Category: Featured

Collectors, Hoarders, and the Childless

A beer coaster from my collection

I don’t collect things anymore. I don’t know when I stopped, but in my youth, I would start more collections than a wino starts bottles.

Baseball cards, beer cans, football pennants, foreign currency, coins, postcards, seashells, marbles, even rocks (those polished stones featured in souvenir shops).

Even as an adult, I started collections: sporting event tickets, hockey cards, paraphernalia from every professional sports venue in Michigan that I personally visited, souvenir beer mugs, bookmarks, drink coasters that feature famous beers, the left pinky toe from every prostitute I banged (I spent a ton on formaldehyde).

But at some point, it stopped.

I think it stopped when my final collection—children—started to grow, but I don’t know when exactly, and it was never a conscious decision. I just stopped. 

Or maybe I morphed . . . transitioned from collecting to hoarding. I started buying lots of things but not different kinds of the same thing. I accumulated volumes, but not variety within the volumes. I bought things I could use, not things to look at it.

Beer cans out; a jar of dimes in. Postcards out; books in. Rocks gone; gardening implements in.

I suppose the two actions, collecting and hoarding, aren’t terribly different. Both cost a lot of money. Both provide a scant monetary return. Both will get tossed into the dumpster when I die. Both impart a degree of … Read the rest

The Weekly Eccentric: Why Do Dudes in Vegas Look Like That?

Exploring the Vegas Bod

When you think “Vegas body,” you probably think “sultry,” “skanky,” “sensual,” or “slinky”: what the showgirl looks like off-hours, like when a high school friend and I went to the Windsor Ballet 35 years ago and I swore that that woman walking in the mall the next day was one of the dancers.

But when I hear “Vegas body,” I don’t think “sultry” or any of the other sexy words.

Heck, I don’t even think of women.

I think of dudes. The same dude I see all over the place when I’m in Vegas: chest, shoulders, and arms that are better developed than usual, coupled with a gut bigger than usual. All accentuated by a shirt that’s at least one size too small.

I told my wife last April while we were there, “It’s really remarkable. Every guy, from behind, looks like he’s in good shape, then you see him from the front (or, heaven forbid, the side) and you’re like, ‘Geesh, dude, maybe spend less time on bicep curls and more on ab crunches.”

But why? Why all these middle-aged guys with big deltoids and bigger guts, both of which they seem pleased to accent with a tight shirt?

I think it may be related to the different definitions of “sin.”

The Russian mystic Theophan the Recluse said sin could refer to (i) the guilty deed, (ii) a passion, or … Read the rest

The Weekly Eccentric: My Failed Wild Garden Experiment

Or: How I Spotted My Inner Utopian

My wild garden idea is a bust.

The idea was simple and based on U.S. foreign policy over the past 75 years.

There’s a war in every garden: good plants versus weeds. I figured I just needed to let the two battle it out, with me getting involved as little as possible. So, even though I wanted the good plants to win, I’d let them fight the weeds, with me offering help as necessary. . . but not doing the actual fighting.

I’d let the good plants (lettuces, cilantro, basil, mustards, and kale) reach full maturation: sprouting fluffy heads of seeds, which would then float all over the garden like parachuters. Meanwhile, I’d ruthlessly cut down any weed before it produced seeds. I’d keep areas of ground uncovered to receive the vegetable seed parachuters.

Eventually, I figured I’d have a lawn-like spread of good green vegetables, with the weeds choked out.

No mulching. No rows. No spacing. No planting by hand. No buying new seeds every year. No need to harvest seeds every fall (because they’d be reseeding themselves and growing the following spring).

It’d be paradise on my little plot of earth. It was among the best-laid plans.

The Results

It went well at first. In early July, I nodded sagely at the progress. Weeds gone; mustards and kale already gone to seed and releasing parachuters.

I … Read the rest

One Mean Chick? Or Just an Unfortunate Alignment of Facial Features?

Does the person who creates an air of discomfort with the RBF have a level of moral culpability?

stylish woman in hat standing on rocky hill
Photo by Dmitriy Ganin on

The RBF: resting bitch face.

An innocent and harmless expression?

Or a culpable and harmful one?

I started wondering about that after reading Jacques Philippe’s observation in Real Mercy that a look can give life or give death. There’s a way of looking at people, says Philippe, that gives goodness, mercy, encouragement, and hope. And there’s a way of looking at people that accuses, closes, judges, and rejects.

If there’s a way of looking at people that is so full of moral implications, is there a way of looking in general that does the same thing?

I used to think, “What I do is between me and my God. I mean no offense to anyone else, so my moods, tempers, and outbursts are my affair.”

Then I read Francis Fernandez’s observation that “gloominess does great harm . . . to those around us.”

Mere gloominess does that?

“Frick,” I remember thinking. “I wonder what throwing the stapler against the wall and referring to a form of prison bonding does to those around us.”

It was an “a-ha” moment, but an embarrassing one. I had become fully conscious of something at age 40 that most people intuit by age 17 and understand by age 22.

So what about the RBF? Is she … Read the rest

Are We Really Supposed to Believe Psychedelics Gave Us Our Souls?

Plus: T. Rex and Hollywood

Photo by Külli Kittus on Unsplash

A mushroom?

Or God?

I didn’t fully appreciate the implication of The Stoned Ape theory until listening to Lex Fridman’s interview of Brian Muraresku.

Muraresku recently published The Immortality Key: The Secret History of the Religion with No Name, which claims psychedelics, in particular psilocybin, has made huge, possibly catalytic, contributions to religious experience for thousands of years.

I’d been following the discussion for over a year. It is a favorite topic on The Joe Rogan Experience, among other venues.

But it wasn’t until the Fridman interview did I appreciate one incredible claim by the psychedelic crowd: it was psilocybin that took man from apehood to personhood. Go to minute 31:00 to hear the discussion.

I’ve long envisioned the moment God created humans in his image. I imagine a group of Neanderthals sitting around a killed carcass, eating, and grunting. And then they suddenly start laughing.

That’s when the immortal soul entered the body.

It’s the whole question that drives the Missing Link problem. Our (oh-so artistically accurate charts) show the apes evolve closer and closer to manhood, but then there’s suddenly a man, not an ape.

But there’s a crucial step missing: the ensoulment.

The soul, being immortal and spiritual, can’t have a mundane origin. The origin must be divine. Therefore, there must be a God.

Unless it was a … Read the rest

Make That a Double Zombie

Well, far out. Voodoo is back.

Actually, it never left.

Voodoo was originally a pagan African religion that got mixed with Catholicism in Haiti during Spanish and French colonial rule.

Since then, it has always been a religious force on the island and in 2003, it became an officially-recognized Haitian religion, courtesy of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former Catholic priest. According to the 2000 edition of the Oxford Dictionary of World History, a little over 80% of Haitians are Catholic and 90% of those Catholics also practice voodoo.

Odd combination, that. Voodoo is a combination of polytheism, ancestor worship, and black magic. How do the Haitian Catholics logically reconcile voodoo with Catholicism?

Heck if know.

I’m more interested in voodoo’s new status as a stand-alone, legitimate religion. According to an article I read a while back, its practitioners are striving hard to emphasize voodoo’s positive aspects.

I gather that the orgies, skulls, voodoo curses, and zombies are just a small percentage of voodoo practice. Just 5%, according to one voodoo priest. The rest of voodoo concentrates on radas, or good spirits, whose services are solicited with chicken sacrifices (or, for variety, sugar cane or rum sacrifices).

The voodoo proponents try to emphasize voodoo’s goodness and establish it as a positive social institution.

How many zombies do you need to make voodoo into a social institution? I couldn’t find an answer to that one, but … Read the rest

The Beatniks Were a Bunch of Consumerists

Well, kinda

William Burroughs liked opium, a lot. He liked its derivatives, morphine, and heroin. He liked other types of dope. He liked women. He liked men and boys. He wrote recklessly. He lived recklessly. He loved his common-law wife. He shot her dead in a drunken game of William Tell in a Mexico City bar.

William Burroughs was a member of the Beatniks, that dope- and jazz- and danger-loving generation that dazzled and unnerved America during the decades following World War II and gave rise to the peace, love, and hippie movements of the late 1960s.

If a person compiled a list of history’s Most Hip, Beats would litter the top 20: Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady. They’d be right up there with James Dean, Miles Davis, Lou Reed, Dennis Hopper, Jackson Pollack, and Lenny Bruce.

And Nike, McDonald’s, Madison Avenue, and the army of men in grey flannel suits that have marked American business for the past 100 years.

That’s right: Kerouac and McDonald’s, Miles Davis on Madison Avenue, Burroughs donning Nikes, James Dean in a grey flannel suit. They’re related: they’re all hip.

Every manifestation of hip — from Walt Whitman to the Harlem Renaissance to the Beatniks to Kurt Cobain — has this in common: it lives for now. That’s what makes it so cool, whether it’s a heroin junkie playing saxophone (see Charlie Parker) or a speed junkie who … Read the rest

How to Rebel Against the New Barbarism

We might be entering a new Middle Ages. The Middle Ages were a contest between the Catholic Church and barbarism. The Church won. That’s not what’s happening in the new Middle Ages. Here’s how to deal with the new barbarism.

Russian mystic and philosopher Nicholas Berdyaev (1874–1948) spoke about our world entering a new kind of Middle Ages.

Two elements battled for supremacy in the Middle Ages: barbarism and the Catholic Church. The Church won.

In the new Middle Ages, will the Chuch reassert itself . . . or will barbarism come back?

If barbarism, it will be much worse than the old barbarism. The post-modern barbarism will be, in the words of Berdyaev’s younger contemporary Henri de Lubac, “centralized, technically efficient and inhuman.”

De Lubac wrote those words in 1944. Since that time, it has become pretty clear that our world is reverting to barbarism, not the Church.

The Church has lost a lot of ground over the past 75 years, fighting waves of enemies from within and without, losing credibility with anyone who finds it unsettling for erstwhile celibates to sodomize emotionally vulnerable 14-year-olds, plus suffering the lowest of plights — getting kicked while down — as western institutions, from the New York Times to the universities to Hollywood, gleefully kick at the Body.

So, barbarism it is.

And it’s a “centralized, technically efficient and inhuman” one at that, as the … Read the rest