Saturday, July 24, 2010

Big Al's Story

I hope some of my readers will excuse the sacrilegious tone in parts of this story. It's all meant in good fun, and sometimes sacrilegious jokes ARE funny...

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Big Al is really famous. And I mean really, big time, seriously famous. Like, Michelin Man or Icee Bear famous. The Michelin Man is man who is made out of white tires.

The Michelin Man, running away from gay predators.

Like most famous people, nobody had ever heard of Big Al when he was born. He was born in an area of the world called McDonaldland, which was founded centuries earlier by a great military commander named Ronald McDonald.

Ronald McDonald

Ronald McDonald was really famous in his own right, but he got assassinated because he wanted to raise the price of a Double Quarter Pounder With Cheese to four denarii.

Big Al was his father’s fifth son, so that meant he was pretty much ignored. He also had a serious bowel problem and suffered from what doctors and other poop experts call Crohn’s Disease. Crohn’s Disease was named after a guy named Burrill Crohn who was such an expert on poop that he had an intestinal illness named after him.

In Big Al’s day, though, it was just called The Shits.

Look: Big Al was totally overshadowed by his brothers. Their names were Stan, Baldy, Bertie, and Red. They pretty much regarded Big Al as a Big Poopy Pants, and so Al generally got stuck doing stuff like milking the cows and being forced to memorize English poetry. English poetry is a collection of pretty words that pretentious assholes think is meaningful.

A pretentious asshole.
Big Al thus became an expert on teats and letters, which would come in handy later in life. His wife was particularly pleased with his udder expertise.

When he was a teenager, some pirates tried to be all badass near Big Al’s home in McDonaldland, so he and his brother Red gave them some money and they went away. A pirate is a man who wears a do-rag and ripped pants and carries a long, slender object called a sword. A sword is used to disembowel people, and Big Al probably wished, at times, that he could be disemboweled to relieve his chronic diarrhea.

Disemboweling is when you remove someone’s intestines. It’s usually fatal.

If you know anything about pirates, you know that they always come back for more. They’re like children that way. That’s the lesson Big Al and his brother Red learned. When the pirates came back, Big Al and Red fought against them, but Red got disemboweled in the process.

Funnily enough, his brother’s disemboweling meant that Big Al was now in charge, because Stan, Baldy, and Bertie had already kicked the bucket by this time too. Big Al became sort of like Mayor McCheese.

Mayor McCheese is famous for his campaign slogan of "I will cut you, bitch."
The first thing Big Al did was give the pirates some more money. This made them go away again. It’s kind of like when you put Preparation H on a hemorrhoid.  Preparation H is a medicinal cream.  A hemorrhoid is a painful, bleeding sore on your asshole.

A painful, bleeding, asshole hemorrhoid.
After that, things went okay for a few years in Big Al’s McDonaldland. Grimace and Birdie got married, and the Fry Guys came out of the closet.

Grimace: What the fuck am I?
Birdie: Beats the shit out of me.
But then everything turned to shit again because the pirates came back. This was thanks in large part to the fact that the Hamburgler turned out to be a pirate. In any case, the pirates meant business this time, and Big Al got his ass kicked in a bad way. He ended up fortifying himself in a swamp, while the pirates pointed and called him names.

Look: Big Al became a swamp person for a while. He took up music and wrote a song called Swamp Music that was later recorded by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Lynyrd Skynyrd started out as Big Al's House Band.

In the song, Big Al’s love of English poetry really shines through: “Goin’ down to the swamp, gonna watch me a hound dog catch a coon. Hound dog sing that swamp, swamp, swamp, swamp music.”

While he lived in the swamps, he had to disguise himself so the pirates wouldn’t find him and disembowel him. He took a job as a cook, but when the cougar he worked for discovered that the cakes he was watching had burned, she got really pissed. A cougar is an aging female Baby Boomer who likes to have sex with her son’s friends.

She was cougar when cougar wasn't cool.
Big Al’s cougar boss was really upset until she found out who Big Al was. Then she was really sorry and offered to make it up to him by letting him do her in the butt. Of course, he was like: “Uh, we already did that.”

In any case, Big Al was so humble, he insisted that it was he, not her, who was at fault. This made the cougar really happy. Like the legs of a hooker, the story got spread far and wide, and everybody started saying Big Al needed to come back and regain control of McDonaldland.

This is when Big Al’s true genius started to show. He dressed up like a clown and visited the pirate camp. Pirates think clowns are really great fun. A clown is a homosexual pedophile who wears make-up.  In any case, dressed up like a clown, Big Al learned all sorts of inside information about what the pirates were doing, because pirates are prone to reveal their strategy to circus performers.

After learning everything he needed to know, Big Al went back to the swamps and stowed away his clown gear in a box marked “Porn Video Props.” Then he gathered a bunch of people with pitchforks, and went and slaughtered all the pirates. It made for great sport, and fun was had by young and old alike.

Look: Big Al was a Big Ol’ Christian. A Christian is a person who believes that God had to sacrifice himself to himself in order to change a set of rules he made himself.

This Christian suffers from Crohn's Disease of the Mouth.

After the Great Pirate Slaughter, Big Al made everyone in McDonaldland become a Christian. A few people, most notably the McNugget Buddies, flat out refused, so he disemboweled them.

The pagan beliefs of the McNugget Buddies led to their disemboweling.
Everyone else was totally cool with Christianity, so they came in droves to be baptized. Baptism is a religious ritual where you pretend to drown yourself because it makes Baby Jesus happy. Baby Jesus is God as a baby.

Jesus was born to a white, Caucasian, English-speaking mother in 1st century Galilee.
After years of diarrhea, Big Al finally died. He was buried underneath the ground like most people, but a few years later, they built a prison over his grave and the convicts who built it weren’t particularly impressed with his bones, so they threw them away. A convict is a person who was born poor.

The discarding of Big Al’s bones was particularly problematic, because by this time Big Al was a saint, and saint’s bones are magical. Magic is a type of trick that people don’t believe in unless the Church says it’s okay. The Church is a religious institution that tells people what to believe. A religious institution is a form of Crohn’s Disease.

Look: Big Al is more famously known as Alfred the Great, the first King of England, who repelled the Viking invasions of the 9th century and united the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, paving the way for the future British Empire.

The sculptor who built this statue surreptitiously removed the diarrhea dribbling down Big Al's leg.

Friday, July 23, 2010

God in Popular Consciousness

Over the years, I have come to understand something about Christian belief in God: a lot of folks, whether they are casual believers or weekly church-goers, whether they are Protestant, Catholic, or non-denominational, whether they are male or female, black or white, American or foreign-born, rich or poor, rural or urban, east coast, west coast, or Midwest – regardless of any of those things, many have a stunningly shallow conception of God.

That may sound like a harsh and blanket criticism, but it is not intended to be so. Certainly there are plenty of folks, from all those categories, who have very well-developed, consistent, deep, and meaningful conceptions of God. And one can argue over how to even establish what constitutes “deep” and “shallow” in such a metaphysical discussion. But it certainly seems, to this casual observer anyway, that the deep believers are heavily outweighed by those for whom God is just a sweater they put on from time to time, but mostly just gets moth-eaten in the drawer.

I was thinking the other day about some of the more typical and traditional views of God, as accepted by a lot of Christians and Jews around the world (and a lot of other religions, for that matter), and it struck me that a lot of folks pretty much treat God like Santa Claus for Adults. Or, reversed, Santa Claus is God for Children.

In any case, consider the following similarities:

1. Santa lives above us, at the North Pole, which is a magical place no one can see. God lives above us, in heaven, which is a magical place no one can see.
2. Santa gives us things we ask for in letters or in person. God gives us things we ask for in prayer.
3. Sometimes Santa doesn’t give us what we ask for. Sometimes God does not answer our prayers.
4. Sometimes Santa brings us things we didn’t ask for. God too.
5. Santa is a man. So is God.
6. Santa is old, with a white beard. God is the Old Man In the Sky.
7. Santa “knows when we’ve been bad or good” and can essentially monitor our behavior all year long from afar. God has this omnipotent quality too.
8. Santa is immortal. So is God.
9. Santa can perform miraculous feats such as entering and exiting locked houses and individually bringing toys to all the world’s children in a single night. God too can perform various kinds of miracles.
10. Santa is surrounded by a retinue of elves. God has angels.
11. Santa rides a sled through the sky, pulled by magic reindeer that can fly. In Jewish mysticism, God rides a chariot through the sky, pulled by magic horses that can fly.
12. Santa likes milk and cookies. God likes milk and honey.

Okay, so that last one was kind of a joke, but you get the point. Either way you look at it, Santa Claus is God for Children, or God is Santa Claus for Adults.

Do we want to live our lives putting God on like a sweater and viewing God as little more than Santa Claus for Adults? Or do we want, as the apostle Paul said, to give up our childish ways and come to a deeper, more meaningful, and life-changing understanding of God and our relationship to God? In following the example of Jesus, I have chosen the latter.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the road less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

10 Fun Facts about Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th President of the United States

1. Cleveland is the only president in U.S. history to serve two non-consecutive terms in the White House. He served from 1884 to 1888, then again from 1892 to 1896.

2. Cleveland was the only Democrat elected president during the era of Republican domination that lasted more than 50 years, from 1860 to 1912.

3. Cleveland lost his re-election bid in 1888 to Benjamin Harrison, a grandson of former president William Henry Harrison. However, like Al Gore in 2000, Cleveland won the popular vote, but lost the electoral vote. Also like the 2000 election, there were numerous accusations of fraud, and many historians believe that Cleveland actually won the electoral vote as well. In any case, this makes Cleveland one of only three men to win the popular vote in three presidential elections. Franklin Roosevelt, of course, won four, and Andrew Jackson won three, but lost the electoral vote in the first one (1824).

4. In 1892, Cleveland again faced the now incumbent Benjamin Harrison. This was the only time in American history that both major parties put forth either a sitting or a former American president. Despite narrowly losing four years earlier, Cleveland defeated Harrison the second time around by a landslide.

5. In that same election year of 1892, neither candidate actively campaigned. The reason for this is because Harrison's wife was dying of tuberculosis, and he wanted to be by her side. Out of respect for Mrs. Harrison, Cleveland opted not to campaign as well.

6. Cleveland came into his first term in office as a bachelor, only the third time that had ever happened (John Tyler, the first bachelor president, was actually a widower). Cleveland married during his first term, becoming the first president to get married inside the White House (Tyler had remarried while president, but not in a White House ceremony). The other bachelor, James Buchanan, never married. Later, Woodrow Wilson's wife would die during his second year as president, and he would remarry the following year.

7. Cleveland's marriage caused a minor scandal at the time, because his wife was nearly 30 years younger than he was. This, by itself, was not terribly sensational given the time period, but what made the union somewhat scandalous was that his young wife had been the daughter of one of his best friends. This friend had died some years earlier, and had named Cleveland as his daughter's financial protector. He had not exactly raised the girl, but he had been her godparent. It is not unlike when Woody Allen married the adopted daughter of one of his former partners. The only difference is that this wasn't a Hollywood director, but the president of the United States.

8. Because his wife was so young, the Clevelands began having children following their marriage. Their first child, Ruth, was born in between Cleveland's two terms, and made a national sensation. She was a sickly child, however, and died in 1904 at the age of 12. In 1921, the Curtiss Candy Company changed the name of its candy bar "Kandy Kake" to "Baby Ruth," ostensibly in honor of Ruth's memory. However, this happened during the rise of Babe Ruth in Major League Baseball, and it is likely that the name change was an effort to capitalize on Babe Ruth's fame, with a cover story about Ruth Cleveland to keep the company from being sued for royalties. In fact, another candy company marketed a true Babe Ruth candy bar, with Babe Ruth's approval, and was successfully sued by Curtiss and forced to stop production because of the similarity in names.

9. The beginning of Cleveland's second term coincided with what historians call the Panic of 1893 - a major economic recession. Cleveland was not able to effectively turn this recession around, leading to another sixteen years of Republican domination of the presidency after his term ended.

10. Cleveland and his wife continued to have children after he left the White House in 1896. In 1903, Mrs. Cleveland gave birth to their fifth and final child, Frances. Grover Cleveland was in his mid-60's by this time. Frances went on to live more than 90 years, and only just died in 1995.

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