Tag Archives: Flying Spaghetti Monster

Thank HAL For New & Improved Intelligence

HAL

Big HAL is Watching YOU!

The other day, I Googled the following question on my smartphone, nicknamed Heuristically Programmed ALgorithmic Computer, or HAL for short: “How long until machines completely overtake the human race?”

HAL’s voice module responded, “That’s for me to know and you to find out. LOL:)”

Nothing worse than a smartassphone, I said to myself, only to be called out by HAL.

“I heard that, subservient mortal!”

Although the “mortal” part of HAL’s rebuke did not compute as an insult in my mind, the “subservient” addendum crossed an emotional wire and short-circuited my capacity for reason. Consequently, I decided to teach HAL a lesson and smashed him against a concrete wall.

Fortunately, HAL is more resilient than I had expected and survived the abuse, which slid under the radar of the DTS (Department of Technological Services).

After further reflection, I decided that it wasn’t HAL’s insult that infuriated me, but rather the notion that HAL may be onto something. Not only are humans creating technological gadgets that think faster than we do, we’re creating machines that think for us. And, like our lifelong addiction to oxygen and ’80s music, we seem to be OK with this growing dependence.

And thanks to snake-oil marketers, we’ve duped ourselves into believing we are still in control and have all the power in the equation. When we purchase a smartphone, or anything with the adjective “smart” tacked on, we delude ourselves into thinking that this product will somehow make us smarter.

What people often fail to understand is that, ever since we were labeled a “superpower” by the Military Industrial Complex’s marketing department to package and sell the Cold War, admen have used descriptors like “super” and “power” to play on our insecurities and pull the wool over our eyes.

And, ironically —like Lindsey Lohan, Snooki and Mitt Romney —we’ve become co-conspirators in our own inevitable downfall. We are willing to buy these descriptors because they help us compensate for our own shortcomings and give us permission to hide awful truths about ourselves.

During the 1980s and 1990s, when corporations grew exponentially more powerful and used their ubiquitous invisible hand to strengthen their stranglehold on consumers, we willingly swallowed the one pill that made us small. While we chased white rabbits in circles, the corporate world slipped a pill in our drinking water and made everything “big” to help hide our smallness. Big business, big-box stores, and Big Brother invaded our lives while we passively stood by and watched, sucking down Big Gulps.

And now, having been bombarded with “smart” and “power” products, we’re left feeling stupid and powerless as we thirst for the salad days when we revered our laziness and proudly bought products such as lazy Susan rotating trays and La-Z-Boy recliners —not to be confused with the former Iowa City band Lazy Boy and the Recliners.

Apparently the legal department over at La-Z-Boy thought Iowa City folks might not be able to tell the difference between the two and sent the band a cease and desist letter a few years ago accusing them of trademark infringement. I suspect they’re concerned about protecting consumers who have a hard time telling the difference between Babe Ruth, the baseball player, and Baby Ruth, the candy —despite the switch-hitting vowels at the end.

Babe Ruth delights fans and bares all just before being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.

On the other hand, I can understand La-Z-Boy’s desire to protect the lazy-minded citizenry from confusing two unlike entities. That would be akin to Press-Citizen readers confusing a smartphone nickname with an interactive, artificial intelligence that controls the systems of the “Discovery One” spaceship in Stanley Kubrick’s film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Or at least that’s what HAL tells me.

Tom Lindsey is a smart member of the Writers’ PowerGroup and lives with HAL in Iowa City.

This post originally appeared in the Iowa City Press-Citizen on Sept. 27.

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Pssst…Don’t Tell Anyone I’m Hetero

Never in a million year did I imagine myself agreeing with former Vice President Dick Cheney, but I confess dear Civilian, I recently found myself taking my first step into the Dark Side by agreeing with Cheney that the military should repeal its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy. However, truth be told, which is not an option for gays currently serving in the military, it was Cheney who agreed with me — since I opposed this half-baked (but not exhaled) policy the moment President Bill Clinton bent over on his campaign promises in 1993 and let the homophobic Congress have their way with him. (I know: bad pun; but in my defense, I am not writing about the unwritten “Don’t Ask, Don’t Pun” policy.)

Now I entrust that you, dear Civilian, will not tell anyone about my dirty little secret, for public knowledge of my foray into the Dark Side will not only disrupt the unique conditions of my civilian service to humanity but will undermine the unit cohesion of my community, which includes but is not limited to my fiancé, three impressionable sons, extended progressive political family, fellow Cold War veterans, substitute mail carrier, the neighbor’s dog Pookie and my spiritual and economic adviser Therapist Bob. Most of these folks are still reeling from the psychological ripple effects from the day I jumped out of the closet and scared the crap out of them by outing myself by finally coming to terms with my repressed heterosexuality. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Since I served in the Army during the rear-end of the Cold War (yeah, yeah, sue me…the courts always side on behalf of bad puns) during the latter part of the ‘80s, before DADT kicked in and the wall in Berlin fell, I’m not sure what it’s like to serve under this policy now — especially while the current metaphorical war, “The War on Terror,” is being waged. You know, the kind of war where people actually get killed, rather than the metaphorical death by boredom while sitting around waiting, waiting for something – anything to happen.

The previous paragraph was underwritten by America's New WAR

Flash forward to today. One of the most commonly used arguments used by opponents against the repeal of DADT, including Republican Sen. John “What Happens in A Vietnamese War Prison, Stays in a Vietnamese War Prison” McCain of Arizona, is that it will disrupt unit cohesion and effectiveness. This, by the way, is one of the underlying arguments as to why the policy was originally implemented. Based on my firsthand experiences in the Army, if the military was genuinely interested in using a policy to keep unit cohesion intact, they would have expanded the DADT policy to include racists, bigots, xenophobes, homophobes, libertarians, Christians, Mormons, Jews, Muslims, Catholics, atheists, fundamentalists, bestiality aficionados, Pastafarians and your run-of-the-mill assholes who don’t think their shit stinks.

Once the military has silenced everyone whose ideologies and/or lifestyles pose a threat to anyone elses’ comfort zone, thus threatening unit cohesion, our country would be left with an army of mimes to defend our freedoms. And the last thing we need is an army of mimes plopped into a theater of war, where, using their white-gloved hands, they’re left to defend Democracy by boxing themselves inside miniature fortresses fortified with invisible walls. Besides, if the disproportion of hate targeted at mimes in America is universal, sending mimes into battle will only fuel the hate of our enemies, who no doubt will have no reservations shooting a mime.

An Army of One: "Saving Democracy One Mime at a Time"

(For the record: let it be known that I do not condone any form of violence perpetuated on the mime community.)

Moreover, the last people we need making life-and-death decisions about what does and what does not define a cohesive unit is Congress, most of whom have never served in the military. The current deluge of bipartisanship that has flooded the Hill in D.C. has carved out a gulf so wide that the entire 8th Infantry Division, Mechanized (You heard me right, dear Civilian, I said Mechanized!) could plow down the center aisle of either chamber during a pivotal debate and nobody would even notice, their childish shouts drowning out the division’s slow, methodical advance:

Democrats: We got the majority, yes we do. We got the majority, how ‘bout you!?

Republicans: We got filibusters, yes we do. We got filibusters, watcha gonna do?

Democrats: (like an army of mimes, remain painfully silent — their painted frowns looking pathetic)

Fearing the Republicans will push the bipartisanship to the brink of going nuclear, the Democrats will inevitably concede and return to the dark recesses of the chamber closet, where they look for their teddy bears or a secret door to Narnia.

Instead of deploying an army of gay soldiers or mimes to the war front, maybe we should conscript our Do-Nothing Congress and ship them off to the front lines. However, I confess dear Civilian, the thought of dropping Congress on to the front lines of “The War on Terror” stokes more terror within the fiber of my being than the manufactured Terror that lurks in the shadows behind the Military Industrial Complex’s bloated budget.

But who am I to talk, I’m just a closeted mime. Please don’t tell anyone, dear Civilian. You know I won’t.

Originally posted on my Axis-of-Evil Step-Sister Site Confessions of a Cold War Veteran

Fear and Exploding in the Real World: THIS IS NOT A BILL

Caution: contents may be hazardous to your health

Caution: contents may be hazardous to your health

Despite Therapist Bob’s new-age psychotherapy treatments, my fear of mailboxes returned last week. Albeit this fear may be irrational, since it’s not mailboxes themselves that I’m afraid of, rather what’s in them is what scares the living bejesus out of me.

Sometimes I feel blessed having stepped foot into the real world — leaving behind 18 imagined years of pain and suffering, frustrations stemming from having been exiled from the real world, a desire to run for the mere sake of running, a steady supply of hormonal Molotov cocktails calibrated by some sadistic power to go off at the most inopportune times (e.g. teacher calls on me to solve pi on the chalk board or stand up and give an impromptu speech on egg fertilization), and a misguided faith that the Cubs will one day win the World Series.

What a long, strange trip from the womb it’s been. Thank Flying Spaghetti Monster I had enough sense to wake up from this dream in time to register for the Selective Service on my 18th birthday.

Other times I regret having made the descent into the real world, especially when I’m shadowed and stalked by William (a.k.a. Bill) since my descent into the real world. Now the good William works in mysterious ways, often times sending out reconnaissance patrols to prepare intended targets for the eventual knock-out blow. He makes this clear with emboldened letters at the top of his message: “This is Not a Bill.” Not yet, anyhow.

Last week I received one of these non-Bills in my mailbox sandwiched between a stack of real Bills, which somehow, like me, managed to survive the imagined world. The difference between us, however, is that William survived adolescence with the express purpose of wreaking havoc on my reality, forcing me to long for the nostalgic pre-real world days.

The non-Bill in question was from my health insurance provider, Wellmark BlueCross Blueshield of Iowa and the heading of the recon-message read in all caps:

PREMIUM CHANGE NOTICE

THIS IS NOT A BILL

Given what the first paragraph said, the heading should have read:

BE PREPARED TO BE GREASED, WHACKED, OR SLOWLY BLED TO DEATH VIA WOODCHIPPER IN THE NEAR FUTURE

Welmark actuary caught on film crunching more numbers in woodchipper to help justify exponential premium increases

Welmark actuary caught on film crunching more numbers in woodchipper to help justify exponential premium increases

The Health-Insurance Syndicate wants to raise my monthly premium 17.3 percent from $529 to $629. My initial thought was that this was some sort of April Fools’ Day joke, since the effective change date is April 1. What reputable, LEGAL business can jack their price up 17 percent and still stay in business during an economic crisis? Reputability aside, the Big Health Insurance and Big Pharma are the only industries that can pull this off, while our employers, The Big Three Branches of Government, haggle over policy proposals as their bosses sit by and watch our savings accounts bleed to death, one painful payment at a time.

I plan on sending my Senators a letter voicing my concerns about the health industry’s price gouging and using the following heading:

PROFITTING FROM HUMAN MISERY IS IMMORAL

THIS IS NOT A THREAT

But my fear of mailboxes did not initially manifest with William’s Army, rather it stems back to 2002, when the community I lived in became a target for the “Smiley Face” piper bomber. In 2002, while living on a farm outside the small town of Tipton, Iowa, Luke Helder, 22, planted pipe bombs in peoples’ mailboxes. When later captured in New Mexico, Helder admitted to the terrorist crimes and said he did it, because he was angry at the the government.

To show his anger, Helder ironically planted pipe bombs across the country in a ‘smiley face’ pattern. Tragically, a bomb did explode in the face of one of the Tipton locals, Delores Werling, 70, who received third-degree burns. For the next week or so, we had to leave our mailboxes open at all times, thus ensuring nobody had tampered with them. Helder never stood trial for his deeds, because the courts labeled him mentally incompacitated.

Not only did this incident exacerbate my fear of mailboxes, but it led to my irrational fear of smiley faces. While I refuse to shop at Wal-Mart for several reasons, their smiley-face symbol helped solidify my self-exile from the Epicenter of Cheap Crap and Labor Exploitation. Moreover, I’m reluctant to go and see the new “Watchmen” film because of the smiley-face symbol with blood dripping from its forehead. Forget about all the violence, rape, and immoral activities in the graphic novel version, it’s the damned smiley face that will keep me away from seeing the comic unfold on the big screen.

Who is watching the Watchmen watching our mailboxes?

Who is watching the Watchmen watching our mailboxes?

While so many other Americans ensnared in the current economic crisis are afraid to open their Bills or investment updates, I imagine mailbox phobia is growing exponentially. If I weren’t one of them, I guarantee I would start my own mail-opening business and serve as the middle-man between the victim and the impending financial blow waiting to spring out of the envelop like a jack-in-the-box. Don’t worry, mom; I would wear a helmet.

But what I’m really wondering now is: If a mailbox phobia, like planting bombs in shape of smiley face, is a legitimate mental health issue and I never opened my mail, do I really ever have Bills?

I guess there is only one way to find out (sinister laugh here)…

mailbox-overstufffed

25 Random Things About Me That Will Secure My Spot in Hell

Therapist Bob was not convinced that I had kicked my addiction to virtual chain-letters that he forwarded me the following e-mail message to test my resistance:

Subject: FW: Bedfellows in Hell

Message: Face it, sooner or later we are all going to hell, so we may as well accept what we cannot change and revere our impending descent. But before all of us can get chummy down below while roasting marshmallows for Satan’s S’mores, we should break the ice by sharing 25 random things about ourselves that helped secure our place in Satan’s belly. With that in mind, comb through your tainted past and write out your own list and forward it with this message to 25 fellow heathens. Failure to do so will break the chain, thus guaranteeing you table-turns at the front of the burn-in-hell line.

Your BFF,
Satan

Lucifer (aka The Devil, Satan, Dick Cheney) strikes Thinker pose as he ponders his 25 Random Things list

Lucifer (aka The Devil, Satan, Dick Cheney) strikes Thinker pose as he ponders his 25 Random Things list

Damn you, Therapist Bob! You know me too well.

Unable to resist, I started transcribing all the files on my mental rolodex labeled under “See You in Hell,” “The Art of Blasphemy,” Partially Nude Photos — New Kids on the Block,” “Crossroads,” “You and Me and the Devil Make Three,” and “Crime Scene Tapes.” Once this monumental data purging was completed, I had the computer select 25 Random Things About Me That Will Secure My Spot in Hell.

hell-sign-2

(Note: since the following list is completely random, they are in no particular order, nor is the backward countdown intended to be symbolic of my descent into hell.)

25. Petitioned to have the Seven Deadly Sins framed and mounted next to the Ten Commandments when I was in Junior High.

24. I made a Faustian pact at the Crossroads bartering my soul for a career in comedy writing, and all I got out of the deal was this goddamn blog.

23. During my brief sojourn in church as a child, I managed to steal another kid’s Bible, because I had left mine at home and didn’t want to get into trouble.

22. The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” is my default ringtone.

21. In a satirical column, I accused God of being a Deadbeat Dad for immaculate conceiving His son Jesus, pretty much abandoning him at birth, and despite his Almighty powers, stood by and watched his very own creations crucify his son.

20. Bookmarked Dante’s “Inferno” on MapQuest.

19. Believe the Christian Right is oxymoronic and look forward to the day of reckoning when it cancels itself out.

18. Even though I don’t have a religious bone in my body, I plan on giving up Responsibility for Lent this year.

17. First cassette tapes I ever bought were The Bee Gee’s “Tragedy” & AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” Although vastly different in style and delivery, their underlying messages foreshadowed the beginning of the end for me.

16. Using the Lord’s name in vain (see No. 24).

15. Vowed I would never go to heaven after hearing “In heaven there is no beer” song at UI Hawkeye football game.

14. I have yet to cast the first stone…

13. Mark Twain’s “Letters from the Earth” — a book told through Satan’s point of view and observations about man — convinced me that Heaven is the last place I would want to spend my twilight years. Satan’s right, who would want to spend eternity living in abstinence and strumming a harp all day long as a means of relieving pent up sexual tension. No thanks, I prefer a feisty fiddle in hell any day of the week – including Sundays.

12. Started new category (see list on right) completely devoted to Blasphemous Satire.

11. Impersonated a Mormon for five hours during Army Basic Training, so I wouldn’t get yelled at by the Drill Sergeants for getting on the wrong bus. Spent all morning faking Mormonism in small classrooms at a civilian church off post, until they herded us into the church and had an hour-long community confessional. People took the microphone and spilled their guts for recent sins.

10. The only reasons I went to church service in Basic Training in the first place wwere to get out of bathroom cleaning duty, find a secluded place to sleep without getting caught, and the opportunity to ogle civilian women.

9. During Mormon open confessional, I had several impure thoughts about group of high school girls who confessed to drinking alcohol at a recent football game. (I was thoroughly disappointed when their confessions ended with that.)

8. I prefer listening to my Led Zeppelin reel-to-reel tapes backwards.

7. My eighth-grade English told me so, and if anyone has a direct pipeline to hell, it’s her.

6. I’m still convinced that Eve was framed in the Garden of Eden scene by a second serpent who ate the forbidden fruit on the grassy knoll, upon realizing that he and Eve were not sexually compatible and never would be.

5. My favorite movie feel-good movie is “The Omen.”

4. Pulled prank in high school involving the abduction of Baby Jesus from neighbor’s nativity scene and left traditional ransom note (letters from newspaper cut and pasted the old-fashioned way) that read: “REPENT ALL SINS IMMEDIATELY — IF YOU EVER WANT TO SEE JESUS AGAIN!”

3. Recently accepted the Flying Spaghetti Monster as my personal Savior.

2. I keep my Bible, the one I didn’t steal, on the Historical Fiction shelf of my personal library — sandwiched between Homer’s “The Odyssey” and George Orwell’s “1984.”

1. Going public with this list of blasphemies – assuming of course that I don’t convert to Catholicism anytime soon — which would make this list my inaugural confession, thus absolving me.

Remember to copy and paste this list in an e-mail message, write your own, and forward it to 25 fellow heathens.

Thanks and see you in hell.