Zeus: The Autobiography - Intro & Chapter 1

READ THE INTRO & CHAPTER ONE

My novel Zeus: The Autobiography combines mythology and parody of celebrity autobiography. What if a major deity decided to dictate the details of his life, especially the more sensational elements, to a modern-day scribe?

The story starts with the beginning of existence, the formation of the earth and its mating with the sky in a celestial love scene. Then the creation of the Titans and monsters, then of the Olympian gods including Zeus. How they battled for power, established rule, created mortals, family issues, and breeding with immortal spouses and other immortals and mortals on the side. Then various heroes come into play, the Trojan War, Greek history, Roman history, and the emergence of Christianity. I could not bring myself to overtly bring Zeus into modern times, with him, say, being startled by microwave ovens, video billboards, or the internet. But sly commentary on modern topics is woven throughout the work.

I'm posting the first chapter of this 19-chapter novel to get your feedback. Following chapters get chattier and funnier and dirtier and more provocative. READ THE INTRO & CHAPTER ONE and let me know: Do you like it? Do you want to read more?

If you know me, message me. Otherwise please leave a comment on this site and share this post out with others. I want to spark conversations.

Kim Davis, honey, these men are not your friends

 (L to R) Opportunist Mike Huckabee, opportunist Kim Davis, opportunist Matthew Staver

(L to R) Opportunist Mike Huckabee, opportunist Kim Davis, opportunist Matthew Staver

The sight of Mike Huckabee and Liberty Counsel dunderhead lawyer Matthew Staver dry-hump Kim Davis' fame is really gross. History never looks kindly on bigots who restrict civil rights from fellow citizens. In ten years, in five years, within a few months, when people who now wring their hands over marriage equality realize same-gender couples are the MOST BORING THING IN THE WORLD, Kim Davis will be likely mocked by many of the people who cheer her now. Think of Alabama Gov. George Wallace in 1963, blocking the entry of an auditorium so black students could not desegregate the University of Alabama. Heck, he even had officers of the law assisting him. Back then? Several people cheered him. Now? Most everybody sees him as an asshole.

Davis may cash in. Staver and Huckabee clearly see dollar signs before their eyes now. (Side note: Staver is a HORRIBLE attorney. He has lousy points to make, but manages to make them even lousier where I fight the instinct to reach into the television and improve his dumb talking points for him.) But all the money in the world will not remove that Kim Davis is a hypocritical ignoramus (Dan Savage has terrific analysis about that). She will likely not find happiness, because she does not understand how the world works and clearly cherishes a sense of persecution over wisdom. Her money will be temporary. Stupid is forever (mostly).

Time and facts are not on her side. The people who cling tightly to fear of others based on hateful things printed in purported magical books will either have reality dawn on them that their dumb ideas should be discredited along with all the other dumb ideas in The Bible they already discredit, or they'll have to gradually die off (of natural causes) and leave younger, less over-wrought humans, to take over.

Shame on Huckabee and Staver for using this dimwit to raise funds for their own gains.

Gov. George Wallace (left, in a suit next to the mouth-breather), the Ur-Nancy Davis, ceremonially blocking black students from entering Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama. "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." Asshole.

Why I loathe Middle East politics

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West has been meddling in Middle East politics and boundaries for 100 years in the modern era, invading over and over since The Crusades. An ongoing disaster that we need to stop.

The problem? I believe it stems from at least three books, written and edited by semi-literate human committees, each claiming magical powers and divine authorship, each ignorant of how anything works (diseases due to sin & demons instead of microorganisms, for instance), each claiming omnipotent wisdom yet making no reference to land beyond the Middle East, and each with competing claims to limited real estate.

 Historian and Monty Python member Terry Jones. His documentary "The Crusades" is great.

Historian and Monty Python member Terry Jones. His documentary "The Crusades" is great.

The three man-written magic books from competing religions claim all other religions are invalid. Worse, they claim divine sanction and dismiss the need to observe terrestrial laws. They allow deeply flawed higher primates (us) to think these often made-up rules will assure them eternal reward. "I don't have to listen to you here, on earth, in this mortal realm. My magic book says I will be given perpetual pleasure for hewing to its words rather than considering you and the needs of those you represent (and tells me that you are infidels). And, for fun, some of these stories and claims state that I could probably kill you with divine right. Treaties? Laws? Claptrap! This magic book says I can smash all your toys, smash you, then smile beatifically as I get taken up to heaven in a divine sunbeam. Goodbye, suckers!"

Since 2001, we have spent a trillion dollars on Iraq (four trillion on Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan) and have made the region less stable. We have spent over a trillion dollars on Homeland Security (even the conservative CATO Institute is skeptical) and yet feel less safe. Bill Maher referred to our country as "The United States of Pants Shitters".

Because of our constant intrusions, the Middle East has a large external foe to fixate on: the West. If we left them alone, they could focus on their internal struggles, and maybe craft solutions. Their countries, let them sort things out.

 We had a holy obligation to protect the holy land from non-holy infidels who thought that they were holy. Oh, and we could not determine what constituted "holy" among any of us at any point.

We had a holy obligation to protect the holy land from non-holy infidels who thought that they were holy. Oh, and we could not determine what constituted "holy" among any of us at any point.

If left alone, the Middle East may even more broadly challenge the acts of fundamentalist maniacs, instead of huge numbers harboring and praising fundamentalist maniacs as the bulwark against more Western intrusions and attacks.

As it is now, we get goaded by fundamentalist maniacs time and again, and fall for it. Today, it's ISIS. When we intervene and attack the Middle East, as the U.S. is poised to do against ISIS, terrorist recruitment grows. Osama bin Ladin after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks plainly told the world that he attacked the U.S. expecting us to respond with military attacks, make the Middle East more besieged, which would make his terrorist ranks swell. That is just what happened.

In World War I, the West carved up the Middle East into the hodge-podge of country boundaries that still holds today. We imposed our will onto a region with centuries-long tribal conflicts and cultures we simply did not understand, and possibly felt no interest in understanding. We made this mess. And when we step in with force, the mess usually gets worse.

Let's not shit our pants because a group of maniacs, who want to get a rise out of us, posts videos of beheadings. A few centuries ago, public beheadings were a communal activity in the West. Then we got better. Let's not give fundamentalist maniacs what they want. Let's stop pretending we know the cure for what ails the region and leave these countries alone. Or, at least not bomb them. They may even create magnificent societies not seen in the region since we started attacking them over and over centuries ago.

Batter my heart, three person'd God (Holy Sonnet XIV)

 John Donne, photo from The British Museum

John Donne, photo from The British Museum

I am a born & bred heathen, raised by a former Protestant and a former Catholic who vowed to never raise their kids with superstitions. While I thank them for, among many things, all the free Sundays over the course of my life, I have always found the emotionally-charged religious-themed poetry of John Donne compelling.

I think it's the mix of hard-hitting phrases and anguished emotions that hardly seem to do with religious devotion at all, but the basic striving for something external, something beyond the self, and the roiling erotic urges blended in. Okay, maybe that's hugely what religious urges are based on.

That a supposed monotheistic religion like Christianity ends up as a polytheism (father, son, spirit, Mother/Virgin Mary, angels, saints all available for supernatural help) is amusing. The centuries spent and volumes written by scholars trying to rectify the "mystery" of the Trinity is stupefying. But the desire to gain holy attention and succor from a variety of family & lover roles (including getting "married" to the Church or the Lord) ties into semi-conscious or unconscious needs we all have.

Batter my heart, three person'd God

by John Donne

Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov'd fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Mormons advertise in ... The Onion?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons) ran an ad in satirical news website The Onion. This ad is legit, but out of place, given Mormons are frequently criticized for not being "real" Christians.

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It could be Mormons are marketing to demi-"ironic" hipsters (waving my hand at the screen) to lure them in. Like the paired Mormon missionairies patrolling outside shows of "The Book of Mormon" musical.

Glad Facebook wasn't around when Diana died

Diana Memorial Tartan, for sale at the United Kingdom land at Epcot in Walt Disney World, 2009. 

The romance and swooning over the Windsor dynasty is disturbing. The family members have little to no merit given the amount of power they are born into. And almost to a person they seem miserable. Gross all the way around.

Was Lady Diana's death a sad one? Sure. Did it warrant an entire hemisphere seemingly crippled with grief in 1997? No way.

Sympathies to her family and friends, but she was not a magical creature and I can't recall any constructive thing she did other than take stands on issues like objecting to abandoned landmines blowing up children. Hardly daring stuff.

She was a crucial part of the big Royal Wedding industry that ramped up to her marriage to Prince Charles in the 1980s. Now we know Charles was in love with someone else at the time, Diana's happiness was doomed (recall the "miserable" point made above). 

Worst of all, as her family mourned and others projected their fantasies onto Diana's blankness, Elton John reworked the lyrics to "Candle in the Wind" and made it WORSE than its original tribute to Marilyn Monroe. Sure, his longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin had a hand in it, but STILL. Is life better for anyone with words like "And your footsteps will always fall here / Along England's greenest hills"? One imagines a gigantic Diana patrolling England, a colossal stomping wraith wandering a Emily Brontë heath.

Actually, that would be marvelous

Why does same-sex marriage get me emotional?

A few times in recent years I've been asked why I get emotional about marriage equality. There's typically a zest gap: the other person is rational, I'm on the verge of berserker rage. For my part, it's a mix of religion and accrued anecdotes. Let's start with anecdotes:

1985 - The Times of Harvey Milk
Saw this documentary when it aired on PBS. The existence of gay people was still a foreign concept to me (so was going outside, or a city with more than 100,000 people in it). But Harvey Milk's story was a moving one. This film stuck in my head, although it did not save me from being a dipshit (see below). 

High school & college
In high school I had a close friend who had a strong gay vibe. Yet he was dating girls. Our 16-18 year-old brains thought it was so funny that people kept thinking he was gay. This was an ongoing joke for years. "Ha ha, you are so not gay, yet people keep calling you gay. Isn't that hilarious?" You can see where this is going.

In college I had another friend who had a strong gay vibe.  Yet he also dated girls. Similar thing, but with the extra smarm that early college years can bring. Whispering/hissing cattily to my friend things like: "Ha! I feel so gay around you" during errands in the grocery store. This was the pinnacle of wit, as he was not gay, right?

In both cases, both friends eventually came out as gay in their late teens or early twenties. Thankfully. Knowing that for years I was a close friend to each yet part of an environment that reinforced that gayness was wrong, that I was part of the sense of oppression, still has me ill at ease decades later. 

Eugene, Oregon - Kinko's, 1992
On the Oregon ballot in 1992 was Measure 9, a vile piece of hateful shit from the Oregon Citizens Alliance (OCA). For openers:

This state shall not recognize any categorical provision such as "sexual orientation," "sexual preference," and similar phrases that include homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism or masochism. Quotas, minority status, affirmative action, or any similar concepts, shall not apply to these forms of conduct, nor shall government promote these behaviors.

Scott Lively & Long Mabon. Source: The Oregonian 

The two point people, Lon Mabon and Scott Lively, were pervy-looking dudes. As you can guess, there was propaganda equating homosexuality to dog fucking, child molesters, and an intense preoccupation with other people's sexual activities. These hate-mongering ding-a-lings mentioned "water sports" in the Oregon Voters Guide as something homosexuals like to do. I had to ask around what that meant. Thanks for making the Voters Guide into pornography, guys!

The Kinko's store I worked in was chock full of smarty pantses struggling to find jobs because of those Reagan and Bush sonsofbitches. Taking a tally of staff members, more than half were homosexual or bisexual. A socially awkward guy, this made my dating prospects dim. 

Two of the buttons we made in 1992 (above), my teeny-seeming slipper-shod feet (below).

We were fired up about Measure 9. Some of us started wearing buttons at work. The manager, a lesbian, initially and sensibly disapproved. Why should a copy shop get involved in politics? The Kinko's store was one of the few left in the U.S. still owned by an individual. We had decent relations with the owner. The Anti-Measure 9 campaign was a significant store customer. The vibe reached a point where we asked the manager if we could make buttons for free for that campaign. Finally, happily, she said yes. That was a triumphant feeling. 

Measure 9 failed (Fuck off, OCA!). As did the similar Measure 13 years after (double fuck off, OCA!). Then when the ballot measure numbers cycled around, a new anti-gay Measure 9 failed yet again (many people still had their '92 anti-Measure 9 bumper stickers - handy! Also: triple fuck-off, OCA!). Disappointingly, in 2004 Oregon voters passed a "one man, one woman" definition of marriage still in Oregon's books. Scott Lively is now part of anti-gay hate fomenting in Uganda the last few years, and people are dying because of it. No doubt Lively travels with a Bible.

Religion & embarrassment in history
The Bible is not a good source of morality.  Both the Old and New Testaments are cited by anti-gay groups bashers as why homosexuals are sinners. The Bible was used to justify anti-miscegenation (mixed-race) laws. Both the Old and New Testament justify slavery. If that shoddy book cannot get right the easiest moral issue we have: whether we can own another human as property, what moral authority can it claim?

Yet the Bible is also used to justify ignorance more broadly. Those denying climate change likely rely on the Bible for their views. The Bible gets so much wrong about science and the nature of reality it's stupefying. It doesn't even reference lands beyond the middle east. Or understand diseases, thinking them curses instead or caused by demon possession. It's so embarrassing on these matters that most Christians have learned to largely ignore the bulk of its assertions on almost everything, focusing on a few lapidary phrases that reality hasn't entirely laughed away yet. Bible-thumpers are behind the misogyny trying to legislate what women should and should not be able to do with their own bodies. Women-as-chattel is throughout the Bible and the Koran.

Believing in magic books, magic institutions, or magic people always leads to trouble. It is a grave embarrassment to our species to take ultimate moral and scientific authority from an Iron Age compendium of shoddy writing repeatedly tampered with and clearly written by primate (not holy) hands. As we laugh at the ignorance of previous generations, so the future will laugh at us.

History never looks kindly on restricting the civil rights of citizens. We will eventually grant the right to marriage to all adult citizens, why delay it? Banning same-sex marriage is anti-family. Anti-gay laws block family hospital visits, family medical decisions, child custody, inheritance. Those laws hurt people. For no reason. "Marriage is about making babies!" Bible-thumpers yell. Then take away marriage from childless couples and old people. "Marriage is a sacred rite!" Sorry, but marriage carries federal and state rights and privileges.

What has happened in states and countries that have marriage equality?  Other than an occasional bigoted flip-out at the start: nothing. Gay marriage is boring there. Why? Because gay people are boring, like we straight people are boring. It is no fucking big deal to have it around!

So, along with the case against marriage equality being morally and metaphysically so fucking stupid, I get angry because we all will get there, the end result is within sight. Let's get it done and chill out! I feel embarrassment for our country and our species that it hasn't happened yet. I want to stop having to explain to my kids why some of our neighbors and friends can't get married.

Pride flags fly over Harvey Milk Plaza on Castro & Market in San Francisco. 

Christian Mingle ad over/underpromises?

This ad from Christian Mingle popped up on my Facebook logout screen. It sells the presumed desired final result (marriage, HUGE photo) more than the process of being a couple in courtship, dreamily cast in softened light (teeny photo). Not sure how the magical Facebook targeted ads ended up serving this up to me, heathen, it's a demographic #FAIL.

Two elements are troubling:

1.) The registered trademark slogan "Find God's Match for You". How will couples work things out if both of them think an omniscient power has tethered them together? Okay, that's most marriages, but won't that sales pitch work into any future disagreements? "We have to do THIS thing, not YOUR thing because, ehm. the LORD has willed it."

2.) Jim in this photo may not be 100% behind what's going on. Lovely as they both are, his attention seems off ...

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Celestial dictatorship

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"who wishes that there was a permanent, unalterable celestial despotism that subjected us to continual surveillance and could convict us of thought-crime, and who regarded us as its private property even after we died? How happy we ought to be, at the reflection that there exists not a shred of respectable evidence to support such a horrible hypothesis." - Christopher Hitchens

Former cult abductee Elizabeth Smart slams abstinence sex ed

Elizabeth Smart, a Mormon girl who was abducted by a dodgy couple in 2002, becoming their sex slave/wife for nine months starting when she was 14, has been talking in public about her ordeal. She has spoken about being raised under the concept of abstinence-only education, and its psychological harm to her and how it made her even more susceptible to her captors. She was taught that women who engage in premarital sex are like chewed pieces of bum. Once chewed, who wants used gum?

Smart said: "It's feeling like 'who would ever want me now? I’m worthless.' That is what it was for me the first time I was raped".

Smart's situation is extreme, but it's awful to teach girls and young women to put their value on being devoid of sexual experience before marriage. Self esteem for young people is tough under normal circumstances. Telling women they are merchandise that becomes less marketable, or even unmarketable, if they have any sexual experience is rotten. The whole video is worth watching, but jumping to the 8:11 mark is particularly good (there's a low audio buzz):

Western religion has done quite a lot of damage due to its misogyny such as insistence on "purity" and women-as-property.

Elizabeth Smart Foundation