World Domination Update
Secret word for the day: The Unapuncher
Sleight of mind Site of the Week: Welcome to my Cave!!!
Conspiracy of the Week: Cigarettes
Cheese of the Week: Greek feta
Now Playing: James Brown, Sex Machine
in this issue:
Greetings from the Gobi! I’m taking the time now to scout out alternate hiding holes for our clan, and ever since communism fell in Mongolia, land here is going dirt cheap! Very isolated, and barrenly serene. Surprisingly, the nomadic yak herders know of the Brain Police and hate them; we’ve gotten along (so far.) They call me “Wun Hunglo,” which apparently is Mongolian for “shade.” Last night I impressed the locals with a banquet of barbeque yak and hot toddies of kumis. Several of them claim to be direct descendants of the great Khan himself, and one has a pet meerkat. Still, the nights are too cold, and I think we’d all be happier in BadAss.
Tomorrow is the sixth anniversary of the failed raid on Waco. Observance by Branch Floridians is mandatory, though how you celebrate is subjective. Remember, it’s all about style points. Last year Smoking Gun got the award by shooting a .22 through a jelly doughnut and leaving it in a cop’s mailbox. Five tons of flax for the one who can out-do that this year!
First, the good news. While saint is still incommunicado, there was a confirmed sighting of him at the Blue Light about a month ago. Several other key members have also resurfaced. Overall, the Update has increased its circulation, and the Branch has several promising buds that might bloom into full membership.
Despite this, the situation remains grim. For those keeping score, the latest figures for the year are already in, and the scariness factor has almost doubled. Just take a look around you, you’ll see what I mean.
Overheards:· The Bible was written by French
Our battle for barbeque sauce is losing ground. The most recent condiment statistics: a ketchup bottle is found in 75% of all U.S. households. Mustard is found in 71%, followed by salsa at 63% and barbecue (sic) sauce at lowly 61%.
A new heresy has arisen, and close to home. The denizens of the Blue Light have formed a splinter group also bent on world domination. Calling themselves the Ranch Peninsulars, these Michigan maniacs espouse menthol ciggies, iced tea, and ranch dressing in a hideous parody of our cigarette/coffee/barbeque sauce code. The saint sighting is in reference to this: apparently he had gone over to investigate and quell this deviation. The story comes from DK himself. Shaggy was eating Flamin’ Hot Dorito’s and nearly dying from them; both he and Dave were slamming beers to kill the burn. saint ate three handfuls in a row and shrugged it off. In awe, Dave and Shaggy concluded that it was the barbeque sauce that had given him the tolerance. saint also ruled at pool and set the filter flick record at four rungs on his own roof. Proof you shouldn’t phuq with Branch Floridians when it comes to smoking.
...speaking of which...
The Great Cigarette Conspiracy
Most of us are still reeling from the recent tobacco settlement, in which the cancer merchants were granted immunity to prosecution and passed the bill onto us. Rumors of $4 packs cannot be confirmed, denied, or commented on, but we can surely expect it eventually. As I have said in the past, this is all part of a plot to cripple our capacity to function economically as a church. You can expect the prices of barbecue sauce and coffee to skyrocket, too.
The rising cost of cigarettes is but one aspect of the Brain Police pinch on our smoking. The ‘communion with fire’ requirement of Branch Floridianism is most frequently fulfilled through smoking something. It doesn’t actually matter what is smoked, but tobacco has been forced upon us as the only real choice if we are going to smoke with frequency. I don’t particularly like the smell or taste of tobacco, compared with, say, quality clove or top notch marijuana. However, if I smoked either like I smoke tobacco, I would either be coughing blood or incoherently unable to function.
The sad choice of smoking materials available strikes me as suspicious. There has to be some plant on this planet that has a nice smoked taste but does not produce any bad side effects or health hazards. I can almost guarantee that such plants do exist, but are being suppressed by the BP in order to yoke us to tobacco.
I took a look at some of the non-tobacco products that are legally available. Many of you remember Magic Cigarettes: marshmallow and red clover. I also tried Ginseng, which in its pure form smells nasty and tastes like rotting tuna. Ginseng mixed with tobacco, though, was quite tasty-found a brand imported all the way from China (which here in Mongolia isn’t saying much.) However, the most unusual brand I encountered was ‘ecstacy.’
The ingredients in ecstacy cigarettes are listed as follows: Damiana, Wild Lettuce, Catnip, Passion Flower, Mint, Love and Light. The box has a neat green butterfly on the box and Sanskrit on the lid. Manufactured exclusively by Global World Media Corporation. There was an 800 number for questions and comments. I called it.
HEATHER: ecstacy cigarettes, this is Heather, can I help you?
SHADE: Hi, Heather, I have some questions about your ecstacy cigarettes.
SHADE: First, there’s Tibetan on both sides of the box. I was wondering if you could translate that for me?
HEATHER: It’s Sanskrit, and I don’t know what it means. I asked my boss, and he didn’t know, either.
SHADE: Is there any way you could find out for me?
HEATHER: Find someone who can read Sanskrit.
SHADE: All right, next I’d like to discuss the ingredients. First, what is damiana? I looked it up in a dictionary, but couldn’t find it.
HEATHER: Damiana is more commonly called the Mexican witching herb. You couldn’t find it in a dictionary?
SHADE: Uh, nope. You said the Mexican witching herb?
HEATHER: Yes. I’m not an herbalist, so I’m not sure of the properties.
SHADE: (pause) Okkkk... Next is wild lettuce.
HEATHER: Uh huh.
SHADE: What’s up with that?
HEATHER: Again, I’m not sure what the properties are.
SHADE: Yeah, but like, why wild lettuce?
HEATHER: That’s what it’s called.
SHADE: Oh, so it’s not related to the edible variety?
SHADE: Well, that rules out my next question; I was going to suggest you do special ecstacy blends, such as ecstacy romaine, ecstacy iceberg, and ecstacy kale.
HEATHER: Funny guy.
SHADE: I try. One last question. Last two ingredients are love and light.
HEATHER: Yeah, that’s just a cute little thing we throw on there, because you need love and light to grow a plant.
SHADE: Oh, I was wondering, because you don’t have a comma separating love and light, so grammatically they would be considered one item. I was wondering if that was some secret code for something.
HEATHER: Nope, it’s just a cute little thing we throw on the package.
SHADE: I see, Ok, thanks, heather. If I think of anything else, I call back.
HEATHER: (uncomfortable pause) Ok.
This issue we turn to the TaNaK for the source of our sermon. Of all the prophets of the Old Testament, Jonah was the one that is most clearly out of place. It is sad that this reluctant prophet is remembered solely for being stuck inside an oversized tuna for three days. Many people point to that infamous passage and cry foul, others leap to defend or apologize it as a miracle. Both of these groups should step back and take in the big picture, because both of them would be surprised by what the rest of the book has to say. There are much greater issues at stake here than whether someone can live in a fish.
Jonah the son of Amittai lived in Galilee in the eighth century, B.C. and at one point counseled King Jeroboam II on a victorious military campaign into Syria (2 Kings 14:25). The author of the book of Jonah is believed to have lived several hundred years later.
God intended to destroy the wicked city of Nineveh, as He did Sodom and Gomorra before it, and THE LORD chose Jonah to be the bearer of this news. Upon receiving “the call,” Jonah’s response is most atypical of the other prophets: he packs up and literally heads to the other end of the world. Nineveh was six hundred miles east; Jonah promptly hopped on a boat and headed west, toward Tarshish in southern Spain. One of my Old Testament teachers at FSU once said, “Traditionally, Hebrews hate water, so it should indicate to you how much Jonah didn’t want to do this that he actually got in a boat.” Whatever the case, Jonah’s behavior makes him my second-favorite figure in the Bible, because to me it is completely believable that someone would panic if they thought God started talking to them. Throughout the story, Jonah complains a lot and even sulks at the end; hey, I can relate.
Our reluctant prophet finds himself on a boat full of gentiles. God stops them with a great storm, and the crew quickly figures out Jonah is the cause. They are so scared for their lives that they throw Jonah (with his consent) overboard, hoping to appease THE LORD by giving Him what He wants. The storm suddenly ceases, and in thanks “they offered a sacrifice to YHWH and made vows.” Jonah had succeeded in being a missionary for God despite himself.
Jonah spends the next three days inside a “great fish” (Matthew 12:40 says “whale.”) You don’t need to know biology to call bullshit on that; what we are dealing with is either a miracle or a metaphor. Actually, that Jehovah’s Witness’s mom who thought dinosaurs were a Cambridge University conspiracy also told me that “it was just in the news” that they found a whale with a guy alive inside. Sure. Maybe the Weekly World News. Whatever the case, after three days it dawns on Jonah that he is lucky to be alive, and makes a psalm-like prayer of thanks and reluctant(?) repentance.
It was enough to make the whale throw up.
So anyway, a second time, THE LORD told Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach a very specific message. That message was, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” This time, Jonah did what he was told.
A word about Nineveh. Jonah was not the only one with ill oracles for the city; Nahum and Zephaniah also prophesied its destruction. Throughout the Bible, Nineveh is consistently shown as bad, and in context it is easy to understand why. The city was established by King Sennacherib as the new capital of Assyria (information that would have benefited Sir Robin at the Bridge of Doom!) Assyria conquered the northern Kingdom (Israel) and forced the southern (Judah) to pay tribute. It was a time of great woe and humiliation for Judaism, at the time the worst disaster to ever befall Israel (it is only outdone by the devastation wrought by Babylon and Rome.) Naturally, it could only be expected that God would rectify the situation by punishing the Assyrians. And the heart of Assyria was Nineveh.
Jonah foretold of Nineveh’s destruction in a fortnight. “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (3:4) The text does not indicate if he made his prophecy conditional, that is, “Ninevah will be overthrown UNLESS you repent!” Personally, I think it is only wishful thinking that sees it as such. But whether or not he did so, the people did repent; donning ash and sack cloth and fearing THE LORD. Even the (unnamed) King of Nineveh had a change of heart.
So, apparently, did God.
Strictly speaking, Jonah was a false prophet, because his prophecy of Nineveh’s destruction (at least as recorded) did not come true, unless you reach deep into metaphor. But I believe Jonah made his prophecy in good faith that it would be realized; indeed he sulks outside the city when it does not come to pass. Obviously, the only reason the prophecy flopped was that the people repented.
Here is a question with far reaching implications: is a false prophecy that saves (and betters) thousands of lives better than a true prophecy that slays thousands?
This is, of course, not the first time that a prophet was wrong about something. Daniel’s vision of history falls apart half way through chapter 11, and (near as we can tell) Haggai and Isaiah’s naming of Zerrubbabel and Koresh (respectively) as the Messiah didn’t pan out, either. Even Jesus missed a call: when told his friend Lazarus was dying, Jesus responded “this illness is not unto death,” but two days later found out it was.
However, Jonah strikes me as a miss-call on a much larger level. God had every intention of destroying Nineveh for its wickedness. Since the people changed those wicked ways, there was no reason to destroy it. The Ninevites change of heart is not recorded in any other history, but God’s change of heart is recorded in 3:10.
This to me is the most troubling part of the story. Among other things, it calls into question God’s omniscience. If He had known beforehand that the people would repent, He would not need to change His mind. Or was God bluffing, knowing the threat would be enough? I don’t think so, because God “repented.” It really seems that God did not foresee the Ninevites’ change of heart.
I get two positive messages from Jonah. Even a wicked Ninevite can be saved from Destruction. More importantly, it would seem that you can surprise God.
For an alternate opinion, consider David Koresh’s sermon on Jonah.