Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Bless You, Dammit

December 28, 2004 - Tuesday


Why do we say "Bless you", or "God bless", when someone sneezes?

Don't get me wrong - I know the answer. I just wonder if you do.

I asked this to a few co-workers, out of curiosity. Because I like messing with people's heads, and co-workers are soooo convenient. The general consensus I got back was "it's polite". Or "why do you always ask this weird shit? Leave me alone!"

Well. If it's polite...then why don't we say it when people cough? Or burp? Or fart? "Brrrrrpppp!" "God bless you!"

We don't, do we? No. We expect the person to say "excuse me".

So why don't we expect the same with sneezes? Why is a sneeze different from any other bodily expulsion of air?

One word: superstition. Of course. We're creatures of habit, and refuse to change. Even when it's something so basic and simple as how to respond to a sneeze. The original, full phrase (or so rumored) was "God bless you, and may the Devil miss you!" Why? There are a bunch of different suspicions on how it originated:

- At one time people believed a man's soul could be inadvertently thrust from his body by an explosive sneeze, thus "Bless you!" was a protective oath uttered to safeguard the temporarily expelled and vulnerable soul from being snatched up by Satan (who was always lurking nearby). The purpose of the oath was to cast a temporary shield over the flung-out soul which would protect it just long enough to regain the protection of the corporeal body.

- Conversely, the sneeze itself was the expulsion of a demon or evil spirit which had taken up residence in a person. Therefore, although the "Bless you!" was again a protective charm meant to protect the sneezer from evil, in this version it was meant to ward off the re-entry of an evil spirit which a tormented soul had just rid itself of.

- The heart was believed to momentarily stop during a sneeze (it doesn't), thus the "Bless you!" was uttered either as a supplication for life to return or as a congratulation upon its successful restart.

- Others claim an association of the practice with particular dire diseases (most often the bubonic plague, or "Black Death," as it is sometimes known). They say an infected person's sneeze was sure sign he'd soon be pushing up daisies, thus the "Bless you!" was intended as a benediction to the nearly-departed, a way of commending his soul to the care of God now that he was beyond the help of anything in the mortal world.

There are more superstitions related to sneezing. Here's a little poem that was written, outlining the positive aspects of a sneeze:

Sneeze on Monday for health,
Sneeze on Tuesday for wealth,
Sneeze on Wednesday for a letter,
Sneeze on Thursday for something better,
Sneeze on Friday for sorrow,
Sneeze on Saturday, see your sweetheart tomorrow,
Sneeze on Sunday, safety seek.

So keep on blessing, you superstitious lot you. And may the devil miss you.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

At The End Of All Things

December 26, 2004 - Sunday

At the End of All Things

"Glad to be with you, Samwise Gamgee...here at the end of all things."

First: if you haven't had the pleasure of seeing the extended DVD version of the Return of the King, and are a fan of the books (or the movies, or both) - please please do. It isn't so much that deleted scenes were added; the movie feels entirely new. 50 minutes of uncut footage were added, and all of was SOOOO important to the storyline.

Back to my point. There's a scene where, towards the end, Frodo and Sam are sitting on a rock surrounded by molten lava, certain of their own deaths. That's when Frodo gives the line I quoted above.

It gave me pause. At the end of all things, at that moment when everything you know is about to end - who would you want to spend that moment with?

I won't bother answering for myself; I can count the possibile people on one hand and still have room left over. I love my friends and family dearly, I do - but if the world were to end and I could only spend those final moments with one person, a list of hundreds narrows considerably. With the New Year coming, it makes for an interesting question to reflect on.

So who would you hope to spend your final moments of eternity with?

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Spiritual Currency

December 21, 2004 - Tuesday

"Stories are like spiritual currency"

For all you Neil Gaiman fans. The man is a genius, and I reserve that word for very few, very select individuals. I'm not the type to be inspired by another's work...but his is an exception.

In this particular case I'm reading the "Book of Dreams", a collection of shorts by various authors who were, themselves, inspired by Gaiman's telling of Morpheus, the Endless, and the Dreaming.

The story I'm reading, "An Extra Smidgen of Eternity", has a character on the edge of dying. He's being told a story, and as the story is being told he's being given drugs to ease his pain. He's being visited by both Delirium and Dream, slipping from the one state of subsconsciousness to the other state of unconsciousness. To quote Dream/Morpheus: "Little man, one foot in your own kingdom, another in mine, and ever resisting the inevitable pull of the next."

How deep is that?

And when the inevitable happens and the alluring Death arrives to escort his spirit onward, he refuses to go - because he wants to wait until the person sitting beside him finishes her story. His argument:

"Try to see this from my point of view. Stories are important. They're all that we've got, really. Growing up, I was spat on, ridiculed, beaten, ostracized - and the only thing that kept me going was stories. Stories are hope. They take you out of yourself for a bit, and when you get dropped back in, you're different - you're stronger, you've seen more, you've felt more. Stories are like spiritual currency."

Ain't that some shit?

What's even more...fascinating, or inspiring, to me about this is that these are works which are themselves inspired by Gaiman's work, and even getting this input through a literary version of second-hand smoke I'm still getting a serious contact high.

That takes a certain kind of genius, doesn't it?

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Let It Snow

December 19, 2004 - Sunday

Let it snow

It's snowing here in the Big Apple. First snowfall of the season, and fittingly it starts just a day before the winter solstice begins.

There's something calming about snow. I'm sitting here typing by my window, looking out over an ivory blanketed terrace with skeletal trees in the background. The lights of Broadway reflect up the hill at me (yes, Virginia, there IS a Broadway past midtown Manhattan) and there is a brightly lit star across the Harlem River, shining atop a building.

It's the yuletide; all is calm, all is bright. No virgins handy, unfortunately.

It's a time of reflection, of change; it's a time to look deep inside yourself and see who you are - and who you want to be.

If New Year's is the time to make resolutions for the coming three-sixty-five, then maybe the Yule is the time for us to see if we're pleased, or satisfied, with what we've accomplished for the past 12 months. It's the final countdown before this year is done, and the new one begins.

So this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
A new one's just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
- John Lennon

Friday, December 17, 2004

Angry Toons

Angry Toons

You know, I'm a member of a lot of forums; I've usually got a lot to say (no surprise there), but I find them invaluable resources for certain industries.

So I was pretty damned happy to stumble across a forum for cartoonists, specifically comic strip creators. Now I'm used to these types of forums; people are generally pretty helpful, encouraging, and happy to offer real criticism and advice about your work. I've joined groups for writers, video game designers, board game creators, programmers, artists...and now cartoons. Yay me, right?

Holy mother of us all, I haven't seen such unadulterated anger since my last visit to a forum on religion! For the love of the gods, people, these are cartoonists - they draw and write those funnies you read every sunday, but all I get from them is a lot of bitterness, anger, jealousy, and elitism!

I'm a forum lurker, at least until I've figured out the mindset of all the major players so I know what to expect - no way I'm jumping in a forum until I know who I'll have to defend myself against. But this place scare the bajeezus out of me! www.toontalk.org is the site, and I'd rather cover my head in honey and stick it in a beehive then post up any work I've done on these forums for opinions!

It's as if the old guard of the Cartoon Castle don't want any new people coming in, so they put these nasty, bitter soldiers at the gates to completely discourage any new artists.

Which means, of course, I'm fully planning on storming the gates at some point.

Seriously, it isn't just the vitrol they spew against anyone who doesn't "measure up". There's a certain nastiness by the newspaper-syndicated crowd against the web comic producers, as if they - we, really - took the easy way out.

I shouldn't be surprised, especially since a lot of my own work stems from cynicism - but I'd never discourage anyone from working at it!

These are comments I read on a thread called "What are YOUR tips for web cartoonists?":

"If your comic isn't funny, and it's coming from an "honest" source, go do something else. "

"I'm peed off frequently by how many people supply links to theirs or other peoples work, inferring that it's cutting edge, controversial or brilliant, and then when one clicks on the link one finds it's not brilliant, it's a big pile of immature and/or badly drawn drivel."

"The biggest problem is that too many people are using the net for masturbation, which is what the vast majority of internet cartooning is. That kind of self-pleasuring should be done in private, or at best as a circle jerk amongst a small group of close friends."

"I'm still producing less than desirable attempts at cartooning, I don't have to go looking through drawers. The trick to being a good artist is to realise your drawing stinks and work on making it less pungent."

Boy. I can't wait to ask for THEIR opinions.

When Dead Animals Attack

When Dead Animals Attack

I get on the elevator at work the other day, there are two women already on standing near the back. I slide over towards the buttons and face the door. They're talking.

"Blah blah fur, oh I loved it, it was so soft, blah fur fur ermine mink blah blah chinchilla gotta have it..."

Chinchilla? Isn't that a fuzzy hamster/rabbit looking thing? They're making furs out of chinchilla's now?!

It was a reflex action, but I gave the big annoyed sign. "Hmph." I swear I didn't mean it. I didn't even look their way, I just wanted the damn elevator to open up so I didn't have to hear their drivel.

Silence. Then "whisper whisper whisper" from the woman facing me. I can feel her eyes burning into my back. Hurry up, elevator.

Woman 2. "Well I don't know what's wrong with these animal activists. Have they ever FELT a fur? It's so soft, how can they resist the temptation?"

I've never been so glad to see an elevator door open as I was at that moment.

Because I swear I'd have taken her fur, stuffed it down her throat, pulled it out of her ass and then put it BACK in her mouth.

I'm not an animal activist, really. I like leather. I have two leather jackets, a leather baseball cap, leather shoes. But I also eat beef. Lots of beef. My family is southern, so I'm all about the leftover parts too. Nothing goes to waste there.

What the fuck am I going to do with a mink after you've stripped it?!

...and a chinchilla? For the love of the gods, people...!

But I said nothing. It's too close to Xmas, and I can't afford to get on Santa's naughty list this late in the year.

Just don't let me see them after December 26th.

Let's Stick With Dates, Thorn!

December 17, 2004 - Friday

Let's stick with dates, Thorn!

Three posts in one night, and this after being away from myspace for two weeks.

I love the Omen. More specifically, Damien: Omen II, which has to be one of the best horror films ever made. Forget the gore-fests, I love them in their own way - but for sheer creepiness and subtle evil, there was no better movie. Fact is, however, I loved it because THIS was, to me, how evil should be represented! Uncaring, intelligent, subtle and crafty.

Just the scene where he shows up his history teacher, who is just oh-so-arrogant! Gods (pun intended) any kid should have more knowledge than he does, hence the title of this blog.

AMC is showing it tonight at 1:45am. Looks like I'll be up late, with a bowl of microwave popcorn ready by my side.