how to pronounce it.

Grunfeld is either too stubborn to admit she made a mistake or she’s actually dumb enough to believe that a word, regardless of context, is insulting. If I was the dean, I would force her to apologize to Johnston in a very public forum. Barring that, I would make sure she retook every one of her college classes until she learned the basic logic skills possessed by rudimentary cabbage.

And now, here’s something that also has no brain, but it’s actually entertaining.

The Tax on Good Grades

Back in my day, we didn't tax the high GPA makers! That creates more students!

August 19, 2011

Well, it’s back to school again, and, as most of you know, those with the highest grades will be asked to give away some of those GPA points to students who didn’t try as hard so everyone can have a chance at a better education and job later on.

Oh, that’s not how that happens?

Fox sent out a camera crew and recent college graduate to a few campuses to ask students how they would feel if they were asked to give some of their GPA to lower students so the people with lower grades could have higher GPAs. Obviously, this did not sit well with ANY student. How then, Fox asks, do we justify taking MORE money away from the wealthy in the form of increased taxes and giving it to the lower and middle class? Isn’t that the same thing? Taking away from the people who worked for their money and giving it to people who don’t work hard so they don’t get as much?

I think you can already see the problem here.

Students by ~dpoephoto on deviantART

A student earns a GPA over a long period of time. It takes years. To get that grade, you have to study hard, do your work, and if you want to bulk up with transcript, you have to take AP classes that sometimes don’t even give you extra points or anything like that. They didn’t for me, and while part of the Honor Scholars Program at DePauw University, I had to take classes that were an order of magnitude harder than any other class I’ve ever taken, and said classes didn’t even count for extra points. And I still made the Dean’s List several times.

That’s not how taxes and economics work.

For several decades, the upper class has received what can only be called “corporate welfare.” They actually get taxed less than people who make WAY less and can write off any number of expenses. For Fox’s analogy to make sense, students with higher GPA should have had to do less work to get better grades over time AND people with lower GPAs should have had to give up a portion of their grades to people who were already getting good grades.

Let me put it another way. Billy works hard but can only ever get a 2.5 GPA. Tommy lucked out nearly on his freshman year and got a 3.8 average. The school then took some of Billy’s points and gave them to Tommy to keep him in the highest percentile. Now, Billy has to work harder for his points, but Tommy can cruise along knowing the points he gets from the bottom of the ladder will offset his lack of work and keep him higher up.

Fox News by ~Darren-Kelly on deviantART

Students with high GPAs generally work VERY hard to get those grades. I know I did. The upper class in this country gets a free pass and politicians in their corner to make sure they stay up there. There is an entire infrastructure just to keep the rich rich. There is no such system in place for students. Lower grades don’t always mean you’re not working hard. Most students give it their best. Job-wise, I work my butt off and make less per hour than the dean’s secretary. Stop pretending like people who are poor don’t work hard. Try teaching. Try being a sanitation worker. Try being a gardener, migrant worker, police officer, firefighter, or even a babysitter. That’s damn hard work.

People who rely on hedge funds to GIVE them money? Must be nice.

In short, Fox sucks, students rock, have fun on the first week of school, students and teachers, and I’ll see you Monday with the new Weekly Muse story. Keep voting!

first day blues by ~misternow on deviantART

Bored or Smart

July 8, 2011

Stress is the fuel of creativity. Either that, or an ulcer.

My personal stress has been compounded by teaching a class of twenty or so middle school stud4ents how to write and think like writers. The first day, as I made painfully aware, involved trying to wrangle some unruly ragamuffins.

I let them know exactly what they were thinking and even got one to shut up about games “being for people with no lives.”

I met my fiancée through Dungeons and Dragons. Natch.

Then, today, I had the biggest shock of my teaching life. One of two kids I had to take aside the first day walked up to me. The class thus far consisted of teaching the parts f speech (nouns, verbs, conjunctions, etc.) and the parts of a sentence (subject, verb, object) and today’s class involved watching a very wholesome episode of Bizarre Foods.

It was Puerto Rico.

How Bizarre by ~MitchMerriweather18 on deviantART

A very fine episode, to be sure, and I had previously gone over the parts of the paragraph I wanted them to write go through. I wanted a topic sentence, evidence for why they liked or disliked the show, and an explanation. For example, if they thought it was good, I wanted something like “The show was funny because Andrew was scared when he had to dive into the dark cave. It was wet and he was freaking out.”

Most of them did well. A few of them were still sketchy on the concept of “evidence” and the grammar could have used some work.

Except for one kid.

The first day, I help him back to talk with him. He talks, he looks around, and he barely pays attention. And he got it in one try. I didn’t have to tell him to change anything. He did everything I asked and he barely tried. I could tell form the way he looked at me that he was sure he’d made a mistake.

It’s always a joy to see students realize they’re smarter than they thought.

Epiphany by ~SapphiraTigress on deviantART

Now I have a conundrum. It’s not that lesson is too easy. On the contrary. I’m pushing these kids as far as they’ll go. I’m teaching them like I would a high school or freshman college class. I’m not a behavioral expert. Best guess, the kid may have ADD. It wouldn’t be far-fetched, but it’s not definite. The other option is that he really does know all this stuff, but doesn’t understand he knows it and is just bored.

Either way, I don’t know if I can keep his attention without sacrificing the teaching time for the rest of the class.

I guess the only thing I can do is to try and dial it up just a bit, maybe give him extra work on the side…

And you know what? I’m excited if I get to teach him and help him improve. I’m making him my personal challenge.

blackboard and happy thoughts by ~Husckarl on deviantART

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…

Check out the new poll on the left and keep scrolling for more links!

  • 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.
  • Are you a lady? Are you on the pill? Good news! Not only do you not have to worry about unwanted human worm babies, but you’re also making yourself smarter. New research suggests that being on birth control pills enlarges certain areas of your brain. Now you can be sexually liberated while growing that sexy, sexy mind…
  • 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.
  • How much revenue would legalizing marijuana create? Check out this handy chart.
  • 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…

Divine by Zero: Birthday Bras, High School Werewolves, and Army Brownies

Welcome once again to Divine by Zero, the only place where you can hear an anarchic liberal with a weird accent ramble about the crazy things in life. A few things came my way these past few days, and I have to give full blame for one of them to Stephenie Meyer.

  • First and foremost, happy birthday to the bra. Yesterday, the bra celebrated 100 years. Ladies, raise a toast for this wonderful piece of underwear. And gentlemen, also raise a toast to this wonderful piece of underwear.

  • The army released the recipe for brownies it uses to make these tasty treats for the troops… and it’s 26 pages long. Apparently, if you follow the directions exactly, you can make brownies that last for years. Anyone want to try this and comment below to tell us how they taste?
  • Science Daily released a report that states that exposure to certain bacteria can actually make you smarter. Specifically, exposure to something called mycobacterium vaccae, a bacteria found in soil, can boost learning ability. I don’t buy this report at all. How can you explain nerds’ increased brain-power? We RARELY go outside! Sunlight burns.
  • And once again my state proves it’s on a crazy race with Arizona. In San Antonio, police arrested a man who had decals on his car that marked him part of the sheriff’s department in Baxar County but in the nation of the Republic of Texas. Police are charging the man with false identification, not impersonating a police officer. Why not charge him with the latter? Because doing so would mean that Texas officially recognizes the existence of the Republic of Texas, a make-believe country some die-hard conservatives here believe is the rightful nation in these parts. They don’t believe the “official” state laws apply to them and so just pretend they’re citizens of this Republic. It’d be like investigating Fox News for improper journalism. That would imply they actually do journalism.
  • We don’t hear a lot of good stories about the oil spill in the Gulf, but an 11-year-old in New York named Olivia Bouler has raised thousands of dollars by selling her drawings. There’s even a Facebook page about it. This is great because it shows the impact a single person can make on something as massive as this, but it also upsets me that a little girl’s drawings of birds have more fans on Facebook than I do… I somehow feel my manhood has been threatened… She must be stopped.
  • Speaking of funny/ horrifying things having to do with the spill, did you know the government employees in charge of inspecting the drilling were watching porn, drinking, and doing meth? Oh, and they were taking bribes, were childhood friends of the people who owned the rigs, and very likely have to kill puppies to reach climax.
  • Speaking of children, two brain trusts decided to give their baby Pop Rocks. How did it go? Well… just watch. This kid looks like he just walked in on his parents making him a little brother when the candy pops or something.

  • Republicans, meet the internet. We’re crazy. House Republicans set up a website a few days ago called America Speaking Out. The goal was to have everyday Americans suggest the course for policy so they wouldn’t feel like the Republicans were ignoring reality. Unfortunately, when you ask the internet for advice, you get advice like this.

“End Child Labor Laws […] We coddle children too much. They need to spend their youth in the factories.”

“How about if Congress actually do thier job and VET or Usurper in Chief, Obama is NOT a Natural Born Citizen in any way […] That fake so called birth certificate is useless.”

“A ‘teacher’ told my child in class that dolphins were mammals and not fish! And the same thing about whales! We need TRADITIONAL VALUES in all areas of education. If it swims in the water, it is a FISH. Period! End of Story.”

“English is are official langauge. Anybody who ain’t speak it the RIGHT way should kicked out.”

  • And finally… I know Stephanie Meyers is behind this. Somehow. A new trend in San Antonio schools is for kids to identify themselves as “werewolves.” I’m not making this up. They wear collars and identify with wolves. You HAVE to see this video to believe I am not just making things up.

That’s it for today. Stay tuned tomorrow, because some idiots on Facebook are launching “Everybody Draw the Holocaust Day” in response to “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.” I wish I could say I didn’t have to explain why this is wrong… but I do.

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