Identity Crisis

Identity Crisis

“So picture this, Murph: a death metal concert in the heart of Amsterdam.  Me and Jason disguised in leather, fake beards, and goth t-shirts . . .”

“I for one do not need to imagine any man much less Rodney in leather,” Sean sighed next to me.

“The beard I can get behind, though . . .” Ryan added.

We all agreed that a man with a beard is a man to be reckoned with.

“If Batman had a beard, he’d be unstoppable,” I considered aloud.

“Man, enough about Batman.  I’m talking about real heroes,” Rodney shouted.  “I’m talking about Jason Borne!”

I chose not to discuss Matt Damon’s heroics or what constituted a imaginary character. Frankly I didn’t have the time.

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Matches and Surveys

“So, you really want to get back into World of Warcraft?” I asked, somewhat taken aback by my friend’s regression into geekdom.

“Absolutely,” Dasad said in between sips of a chestnut praline latte – I swear Starbucks is taking advice from Yankee Candle in their choice of holiday blends. “Look you need something to occupy your free time outside of grading . . . mole tests or whatever the hell you teach in chemistry. MMOs are the perfect outlet.”

I nodded. The last week before my school closed for the Christmas break had proven . . . stressful, so much so that I considered stealing away around noon for a several pints of spiked nog. The mounting terror of children, emails, ungraded labs, January’s midterms, cloying principals, overbearing parents and those last-minute quizzes that you thought would provide an easy grade but . . . ah, the to-do list sought to smother my sanity. Only with three o’clock bell did the anxiety begin to drain away like poison from a wound leaving me exhausted and with a slight migraine.

I had met with Dasad hours later for drinks and coffee, confessing my near panic attack and utter thankfulness for the Christmas season.

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Battle Royale

I’ve been sitting on this particular post for a while now.  The last few months has bore witness to snow storms, weddings, my sister’s new house (to-be-constructed), my brother’s new house (to-be-bought), and a burgeoning addiction to Blizzard’s Hearthstone, which like all obsessions in my life (i.e. women, writing, chess, MMORPGs) I kinda suck at.  As such, the blog has received the short-end of the time-sink, a fact I’d remedy here soon.  We may have received tickets to Comicon in San Diego this summer.  More on that later!  In the meantime, join us as the Murphey clan goes laser-tagging, much to our own amusement.  

“Blimey, ‘ere we ‘ave the female white girl in ‘er natural attire,” Sean whispered to Shannon in his best – that is most stereotypical – impersonation of the crocodile hunter.  “Brown boots and leggings, tools of cunning to attract potential mates . . .”

“Shutup, Sean,” Bree snarled strapping on her suit, now glowing blue in the darkness.  “I am not dressed like this to ‘attract mates.’”

She feigned a glancing shot with her laser gun at grinning brothers before continuing.
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Bourne again

Wolverine_originsIn my experience, nothing excites and unnerves a geek more than pitting his (or her) favorite imaginary character against a rival fictional character in a hypothetical showdown to the figurative death.  Nothing.  My good friend, Rodney, believes with every fiber of his being that Jason Bourne epitomizes ‘badass.’  Yeah, Matt Damon . . .  badass . . . My friend is somewhat goofy in the head.  Rodney has even gone to such lengths to name his iPhone after the chronic amnesiac, and dubbing himself ‘The Rod Identity,’ secret sidekick to the world’s most kickass secret agent  Again, the guy’s goofy in the head.

Still like all zealots, Rodney actively sought altercations with those who believed Mr. Bourne had proven himself . . . slightly less-than-awesome. As so often was the case, the argument exploded from a deep intellectual discussion on the quality of Hugh Jackman’s performance in The Wolverine while on vacation last July . . .

We had just exited the theater at Downtown Disney, a cornucopia of Disney merchandise, theme restaurants, and — my favorite — AMC theaters.  Both Ryan and Rodney, having tragically lost half-a-dozen tennis matches two weeks prior owed the gang lunch, ice cream, and a few hours at the local cineplex.  We had spent much of the day at Animal Kingdom, sweating in lines and jumping between sunshine and deluges of afternoon thunderstorms.  As the evening sky cleared, we felt grateful for the safety of soft red velvet and an air-conditioned movie theater.  I had suggested Marvel’s latest superhero tale — thus, harmonizing my love for Japanese culture with my passion for Canadian mutant assassins — at AMC’s Dine-in theater where we snacked on sushi, mozzarella sticks, and bread pudding . . . mmmm.

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Small Steps

To infinity and beyond!

The final frontier.  As a kid, I’ve never acquired the obsession with space travel that so fascinated the prototypical ‘geeks’ of my generation.  Before high school, my friends and I began to specialize: the road to anime, the way of the superhero, the path of fantasy, the . . .  starport to sci-fi.  Most of us would explore other genres as well, adopting one another’s obsessions in time.  I introduced Dasad to Tolkien; he led me to comic shops, where I began collecting Batman; our friend, Lloyd, reveled in mecha anime, magical girls, Dragonball and Pokemon.  We all loved video games so finding common ground proved easy.

Still amid all the late movie marathons and gaming sessions, their interest in space and future tech never really stuck.  The nature of space and its prerequisite vacuum always seemed overwhelming and claustrophobic at the same time, like the paradox of a man trapped within infinity — or Marty always running out of time in Back to the Future.

Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the drug store, but that’s just peanuts to space. — Douglas Adams Continue reading

Religious Rhetoric

church_ceilingSome job requirement must exist among higher ranked members of the Arch Diocese that requires all parish pastors to speak in long-winded soliloquies.

Some need to introduce a syllabus before the homily:

“I have five points I wish to cover today: each with half-a-dozen subpoints, followed by a real world example, which I will convolute through obscure theology. Half-way through my homily I will diverge into an intelligible tangent on drug use and the world of Harry Potter.”

Others love history lessons and menacing laughter:

“The Pharisees would mock and debase those that did not follow the letter of the law established by Moses’ covenant on Mt. Sinai. They were much like us today. They too were sinners. Heh heh heh.”

Of course, not all priests speak in abstract riddles or finish their homilies with condescending laughter (apparently only the ones I know). Either because they lack the talent for it, need a smoke, or possess good sense, many construct their homilies through a combination personal stories, concise points, and a smidgeon of humor just to make the sermon interesting. If schoolchildren are present, they might even ask questions. Pastors on the other hand seem to rejoice in the fact that the prisoners . . . er, parishioners are trapped, thus forced to listen to anything and everything passing through their minds at the moment.

church_ceiling2Two Wednesdays ago, Ash Wednesday, I sat dumbfounded as our pastor trailed off from his discussion of the day’s Gospel, descending into Church history, deep theological abstraction, the essence of grace, and a nebulous aphorism about homeless shelters. A minute in and most of the congregation has grown lifeless, their mind departing for foreign climes, Saturday night sins, and weekend grocery lists. For my part, I stare at the back of a bald man’s crown, entranced by the intricate stitching of his black toupee. An indeterminate period of time passes. The priest has finally moved onto part three of his second point: free will, humility, and the Knights Templar. Before me, the man spasms. With a wave of his hand, a subtle scratch, the polysynthetic tapestry droops an inch or so into his back collar. My stomach churns; reflexively my eyes gaze skyward.

In malls and outlet shops, I take great interest in watching people cruise from store to store, from Gap to Baby Gap. You make up stories about each person based upon some deductive skills elusively gained from reading Sherlock Holmes stories. It’s a great way to pass the time, while waiting for mothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, and such. In mass, perhaps due to the lack of movement or dull zombie-like stares, I find people-watching far less interesting. My eyes usually take me to the ceiling in order to retain focus. There relaxation takes me; I count the number of lights and plot out the next Batman movie.

After nearly thirty minutes, a dozen tangled tangents on the definition of love, and nearly one-hundred and eight lights, the pastor ends his lecture. The congregation rubs their eyes and returns to the mass. The Penguin has taken over the Gotham underworld and issued a bounty on Batman’s head. The Riddler has taken up the challenge, and I feel that all is right with the world.

It was now time to dish out the ashes. Typically an interesting ceremony, ashes from last year’s palms (i.e. Palm Sunday) are burnt, blessed, and then distributed to the congregation. The priest and his ministers etch a sign of the cross on the forehead with the reminder: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The memento mori has always been a special sign to me – shortly before I realized what the word meant: reminder of death. A morbid gesture to some perhaps, but it has always reminded me that life is short and in death all men share a common fellowship.

church-ceiling3The congregation shuffles from their seats and lines form around the altar like spokes in a wheel. As I approached the minister, Mom whispers in my ear.

“That’s Miss Jill, the boys’ Confirmation teacher.” I let out an inaudible groan, instantly sizing up the woman with long red hair. Do not misunderstand me. I am sure there are plenty of competent, admirable individuals who teach the sacrament of Confirmation, remembering that after eight years of Catholic schooling another lesson on Love or Peace on a Saturday morning helps to instill very little of either in anyone. Unfortunately, I have yet to meet one; thus my bias leads me to consider the woman as both silly and a little self-righteous. Unfair perhaps, but stereotypes are like superstitions, proving themselves all too true more often than not.

Miss Jill dips her thumb into the bowl and rubs a large sizable cross on my forehead, then says: “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”

Now as I was reminded later, the memento mori was only one of three blessings chosen by the priest or minister, the last being “Repent and hear the Good News.” It was simply my bad chance, a poor luck of the draw. Still at the time, I felt a little disappointed and nearly cursed on the way back to my seat, which in consideration of the children, women, priests, and well . . . God was a bad idea.

Afterwards Mom and I planned to go shopping for groceries, but taking a look at one another’s faces we decided against it. Instead of a small humble cross, Miss Jill had painted our entire forehead with black ash, which did not sit well with either one of us or ease my earlier bias towards Confirmation teachers. As we drove down the highway, the small black flakes descended like snow before my eyes.  Mom tried to wipe the black smears that had fallen on her nose and cheeks.  Nearing the store, we decided to hibernate for the rest of the day.  Mom took to baking double-chocolate chip cookies (perhaps in case more ash fell) while I took in some Indiana Jones.  As Nazis’ dessicate and the Penitent roll pass curved blades, I slowly nod and sleep, silently thanking the Powers that religion is not so exciting after all.  

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Short message today for anyone visiting the site, take a look at Dasad’s recent posts if you have the opportunity, here or at my Blogroll. I have begged him for years to post some of his art, and finally you have the opportunity to see his work. Keep visiting his site when you get the chance, leave comments, and maybe we can coerce him into posting more of his work this month.