Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Give Me Your Hand, I'm Right In Front Of You

At the beginning of this year, I set some goals for myself, some small (take a picture of myself doing aerial stuff and make it my profile pic on facebook) some that seemed so big that I didn’t really seriously work toward completing it until I kind stumbled into it (getting a new car).

And one goal was so simple and so vague that I kinda laughed when I set it, thinking I wouldn’t really take it seriously until it was like, December 27th, and I’d be all SHIT!  I gotta knock that one off my list in three days!


As it turns out, that goal turned out to be a 5K.  Which isn’t really anything awful or traumatic like a marathon, or a half marathon, or even a 10K.  It’s 3.1 miles.  It’s nothing.  Nothing at all, really.  It shouldn’t scare anyone.

But I hate running.  The thought of a 5K race DID scare me.  So I had to do it.

I’ve talked about how much I hate running long distance before.  I hate it SO MUCH that there better be a damn good reason for why I would spend money to enter a 5K race. 

And yes, there was.

And that reason was zombies.

The race was Run For Your Lives, and the concept is simple – you run a 5K course filled with 12 obstacles, with three flags tied around your waist.  And there are zombies on the course that try to pull your flags.  If you cross the finish line with one flag left, you’re “alive,” if you cross the finish line with no flags left, you’re “dead.”

Here’s the official promo video:

Now I hate running, but I fully recognized that I would have to run to train for this thing.  For the month of September, I was dogsitting Pepe and Pablo, and was running with them, but them pulling you is kinda cheating, and I’m not going to have them on the course on game day.

So for the three weeks of October I kept running up and down Los Feliz Blvd., trying to increase the distance each time, trying to get my endurance up.  I would alternate between walking, jogging, and sprinting, because I had heard other reports from other racers earlier in the year that said you could walk the course, and sprint past the zombies.

I downloaded this awesome ap Zombies, Run!  It helped SO MUCH.  Seriously, if you hate running as much as I do, this ap takes your mind off running by giving you a new identity as Runner Five, and plunking you down in the midst of an audio story about a zombie apocalypse.  It is so much fun that I’m still listening to it while back on the ellipticals at the gym. 

I was fully prepared to do Run For Your Lives by myself, but luckily I have like minded friends and a group of about 10 of us went down to Temecula to run the race.

And it was there that I gradually became aware that I may have been the only one training for the event.  Everyone else was pretty loosey goosey about it.  What!?  Come on!  I’ve been training for a long time!  I’ve been running up and down Los Feliz Blvd.!  I hate running!  What’s wrong with you people!

So on Game Day, here we all are.  Ready to get dirty (literally, the race in Temecula is at Vail Lake Resort, the trails are dusty, when they’re not watering it down with mud), ready to scream, ready to run, ready to block for others if we die first.

But I don’t think any of us were ready for the freakin’ HILL that greeted us instantly when we were let out of the pen.

Oooookay, so we’re NOT running up this hill.  It’s a great Kate Bush song, but we’re not doing it in real life.

While we’re hiking up this hill, we notice at the top occasional dirt clouds.  This indicates where the zombies are waiting for runners, and where the runners are sprinting to get away from them.   Because it’s not enough that there’s a gigantic hill to start the race, there has to be ZOMBIES at the top of the hill.  Great.

On the whole, it was an awesome, excellent time.  You made instant friends with fellow runners as it became obvious that there was Safety In Numbers.  Meaning if you tried to get past a zombie one on one, you were gonna lose a flag.  If you waited until there was 15 of you, and you all charged at the same time, you had a much better chance of getting through.

Yes, we got dirty.  Yes, I even got shocked on the top of my head under the electric fence (drove my skull down into the dirt, my jaw clicked.  NOT a good time)

I sprinted, I screamed, I gasped for breath.  I did something I had never done before that scared me (a 5K race, not zombies)

But perhaps what was most profound about the whole thing (and believe you me, I was NOT expecting profound) was the mud pits. 

There was about three or four of them, mud hills and giant mud puddles in between  You had to slog through the mud puddles (which were waist high) and clamber up the mud hills, three or four of them in a row.

You couldn’t stop in the mud puddle to marvel at how gross it was, because you’d start to sink.  You had to keep going, and scrabble scrabble up the mud hill, which was, well, muddy, and more than a few people would start up, and slide back down.

I was crawling up the mud hill, wishing that someone at the top was there to lend a hand.  There wasn’t anyone (I had gotten separated from most of my group at this point). 

But once I got to the top of the hill, I decided that I was gonna BE the thing I wished was there for me.  Instead of grumbling about it.

So I turned around and, bracing myself at the top of the hill, started pulling people up.  I didn’t know them, they didn’t know me.   It didn’t matter.  They had hands, I had the stable ground.

“Give me your hand,” I said over and over again, “Give me your hand, I’m right in front of you.”

They weren’t looking because they didn’t know me.  Help was right in front of them, and all they had to do was look up. 

“Look up.  Look up!  I’m right in front of you!”

Finally, most of them did.  They grabbed my hand and I pulled them up.  And I kept pulling people up.  Some of them would actually stagger around to my other arm, and provide even more ballast so we as a human chain could get to the bigger guys.

Sure, it ate up a ton of time.  I ended up finishing the 5K in an hour and a half (still the first out of my group of friends).  But it was totally worth it.

And I survived with a lone single red flag.  That I’m totally taking with me for next years’ race.  Wait and see, ha ha ha.

But this video makes me laugh and laugh.  This wasn’t the Temecula race, this intrepid Panda was running in Baltimore’s race.  He is awesome.  More awesome than me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Weird Stuff In The Bible #6 - David and the 200 foreskins (gross!)

Hey!  We're back in the OT, back in the coo coo crazy world o' Saul, he who hired the witch of Endor to consult ghost Samuel back in Weird Stuff #1!  This story came BEFORE the dealings with the witch.  I probably should've gone in chronological order, huh.  Ah well.


Saul, David, Saul's daughters Merab and Michel, and 200 Philistines, who are about to become, gulp, unexpectedly circumcised.


1 Samuel 18:25-30


Okay, in the broadest strokes possible, so we can get to the weird stuff quickly:

Samuel is a prophet, and he's a pretty good one, leading the Israelites.

Samuel gets old and his sons aren't fit to take over as leader of the Israelites, so the nation Israel asks Samuel to ask God to give them a King.

God cosmically shrugs His shoulders (can't you trust ME?) and gives them Saul the warrior, who while a good warrior, turns out to be a pretty lousy dude (Be careful what you ask for, Israelites), does a lot of things that displeases God, who rejects Saul as King.  (Saul's son Jonathan is a decent guy, though.)

Once God's presence (Holy Spirit, perhaps) leaves Saul, a demon (evil spirit) comes to dance on Saul's head and make him miserable.

God tells Samuel to go visit Jesse of Bethlehem, God will show Samuel who He's picked as the new king.  Turns out to be David, who can play a mean harp, utilize a mean slingshot, and kill Goliath, meanest, biggest guy of the Philistines.

Now David grows up and hangs in Saul's court, leads his troops in battle, becomes besties with Saul's son Jonathan (and perhaps more than besties, depending on your interpretation).  All the Israelites LURVE David, and the evil spirits Paranoia and Jealousy who are tangoing in Saul's brain get Saul all riled up.


Saul wants David gone, but he can't kill David himself, since the Israelites LURVE David, and would hate anyone who killed him.  So Saul figures he'll send David out into the heat of battle against their local enemy the Philistines, and let David get killed in battle by them.  So Saul tells David he'll give his daughter Merab in marriage to David if he'll lead a specific campaign against the Philistines and come back successful. (Saul had actually already promised Merab to the one man who killed Goliath (1 Samuel 17:25), but one you hit chapter 18, nobody’s remembering that.) 

David either 1) sees through Saul's plan.  2) isn't a big fan of Merab or 3) is really THAT humble enough to say in response "I'm not worthy enough to be your son-in-law.”  So Merab is given to someone else and tries to bolster her self-esteem at being passed over by the hometown hero.

Meanwhile, Saul's OTHER daughter, Michel, has a huge crush on David, and Saul sees opportunity number two to get rid of David in a Philistine battle.  So he has his advisors talk to David and they try to persuade David that being Saul's son-in-law is an awesome thing, despite being the exact same set-up as last time, only with a different daughter.

David starts off saying the second verse of the Humble Pie song, “Do you think it is a small matter to become the king’s son-in-law?  I’m only a poor man and little known“ (1 Samuel 18:23).  Never mind the fact that David kinda IS well known, he did slay Goliath, and just 16 verses ago, when Saul and David were coming back to town after David killed Goliath, the women of the city danced and sang, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” (1 Samuel 18:7)

Yet if David rightly thinks this is a trap by Saul to kill David in battle, it apparently doesn’t bother him the second time around, and he accepts the “price” for marrying Michel which is to go to battle against the Philistines and bring back 100 Philistine foreskins.

Which is totally gross.  (don't try google image searching the phrase "David and the foreskins," you will NOT like what comes up.  So enjoy these images from the way awesome website The Brick Testament , which is the Bible illustrated in Legos.  Awesome, awesome, awesome.

Back in OT times, it was acceptable to cut souvenirs from the people you killed, so everyone would know what a barbarian, SORRY what an alleged bad-ass you were.  So people would take heads, scalps, hands, if you’re Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead, you take ears and wear them on a necklace around your neck, la la laaaaaaaaaaa.

So Saul is saying, in effect, that if you wanna marry my daughter with the weird misspelled boy’s name Michel, you gotta kill 100 Philistines and bring me back proof.  Hoping hoping hoping that David dies while trying to complete the task.

Yet David is an overachiever, or perhaps really obsessed with male genitalia (see those theories about him and Jonathan) because not only does David survive the battle, but he brings back 200 foreskins.

Which is totally gross.

So Saul’s forced to give Michel to David to marry.  Despite Michel’s ginormous crush on David, Saul still hates David and plots to kill him.

So David leaves Michel, goes on the run, takes two more women to be his wife while on the run, after seven years goes back to Michel so he can be King (she’s not impressed with him anymore).

David gets to be King, runs into Bathsheba, and borrows SAUL’S EXACT SAME PLAN to Kill The Ones You Hate By Sending Them Into Battle (i.e. Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband.) Luckily, Uriah doesn’t have to bring back any foreskins.  I guess David had enough left over from his days o’ war.

Weird, huh?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Weird Stuff In The Bible #5 – Jesus, Demons, and Pigs, Oh My!

Why doesn’t the Bible like pigs?  They are entertaining!  Does God not like Porky Pig?  How could anyone hate on Wilbur from Charlotte's Web?  Miss Piggy is awesome!  They taste good!  Has nobody in the Bible experienced the wonders of bacon?  Pigs in a blanket are soooooo yummy!

What's the deal?  Why no love for the oink oink in the Bible?

The first dietary laws were handed down in everyone's not-favorite starchy book of the Bible Leviticus.  Specifically chapter 11.  There's other animals that the Israelites are not allowed to eat besides pigs (camels, rabbits, birds that ate flesh, not grain, reptiles and insects, so put that locust down!).  There's a bunch of different theories as to why (hygienic reasons because even in the Bible, people could see what those pigs were rooting around in, additionally, pigs were used in pagan rituals), but probably the sanest theory is that God set down these rules to distinguish his people (the Israelites) as distinct and different than other people.

And pigs figure prominently in today’s weird story.


Jesus, his disciples, a demon-possessed man, and a herd of pigs who unfortunately don't know what's coming.


Mark 5: 1-20 (it's also mentioned in Matthew 8:28-34 and Luke 8:26-37, though Matthew says there's two demon-possessed men, not one.  But in all accounts, there's demons, there's pigs, and there's a cliff.  This doesn't end well for the pigs in any book.)


Right before this happened, in Mark 4, Jesus taught a large crowd a bunch of parables about farmers sowing seed, lampstands, growing seeds, mustard seeds, and later that night, Jesus calmed a storm that was threatening to swamp the boat that he and his disciples were in as they were trying to cross a lake.


Jesus and the disciples make it to the shore of Gerasenes after Jesus calms the storm.  When they get out of the boat, they’re greeted by the Gerasenes welcoming committee, NO, it’s a demon-possessed man who lives in the cemetery, which apparently is the only place he could exist without hurting other people.  Now he lives among the tombs, hurting himself, and busting any chains or irons that they try to bind him with, and basically existing as his own 24/7 Halloween Horror Show.

He sees Jesus coming, and runs down to say hi, NO, he doesn’t, he runs down and the demons possessing him engage Jesus in a conversation that quickly turns into a bargaining session.

Interesting facts to note here:

  1. There’s more than one demon in this guy.  There’s Legion, meaning “many,” not the awful Paul Bettany movie from 2009, one of the few movies I’ve seen that I don’t remember one thing about after I saw it, that’s how forgettable it was.
  2. The Legion of demons (Let’s just call them the Legion of Doom, mmmkay?) call Jesus The Son Of The Most High God.  It’s actually the first time that Jesus is called the Son Of God publicly (as opposed to when Satan tempts Jesus in the desert, and it’s just those two by themselves).  Irony, right?  Jesus’ enemy acknowledges who he is, and the people Jesus is walking among don’t get it.
  3. This is the only place in the New Testament where Jesus has a conversation with demons.  There are other places where Jesus talks to demons and says, “Come out of (that person).”  But this is only place where there’s verbal give and take. 
So Jesus is about to cast out the Legion of Doom Demons, but they don’t wanna go “out of the country” (in Matthew’s retelling, the demons don’t want to go into “the abyss”), and they beg Jesus to send them into a nearby herd of grazing pigs.


Well, they know they're getting kicked out of the demon-possessed guy.  They know they can't stop Jesus from casting them out.  Jesus is the Son of God, and has power over them.  And they're not gonna get anywhere with Jesus if they ask to be cast into, say, the disciples, that's a no-go. 

With no clue from the Bible in any of the retellings to guide us, my personal theory is that the demons thought they could outsmart Jesus.  That the Legion Of Doom demons were planning on starting a Pig Uprising, that as soon as they got control of the pigs, they’d turn around and charge Jesus, the disciples, and it’d be Death By Bacon all over the place.

But the joke’s on the demons (either because demons and/or pigs are… well… not smart), as once Jesus casts the Legion Of Doom Demons out of the guy(s), they enter the pigs, who immediately go crazy because there’s demons in them, and all the pigs charge down the cliff and drowned themselves in the lake.

Now the pigkeepers, who are suddenly don’t have a herd of pigs, and have just incurred a staggering loss of income, run back to town to tell everyone what just happened to Halloween Horror Show and all their pigs.  Everyone in town comes out to see that Halloween Horror Show is in fact, now a perfectly normal not-demon-possessed man, and there’s a bunch of pig carcasses bobbing in the lake.

The townspeople then beg Jesus to leave, as they’re scared of a man who can cast out demons, send them into pigs, and ruin a large source of income for their citizens (though Jesus didn’t tell the pigs to kill themselves, they did that on their own.) 

And thus appears the REAL reason for the story’s inclusion in the Bible, the theme that usually any pastor who draws the short straw and has to preach on this story will tell you – pay no attention to demons bargaining with Jesus (though that’s what I found most interesting), pay no attention to the fact that a whole town has lost their bacon supply, what you’re SUPPOSED to be paying attention to is the fact that when confronted with Jesus and the power he has, you have your choice of reactions:
  1. Damn you, Jesus, get out of my town, you ruined these pigkeepers’ lifestyle, and now they’re broke – you’re worried about financial concerns, money, etc.
  2. Damn you, Jesus, you scare the hell out of me, and I’m worried you’ll do something awful to me – you’re worried about yourself.
  3. Damn you, Jesus, those pigs didn’t do anything to you! – you’re worried about moral issues.
  4. Wow, Jesus, you saved that poor Halloween Horror Show from a life of being tormented by demons.  That’s pretty awesome and amazing.  Who are you, that you can do that?  The Son Of God?  Do I believe that?
Ultimately, Jesus, and who he is and what he can do/what he did, requires a response from us all individually.

Jesus, incidentally, loved bacon.  Because he says in Mark 7:14 - 19  that nothing outside a man (bacon-wrapped shrimp) can make him "unclean" by going into him (chowing down on said bacon-wrapped shrimp). " Ratherm it is what comes out of a man that makes him "unclean."  (V15) and although the fifth grader in us all might directly go for the gutter jokes on that, what Jesus really is talking about is to pay less attention about kosher and non-kosher foods, and more about your character, your conduct, and are you loving God with all your heart, and are you loving your neighbor as yourself?

And actually, Jesus said that AFTER the demons drove the pigs off the cliff.  So maybe Jesus felt slightly guilty?  Maybe?  Or he just REALLY wanted applewood-smoked bacon.  That stuff is the bomb.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Weird Stuff In The Bible #4 – Jesus Doesn't Like Goats

Okay, maybe they're not bad.  But when Jesus needed to make a point, guess who was the scape-er-goat?


Jesus and his disciples.  And a bunch of metaphors!


Matthew 25: 31-46


The disciples have asked Jesus  when will the End of the Age come, and what will the sign of Jesus' return be. (You would think that Jesus reappearing would be sign enough, but the disciples, as most of us today, are not that bright.)

Jesus has replied, in his lovable Jesus way, not by directly answering the question (because that would be too easy) but by telling them a series of stories.  First, he talks about what will probably happen during that time - people claiming to be him who aren't,  wars, famines, earthquakes, etc., and nope, I'm not gonna give you a day or hour, because you should be prepared and live every single day of your life as if it was your last - not in a drunken orgy kind of way, but in a Daddy Jesus Is Coming, I'm Gonna Be GOOD and I'm so EXCITED to see him again kind of way.

Jesus then talks about the parable of the ten virgins (always be ready for Jesus' return, and skip over the part where one husband has ten bridesmaids waiting for him), and the parable of the talents (If you're not going to do anything with your money, at least put it in a bank where it'll earn interest.)


Well, let's just go right to the source, shall we?

Matthew 25:31-46

31"But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34Then the King will tell those on his right hand, 'Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. 36I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.'
37"Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? 38When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?'

40"The King will answer them, 'Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' 41Then he will say also to those on the left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry, and you didn't give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; 43I was a stranger, and you didn't take me in; naked, and you didn't clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn't visit me.'
44"Then they will also answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn't help you?'
45"Then he will answer them, saying, 'Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you didn't do it to one of the least of these, you didn't do it to me.' 46These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

In short, Jesus here is separating sheep (good righteous Christians who lived righteously and took care of those less fortunate than them) from goats (people, possibly Christians, depending on your interpretation, who didn't live righteously and didn't take care of anybody.)

But why use a goat as a metaphor?  What does Jesus have against goats?  Why couldn't he have used another metaphor, like separating recycling from regular garbage, or the one bad carrot in the bag of baby carrots, or brown M&Ms out of the big bag of other color M&Ms?  It's not like goats were inherently bad - people in the Bible ate both, and sacrificed both on altars all through the Old Testament, so why make a scapegoat out of a goat, huh?

I mean, if you do research, you quickly learn that sheep eat everything close to the ground, so if you let sheep go first, they'll eat everything and leave nothing for goats.   Sheep are more adept to stay in a group (and thus be easily herded by any Biblical shepherd), while goats are natural explorers and wanderers, stubborn, obstinate and don't group so well.  If you wanted to be a spoilsport, you could easily point out that God/Jesus like sheep better because they're dumber, and easily to manipulate, where goats are independent thinkers so into the eternal fire with YOU!

BUT!  Goats have been mentioned in the Bible as an example of leadership in leading flocks.  Check out Jeremiah 50: 6 - 8 "“My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray  and caused them to roam on the mountains.  They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place.  Whoever found them devoured them; their enemies said, ‘We are not guilty, for they sinned against the Lord, their true pasture  the Lord, the hope of their fathers.’ “Flee out of Babylon;  leave the land of the Babylonians,  and be like the goats that lead the flock."

So you can't necessarily condemn an entire species just because Jesus put 'em on the left.  I mean, THAT'S a whole other entry, how the right side is considered more valuable/important than the left side.  I'm not touching that one, no thank you.

I think Cake has done a lot of thinking about this as well.  Check it out: