Category Archives: Pop Culture

What’s the most important book you ever read?

What is the most important book you ever read?

off kilter library

I’m not talking about religious books like the Bible, the Quran or the Talmud; we all know those are important, so let’s leave them aside for the sake of this discussion.

What are the most useful books you have ever read? Which book was it that you read and actually put to work in your daily life? How did it influence you?

Was it something like the ‘7 habits of highly successful people’ or was it possibly Internet for Dummies? Did Hints from Heloise change the way you live?   How to win friends and influence people is a classic on the art of communication and has helped thousands in their daily lives.

So what has helped you to live your life? What made you change for the better?

For me these are a few of the most influential books I have ever read. I’m sure that someday I will add more to this list, but these are the ones that really hit me hard and made me think.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare. This play taught me at a very young age that you need to really think before taking drastic action. If Ol’ Mac had asked more questions when he met those three ladies, he may not have put a disaster into motion.

The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris. I went to a Catholic High School and found this in the restricted section of the library one day. A study of humans as biological entities, it made me really think about my place in the world. It had the added benefit of really upsetting my teachers. Hey, I was sixteen at the time.

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. This book made physics less mysterious and more accessible for me. I loved it.

The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort. First, I found the pun of his name amusing, and the truly practical and un-embarrassed attitude was just what I needed at the time. I can’t say I’ve been able to put everything into practice, but the clear, rational tone was wonderful.

Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven: Women, Sexuality and the Catholic Church by Uta Ranke-Heineman and Peter Heinegg. Ranke-Heineman was a chair of theology and used Roman Catholic Canon Law as her source material. It made me angry that as a female I was being so devalued on so many levels. Yeah, this was a huge influence on the way I thought about the world.

Chess for beginners by Israel A. Horowitz and Sol Horowitz. Hours of fun!

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. It’s still the basic primer for the art of politics.

The Art of War by Sun-Tzu. The ultimate strategy guide, written by a man who lived it every day.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Yeah, this is a weird one to have in here, but as much as I dislike Scarlet O’Hara, she knew how to survive. She also wasn’t willing to hide her abilities behind a folded fan, even if she had no clue about how to manage her personal life.

These are not the only important books I have ever read, of course. My personal library has several hundred books in it, not counting the ones I have sold or donated when I was done with them. I have read books on everything from cooking to car repair (if only that one had taken root) and philosophy, religion and politics, fashion and art. I like science fiction and crafts, how-to books and fantasy fiction.

In the midst of all the millions of words I have read over the decades of my life, the books that have actually helped or hindered are few. I’d like to know what books you consider the most influential in your life. Take a moment to think about it, and use the comment box to let me know: what was your most important reading experience?

Find your peace, friends.

Rev. Zita.

(Image courtesy of free clip art office.microsoft.com)

Planning for my next millennium.

Rev. Zita and Rev. Kelly

 

There are a lot of very embarrassed people out there right now. Well, that or they have already shut down the phones and websites, grabbed the money and run. Given the amount of media hype over the last twenty years, I’d say it is probably the latter.

I’m talking about all the interesting people who have been hawking books, websites, survival kits, bugout bags, videos, classes and spare toothbrushes over the last couple of decades. They’ve made a lot of money by claiming the world was ending and they could get you what you needed to survive. If they were scamming us, they have vanished by now. If they were sincere, then they are either very surprised or are trying to figure out what went ‘wrong’.

Oddly, I have a problem with the continuation of the world being ‘wrong’, but then I didn’t buy a generator, learn to make candles or stock up on baked beans. Since I have survived the apocalypse, I have decided to make the best of my next 1,000 years. I even have ideas.

Rev. Zita’s top ten list of ways to spend the next Millennium:

  1. Read everything that Warren Buffet has ever written. For a billionaire, he seems like a pretty cool guy.
  2. Vote Independent. The regular parties are just so last eon.
  3. Finally decide on a hair color.
  4. Invent my own religion based on sacred sarcasm and the Zen of lifting the perfect sardonic eyebrow. Groucho Marx will be our prophet.
  5. Create the perfect hot sauce. I’m actually well on my way with this one.
  6. Learn to dance without beer. Need I say more?
  7. Write a manual on how to live the perfect individual life. Including references and diagrams.
  8. Learn to use technology correctly. Seriously, I’m so far behind that it’s sad.
  9. Help people to see that the world can be a very good place if you want it to be one.
  10. Learn to enjoy the life I’ve been given without freaking out at every little thing Chicken Little says.

I’m going to get out of my life the things I put into it, and I intend to put some very good things into my life. You should too. Make a list for your next thousand years, and we can share them. If we get enough responses, we can put up the best suggestions and goals for everyone to enjoy. What will you do for the next Millennium? Tell me, I want to know. We all could use some good ideas.

Find your peace and have some fun.

Rev. Zita.

Pop culture is the same as it always was…

I love to watch pop culture. People love magic, and we are always looking for more. We want that sense of wonder, the opportunity to gaze in wide-eyed wonder and go “Ooooh!” From UFO’s to Pyramids, magnetic bracelets to chain letters, we have this odd need to believe these things will actually influence our lives one way or another.

I find it really funny that a society that has been to the Moon and has created the most massive communications and information network in history and stands on the verge of defeating diseases that have plagued mankind for millennia, still thinks that not passing on a chain email will bring Bad Things into their lives.

Hey, I do it too. I don’t pass on or even open the stupid emails that threaten me with consequences; I delete those and if the threat is really bad I pass them on to law enforcement. I do pass on the good luck ones, and I hope my friends don’t mind—some of them are really funny. I’m just sharing the joke. Of course there is always that thought in the back of my mind: ‘Couldn’t hurt and it might even work, you never know…’

That’s the secret to these things, after all is said and done.  There may be only a one-in-a-million chance of a magnetic bracelet helping Aunt Stella’s arthritis, but it is still a chance, isn’t it? It is the newest magical talisman that appeals to our primitive hopes and beliefs. When science has failed us we turn back to the concepts of our past, to the magic and rituals that have prevailed for centuries. It’s exactly the same as the medieval Pilgrim buying a saint’s medallion, secure in the belief that his souvenir will protect him from disease and misfortune.

We follow the ideas of UFOs or angelic visitations because the concept of the powerful strangers from outside our territory is actually normal—strangers do bring new things to us, but they are usually from another country, not from another world. Strangers are often hostile or their motives are at best obscure, so fear and fascination are a perfectly normal response. UFO’s and Angels have a lot in common, really: powerful beings that are mysterious, incomprehensible and bizarre in appearance. We have no idea why they are here or what they are doing, but it must be important, right? UFO’s are still magic, just with space ships substituted for the wings and halos.

Of course we are ambivalent about the entire concept of magic in the first place. Books and shows like ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Charmed’ are wildly popular, but they demonstrate our need for that sense of wonder. Religions have always held that magic is evil, unless it is being done by their own, approved outlets and then they do a spin on it and call it a ‘miracle’. Tales of the old saints commanding strange beasts and healing the sick or causing earthquakes to level an enemy city are just stories about magic by an authorized practitioner. It’s a lot like a trade union, if you think about it.

 What most people won’t tell you is that these things are normal. We pass on the good-luck emails because we all want bit of an advantage in getting through our lives, whether that means carrying a rabbits foot or just ‘hoping for the best’. We tell stories of ghosts and UFOs interchangeably because we are creating our own cultural archive; these are our new mythology. The image of the Scientist has replaced the image of the Witch or bearded Sorcerer; Merlin wears a lab coat and glasses nowadays.

In a way, pop culture hasn’t change in several thousand years. Whether it is Sindbad or the late Neil Armstrong, the adventurer is still going to new and exotic places and bringing back tales of wonder and danger. Poltergeists and EMF fields, Hackers and Wizards are all part of the collective mind; we love these images and use them almost interchangeably. We will still buy and use our talismans and good luck charms even as we check the NASA website for the latest pictures from Mars.

Pop culture isn’t a bad thing, unless you become obsessive on your favorite topic, but that holds true for anything you enjoy.  Pop culture is just us, as we always have been and probably always will be. Enjoy it.

Spiritual Discovery

I have probably said this before, but it needs to be restated. I watch too much TV. And I am going to prove it to you now. Lately, I have been watching reruns of that sitcom, “Dharma and Greg” and loving every minute. I liked the show the first time it aired, but missed most of the episodes because I worked at night. So, now, years later, I am watching them again.

So, back on track here, last night an episode aired where stuffy Greg is on a journey to self discovery. He quit is lawyer job, is trying meditation, long walks in the park, and literally stops to smell the roses. It is completely the opposite of his life until this point.

This whole journey started because he could not answer the question of why he became a lawyer. And since Greg is an all or nothing kind of person, this trip to spiritual discovery is a bit on the extreme and wild side. But the show brings up the question of destiny and your true self.

During Greg’s journey he begins arguing with everyone like they are on trial. And granted it makes for a funny show, but makes the point of showing that we can’t fight who we are inside. The Greg character is a lawyer through and through and when he got away from it, the traits that made him a great  lawyer came through anyway. I often wonder if we are all that way. If we got away from what we do if the things that make us do them would come out anyway.

Then this seems to fit in with the Wayseer book that I have been reading (and still not finished with). Part of what LoPorto says is that if you deny your true nature, you end up with compulsive behaviors driving you. Since Greg is a character and not a real person, his compulsion was funny and relatively harmless, but in real life compulsions can be dangerous and life threatening: drugs, alcohol, smoking, over eating, and so on and so on.

So do we all need a time out to truly discover who we are inside? And will discovering and honoring our true nature, as LoPorto stated, really stop those compulsions? Or are we as people, just insane and fooling ourselves into believing that there is any standard of normal? Maybe that spirituality and discovering our true self is a journey into madness and not a journey to enlightenment.

End of Days Postponed?

Now that we have all survived the Doomsday of 2011, or was that the Rapture of 2011, a new prediction has surfaced from Harold Camping. Or maybe it is just a recycling of an old prediction…anyway, while the rapture and the predicted earthquake that was to announce it had failed to materialize on May 21, Camping still claims that the world will end on October 21, 2011.

Many Practical Heretic readers have already claimed disgust and disbelief at the first prediction of May 21, and even our own Rev Zita let her anger out about the fraud that Camping had committed and spread. After following the news this past week, I really can’t blame her for being so angry (although I am admitting I was cracking jokes about this whole rapture thingy). Camping is really abusing his power and influence. According to one source, a teenager was so fearful of being left behind to suffer, she took her own life. Personally, I hope that someone finds a way to hold Camping responsible for his falsehoods.

I really though that in today’s age of appreciating education and admiring people who thought for themselves that we would have had more people laughing at Camping and ignoring his brand of hogwash. Instead, the man, who has been wrong with the exact same prediction several times before, has a following who took him literally. We have already discussed that true followers of the Bible already know that the end of the world cannot be predicted and that Camping is not following the Bible at worst and at best is just picking and choosing what he wants to listen to.

Additionally, Camping is going against most Christian thought and is using some sort of numerology system to “verify” his predictions. For years most Christian systems have preached against the use of numerology and other methods of divination. Granted I can’t find a biblical reference that is for or against the practice but most believers seem to follow the thought that numerology and the like are the works of Satan. If that is so, then why is Harold Camping using it to predict anything? Maybe he is one of Satan’s minions and we should all stop listening to him. From what I have seen and heard, he has only lead those who belief him astray.

Instead of listening to anyone who would use fear mongering to control us, to influence our actions, we do need to decide to think for ourselves. Before believing in any end of the world prediction, ask yourselves how plausible that prediction is. The only end of the world prediction that I have heard of that even seems realistic is the one by the astronomy community when the sun finally burns itself out. Keep in mind that isn’t supposed to happen for a billion years or so…literally a billion.

My World isn’ Ending; How’s Yours?

I’m having a real “Dr. Strangelove” kind of feeling, here. Harold Camping is declaring that the ‘rapture’ is going to happen on Saturday May 21 at ‘suppertime’.  

That’s today, folks. Nice knowing you all. (Tips hat and leaves)

Are you kidding me? No pun intended, but god I hope you are, because this is just plain ridiculous.

First of all I’ve seen his chain of reasoning and let’s just say it’s pretty weak. Based on assumptions that one day to God is a thousand years to us, plus the claim that Noah’s flood took place 7,000 years ago and finagled with some rather odd bits of numerology, the claim is shaky at best. If you’d like to see it for yourself, go here: http://www.familyradio.com/facts.

Between the mix of assumptions about the Hebrew calendar, using metaphor as fact (St. Paul’s comparison to a thousand years and a day) I could only shake my head in an instinctive rejection of the headache that was working its way over my skull.

First of all the term ‘Rapture’ doesn’t appear in the Book of Revelations.  Not even once.  

Secondly, in the Gospel of Mathew Jesus states very clearly that none shall know the time. So there.

Thirdly, rational people know that while the world will end, yes, we have at least five billion years before the sun expands and eats the inner solar system before collapsing.  Hopefully by then we will have either gotten out into space or evolved into something else, so why worry about it?

Look, folks, let’s at least be a little rational about this.

If the end of the world occurs, it is far more likely to happen because we as a species screwed up, rather than a divine hissy fit. A deity is supposed to be omniscient and omnipotent, so why would he make a race that he knew would piss him off so badly he would end up destroying it anyway?  That rationale sounds more like a kid building a sandcastle just before the tide comes in, just to see the waves take it apart. Not very godlike, if you ask me.

At 6:00 pm local time I intend to be grilling on my porch with a beer in hand and watching the birds play in the newly blooming crab apple tree in the yard. I may even sing a few bars of “we’ll meet again” just as a nod to past visions of the Apocalypse.

Which were also wrong, just as this one is.

Find your peace, friends.

Rev. Zita (the Unraptured)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxrWz9XVvls

Enough with the Christmas Carols–a shopper’s rant

Enough with the Christmas Carols! It’s only October!

 

I am not a ‘happy camper’. This blog is being written for the marketing geniuses who have made this consumer quite upset. I’ve had it with you guys and your utter lack of a sense of the appropriate.

Yesterday I was in a large discount store where I frequently shop. Imagine my confusion when ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ started tinkling merrily from the overhead speakers. ‘It’s three days from Halloween’ I thought; ‘Shouldn’t they be pushing the candy? What about the little plastic monsters and ghosts, why weren’t they advertising those in a last-minute frenzy before store managers had to put them on clearance?’

What about Thanksgiving?  It’s like November doesn’t even exist on the advertising calendar. I admit it’s hard to think of a catchy little tune celebrating the death of a turkey but sheesh—can’t we finish one holiday before we go on to the next?  

I continued shopping, barely aware of the soundtrack that segued from one Christmas carol to another as I collected my bags of orange and black candy, my vampire costume (the unsparkly kind, thanks very much) and a few tombstones and skeletons for the yard.

I rounded a corner and stopped in utter consternation. What I saw was irrelevant to the Halloween holiday taking place this weekend. It was bizarre and completely out of place.

Christmas trees.

A small forest of artificial pines and firs arose from the linoleum; already decorated and pre-lit with flashing lights and ribbons. Next to them were the lawn ornaments: electric reindeer and snowmen, laden blowup sleighs, elves and Santa figures prancing across polyester snow like a macabre lynch mob. Tim Burton would have been proud to come up with something so twisted.

Are you kidding me?

A store employee saw my appalled expression and stood next to me for a moment. “Yeah, it’s a pain, isn’t it?” she said in a rare moment of retail honesty. At my bemused nod she went on to complain about how their corporate headquarters was ordering the Christmas displays put up earlier every year and how much she hated having to listen to the carols for three months.  I felt bad for her—I could leave at any time, but she had to hear it five days a week, eight hours a day. Poor thing, I felt sorry for her. Can you imagine having to listen to Burl Ives drawling on about that freaky snowman over and over again?

As I left the store I began to get angry. I understand this is the main retail season of the year and stores need to make the most of it, but come on! Stop patronizing me, already. I know I have presents to get and decorations to hang but it will wait until after December first.  I’m not buying a tree until then, either, no matter what your researchers tell you. Get over it.

While the advertising specialists try to force Christmas to last from Labor Day to Valentine’s, I refuse to bite. I’m going to paint my face and scare the caramel apples out of a bunch of kids this weekend, without an elf in sight. Three weeks later I will roast an unlucky bird and share it with my family while my brothers and nephews watch football and tell hunting stories.

I will keep my holidays in the order they come, and I will ignore your tawdry tinsel until its’ proper time.

The rest of the shopping world can do as it pleases, but I am mounting a one-woman rebellion. I will celebrate my holidays in their proper season, no matter what the commercials demand. Halloween, All Saint’s, Election Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and their kindred are not forgotten in my house. I will NOT be going anywhere near Black Friday’s sales the next morning, either. Pfft. So there.

Okay, rant over. Find your peace, Friends.

Rev. Zita.

What do we need to know these days?

I was in a bookstore the other day and noticed there was a charming little tome that claimed to list all the things that a man needed to know how to do, from tying a necktie to choosing a wine. This started me thinking: what are the skills that all of us need these days? Have we actually defined them?

Maybe we should. I kept thinking about it and even did some research and found out that various cultures (the ancient Chinese and the Greeks and Romans among them) had instruction manuals for the things that a well-bred person needed to know and do. The Chinese list was the most extensive—37 different skill sets in order to be a well-rounded individual. Wow.

I decided to put together my own list of modern skills needed in order to be a more competent, capable person. I did my best to make it as comprehensive as possible, but I’m sure I may have missed a few things. I left out things like horsemanship and sword-fighting, since they seem less appropriate these days, but there do seem to be plenty of things that we should know.

The Modern Skills list: (in no particular order)

  1. Computer skills
  2. Business basics
  3. House cleaning
  4. Laundry
  5. Cooking
  6. Changing a tire
  7. Hooking up an entertainment system
  8. Mathematics/Accounting
  9. Basic chemistry
  10. First aid/CPR
  11. Building a fire
  12. Basic home repair
  13. Business English
  14. How to tie a knot
  15. Sewing on a button
  16. Shopping/bargain hunting
  17. Philosophy
  18. Classic books/movies/theater
  19. Self-defense
  20. Basic car maintenance
  21. How to dress well
  22. Courtesy/good manners
  23. How to be organized (I need help with this one)
  24. Driving (road rage is a little too common, don’t you think?)
  25. Social skills

I know there are more skills that could be added to this list, but these are the ones that I could think of off the top of my head. Let us know what your ideas are; we’ll add them to the list. Maybe we can come up with a new definition for a modern renaissance man!

Send us your ideas—What are the skills we need in modern life?

The Church of the Pig

I know that some of you know my husband, and that most of you probably do not. For those of you who don’t, here is his picture….

(He caught those salmon last fall).

Any, Ken is quite irreverent when it comes to religion and tends to be somewhere between a Gnostic and an Atheist, but anyway, not really part of the story. This was for our first April meeting, and Ken got up when I did and started to make breakfast. I was getting ready and Ken comes into the bedroom talking about how a pig is the perfect animal . It gives us food and footballs, and to be honest I can’t remember what else this animal does. He was extremely excited about the pig being perfect.

Shortly after, there is the delicious smell of bacon cooking wafting into the bedroom. Ken almost dances (if you can imagine that) back into the bed room and presents this perfectly circular piece of bacon on his palm, and says “Communion of the Church of the Pig.” I can’t help but to giggle and take the round of bacon and almost wolf it down (I love bacon). The Ken says “Bacon is just a little piece of heaven for us to enjoy” and leaves the room only to pop his head back in to say “When you are ready, the alter is available for worship.”

At this point, curiosity really got to me. I finished putting on my shoes, and went to the kitchen.  On the island in the middle is a mounding plate of bacon, then a huge platter of scrambled eggs, and a stack of buttered (yes, that would be real butter, we are in Wisconsin) toast.

I don’t think that we have had more enthusiastic worshipers anywhere. That buffet of breakfast was gone in no time (keep in mind that I have two growing boys with hollow legs). And I left for the meeting at Kindred Spirit.

Now, we have the First Reformed Church of Sponge Bob and the First Church of the Spider Pig , so why not have a Church of the Pig, where the communion is little strips of bacon made into rounds and it goes great with a side of eggs and toast?