Icelanders: ‘Gimme that old-time religion’

God id dead, but Odin is back!

God is dead, but Odin and his gang are making a comeback.

Many Icelanders have had their fill of the enfeebled Christian deity and are feeling the nostalgic pull of the old Norse gods:

Asatruarfelagid, a neopagan organization, plans to start construction next month on the country’s first Norse temple since Christianity arrived in the island nation roughly 1,000 years ago…
…While the temple will be dedicated to ancient Norse ideals, the leader of Asatruarfelagid said the context is a bit different in modern times.
“I don’t believe anyone believes in a one-eyed man who is riding about on a horse with eight feet,” Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson, a musician who is also high priest of Asatruarfelagid, told Reuters. “We see the stories as poetic metaphors and a manifestation of the forces of nature and human psychology…”

Swamp Rabbit read the news and said, “Thanks for statin’ the obvious, Hilmar.”

He meant that all religious stories are “poetic metaphors” unless you literally believe in Noah’s ark and so on. And that it’s no surprise some people feel consoled by pagan rather than Christian metaphors, which lost most of their remaining allure in the 20th century.

“All them one-god religions is dead,” the rabbit said, “except to fanatics.”

Not quite. A few non-fanatics still wring spiritual meaning out of the one-god religions, but most people in our time put their faith only in rituals and myths that attend to the pursuit of wealth.

“Neopagans don’t make a religion of money,” I said. “They want people to stop fouling up nature to feed their greed. Their gods are aspects of nature. Christians made their god anti-nature.”

The rabbit twitched his nose and sniffed at me. “What you say to them that says people was savages till they swapped old-time pagan religions for the one god?”

“I say Christian civilization gave us two world wars, the Holocaust and the atom bomb. Give the old gods another chance.”

He pondered that one and said, “Ain’t you never heard of Götterdämmerung?”

Posted in enviromentalism, history, humor | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hemingway does Super Bowl XLIX, files late


This year there were many victories. The Patriots captured the big town beyond the northern lakes where the Vikings sail and there was a victory over the Chiefs on a great plain and the Pats went back East and crossed the bay to a fort with a field of fake grass near a large building with a restaurant on many floors in a village called Foxborough. The town was very nice and the fort was very fine. There were more victories and the townies toasted the Pats in the cafes and bawdy houses.

The leaves fell and a cloud rolled off the bay and suddenly the Pats were in it and it was snow. The winter took hold and the town was different. The war was changed too. The Pats broke camp and flew south and west to a bawdy house in the desert for the final battle. The day was clean and cool and the night was even better. The Pats and Seahawks fought till they were weary and left the field.

I watched the second half on a flat screen at a galleria and ate spicy Doritas and drank Powerade Zero with Miss Barkley. “Call me Catherine,” she said. The galleria was very nice and Catherine was very fine. We held hands. Katy Perry lip-synced “Firework” and sailed around the field on a boom crane and shouted “God bless America.”

The troops fell into line and trotted back onto the field. The Seahawks brought up trench mortars and blew a big hole in the Pats’ front line. The Pats regrouped and counterattacked. The Seahawks held the line and attempted a coup de main. It failed and the Pats prevailed.

I was on assignment but the night was young. I told Catherine her hair was very beautiful. We drove for hours and jumped into a boat and rowed to a hotel in Switzerland. “And you’ll always love me, won’t you?” Catherine said.

In the morning I rolled out of bed to write my story. I stared at the blank page until I remembered the details of the game. The players wore splendid uniforms and butted heads often and were very brave. In a few weeks I won’t even remember who played. I filed my story and put on my coat and walked out into the rain.

Editor’s note: Last year I sent Virginia Woolf to cover the game, but she made a mess of it. It was a boring affair, so she left early and filed something about a lighthouse.

Posted in fiction, humor, mainstream media, sports | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

A ‘fiery sex scandal’ for a slow news day

On their way to a fire or a debauch?

On their way to a fire, or to a debauch?

Swamp Rabbit and I were arguing again. The primary goal of mainstream news organizations is to scare people, he said. Fear sells. Just look at the huge response to news coverage in PA, NJ and NY of the “monster snowstorm” that never hit those states.

“You’re wrong,” I said, showing him the front-page story in Wednesday’s Philadelphia Daily News:

A fiery sex scandal threatens to burn up multiple firefighters’ careers, including some top brass, according to former Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers.
Ayers told the Daily News today that the investigation into a young paramedic’s claims of sexual misconduct began shortly before he retired in June.
The paramedic filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging misconduct against another paramedic. Soon after, rumors surfaced that she had sexual encounters with numerous firefighters, paramedics and supervisors in firehouses while on- and off-duty all around the city.

“The goal is to is titillate,” I said, using one of my favorite words. “The story can be a monster storm, a sex scandal, a murder on Main Street. It doesn’t matter, so long as it titillates.”

“Use whatever fancy word you want, Odd Man. News stories is to scare people. Will I git snowed in? Is my husband screwin’ around? Will I get murdered on my way home from the SuperFridge?”

I told him we were both saying the same obvious thing. News outlets — tabloids, so-called broadsheets, TV news shows, whatever — exist to dish out infotainment, not news, especially now that they’re fighting Internet sites for people’s attention.

“The snow story scared me,” I said. “But it’s fun to read about firefighters having sex. What would you do with all that down time, hold Bible classes?”

The rabbit sniffed at my wood stove and said, “Wait till this here shack catches fire and all them firemen are off gettin’ laid. Have fun with that.”

I unlocked the cabinet near the stove and handed him a bottle of Wild Turkey. “Here,” I said. “You’re a real drag when you’re sober.”

Posted in fiction, humor, life in the big city, mainstream media | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Apocalypse now, or just another dumb forecast?

It's the end of the world again!

What John Bolaris reads instead of tea leaves

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate,” I told Swamp Rabbit, quoting from an old movie but referring to Philly-based John Bolaris, one of the shiny happy people paid by the media machine to communicate weather forecasts.

Bolaris was on the radio, explaining why the “monster storm” predicted for us barely touched PA and NJ before rolling over New England, where big storms in the East usually end up. It seems he and his fellow weather swamis had to choose from a number of possible computer-generated storm models, meaning scenarios. He and they chose wrong, but better to be safe than sorry, blah blah.

“What a blowhard,” I said. “People in the real world get fired for being that wrong.”

The rabbit, sounding more savvy than he did last winter, said I was the one who was wrong. “His job ain’t to inform people, Odd Man. It’s to scare ’em, like them horror movies do. People like being scared. The more scared they is, the more they watch the TV news. Ain’t you learned that yet?”

I was still ranting. “I spent the whole night worrying that the roof of this shack might cave in from the snow that never fell.”

“Well there you go,” the rabbit replied. “The weatherman done his job, didn’t he?”

Footnote: Too bad the mainstream media would rather hype winter snowstorms — they’re so unusual! — than inform people about long-term climate change. But that’s another story — a real story.

Posted in apocalypse, humor, life in the big city, mainstream media, Philadelphia | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

New tickets to paradise from PA Lottery

Nothing says “lower-class desperation” more clearly than state-sponsored lotteries:

A new Pennsylvania Lottery game debuts Tuesday, while other longtime drawings are getting new names. The new game is called PICK 2, a twice-daily drawing that allows players to bet on any two-digit number. Other daily lottery drawings, in which players choose three to five digits, are being rebranded under the “PICK” name. The 38-year-old Daily Number, the lottery’s first daily draw game, will now be known as PICK 3.


And no one appreciates this desperation more than the hustlers who organize the lotteries and the politicians who use lotteries and casinos for back-door taxes, because they’re too crooked and cowardly to raise legitimate taxes on the well-to-do.

I thought of these guys today when I ran to a convenience store to steal NyQuil for my sick friend Swamp Rabbit. One employee was ringing up overpriced junk food and another was collecting money from the faithful after taking their numbers and printing their lottery tickets. A crusty chap in a Cowboys cap intoned his numbers, as if the right combination would open the treasure chest: “4-6-9. 6-9-4. 9-4-6. 6-9-5…”

Then I had to fax something, my machine at the shack is beyond repair. I ran to one of those squalid little bunkers — there are chains of them — where people who can’t afford bank accounts buy money orders or place bets, or both. The employees work from behind a sheet of glass, or plastic, thick enough to stop an RPG. On the wall next to their little bomb shelter are messages on flyers:

Please specify day or night numbers
Sorry, we cannot cancel Cash 5, Powerball, Super 7, Quinto

Back at the shack, I commiserated with the rabbit. I told him check-cash joints provide one-stop shopping for the doomed. The lottery, cigarettes, money orders that cost an arm and a leg, all under the same roof. And four-dollar faxes! It’s like crossing the border to the land of the lost. If you go there, don’t expect to find your way back.

The rabbit coughed then took a swig of NyQuil. “You done crossed the border, too, in case you ain’t noticed.”

Not for the first time, I wanted to grab him by his ears and toss him in the swamp. “I’m just going through a rough patch, you dumb rodent. Any day now I’m gonna sell my new novel and blow this dive.”

“Right,” he said. “The same day I win a million bucks playing PICK 2.”

Posted in casinos, economic collapse, humor, life in the big city, mainstream media, taxes, The New Depression, unemployment | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

If Comcast’s CEO had sucked up to Teddy Roosevelt

"Did I hear you right? You want Time-Warner? You're a funny guy, Roberts.

‘Did I hear you right? You want Time Warner, too? You’re a funny guy, Roberts.’

Swamp Rabbit had an interesting thought today. You’ve got to wonder, he said, how many media companies Comcast CEO Brian Roberts would have gobbled up if recent U.S. presidents hadn’t been stooges for big business.

Net neutrality is only one of Comcast’s big battles right now: the other is getting approval for its merger with Time Warner Cable. Here, too, Comcast’s lobbyists have close connections in Washington. In fact, the [Wall Street] Journal reports that Comcast actually invited a senior antitrust official with the Justice Department to a party a month before it announced the merger. The official declined. Comcast has also had a relationship with President Obama for some time now. The Journal reports that Comcast employees contributed $337,000 to his reelection campaign and that he’s gone golfing with Roberts.

Imagine Roberts sucking up to Teddy Roosevelt to acquire even more riches and power. The rabbit thinks the bull moose, speaking softly, would have called Roberts a malefactor of great wealth, then whacked him with a big stick, probably a 5-iron.

“You’re way off,” I said. “Golf is the sport of corrupt cornballs. Teddy Roosevelt didn’t play golf. He played real sports, the kind that get your heart rate up.”

“Whatever,’ the rabbit replied. “Point is, there wouldn’t be no so-called relationship with Roberts. There would be a law against him.”

Footnote: Being a monopoly means never having to say you’re sorry when thousands of customers say you suck.

Posted in history, humor, mainstream media, Obama, plutocracy, sports | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Deflategate’ a bigger story than state of union


I was on the porch at the shack with Swamp Rabbit, critiquing Barack Obama’s sixth State of the Union address. Obama was the embodiment of magical thinking for American liberals, an icon of hope because he was an articulate outsider. He turned out to be the consummate insider, a good pal of Jamie Dimon and other elite fraudsters, but put him onstage and he still sounds like a crusader against income inequality:

It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come. Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?

I told the rabbit that the questions Obama posed have been answered many times since the Reagan years, when the income gap between the rich and poor already was widening. But our silver-tongued leader obviously enjoys re-asking it, especially now that both the Senate and House are in Republican hands and his opportunity to fight income inequality has come and gone.

“The man is a lame duck,” the rabbit said. “Don’t matter what he says or what you say. How ’bout you git down off that soapbox? There’s real news goin’ on out there.”

I pointed out to him that I was standing on his case of Wild Turkey, not on a soapbox. “What’s the real news?” I said.

It was “Deflategate.” Someone from the New England Patriots, prior to the team’s game against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, may have let some of the air out of the footballs the Patriots would use. Slightly deflated balls might be easier to throw and catch, so the balls may have been a factor in the Patriots’ lopsided victory. In other words, the Patriots have been accused of cheating. Stop the presses!

“That’s crazy talk,” I said. “Everybody knew the Patriots were going to win that game. You’re just mad because you didn’t have the money to bet on them, and because you lost money on them the week before. How come the Patriots are news but Obama isn’t?”

The rabbit twitched his nose and spat in the swamp. “Because nobody knows yet how the Patriots story is gonna turn out. That’s more than you can say for the Obama story.”

Posted in Congress, economic collapse, globalization, Great Recession, humor, mainstream media, Obama, plutocracy, unemployment | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment